Category Archives: Post Propaganda

Democrats and Educational Equity

by Ed Augden, Retired DPS Teacher and Community Activist

Alexander Ooms may be right in his viewpoint expressed in the Denver Post on July 25, that elected Democrats may now favor so-called “education reform.” At least, Democratic politicians in Colorado’s state legislature appear to favor a conservative approach to education or acquiesce to it. SB 191, for example, was sponsored by State Sen. Michael Johnston and supported by former State Sen. Chris Romer. This is the face of the Colorado Democrats on educational issues, one that adheres to amateur educators and ignores teachers and verifiable research. Johnston represents the leadership of the Colorado Democratic Party. While most middle class and poor families with school age children seek a neighborhood school that offers a comprehensive education, corporate Democratic legislators such as Johnston, often favor replacing neighborhood schools with charter schools that many students won’t be eligible to attend because they fail to gain entrance through a lottery system that is, by its nature, discriminatory. Further, they ignore studies concluding that, while the teacher may be the most important factor in a child’s life at school, the effects of poverty diminish that influence. For example, a malnourished child who starts school at age five, lags behind peers in vocabulary development andwithout extra help will never catch up.

Ooms further accentuates this growing gap between privileged and struggling or impoverishedDemocrats in his comments regarding the 2010 Colorado primary Democratic campaign betweenAndrew Romanoff and Sen. Michael Bennet. Romanoff was likely the candidate of those folks who work for a living while Bennet represented those who apparently believe that the best candidate is thewealthiest candidate. Perhaps Bennet won because he accepted contributions from PACs and wealthycontributors. Romanoff rejected PAC money.

Ooms also represents the dubious view that “reforms” are succeeding. He uses Lake Middle School as an example of this success. In reality, it is the International Baccalaureate program that is succeeding with approximately 400 students while West Denver Prep, a charter school appears to be struggling to reach 100 enrolled students. By the district’s standards, West Denver Prep at Lake is a failing school.

Most notably, Ooms ignores the failure of the “redesign” of North High School. With great enthusiasm and little study, the principal, who had instituted reforms that were succeeding, was reassigned and the faculty forced to reapply for their positions. Most did not and were reassigned.Within two years, student achievement declined, the dropout rate increased and the school population declined. Most importantly, students lost trusted teachers who were replaced by inexperienced andoften indifferent teachers. Not since, has the district acknowledged the results and, instead, will launch a similar effort in Montbello and Green Valley Ranch this fall.

Certainly, Mr. Ooms represents the prevailing viewpoint of “reformers” – high stakes, standardized testing (that causes increased stress among poor students), charter schools that enroll the privileged and the lucky and ignore those left behind in regular schools, and teacher evaluations that link teacher appraisal, retention and promotion to student test scores despite evidence that such an approach is flawed. This viewpoint appears to be based on personal opinion and anecdotal information and rejects any evidence that contradicts the false paradigm. Educational reform in other countries such as Finland contradicts that paradigm. Teachers are highly respected and their appraisals, retention or promotion are NOT linked to student test scores.

The Campaign for Truth in DPS and The Denver Post

by Edward Augden, retired teacher and community activist

Reading Alicia Caldwell’s commentary on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011, one could easily believe her assertion that the campaign to oust Denver Board of Education chair Dr. Nate Easley was just about his voting record as a board member and that the effort is a “big money campaign” spearheaded by “education anti-reformers.” Many voters and taxpayers might be shocked and/or offended by such an effort if they only read the Post. Unfortunately, her column, as with a previous one by Ms. Caldwell on the topic, included mostly half-truths and omissions. As a former journalism teacher, and after reading this and other editorials on public education, I’ve concluded that The Denver Post editorial staff
has become a purveyor of propaganda for Denver Public Schools (DPS) rather than a seeker of truth.

For example, Sunday was, probably, the first time that Post columnists have even mentioned that Easley might have a conflict of interest. For the record, Mr. Easley, as board president, supervises Tom Boasberg, DPS superintendent. Boasberg, as ex officio member of the Denver Scholarship Foundation board of directors can influence Easley. A pertinent fact omitted by Ms. Caldwell, is that Theresa Pena, another school board member, also serves on that board, of which Dr. Easley is the deputy director. In that capacity, Ms. Pena has influence and control over Easley’s  employment. During the campaign Mr. Easley stated that there would be no conflict of interest. Since his actions as board chair contradict his campaign rhetoric, it would seem that the influence of his bosses is having its effect.

There are several glaring half-truths and omissions, but the slur against Diane Ravitch, a “darling of the anti-reform movement”, – really exposes the Post and DPS as being too blind to see what real reform is or – as still in denial that a student’s family background and poverty are greater factors in student achievement than teacher quality. Even more important, advocates of real democratic and creative reform reject the false notion that testing should play the dominant role in evaluation of student achievement. Ms. Ravitch, in her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, debunks many of the myths being perpetuated by so-called “educational reformers” such as the
myth about testing and choice. An ethical, well-trained, journalist seeking truth would investigate whether or not Ms. Ravitch represents true reform or not. Ms. Caldwell, in her column, provides no evidence of that kind of curiosity.

“Choice” is being offered to parents in northeast Denver and that means school closures, teacher firings and/or  reassignments, hardship for students and parents who may be required to “choose” another school other than the one they currently attend. Such a choice is likely far away from the neighborhood school that may be converted to a charter school they would not be eligible to attend.

Another factor consistently ignored by the Post and DPS is that of ethnic and socioeconomic segregation. Despite the fact that the 2006 Harvard Civil Rights Study Project, “Denver Public Schools: Re-segregation, Latino Style”; has been published and is available on the internet, that study and its possible ongoing effects have never been mentioned either by DPS or the Denver Post. What might capture the attention of these two collaborators as to the destructive effects of segregation and poverty on disadvantaged, impoverished children? What might convince the Denver Post to report all the truth about Mr. Easley, his conflict of interest and how it’s influenced his voting record and behavior toward his constituents (missed meetings, unreturned phone calls, etc.)?

Although this commentary is less than the 780 words written by Ms. Caldwell, it will not likely be printed in the Denver Post because it exceeds the 150 word limit for letters to the editor and, most significantly, it “speaks truth to power” as do other letters to the editor that the Denver Post fails to print even those within the 150 word limit.

As the only major daily newspaper in the Denver metro area, the Denver Post could and should be a beacon of truth instead of propaganda on educational issues. Sadly, it is not.

Yellow Journalism at the Denver Post

by Ed Augden (retired DPS teacher and community activist)

If there is truly to be a civil, honest discussion of educational reform and related issues such as the proposed recall of  Nate Easley, Denver Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education president, then the Denver Post must be civil and honest  in its news coverage and its editorial commentary. The Denver Post’s editorial on Sunday, Jan. 23, was not civil or fully honest. The editorial writer ridiculed the petition complainants and made the fallacious claim that the recall effort is primarily focused on Easley’s votes as a board member for certain “reform” actions in northeast Denver (his district) and northwest Denver.  Certainly, the writer must have read the petition’s language. It states clearly that the primary reason for the recall effort is Easley’s apparent conflicts of interest.

Mr. Easley is the deputy director of the Denver Scholarship Foundation. In his role as board  president, he directly oversees the foundation. As an employee of the foundation, he reports to the executive director of the foundation. Both Tom Boasberg, DPS superintendent, and Theresa Pena are board members of the scholarship foundation. Thus, the roles overlap and Easley is in the position of being Boasberg’s employer and employee. In such conflicting roles, Easley should recuse himself from voting on Boasberg’s evaluation or salary. He has failed to do so and has, consequently, violated DPS board policy and state law, according to the petition complainants.

The editorial writer completely omitted the principal reason for the recall effort. Certainly, Easley’s votes have directly contradicted his campaign promises and those are legitimate concerns.  However, as the petition clearly states, Easley’s apparent conflicts of interest are the reasons stated, not his voting record.

This pattern of deceit by both the Denver Post and DPS administrators and the board’s majority members is familiar to residents of northeast and northwest Denver. The proposed plan for northeast  Denver is familiar to students, parents, teachers and interested community members. In 2006, DPS, supported by the Post, implemented the “redesign” of North High School. The principal, in the process of implementing an improvement plan, was reassigned, the faculty required to reapply for their positions (most declined to do so) and a new principal transferred from a nearby elementary school. During the two years of “redesign”, many students were traumatized when they returned for the fall semester to new teachers and counselors and a new principal. During the new principal’s tenure, test scores declined (Isn’t testing a primary “reform”?), the dropout rate increased and the school population declined. North High has failed to recover. Yet, nothing of this failure ever appeared in Denver Post news stories or was commented upon by its editorial writers. And, of course, DPS simply ignored the results, quietly reassigned the new principal to her former position and has yet to acknowledge the plan’s utter failure. Boasberg’s only public comment about these actions is that lessons, although not identified or qualified, have been learned. Have Post reporters or editorial writers ever questioned Boasberg, his subordinates or board members about these schemes?

As a former journalism teacher in Denver Public Schools, I know that newspapers should adhere to a journalistic code of ethics. The Denver Post has failed that code in its reporting and commentary of educational issues in DPS. The Easley editorial is just the latest instance in which the newspaper failed to be a beacon for the pursuit of truth, fairness and impartiality, reporting and commenting upon educational issues. As mentioned, nothing of the North High fiasco ever received coverage in the Denver Post. The same pattern is being repeated in northeast Denver. The Post has yet to raise any questions or concerns about the upcoming “turnaround” of Montbello High School and other schools in northeast
Denver.

As the only remaining major daily newspaper in the Denver metro area, doesn’t the Denver Post have the responsibility to be truthful, fair and impartial in reporting the news and shouldn’t the same standard be applied to commentary?

Denver rebuts the Denver Post

The tide has definitely turned against corporate-reform darling, Nate Easley.  But don’t take our word for it.  Read just a few of the letters to the editor and other pieces written in response to the cloying propaganda printed by the Denver Post to try to save him.

These are the letters that the Denver Post are too afraid to publish.  Read on…

Dear Editor,

I am one of the 190 who were rubber stamped for non-renewal last May. Dr. Easley, School Board President, not only rubber stamped all principals’ decisions despite the public showing at the May meeting but condemned the two board members that stood up for the nationally certified and highly qualified experienced personnel that were up for non-renewal.

Even more concerning is his current conduct regarding Montbello. It is easy for DCIS and other magnet schools to look perfect because they only take the students that fit best into their program and conveniently as well as legally get rid of any student that does not make them look great. To be fair Denver Post should report the number of students originally accepted into magnet schools that do not graduate from that school. But then, with my ties to DC politics, I don’t expect any news agency to present a balanced point of view.

DPS is completely within it’s legal rights to ignore parents wishes, non-renew highly qualified/nationally certified experienced personnel, and will continue on its current path with the support of Dr. Easley, Mr. Boasberg and the rest of Grant Street or Fox Street.

I personally have moved on to better districts and better jobs, but I had the flexibility as a single person without children with a paid for home and car, to live off of unemployment until January 2011.

–Ms. B.

This is a classic game disinformation and propaganda by the Post and the “reformers.” Every time someone is against their interests, they take out the bogeyman, the union.  It’s such a lie.  The right and the middle see unions as bad, so it’s a great way to distract from the argument of Nate being a patsy for the status quo.

It’s not a union vs. Nate/”reformers” battle, but a battle against 5 years of incompetence vs. real improvement.  The reformers and Nate want the status quo, which is effectively bankrupting our future.  Our side wants revolutionary change, something reformers haven’t been able to give us after 5 years of empty promises.  As for the union, they are as weak as most every union in this country and they are not the motivating force behind the recall.  It’s people who are fed up waiting for these dramatic changes that Bennet/Boasberg have promised who are behind the recall.

–Mr. W.

To the Denver Post:

The editorial deriding the recall of Denver School Board president Nate Easley reads like an effort to disenfranchise parents from neighborhood schools. It is parents who want neighborhood schools strengthened rather than closed and replaced. It is parents who don’t accept the only option for school reform is a privatized charter. It is parents–not unions and teachers–who show up at DPS’s “input” meetings, only to realize DPS secretly plans school closures far in advance with a charter already chosen, and  such meetings are complete hooey. It is parents who experience the district’s failure to support what works (a successful math program) or remove what doesn’t (inept principals) and then watch in horror as DPS and its board deems the school a failure and replaces it with an unproven charter.

The district has stonewalled parents for so long that the Post shouldn’t underestimate the number of angry people. Easley’s transgression is not his beliefs about reform, but his failure to acknowledge what his constituents want for their children’s schools. His recall is about Denver parents regaining a voice in their schools.

–Ms. A.

Dear Editorial Staff of the Denver Post,

Please find below my letter in regard to yesterday’s editorial, “School board member’s recall would be setback.”

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has the Denver Post’s Editorial Board as speed dial number two, right behind that of DPS Superintendent, Tom Boasberg.  It seems that those who live and send their kids to schools in suburban America believe that they know more about fixing urban public schools than the parents whose children attend those neighborhood schools.  Hundreds of us parents have volunteered countless hours in Denver’s neighborhood schools solely to benefit the kids.  We know how to fix Denver’s schools.  When will our superintendent come to us for help and advice?  When will our school board members stand up to our superintendent and demand that he fix our neighborhood schools rather than pronounce them failures and replace them with privately-run institutions?  Does the Rocky Mountain News have to come back to life to force the Denver Post to return to good journalism?  That is no joke.

Regards,

–Mrs. T.
DPS Parent & Graduate

And one of our favorite allies, Sabrina Stevens Shupe, just penned a wonderfully eloquent indictment of Easley.  As she says,”…good leaders make sure to stay connected to those they serve, to make a case for why change is necessary, and to do their best to ensure that the final decision reflects the whole community’s interests, not just those of its most powerful members, or those with whom they already agree.”  We certainly agree with that sentiment.

Read Sabrina’s smackdown of Nate Easley here.  As one of our core organizers likes to say, “no, no Nate!”

The Denver Post props up Nate Easley

(originally sent via email – sign up for our newsletter to the right)

The Denver Post thinks we’re a joke.  They say that we’re just a “handful of people” that want to hold Easley accountable.  Well, as you know from our reports about the unrest and push-back in response to the hostile takeover of the greater Montbello schools, it’s not just a handful.  It’s an entire community, and Easley is feeling it.  He even now claims he attended a meeting with parents recently!

Well, it’s about time, Nate.  But it’s too little, too late.

Here’s how to push back even more

We need your  help in responding to the mythology that the Denver Post is hawking.  Choose one or all of the following actions:

  • Please go to the online version of the article (you can find it here) and post a comment in rebuttal.
  • Please send a letter to the editor (the instructions are at the bottom of this email).
  • Write an article on your favorite education, community-centered or political blog.
  • Share this email with friends using this link: Forward to a Friend.

We’re providing the talking points you can use in your piece, below.

How to send a letter to the Denver Post editors

E-mail: openforum@denverpost.com (straight text only; no attachments)

Mail: The Open Forum, The Denver Post, 101 W. Colfax Ave., Suite 600, Denver, CO 80202

Fax: 303-954-1502

Guidelines: The Post welcomes letters up to 150 words on topics of general interest. Letters must include full name, home address, day and evening phone numbers, and may be edited for length, grammar and accuracy.

To reach the Denver Post editorial page by phone: 303-954-1331

And don’t forget to copy us on your submission!

Talking points from the “Take back our schools” campaign

The Take Back Our Schools Campaign for DeFENSE (Democrats for Excellent Neighborhood School Education) is a coalition of parents, educators & students leading a grassroots effort in Northeast Denver and Montbello to recall DPS Board of Education president Nate Easley for:

  • Being a rubber stamp for the school district, voting nearly 100% the time with corporate backed members of the school board for policies that are not reflective of his constituents’ interests
  • Saying he would promote neighborhood schools during his campaign, then when elected voting to increase the number of corporate charter schools
  • Saying he would work with teachers collaboratively during his campaign, then when elected conspiring with school officials to fire groups of teachers without a fair process
  • Not being responsive to the concerns of the Montbello parents and students when he voted to shut down neighborhood schools without a comprehensive transition plan for students
  • Being a “no show” at numerous Northeast Denver community meetings hosted by the school district or concerned community groups
  • He did not show up at 3 community meetings held between Oct 2010-Jan 2011 sponsored by the school district to discuss the future vision of schools in Northeast Denver
  • He did not show up last year to any of the community meeting at Manual High School during the principal search process
  • He did not show up last year to confirmed community-led meetings with the Black Education Advisory Council, the Northeast Community Congress for Education or with concerned Montbello parents
  • Holding secret meetings that should have been open to the public in violation of the state’s open meetings law requiring transparency when school district policy is being made;
  • He misused the law in an attempt to censure (publicly reprimand) 3 progressive school board members who were invited by a lawyers group to attend an education information meeting
  • Engaging in a conflict of interest in his dual roles as DPS Board of Education president and as the Deputy Director of the Denver Scholarship Foundation where he is employed and subject to undue influence related to his votes by school officials who sit on his board (superintendent Tom Boasberg and board member Theresa Pena).
  • Using the resources of the his employer, the Denver Scholarship Foundation, to conduct school board business
  • Hired a staffer paid for by his employer to conduct DPS public relations business in the community
  • Used his employer’s administrative resources to manage his DPS administrative tasks

Thank you for everything you do to ensure an equitable education is available for EVERY child.

The DeFENSE Team