Category Archives: Education

Poor school buildings turn out poor students


As the lobbyists in Washington and state houses across the country continue their drive to privatize education, poor families who can’t afford the costs of private schools are forced to send their children to aging and increasingly run-down public schools.

Meanwhile, Republican politicians and corporate Democrats are further cutting the budgets of school districts, blocking construction of new schools and reducing funds to maintain existing buildings.

And if you thing the privateers are inflicting terrible damage on the students of these cost-starved schools, you’d be right.

From Cornell University:

Social scientists have known for several years that kids enrolled in run-down schools miss more classes and have lower test scores than students at well-maintained schools. But they haven’t been able to pin down why.

A Cornell University environmental psychologist has an answer.

Lorraine Maxwell, an associate professor of design and environmental analysis in the College of Human Ecology, studied more than 230 New York City public middle schools and found a chain reaction at work: leaking toilets, smelly cafeterias, broken furniture, and run-down classrooms made students feel negatively which lead to high absenteeism and in turn, contributed to low test scores and poor academic achievement.

“School buildings that are in good condition and attractive may signal to students that someone cares and there’s a positive social climate, which in turn may encourage better attendance,” Maxwell said. “Students cannot learn if they do not come to school.”

Maxwell found that poor building conditions, and the resulting negative perception of the school’s social climate, accounted for 70 percent of the poor academic performance. She controlled for students’ socioeconomic status and ethnic background, and found that while these student attributes are related to test scores, they do not tell the whole story. School building condition is also a major contributing factor, Maxwell said.

“Those other factors are contributing to poor academic performance, but building condition is significantly contributing also. It’s worth it for society to make sure that school buildings are up to par,” she said.

Her study [$39.95 to read, thanks to the academic publishing bandits at Elsevier] “School Building Condition, Social Climate, Student Attendance and Academic Achievement: A Mediation Model,” appears in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

In an earlier, related study, Maxwell asked a handful of middle-school students what difference they thought a school building makes.

“I will never forget one boy,” Maxwell said. “He said, ‘Well, maybe if the school looked better, kids would want to come to school.’ And that sparked me to think, ‘OK, they notice.’”

There’s more, after the jump. Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Where our political values lie


From State and Local Expenditures on Corrections and Education, a new report from the U.S. Department of Education:

BLOG Ed

Paramilitaries assault striking Mexican teachers


A tweet from an activist on the scene captured the paramilitary in action.

A tweet from an activist on the scene captured the paramilitary in action.

The Mexican government’s battle against striking teachers from the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [CNTE] heated up again Wednesday when armed thugs from state-backed paramilitaries joined in a police action against one of the roadblocks that have become the most powerful weapon of the action against neoliberal education “reforms.”

The assault came in the state of Chiapoas, and fatalities have been reported.

Meanwhile, strikers in another state, Michoacan, have taken the blockade action to the rails.

From teleSUR English:

Mexican State and municipal police accompanied by paramilitaries and hooded individuals with guns forcefully evacuated the only camp that civil society and teachers of the National Coordinator of Education Workers, CNTE, held in the state of Chiapas, Wednesday.

In a statement the CNTE said that 10 trucks loaded with a group of masked men came to the camp at highway San Cristóbal-Tuxtla Gutiérrez in Chiapas where about a hundred protesters were gathering before dispersing them with force. The CNTE was on high alert and reinstated its blockade soon after, according to student activist Omar Garcia.

There were reports that between one and two teachers were killed in the clashes and that two were detained. Videos circulating on social media website showed the masked men took part in cracking down on the protesting teachers, apparently with police permission. The news comes about a month after the Nochixtlan massacre claimed 12 lives in the state of Oaxaca.

Leaders of the CNTE have been protesting over the past few months against the neoliberal education reforms implemented in 2013 by President Enrique Peña Nieto

Railroads blockaded in Michoacan 

Elsewhere, striking teachers have extended their blockades to railroads, reports Fox News Latino:

Hundreds of striking teachers and their supporters effectively shut down the freight rail network in the western Mexican state of Michoacan on Wednesday.

Members of the militant CNTE union launched the protest around 8:30 a.m., blocking tracks with boulders, tree-trunks and even vehicles.

The blockades prevented the transport of thousands of freight containers from the Pacific port of Lazaro Cardenas, rail operator Kansas City Southern de Mexico said.

The state government urged the teachers to end the blockades and did not rule out the use of riot police to clear the rail lines by force.

Most of Michoacan’s 19,500 primary schools have been shut down since May 16 due to the CNTE strike, which is also having a major impact in several other states, including Oaxaca and Chiapas, where teachers and their allies have blocked highways.

Peña pushes on with ‘reforms,’ U.N urges talks


Plus the rising impact of ablockades and the latest violence. . .

The government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is pushing ahead with its neoliberal corporation-enriching educational “reforms,” and refusing to meaningfully engage with the striking teachers of Southern Mexico.

Teachers are striking in a region with a high population of indigenous peoples, where historically resistance to the central government has been strong.

And it’s important to remember that those 43 missing students kidnaped on the night of 26 September 2014 were attending the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College, and had planned to teacher in villages in the region now most deeply affected by the strike by members of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [CNTE], and not the government’s pet union, the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, or SNTE.

The latest on the government’s plans from teleSUR English:

Another round of negotiations between dissident Mexican teachers and government officials has ended without an agreement after the Ministry of Education refused to call off plans to announce a new education model on Wednesday, a move the national union argued proves that authorities are not taking seriously their demands to cancel neoliberal education reforms, local media reported.

Leaders of the National Coordinator of Education Workers, better known as the CNTE, characterized the nearly six-hour meeting dedicated to discussing education issues on Tuesday as tense and without agreements, while Undersecretary of Basic Education Javier Treviño Cantu described it as “successful.”

The CNTE accused the government of waging a “two-lane manoeuvre” in which authorities continue holding talks with the national dissident union to manage the conflict — which reached fever pitch when police violently cracked down on protesters in Nochixtlan, Oaxaca, one month ago   — while also plowing ahead with education policy plans that only take into account the opinions of the more government-friendly teachers union, the SNTE, La Jornada reported.

Both Education Minister Aurelio Nuño and Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong failed to attend the meeting, according to EFE. Nuño has been recalcitrant throughout the negotiations, refusing to engage in dialogue with the CNTE unless the union accepts President Enrique Peña Nieto’s 2013 education reform. Osorio Chong, on the other hand, has attended previous sessions, though teachers have criticized his lack of political will and interest in the process.

According to members of the CNTE, the new education model Nuño is set to announce at 11:00 a.m. local time on Wednesday excludes the dissident union due to lack of consultation.

The UN urges Peña to negotiate with the CNTE

While the government has been holding inconclusive meetings with the CNTE, the real talks have been with the CNTE, and a new voice has been added to the chorus calling on the central government to talk with strikers from the CNTE.

Government World reports:

The head of the United Nations forum on indigenous issues today urged Mexican officials to meet with a wing of the national union of teachers to resolve the conflict in the southern state of Oaxaca, where violent protests over education took at least six lives.

“I would like to express my absolute rejection and condemnation of the events that took place on 19 and 20 June this year in Asuncion Nochixtlán and neighbouring municipalities in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico,” said Alvaro Pop, Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

In addition to the people killed, more than 100 were injured in protests that followed President Enrique Peña Nieto’s changes to the education system.

The group that is protesting the changes is known as the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE), an offshoot of the national teacher’s union.

In today’s statement, Mr. Pop urges the Government to dialogue in an “effective, participatory and mutually respectful manner” with the CNTE “to find a solution that respects national and international obligations undertaken by Mexico to promote and protect the rights of its indigenous peoples.”

Strikers impact the economy

One of the most effective tactics adopted by the strikers is to erect blockades in an effort to force the government to come to the bargaining table.

And now the Yucatan Times reports that the roadblocks are beginning to bite:

A delegation from the coastal city of Puerto Escondido called on the offices of the Interior Secretariat (Segob) in Mexico City to issue a plea for help.

“We cannot put up with the teachers’ blockades any more,” said spokesman Abraham Clavel, who operates a transportation service in the city. “They are strangling the state of Oaxaca. Puerto Escondido is under siege; there are no tourists.”

Government officials were told that 3,000 people have lost their jobs in the city and that hotel occupancy is less than 20% despite this being the high season for domestic tourism.

Clavel also said there have been fuel and food shortages caused by the blockades. “We’re fed up with always being put under siege,” he declared, claiming that the situation was “a disaster.”

He said combined losses in the region were running at 7.5 million pesos, or US $400,000, per day, and if the protests continue over the next few weeks another 3,000 people will be laid off by businesses in Puerto Escondido, Huatulco, Mazunte, Zipolite and Chacahua.

Violent confrontations continue

The Ayotzinapa students were kidnaped after the commandeered buses ot take them to a political rally, upsetting the wife of the mayor of Iguala, the real power in the local community rather than her spouse.

The students were then ambushed by a coalition of local and federal law enforcement, abetted by cartel gunslingers, who are widely suspected of subsequently killing all the students.

The latest round of violence erupted after another bus commandeering, reports Fox News Latino:

Students and teachers burnt three buses and a truck in the western Mexican state of Michoacan as part of a drive to pressure the government to hire 1,200 graduates from teacher training colleges.

In addition, the protesters have stolen 143 heavy vehicles including passenger buses, cargo trucks, fuel transportation trucks and tractor-trailers in the past few days.

The Secretariat of Public Security (Spanish: SSP) of Michoacan reported that the incident took place at 2 p.m. local time (7 p.m. GMT) when students and teachers burnt three buses crossing the Uruapan-Patzcuaro highway, near Morelia, capital of the state, up to the town of San Juan Tumbio, where they detained 15 passenger trucks.

Riot police prevented teachers and students from torching the remaining 12 buses, although the protesters managed to set fire to a Coca-Cola delivery truck on the Zacapu-Zamora highway.

The urge to purge nets thousands in Turkey


The chaotic Turkish coup failure has been followed by what usually happens when coup;s fail [or succeed for that matter]: a massive purge.

And as usually happens when strong men rule, the urge to purge has spread to academia.

Call it political bulima.

From BBC News:

At least 45,000 people have been rounded up, sacked or suspended from their jobs by Turkey’s government in the wake of last week’s failed coup.

The purge of those deemed less than loyal to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan widened on Tuesday to include teachers, university deans and the media.

The government says they are allied to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who denies claims he directed the uprising. PM Binali Yildirim said the preacher led a “terrorist organisation”.

“We will dig them up by their roots,” he told parliament.

Turkey is pressing the US to extradite Mr Gulen and the issue was raised during a phone call between US President Barack Obama and President Erdogan on Tuesday, the White House said.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said a decision on whether or not to extradite would be made under a treaty between the two countries.

Mexican gov’t Aytozinapa claims hit once again


The disappearance of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa after police opened fire on them on the night of 26 September 2014 [previously] remains an open sore on the Mexican body politic.

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration has been eager to sweep the presumptive massacre under the rug, or at least relegate the whole bloody mess to the past, but their own incompetence in stage-managing the coverup has been nothing less than inflammatory.

The government claims it has discovered the “historical truth,” claiming all the students were slain byu drug gang members and the bodies then incinerated in a dumping group with the ashes tossed into a nearby stream.

The latest revelation via teleSUR English:

An inquiry published Saturday has revealed that there is virtually no physical evidence to support the Mexican government’s version of the 2014 disappearance of 43 students traveling by bus to Mexico City. Government officials insist that a drug gang kidnapped the students at gunpoint, killed them and burned the bodies at a dumpsite near the southwestern town of Iguala, but the report, based on forensic records requested by the Associated Press, revealed no signs of a fire on the night in question.

But the notes of a forensic examination of the Cocula dumpsite in Guerrero state in western Mexico shows that investigators could not confirm a fire on the night that the students vanished on September 26, 2014. The AP obtained the documents under a freedom of information request permissible under Mexican law,

The AP inquiry is the latest in a series of independent investigations that undermines the Mexican government’s version of events. Police say that five suspects have confessed to the crimes but an international panel of experts earlier this year concluded that the confessions were obtained by torture.

Earlier this year the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) found animal and human remains at the dumpsite but said none of the remains corresponded to the government’s allegation that the bodies were incinerated by members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel. The Attorney General’s Office in April presented evidence of a huge fire and the discovery of the remains of at least 17 adults but the bone fragments were too badly burned to identify, the Argentine team said.

The government’s handling of the case has triggered massive protests that include parents and friends of the students, trade unions and grassroots organizations who believe that law-enforcement authorities are complicit in the slayings of the 43 students, who had effectively stolen a bus, ironically enough, to attend the commemoration of a 1968 police massacre of students.

More from the Associated Press report:

The report from international fire experts convened by the government was obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request. It shows the experts found evidence the Cocula dump had been the site of at least five fires, but could not determine when. Remains of 17 people were also found, but it was unknown when they were burned.

“The duration and dates of the fires could not be established based on the available physical data,” the report said.

>snip<

There was no information about the identities of the 17 remains found, but it was known that the remote dump had become a place to dispose of bodies for some time in an area where hundreds have gone missing.

>snip<

The Argentine team had previously advised of shell casings that suddenly appeared at the site and were later touted by the government as evidence that the students were executed at the dump.

Santiago Aguirre, deputy director of the nonprofit Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Center for Human Rights, which is representing the students’ families, said Friday the report displayed serious deficiencies and was part of “a deliberate attempt to fabricate a version not supported by scientific evidence.”

Before departing Mexico at the end of April, the team from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission urged the government to drop its theory and explore details in the investigation that point to other possible destinations for the students’ remains.

And because authorities failed to maintain control of the site, fabricated evidence could have been added to the already chaotic mix

Mexican gov’t agrees to alter education reforms


There’s only one catch.

The government is in talks with a teachers union, but it’s not the one currently on strike in much of Mexico’s South.

The ongoing action against the neoliberal “reforms” imposed by the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto is the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, or CNTE.

The CNTE represents teacher primarily in Southern Mexico and is fiercely independent of the government, unlike the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, or SNTE, which is considered a house union.

The story form teleSUR English:

Mexican Minister of Education Aurelio Nuño Mayer said Wednesday that he will revise the education reform that has been at the center of intense CNTE-led protests, but that he will only consult the rival SNTE union.

Nuño Mayer has drawn intense criticism for refusing to negotiate with the CNTE teachers, who have been leading months-long blockades across the country that were subject to intense police repression. The teachers, mostly based in rural southern states, argue that the neoliberal reforms put poorer and Indigenous students at a disadvantage. They have demanded meetings with the Education Ministry, but Nuño Mayer has insisted that they accept the reforms before coming to the table.

The SNTE union, which is largely aligned with President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government, did meet with Nuño Mayer.

“Last week, I welcomed the proposals brought to me by SNTE, 11 propositions that brought us to various negotiating tables, intense, that would allow us to come to an important agreement regarding the education reform,” he said.

“We have agreed, and the SEP (Ministry of Public Education) has decided, to revise and improve the evaluation of teachers, to make it more appropriate and much more useful.”

The main purpose of the revisions will be to improve implementation of evaluations and make them more context-specific, focusing on its application, the platform for publishing findings, cleaning up databases, accreditation of evaluators, and communication between the school and the teacher. Nuño Mayer said he will also expand the curriculum and raise the teacher’s salary by 3.5 percent.