The education reform crusader isn’t backing down from those who criticize her agenda. Photo credit: Alex Wong, Getty Images.
The education reform crusader isn’t backing down from those who criticize her agenda. Photo credit: Alex Wong, Getty Images.

Michelle Rhee Responds to D.C. Testing Scandal

Michelle Rhee, the face of an education reform movement sweeping across the nation, was called to answer for a possible cheating scandal that happened under her watch as the former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. schools, reported ColorLines.

After initially dismissing the study, Rhee acknowledged recently that cheating may indeed have taken place in her district, calling her earlier criticisms “stupid.” News of eyebrow-raising testing irregularities rocked the education world, and gave more ammunition to critics of the education reform movement who say that an obsession with numbers-based evaluation systems of both teachers and students has consumed education.

A USA Today investigation found wildly improbable test erasure rates in some Washington, D.C. schools that led to inflated test score results. USA Today singled out Crosby Noyes Education Campus, which had posted laudable gains in its test scores and was recognized by Rhee, awarded extra money under new policies Rhee instituted, and received national accolades for what appears now to have been false academic progress. Standardized test scanning machines scan both the final answer a student bubbled in, as well as any previous marks the student eventually erased. The USA Today investigation found that at Noyes, students were posting very high erasure rates that were far above the district average. Not only that, but a large number of the erasures were from the wrong to the right answer, continued the ColorLines article.

“Often times when the academic achievement rates of a district like D.C. go up, people assume that it can’t be because the kids are actually attaining higher gains in student achievement but that it’s because it’s something like cheating, which in this case was absolutely not the case,” Rhee said early on, insinuating that the attacks against her education reform agenda were rooted in people’s insulting low expectations of students. The district’s acting school chancellor, Kaya Henderson, asked the inspector general to look into possible misconduct.

Activists Still Push to Close California’s Youth Prisons

California Governor Jerry Brown recently scratched a proposal to shut down California’s youth prisons. The plan had been applauded by long-time prison reform groups and was just one part of Brown’s recommendations for eliminating the state’s $28 billion budget shortfall. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Democratic governor’s plan, known as realignment, would “let counties decide once a year if they want to contract with juvenile justice to house some offenders.” But activists are still hopeful that they can institute meaningful reforms in one of the nation’s largest prison system for young people. Reports and videos have shown that many are often subjected to physical violence, neglect and sexual assault. Advocates point out that it’s communities of color who suffer most from this reported abuse.

The Ella Baker Center, a Bay Area-based prison reform group, has highlighted the youth prison system’s racial disparities.

“Of the 1,950 youth in DJJ prisons as of July 2008, 87 percent are young people of color.” African Americans constitute 31 percent of the kids in DJJ while Latinos make up 55 percent. Recent efforts to reform the state’s youth prison system have proven somewhat successful; the number of inmates has gone down from 4,400 in 2003 to 1,250 in 2010, according to California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s website.

Brown’s plan would have shut down the state’s remaining five youth prison facilities. Young people convicted of criminal offenses would instead have been sent to county facilities, which some supporters see as more effective deterrents. Abel Habtegeorgis, Media Relations Manager at the Ella Baker Center, compares the DJJ system to poison.

“Counties have a better understanding of the demographics,” he said. “If you hire counselors, teachers, guards from the local area, they know the culture of that area … Kids need to be held accountable, but that accountability needs to be appropriated.”

To address the concern of some serious, violent offenders ending up in county jails, Brown will add 40 more crimes to the eligibility list for state incarceration, including felony domestic violence, assaulting a police officer, and human trafficking. For the plan to take effect, voters have to approve an amendment to the state Constitution in June.

The White House Wants More AAPI Teachers

The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders recently issued a call to action encouraging AAPI community members to consider making a difference in the lives of children by becoming teachers. As the baby boomer generation retires, the U.S. anticipates losing more than a million teachers and today, AAPIs make up less than 1 percent of all teachers.

Earlier this year, to promote the teaching profession among AAPI youth, the Initiative hosted a roundtable featuring Commissioner Sefa Aina, TEACH campaign director Taryn Benarroch, teacher and singer/songwriter Clara C. and singer/songwriter David Choi.

San Francisco Chef Sued in Culinary School Scam

In San Francisco, City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit against Angelo Mueller Degenhardt, aka “Chef Angelo Mueller,” a one-time convicted con artist whose latest scam bilked dozens of Chinese immigrant students of as much as $3,600 each in tuition payments. Recruited from San Francisco’s Chinese immigrant community, students enrolled in the so-called “Academie de Cuisine” were promised formal culinary training and paid externships, reported the San Francisco Examiner. But critics say the students were instead exploited for free labor. The lawsuit against Mueller seeks injunctive relief to halt the academy’s operation as well as civil penalties up to $2,500 for each violation; disgorgement of all profits; and full payment of all withheld wages to workers together with liquidated damages owed under San Francisco’s Minimum Wage Ordinance.

Herrera’s lawsuit details additional aspects of the scheme that include making false assurances to San Francisco non-profits to gain their assistance to do outreach to the Chinese immigrant community; luring certified cooking instructors to the school under fraudulent pretenses to lend credibility to the enterprise; and deliberately failing to fulfill promises made to students about paid externships and job placements.

Problems began to surface when students began to complain about such ADC business practices as: not following written curricula; requiring students to staff and manage ADC-sponsored functions without pay; demanding that students sign retroactive agreements stating that they understood they would not receive a Certificate of Completion unless they completed a 4-6 week unpaid externship and twenty-four hours of community service.

Asians Are America’s New Social Litmus Test

Two types of Americans have been emerging the past quarter century since the start of the information age, commented H.Y. Nahm, a writer for the Asian news site,, in an op-ed. One would like us to take the lead in the new information age. The other would like us to cling to our industrial-age leadership. How do you tell the two apart? Examine their age, socio-economic background and lifestyle. If they are under 40, have a college degree or two, live in one of the nation’s 20 fastest growing metro areas, spend over half their waking hours with a computer or smart phone, work without a suit and tie and have traveled overseas, they are likely to be new-age Americans.

On the other hand, if they are over 50, live in a state that’s either been losing population or staying flat, prefer to do business by phone and snail mail and do all their traveling inside the country, they are likely to be old-school Americans. But the quickest method to tell them apart? Just put an Asian in front of them, comments Nahm. Old-schoolers are rapidly devolving to occupations and addresses that require little or no direct contact with professions that attract the majority of Asian Americans — engineering, IT, financial services, medicine and pharmaceuticals, higher education and, more recently, media, advertising and law.

Old-schoolers have no reason to know that Asian Americans are rapidly becoming the new backbones of many of the nations most exclusive and affluent communities from Los Altos Hills to Long Island, from Redmond, Washington to Alexandria, Virginia.

Of course these days most of us live and work in places where we’re more likely to run into non-Asian Americans who don’t need explanations as to who we are and where we come from and what language we speak, the writer continues. Asians have become America’s new social litmus test.

Judge Gives Woman Indefinite Jury Duty After Racist Remarks

An incensed federal judge sentenced a Brooklyn woman to indefinite jury duty after she trashed the NYPD and minorities, reports the New York Daily News.  Juror No. 799, an Asian woman in her 20s who said she works in the garment industry, was up for jury duty in the death penalty trial of Bonanno crime boss Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano. Asked to name three people she least admired in the questionnaire, she wrote on her questionnaire: “African Americans, Hispanics and Haitians.” When the judge asked why she answered the question that way, she replied, “You always hear about them in the news doing something.” She also declared that cops are all lazy, claiming that they sound their sirens to bypass traffic jams. She also revealed that she had a relative who was a member of the Chinese Ghost Shadows gang in the 1980s, convicted of murder and still in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Taryn Merkl requested that the woman be disqualified from the Vinny Gorgeous case because of her “inappropriate” comments. The motion was granted. It is not unheard of for people to try to get out of jury service by making ridiculous statements concerning their views. It was unclear whether that was this woman’s motive. However, the judge sentenced her to indefinite jury duty as a consequence.



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