EVERYONE supports illegal immigration

A bunch of protesters stand outside of Chipotle. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided locations in Minnesota and DC and fired undocumented workers employed at Chipotle. The protesters were angry that Chipotle would let this happen and that the workers thought it permissible to take “our jobs”, particularly in such a terrible economy. This begs me to ask the question, which of our jobs is it ok for undocumented workers to take? Apparently, dishwasher at a fast food chain is not one them.

However, dishwasher at a high end restaurant is permissible. In fact, many of the line cooks, the ones preparing hundred dollar meals under the guidance of the executive chef are undocumented as well. Diners may not know – but they know. I’d say ignorance is bliss, but it’s not ignorance, it’s just denial. Just as Meg Whitman denied she knew her nanny was undocumented. We all know that our nannies, gardeners, and housekeepers are probably undocumented as well – but boy are they good and not that expensive either. How about the fruits and vegetables we all eat? Who do you think picked them? As a society we forget that we can go to the supermarket and buy a head of lettuce for $1.99 instead of $6.99 and we don’t wonder why. Apparently, picking fruits and vegetables, or mowing the lawns or taking care of our kids or cleaning our houses (or hotel rooms) are not “our jobs”.

Which brings me to the title of my post, EVERYONE – and I do mean EVERYONE – supports illegal immigration. If we were truly serious about stopping illegal immigrants, we would insist on paying more for all of the luxuries we enjoy so that real Americans could get all of those jobs. But, alas, we all support undocumented workers – we just each draw the line at a different place.

Posted by Rob


The Super Bowl Edition

The trophy pictured here was named after one of the greatest coaches of all time – Vince Lombardi. He lead the Green Bay Packers from irrelevancy to the winner of the first two Super Bowls ever played almost 50 years ago. Long discriminated against as an Italian-American (one NFL owner once said, “No one with a vowel at the end of their last name will ever coach my team”), Lombardi was a trendsetter in civil rights in the NFL.

Lombardi had to persuade the Packer front office to allow him to draft or trade for black players at all. This included a black player who intended to marry a white woman – a strict taboo at that time, especially in Green Bay, WI. Both the Packers and the NFL asked Lombardi to forbid Lionel Aldridge from marrying a white woman.  Lombardi shot back, “This is my team” and told Aldridge to go ahead and marry the woman he loved. In addition, Lombardi knew the importance of networks and made certain to bring other black players to the Packers so that the few black players would not feel as isolated. He provided them with money to travel to Chicago and Milwaukee during the week to connect with black culture. In addition, Lombardi told all restaurants and clubs who still followed Jim Crow Laws in Green Bay, that if they didn’t serve their black players, they couldn’t serve any of their players.

Lombardi famously quipped, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” It is clear that winning was not the only thing. Doing what was right was just as important for this son of Italian immigrants who experienced lowered expectations in school (he was told at an early age he was not college material by teachers and counselors) and discrimination in life and took those lessons and applied them to all of his players. Willie Wood, another one of his black players called Lombardi, “The fairest man he has ever met.” For a great look into the amazing life of this man, check out the book, “When Pride Still Mattered”.

Posted by Rob


My First HuffPo Blog


Posted by Rob


Can MBA students help non-profits?

More and more business schools are starting social entrepreneurship programs and I say kudos. Having worked in non-profits for the last ten years, I have worked with about half a dozen MBA’s and can say that not only are the organizations all the better for it, but so am I. Not such a new idea, this is becoming more and more popular. Yale‘s been at it since the 70′s. Other organizations have popped up to fill the void for those MBA students who are attracted to social entrepreneurship, but didn’t go to a B school that specialized in it.

My favorite one has to be Education Pioneers. Started in 1993 by a teacher turned lawyer (even lawyers can do good), EdPioneers takes B school students between their first and second year and places them in paid internships during the summer with educational non-profits to complete special projects while having workshops on issues concerning educational inequities. I’ve had the pleasure of working with 4 such interns and would hire each and every one of them.

The Broad Residency is another one, which specifically targets urban educational systems, taking MBA grads who spent time in industry and places them in urban districts and charters in different capacities. They also get workshops on educational issues. I’ve had some amazing coworkers and colleagues from this program as well. There program to fill urban superintendent positions, I am not as in love with. I believe that superintendents need to be the chief instructional leader of a district and allow all decisions to flow from there. As a #2, these people can be really valuable, but not as #1 (even if they hire a strong educator as #2). That’s just my inherent bias.

Recently, I’ve been learning about IDEO which pioneered Design Thinking. They created a toolkit for non-profits who want to utilize this form of innovative thinking to solve real world problems. It’s an interesting concept that I am thinking about how to involve where I work now.

The important thing about hiring MBA’s, as it is with anyone in a non-profit, is to assess mission alignment and belief system. As I started out, I have learned a lot from MBA grads I’ve had the opportunity to work with. Instead of surrounding myself with people who think just like me, I have found a great benefit in hiring people who look at issues and how to solve them differently, something MBA grads bring to the table and helps me look at issues of fairness through a different lens.

Posted by Rob


That’s Billion with a B

Articles in the NYTimes over the last two days really confuse me. The first one, talks of the incredible sums of money Goldman partners made in 2010 thanks to stock offerings they received in 2008.  860 current or former partners cashed out over $20Billion (with a B) in stock and hold $10B (another B) more. Meanwhile, the next day’s article points out how Goldman released a report themselves saying that their not doing what they should be doing and are disappointed in themselves, and vow to do better. All this while, a third article in the NYTimes points out, Goldman’s profits dropped 53%. Putting one and two together, Goldman set aside $15.4B for salaries, had annual earnings of $8.35B, and the top 860 employees at the firm made $20B in just stock offerings. Boy did I go into the wrong business.

All this reminds me of this month’s feature article in The Atlantic, “The Rise of the Global Elite“. Never has the income gap between rich and poor been so great. Never has the gap between upper-middle class and rich been so great. Goldman seems like a poster-child for this unfortunate (not for them) phenomenon.

Let’s really but this money in perspective with education spending. President Obama requested $1.35B to continue Race to The Top in 2011 and spent $650M on Investing in Innovation. Various budgets of different school districts: NYC – $21B; LAUSD – $7.3B; DCPS – $603M; With the stock they sold in 2010 and the stock they still hold, the 860 partners at Goldman could fund NYC, LA, and DC public schools for an entire year without even cutting into their normal salaries. 860 people could fund the education of close to 2million students for an entire year. This makes Bill Gate’s $335M investment in teacher effectiveness seem like a rounding error.

P.S. Look for my first blog on the Huffington Post in the next couple of weeks. I’ll keep people updated.

Posted by Rob


Quality Counts?

Education Week, today, released their annual report grading education in each state and Washington, DC based on 6 factors. States earn a letter grade for each with is them averaged together to produce an overall letter grade. States are then ranked in each of the categories and overall.

Each of these factors are problematic in their own way. However, the least viable category is something called, “Chances for Success”. “Chances for Success” rates a state on kindergarten enrollment, pre-school attendance, home language, and parent educational level. While it is certainly more difficult to educate a student who enters first grade without the benefit of pre-school and kindergarten, speaks a language other than English at home, and has parents who never entered college, is it fair to grade a state’s educational system based on these factors? Would we penalize a student as an individual for these factors by starting them with a C while all other students start off with an A? California ranked 42nd in this measure.

What exactly does this indicator have to do with quality? I would think that states should rank higher if they have shown high levels of college readiness and higher graduation levels even though they have high levels of English Language Levels. Wouldn’t that prove quality? Are states providing quality education if they are predominantly white, upper-middle class, with high levels of parent education? That’s what this indicator seems to be measuring and it does nothing more than  cement the institutional structures which make education more difficult for students and families of color and those living in poverty.

Quality school systems should not be determined by the “quality” of the students and their families coming into the school house. Quality school systems should be determined by what they do with the most dis-enfranchised and hardest to serve populations. How well do states serve Special Education students? Do English Language Learners transition successfully to English Only classes? Are parents supported through training and other services?  How many first-generation college students does a state produce? These all seem like real measures of the quality of a school system.

*Note: The other indicators are no prize either, but this one is the most troublesome on many levels.

Posted by Rob


The Christmas Spirit in Kids: A Follow-Up

In a previous post, I wrote about my desire to ensure that my own kids learn the importance of charity and giving to those less fortunate. An article I read yesterday personified an example of where I believe parents, and a coach, made a positive impact on raising a young man. Mark Sanchez, NY Jet and former Trojan quarterback (a perfect exacta in my sporting world!) made a dying child’s last wish come true – to the max. Not only did Sanchez meet with Aiden Binkley and tour him around the Jets complex, but gave him his cell phone number, regularly texted him, drove over to his house after practice, waited for him to wake up, and then talked with him about football for hours – all while the Aiden, suffering from incurable cancer battled in the final days of his life.

My first thought was – wow! what a man!! My second thought was that this story is similar to another story I learned about from Mark’s college days. Jake Olson Outside the Lines Story Jake Olson – a die-hard USC fan suffering from ocular cancer got to  watch a USC game on the sideline at the behest of Coach Pete Carroll – right before he was to lose his eye-sight completely due to surgery.

Just as with Sanchez and Aiden, Carroll kept in touch with Jake and after Jake recovered, he and his family were at every game and had almost unlimited access to practice and the locker room. Putting two and two together, I thought about what a great positive role model Pete Carroll was in modeling this type of behavior – not just paying lip service to something important and then dropping it, but going the extra mile and actually creating a lasting and meaningful relationship. Jake was even interviewed after Carroll decided to leave USC.

My third thought on this was man, Sanchez’s parents really got something right. I definitely hope that my children grow up like and have this type of heart. I wouldn’t mind my son being starting QB for the Trojans and Jets either, but I’m not holding out hope for that.

To close the update, my kids really got into buying gifts for a young leukemia survivor and her family. She was 5, very close in age to my kids. We got a list from Britticares, a great organization founded by the parents of one of my former students who died at 13 of cancer.  My kids loved shopping for them and then wrapping and shipping the presents. I hope the act starts them down a long and committed road to helping others. My kids have actually been helping Britticares for the past couple of years without really knowing it – we have been asking our friends to donate to the organization in lieu of birthday presents – most people do both.

Posted by Rob


TFA’s Defeat in Victory

“One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.”

Through significant lobbying efforts, Teach for America was able to counteract its own tag-line, ingrained in every corps member, with a mere act of congress.  The inclusion of the definitional change of “highly-qualified” under No Child Left Behind in a continuing resolution shows that TFA is more concerned about their own growth and expansion than they are with their guiding statement.

I agree with TFA (and research evidence) on several points:

1.       Highly-qualified does not mean highly-effective

2.       Most classrooms are better off with corps members over the alternative

3.       TFA pre-service training and on-going support is better than traditional teacher training platforms.

What Teach for America is missing, however, is the intent of the original language. The idea behind tracking credentialed teachers under NCLB was to highlight the disparity between affluent and less-affluent districts – including the less affluent districts TFA tries to serve. This persists where students living in poverty are significantly less likely to have knowledgeable and experienced teachers especially in math and science. What this legislative change will do is narrow the gap and therefore narrow the focus on educational equity. In addition, it further waters-down what it means to be a highly qualified teacher, as anyone with 5 weeks of summer training and enrolled in a credentialing course is now considered “highly-qualified” (a troubled definition to begin with).

Let me explain. TFA corps members (over 4,500 per year and growing) will now be considered highly-qualified as interns. So will other interns who pervade high-poverty schools. The 39 different urban and rural regions TFA places in will now be able to boast a higher percentage of “highly-qualified” teachers, specifically in their harder to staff schools. Therefore, the need for getting truly highly-qualified and committed teachers into those school districts cannot be spotlighted as brightly. To my knowledge, TFA was not having trouble recruiting and selecting enough corps members or enlisting new regions (4 new ones coming on board in 2011) with the more restrictive definition of “highly-qualified” which makes me beg the question of “Why?”. Am I missing something?

The answer to the poor quality of teacher preparation programs is not to blame the teachers and it is not to water down the definition of “highly qualified” even further by including teachers in stop-gap programs which masquerade as adequate training for new teachers (I teach in one, so I would know).

Full disclosure for readers who do not know me – I was a ’94 TFA corps member in Los Angeles and have gone through periods of love, hate, and complete indifference with the organization.  Today, I experience a new emotion – disappointment. While I think I was a pretty good teacher my first year, I was far from truly highly qualified. This short-term win will only serve to exacerbate the long-term struggle for equity in our schools that starts and ends with attracting, supporting, and retaining the highest quality teachers in our neediest schools. “One day” is now further away.

Here is the other side of the argument.

Posted by Rob


Fairness in Sports

I’m a huge sports fan. There are two specific events I remember which have forever jaded me in thinking that anything in sports is fair. The first one involves baseball. Baseball was my favorite sport growing up. I listened or watched baseball every single day and didn’t miss a game in the magical 1986 NY Mets run to the World Series.  A few years later, the first baseball lockout hit,  followed by a full blown strike in 1994. That was the end of baseball for me – or was it? In 1998, I got caught up in the McGwire-Sosa chase for Roger Maris’s 61 home run record. I drove down to San Diego with some friends to watch McGwire play the Padres, sat in the bleachers during batting practice, and was not disappointed as Mark hit a towering home run to get closer to the record. To find out several years later that McGwire was indeed doping (even though we all knew it at the time but were in denial) along with the amazing home run totals of other formerly scrawny ball players has put baseball to rest for me for ever (Brady Anderson anyone?).  I may watch the random playoff game, but hardly. In addition, the wake of the strike guaranteed baseball has no salary cap, another way that baseball is not fair. Sure, the Yankees won’t win every year, but the Royals, Pirates, and a good third of the others will never win.

The second event is the Tour de France. I was a  Tour de France enthusiast. I used to wake up really early every day during the summer to listen to Phil Ligget and Bob Roll make the often mundane sport of cycling seem exciting for 3+ hours.  For me, it filled a sports jones post basketball and hockey and pre college football (since I don’t watch baseball anymore). I’m not going to insinuate anything about Lance Armstrong, doping or not, his story is amazing, and he has never officially been caught. But scores of other cyclists, Tour de France champions in the last twenty years have tested positive for EPO and other blood doping agents. Contador, Landis, Hamilton (claims he has a chimera twin which was absorbed into his body before birth). I couldn’t even watch the tour last year and probably won’t ever watch it again.

A story today, confirmed that Diana Taurasi (who?) tested positive for a banned substance in her B sample (a second test to confirm a positive test). When WNBA superstars have to use banned substances to get an edge, something is really wrong with sports. Women’s sports had always been held up as the paragon of purity – where fundamentals over-ruled pured athleticism and teamwork over-ruled individualism. What can we believe? Can we believe that at 40, Dara Torres could win 3 silver medals at the Olympics?

I see two paths forward with my sports fandom in terms of fairness and they both involve me not caring. Either, I’m not going to care about fairness and just root for the teams and players I like regardless of what performance enhancing drugs they may or may not take; or I’m not going to care about sports at all. For now, I’m still stuck in the middle.

Posted by Rob


Self-Righteousness and Diversity

When I first moved with my family from Southern CA to the Bay, we explored several different communities before settling on Moraga. It was a difficult decision as I really wanted to be in a more diverse location, but the backyard we could get on a traffic-less street won out over the Oakland Hills and Berkeley where the same property would have cost 50% more. About a week after the move I was attending an education event and talking with a program officer at a major foundation. She asked about where I moved and when I said Moraga, she shot back with, “Oh. How is it living in a gated community?” Asking this young, white woman where she lived, she proudly puffed up her chest and said, “Oakland” as if this made her inherently better. I’ve had similar conversations play out several other times as well.

Looking back, now 7 months on our decision, I would have made the same one. New census data shows that while the East Bay is more diverse, it is also still segregated. We actually put a lot of thought into our move and talked to a lot of young families who all said the same thing, “We love the diversity in Oakland, but we are moving by the time our kids have to enter middle school – those schools are terrible.” Diversity has its limits. This proves to be a huge trend in Oakland schools, where they are losing 40% of all high achieving students between 5th and 6th grades. San Francisco is no different where tons of affluent white families send their kids to private schools starting in kindergarten.

Not only would I have made the same decision, but I no longer struggle to accept it. There is an inherent self-righteousness of those who feel they are doing something by  living in a city as opposed to their thoughts, speech, and actions. These do not need to be mutually exclusive, as plenty of people are purposely moving to diverse neighborhoods and making a difference through their actions. .

I was walking through Montclair Village in Oakland yesterday and the only non-white people I saw walking the streets were the people I met with. Gentrification is the new segregation as communities like Oakland and Berkeley act diverse, but maintain some of the widest racial achievement gaps in the country. Living in a “diverse” city is not contributing to the promotion of fairness and equity especially when the neighborhood within which one lives is not diverse itself.  And living in a non-diverse city does not mean one is not contributing to the promotion of fairness and equity either.

Posted by Rob




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