"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A charter school story

I want to apologize to Schools Matter readers for my infrequent contributions. I thought once I graduated from law school and passed the most difficult bar examination in the country on my first attempt, that I'd have more time to write. Instead, in addition to my long-time day job, I now have an internship once a week at an education law firm, and I am teaching on Thursday nights at my law school. In a word — I'm swamped. However, I managed to piece together this twitter thread on Monday, that I thought was worth reposting here.

Researching for a case and came across a personal injury settlement between a charter school corporation in the Central Valley and multiple student plaintiffs for some $6-million+. The amount is on the low side considering the horrific injuries some of the students suffered.

It was the typical charter school money-making scam. They had a former employee form an unregistered and uninsured transportation company. The charter's Vice Principle provided one of their family's vehicles to that company. They paid themselves $6K a month from public money to operate a vehicle that had several defective seatbelts. Moreover, they consistently exceeded the vehicle's passenger capacity. Students had to share seats and some had to ride on the floor.

Struck by another vehicle traveling at high speed, the charter corporation's vehicle rolled multiple times and ejected several of the unrestrained students. The injuries were as bad as you could imagine them to be.

This was the inevitable result of putting public money into private hands. Because charter school corporations are privately managed with de minimis oversight, transparency, and accountability, they find ways to channel public revenue streams into their pockets, all the while cutting corners on students. Here, that cost cutting had drastic consequences that altered the lives of several students whose injuries were severe.

In this case it was a transportation company that the charter corporation created, but we've seen the same thing with Charter Management Organization real estate holding firms, and charter school side-companies like convicted felon and charter school mogul Refugio 'Ref' Rodriguez's Better 4 You Foods and Better 4 You Fundraising.

The diversion of public funds to private pockets doesn't stop at individual charter school corporations, as evidenced by their trade association—the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). CCSA sells its member charter schools products and services, paid for out of the public purse. One of them, which would later become known as CharterSafe, generated profits so lucrative, that large firms like Travelers and Gallagher & Co. partnered with them. Here's a quote from a CCSA executive:

"…generated 30% profit margins in subsequent years–with 20-30% lead generation and 20-50% close ratios."


The examples of charter corporation greed and self-dealing keep increasing. It's the inevitable result of putting public money into private hands.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Loss of Notre Dame Reminds Us

The catastrophic fire at Notre Dame Cathedral and the collapse of its spire remind us of 9-11, and our grief is renewed.  We all wondered as we watched: why can't something be done to stop the fire?  Frustration, even anger, boiled up.

So much lost.  So much history, so much art, so much of the reality of the past going up in smoke. Tragic by any measure.

Now we must ask the question: what if we could have prevented that fire?  Would we have done so?  A stupid question, you snort, of course we would have done whatever was required to save this giant piece of our civilization.

And yet there is so much more of our civilization, our civilizations, that remain with us. Notre Dame, for all its grandeur, is a tiny thread in the vast tapestry of our collective cultures, histories, stories, lives.

Now listen: there is fire coming.  We know it is coming, and we know when it is coming.  There is no doubt about its coming.  The tapestry will be burned, along with wall upon which it hangs. And the building that supports that wall, along with the surrounding city and countryside.  All of it.

Now are you as sure that you would have acted to stop the burning of Notre Dame?  Would you?  Will you act to stop the burning of the world, all the art, the words, the works, the languages, the people and life itself?

Notre Dame's burning--how sad, how tragic, and how small in comparison to the conflagration that has been planned by us.  Do we really care?  Will we take action before the we see the flames on the horizon?  Will we?  For there will be no rebuilding.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Big Win Over KIPP in California Privatization Fight

Big, big victory in Los Angeles over proposed KIPP mega-charter:

By Jared Hamil |
April 8, 2019
Centro CSO press conference announcing defeat of KIPP charter school
Centro CSO press conference announcing defeat of KIPP charter school, victory for public education (Fight Back! News/staff) 
Los Angeles, CA - Centro CSO (Community Service Organization) along with teachers, parents and students from several East Area schools announced a historic victory, April 4. After months of struggle, corporate KIPP Promesa Charter school will not be building a new mega-charter school in Boyle Heights, at the location of the former Lincoln Hospital near 4th and Soto Street.

Rosario Bonilla, a mother who lives next to proposed site said, “I’m excited we obtained the victory against KIPP that I know would have affected the lives of my children and my community. Also, I feel proud to say that billionaires can't teach our kids!”

KIPP, which is the United States’ largest charter school corporation, operates in multiple states. In Los Angeles, like many other cities, charter schools are promoted in poor working-class neighborhoods that are primarily Chicano and African American. With the backing of real estate billionaires like Eli Broad, they build new private charter schools that pull students from already existing public schools. As student enrollment from public schools declines, funding also declines, causing layoffs for teachers and support staff. Those jobs are almost always unionized, with good benefits. Charter schools are also a part of the wave of gentrification responsible for rent hikes, evictions and displacements. With a population of over 100,000 who reside in Boyle Heights, there are currently over a dozen charter schools. KIPP Charter Schools already have one school in Boyle Heights and three in East LA.

When word spread that KIPP was trying open up another school the community sprang into action. On January 4, Centro CSO supported a lawsuit filed by Boyle Heights Neighborhood Association and longtime activist and resident Carlos Montes. The lawsuit against KIPP Promesa and LA City was based on the environmental damage to the already existing bad conditions and failure to conduct an Environmental Impact Report.

Carlos Montes, of Centro CSO said, “The proposed mega-project would have an adverse impact by adding more pollution, traffic and noise to the already harmful conditions.”
Centro CSO, along with teachers from nearby schools like Breed St. Elementary and the groups like East LA Padres Contra Privatizacion, went to LA city hall and through the planning commission’s long process demanding they not build the new charter school. But the LA city council voted to approve the project, with the urging of Councilmember Jose Huizar.

KIPP also got letters of support from LAUSD Board member Monica Garcia, LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis and Maria Brenes of Inner City Struggle, which the community strongly criticized. Centro CSO led protests several times at the proposed site, demanding an end to privatization of public education.

In late January, Los Angeles teachers, overworked with huge classroom sizes, lack of support services, plagued with charter school co-locations and budget cuts went on a historic week-long strike. Over 30 thousand teachers fought against the attacks on public education, as more and more public funding went to private charter schools. The attacks were led by billionaires like Eli Broad, the Waltons of Wal-Mart and the Gates Foundation with their sellout lackeys on the LA school board like Monica Garcia and former board member and money-launderer Ref Rodriguez. During the strike, the United Teachers of Los Angeles led a protest on the headquarters of the California Charter Schools Association demanding a moratorium on charter schools within the district.

After the strike, teachers and parents in Boyle Heights continued the fight against privatization. They continued with protests, and on February 28 they went to KIPP Promesa offices demanding, “No new mega-KIPP!”

On the afternoon of April 4, at Mariachi Plaza, mothers, students and teachers of Boyle Heights and East LA announced the huge victory. Lupe Torres, an ELA resident, teacher and UTLA Chapter Chair at Marvin Avenue Elementary school, fired up the crowd, chanting “No mega KIPP!” CSO announced that the LA City Planning Department issued a termination letter on the proposed project.

Eloisa Galindo of Eastside Padres Contra Privatizacion said, “The people united will never be defeated! The power and money will never defeat people united!”

Carlos Cerdan, a teacher from nearby Breed Street Elementary said, “This win was a huge victory for the community. Centro CSO’s commitment to Boyle Heights is clear yet again, defeating a corporate charter behemoth. The fight doesn’t end here. We need to continue to inform and mobilize the community because privatizers are not going away easily. Charter schools serve to divide communities at an early age in order to destroy unity through false pretenses of choices. Schools not profits!”

This historic victory shows that the wave of charter schools can be stopped if communities stand up and fight back. Teachers, parents and community members will continue to struggle against co-locations and the invasion of private charter schools on the Eastside. Community leader Carlos Montes states, “This victory against KIPP will inspire others to fight back against privatization.”

NZ Privacy Commish: FB "morally bankrupt pathological liars"

From Huffington Post:
New Zealand’s privacy commissioner is holding no punches in his criticism of Facebook in the wake of the deadly mosque shootings in Christchurch, part of which was livestreamed by the gunman on the social media platform.
Calling the tech giant “morally bankrupt pathological liars,” John Edwards said on Twitter on Sunday night that Facebook “cannot be trusted.”
The social media platform “enable[d] genocide” in Myanmar, Edwards tweeted, referring to Facebook’s role in inciting violence and promoting discrimination in the Southeast Asian nation, aimed particularly at the minority Rohingya people.
Facebook also facilitates “foreign undermining of democratic institutions,” and allows the livestreaming “of suicides, rapes, and murders,” Edwards continued, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Facebook leaders “continue to host and publish the mosque attack video, allow advertisers to target ‘Jew haters’ and other hateful market segments, and refuse to accept any responsibility for any content or harm. They #DontGiveAZuck,” Edwards concluded in a jibe aimed at Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Friday, April 05, 2019

TN Commish Blames Teachers for Not Improving More

Published at the Tennessean:

After reading the Tennessean article “Large numbers of Tennessee students not ready for college, new state data show,” I was scratching my head and wondering why alarm bells are going off now about high numbers of high school graduates needing college remediation. Especially so as we find out near the end of the article that college remediation rates have actually improved by 20 percentage points in the past five years.

Furthermore, why would the executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Mike Krause, be bad-mouthing teachers and the education colleges that prepare them, in light of these improvements in college readiness?  Why wouldn’t a 20-percent improvement at least warrant a nod of approval for heading in the right direction?

I am not suggesting that we ignore the fact that some schools across the state still have very high percentages of graduates needing college remediation in both reading and math.  And we know those schools are in both rural and urban areas that are economically distressed. Whether Hardeman County in West Tennessee or Austin-East High School in Knoxville, we know that high remediation rates go hand in hand with high poverty rates.

It is unfortunate that Krause and his chief ally in the state Senate, Republican Jon Lundberg, ignore the economic and educational disparities that are at the source of the remediation problem.  Instead, they continue to blame the problem on educators and teacher educators whose life work is to help those struggling students whose disenfranchisement remains a principal predictor for their adult life outcomes.

Sadly, Krause’s former boss, former Gov. Bill Haslam, spent the waning days of his governorship trying unsuccessfully to kill the most recent manifestation of school funding lawsuits that have been ongoing in one form or another since 1987. If Krause and members of the General Assembly want to do something about high remediation rates and other educational effects of child poverty, they could support full funding of Tennessee’s Basic Education Program, BEP, which would put the State in line with its constitutional responsibility to provide the children of the state with a “free, adequate, and equitable education.”

With teachers across the nation now finding public support for demanding the resources required to do their jobs professionally and to raise their families adequately, Krause’s blame game seems particularly out of step with the times.  We will have to see if Tennesseans are as easily manipulated now as they have been in the past by efforts to deflect attention from generations of inadequate and inequitable education funding, while leaders seek to avoid political accountability for a never-ending array of failed education reform efforts that benefit big business interests over the needs of children.
In the meantime, it would be a greater public service If the media were to give credit where credit is due, rather than ignoring the larger story in order to benefit the political motives of state officials.  A more appropriate headline on the Tennessean article might have read, “Five-year college remediation rate down by 20 percent among state high school grads.” 

Jim Horn, Ph.D., is professor of educational leadership at Cambridge College in Cambridge, Massachusetts . . . . His most recent book is "Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys Through ‘No Excuses’ Teaching."

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

No College Benefit Derived by Attending Charter Schools

A new study published by USDOE puts into context much of the propaganda by KIPP and other charter chains related to the ostensible benefit of attending their corporate madrasas.  

Bottom line: there is no future college benefit accruing from attending these hell schools:
A study from the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) obtained college enrollment and completion data for students who — more than a decade ago — entered lotteries to be admitted to 31 charter middle schools across the United States. College outcomes were compared for 1,723 randomly selected "lottery winners" and 1,150 randomly selected "lottery losers". The study found that being admitted to a charter middle school did not affect college outcomes. Also, there was not a consistent relationship between a charter school's impact on middle school achievement and the school's impact on college outcomes.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

DeVos Provides Evidence of Devolution

The brittle crone billionairess, Betsy Devos, went before a House committee this week to answer questions regarding her bullish support for a 12 percent cut to the federal education budget that has been proposed by the sado-conservatives now in charge at the White House.

Included in the cuts are after-school programs and mental health services for America's poorest communities.  Because the program previously have had so little money spread so thin, DeVos said, we may as well just kill the whole thing.  After all, as Trumpian reason goes, if a most people are starving, we should go ahead and eliminate food for the ones that we're feeding. 

If you're still uncertain about where the Trump/Devos ed budget registers on the inhumanity meter, it also zeroes out federal funding for Special Olympics.  All of it.  By the way, the entire $17.5 million federal commitment to Special Olympics would pay for 5 Trump trips to Mar-a-Lago.

We should prepare for more of this kind of brazen cruelty masked as fiscal responsibility.  After all, this week, we saw, too, the opening salvos in a new war to be waged in the courts, this time, to take away health care away for millions of Americans and to allow insurance companies, once again, to make insurance unaffordable for those with pre-existing conditions.  Does the Trump Party really believe that an effort to kill Obamacare will make its likely preservation the default choice among the populace, rather than the hugely popular option of Medicare-for-All? Probably.

Meanwhile, the spiriting away of the Mueller Report by Trump's AG has left much of the Resistance in a stunned whimper.  I am wondering when Barr's well-choreographed castration attempt will register among the vast majority of citizens who we might have been expected to be marching on the White House for a lesser crime against justice just a week ago.

If you want a larger future that is not ruled by a smaller past, it's time to force all of that generalized disappointment and sadness into a righteous anger that the moral universe demands.  The voting that culminates next year has to begin today.  See below.

Last night, in a stunning, reckless, and baseless two-sentence letter, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice announced it won’t defend any part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This is the Trump administration’s clearest attempt yet, not just to sabotage, but to completely annihilate the ACA -- and in doing so, unleash chaos on our health care system and on millions of Americans lives.
We’re pissed. And we know you are too.
→ It would jeopardize Medicaid expansion in 37 states.
→ It would end protections for preexisting conditions.
→ It would end coverage for young people who’d otherwise be able to stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.
→ It would end required coverage of preventive care -- like cancer screenings, vaccines, birth control, blood pressure tests and more.
And so, so much more.
Look, we know we don’t need to tell you what’s at stake -- you’ve been fighting this fight with us for the last two years. But, we’ve got three things we can do right now to beat back these latest Republican attempts to take away our healthcare, and we need your help. We’re making an urgent appeal to ensure our movement has everything it needs to respond in full force. So, if you’re ready to pitch in $5, $10, $25, or more to help fund this work, click here. Otherwise, read more about our plan below.
Contribute >>
So, what happens now? To be clear, the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land. Republicans have tried repeatedly for 9 years to repeal, undermine, and sabotage the ACA, and this is just one more attempt at that. It was because of grassroots pressure that it exists today. What’s important to remember is that this fight is now in the courts -- and there are plenty of stakeholders ready to do the job that Trump’s DOJ won’t (check out our resource with more on the upcoming legal battle here). 
Right now, there are three meaningful things that you can do to protect health care for millions while this makes its way through the courts:
  1. Pressure House Democrats to use their oversight and investigatory power to hold the Trump administration accountable for their sabotage. Call them and demand that they ask the tough questions -- ask them what they’re doing about Trump’s attack on our health care right now.
  2. Keep calling to get your members of Congress to commit to building on the success of the ACA and lay the groundwork for a single-payer system. Yes, ask your representatives to cosponsor Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Medicare For All Act (we’ve got a call script!), but go a step further. Demand your members of Congress lay the groundwork now for what comes next: that means holding hearings, hearing from experts, working through the policy debates, building consensus, and drafting legislation so that it’s ready when we take power. Your continued pressure can ensure that they do this.
  3. Organize, organize, organize to reverse the radical, conservative transformation of our judicial system (read: win in 2020). Right now, that means asking your senators to fight like hell to block additional Trump appointees to district and circuit courts. It also means knocking doors to take back power in the Senate and the White House to ensure that our district and federal courts are occupied by qualified judges dedicated to safeguarding our rights and promoting justice -- not advancing partisan political goals.
The good news is that our team is working day in and day out to put resources and tools in the hands of Indivisibles across the country to build local power and do just that: hold members of Congress accountable for oversight, demand bold policy alternatives to Trump’s hateful agenda, and win in 2020. 
The not-so-good news is that we’re working against the clock, and the administration isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Your contribution can help us fight back. If you can pitch in $5, $10, $25, or more right now your dollars will go directly toward our efforts to ramp up this work. 
Right now, we’re:
→ Launching a $25,000 rapid response digital ads campaign to make more people aware of Trump’s latest attempts to destroy the ACA and mobilize more folks to take action and get involved on their home turf.
→ Rolling out a state-of-the-art membership management platform for Indivisible groups, allowing them to better engage with their members, organize their events, and build long-term power.
→ Putting the final touches on our new click to call tool to make it easier for people to get connected to their members of Congress and get the right information to make the most strategic ask with a single click of a button.
→ AND we’re planning major campaigns to double down on oversight efforts, protect communities under attack by the administration, and strengthen our democracy.
Two years to the week after their unsuccessful first attempt at repealing the Affordable Care Act in the House, Trump and Republicans are still in relentless pursuit of your care. And they’ll do whatever it takes, no matter how lawless -- and no matter how many people it hurts.
We. Will. Fight. Back. And we will win.
In solidarity,Indivisible Team

Improving foreign language competence in the US by reading

Submitted to the NY Times,March 26, 2019
To the editor:

Bénédicte de Montlaur (“Do you speak my language? You should.” March 26, 2019) is right: There has been a move toward “holistic” foreign language education. This development is based on solid research done over the last four decades published in numerous scientific journals and books. 

These studies show that we acquire language when we understand what we hear or read, not when we memorize vocabulary or study grammar rules. Those who hear and read more of the language acquire more of it.  

Reading is especially powerful: Even when we lack the opportunity to have conversations in a second language, if we can find interesting books, and develop a reading habit, we will continue to improve after the school program finishes. Sadly, there are few libraries and few bookstores that take pleasure reading in other languages seriously.

If we are serious about improving foreign language competence, our school and public libraries need to be filled with comprehensible and highly interesting reading material at all difficulty levels.  

Stephen Krashen

Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited. (second edition)
Krashen, S. 2011. Free Voluntary Reading. Westport: Libraries Unlimited.

McQuillan, J. (1998). The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

A Half Century of Segregated Schools in NYC

Important piece of journalism today in the Times.  Here's a clip:

New York City is starkly different today than it was 50 years ago. It is politically more liberal, and far more racially diverse. Yet one aspect has barely changed: The city’s public schools remain among the most segregated in the nation. 
The deep racial divide was highlighted last week, when eighth graders who had taken the specialized high school admission test received offers to attend New York’s highly selective public high schools. The statistics were striking: out of 895 slots in Stuyvesant High School’s freshman class, only seven were offered to black students. 
Racial and socio-economic segregation is even more pronounced in some parts of the city now than it was a five decades ago, though research released in the intervening years has shown that integration benefits all children. . . .