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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Understanding KIPP Model Charter Schools, Part 10

In the Part 9 from Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys through "No Excuses" Teaching, Barbara Veltri provided some details on the role that Teach for America plays in sustaining the paternalistic "no excuses" corporate reform schools. Part 10 picks up where that chapter left off.  

For previous posts in this series, google "Understanding KIPP Model Charter Schools."

Chapter 10
“KIPP is grad school for TFA gluttons for punishment”
If you were in TFA and it wasn’t punishing enough for you, then KIPP is right up your alley. (KIPP teacher, 1166)

You cannot teach someone to be a great teacher in twenty days.  (KIPP teacher and TFA trainer, 1178)
         Teach for America and KIPP Model schools maintain a mutually-supportive ideological bond and business relationship. Without the 30-40 percent of KIPP teachers who are presently or formerly TFA corps members, KIPP and its total compliance charter emulators would be hard-pressed to find enough teachers to maintain their operations.  At the same time, TFA alums with aspirations for leadership benefit greatly from schools No Excuses charters.  For without KIPP and the other No Excuses charter chains, TFA alumni, with their two years of teaching experience, would have few opportunities to move into school leader positions and without the requisite administrative and leadership training that is typically required of public school administrators. 
Some KIPP Model schools prefer teachers who have matriculated from TFA, while others like to recruit first-year TFA teachers so that they “they don’t have to unlearn ‘bad’ teaching habits.”  Another KIPP teacher noted that TFA alumni do particularly well at KIPP because they are naïve and have “the mindset of a missionary” who “believes that kids need to be broken before we can build them up.”
         Seven of the former No Excuses interviewed were former TFA corps members, and all of them had received repeated solicitous emails about KIPP through their TFA email accounts.  One teacher formed specific expectations regarding what KIPP would be like from the emails that she received while working as a TFA teacher in a public school in the Bronx.  Not surprisingly, the emails focused on expectations, order, outcomes, team, and leadership:
I think my expectations going in were that there was going to be some real consistency at a school level regarding expectations for academic achievement and discipline.  I was excited to feel part of a larger community. . . . . I was excited to be part of a team.  From an expectation standpoint, I figured I would be working very hard and that I would be part of a team and that by deploying the KIPP approach, that we would be able to generate some significant outcomes.  I also felt like the principal at my school was a really dynamic leader…
         Another former TFA member who found out about KIPP during her TFA service was more explicit about the ongoing mythologizing of KIPP that happens during the TFA teaching stint, as well as KIPP’s “harvesting” of TFA alumni as they transition out of their TFA-assigned schools.  She indicated that TFA, too, engaged in efforts to “funnel” or “channel” those leaving their assigned schools into the KIPP organization or into “TFA staff positions.”  She said that there was a “constant barrage” of communications urging alumni to “stay affiliated in some way:” 
. . . from the very beginning of my experience, from the five week training program that Teach for America employs, all the way through my two year commitment, KIPP was really sort of mythologized as the end-all, be-all, the ideal model for a classroom of high achieving students, from day one of joining Teach for America and seeing videos of KIPP classrooms, up until towards the end of my two year commitment when I was considering next steps, KIPP really actively coming in and harvesting new employees from core members who were finishing up their two year commitment.  It was always something that was before me over the course of my two years with Teach for America.  I really started to feel like I was being recruited into almost the next phase of my TFA experience towards the end of my second year as I was preparing to transition into being an alumni.
TFA encouraged her to submit a resume to the KIPP database, and soon after she did, she began receiving emails and phone calls from KIPP administrators “trying to gauge my interest in coming on board with a KIPP school.”  This teacher talked about how she was conditioned at TFA “to believe that if there’s any slacking of will at any point—if there’s any departure from these philosophies and precepts [of total commitment], which I think are held in common with KIPP (they just look different), then that’s a sign of someone giving up.” 
She talked of regularly feeling tired and of feeling guilty for being tired, as admitting tiredness could be a sign of flagging commitment:  “It’s almost this idea of a fundamentalist cult.  Someone’s not allowed to question, someone’s not allowed to doubt.  If they do, that means that they’re fallen; that means that they’re out.  There’s no room for conversation.  There’s no room for nuance.” 
         When asked how this conditioning was reinforced, she said that because she had “a very positive relationship” with her closest supervisors at TFA, they shared their disappointments with her in regards to her peers who were members of the same TFA cohort:
I know that the way that they would talk to me about certain peers of mine, who were the same year in the program, the way that they would talk about some of those peers who were less committed, or some of those peers who were starting to balk under some of the expectations, or thinking about doing something after the two year experience that had nothing to do with education, had nothing to do with Teach For America, there was always a tone, an undercurrent. 
This teacher said she found a similar insistence on staying connected to KIPP in the plaque she was given when she left: “the only reason I have it on my wall is because all my students signed it and I appreciate looking at what they had to say.  But the centerpiece of it [says] ‘once a KIPPster, always a KIPPster’.”
          Another former KIPP teacher referred to how a “self-sacrifice ideology” was common among successful TFA and KIPP teachers.  To her this represented the “scariest type” of successful KIPP teacher:  “Those that just stay in it and feel that there is nothing else left better to do.  They do not have a life.  I have some teammates; they don’t talk to their family regularly.  They don’t eat healthy….They are at work until 9-10 o’clock at night.  KIPP is their life.  Anything KIPP, they’re there, even on Saturdays and Sundays.” 
One teacher talked of a type of TFA-KIPP synergism that had devastating effects on one of her colleagues at KIPP, who was also an active TFA enlistee at the time:
We have a Teach for America corps member, who is an outstanding English I teacher from the region.  She was denied leave after having several anxiety attacks.  The ambulance actually came to our school to pick her up.  She has been neglected by our instructional coach in the school.  She has been told that she has to model our instructional coach and the other powers that be.  She has had bronchitis on many different days.  She has been yelled at and told, ‘Oh you look fine,’ even though she was about to pass out and eventually collapsed that same day, from not taking off.  She is going to quit Teach for America.  She is going to quit KIPP and between the two, they have run her ragged.

AFT Opens the Door for IBM

The NYTimes reports that IBM's supercomputer has moved beyond winning Jeopardy games against human opponents.  With the support and assistance of AFT's Randi Weingarten, IBM's Watson has now taken on Common Core 3rd grade math instruction as the initial step for becoming the lead teacher for U. S. schools, and beyond:
Randi Weingarten, president of the teachers’ union, said that one of the challenges of the Common Core has been that teachers are asked to teach math in a way they were never taught it themselves. Watson, she said, should be able to help with that

“We have moved from memorization and application of mathematical formulas to helping kids think it through,” Ms. Weingarten said. “If you don’t really, fundamentally understand that,” she said of the new methods, “it is root canal for an elementary-school teacher.”
I guess this is what Weingarten was talking about when she said, "we have to give teachers the necessary tools and resources to effectively teach the new standards."  No need for expensive professional development, and who knows, if things go as Bill Gates would like, we may eliminate the need for professional teacher preparation, altogether.
we have to give teachers the necessary tools and resources to effectively teach to the new standards or they are doomed to becoming another failed education reform." - See more at: http://www.aft.org/press-release/aft-poll-800-teachers-finds-strong-support-common-core-standards-and#sthash.Y0ddW1Ec.dpuf

We should remember, too, that it was Randi Weingarten who reminded us that "the Common Core standards should be a guide, not a straitjacket. They should inspire creativity for teachers and students."

we have to give teachers the necessary tools and resources to effectively teach to the new standards or they are doomed to becoming another failed education reform." - See more at: http://www.aft.org/press-release/aft-poll-800-teachers-finds-strong-support-common-core-standards-and#sthash.Y0ddW1Ec.dpuf

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Give a Thousand Dollars: Help Immortalize Diane

For a thousand tax-deductible dollars, you can 1) buy a journal page to help NPE continue its semi-commitment to sometimes challenge corporate education reforms that it, otherwise, supports, and 2) create an archival testament to honor Diane Ravitch's desire to remain historically noteworthy.  

The quote below is from a piece published in The New Republic a short time after the 2011 SOS March in DC.  The piece is worth reading, even if its writer, Kevin Carey, has affiliation issues, too.  (Interestingly, it seems that Diane's political conversion might have never happened if Joel Klein had not aroused in Diane a powerful personal animus.  Some things don't change, I guess.)

So help Diane make sure history reserves a friendly place for her among the other great women of American history.  She already has spot in mind, even if no one from AFT has yet sponsored a fundraiser.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Who's Behind the K-12 Online Learning Bonanza?

The International Association for Online Learning (iNACOL) is meeting in San Antonio in late October for a big symposium to advance all sorts of competency based personalized outcomes based blended online digital bullshit notions that have re-charged the dying batteries of the corporate education reformers.  

Who's behind these fads from the previous century now repackaged for another generation of back-to-basics mossback antiquarians?   

All the big paternalists, social efficiency zealots, and profiteers, along with a couple of new ones that have product lines ready to sell.  This is where the action is, and this where the resistance must focus:

States of MegaGrit

by Susan Ohanian





























Monday, September 26, 2016

Retired Teacher's Thoughts on Union Misleadership

Denis Ian served for 34 years as a high school teacher. 

by Denis Ian

Teacher unions are being destroyed from within and without. And it’s been happening for a long while.

The same “reform" forces that wormed their way into the the curriculum discussions and redesigns also used their wealth to purchase political influ
ence. And their worming was not confined only to state elected officials, but extended to national union leaders and major inner city unions as well. Think Weingarten and Garcia.

If these union leaders could be captured by funding temptations and empty promises of continued influence, well, then the take over of public education would get a whole lot easier. And that is precisely what has happened from without.

The AFT and the NEA leadership are hand-maidens to the reformists. Of course, they peacock their independence for their membership, all the while acquiescing on issues that will alter the lives of the teachers they represent … high stakes testing, teacher evaluations, and curriculum design. Think Weingarten and Garcia.

The leadership of large, inner city unions seem especially easy to seduce. Michael Mulgrew, the NYC UFT union boss, has embraced the Common Core … and all of the attending slop that rode in with that lousy reform. And he did it for Judas money. For small, temporary gains that, in the end, will only rot out the lives of his rank and file, but seal the deal for decades to come. Short term gain, long term pain.

Of course, these union leaders have been seduced by powerful temptations. How else to explain the quick and early endorsement of a pro-reformist like Clinton … when Bernie Sanders seemed to be the overwhelming great fit for unions across the nation? Well, because … because there are expected rewards for those leaders should Clinton win. And, of course, that was always a more likely outcome. 

These leaders make the case that they are important and influential “players” … and that is a necessary role to play in order to stay on the inside of the issues.

But it is now clear that they have become quite comfortable on the inside … and they have lost touch with those who looked to them for leadership. To the rank and file, the they have become a disconnected elite. “Animal Farm” swine. A union upper-crust with a broken stethoscope … unable to listen to the heartbeat of those who brought them to office.

This divide and conquer strategy would make Caesar grin.
But there’s more.

Teacher unity is also being fractured from within.

For some reason, the outside threat posed by these never-ending reforms … reforms we all see as profession-wrecking … does not seem quite lethal enough to some.

There are more than a few who do believe the future belongs to the reformers … and they’d prefer to be rewarded for their early cooperation. So they have hopped on the charter school band-wagon … sermonizing us all how wonderful these new situations are for disadvantaged kids … when in reality that are advantaging themselves.

They are slurping up what they can in this moment of union and educational chaos. They’re educational junk-yard dogs … surviving and prospering under hallelujah rants of curing sick students of long-term educational maladies … just like traveling evangelical charlatans under canvas tents. Think Weingarten and Garcia.

These reluctant tacit approvers of charter schools rationalize their system-wrecking decision to go the charter route because … because they are “social justice” champions. As if no other teachers have ever been champions for disadvantaged students in the past.

I think this “social justice” crusade is a cover … a ruse … so that themselves don’t come under fire for super-screwing … along with the reformers … the classroom teachers left behind in now even more poorly underfunded classrooms.

Lots of teachers have no allegiance to some ideology that seeks to resegregate kids in our schools. Thousands of teachers see their mission as educators … teachers of knowledge … and not as social Gandhi’s. They do not see the classroom as a bully-pulpit or as a town square. They see their involvement with children as mentors and wizards of learning and nurturers of curiosity. They do not see themselves as coaxers of would-be social activists. They do not see students as tools for a personal agenda.

Teaching has become a cover activity for feel-good identifications for youngsters … a how-to manual for challenging “the system” rather than a construct for improving the intellectual skills that will enhance their lives more than becoming crafty rally professionals.

If we separate ourselves over social ideologies, well, then our profession is doomed. It’s why these “pop up” charter schools … run by social activists get a “pass” when other charter schools get the severe scrutiny they deserve. They are bad stuff.

Every charter school is a siphon that slurps up funding from regular public schools … the schools that have served us so well for so long. 

Those charter dollars should be used to repair our most needy schools. Instead … we are resegregating ourselves back in time all the while insisting we are moving the social clock forward. We are lying to ourselves.

This is how we have lost our union ethos. Our solidarity identity. And our political clout.

And this is why there are knives sticking out of our backs.

Denis Ian

Sunday, September 25, 2016

From Neighborhood Schools to Learning Eco-Systems, A Dangerous Trade

If we hope to preserve neighborhood schools for future generations we must recognize how reformers are reframing the idea of public education in dangerous new ways. A coordinated campaign of ALEC legislation, philanthropic investments, and slick re-branding is underway with the ultimate goal of replacing school buildings and certified, human teachers with decentralized, unregulated learning eco-systems and non-credentialed mentors and/or AI “tutors.”

It is a challenging concept to grasp. Therefore, I have decided to work on a series of posts. Taken together, I hope they will provide a base of information that people can share with others. This initial post will provide a framework for understanding the concept of a learning eco-system. Subsequent ones will cover: school redesign, digital badging, credit-bearing ELOs, Social Impact Bond financing, and changes to teacher training/hiring.

What is a learning eco-system?

Proponents of a data-driven, technology-mediated approach to public education see 21st-century learning as a “quest” in which participants diligently work to assemble proof that they’ve obtained the assorted skills and bits of knowledge they need to compete for jobs that pay a living wage. Rather than a humanistic approach that values individual creativity and civic discourse, the focus is on gathering data and shaping children to become standardized cogs in service of the global economy. The intent is to maintain the status quo, not to develop thinkers who might tip the apple cart and create a future that better serves the needs of the masses. Screen time trumps face time.

By shifting how we think about education-from a human process that happens within a community of learners to a game in which students demonstrate standards and accumulate badges-reformers aim to move much of the  K12 education process out of physical school buildings where face-to-face interaction is the primary mode of instruction, and into virtual classrooms, game environments, cultural institutions, and work settings. This is how they will attempt to replace neighborhood schools with learning eco-systems.

Click here to read the entire article at Wrench in Gears.

How Unions Came to Support ESSA

We know that much of the rationale for the NEA/AFT/NPE support of ESSA comes from the need to support the Clinton agenda, which is, of course, the Gates agenda, the Broad agenda, etc.  

But long before Hillary became Wall Street's most recent neolib darling, however, there were other reasons for AFT/NEA support for corporate education support that had to do, specifically, with The Union Reform Network's (TURN's) corporate cancer that is metastasizing inside the "teachers' unions." 

The pages below are from this document written by an associate prof and a doctoral student at Rutgers, who were paid by the Gates Foundation for their propaganda.  Of course, look for the stars on the Acknowlegement page below to see who else is thanked.

If you have any inkling that the TURN cancer is spreading in your state or town, please contact me.  I am doing some research that is not sponsored by the Gates Foundation.  It is not sponsored at all.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Teacher Evaluation, the Prequel

Imagine being able to evaluate a teacher before she is even hired!  Too good to be true, you say?  Read on.

Imagine the ability to hire a teacher that you know in advance will be able to produce those test scores necessary to 1) help your school system stay head and shoulders above your neighbors, 2) help your poorest schools avoid turnaround and charter takeover, or 2) help your charter company gain more contracts in the ESSA era of "no excuses" expansion.  

Imagine being able to avoid the mistake of hiring those touchy-feely humanist losers who don't have the "growth mindset" necessary to initiate total compliance neural re-channeling and brain-bathing that has made Angela Duckworth and Carol Dweck the new heroines of 21st Century eugenics.

And imagine being able to take out the messy guesswork of school administrators making subjective decisions about hiring new teachers.  None of that squishy intuition or personal connection business between principal and applicant.  

What if we had a tool to select new teachers who bring the psychological and demographic characteristics that have been shown to generate high test scores in low-performing schools. 

Welcome to TeacherMatch!

TeacherMatch CEO and co-founder Don Fraynd . . . .say[s] that more data-focused hiring practices can both help districts attract and secure top-notch candidates and more accurately predict whether a teacher will be effective in the classroom.
In Deefield, IL, the HR office says gut instinct is a thing of the past: "We're not even allowed to mention it during the hiring process. . .":
Using proprietary screening tools from AppliTrack and HumaneX Ventures, the [Deerfield, IL school] district first looks for themes in candidates' application materials and screening interviews that indicate a commitment to growth, both professionally and with students. Initial high scorers participate in a series of structured interviews, and based on those scores, get invited to a site-based interview. The district then spends the first two years evaluating whether each new hire's performance matches expectations.

Using information pulled from a variety of assessments, including the Northwest Evaluation Association's Measure of Academic Progress, the Deerfield district has preliminary data that 85 percent of the people it hired for 2014-15 had a positive impact on students.

"We're to the point now where we have such faith in our hiring protocols that résumés and letters of recommendation take a backseat to the online application," Fisher said. . . .

Friday, September 23, 2016

Another defeat in court for right-wing privatizer David F. Welch

“People need to understand that there’s tons of money in nonprofits.” — Brett Bymaster

David F. Welch neoliberal corporate education reform pusher

Gates Foundation rag EdSource and irrepressible education writer Peter Greene recently announced another resounding defeat in court for the anti-public education outfit Students Matter. The trial court ruled against David F. Welch's corporate reform group in Doe vs. Antioch. Welch's other action, the wrongheaded Vergara suit, recently ended with the Supreme Court of California's refusal to hear his group's appeal. I had some observations reproduced here.

Once more right-wing extremist David F. Welch costs the people of California untold sums of money with his reactionary group’s wrongheaded causes of action. One wonders how many school libraries could have been stocked with the resources squandered defending against these bad faith lawsuits brought by his group.

As a Juris Doctor candidate myself, I suppose I can consider Marcellus McRae, Joshua S. Lipshutz, and Theodore Boutrous of corporate firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher as somewhat instructive. They have demonstrated repeatedly how NOT to read statutes, how to present evidence that is neither logically nor legally relevant, and how to make bad faith arguments without conscience. I will take their lessons on how not to conduct myself as an attorney to heart.

Seems like they need refreshers in issue spotting and ethics. Having just scored a 124 on the MPRE myself, perhaps I could help them with the latter.