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

Monday, January 14, 2019

It's About Time, And Resources: 30,000 Teachers Strike in Los Angeles

You may now say that the movement among teachers to save public education from the corporate predators and their politicians has now swept across the entire nation--from West Virginia to California:
The union’s demand for reduced class sizes (some classes have more than 40 students) and more support staff [including nurses, librarians, counselors] are at the heart of the negotiations. The union also seeks a 6.5-percent raise, but union leaders say salary is only one piece of a puzzle. They also point to such shortfalls as elementary schools only having a school nurse one or two days a week, which the union says risks children’s safety.

Pennsylvania's Cyber Charter Bonanza

The taxpayers of Pennsylvania send $525,000,000 dollars every year (35,000 students @ $15,000) to 15 cyber charter schools, 10 of which have been operating on expired charters since 2012.

Even the charter industry, itself, is taken aback by the total capitulation by the state's failed oversight function:  
“When you have charters that are operating on expired contracts, the question becomes: Are they being held accountable for meeting the needs of students?" Brooks-Uy said.
In terms of the state and federal government assessments of how public schools are "meeting the needs of students," the picture for cyber charters is crystal clear:
In 2017, all but one cyber charter ranked in the bottom quarter of schools statewide on Pennsylvania’s School Performance Profile, which graded schools on standardized test scores, as well as attendance and graduation rates. The one school, 21st Century Cyber, was just above the bottom quarter. Ten cyber charter schools were in the bottom 10 percent.
Will anyone make state politicians accountable for this ongoing scandal?  Anyone, anyone?

Friday, January 11, 2019

Jay Mathews’ Cheap Shots Backfire Badly

Jay Mathews’ Cheap Shots at Former KIPP Teacher Backfire Badly
by Jim Horn

It was back in March 2018 that I sent Jay a link to my article about Jessica Marks’s KIPP teaching experiences, and he wrote back saying “I will check it out.” Obviously, it took KIPP some months to come up with a response, which Mathews used as a basis for spinning an attack against Jessica in the pages of the Washington Post. 

Jay Mathews sent me an email last month on the eve of Winter Recess, with a draft story for his Washington Post education column.  The story consisted of KIPP’s defense of the unethical and abusive practices against former KIPP Austin teacher, Jessica Marks. Jessica was also a recipient of the email, and Jay offered us 6 days to respond to “factual errors” in his piece. 

Jessica, I found out, was away from work and away home when Jay emailed us both his finished draft. Even so, she did manage to find a wi-fi hot spot to respond to his severely flawed article about her horrific KIPP experiences. I responded as well, even though Jay ignored most of my efforts to clean up some of the slime oozing from his draft.

Before I share my response to Mathews’ column published January 5, I have to say something about the belittling and demeaning tone of the column.  Mathews’ dismissive demeaning of my work I am accustomed to, but before these last two weeks I had not witnessed Mathews’ obvious delight in sliming an individual who has already suffered mightily as a result of KIPP’s amoral ideology, dehumanizing methods, and hard-fisted administrative practices.  Obviously, Mathews and KIPP fear the fearless, and Jessica’s courage in stepping forward with her story sets a precedent that the multi-billion-dollar charter chaingangs would rather nip in the bud.  Sorry, corporate KIPPsters—Jessica is one of many brave souls whose stories will be shared.

Mathews’ imperious callousness toward KIPP’s victims and his lack of empathy for the uncounted KIPP teachers and students who the KIPP organization has used, abused, and discarded still remains the most remarkable aspect of his weird attraction to KIPP’s miseducative reform school experiment.  His lack of caring in his column is palpable, and the utter lack of curiosity about how the brutal No Excuses KIPP model now affects and will affect children and adults into the future is remarkable and shameful, especially for an education writer who would know better if he were not blinded by a mysterious devotion to what could pass for a corporate cult. 

Mathews' continued excuse-making for an organization that accepts no excuses from those that KIPP destroys is mind-boggling to me, even as it is exactly what I have come to expect from him. Mathews has been spinning for KIPP for long time, and his loyalty to KIPP's billionaire patrons has earned for him many royalties. 

The Mathews column is below. My comments on Mathews’ column are interspersed, indented, and italicized.

Jim Horn’s 2016 book, “Work Hard, Be Hard,” examines “no excuses” schooling, including KIPP, the nation’s largest public charter school network. The book offers excerpts from 25 interviews with “no excuses” teachers, 23 of them former KIPP teachers who were mostly critical of the program.

In his book, Horn, a professor of educational leadership at Cambridge College in Massachusetts, does not reveal the teachers’ names or where and when they taught. But he has since identified one former instructor who tells an interesting story.
All the teachers I interviewed for my book requested anonymity at the time the book was published in 2016, and I respect that.  It’s not unusual for research participants to remain anonymous, which offers some advantages in terms of candor and authenticity, while protecting those who fear further victimization from the perpetrators of their misfortune. Jessica is the first of those research participants to step forward to share her story publicly her identity since the book was published.
I consider KIPP one of the best charter networks in the country, mostly because of its success attracting and developing great educators who help impoverished students learn.
If not for Teach for America and the alternative certification knock-offs that TFA has inspired, KIPP, with its brutal teacher attrition rates, could not stay in business. As for the “great educators,” TFA provides its recruits, which it spends millions of dollars in PR to “attract,” four weeks for instant “developing” before they are dumped into some of the most challenging classrooms in America.  The average KIPP life expectancy for a teacher is two years, and KIPP strenuously tries to hide the real attrition numbers, as noted here.
Even by Mathews’ admission, KIPP teachers who have not developed to suit KIPP by the holiday break of their first year are most often fired. 
The teachers I have interviewed at 42 of KIPP’s 224 schools have supported the network’s long hours, high standards, intricate field trips, focus on character development, and creative use of music and games.
As for interviews with teachers, Mathews has never published one, either positive or negative, either anonymous or named, either before or after his celebratory book about KIPP written over 10 years ago.  He did talk a great deal to Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg for his book, even though he has since distanced himself from Mike Feinberg, since Feinberg was booted by KIPP in 2018 for allegedly sexually abusing a KIPP middle school girl and for sexual harassment of a KIPP employee.  Of the KIPP founders, Feinberg and Levin, Mathews said, “They are terrific interviews. Turn on the tape recorder and the book is already written.”

When I asked Mathews where I could find those interviews with “hundreds of KIPP teachers and administrators” to which he refers, Mathews referred me to the KIPP employees’ names in the index of his celebratory book about the KIPP founders—the one he wrote over 10 years ago.  No transcripts, no published interviews, no nothing, not even any extensive quoting. 
In one of Mathews’ many rejoinders to skeptical readers of his published column, he even falsely claims to have interviewed Jessica Marks. This is a lie of Trumpian proportion.
Jessica Marks, the former KIPP teacher Horn has identified, gives a different view on Horn’s blog “Schools Matter” and in an exchange of emails with me. Marks joined KIPP in 2013 after four years of successful teaching in Prescott Valley, Ariz.

Jessica had been one of three county finalists for First Year Teacher Award back in Arizona.

She said she wanted to help KIPP’s mission “of sending all students to and through college.” But she did not like what she found at the KIPP Austin Academy of Arts & Letters. She said: “I think it is harmful for students and teachers to go there.”

Before hiring her in July 2013, she said, the school’s leaders interviewed her at length and watched her teach classes. She said the principal told her she was a great teacher but not “necessarily a KIPP teacher” and was hiring her because she was “a hard worker” who deserved “a try.”
Marks said most of her eighth-grade English students came from homes where other languages were spoken, and the students were not fully proficient in English. She said the class had gone through three English teachers in the seventh grade. Her students, she said, did well on the first interim assessment test. But she was coming to work at 5:15 a.m. and not leaving until 9 p.m. to prepare for a 7:05 a.m. to 4:35 p.m. school day.
Marks sought help. She saw a therapist. To reduce her workload, she accepted the principal’s offer to coach her and teach her first-period class four days a week. During that reprieve, she worked reasonable hours, but after two weeks, she said, her first-period class was given back to her and the pressure resumed. Many of her students failed an exam the principal asked her to give on Homer’s “Iliad” because, she said, it used terms different from those she had used in class.
After that, she said, video cameras were placed to observe her. Applicants interested in her job circulated through her room. “I was harassed, ridiculed and intimidated by administrators,” she said.
According to KIPP’s own projections, Jessica’s students were on track to pass the annual STAAR, which was to be given in the Spring. All of her SPED students actually passed the first Interim Assessment.
Jessica’s larger problem with her principal, Kevin, began after he took over her first period class for two weeks in November.  Kevin taught 8 lessons, and he taught the Iliad to Hispanic 8th graders with marginal English skills, who complained that he had taught them the same material the previous year when Kevin filled in for one of the three English teachers who left before the end of the year.
Jessica said that Kevin told her explicityly to take the lesson he was teaching first period and, throughout the rest of the day, “to make it my own.”  

At the end of the eight first-period class sessions that he taught, Kevin put together a test that required students to recall the actual words that he used during those first period classes.  He insisted that Jessica use the same test with her other classes, even though he had told her to teach the lesson in her own words, rather than parroting what he had exactly said.
This was Kevin’s set-up that initiated Jessica’s downfall. 
A couple of days after the test, which significant numbers of Jessica’s students predictaby failed because the students had not heard to exact terminology on the test that Kevin had used during first period, Kevin presented her with an evaluation rubric that scored her as a 1.5 out of 4.0.  Among the various shortcomings marked up on the checklist, Kevin noted that Jessica provided an “unsafe environment” by not immediately correcting students who were whispering in her classes.  When she asked how this could construed as “unsafe,” she was told that the students could be bullying one another—even though Kevin admitted he did not hear what any the students were whispering.
Jessica was given just a few work days (until December 19) to bring her evaluation score up from 1.5 to a 3.0.  During those following days, applicants for her position paraded in and out of her classes, and she was subjected to ongoing video surveillance and other forms of harassment, such as notes left on her desk that said, “You’re still not getting it.” 
Then, even the brief time that Jessica was given to improve was cut short without explanation.  Kevin announced to Jessica on December 17 that she was fired.  Jessica told me recently in an email:
When I was fired, he [Kevin] rounded up all of the other teachers into a meeting to discuss it and to isolate me further. I was told I was never again welcome at the school and that if I should need to speak to anyone, I should call the HR department, as I should not even call the school ever again.

The day after my termination, they had a big assembly about my firing, letting the kids know what happened. I was told by my friend that the kids were very upset, but that Kevin had said something like, I had to let her go because you deserve the best, and Ms. Marks let you down. One of the kids piped up, “why did you fire her when we were the problem?” He ignored the question. 

Over a year later, Jessica returned to Austin, at which time she did visit the KIPP Austin’s HR Department:
I went back to the HR department at KIPP because I needed them to sign some form for my student loans, and they were not answering on the phone or through email. I stood in their little space, next to a tall, full-size filing cabinet marked "TERMINATIONS". Each drawer was labeled with a school year on it. The year I was fired, 2013 - 2014 had two drawers. How can any district [with 11 small schools] have so many terminations in a single year that it would need two full drawers?? I think the Universe wanted me to see that drawer so that I would not feel alone. 

According to his LinkedIn page, Kevin Newman has moved up in the KIPP organization since Jessica’s brief tenure at KIPP. He now is Director of the prestigious Fisher Fellowship, which recruits new KIPP administrators who will now learn from Kevin and the instructors he hires how to be a KIPP CEO.
By the way, the teacher that Kevin hired to replace Jessica quit after one day. The rest of the year Kevin taught Jessica’s eight grade English class.
KIPP leaders believe it hurts students to let teachers have two- or three-year probationary periods — standard in regular public schools — when their classroom results are not good. If new KIPP teachers are still doing poorly in December, a supervisor often takes their place until a replacement can be found.
If KIPP is replacing teachers who don’t fit the KIPP model in December before the first semester is over, why is Mathews talking about a 2-3-year probationary period?  Contractually, KIPP teachers can be fired at any moment for any reason—whether or not that reason is shared with the fired teacher.  KIPP’s bottom line is measured in test scores, which are extracted from children by whatever means necessary. If that means the dehumanization of and callous disregard for the welfare of both teachers and students, then so be it.
KIPP officials said they respected Marks’s right to share her recollections but challenged the accuracy of some of her account. They said only 13 percent of her students had ever been held back. They said that she was not harassed and that few other teachers spent so much time at the school. Marks’s principal said teachers were not required to arrive until 7:05 a.m., were free to leave any time after 4:35 p.m., and were mostly gone before 6 p.m.
This is a quote from the the interview I conducted with Jessica in 2014:
. . . we had really old kids in eighth grade. I had two kids that were 16 years old in eighth grade. And one turned 17 while she was in first semester. She turned 17. And most of my kids, at some point, had been retained. So a majority of my kids were 15 years-old in eighth grade. Like, they [KIPP] started the kids in fifth grade, and there’s always fewer eighth graders than fifth graders. But they weren’t brand new to KIPP. So a lot of these kids had been retained at KIPP. Some of them had been retained before. I had a lot of old kids.
KIPP is free to tell whatever tale they think the their Washington Post education writer will print, but I have the transcribed interviews that detail the grisly specifics of Jessica’s and other teachers’ hellish schedules. 
Of the 20 teachers at Jessica’s KIPP school, she was never the first to arrive or the last to leave.  KIPP knows that, and KIPP also knows about the lack of textbooks that requires teachers to photocopy lessons.  KIPP knows teachers must arrive early or stay late to access one of the two photocopy machines at the school.  KIPP also knows about the heavy doses of staff development after school, regular required parent nights, bulletin board redos, exit tickets and other bookkeeping minutiae, and student tutoring after school that required teachers to regularly stay late and/or arrive early. And then there is the homework, lesson planning, grading, and let’s not forget being on-call after hours until 9 PM. 
Horn said Marks told him that the year before she taught there, the school lost nine of 20 teachers at semester break, with one fired and the rest quitting. KIPP officials said the loss was six of 31 staffers, with one being fired and the rest leaving for graduate school, marriage, new jobs or a return home. They said the teacher retention rate was 60 percent when Marks was there but has increased to 82 percent after teacher duties were “drastically reduced.”
First, what teacher who has signed a contract for the year leaves at semester break, unless she is under duress?  Secondly, if KIPP did, indeed, have 31 “staffers,” only 20 of those staffers were teachers. Did Mathews ask KIPP how many “staffers” at the school were not teachers? Of course not.  Thirdly, the 60 percent retention rate that KIPP admits would seem to support everything that Jessica has pointed out about the unsustainable job of teaching at KIPP.
Marks was crushed at being dismissed but also told Horn in retrospect that “getting fired from KIPP was probably the best thing that has ever happened to me.” Four years later, back in Prescott Valley, she was named the Yavapai County teacher of the year. Horn published a photo of her smiling as she held up the trophy.
I was happy to see that. We need all kinds of teachers. The KIPP Austin Academy has shown strong student performance for several years. Nationally, KIPP has results verified by an independent firm, Mathematica Policy Research, good enough to justify choosing and training teachers its way, even if it is hard on some aspirants such as Marks.
Billionaires buying research for their favorite paternalistic social control projects is nothing new.  James Anderson's book on education of blacks in the South following the Civil War reminds us that it was white philanthropists who were the crucial backers of the dehumanizing Hampton Model of schooling, which sought to acquire from black citizens “complicity in their own subjugation” as second-class citizens who would work hard and be nice.  Everyone from James Eastman to Andrew Carnegie to Rutherford B. Hayes supported the Hampton Model of indoctrination and miseducation for blacks.

Mathematica has collected at least $5 million from The Atlantic Philanthropies, and then there's KIPP's own payment of $1.2 million to Mathematica to “verify” KIPP data.  At the end of the Acknowledgements in each of the numerous and ongoing Mathematica research papers that Mathematica posts without benefit of peer review, Mathematica includes something like this, which can be found in the final 2013 Report

Finally, the study and this report benefited greatly from input at various stages from Danielle Eisenberg, Jonathan Cowan, and Steve Mancini at the KIPP Foundation, as well as Carrie Hahnel at The Education Trust—West, Ila Deshmukh Towery at TNTP [The New Teacher Project], and Jason Atwood at Teach For America.

KIPP’s method for “choosing and training teachers” was institutionalized long before the venture philanthropists paid for the “independent research” to which Mathews refers.  The KIPP corporate methods were chosen because they are consistent with the “no excuses” paternalistic corporate model of segregating and controlling the children of the poor.  The KIPP Model represents a conscious attempt to neurologically alter and culturally sterilize children, rather than spending money to end child poverty or to implement a schooling model that will improve equity, diversity, and achievement at the same time. 
If you look at the determined resistance among parents on New York’s Upper West Side to KIPP’s recently announced plan to open a “diverse”KIPP school there, you will see that thinking people know the swindle that the big money investors, hedge funders, and the corporate paternalists are trying to sell—and they are not buying it anymore.
In 20 years, KIPP will have been added to the dustbin of bad education ideas and labeled as a prime paternalistic example of racist corporate colonialism applied to public education in the early 21st Century.  KIPP and Jay Mathews are on the wrong side of history.

I hope readers will go to Mathews’ column and check out the many insightful comments by readers there, most of whom are skeptical, disgusted, or appalled at Mathews’ unguarded abuse of his position of power to go after a former KIPP teacher should have long ago received, at minimum, an apology from KIPP. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Help Kristen Paulson Support Her Students Without Being Punished for It

Below is a plaintive letter from first grade teacher, Kristen Paulson, to my colleague, Mark Naison. If you believe that teachers have the right and responsibility to advocate for their students, please share her letter far and wide.  Also let her principal, Bertie Alligood (615-824-3217), know that teachers should not be punished for being advocates for student learning.

Hi, Dr. Naison,

My name is Kristen Paulson and I am a first grade teacher in Tennessee.  While I am only in my fifth year of teaching, I have been working in schools and with kids my whole life in several different states throughout the country.  My kids are my passion.  

I found an article about your incredible commitment and passion towards helping teachers have a voice while I was researching teachers being mistreated.  I have been at my current school for three years, and completed part of my student teaching there as well.  It is a low income school with lots of diversity in every sense of the word.  Long story short, I am being pushed out by administration. I cannot prove it, but I feel strongly that it is because I have a very strong voice for my students and also because I am vocal about my refusal to "teach to the test."  

Every year 30-60% of my students face incredible difficulties - things that no person, never mind child, should ever have to deal with.  I advocate for them tirelessly, and I put my focus into growing them as people to help them be their best selves.  I promise them every year that I would never ask them to do something I didn't think they could do, academically or otherwise.  Unfortunately, my administration does not like that my students are not performing at a scholar level on their benchmarks and state assessments.  

My principal has put me on an indefinite "growth plan" that requires me to do outrageous amounts of work on top of the 60+ hour work week I am already working.  I have had 4s and 5s (5 is highest in TN) on all of my observations, with the exception of observations she completed over the last two years.  I was always a level 4 teacher until this past school year.

I don't know that there is necessarily anything that you could do, but I wanted to reach out and share my story with you if not for anything else, to share my voice to the community.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all that you do.

All my best,

Kristen Paulson
M.Ed Instructional Practice K-6 and ELL K-12 Lipscomb University
1st Grade Teacher Walton Ferry Elementary School, Hendersonville, TN

CURMUDGUCATION: Bill Gates Is Still Pushing Common Core

CURMUDGUCATION: Bill Gates Is Still Pushing Common Core: Sigh. You've undoubtedly heard the news over the past couple of days-- the Gates Foundation is going to throw $10 million at teachers...

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Surviving "No Excuses" Teaching: The Emily Kennedy Talmage Experience

During the coming months, I will publish more personal and professional accounts of former "no excuses" charter school teachers.  Unlike the anonymous accounts in my 2016 book, the teachers offering their "no excuses" histories for this upcoming series will be stepping out of the shadows to let the world see the real faces of educators who have survived the "no excuses" gauntlet.  

I invite any former "no excuses" charter teachers to contact me if you have a story you need to share with parents and teachers who may be considering the charter school option: james.horn@cambridgecollege.edu

Today the "no excuses" KIPP Model remains the paternalist billionaires' charter school choice for segregating and indoctrinating urban children whose parents relinquish their children's childhoods and suffer years of repeated indignities for a chance at an education that may lead to college, even though KIPP's "no excuses" model amounts to a punitive regimen of unceasing test prep and behavioral neutering more suited to penal institutions. 

KIPP's total compliance-and-surveillance model of schooling has inspired a number of high-flying knock-offs like Brooklyn Ascend and its two sister schools in Brooklyn, which use KIPP's chain gang methods to denigrate, demean, and capture the spirits of kids, all in the twisted and debased name of equal educational opportunity for children who are victims of poverty.  Social justice in blackface is the only adequate way to describe this caricature of equal education.

Parents and the general public know little of what goes in these corporate madrassas.  Only in recent years have former KIPP Model teachers begun to step forward to share their sometimes-hellish experiences in these schools. 

The first to give permission to use her name was Emily Kennedy Talmage, and it wasn't until she read the "tremendously disturbing" book by Ascend's founder, Stephen Wilson, entitled "Learning on the Job: When Business Takes on Public Education," that her unsettled feelings about Brooklyn Ascend began to come into sharp focus.  In Emily's initial email to me, she said that "my experience at Brooklyn Ascend has been nothing less than depressing, demoralizing, and at times even shockingly upsetting."

As we were arranging an interview, she sent me this email with some of those disturbing details as her year at Brooklyn Ascend was winding down:

Just so you know a little bit more about what I have experienced at Brooklyn Ascend, here are some highlights from my year:
  • In December, after giving our third graders a mock exam and realizing that their test scores were not looking very good, our administrators decided to do a third-grade "restart," in which they rearranged the classes and schedules so that the lowest performing "scholars" were all in one class (my class).  [Emily was hired as special needs teacher.]
  • Third grade teachers were required to return to work over Christmas break (including New Years Eve) for special "training" in "Teach Like a Champion" techniques [the book by Doug Lemov that has replaced teacher preparation and professional development in these chain gangs].  During this training, a lady named Sue Welch from "Building Excellent Teachers" instructed us on what our first day back with the kids would look like:  four hours (8-12pm) of teaching nothing but procedures.  When I asked if perhaps we should do something to make it at least a little more "fun," she told me that fun was absolutely not an "appropriate objective."   
  • In order to boost test scores, science, social studies, and Spanish were removed from the schedule of the low-performing group.  Instead, we were required to teach an additional reading and math block during this time.
  • Scholars [the word that has replaced children] in the low-performing group were required to attend after-school-tutoring sessions for more test prep.  So, after going to school from 7:30 to 4:30, they needed to stay an extra hour for more test prep - in addition to completing the hour of homework that we are required to give each night.  (8 year olds!!)  Needless to say, I had many kids falling asleep in class and having frequent stomach aches.  Our school director - a TFA grad - thought that if we brought more of the "j-factor" to our classroom (joy factor) that they would be more motivated.  To him and other Doug Lemov zealots, this means doing cheers like "Pick of your pencil and YOU WILL BE REWARDED!" in between long independent work sessions. . . .
  • Small-group guided reading (when we were once able to choose books that the kids would really enjoy) was replaced with small-group test-preparation sessions, where teachers were given scripted lessons and packets that mimic the reading comprehension portion of the New York State test.  
  • All lessons from February break onward were based on specific skills that our "data analyst" determined for us by looking at results from the mock exams.  
  • During the testing weeks, we had "pep-rallies" each morning in which they kids had to do chants about how they were going to ace the tests.  

I could go on.  I am so angry that this is what our country is allowing education to become.  

Here and here and here are the links to the rest of Emily's story

Review of Gerald Coles's New Book

Below is a review of Gerald Coles's new book.  The review by Eve Ottenberg was first published at Truthout.
Over the past year, the Trump administration’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational program garnered $300 million in pledges from big tech companies. Implicit in this push is the commonly accepted though questionable notion that millions of cutting-edge STEM jobs await US workers but go unfilled because public schools have failed to prepare students for them. The STEM bandwagon rolls on at the expense of social studies, art, history and literature — all deemed “irrelevant” to career success and to education as a commodity — while promoting often biased and inaccurate corporate curricula.
Open inquiry scarcely figures in corporate-funded curricula, according to Gerald Coles’s recently published book, Miseducating for the Global Economy. Coles points to materials developed by the Bill of Rights Institute (an organization created by the billionaire Koch brothers) as an example of the ideological distortions present in corporate-funded educational materials. For example, the curriculum developed by the institute teaches students that “the Occupy movement violated the rights of others.”
Though Occupy protested abuses of the richest 1 percent, the Bill of Rights Institute curriculum is not concerned with this. Instead, according to Coles, it asks whether the police crackdown on Occupy was justified — and answers “yes,” because the New York Occupy demonstrators had purportedly damaged both the park and adjacent neighborhood. Somehow this was construed as a First Amendment violation and “consequently the government had a right to inflict pain (with pepper spray, for example) on the Bill of Rights abusers.” Occupy protesters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, engaged in similar malfeasance, according to the lessons.
Billionaire Bill Gates argues for slashing education budgets. Dismissing the multitude of studies showing that reduced class size benefits students as “an erroneous policy ‘belief’ that ‘has driven school budget increases for 50 years,’” Gates argues for the financial savings of large class sizes with a sort of highly paid super-teacher. Ignoring extensive research on this topic, “the self-styled educational researcher, whose company, Microsoft, moved its vast profits offshore to avoid paying U.S. taxes, [said] ‘You can’t fund reforms without money, and there is no more money.’”
Overall, Coles argues that schools really do meet corporations’ need for exploitable service sector workers. In fact, “the worst nightmare for corporate leaders and the rich would be universal school success, in which vast numbers of graduates were fully able to do the purported extraordinary number of STEM jobs said to be awaiting them in the grand global economy.” For the few jobs that really do exist, corporations strive to keep schools occupationally oriented and distracted from questions about the true nature of our economy. Studying global capitalism “is the last topic corporate powers governing the economy want in the curriculum.” In fact, capitalism is the word one dare not speak in education. Hence the euphemism “the global economy.” Corporations constrict the curriculum deliberately, limiting political and historical discourse. “The corporate mission,” Coles writes, “is to derail students from imagining [what educator Maxine Green calls] ‘alternative visions of the world – visions of what might be, what ought to be.’”
With relentless corporate focus on STEM and job preparation, the humanities, arts and social science have suffered. Coles reports North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s doubts about whether state universities should teach liberal arts: “I think some of the educational elite have taken over our education where we are offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs.” McCrory cited gender studies courses in particular.
Similarly, former Florida Gov. Rick Scott, now a senator, complained about the failure of liberal arts and social science programs to contribute to Florida’s economy: “If I’m going to take money from a citizen to put into education, then I’m going to take that money to create jobs.”
Nationally, Republicans have opposed federal funding for university social science, and, of course, climate change study. In keeping with this hard-nosed business slash-and-burn approach to the liberal arts, the 2010 Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences co-chair was, Coles reports, John W. Rowe, former CEO of Exelon Corporation, owner of more nuclear plants in the US than any other company, under whose leadership Exelon failed to report large radioactive water leaks. Other panel members, according to Coles, included former CEOs of Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, a right-wing New York Times columnist, bigwigs from banks and investment companies, and so on.
One very disturbing aspect of this corporate propaganda — about public schools’ failure to prepare students for the workforce — is its acceptance, indeed wholesale swallowing, of the corporate-centric education, by teachers’ union leaders. Coles quotes Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, that “today’s public school teachers are on the front lines of our collective efforts to compete in the global economy.” This parallels a US Chamber of Commerce vice president’s view that “a first-class education system is the only way for Americans to compete … in the global economy.” The National Education Association advocates preparing “the next generation for new careers for this new global economy.” No matter that most of those new careers in the US will be in the service sector, scarcely requiring a high school diploma.

Coles reports that the institute has also developed curricula for North Carolina, in accordance with the state legislature’s 2011 Founding Principles Act, a bill based on model legislation provided by the American Legislative Exchange Council – a conservative group also funded by the Koch brothers.
This book also discusses the Khan Academy’s digital curriculum, observing that, “by 2012 Khan Academy videos had been viewed more than 200 million times by ‘6 million unique students each month.’” By 2017, Khan Academy had nearly 57 million users. Founded by former hedge fund analyst Salman Khan, the Khan Academy offers lessons that promote personal freedom and strong limits on government intervention, as opposed to “collectivist” programs like Social Security. The Khan Academy “Globalism II” video also takes swipes at “anti-democratic strongmen” Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, arguing that “nationalizing resources and using the revenue for the poor is a terrible idea.” Meanwhile, according to Coles, the Khan curriculum fails to mention Chavez’s use of oil revenues to expand public education, instead attempting to instill horror of collectivizing oil.
Coles also discusses another online curriculum, one founded by Bill Gates, called “Big History Project.” It narrates a soothing tale of the rise of modernity, with allusion to the horrors of the slave trade, though the curriculum offers no details on the effects of settler colonialism and early capitalist imperialism on Indigenous people in North America. There is no mention of the genocide of Native Americans, Coles reports.
Then there is the Ohio Center for History, Art and Technology, which teaches the need for businesses “to work globally and how product development and marketing may need to differ from region to region.” The Center urges students to visit corporate websites and imagine which products they would like to market globally. The emphasis here is not on critical thinking.
Miseducating for the Global Economy lists six imperatives that structure corporate-funded curricula:
1) the global economy must be presented as a natural phenomenon;
2) schools must be silent about the global economy’s hierarchical structure;
3) the global economy’s nature is not open to critical inquiry;
4) the curriculum must assume there are winners and losers, and the student’s job is to get an education to become a winner;
5) schooling assumes the legitimacy of businesses paying people as little as possible; and
6) schools must not teach about the global economy’s harm to the Earth and its ecology.
Corporate curricula thus have an agenda – promoting capitalism at the expense of open inquiry – which also spills over into the corporate attack on public education. “Schools are scapegoated for the failures of the economic system,” Coles writes, arguing that corporations, responsible for a growing economic “precariat” (the population whose temporary or part-time work is precarious) in the US, palm off the blame onto schools with a dubious narrative about an abundance of high-skilled jobs, for which schools are not preparing Americans. This narrative is a lie. There is no such abundance, just capitalism’s aim to focus attention elsewhere while it fails to create high-paying jobs, leaving the service sector as the fastest-growing US employer. Coles exposes corporate hypocrisy on this point by detailing how U S corporations contrive to underfund education, primarily through tax evasion.
Coles argues that in “the global economy ideology, ‘dog eat dog’ is a reigning necessity … with schools defined as … critical for providing … skills that will determine which dog will prevail.” But students must never name or study capitalism. Why? Because, Coles answers, “consider the problem of legitimizing an economic system that is a disaster for billions of people worldwide.” To that system, in which low-wage hard work not requiring an advanced degree constitutes most people’s employment (if they are “lucky” enough to get it), the billionaire response is: “blame yourselves, blame the schools, but don’t blame us or our global economy.” So we get what Coles calls “education … in which a student could be very competent in a technical skill but understand virtually nothing about the context of that skill, the global economy.”
In contrast, Coles cites a 2015 Zapatista-held “Seminar of Critical Thought Versus the Capitalist Hydra.” In it, the word for dispossession, “despojo” was repeatedly used. “Despojo is an active word, conveying agency, class and power, a word synonymous with ‘to be stripped violently of everything that sustains you.’ The term … embodies the ‘key experience of capitalism’s innumerable losers.’” There is none of that in the Obama administration’s common core curriculum or in those other corporate-sponsored curricula, which, Coles writes, imply that the vast numbers of poor in the US are educational underachievers.
The educational darlings of corporate America are, of course, charter schools, favored for providing public funds to private companies, a non-union teaching workforce, absence of constraint when it comes to corporate curricula and success statistics easily inflated by excluding students public schools do not have to take – “poor achievers” and those with learning disabilities or discipline problems. To emphasize the disconnect between charter donors who exploit children abroad while funding education at home, Coles lists donors of one big charter chain: the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). Its donors include the Donald and Doris Fisher Fund of the Gap fortune, whose “KIPP philanthropy money for youngsters has been accumulated in India, where child workers, some as young as ten, have produced Gap clothing in textile factories ‘in conditions close to slavery’”; Walmart, recipient of “more than $7.8 billion a year through taxpayer subsidies coming from public assistance programs, such as the food stamp program, which low-wage Walmart workers need to survive and support children”; the Broad Foundation, whose leader Eli Broad at one point “contrived not to ‘owe a penny’ on an ‘estimated $54 million in taxes’”; the Citi Foundation, part of Citigroup, which received a $7 billion penalty for its mortgage fraud which helped blow up the economy in 2008, and others. For all these foundations, donations to charter schools are peanuts, especially compared to those corporations’ unpaid taxes. Yet, Coles reports, unaware of the tax cheating, parents and teachers respond to these well-promoted corporate donations with gratitude.
Whether designing biased educational videos, constricting course content or promoting curricula that smear movements like Occupy, US corporations help miseducate students. And they do it on the cheap.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

AFT Works to Prop Up Biggest Threat to Public Schools

by Abigail Shure

I would hate to be selfish, but it really galls me that the AFT president is wasting resources that my colleagues and I have invested in the union on imposter teachers who chose to upend the system and the hard-fought-for gains. 

Public school teachers have to work with any child who walks in the door whether he arrives on day one, or any other. He could be homeless, hungry, sick, or have special needs. I have had students threatening to commit suicide and one student, who had not taken his meds, was walking on tables. Those charter school teachers should spend a few class periods educating nonverbal autistic children. In one class discussion, every student knew personally someone who had been shot.

I have certification and many years of experience in my area of expertise. I was treated like complete garbage by my district. My moronic union president assisted some charter school teachers pro bono because they had not been paid their salaries. In New York City, the UFT allows the ATR debacle to fester year after year.

Instead of promoting the demise of public education by charter schools, I would be pleased if the AFT president spent more of her energy protecting the teachers who elevated her to her position.