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

Friday, August 11, 2017

Ravitch Doubles Down on NAACP Charter Embrace

Last October the NAACP passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the approval of new charter schools.  The resolution did nothing for the millions of segregated children already suffering in the penal no excuses charters that no NAACP Board member would ever allow for his or her own children, but it was a decision that, nonetheless, freaked out the multi-billion dollar charter industry and the abusive, well-paid overseers who run the charter reform schools.
As a result of NAACP call for a moratorium last fall, the billionaires went to work to put pressure on the NAACP to recant.  The NAACP, an organization largely dependent upon the generosity of corporate foundations, the philanthrocapitalists, and their corporate unions, caved to the pressure.  Less than a year after the squeeze began, members of the NAACP Board issued a report that ignores the moratorium by making recommendations for how new charters are to approved. The report provides a clear signal that the moratorium is now irrelevant.  

The NAACP report won the praise of the DNC/AFT/NEA/NPE.  As schoolmarm to the nation's neoliberals, Diane Ravitch went so far as put the NAACP in her blog's Honor Roll.  

On August 8, Ravitch took the opportunity to praise once again the new NAACP position, which mirrors the AFT/NEA/NPE position on charters.  Here are the two NAACP points regarding charters that Ravitch posted on her blog:

4. Mandate a rigorous [charter] authorizing and renewal process. States with the fewest authorizers have the best charters. Only local school districts should be allowed to authorize charters, based on their needs.
      . . . .
5. Eliminate for-profit charter schools and for-profit charter management companies that control nonprofit charters. Not a dollar of federal, state or local money should go to for-profit charters. The report notes that the widespread reports of misconduct of for-profit charters and their for-profit managers is reason enough to forbid them. As for-profits, they have an “inherent conflict of interest,” and may well put the interest of their investors over those of students. 

Ravitch then asks:  Now, I ask you, what part of these five recommendations suggests that the NAACP is wrong? That it was doing the bidding of teachers’ unions?"  

The second part of your question I will answer with a question: Does anyone believe that it's a coincidence that the NAACP position on charters now mirrors the AFT/NEA/NPE position?  Or is the NAACP seeking refuge inside the DNC education tent?  Can they afford to support a moratorium that the DNC, which still run by the Clintonians, is not supporting?

As to why the NAACP/NEA/AFT/NPE position is wrong:  As I have noted most recently, putting local boards in charge of deciding which charter chain gangs get approval does nothing to staunch the flow of education dollars into the pockets of charter operators. It just makes local boards complicit in the corruption.

And as for the weak call to eliminate for-profit charters, here's what I said about that a couple of weeks ago:

. . . the majority of charters have always been of the “non-profit” variety, with only 13 percent of the nation’s 7,500 charters run by for-profit companies.  Insisting that all charters become “non-profit” will only guarantee that that state and local education dollars will continue to fill the coffers of the charter industry, which thrives by claiming “non-profit” status for their segregated cultural sterilization schools based on the KIPP Model. 
Which, of course, is the final and most egregious "wrong" associated with the NAACP position: it ignores the damage being done to children in the neo-eugenic psychological neutering camps that are the chosen solution to controlling the urban poor.

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Private Company Behind the Muncie School Bus Fiasco

by Doug Martin 

As the Muncie, Indiana, privatized school bus fiasco deepens, parents protest at bus stops, kids get lost on buses on the way home, 911 calls are made, buses never show up or are late, school gets cancelled for days because of the chaos, and the Indiana Department of Education steps in to help clean up the mess, the local community needs to know there were many red flags before Muncie school officials signed the $1.4 million contract with Auxilio bus services, a private company now located in Lansing, Michigan.  

Besides the numerous 2012 troubling news reports out of Michigan on how Auxilio handled school service, an 84-page report, which surfaced in late February 2017, a few weeks before the Muncie school board vote, outlines the troubles parents and community members in Monroe County, Indiana, feared Auxilio would bring to their school district.  Although there appears to be a lot more to the story than just Auxilio, the private company’s past troubles, arrogance, and secrecy should be known. 


In 2012 in Michigan’s Galesburg-Augusta school district, parents, too, protested the Auxilio takeover of bus transportation, after a student videotaped an Auxilio “on-site manager,” Heidi Mullin, “roughly pushing a 7-year-old into a bus window.” 

Since many instances with the 7-year old and other children on the bus had been reported and Auxilio had “assigned a new driver and a new bus aide to no avail,”  Mullin’s job was to ride on the bus “to assess the problems and figure out a strategy for resolution.”

Mullin was fired, after the video made its rounds on Facebook, but questions about her hiring led to even more questions.  After a freedom of information act request, news reporters found that Mullin resigned from a previous job at Portage Public Schools “six months after signing a ‘last-chance agreement’ following a string of written reprimands and unpaid suspensions.”  According to a change-of-status form, Mullin was "not eligible to be rehired by Portage Public Schools." On her Portage job application, too, Mullin claims she was fired from B&B Trucking in Kalamazoo because "they didn't think I had the right attitude to drive (a) truck."

When asked about the hire, at first Auxilio’s CEO Ed Dollin told MLive, a media group with 10 newspaper locations in Michigan, that "We screened her very well”  but later admitted, according to MLive, “that Mullin's background check did not include talking to Mullin's previous supervisor.”  He claimed, too, MLive writes, that “the information obtained from Portage was limited to a form where a Portage human-resources worker mistakenly checked a box indicating that Mullin had no record of professional misconduct.” 

At one point after the Mullin bus incident with the 7-year old, CEO Dollin said that “I think right now we’re a whipping boy.  I think we’re being vilified because we’re coming in to save money and we’re making changes.”

A group of mothers, however, didn’t buy the argument and protested outside the “district’s offices calling for the district to protect its students, telling Fox 17 TV that the privatization of the district’s busing is at fault.” At a school board meeting, too, “Galesburg residents questioned Auxilio's competency, citing numerous problems with Auxilio's drivers and procedures.”


Earlier in 2012, Galesburg-Augusta signed a $356,750 contract with the bus company, although the school district’s supt., Tim Vagts, has admitted that “Auxilio's references did not include any districts served by the firm since its formation in October 2011” and that he didn’t know any of the bus service’s other clients.  Vagts said he recommended the bus company because it was the lowest bidder, one of the same reasons given by Muncie school officials. 

According to MLive, at one point when Auxilio CEO Dollin was asked about the company’s other clients, he said "It's none of your business."  When reporter Julie Mack looked into the Cincinnati address Auxilio had listed on its website, she found that the address was in a redevelopment zone across from an adult bookstore and was “actually the office for the Midwest EB-5 Regional Center, an organization that works with immigrants who want to start businesses in the United States.”  

During the Muncie school board vote in March, Central High School teacher Allen Kidd also called “into question how little information is included on Auxilio's website.  Auxilio CEO Dollin, in response, said that the company website was under construction and that it has clients in eight Michigan districts and some Ohio private schools.  

Currently, as of August 3, 2017, Auxilio lists its address as Lansing, Michigan, on its website.  On its current and past clients page, Auxilio has written “Stay tuned for a full list of our clients!” and that testimonials are “Coming Soon.”  


In Muncie, the narrative explaining some of the school bus chaos is that a good-many bus drivers quit supposedly just before the school year began.  A similar story was told by the Galesburg-Augusta district and Auxilio, too. 
According to MLive, there were no drivers for special-ed children enrolled in summer programs.  Dollin and supt. Vagts “blamed the problem on Galesburg bus drivers who had promised to work for Auxilio and then reneged at the last minute.  But those drivers “say they were laid off by the school district and had yet to receive a job offer as drivers for Auxilio.” 
Dollin later claimed that “he thought Galesburg would keep the special-ed drivers on the district payroll for the duration of the summer program and didn't find out otherwise until Aug. 1, before Auxilio had finalized its hires.” 


When Indiana’s Monroe County Community School Corporation hired Auxilio to do a third of its bus routes because it was a low bidder, local parents and workers,  in the introduction to an 84-page report entitled “No to Auxilio, Yes to Our Community,”  stated the school board’s decision to hire Auxilio was “based on an incomplete, and in some important ways misleading, information set.” 

The parents and workers claimed, among other things, that outsourced jobs could drain money from the community, children’s safety could be compromised, and employees who questioned decisions could possibly be fired.  

The “No to Auxilio” report authors also quote from The Independent, a local Michigan newspaper, about problems at the Dundee Community high school where Auxilio does maintenance work and bus transportation.  

When bathroom stalls were missing at the school, an Auxilio employee, worried about school safety, “put in a maintenance work order for the stall doors in the bathroom by the locker room to be replaced…., turned it into his immediate Auxilio supervisor and the work was never done.” 

Not knowing if the maintenance department or school administrators received the request, the Auxilio employee “posted a picture of the stalls with doors missing to social media to draw more community attention to the problem. Auxilio’s response to the post was to fire the employee.” 

There are many other issues Monroe County community members bring up in the “No to Auxilio” report, including the fiasco at Galesburg-Augusta.  

It will be interesting to watch this disaster capitalism fiasco unfold in the upcoming days and weeks. 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Bad Writer? Blame a Teacher, Says Goldstein

As journo-author of numerous pieces in her series, "Educational History for Dummies Who Want to Remain That Way," Dana Goldstein has another gem of a piece in the New York Times, where she regularly brings to light the corporate education perspective on education issues.

This time Goldstein brings her corporate lens to examine the problem of bad writing among school children, and it takes just a few five-sentence paragraphs for Goldstein to get to the root cause of the massive deficiency:
The root of the problem, educators agree, is that teachers have little training in how to teach writing and are often weak or unconfident writers themselves. According to Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a scan of course syllabuses from 2,400 teacher preparation programs turned up little evidence that the teaching of writing was being covered in a widespread or systematic way.
First off, I would ask Ms. Goldstein what Kate Walsh's perspective has to do with the perspective of educators, since Walsh has never been a teacher or studied education (this she has in common with Goldstein, who has a BA in European intellectual history).  In fact, Walsh's corporate-funded business at NCTQ is based on pasting together spurious sponsored research into reports that place all the blame for learning shortcomings on teachers, schools, and teacher education programs.

What Goldstein and Walsh consider as the "root of the problem" is, instead, a symptom of old-growth policies by corporate reformers, the education industry, and conservative politicians, which have attempted to stunt the interpretive and expressive capabilities of children in favor of expanding the storage capacity of children's memory banks.  The Business Roundtable's long-established and continuing test-based strategy of schooling by forced feeding and regurgitation has led to the preparation of generations of workers with strong abilities to be led by the hand (or the nose), to minimally comprehend, and to have the barest understanding of understanding.  With today's new teachers having grown up with writing (and speaking) on the periphery with the rest of the non-tested non-essentials, writing and speaking stand the chance being replaced by what could be, I guess, an emoji-based system of communication.

Unfortunately, Goldstein ignores entirely the history of highly-leveraged attempts by CorpEd to eradicate federally-funded programs and teacher education curriculums that were not aimed directly to increase test scores.  Goldstein does not mention that a number of states, including New York and Tennessee, now judge teacher education programs on how much graduates of those programs can increase test scores of their students. Any concern from Kate Walsh about that?  Nah.

Goldstein also ignores the history of attempts to kill the only federally-funded national program to improve writing and writing instruction of teachers.  The National Writing Project (NWR) was targeted for elimination by W's corrupt henchmen in 2004, just as it was on the chopping block in 2011 under Obama/Duncan.  Nonetheless, the NWP persisted.

Today Goldstein is quick to praise the NWR, which she sees as a important tool toward the kind of "rigorous writing" agenda, which is now being demanded by the Business Roundtable's Common Corers. Until such time that Kate Walsh and her corporate foundation funders can come up with a lucrative scheme to standardize writing instruction in teacher education courses, Goldstein makes it clear that NWR will be an important technology in helping teachers and students, alike, to get in touch with their inner memoranda, as well as tapping into the wellsprings of inspiration for writing annual reports to the stockholders.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Confusion Persists Regarding NEA Charter Policy

There appears to be some real confusion among what may be well-intentioned folks about what the NEA resolution on charter schools actually says about a moratorium.  Here is the only mention of a moratorium in the document:
Unless both the basic safeguards and process detailed above are met, no charter school should be authorized and NEA will support state and local moratoriums on further charter authorizations in the school district.
As anyone can see, the National Education Association is NOT authorizing a moratorium in the event that all its fanciful desires are not met with regards to charter schools: the National Education Association is saying that it will support local and state affiliates that may choose to call for a moratorium.  In other words, NEA plans to do nothing.

Nonetheless, I found this comment at a blog this morning, which claims that there is an NEA moratorium on charters in place:
The NEA resolution only calls for a “moratorium” on charter schools that don’t meet the standards they lay out, rather than a moratorium on all charter authorizations. . . .
This is just plain wrong, and it perpetuates the kind of corrupt dissembling that NEA lawyers used for years and have now exported to the NAACP and other organizations that have opposed charter expansion in the past.

Grit by any other name is torture

Angela Duckworth and her "academic" mentor Martin Seligman helped develop torture models that the CIA uses in places like Iraq. The very same elements of these torture models were taken from Duckworth et al. to establish the horrific "no excuses" policies of corporate charter school chains like KIPP. Both Duckworth and Seligman are monsters, and that the corporate media continues to provide them a platform is a testament to the pervasiveness of neoliberal ideology. Dr. Jim Horn and others have written quite a lot about Duckworth and her ilk at SchoolsMatter.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Will "smart" cities lead to surveilled education and social control?

from Wrench in the Gears
July 28, 2017

A growing number of metropolitan areas are being shaped by “Smart” City policies. Bloomberg Philanthropy’s “What Works Cities” aims to bring these programs to mid-size cities as well. Even in communities without explicit “smart” initiatives, “innovation” or “empowerment” zones are being proposed, often around school districts, enabling outside interests to sidestep existing legal and contractual protections under the guise of “autonomy” and “flexibility.” I hope the information I’ve pulled together will reveal how “smart city” and “learning ecosystem” interests often intersect and encourage others to think critically about similar programs in their communities. It is important to consider digital classrooms as nodes of smart cities. Classrooms touch the lives of many, and thus are logical places to begin normalizing the idea that as citizens it is our duty to generate and hand over massive quantities of personal data that will supposedly shape policy for the “public good” and manage our economy.

Smart Cities are defined by their reliance on digital technology across government functions and the use of sensor-transmitted data to regulate provision of public services. The high cost of installing such networks, monitoring data, and maintaining the systems, especially in our current climate of austerity, means municipalities will increasingly look to partner with private companies and outside investors to provide basic public services. I anticipate “smart city” policies will fuel social impact investing. There is a belief that investments in “efficient” technologies will yield future cost savings, and therefore such infrastructure projects could become significant profit centers for venture capital.

Click here to read the entire article.

NAACP Dumps Charter Moratorium And Wins Ravitch "Honor Roll" Status

Last October the NAACP adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium on the authorization of new charter schools.  Even though the new position did nothing to help the millions of children already trapped and abused in thousands of apartheid "no excuses" charter schools in 45 states, the resolution was viewed as the beginning of a societal shift away from the paternalistic "broken windows" school model that billionaires, hedge funders, and corporate foundations have supported for two decades as the final solution for urban pre-K-12 education.

In adopting the new resolution against charter expansion, however, the NAACP found itself outside the political mainstream and, thus, upstream from the primary flow of cash that sustains the organization's top-heavy hierarchy.  Then, as the AFT and NEA moved "all in" with their bet on a charter-embracing DNC that was/is owned by the Clintonians, the NAACP found itself further isolated and cut off from political influence and union generosity.

The result has been a quiet death of the moratorium accompanied by a new charter-friendly policy by the NAACP.  Not surprisingly, it is policy that mirrors the positions of AFT and NEA and NPE, which will be front and center in the 2018 midterm election year.

How does the NAACP explain its reversal?  Easy.  As Diane Ravitch explains, the NAACP has simply, though "boldly," asserted that charter schools now are public schools and, therefore, incapable of draining public money away:
The NAACP report boldly acknowledges that charters are part of a public-funded system. It says that it makes no sense to strip funding from the public schools that enroll the great majority of students in order to fund a parallel system that is usually no better than the public system and often worse.
Got that?  If charters are now "public," how can charters be stripping money away to a "parallel system?!"  Charters, then, are no longer part of the problem--they are part of the solution!  Bingo.

A month ago before the new NAACP report was released, Ravitch was thoroughly convinced by reading Rebecca Klein' dissembling at HuffPo that the moratorium would remain intact. She had this say then:
I am very impressed that the NAACP did not succumb to the big-money behind the privatization movement. That shows their genuine commitment to the children and families for whom they fight.
And what about now, after it has become clear that the NAACP capitulated and has, in fact, become the parrots of the AFT/NEA/NPE position for embracing charters. As you might imagine, now Ravitch is even more impressed by her new allies:
Like every national organization, the NAACP relies on major donors to survive. By standing strong against privatization of public schools, the NAACP has demonstrated courage and integrity. I add the NAACP to the honor roll of this blog, with admiration and respect.
 Remember, now, boys and girls: charter schools are public schools, so they can no longer be accused of privatizing.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

NEA Continues Support for Charter Schools

NEA Continues Support for Charter Schools
by Jim Horn

Every year American public school educators send approximately a billion and a half dollars to the National Education Association and over half that amount to the American Federation of Teachers.  The NEA’s latest policy statement on charter schools should make every teacher wonder why she is sending in those hundreds of hard-earned dollars every year to help NEA and AFT misleaders to put a stake in the heart of public schools. 

The corporate lawyers who write NEA policy have been dissembling, dodging, and weaving for a long time on the subject of charter schools. With this new policy statement, it is clear that that has not changed.  

What has changed is the mass of qualifiers that NEA has added, ostensibly to earn the organization’s continued blessing for charter schools.  If, however, the corporate governing bodies do not abide by NEA’s list of wishes, then that could trigger an NEA response that must have the charter industry quaking at the thought:

Unless both the basic safeguards and process detailed above are met, no charter school should be authorized and NEA will support state and local moratoriums on further charter authorizations in the school district.

Now mind you, this does not mean that NEA headquarters will do anything or even threaten anything on its on if the charter industry ignores NEA’s latest dissembling.  What NEA will do, however, is to not stand in the way of any NEA affiliate that wants to tie its membership onto the tracks for the billionaires’ corporate charter locomotive to flatten.  Where is the NEA and AFT leadership?  They are, of course, at the corporate education table, even if they have to sit underneath it and beg for bones to be thrown to educators.

Based on past experience, we may expect the multi-billion dollar charter industry to summarily ignore NEA’s pathetic statement on charters, which is delivered without demand, without promised repercussions, and with zero fanfare.  NEA’s new statement signals a policy that continues down the dead-end Democratic Party’s Third Way, which has surely earned the label of Third Rail by now—following the 2016 election.  NEA’s policy on charter, in fact, is one that would never cause a Clinton to cluck. 

And what happens if, by some miracle, NEA’s entire fanciful list of conditions is met, thus making meaningless calls for moratoriums unnecessary and any further pretense of charter outrage irrelevant?  Not much.

Now the NEA statement supports “prohibitions against for-profit [charter] operation.” It is reasonable to ask, then, if for-profit charters are prohibited, will the billions of public dollars that are now going to the charter industry stop flowing into privatizers’ pockets.

Not at all.  In fact, the majority of charters have always been of the “non-profit” variety, with only 13 percent of the nation’s 7,500 charters run by for-profit companies.  Insisting that all charters become “non-profit” will only guarantee that that state and local education dollars will continue to fill the coffers of the charter industry, which thrives by claiming “non-profit” status for their segregated cultural sterilization schools based on the KIPP Model. 

It matters not to a school system that must fire its librarians to make payroll if, in fact, monies now being diverted to charters go to a charter operator’s bank account that is designated as “non-profit.”  In fact, the “non-profit” status guarantees many tax advantages for the big donors and operators who view the paternalistic “no excuses” charters as the urban education final solution.

Which brings us to the greatest weakness of the NEA policy on charter schools.  If all the items of NEA’s wish list were realized, and that is a huge “if,” the charter industry’s corporate colonization of urban schools by the 6,500 non-profit charters now in operation would continue unabated.  If all of NEA’s fanciful wishes were met, hundreds thousands of children and thousands of their missionary teachers would continue to suffer daily indignities and ongoing dehumanization from white corporate school managers who pretend that callous brutality is justified as a means to an end that always boils down to performance on standardized tests and behavioral grade cards.

We have to wonder when the remaining members of AFT and NEA will join those hundreds of thousands of educators who have already stopped their enabling of NEA’s corporate education habit.

Monday, July 17, 2017

ESSA Goes After NY Community High Schools

There are 51 of them in New York City, and they serve transfer students whose circumstances made it impossible to work through a regular high school.  Students receive counseling, career guidance, and other social services that allow students to actually learn while finish high school at a decelerated pace.

Now those schools are under threat from ESSA, which could have never passed without the support of corporate reform protection units of NEA, AFT, NPE, and FairTest:
The schools are small, and many of them work with community-based organizations to offer counseling, college and career advising, and internships. They have a significantly better track record than other high schools in graduating students who are two or more years behind. But because students often enter transfer schools with few credits, it can take them six, seven or even eight years in total to graduate.

Now advocates and city education officials fear the schools may be in danger. On Monday, the State Education Department is expected to present the Board of Regents with regulations to conform with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor to No Child Left Behind. Under the expected regulations, the vast majority of the city’s transfer schools would be designated as “in need of improvement” and could be at risk of being closed.

Under the regulations, schools that fall short of a six-year graduation rate of 67 percent would be put on a list to receive “comprehensive support and improvement.” Only four of the city’s 51 transfer schools currently meet, or are on track to meet, that benchmark.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Smart Cities and Social Impact Bonds: Public Education's Hostile Takeover Part II

from Wrench in the Gears
July 13, 2017

The Ed Reform 2.0 push to atomize knowledge into bits and pieces for validation by badges and micro-credentials has me very worried. It’s not what I want for my child, for other people’s children or for future generations. There are many days I feel like a Cassandra. It’s not that people don’t believe my predictions; rather, they are down in the trenches fighting more immediate battles and don’t have the luxury of time or head space to step back and let things come into focus. Part of the strategy, in fact, is to create repeated immediate threats that zap our resources and distract us from the true end game. It is unclear exactly what is to be done, because pushing back against these powerful global forces will take tremendous collective effort. And of course it is a weighty thing to hold this knowledge. I sense there are a lot of people who simply don’t want to look for fear that it will be too hard to carry that knowledge going forward.

I recognize there was no era in which public education was designed to care for ALL our nation’s children. As we stare down Ed Reform 2.0, we must be prepared not only to fight the reformers’ surveillance, human-capital management tactics, but also to collectively imagine and realize a new paradigm that will cultivate the intellect and talents of each and every child while recognizing and celebrating their human dignity. Rather than the toxic construct of “personalized” online learning that railroads children into set pathways, isolates them, and forces them to compete against one another, we need to embrace learning as an inherently human process, one that encourages students to take pleasure in discovering and constructing knowledge with the guidance of trained educators, in the fellowship of engaged peers, and within the context of their communities and culture.

Click here to read the entire article.