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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Another peek behind the neoliberal corporate education reform curtain

“Yes! Of course they [public schools] can, but my charter (school) friends don’t like it when I say that.” — Paul Vallas

Paul Vallas admitting that he wants no teachers with at least a decade of experience.

The only nice thing about the right wing is that they don't obscure the reasons behind corporate education reform. Devoid of empathy, compassion, or even an inkling of the notion that human need should trump corporate greed, devotees of Randian "thought" are often entirely honest about motives of neoliberalism. Contrasted to leadership in the Democratic Party, who try to hide the premise underpinning neoliberal policies, the right wing is far more transparent on this issue. For example, arch-reactionary (and charter industry profiteer) Andy Smarick gave us an early peek behind the curtain in 2008 when he admitted that the lucrative charter industry deliberately discriminates against Students with Disabilities (SWD) and other special needs children in order to help bankrupt public school districts. The candor of his Wave of the Future piece in the fringe-right Education Next is as refreshing as it is chilling:

"As chartering increases its market share in a city, the district will come under growing financial pressure. The district, despite educating fewer and fewer students, will still require a large administrative staff to process payroll and benefits, administer federal programs, and oversee special education. With a lopsided adult-to-student ratio, the district's per-pupil costs will skyrocket." [emphasis mine]

Confronted with incontrovertible evidence that the charter industry discriminates, so-called "liberal" corporate reformers like Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, or Ben Austin never publicly admit this is true, much less admit that it is deliberate and by design. The same goes for their assault of the teaching profession. Corner reformers on their attacks on teachers and one gets treated to an array of platitudes about wanting to "elevate the profession", and so forth. One of their reform darlings, Paul Vallas, is up-front about the war on professional educators, particularly the experienced ones. Here is the text from the slide pictured above:

"I don't want the majority of my teaching staff to work more than 10 years. The cost of sustaining those individuals becomes so enormous. Between retirement and healthcare and things like that, it means that your are constantly increasing class sizes and cutting programs to sustain the cost of a veteran workforce."

Doesn't need any explanation, does it?

Another area where the right-wing is forthcoming about the true purpose of neoliberal corporate education reform is in the rationale behind "school choice." Never mind the racist origins of the phrase school choice, or how it is the key factor behind today's schools being as segregated as the times prior to the nineteen-sixties, corporately subsidized Democrats, like Ben Austin of Students Matter, are on record saying of school choice: "It would force the district to learn how to run great schools by forcing them to compete." There is absolutely no evidence that this is true. The disciples of the radical right-wing economist who first advocated "competition" and "choice" in the education sector are entirely honest about this. I was exposed to Robert Weissberg's essay by someone during the struggle against the former Gates Foundation executive, Yolie Flores's, attack on Los Angeles public schools in the guise of her vile Public School Choice giveaway program to the charter sector. The paper was quite revealing in that like the Smarick piece above, it was candid about the real reasons for school choice — which have nothing to do with improving schools. Here is an excerpt of the abstract:

"Despite ample debates over the efficacy of school choice, theorizing has lagged behind and this hinders progress. Milton Friedman, the choice movement founder, never claimed that choice would improve academics; choice was inherently valuable and parents might demand anything. Choice advocates also exaggerate the remedial power of markets and proliferating academic options seldom brings academic diligence. Given free tutoring opportunities, those lagging behind reject them, and costs will usually be too high for most low achievers. Extensive schooling options already exist, so waging political battles to add more is unnecessary."

School choice has never been about improving education, rather it has always been a specious argument used to advance the privatization of education. I suppose in a way we owe Smarick, Vallas, and Weissberg a thank you for being honest about what really drives the charter school project, and all its attendant education reforms.

From Inside the Corporate Ed Reform School Cult

Posted at Education Matters by a former corporate ed reform advocate, Jorge Cabrera.  ht to Peter Farruggio

For nearly three years, I had been involved in what has often been referred to by some as the “education reform movement” in Bridgeport.  In 2012, I was presented with a unique opportunity to work for a new local organization that would work “with the community” to reform the public schools.  The mission was to work towards helping Bridgeport students increase their academic performance and by extension, I thought, lower the dropout rate, increase the rate of college attendance and teach parents how to effectively advocate for the resources and supports their children needed to succeed in school.  As a Bridgeport public school graduate and the first person in my family to attend and graduate from an institution of higher learning, I knew, first hand, how the trajectory of one’s life could be dramatically changed with the attainment of that often coveted credential…a college degree.  Further, as a native Bridgeporter I was sold on the prospect of working with the community I grew up in and loved to help improve educational outcomes for thousands of Bridgeport students.  However, what I did not fully appreciate at the time, but soon found out, was that I was smack in the middle of a simmering firestorm that would divide the community I cared for so dearly and force me to question my own assumptions about “education reform” and the people in front and behind this “movement.”

            Though I did not fully know it at the time, a series of manipulative and deceitful political moves were made before I began my work in the “movement” that would be revealed to me in over 200 conversations with many Bridgeport leaders and friends.  These “moves” would severely taint the work I would embark on and proved to be a major stumbling block to organizing the community.

            Despite these challenges, I began my work full of hope and excited to put my skills and experience toward the noble goal of improving the Bridgeport school system.  Unfortunately, what I learned in the coming years was the incredible lengths some people with access to great wealth and political power would go to in order to privatize an already overburdened and underfunded school district and the ideology that undergirded it.
 This is my story.
 The Best and the Brightest
 As I began my work in the “education reform movement” in Bridgeport, I noticed a plethora of ivy league educated “consultants” and “transformational leaders” that littered the often loose coalition of funders, new organizations and executive directors.  From the beginning, it was clear that many of these new “leaders” that were emerging were well credentialed. They had graduated from prestigious universities and, it was presumed (though not by me), that alone qualified them to lead. Many were very young (recent graduates), energetic, unmarried with no children and little life experience.  They often exhibited a cultish commitment to “the movement.” Their zeal for “education reform” and “saving the children” often resulted in a bizarre abdication of critical thinking that made a mockery of their high priced “education.”  For instance, in many meetings I attended, many of these acolytes extolled the virtues of charter schools as the only solution to closing the achievement gap in Bridgeport but never once did anyone bother to discuss the ample research (i.e. “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” ) available regarding the negative impact of poverty on academic achievement or that Bridgeport had several public magnet schools that outperformed (as measured by standardized test scores) many charter schools.  These magnet schools had long track records (20 plus years) of success and I assumed we should advocate for what we know, firmly, works.  Despite this evidence, there was never any serious discussion regarding expanding magnet school options or advocating for high quality, universal preschool programs (research shows the achievement gap begins at this level).  The entire approach to “education reform” lacked any serious understanding of the many variables (i.e., social-emotional issues, poverty, funding, English language learners) that clearly effect a child’s ability to learn.  Anytime a more dynamic and multifaceted approach to closing the achievement gap was raised it was quickly dismissed as “making excuses.”  The atmosphere vacillated between a callous indifference to the real challenges Bridgeport children faced and arrogant dismissiveness. Permeated throughout these various organizations that formed a loose network of power was a culture that prized blind dedication to the “mission” and socially affirmed and promoted those who obeyed and exhibited “urgency” in “reforming” the “failing schools.”  The people in “the movement” made it clear that it was up to the “best and brightest” of minds to “transform” the “system” as “outside influencers.” By “best and brightest” they almost exclusively meant people who would do their bidding without question and certainly not anyone that would exhibit any degree of independent or critical thought.  On more than one occasion, when the argument was made that the solutions to the multilayered challenge of public education needed to come from the people and required an authentic, engaging process with the Bridgeport community the response was often glib at best.  I recall in one strategic planning meeting when I advocated for authentic engagement and patience to allow parents the time to become informed on the various issues and was told to, “just use language to convince” the parents and impress upon them a sense of “urgency.”  Another person told me, “It’s all about how you say it.”  It was becoming increasingly clear to me that there was little interest in authentic community engagement and problem solving.  The fact that I was hired to do exactly that was lost on virtually everyone!  They were talking at me not to me.  I began to sense that someone or something I was not fully aware of was calling the shots behind the scenes and many of these young ivy leaguers were the mercenaries on the front lines tasked with implementing the agenda.  This whole enterprise was quickly becoming astroturfing and I was in the middle of it.  Worse, I was starting to feel like I was hired to put lipstick on a pig and it was beginning to burn me on the inside.  Nevertheless, through it all, I never gave up hope and tried to create spaces for honest, authentic and fact based discussions inside “the movement” with limited success.

The Knight in Shining Armor
My first meeting with Paul Vallas was like a whirlwind.  He barely came up for air! He spoke in a rapid fire cadence and despite my best efforts I could not engage him in any substantive conversations.  He rode into the city as the new superintendent of schools like a knight in shining armor.  Immediately and repeatedly, I was told by many in the “reform community” that Vallas was a “godsend,” a “transformational leader” with an international reputation of turning school systems around, increasing academic outcomes and changing the lives of, literally, thousands of students. The praise heaped on him was ubiquitous. He often spoke in soundbites and we were told that we were to be a “critical friend” to the new superintendent.  We would support him when he was right and criticize him when he was wrong.  Our main constituents, I was told, were the families and students.  Good enough, I thought at the time.  In reality, we were dispatched to drum up support in the community for virtually every policy change or initiative proposed by Vallas.  Any thoughtful questioning of the efficacy of his proposals was met with stone silence or the injection of the “urgency” argument which was intended to and had the effect of silencing any meaningful discussion.  If one pushed too hard to open up an authentic discussion regarding Vallas’s proposals “the movement” would send strong signals that the questioner was being disloyal and that such questioning was deemed heresy.  It was as if a “bunker mentality” had descended on many in “the movement.” You were either with them or against them.  Despite this hostile environment, on one occasion, I was able to engage Vallas in a rare moment of reflection and candor.  We were discussing different school models and supports for students and I casually asked Vallas if he thought traditional neighborhood public schools could succeed if they were given adequate funding and supports for students, teachers and families.  His response was very revealing. He stated, “Yes! Of course they can, but my charter (school) friends don’t like it when I say that.”  It was a rare, candid moment that spoke volumes and provided a rare glimpse into the mindset of the “reformers.”  The veil was starting to be lifted.  As I continued to have extensive conversations with many community leaders I began to appreciate the deceitful and manipulative manner in which Vallas was hired to lead the Bridgeport school system.  It was all unfolding before me and the truth was emerging.

Power to the People?
 The crown jewel of the “education reform movement” in Bridgeport was the 2012 charter revision ballot question that would of given the Mayor the authority to appoint the entire board of education, among other powers.  The “movement” was in a frenzy to win this election.  We were told that “the people woud decide” and “they (the people) have the power.”  All of the work we were engaged in to build relationships, trust and educate parents regarding the school system and education policy was abruptly halted to focus on winning this ballot question election.  It was a pressure cooker!  When I tried to actually read the proposed language changes to the city’s charter and have discussions with parents so that both I and they were fully informed on what we were asking people to vote on, I was quickly pushed aside in favor of a group of highly compensated New York City media consultants who came in and began directing instead of facilitating the “discussions.”  Immediately, the focus was on marketing and sloganeering.  Worse, we were trying to build the plane while it was in the air! The whole thing was rushed and disorganized. We were told to make sure we communicated to the public that voting in favor of the city charter change was good for parents, students and would lead to better academic outcomes.  The insinuation was that anyone who was against the charter revision changes was anti-child or anti-education. When parents or community leaders asked questions that required more substantive, fact based responses we were coached to respond to everything in soundbites and with shallow arguments that lacked any grounding in reality.  It was the worse kind of insult to the community’s intelligence and pandered to the worse aspects of human nature and—it almost worked.

 Revelation and the Shock Doctrine
 My nearly three years in the “movement” in Bridgeport revealed to me the incredible lengths that private, often unseen and unaccountable power will go to in order to create and capitalize on a crisis.  In Bridgeport, that crisis in our public education system was created by powerful forces at the local and state level who systematically starved the school system by withholding necessary school funding (Shock #1) which then created a crisis that set the stage for a takeover (Shock #2) of the Bridgeport board of education on the eve of the fourth of July in 2011.  Essentially, these forces were engaged in a form of social engineering under the guise of “urgency” and “reform.” To be clear, in this “movement” there are people who have good intentions and sincerly want to improve the conditions of Bridgeport’s public schools but they do not sit at the tables of power when strategic decisions are made and their voices are often silenced. Their talents, skills and knowledge are often used to serve a larger, opaque agenda that is dictated by a radical ideology of deregulation and privatization.  Shot throughout most, if not all, of the education reform “movement” you will find the radical ideology of economist Milton Friedman.  Looking back, there were moments when this mindset (disaster capitalism) was revealed to me in meetings.  On one occassion, a very influential operator in the “education reform” community was discussing the “amazing opportunity” that revealed itself after hurricane Katrina in New Orleans desimated the population and led to the “charterization” of the public school system.  He expounded that sometimes you have to, “…burn the village to save it…” and that what we (the “reform community”) are essentially involved in is, “creative destruction.”  Worse, he argued that we needed a “clean slate” in order for real “change” to happen in the school system in Bridgeport.  But this was my home.  This was the city I grew up in and where most of my family lived and worked.  You want to burn down their city!? You want to destroy it so you can be creative!?  For whom?  It was all surreal.  I was done.

 In Naomi Klein’s book and, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” she outlines how powerful economic and political forces harness terrible shocks to implement radical policies to privatize and profit from public resources.  In Bridgeport, this ideology played itself out on our public school system and, for a season at least, seemed to be the dominant ideology on the verge of assuming complete power over the public school system.  We almost succeeded.  Thanks to the people of the City of Bridgeport—we did not and that’s a good thing.

 Jorge Cabrera was employed by the “education reform” organization Excel Bridgeport from 2012-2015–the organization on the front lines of the “movement” in Bridgeport.

Parent Offers Good Reasons for Opting Out

A clip from here:

. . . .Our students’ independence is slowly but surely being crushed by an endless scholastic bombardment of carrots and sticks, reminders to stay on the state-mandated track and learn the state-mandated information. No zig, no zag, no time to stop and enjoy the view. Students are to be compliant and obedient. They are not to question the authority of leaders in the system. Students are inculcated, from a very early age, with the sense that they do not own their education.

At the same time, their sense of community is being damaged by the very system designed to educate them. Grouped according to age, students are relentlessly rewarded (with treats, good grades, smiley faces, extra recess minutes) or punished (with bad grades, class rankings, less recess) based on slight differences in development and abilities. Everything possible is given a score. Those who score well learn a sense of superiority and condescension, while those who score poorly learn self-hatred. At the same time, this ranking system makes it very clear that one student’s climbing rank is tied to another’s falling one.

Together, these strategies and others are silencing the exhilarated yawps and hoorahs, woohoos and booyahs of our nation’s students. Meek and fearful, they have forgotten how to seek out challenging and exciting tasks. A generation of children are growing up with an “Is it going to be on the test?” mentality. All that is left is to try to make education palatable by adding silly rewards, candy, pep rallies, and in-classroom movies.

I’m opting my children out of standardized testing because sometimes when you’re a prisoner on a ship, you need to glimpse a flag on a hill—to see someone, somewhere, reaffirming your almost forgotten sense of independence and community.

I want my children to value independence. I want them to look at systems of state control with a wary eye, to demand and revere control over their own lives as their birthright. The joy and mystery of living, learning, growing, and loving is theirs for the taking. . . .

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Let Luke Flynt Clearly Explain How Value-Added Test Evaluation Works

 Share this far and wide:

The ASD and IZone Plan to Bankrupt Public Education and Destroy the Teaching Profession

 The Commercial Appeal has a story today about the planned shuffling of schoolchildren to serve the needs of the corporate reform welfare artists who are lined up at the public school feeding trough in Memphis.
. . . . In three years, the ASD has taken 7,100 students and the $11,000 SCS would get each year for each student. Next year, ASD enrollment is projected to hit 9,200.

To fight back, the SCS board is expected to close South Side Middle and move its 300 students to Riverview K-8, more than three miles away. Riverview is already safe from ASD takeover because it is an iZone school. . . .
My comment left at the CA website:

My calculator tells me that 9,200 ASD students x $11,000 per student = $101,200,000 every year going from public schools to the ASD corporate reform school operators, which have no public oversight or input. This massive giveaway will result in more austerity measures for the surviving schools of SCS, tighter thumb screws on teachers, and more teacher pay based on test scores, all of which will NEVER attract the kinds of experienced, caring, and professional teachers that the neediest children require. All of the professional teachers are fired when the ASD or its homegrown version, the I-Zone, take over schools like South Side and Airways. And what professional teacher wants to teach where know-nothing school "leaders" have the authority to hire and fire for any reason.

Therefore, the rationale that the clueless Hopson uses for ending co-location is just blather. The real rationale is real estate and real dollars. He and the corporate school board (Bibb actually works for Green Dot Charter Schools) will never attract any teachers other than the desperately unemployed ones and those temporary beginners from Teach for America and its spin-offs. What teacher in his right mind would step into this cauldron of corporate corruption?! 

The Gates Plan for Memphis has shown itself for the anti-public and incompetent business efficiency scheme that it is. Fortunately, the parents and teachers of Memphis are not going to allow their children and students to be used as pawns in a billion dollar hostile takeover, whether it is labeled ASD or IZone. The SCS Board meeting at 5:30 on Tuesday. Be there.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kasich Plans to Increase Charter Funding and Cut Public Schools

Ohio has some of the worst charter schools in the nation, and White Hat Management runs many of them. White Hat's multimillionaire boss, David Brennan, has stuffed the pockets of politicians for years to become one of the grandest corporate welfare kingpins in charter school history. 

What does Governor Kasich plan to do about that giant sucking sound that dollars make when they disappear down the giant charter drain?  From the Columbus Dispatch:
Charter-school funding in Ohio could exceed $1 billion by 2017 under Gov. John Kasich’s proposed two-year budget, which provides increases to every school.

Most of the attention thus far has focused on the charter-school accountability and transparency provisions included in Kasich’s budget. Lawmakers more recently got a look at the breakdown in charter-school funding.

About half of traditional public schools would see funding cuts over the next two years under Kasich’s education funding plan, though it spends $459 million more. The non-partisan Legislative Service Commission calculated that charter-school funding will rise 5.4 percent over two years, with no schools facing a cut. . . .

Friday, March 27, 2015

Civil Rights Laws Suspended for Tens of Thousands of NYC Charter Chain Gang Kids

Advocates for Children has released a new report detailing NYC charter operators' wholesale violations of state and federal laws governing the treatment of children in school.  

This will come as no surprise for those who have worked in the "no excuses" testing camps or for parents whose children have mistreated there.   

For policy elites, there is no longer any way to deny the immoral and illegal rules that govern these paternalistic hellholes that state and federal governments still embrace as the neo-eugenic solution to the problem of being black, brown, and poor children in America.

Major findings of the Report:

1.   107 of the 164 NYC charter school discipline policies we reviewed permit suspension or expulsion as a penalty for any of the infractions listed in the discipline policy, no matter how minor the infraction. By contrast, the New York City Department of Education’s (DOE) Discipline Code aligns infractions with penalties, limiting suspension to certain violations and prohibiting expulsion for all students under age 17 and for all students with disabilities.

2.   82 of the 164 NYC charter school discipline policies we reviewed permit suspension or expulsion as a penalty for lateness, absence, or cutting class, in violation of state law.
3.   133 of the 164 NYC charter school discipline policies we reviewed fail to include the right to written notice of a suspension prior to the suspension taking place, in violation of state law.
4.   36 of the 164 NYC charter school discipline policies we reviewed fail to include an opportunity to be heard prior to a short-term suspension, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, New York State Constitution, and state law.
5.   25 of the 164 NYC charter school discipline policies we reviewed fail to include the right to a hearing prior to a long-term suspension, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, New York State Constitution, and state law.
6.   59 of the 164 NYC charter school discipline policies we reviewed fail to include the right to appeal charter school suspensions or expulsions, even though state law establishes a distinct process for charter school appeals.
7.   36 of the 164 NYC charter school discipline policies we reviewed fail to include any additional procedures for suspending or expelling students with disabilities, in violation of federal and state law.
8.   52 of the 164 NYC charter school discipline policies we reviewed fail to include the right to alternative instruction during the full suspension period, in violation of state law.
While charter schools should be able to discipline their students, they must uphold the rights of their students and provide them with a fair discipline process. The Charter Schools Act requires charter school authorizers to ensure that charter applications include discipline policies and procedures that comport with the law.7 Yet, all three authorizers of New York City charter schools have approved charters for schools that have legally inadequate discipline policies.

Memphis Waking Up to Corporate Welfare Takeover of Schools

Thanks to Memphis Police Association president, Mike Williams, for giving the teachers of South Side Middle School an opportunity last evening on "Wake Up Memphis" to share with the public some information related to the attempted shutdown of South South Middle School to benefit the incompetent misleaders of the Achievement School District.

Many community members called in during the one hour program, and we were able to answer their questions related to the continued push for takeovers by the corporate welfare schemers who see Memphis children as a huge new revenue stream to be exploited.

The one question we could not answer is how South Side came to be threatened with closure and absorption by the corporate I-Zone, when other schools in Memphis, both inside and outside the ASD and I-Zone, are performing worse or no better on the state tests that were used to identify schools for potential closure.

Below are data from the TN public website that shows two elementary schools (Aspire Hanley #1 and Georgian Hills) that have been taken over by ASD three years ago, one middle school in ASD taken over two years ago, and one of the "high-flying" KIPP schools in Memphis, which made the bottom 5 percent Priority List for the State in 2014

As you can see, South Side (shown last) is making great improvements with their 7th and 8th grade students, and if these criteria were used to determine closure, South Side would survive all the other schools listed below.

The effort to close South Side Middle will not go forward, if you join hands with the community to attend the SCS School Board meeting on Tuesday at 5:30.  Come early and be ready for become active advocates for humane public schools in Memphis.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

YES Prep Says NO to Teacher Town

The Commercial Appeal has a story today on the decision by the high-flying YES Prep charter chain, which has decided to back out of a contract with the doomed Achievement School District of Tennessee.
Yes Prep, a nationally recognized charter school operator, is leaving Memphis before opening its first school, saying the shifting political climate here makes it difficult to offer the high-quality education on which it has built its reputation.
My comments posted at the Commercial Appeal:

Yes Prep follows in the footsteps of another big brand name, KIPP, which backed out of South Side Middle last year. The community opposition to these corporate welfare chain gang schools is growing, and parents and teachers, alike, are no longer accepting of white philanthropists choosing how poor black children are to be "educated."

As I said yesterday in response to a question about cultural sterilization of black children:

In the “no excuses” charter testing camps, experienced African-American teachers have been largely replaced by untrained immature beginners, the majority of whom are white middle class women who follow the lead of white corporate CEO male principals with no leadership skills or experience. So real teachers and principals with empathic understanding of the challenges that black families face are replaced by ignorant young temps and authoritarian know-nothings with no understanding of culturally relevant pedagogy or methods. The code of enforced silence does not allow these young white women to get to know their pupils or to understand their lives. Dehumanization is the result. 

Nine to 10 hour school days and 2-3 hours of homework, plus Saturday school in some instances, prevent children from being a part of anything other than a school that routinely ignores community values, parental concerns, family needs, and ethnic identities, and cultural histories. Every aspect of living is secondary to higher test scores. 

Children are routinely screamed at, labeled as miscreants, isolated, humiliated, and called names for the most minor infractions of the rules. In any middle class school, these occurrences would result in charges of misconduct or child abuse. In the chain gang charters, these treatments and interventions are rationalized and encouraged as fitting for the children of the poor. 

Children in no excuses charters are expected to abandon their family and community ties and to become a ghettoized version of the white middle class children. They are expected at an early age to accept the remote goals assigned by white philanthropist funders, and they are taught that failure to reach those goals represents a personal moral failure and a lack of will. They are taught that personal gratification must be delayed until some distant future emerges before them, and they are taught to deny their most basic social needs and cultural connections. They are taught that any shortcoming represents a personal weakness, and they told that they should be grateful and joyful in their imprisoned states. They are turned in automatons who learn how to cut corners and to cheat in order to meet expectations of corporate missionaries who will be replaced after a couple of years.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


OK, I know the font is small and it is not a 140 character tweet, but you should all read and share this article that shows the true nature of testing and CCSS mandates both for the students of a highly regarded elementary special ed teacher and that teacher. http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=17902

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Corporate Congress Turns Blind Eye to High Tech Predators in Schools

The do nothing bill is called the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act.

Clip from NYTimes:
. . . some privacy experts said the draft bill had major loopholes that would allow school services to use student information in ways students and parents might not expect or find acceptable.

For example, it allows school services to make unilateral changes to their contracts and privacy policies. It permits them to disclose student information for purposes like preparing for “employment opportunities.” And it would not prohibit sites like ConnectEDU from selling student records as part of a merger or acquisition.

The bill is also unlikely to prohibit companies like Pearson from monitoring the social media posts of students if those activities are performed on behalf of state educational agencies.

“Although this bill has some promising features,” said Khaliah Barnes, director of the student privacy project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a research center in Washington, “it ultimately fails to uphold President Obama’s promise that the data collected in an educational context can be used only for educational purposes.”

Saturday, March 21, 2015

NYTimes Gets It Wrong on Effects of NCLB

To see the NYTimes Editorial Board lie about education issues is entirely expected, but to see the same in news stories is a bit more disconcerting. This is from a piece yesterday on the fate of No Child Left Behind:
No Child Left Behind required the public release of test scores by race, sex, disability and family income. The release of those subgroups’ scores is broadly considered a success, bringing transparency that focused attention on children needing the most assistance, and helping to shrink achievement gaps.
In 2013, Stanford researchers concluded something quite different:

Overall, we find that racial achievement gaps have been closing slowly since 1990. This is true for both white-black and white-Hispanic gaps. Based on this trend, we turn to the period of No Child Left Behind and ask whether this federal policy, which explicitly aimed to narrow gaps between minority and nonminority students, was successful at achieving its goal. We find no consistent evidence that NCLB has narrowed achievement gaps, on average. Our estimates are very precise, and we can rule out the possibility that NCLB had, on average, meaningfully large effects (effects larger than 0.01 standard deviations change per year) on achievement gaps.
 And from p. 32, in conclusion:
Despite its intentions, there is no evidence that NCLB-style accountability has led to any substantial narrowing of achievement gaps. Although there is variation among states in the effects of NCLB, comparing the magnitude of these effects is akin to comparing the speed of different glaciers: some are retreating, some advancing, but none so fast that one would notice a meaningful difference except over a span of decades (or centuries). Even in those states where NCLB’s effects on achievement gaps have been greatest, our estimates suggest that NCLB has narrowed achievement gaps at a rate of only two-one-hundredths of a standard deviation per year. Over a student’s K-8 career, this would still only narrow the achievement gap by less than one-fifth of a standard deviation. NCLB’s framers aimed to “ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education.” With respect to racial achievement gaps, our findings suggest that NCLB has not been successful at this goal. For future education policies to be more successful, we will likely have to adopt a different, perhaps more deliberate, set of strategies.

The Nation Investigates Cuomo Sewer

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Perfect Person for Imperfect Circumstances (the AvalonSensei, Martha Infante)

The Perfect Person for Imperfect Circumstances. Photo: Martha Infante, by David B. Cohen

The Perfect Person for Imperfect Circumstances
by David B. Cohen

My commentary:

I count myself among the lucky people to know this outstanding educator. My wife and I even attended one of her fundraisers for her students’ D.C. trip. Her essays on her various blogs are some of my favorite reads in that she conveys hope at such a critical time. Teachers like Martha Infante are the reason I spend much of my free time advocating for public education and in support of our local teachers. She is a gift to the community and to the profession as a whole, and she is not alone. I stand behind our public school teachers.

New CREDO Numbers for Special Education and Poverty Don't Match Reality

The Memphis Corporate Appeal has an article on the announced CREDO study of charter test scores for urban areas, including Memphis and Nashville.  The data are from 2006-2012, even though the charteristas in TN and other venues that show higher scores are pretending as if this is new and up-to-date data.  For Tennesseans, the first thing to notice is that these numbers show test score comparisons from before the time that the ASD brought its special formula for failure to Memphis and Nashville.

Secondly, the report shows charter schools with a larger percentage of special education students than the public schools (6% and 5%). This is absurd on its face. The real percentage of special ed kids in Shelby County is 20 percent, and it higher than that in the remaining public schools in Memphis.  

The same situation prevails for the "student poverty" numbers, which are based on kids qualifying for free and reduced price lunch.  CREDO shows public school students who qualify at 45 percent, when the real number is over 70 percent for free lunch and nearly 80 percent for reduced-price lunch in public schools. 

See below from p. 6 of the CREDO study, available here:

We have to wonder what else CREDO got wrong in its Walmart sponsored research.

The CREDO report, of course, does not acknowledge other charter advantages for churning out test scores, which include longer school days, year-round test prep, brutal behavioral systems, 70 hour teacher work weeks, self-selecting parents, funding advantages from corporate and hedge fund donations, dumping of low performers and other "bad" students back into the public schools, little or no back-filling of lost students, and fewer males students. 

Given all these charter advantages and the state of total demoralization in public schools serving poor kids now targeted for future shut down and conversion, how could charter schools not show a test score advantage of some kind??

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Alliance corporate charters, teacher organizing, and moral imperatives

First published on solidaridad on March 19, 2015

"The shady nature of Alliance's real estate dealings, their dismal SAT scores and CSU remediation rates, and their refusal to educate every child are all compelling… [a]llowing these private entities to cherry pick students and avoid educating the most vulnerable and needy students is immoral. Taking a strong stand as a community against that kind of discrimination sends a strong message to these corporate schools that we demand equity for all our students." — Robert D. Skeels

Alliance corporate charters, teacher organizing, and moral imperatives

The announcement that the nascent Alliance Educators United joined with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) in order to empower their force of professional educators to advocate for their students is exciting news indeed. That this is occurring at Alliance Corporate Charters is noteworthy. We are witnessing authentic organizing in the belly of the beast — given how Alliance was formed by Republican venture capitalist Richard "Dick" Riordan and his cabal of profit-hungry businessmen as a means of trying to discredit public education. Alliance's top-down, business-rather-than-pedagogy informed methodologies have failed miserably. For example, in 2013: five of the seventy-five lowest SAT performers in LAUSD were Alliance schools. Add to their educational leadership vacuum administrators fixated on personal financial gain, rather than school community building, and you have Alliance's recipe for disaster. This is why they have had major teacher turn-over issues. Alliance's educators have been poorly treated, and they were fearful to advocate for their students against Alliance's business-banker management culture.

Unionized educators will go a long way towards addressing some of Alliance's more egregious practices.

There's another dimension to this story. In 2010 UTLA drafted their UTLA Proposed Charter School Policy document outlining a set of social justice principles that the union stated it "expects that all charter schools adhere to". These well reasoned expectations are very much like the demands put forth by the Honorable Jackie Goldberg founded Transparency, Equity, and Accountability in Charter Schools (TEAch) organization. Everyone should join TEACh, even families with children enrolled in privately managed charter schools.

Want to encourage both UTLA and Alliance Educators United to keep the UTLA Proposed Charter School Policy in mind for all their future organizing, and hope that they will transform many of those principles into concrete demands that Alliance begin to treat their students right. I'm including the UTLA Press Release, the UTLA Proposed Charter School Policy, and TEAch's mission statement below. I hope these serve to ignite a conversation about how we can force the lucrative charter school industry to finally place student need above corporate greed!

Alliance Educators United

MARCH 14, 2015

Josh Kamensky, 323-205-6634
Kim Turner, 213-305-9316


Teachers and counselors at Alliance College-Ready Public Schools announced Friday that in order to achieve the highest quality learning environment for their students and working environment for themselves at their fast-growing charter school organization, they are organizing a union at their schools.

Educators maintain that having a respected voice in all decisions impacting teaching and learning is critical to ensuring a strong foundation of student-focused, teacher-led collaboration. “I believe that using the teacher’s voice in policymaking for our schools is the surest way to develop the best environment for our students and to create a legacy of greatness for the Alliance,” said history teacher Elana Goldbaum.

Alliance College-Ready Public Schools began operations in 2004 with the opening of Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School in the Pico-Union neighborhood. Today, with 550 teachers and counselors serving 11,000 students at 26 schools, it is the largest charter operator authorized by the Los Angeles Unified School District. The organization’s Board of Directors includes some of Los Angeles’s most active civic figures, including former mayor Richard Riordan and former ambassador and investment banker Frank Baxter.

By giving teachers a voice in the decision making at Alliance, we can ensure that we are allocating resources appropriately and serving our kids in the best way possible,” said teacher Xochil Johansen of Stern Math and Science School. Added teacher Aaron Livingston, “Organizing the union will help the Alliance keep good teachers from leaving.”

Many Alliance educators note that retaining and recruiting talented staff is vital for student success and the well-being of the school community. Teachers at other schools agree. “Students deserve a sense of stability and safety in the relationships they build and they deserve educators who are invested in providing the best instruction,” said Bre Delgadillo, a teacher at Apple Academy Charter School in South L.A., who formed a union with her colleagues in 2014.

A letter signed by community leaders expressed support for teachers and called on Alliance to “listen to your teachers and to respect their fundamental right to organize a union […] without management influence or interference, and come to an agreement with Alliance teachers for a fair and neutral process to organize their union.” The letter was signed by leaders from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), California Partnership, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), and Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE).

“It’s this simple: Every school does better when teachers have a voice,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. “UTLA is proud that Alliance teachers are organizing to join with more than 35,000 educators—over 1,000 of whom teach at independent charter schools here in Los Angeles—to protect educational standards for students in our city.”
 #  #  #

Josh Joy Kamensky

UTLA Proposed Charter School Policy by Robert D. Skeels

About TEAch: Transparency, Equity, and Accountability in Charter Schools

We are an organization of parents, teachers, school employees, taxpayers and community members who want to ensure that charter schools are Transparent, Equitable, and held Accountable for their practices, for the outcomes of the students they serve, and that they do no harm to students attending traditional public schools.

TEAch exists because charter schools have largely abandoned their original purposes:

1. To provide research and development for all public schools on best practices in order to ensure that ALL young people have access to a high quality education; and

2. To lead the way, by example, in transforming public school outcomes for ALL students through teacher-led schools, relieved of the hierarchy of central administration.

We support the original goals of charter public schools.

The current goals of some charter school operators are to greatly expand and capture as many taxpayer dollars as possible for their own schools, thereby removing funds available to traditional public schools. The almost ENTIRELY UNREGULATED CHARTER school system in Los Angeles currently receives at least $683 million (more than $1/2 billion!) per year in taxpayer funds, money that used to go to Los Angeles Unified School District students. Without Transparency, Equity, and Accountability, we know that many charters are not living up to their own goals as stated in their charter applications.

Taxpayer-funded charter co-location on traditional public school campuses is also causing great harm to students in traditional public schools by permanently overcrowding their campuses, and causing huge reductions in their funding. This has resulted in teacher layoffs and increased class sizes in LAUSD traditional public schools.

What We Want: TEAch seeks reasonable state and district regulation of public, taxpayer-funded charter schools to ensure Transparency, Equity, and Accountability.

The Moral Collapse of Education Reform

In 1954 the U. S. Supreme Court declared 9-0 that separate schools based on race are inherently unequal. That decision launched the American Civil Rights Movement, and it provided a moral and legal foundation for civil rights gains among women, the disabled, English language learners, and the LGBT communities.

Now six decades hence, the U. S. has a Secretary of Education admits to having a "Rosa Parks moment" while watching the Hollywood documentary, Waiting for Superman, which celebrates the virtues of black children schooled in segregated total compliance testing camps run by white CEOs and staffed by white temporary missionaries with no professional teacher preparation.

At the same time, the black civil rights leadership has been hijacked, emasculated, and corrupted by growing numbers of neoliberal self-serving traitors like Howard Fuller, Cory Booker, Floyd Flake, Kevin Chavous, and Rod Paige.

In Massachusetts, we have the best and whitest law firms in Boston planning to go to court to force unlimited expansion opportunities for segregated corporate reform schools as an affirmation of their civil rights priorities.

In New York we have white moms calling for more testing to further label, sort, and segregate, and for more charter schools to warehouse black and brown children whose poverty distinguishes their test scores from those of white middle class children, whose advantages have been preserved by the racist sorting machine.

In Washington, we have washed up bureaucrats like Peter Cunningham confessing a bankruptcy of imagination and will to keep alive the legacy of Dr. King and Thurgood Marshall.  How can someone with any functional moral compass intact support another generation of racist accountability practices as the best we can do to realize educational equality?  What kinds of capitulation and cowardice have infected our society, that such utterances can be considered as anything but insane?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

New CREDO Study Shows Mixed Picture for Charters with Big Advantages

When combined with advantages of more money, more time, constant test prep, self-selecting parents, dumping of poor performers and recalcitrants, fewer ELLs, fewer SPED students, and fewer boys, charters continue to show a mixed picture, depending on locale.  The highlights below: