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

Monday, August 31, 2015

Offering Real Choices or Just Segregated Charter Schools: Let's Look at the Wait Lists

Nashville is one of two cities in Tennessee that is on the billionaires' hit list for school privatization.
Here are the corporate foundation whales that are funding efforts to put "harbormasters" in every city on the hit list to promote segregated No Excuses corporate welfare schools as the billionaires' choice for parents in poor neighborhoods.

A corporate outfit called Education Cities is fronting the resources of the Big Four of corporate welfare education reform (Gates, Broad, Walton, and Dell), and they are all engaged in a last ditch struggle to impose the corporate segregation model of reform schools in urban areas across the US.

In Nashville, an informed school board and groups of savvy parents are standing up to the all-out frontal assault and backroom dealings by privatization advocates and their political stooges and hedge fund operators. 

The privatizers have their own mayoral candidate, incumbent governor, a state legislature owned by ALEC, and at least one US senator, Lamar Alexander, who was in town last week to promote the only choice of the corporate choosers--charter chain gang schools.

The corporate education reformers' argument to support their assault on public education is based on providing "choice" to parents in high-poverty, low-scoring schools.  The only choice they offer, however, is the No Excuses lockdown corporate model that most parents reject outright, in favor of a chance to enroll their children in public schools where social capital is high and resources are plentiful.

How do we know that parents prefer magnet schools and other well-resourced and diverse public schools?  Below is the list of Nashville charters, and below that list are the actual numbers on the 2015-16 Wait List for pre-school through grade 12 for all Metro schools, including the charters.  

The Wait List is arranged by Elementary, Middle, and High schools. Notice, for instance, differences in the numbers on charter wait lists as compared to the magnet schools in Nashville, which are designed to attract an economic and racial cross-section, rather than the kind of intense segregated situations we find in the only-choice No Excuses charters.

For just one example, KIPP High School has 21 on its wait list, while M. L. King Magnet HS has 336.  

Tell me which schools Nashville citizens would choose if they had real choices?  What would they prefer, more magnet schools or the one-size fits nobody single false choice of the charter hell schools.


images-1Here's some news I am not sure everyone has. Did you all know that we have more than just the usual culprits in the privatization of Public Schools? It goes beyond charters and hedge fund owners. It even goes beyond Bill Gates.
There is huge business in developing new software tools that are designed to "tailor learning to each child. To achieve that sort of customization, the software may collect and analyze a vast array of details about the habits and activities of individual students." Of course there is the usual issue about what happens to that data.
imagesGuess what that business is worth? "These apps and sites represent a small but growing segment of the overall market for prekindergarten through 12th-grade education software, estimated at about $8.4 billion last year."

Quotes are from NYT article by Natasha Singer in today's business section. "Tools for Tailored Learning May Expose Students’ Personal Details"

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Siege of Philadelphia Public Schools

by Ken Derstine @ Defend Public Education!

August 30, 2015

The most recent link update at the end of the article September 18, 2015.

“Whenever I see the school and the ruins, I wanna break into tears,” wrote Jacob Rodriguez, 17, who attended Fairhill from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Kiara Villegas, 15, wrote on the wall: “They closed our school, for what reason though?”

Pencil statements of students from the closed Fairhill School in North Philadelphia in an art exhibit about the closing of 31 public schools in 2012.


“Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the school district, said, “We completely understand the feelings of the students and their community that something that was part of their community was closed.” He said Fairhill was chosen for closure because it was low-performing and was in poor physical condition.”

Art Show Captures the Wrenching Effects of Closing a School
The New York Times – August 28, 2015


Unlike New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where a natural disaster was turned into a man-made disaster to advance a neoliberal privatization agenda, Philadelphia public schools have been undergoing a completely manmade disaster since the state takeover of the School District in 2001.

Contrary to the claim of school district officials, the 24 schools closed in 2013 were not closed due to “declining enrollment”. The schools were losing students due to a starve the public schools, feed the charters policy that began with the state takeover in 2001 and has accelerated since 2008. This was a deliberate policy promoted by a series of administrators from The Broad Foundation, and by ALEC-affiliated legislators in the Pennsylvania capitol of Harrisburg.

School District spokesman Gallard’s statement that schools were closed because they were “in poor physical condition” is an indictment of every SRC since the state takeover in 2001. Maintenance and repair of these schools was neglected and two new school facilities built during this period were quickly turned over to charters. After their closure, the SRC invested millions in the closed buildings for repair in hopes of sale to real estate interests or demolition even as the classrooms in Philadelphia public schools continued to be starved for resources.

In addition, the SRC has been balkanizing the district, closing or contracting out support services to private interests. Most school libraries have been closed. Counselors are part-time in elementary and middle schools. The entire substitute teaching staff has been privatized based on a bogus claim of a substitute shortage. The SRC is preparing to privatize school health services.

The summer of 2015 has seen the ramping up of policies for the expansion of privatization. In what one parent at the August 20, 2015 meeting of the SRC describes as “a slow moving train wreck”, the conditions are being created for a major expansion of charter schools in Philadelphia. School Superintendent William Hite (Broad Superintendents Academy Class of 2005) and the SRC have been developing the infrastructure for the “turnaround” (the tactical replacement of school closures) of Philadelphia public schools to private charter management companies.  

On July 8th, Hite announced a massive reorganization of the entire School District and new hires to carry out his Action Plan 3.0 which will focus on Renaissance turnaround schools as the means to charter growth. On August 25, 2015, Hite announced the expansion of his administration by adding eight new positions at a cost of $1.2 million. Most of the appointments are careerists who hold positions for corporate education interests for a year or two before moving on to their next district to “reform”.

In a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer  Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke expressed frustration that Hite is using money to expand his administration.  He has threatened to hold $25 million that City Council promised until he is assured that the money will be specifically allocated for classroom use, and won’t be used to outsource jobs.

On August 26, 2015, the SRC employed its latest tactic by inventing a new term:  "a turnaround of a turnaround".  Young Scholars, the charter company given management of the Frederick Douglass Elementary School in 2010, ceded control to Mastery. In violation of state rules and its own by-laws, the SRC allowed this passing of the baton without a single public hearing.

Mastery runs fourteen charter schools in Philadelphia. In addition, it is expanding its role in the state-run Camden, NJ schools with the opening of five “hybrid” (blended learning) Renaissance Schools that are the first step to privatizing these schools. 

At the end of June, Mastery complimented Hite’s 3.0 Action Plan with its own Mastery 3.0 plan. Mastery acknowledges there are signs their students that go to college are having trouble staying with the course work just as happened with low-income students in public schools. Whatever magic Mastery claims to possess, the privatization of public schools does not address the underlying social conditions that children in low-income communities must struggle with. The signs are that the entire corporate reform agenda is a house of cards built on quicksand!

Regardless, at its August 20th meeting, the SRC voted to accept $300,000 from Mastery (from the taxpayers or philanthropists?) in partnership with the William Penn Foundation to spread its magic “to pilot a coaching program that targets an underserved population of District teachers and builds informal leadership capacity within schools to increase the opportunity for professional growth for all teachers.” (SRC Resolution A-4)

In the words of Lisa Haver of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools testifying at the August 20th SRC meeting,

“Resolution A-4 proposes to take professional development from the teachers and educational leadership at three unnamed schools and give it to an outside provider, in this case Mastery charter district. What it doesn’t say is why. Who decided that unknown employees from a charter company know more than SD teachers? Given that all SD teachers are certified but only some of Mastery’s, and that test scores from district schools are consistently higher than those of charters, how does this make sense?”

Haver continued,

“The SRC is going to allow an outside company to compile and analyze data of teachers and students to whom they are not accountable in a school they don’t work for? No explanation of who collects it and how it would be used or how much control the actual teachers would have over it.   Of course, without a contract, those pesky issues would disappear.”

On May 15, 2015, The Broad Superintendents Academy announced that Scott Gordon, CEO of Mastery Charter Schools, had joined its latest cohort of trainees. The press release stated that the latest cohort is made up of ten trainees who are “passionate, proven leaders to transform America’s urban school systems so every student receives a world-class education.” Also joining the trainees is Paul Kihn, former Deputy Superintendent of the School District of Philadelpia, who resigned in July from the SDP in Hite’s latest administrative shuffle. Kihn returned to the Washington D.C.-based McKinsey and Company, “a global management consulting firm”. In 2011, Kihn coauthored Deliverology 101: A Field Guide for Educational Leaders, with Sir Michael Barber, chief education advisor for the British testing company Pearson.

The expansion of charter schools in Pennsylvania received a major boost on August 27, 2015 with the ruling by Commonwealth Court that school districts do not have the right to place limits on charter school enrollment.

Underwriting this expansion of privatization is the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP). At Fredrick Douglass, for example, it has given $1.5 million for its “turnaround of a turnaround”. PSP came on the scene with corporate and philanthropy funding from such local philanthropies as the aforementioned William Penn Foundation. PSP has become part of Education Cities ,“a non-profit network of 31 city-based organizations in 24 cities” who work as “harbormasters” for the privatization of public schools in their city. Partners include corporate education reform organizations such as Bellwether, Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), Public Impact, Fordham Institute, and Kingsland Consulting. Funders include The Broad Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

When the Philadelphia School Partnership was created in 2010, the focus of the SRC was on closing “low-performing” schools based on low standardized test scores. Recently, however, the SRC, with the assistance of PSP, has begun “turnaround” of schools not having low standardized tests scores based on unknown criteria. As Coleman Poses, a researcher for the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, recently noted in his article “An Analysis of How Philadelphia School Partnership Has Implemented Its Mission”,

“Charter schools became a part of the Philadelphia educational landscape in 1998 as a way to block what some observers believed to be a monopoly of the Philadelphia School District over public schools. Since the advent of the Great Schools Compact, however, Philadelphia School Partnership has worked to create and maintain a cartel of charter and parochial schools, while diminishing the role of district schools in the City. PSP has accomplished this objective by providing economic supports to specific schools and programs based upon non-existent criteria. It has also financially supported the removal of teachers without cause from schools deemed to be successful. Finally, educators, parents, politicians, and the general public have received misleading information from PSP that has stymied efforts to determine the best way to educate children in Philadelphia.”

Ever since the state takeover in 2001, the School District of Philadelphia has been like a medieval town increasingly under siege from an invading army. Treating the District like a foreign enemy being set up for takeover, basic resources have been embargoed to weaken the schools. Outside interests have been laying the conditions to take the education of the children of Philadelphia from the community and make them available for exploitation for the profit of corporate education interests.

Organizations like Philadelphia School Partnership have been burrowing under the foundations of the School District encouraging its ultimate collapse. What they envision is a two-tiered School District as outlined by SRC member Bill Green when he served as a Philadelphia City Councilman. Green proposed a statewide system of charter schools with a selected population of students and teachers segregated from a public school system to be made up of children, mainly from low-income families, left behind in under resourced schools with low paid teachers.

The problem for the side supporting public schools as basic to a functioning democracy is that we are leaderless in fighting the attack on public education. Whether it is Democratic Party politicians or union leaders, all have bought into the neoliberal corporate reform education agenda first promoted during the presidency of Bill Clinton. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, has for years promoted collaboration with The Broad Foundation and The Gates Foundation.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has confined defense of its members almost exclusively to court battles, particularly the one over cancellation of its contract by the SRC on October 6, 2014.  The SRC's action was subsequently ruled illegal, but they have appealed the case to the PA Supreme Court.  PFT members have been working under the old contract, which expired June 30th 2013.  There has been a four-year freeze on wages, and the SRC's vote to eliminate some collective bargaining rights while the courts decide on the SRC can abolish the PFT contract has meant no step increases or compensation for additional degrees or certifications.  It has also resulted in elimination of some seniority rights. Negotiations have been stalled by the district's cancellation of many negotiation sessions.

Nor have the AFT or PFT supported the Opt-Out movement against standardized testing which, combined with the Common Core, is the main tool of corporate education reformers for privatizing public schools.

Chicago principal Troy LaRaviere, who is under attack by his District, and where Chicago faces a similar attack as Philadelphia on its public schools, says what must be done:

“We don’t need heroes, and we don’t need saints. We need a movement. A movement of hundreds of thousands of people across this city who stand together to retake it from the grips of the corrupt and inept elected and appointed officials who hold the reigns of power. The hero we need is the public itself, awakened and ready to change our collective reality; ready to serve as examples to our children—examples of citizens who come together to work and change our city for the better.”

Also see:

An Analysis of How Philadelphia School Partnership Has Implemented Its Mission
Coleman Poses @ Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools – August 25, 2015

Talking Back to Mark Gleason
Defend Public Education! – April 19, 2014
Mark Gleason is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia School Partnership

LA teachers planning campaign to oppose charter expansion
August 26, 2015 – LA School Report

GHS alumni celebrate shuttered school’s centennial
Philadelphia Newsworks – August 31, 2015

Report on Systematic Crushing of Local Control
Curmudgucation – August 30, 2015

Looking for a few thousand substitute teachers
Philadelphia Inquirer – August 31, 2015
Also see: “Cutting Substitutes Pay For an Alleged Substitute Teacher Shortage?”
The Teacher’s Lens – August 9, 2015

Darrel Clarke’s School District Power Play
Citified – Philadelphia Magazine – September 1, 2015

A “Love Letter” to Chicago’s Teachers
Troy LaRaviere’s Blog – September 2, 2015
Troy LaRaviere’s statement to the City Club of Chicago about the Chicago schools budget crisis

Sub troubles stress out many Philly schools
Philadelphia Inquirer – September 13, 2015
The first week of privatization of substitute teachers in Philadelphia public schools has been a disaster.

Building booms over classrooms
Philadelphia Inquirer - September 14, 2015
In a rare corporate media investigation, many Philadelphia charters are found to be in financial trouble.

September 15, 2015
A radio interview with Chicago principal Troy LaRaviere. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Guest Post: An Analysis of How Philadelphia School Partnership Has Implemented Its Mission

by Coleman Poses
A retired social science researcher for the City of Philadelphia and a researcher and activist with the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.

Philadelphia School Partnership can trace its origin back to 2010, as a nonprofit organization with a mission to “create and expand great schools in Philadelphia.” To accomplish this mission, it had planned to collect and distribute 100 million dollars to successful Archdiocesan, charter, and district schools for their incubation, startup, expansion, and turnaround endeavors.

This mission coincided with the launching of the new District-Charter Collaboration Compacts, which would, according to the marketing, commit its signatories to usher in a new era of cooperation between school districts and charter schools across the country. In theory, there would be less competition for resources, and a universal enrollment would end the practice of schools luring students away from other schools. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation issued the grant to fund these compacts.

As of this writing, 21 districts have signed such agreements. Philadelphia’s agreement, called the Great Schools Compact (GSC), however, was unique in that it included Archdiocesan Catholic schools. The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) was charged with guiding the GSC as well as acting as its fiscal agent.

This article focuses on the activities that the PSP has undertaken.

Click here to read the full article.

This week's Questions and Answers on Neoliberal Corporate Education Reform

“Our rulers don’t just want exclusive control over the governance and finances of our schools, they want to control both what is taught and by whom.” — Robert D. Skeels

This week's Questions and Answers on Neoliberal Corporate Education Reform

On the average week I answer a few inquiries regarding various education issues. This week I received two that I felt deserved publishing. The first was addressed to a group of us on facebook, the second was a private email. In both cases the identity of others is removed in order to protect them.

Question One

Anyone ever hear of blended schools network or global personalized academics?

They are for-profit firms, both held by Sibling Group Holdings, Inc. (OTCQB: SIBE). The former is associated with Gooru, a 501c3 funded by right-wing donors including the Gates and Hewlett Foundations. The latter is Florida based and apparently has worked with privately managed charters associated with Jeb Bush and Joe Biden's brother. They "empower" students by profiting off of them staring mindlessly at computer screens.

Question Two


A [reporter] from LA School Report contacted [redacted] today. I told her I've heard that LA School Report is very bad - biased..possibly part of corporate ed reform agenda.

More than one person has told me this about LA School Report. 

What are your thoughts?

The LA School Report  blog (LASR) is owned and operated by Jamie Alter-Lynton, sister of corporate reform cheerleader Jonathan Alter (cf. his attacks on Professor Ravitch), and wife of elitist Sony CEO Michael Lynton.

Alter-Lynton is a wealthy reactionary who sits as a board member on former Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent John Deasy’s LA Fund slush 501c3, and a number of other neoliberal corporate education reform outfits. They used their insider status with Deasy to know when to sell off all of their Pearson PLC stock before it took a big hit when the FBI investigation of LAUSD was announced.

Husband of John Deasy confidant, Jamie Alter Lynton, cashed in big on Pearson PLC's LAUSD iPad Deal

They are virulently anti-labor, hate the public commons, and are against elected school boards. She's sort of a West Coast Campbell Brown, except she was doing this first. The Sony leaks reveal they are connected to all of the worst neoliberal corporate education reformers in the country. She funded the right-wing Coalition for School Reform SuperPAC to the tune of $100,000 once, and continues to support charter industry profiteers taking over our public school boards.

I could go on and on, but nothing sums these wealthy, white hypocrites up like this:

How the Rich Get Into Ivies: Behind the Scenes of Elite Admissions

Let me know if you need any more on them.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

New Test to Solve Tennessee's "true ethical and moral dilemma"?

Candice McQueen has replaced Tennessee's toxic former Commissioner of Education, Kevin (Rhee) Huffman.  In doing so, McQueen has inherited one of the most aggressive corporate education agendas in the nation. 

At the same time, she has taken the reins of a state system that has been underfunded for at least the past 35 years, as governors and legislators have jumped from reform one bandwagon to another to collect any free federal cash being handed out, even as the percentage of the state's budget committed to education has continued to dry up (see Part II of The Mismeasure of Education).

If these challenges were not enough, Dr. McQueen faces a literacy meltdown as measured by state test scores, even with the infusion of $501,000,000 from Race to the Top federal funds--most of which never reached the classrooms or the severely underfunded school library programs that remain on life support. 

At the same time, poverty continues to grow across the state, with more than one in four children now living in poverty, and one in three black or brown children.  The state ranks 43rd in the nation in child poverty and 48th in Hunger and Food Insecurity.  As poverty and hunger spread, literacy scores continue to tank, especially since math prep has been the major focus of year-round test prep.

For Dr. McQueen, however, it is not the hunger, poverty, and oppression that represent the "true ethical and moral dilemma; it is, rather, the low reading test scores.

As these developments unfold, the billionaire governor, Bill Haslam, continues to hand out to his cronies as much of the public resources as he can, including the shuttering of public schools in favor of the corporate welfare charter reform schools.  And the chief federal architect of the racist new states rights education policy based on the proliferation of charter schools, Lamar Alexander, is at Haslam's side, ready to berate any school board that has the audacity to support its public schools as its first priority.  See story here.

The corporate foundation solution that has been prepared for Dr. McQueen's "true ethical and moral dilemma," however, is as old as the corporate efficiency movement that began over a hundred years ago: it is another standardized testing scheme that promises to produce even more failures, more inequality, more racist and classist results, and more inequity than the TCAP that is now headed for the dustbin of failed fixes.

The "new" antiquarian reform is called TNReady, and it is another test based on the infamous Common Core standards.  Like the old test, the new test will be used to label, sort, and further segregate the poorest and neediest children of the state in test prep hell schools, where they will be dehumanized and roboticized and made ready for a Walmart or Amazon future, or one without any job at all. 

Tennessee ranks 41st among states in the number of 18 to 24 year olds unemployed or not enrolled in higher education.

McQueen and Haslam's morally-bankrupt dehumanization school plan has the support of the corporate union affiliate in the state, the TEA, even though the majority of teachers in the state must surely know that this effort will end as poorly as the last one.  TEA President, Barbara Gray, is bullish on TNReady, ready or not:
The new test will also be given online, which officials believe will further help prepare students for life in the real world [irony alert].

However, Barbara Gray, president of the Tennessee Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, told The Associated Press in an email later Thursday that teachers are concerned about a "lack of appropriate technology for students to complete the assessment online."

"Many school districts across the state, especially in our rural areas, have poor Internet connections and too few computers to efficiently administer the assessment," she said.

Aside from that, Gray said the new assessment overall should be beneficial.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hunger Strike in Day 8 to Save Dyett High School

TN Drops to 46th in ACT Scores

In 2014, Arne Duncan's favorite corporate education experimental state soared from 46th to 43rd among states on composite ACT scores.

This year Tennessee has returned to its previous cellar level at 46th.  The average composite score, which is 19.8, is 0.1 of a point above where it was in 2012, and it is far below the 21 needed to apply for a Hope Scholarship or to attend the University of Tennessee--which requires and ACT of 24.

Nevada Chooses Vouchers from Resegregation Toolbox

Conservatives love to embrace "choice" as long as they get to do the choosing for everyone else. This self-centering rule applies universally, whether we are talking about women's reproductive rights or educational rights for the poor.  

And that which conservatives cannot control, they would rather destroy.  This is the essence of necrophilic personality that Erich Fromm described--one driven to embrace death, rather than to allow for any lack of control.

In necrophilic Nevada, for instance, the state legislature has just passed a school voucher plan that increases opportunities for middle class parents, who, with the help of a $5,000 voucher, can choose expensive private schooling for their children.  

Since the better private schools cost over $10K per year, that leaves poor parents who cannot afford the extra 5-7 thousand dollars with no choice other than the remaining public schools, where the social capital has been drained as middle class kids depart for publicly-supported private schools. 

The result will be intensely segregated or apartheid public schools with fewer resources, less diversity, and less social capital.  Lower test scores will result, and these schools, in turn, can then be picked off a few time for corporate charter conversion.  

The charters, then, can further weed the highest performers from the remaining children, so that the few remaining public schools will become holding pens of last resort for children without choice.

Meanwhile, the thought disorder is reinforced that private schools are better than public (they are not), and resegregation becomes fully realized.

A clip from a commentary in the Times:
Private school tuition in Nevada can be as high as $12,000, and the biggest problem with the vouchers is that the poorest families will be unable to make up the difference. So, in the coming year, as middle-class families who may otherwise have used the public school system forgo it for the private, the vouchers will undermine whatever economic and racial diversity Las Vegas has achieved.

The bigger problem, though, is that vouchers won’t cure what ails our low-income families. They will only reinforce the assumption that our private schools are successful and public ones are not, that the education system is broken. But it’s not the schools alone that are broken; they are a loose wheel in a system that is malfunctioning on a much grander scale.

In Nevada, about one in four children live in poverty, not because their schools have failed them, but because their parents juggle multiple jobs on a stagnant minimum wage, have little job security and are denied paid time off.
It seems an appropriate time to pledge to boycott Las Vegas until Nevada's legislature comes to its senses.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Groundhog Day: Parents Again Rate Local Schools Higher than Schools of the Nation

Sent to the Washington Post, August 25, 2015
As is the case every year, the PDK/Gallup poll found that people rate their local schools much more positively than they do schools in the US in general ("U.S. schools are too focused on standardized tests, poll says," August 23).

The differences, as usual, were striking: Seventy percent of parents said they would give the public schools their oldest child attended a grade or A or B, but only 19% would give public schools in the nation an A or B.

An obvious explanation: Parents have direct information about the school their children attend, but their opinion of American education comes from the media. For decades, the media has been presenting a biased view.

In reality, American schools are doing quite well: When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American students' international test scores rank near the top of the world.
I wonder how many of those interviewed know this?

Stephen Krashen

Questions about parents views: Q19, Q 20, PDK Poll, 2015
Original article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/us-schools-are-too-focused-on-standardized-tests-poll-finds/2015/08/22/4a954396-47b3-11e5-8e7d-9c033e6745d8_story.html

Monday, August 24, 2015

Suspension Rates Soar for Black and Brown Students

from NYTimes:

. . .a new analysis of federal data identifies districts in 13 Southern states where black students are suspended or expelled at rates overwhelmingly higher than white children.
The analysis, which will be formally released Tuesday by the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, focused on states where more than half of all the suspensions and expulsions of black students nationwide occurred. While black students represented just under a quarter of public school students in these states, they made up nearly half of all suspensions and expulsions.
In some districts, the gaps were even more striking: in 132 Southern school districts, for example, black students were suspended at rates five times their representation in the student population, or higher. . . .

Charters Drive School Resegregation, Duke Study Finds

We have known for almost a decade that charter schools are more segregated (follow the links in this commentary) than the public schools they are replacing, and we have known much longer that diverse, inclusive classrooms are the most cost effective and just way to improve academic performance for all students.

We now have evidence that charter schools have become more segregated over the past 15 years, as all minority or all white charter schools have proliferated.  In North Carolina, for instance, white charters now resemble the white academies that sprang up in the wake of the 1964 Civl Rights Act, just as all black charters have become as common as they were during Jim Crow.

There is a big difference, however, between the black charters of today and black public schools of the 1950s and 1960s.  Even during Jim Crow, many black schools had black, caring, and professionally-trained teachers who understood the contexts of poverty and racism from which their students came.

With a primary concern for the whole child, those all-black schools were not laser focused on turning children into miniature Amazon workers, who are subjected to behavioral sterilization while producing test scores that build and protect charter school brands.

Another difference: today's black segregated charters are often staffed with white beginners with little, if any, professional preparation and with even less understanding of the challenges that disadvantaged children bring to school. These beginners represent the Amazon worker paradigm brought to tax-funded discriminatory schools. 

Below is part of a WaPo article that reports on a new Duke study that brings the resegregated charter school phenomenon up to date:

. . . .Setting aside the drama between charters and teachers unions, or complaints that charter schools lead to the privatization of public education, there has been the persistent critique that charters increase inequality by plucking advantaged students out of traditional public schools.

The most recent cautionary tale comes from North Carolina, where professors at Duke have traced a troubling trend of resegregation since the first charters opened in 1997. They contend that North Carolina’s charter schools have become a way for white parents to secede from the public school system, as they once did to escape racial integration orders.
"They appear pretty clearly to be a way for white students to get out of more racially integrated schools,” said economics professor Helen Ladd, one of the authors of the draft report released Monday.

Charter schools in North Carolina tend to be either overwhelmingly black or overwhelmingly white—in contrast to traditional public schools, which are more evenly mixed. Compare these charts from the report:

The bottom chart shows students that attend North Carolina’s regular public schools. There is a healthy variety of schools with different racial makeups. Only about 30 percent of students attend schools that are highly segregated, meaning schools that are more than 80 percent or less than 20 percent white.

The top chart shows students at North Carolina’s charter schools. More than two thirds attend schools that are highly segregated. You can see on the chart because the histogram has two humps, one at each racial extreme.

The charts also show how racial makeups have shifted over time. By 2014, a fifth of charter schools were overwhelmingly — more than 90 percent — white. In 1998, less than 10 percent of charters were that way.

Parental preferences are part of the problem. The charter school admissions process is itself race-blind: Schools that are too popular conduct lotteries between their applicants. But if a school isn’t white enough, white parents simply won’t apply.

In previous research, Ladd discovered that white North Carolina parents prefer schools that are less than 20 percent black. This makes it hard to have racially balanced charter schools in a state where more than a quarter of schoolchildren are black.

“Even though black parents might prefer racially balanced schools, the fact that white parents prefer schools with far lower proportions of black students sets up a tipping point,” the authors write. “Once a school becomes ‘too black,’ it becomes almost all black as white parents avoid it.”

Looking at students in grades 4-8, the researchers found that the regular public school population in North Carolina has become less white over the past 15 years (from 64.1 percent white to 53 percent white), while the charter school population has grown more white (from 58.5 percent white to 62.2 percent white).

Not only that, but the kids choosing charter schools these days also seem to be more able. The researchers examined how students had been scoring on standardized tests before they entered charter school. It used to be that kids with below average test scores applied to charter schools. But in recent years, the kids going into charter schools tend to have above-average test scores.

The researchers argue that this changing mix of students explains much of the test score gains among North Carolina’s charter schools. By their calculations, the schools haven’t gotten that much better at teaching students — but they have gotten better at attracting more able students.

In 2010, North Carolina received a $400 million Race to the Top grant from the Obama administration. As part of its application, it promised to eliminated the cap on charter schools, which had been stuck at 100. Now there has been a flood of charter schools seeking to open in North Carolina, and the researchers warn that the segregation problem might only get worse.

One problem is that disadvantaged students have less of a chance to attend a charter school. First, they or their parents have to be plugged in enough to know which are the good charter schools and motivated enough to apply. Then, they need to have the resources to actually attend the charter, because unlike regular public schools, charter schools in North Carolina do not have to offer transportation or lunch to students. For poor students who rely on school buses and free meal programs, the costs associated with attending a charter school may discourage them from the opportunity.

By contrast, affluent families might not think twice about driving their children to attend the high-achieving charter across town instead of a low-achieving neighborhood school. In this manner, even charter schools without explicit fees or admissions requirements may tilt toward inequality.

Ladd said that she would like to see charter schools be required to provide services on a par with what public schools offer. This would be a step toward making them more accessible. The board that oversees charter schools might also be more careful about approving new ones. Schools that plan to open in white or affluent neighborhoods are unlikely to attract anyone but white and affluent students. . . .

Sunday, August 23, 2015

What? Another NYT guest columnist scrutinized Privatization of schools?

What? Another NYT guest columnist scrutinized Privatization of schools? 

"For outsiders, the biggest lesson of New Orleans is this: It is wiser to invest in improving existing education systems than to start from scratch. Privatization may improve outcomes for some students, but it has hurt the most disadvantaged pupils."
"But the New Orleans miracle is not all it seems. Louisiana state standards are among the lowest in the nation. The new research also says little about high school performance. And the average composite ACT score for the Recovery School District was just 16.4 in 2014, well below the minimum score required for admission to a four-year public university in Louisiana.
There is also growing evidence that the reforms have come at the expense of the city’s most disadvantaged children, who often disappear from school entirely and, thus, are no longer included in the data."

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Forming valid conclusions about the common core

Sent to US News.com, August 22, 2015

"Just because it's Common Core aligned doesn't make it boring," (August 20), represents only the opinion of one former teacher and only one teacher with experience teaching with the common core standards. To form a valid conclusion, we need the opinions of a large number of teachers now teaching under the common core, in a variety of situations.
To make matters worse, Ms. Partelow dismisses anti-common core sentiment as the result of "PR." This is ironic, as common core supporters are often paid by corporations profiting from the common core, corporations that are very adept at placing pro-common core propaganda in the media. In contrast, critics are largely teachers and parents who make no profit by expressing their views, have no special funding or influence with the media, and who often expose themselves to considerable risk.
Ms. Partelow also suggests that common core critics think teachers should "do whatever they want all day with no guidelines or restrictions." Nonsense. Opposition to the common core standards is not opposition to all standards.

original outrageous article at:

Nashville Mayor Comes Out Swinging for More Segregated KIPPs

Mayor Karl Dean has been a private and public patron of KIPP, Inc. over the years.  In 2012, Dean committed almost 25 percent of Metro's 4-year school improvement budget to one KIPP school.  

Today Dean has an op-ed in the Tennessean decrying the courageous vote by Metro school board to say NO to more KIPPs in Nashville.

My comments following Dean's angry op-ed:
Jim Horn ·
KIPP, Inc.'s Mr Dowell is part of a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to show only the high test scores and smiling faces at KIPP. Obviously, Mr. Dean is a part of that campaign.

What the KIPP Foundation or the media never present are the dehumanized segregated children, Amazonian working conditions for teachers, and the marginalized parents whose voices are squelched beneath KIPP's PR wheel.

The public never hears about 100 children packed into classrooms for a week sitting on the floor until they are KIPPnotized, and the Mr. Dean probably never heard about problem students who are sent to the b
asement of the school when VIPs are in the building. Links here:


And parents have never heard, I am sure, about KIPP principals sitting on children to restrain them, as a former KIPP teacher recounted to me two nights ago. A clip from her audio transcript:

"Q: . . . who are the people who are doing the restraining, and what did it look like?

A: It happened any time a child was so out of control behaviorally. Um, I don't actually know what their measure was for restraining a child because sometimes they would let a child destroy a classroom and just walk around, and other times, in my mind, [restraint was used] for a behavior that was more minor in terms of an infraction, but they would restrain them. So I have no idea what it was for, but a lot of times it was used if a child tried to hit or hurt the dean or the principal, which is funny, not funny, but a little ironic because these children who were having these behavioral issues would hurt the teachers, and we could do nothing.

But when the child started to attack the Dean or the Principal, they were able to defend themselves. So they would take the student by their wrists and cross them in front of their chests, and a lot of times they would be sitting on the ground, and they would put their legs on top of the child, so if you can imagine, the adult is sitting with their legs open, the child is sitting up against them, their arms are crossed like a pretzel over them, [the administrators'] legs are on top of the child, and just kind of sitting there holding them and the child thrashing, saying, "let go of me, you are hurting me."
And they would say, "if I let you go, will you sit nicely, will you calm down," or, "if you just sit nicely, it won't hurt--you are hurting yourself.""

Mr. Dean probably doesn't even know what researchers found out a long time ago: KIPPs weed out their low performers (40-60 percent leave KIPP between 5th and 8th grade), and KIPPs have fewer English language learners and special needs children. Mr. Dean probably doesn't know, either, that the KIPPster's job is to produce test scores that protect the KIPP brand, while remaining totally compliant in apartheid environments. 

Metro school board members took a courageous stand to stand up for community schools, to acknowledge the dehumanizing school environments at KIPP and other No Excuses" testing chain gangs, and to save $10K per year per child for Metro taxpayers to use to create more diverse and humane schools that have public oversight.

A book on our side?

This morning I stared at the NY Times Book Review section, as I do most weekends and asked myself, “Should I or shouldn’t I browse through it.” Most of the time I don't find anything of interest but today I decided, “What the hell, I might as well.”

I am glad I did. My eyes did a “what the?” when I hit page 9 and saw this headline: Getting Schooled: What happened when two politicians and a tech billionaire set out to reform a city’s schools. It was a full-page review of THE PRIZE: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools by Dale Russakoff.

Now my interest began to peak as that title looked to me as if the book might be a critique of the corporate/foundation/political top down attempts to take over public education. So I started to read the review.

After reading the first couple of paragraphs that set the stage for the book’s content, I thought, hmmm, this might actually be critical of the attempt of the three (Cory Booker, Chris Christie, and Mark Zuckerberg) powerful men who wanted to use Zuckerberg’s “gift” of $100,000,000 to “not to repair education in Newark but to develop a model for saving it in all of urban America.”

My next clue about why I want to read this book followed shortly thereafter.

“Russakoff, a longtime Washington Post reporter, had the good sense to recognize the potential power and import of this story early on, and so embedded herself in Newark, winning access not only to the key players — Booker, Christie and Zuckerberg — but also to some remarkable teachers and students whose stories serve as a reality check to the maneuverings of those commanding the reform efforts. A lesser reporter might have succumbed to the seduction of such intimate access to the rich and powerful, but Russakoff maintains a clear eyed distance, her observations penetratingly honest and incisive to what she sees and what she hears. I suspect some may have regretted letting Russakoff in.”

The writer of the review, Alex Kotlowitz, subtly pointed out how the book exposed Booker's and Christie's pro charter and anti teacher positions and Zuckerberg's naivety. He points out the significance of the hiring of “Cami Anderson, from the New York City schools, whose unbending management style only affirms teachers’ and parents’ worst fears,” and “like the other main characters in this effort, seems tone-deaf to the demands of the community to be involved in the process.”

“It’s the irony of ironies. Public education is the bedrock of democracy — and yet when it comes to repairing our schools the democratic process is too often ignored. What ultimately derails this grand experiment is the unwillingness of the reformers to include parents and teachers in shaping the reforms.”

Finally, I was sold on this line. ““The Prize” may well be one of the most important books on education to come along in years. It serves as a kind of corrective to the dominant narrative of school reformers across the country.”