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

Thursday, January 21, 2016

In Defending FairTest, Ravitch Inadvertantly Opens Door to the Truth

Diane Ravitch has posted a response by FairTest to recent commentary by Emily Talmage that shines a light on the close connections among FairTest, Citizens for Public Schools, the Center for Collorative Education, AFT/NEA, and corporate cash.  

I have pasted the post below, along with revealing comments by Mary Porter and others, who provide further details about the secretive connections that allow the corporate foundations and corporate unions to coopt, undercut, and neutralize honest efforts to reclaim public education to benefit children and what is left of our democracy.

You will note that it does not take Diane Ravitch but a moment to jump into the discussion to condemn anyone who criticizes her own willingness to include arsonists inside the anti-corporate reform tent.  

It must be noted that, while Ravitch prefers a big tent that includes corporate collaborators, she has been quick to exclude yours truly from her tent.  I was barred from commenting at her blog when it became evident to Ravitch and NPE that their complicity with AFT's pro-corporate agenda was no longer a secret.  It is good, finally, to see that others are reaching the the same conclusions and are unafraid to share them.

Read and understand.  From Diane Ravitch at the Ravitch blog:

Lisa Guisbond of Fairtest wrote to inform me that the opt out movement in Massachusetts is growing and has noconnection [sic] whatever to the Gates Foundation. As we know, state officials are terrified of a massive parent opt out; they threaten, they cajole, they will try anything to con parents into staying away from opt out. The most powerful tool that parents have is opt out. The state can’t force your child to take the test. Parents have the Power of No.

Fairtest released this statement.

“This Saturday’s opt-out meeting is sponsored by Citizens for Public Schools and the Less Testing, More Learning Campaign and will be at the office of Center for Collaborative Education (CCE), 33 Harrison Ave., Boston, 6th floor.

“Because the meeting is at CCE, a few people have attacked LTML, Citizens for Public Schools and the meeting itself in a blog and on Facebook. It will take a lot of focused, hard work to get a strong opt-out campaign going. We want to include as many interested people as possible and don’t want misguided attacks to undermine and confuse activists. But because such attacks are circulating (in MA and even in other states), and to avoid confusion and damage, we want to clarify a few things.
“First, the main basis for the attacks is the list of funders on the CCE website, which includes Gates, the Boston Foundation, Barr and Nellie Mae. Dan French from CCE (who is on the CPS board and has for decades battled against MCAS and for locally-controlled performance assessment) has been open about when CCE received specific grants and for what. The Gates and Boston Foundation grants are not current (e.g., a Gates grant in 2000 to develop pilot schools, a Boston Foundation grant to support pilot schools granted before Boston Foundation switched to boosting charters).

[As Emily Talmage pointed out in comments below, it is not true that Gates grants are only somewhere in the dusty past:

 But I digress.]

“At a minimum, attacking a meeting and a campaign because we are using an organization’s space is very misguided politics. Beyond that, CCE and Dan have been long-standing allies in the testing resistance and reform movement.

“These attacks are an unfortunate distraction. We’d rather use our energy and resources to build a strong opt-out campaign to stop the misuse and abuse of testing in our schools. We look forward to working with others who share these goals.”

14 Comments Post your own or leave a trackback: Trackback URL

  1. CCE works at the state, district and school levels to create professional learning communities of educators who are deeply engaged in the work of continuous improvement. Data-based inquiry with an equity lens is at the heart of our work, with a particular focus on the challenges that most impact curriculum design, instruction, and assessment.”

    • Dan French, Executive director of the Center for Collaborative Education, has in fact sat on the board of CPS for years. Lisa’s salary is split between Fairtest and CPE, and there is considerable other organizational overlap.

      French did indeed attend the Opt Out launch meeting personally, and attempted to take a leading role, pitching his organization’s data-driven embedded accountability products as part of the opt out movement.

      Other participants spoke out against French’s proposals. It actually took some courage, because as you can see, there is now a Fairtest campaign to discredit opponents. It’s those people Lisa is attacking in this letter.

      We are going forward full force with the Massachusetts Opt Out movement, and are determined to insulate it from exploitation by Fairtest and CPE’s data-driven partners.

    • Mary Porter,
      I think it is poisonous for supporters of opt out to make war on one another. Sectarian fights are the plague of progressive movements. The best hope for success is a big tent with many groups working together.

    • Diane, it is you and Fairtest who are attacking the honest people working in this movement.

      I’ve worked with CPS for years. I always though it was just their association with the “Teacher Union Reform Network”, that made them so limited. Lisa once told a conference workshop we couldn’t publicly support parent actions against the Boston public school closings, because we “couldn’t get out ahead of the unions”, which support CPS financially.

      This is sad but true. Please don’t attack Emily for her courage in following through on it, or the parents who spoke up at this meeting.

      The Boston Federation of Teachers, and the MTA under former presidents Toner and Waas, were major players in supporting the disastrous Massachusetts education reform legislation of 2010 and 2012.

    • Christine Langhoff
      To my knowledge, there is no such organization as the Boston Federation of Teachers.

    • I’m sorry, Christine, I know it’s the Boston Teachers Union. I’m working hard to present these links cogently, and again I apologize. I had been working to support the Minneapolis effort for several hours.

      But you know I am raising a real issue. Unity behind corrupted insider influence doesn’t strengthen our movement. Please take a minute to open this this link and for once, somebody, please address the content. Defend it if you find it defensible, as apparently Diane does.

      We have to free our own organizations from this river of dark money, because it delivers our public schools again and again into their grip..

      Principal Member Union Locals

      The National Teacher Union Reform Network members represent a total of 30 AFT and NEA locals:

      Albuquerque Teachers Federation
      Boston Teachers Union
      Castaic Teachers Association
      Cincinnati Federation of Teachers
      Cleveland Teachers Union
      Columbus Education Association
      Decatur Education Association
      Denver Classroom Teachers Association
      Douglas County (CO) Federation of Teachers
      Elgin (IL) Education Association
      Fairfax (VA) Education Association
      Hart District Teachers Association
      Jefferson County Education Association
      Memphis Education Association
      Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association
      Minneapolis Federation of Teachers
      Montgomery County (MD) Education Association
      Newhall Teachers Association
      Organization of DeKalb (GA) Educators
      Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers
      Portland (ME) Education Association
      Poway (CA) Federation of Teachers
      Prince George’s County Educators’ Association
      Providence Teachers Union
      Rochester Teachers Association
      San Diego Education Association
      San Juan (CA) Teachers Association
      Saugus Teachers Association
      Springfield Education Association
      Syracuse Teachers Association
      Toledo Federation of Teachers
      United Educators of San Francisco
      United Teachers of Dade
      Westerly Teachers Association

  2. Nellie Mae, current funder of the Centr for Collaborative Education, is a huge money laundering conduit for the Gates Foundation. Emily Talmage describes how she traced it.
    “within a very short time, it became unmistakably obvious that the Common Core Standards, our new Smarter Balanced test, and Maine’s one of a kind (but not for long if they have their way, so watch out!) proficiency-based diploma mandate were all linked like pieces of a puzzle to a corporate-driven agenda to transform our schools into “personalized” (digital!) learning environments. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, see here for more.)

    Quite literally sick to my stomach, I emailed a union rep to ask if he knew anything about the paper I had found.

    “It’s ghastly,” he replied, “but in Maine, it has been the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the Great Schools Partnership that has been behind these policies.”

    “Just to be sure, I went to the “Awarded Grants” section of the Gates Foundation website, and typed in the words “Nellie Mae.”

  3. Here is a direct quote from a paper Monty Neill co-authored, in case you wondered how you got fired when your school was turned around.

    May 14, 2010
    Common Elements of Successful School Turnarounds: Research and Experience
    Gary Ratner, Esq., Executive Director, Citizens for Effective Schools, with
    Monty Neill, Ed. D., Interim Executive Director, FairTest

    “D. Replacement Non-Participatory and Ineffective Teachers with Motivated, Capable Teachers –

    Principals closely observe teachers in their classrooms, help them improve their teaching and encourage them to collaborate with other teachers.

    Teachers who are not motivated to participate in the school‟s turnaround efforts frequently leave voluntarily to avoid close scrutiny; if not, and they are persistently ineffective, they must be removed.xv

    Schools seek capable teachers who want to participate in the school‟s reform.xvi”

  4. If you follow their web pages, you’ll see that Fairtest has become affiliated with an organization called The Forum on Educational Accountability, which is using it as a mouthpiece to promote turnaround models. These are the new participatory, personalized formative accountability products already rolled out for the new ESEA.


    From Fairtest’s “Forum on Educational Accountability”
    “FEA Recommendations for Successful School Turnaround Efforts”
    “See the FEA statement, “A Research- and Experience-Based Turnaround Process,” that focuses on flexible local use of elements common to school improvement, and that Congress should include in ESEA/NCLB reauthorization.”
    “See Ratner and Neill, “Common Elements of Successful Turnarounds: Research and Experience,” for analysis and summary of research on successfully improving schools.”

  5. FairTest’s current projects include the following:

    Working with other groups in Testing Resistance and Reform Spring to help local activist builds their campaigns and link up with one another.

    Leading the national Forum on Educational Accountability, which seeks to overhaul the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind and related programs.

  6. Christine
    Diane, I don’t understand the comments! Fairtest has been a reliable info source for me and one with great credibility.

  7. Duane Swacker
    By its name FairTest believes in educational standards and standardized testing. Bob S pooh pawed Wilson’s study both times I brought it up with him at the NPE conferences. My take is that the folks at fairtest are those who have benefited from those standardized tests and therefore the tests are valid and good (which we know they are not) I’ve gotten a very GAGA take on testing from them.

    • Thank you or being awake, Duane. Hi, I’m just chemtchr using my own name now.
      Fairtest’s argument in conferences and workshops has been that “accountability isn’t going away”, and we would expose ourselves to opposition if we argued against the concept. They promoted an accountability system of “locally-controlled performance assessment”, which has now merged with the corporate NextGen competency-based wraparound products Emily Talmage has seen implemented in Maine..

      This letter is part of an aggressive attack, against parents and teachers in Massachusetts and Maine who have been active and effective long before Fairtest’s sudden corporate-sponsored conversion to Opt Out.

      No, they were not transparent about their alliances or funding until Emily Talmage (and I) pointed it out. Shame on them for disrespecting that courage.

      Far from merely offering a nice office, “Center for Collaborative Education” tried to hijack the movement, and put forth a campaign to lobby the state for imposition of his data-driven embedded assessment by force of law, as part of Opt-Out!.

      Parents did have to stand up to Dan French at the Opt-Out launch meeting, where CCE and Fairtest tried to dominate and co-opt a much larger authentic popular movement.
      “a few people have attacked”
      “misguided attacks to undermine and confuse activists.”
      ” attacking a meeting and a campaign”
      “to avoid confusion and damage”
      “an unfortunate distraction”
      ” poisonous for supporters of opt out to make war ”
      ” Sectarian fights are the plague”

      Daring to follow their corporate money and challenge their corporate agenda is not “toxic”, as no less than Diane Ravitch now accuses on their behalf.

      Opt-Out Massachusetts is going to move forward without their control.

      An honest answer from Fairtest would be,

      “Okay, we will support this movement even if we can’t dominate it, and we promise will allow activists to assure that Opt Out listings are independently controlled, and will never be be diverted to lobbying for corporate “alternative assessment” legislation”.

  8. Alison McDowell
    Anyone whose eyes are open to where the next phase of education reform is headed knows why the end of year tests have to go. Folks like Tom Vander Ark cannot move ahead with competency-based education and constant data-mining with stealth assessments if states hold onto end of the year tests and Johnny is four months ahead of Sally. They want to be able to mine all of Johnny’s and Sally’s data in real time.Their own planning documents say as much.
    I have been active in Opt Out in Philadelphia for several years. I wondered through much of last year why our Broad superintendent didn’t try harder to squash us. In fact, District officials were very accommodating, almost like they wished us well in our endeavors. I simply couldn’t figure it out until Obama did his song and dance about high-stakes testing right after appointing King AND our District wanted to start an Assessment Task Force to look into these “bad” tests.
    About the same time I began to uncover the extensive groundwork that had been laid for CBE. It’s all throughout New England. I reached out to those I know at Fairtest to say that the work they were doing/had done was in the process of being co-opted. Sad to me, they did not seem very open to considering the implications of CBE as it related to what they were doing. They are very smart people. I can’t speak to why they chose not to hear or see it, but there it is. They can’t say they weren’t notified.

    CBE and Mass Customized Learning is being rolled out across New England right now. The end of the end-of-the-year big test is inextricably linked to CBE. Wake up people. Wake up. I am not going to stop talking about opt out with parents, because kids shouldn’t be taking these harmful tests, and they don’t have to. Plus, it is an easy entry point that empowers parents. But it is going to have to move way beyond that if we have any chance to stop the grand, scary plans that folks at Global Education Futures have planned for us.

    The powers that be, including it seems many familiar faces, are going to do what they want no matter what. Sure it would be convenient for them to be able to point to very high opt out numbers and say, see we knew those tests were “bad” and parents know it, too. Now, we are going to do “better” tests online with real time actionable data that measures the whole child including socio-emotional data and we’ll measure them ALL year, so they don’t have to stress about end of year tests.

    The players involved are too numerous to count. The wield great power. They’ve built some unexpected alliances. It’s all starting to come out now that the ESSA has passed and plans made in back rooms can roll out publicly. There is a lot of money in the mix. I think some people may think that they can influence these forces and mitigate the harm, but I honestly think that is entirely the wrong approach.

    I am helping facilitate an Inquiry to Action Group this spring in Philadelphia about reclaiming authentic assessment, but the first part will be understanding this new education landscape and the players involved. People ask me often, how did you find out all of this? My answer is that it isn’t hidden. These folks are very proud of what they are doing, and if you know the right words and who the players are, it’s all over the internet. Here’s my draft word list. Feel free to get in there and poke around and see what you find. I keep turning up amazing things. So many hands are in on this. This goodie if from this morning, a 2012 discussion document from the Future of Museums Initiative of the American Alliance of Museums. We are headed for dystopia if we don’t take the time to recognize their game and stop it. So many pieces are already in place: http://www.aam-us.org/docs/default-source/annual-meeting/exploring-the-educational-future.pdf?sfvrsn=0

    Competency / Proficiency Based Education
    Anytime Anywhere Any Pace Learning
    Student-Centered Learning
    Personalized Learning
    Stealth Assessment
    Digital Badging
    Big Data
    Extended / Expanded Learning Opportunities
    Non-Cognitive Assessment
    Adaptive Learning Systems
    Learning Relationship Management System
    Mass Customized Learning
    Data Dashboard
    Pathways to…education…higher education…training…careers
    21st Century Community Learning Centers
    Learning is Constant, Time is Variable
    School-Level Autonomy
    Community Based
    Cradle to Career
    Nellie Mae Foundation
    Lumina Foundation
    Tom Vander Ark
    Center for Secondary School Redesign
    Global Education Futures
    Christensen Institute
    McArthur Foundation

    Emily Talmage
    I realize I am implicated in all of this. As a teacher, mother, and staunch opt-out advocate, I assure readers that I have no intention of harming this authentic grassroots effort – only to bring more clarity to what is a far more complex movement than many realize. For now, I just want to point out the following: The defense above is not accurate. It claims that CCE grants from Gates are not current, but this is untrue. A quick search of the Gates Foundation’s awarded grants section reveals a grant of 350k made in 2014. Also, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, which has served as a funnel for Gates money and is part of the corporate push toward competency-based education, awarded FairTest 5k for a “performance assessment” event.

    My thesis: assessment reform is corporate reform.


  1. tremendous thanks to Mary, Alison, and Emily for your vigilance, your impeccable research, and your passion for truly authentic teaching and learning. From what I've been reading, I see that we are facing a tsunami of misguided and pernicious attempts to profile every public school student for their niche in the global corporate dystopia. How can we possibly counter this hugely funded and largely out of sight co-optation of public schooling?

  2. Data opt out (nothing released from district wo prior parental consent). Wouldn't that deflate the cbe bubble?

  3. I definitely think the next battle front will be around student data privacy. It is coming under attack from all angles, too, because the Community Schools contingent are doing all they can to break down data walls that separate academic, health, mental health, and non-cognitive competencies. But we also have to prepare to fight for the right of our children to be taught primarily by human beings, not computers. Without realizing it, I fear the balance is tipping.

  4. Anonymous3:29 PM

    Don't feel bad, I'm also blocked.

  5. Anonymous10:31 PM

    Good evening, all. I have just learned that my school will be involved with TURN, and I can not find a lot of information about this organization aside from their own website. My main question: do schools boards and /or unions ( an NEA local, in this case) invite them in? There does not seem to be too many schools in my state working with TURN. Any information or link to a responsible analysis of this org. and its actions would be much appreciated.

    1. TURN was formed with money from Eli Broad, and its purpose is to replace unionism with corporate unions that represent the whims of oligarchs, rather than the needs of workers and students. You might start here for some history: http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2012/07/paul-toner-and-turncoats.html

      Please contact me via email. I would like to know more about your situation: ontogenyx@gmail.com