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

Friday, May 13, 2016

Charter Schools Week, Part 2: ESSA's Crucial Support Role

In April 2015 Diane Ravitch, AFT, NEA, and FairTest surrendered after a brief skirmish against NCLB 3.0, which came to be known as ESSA before it passed with flying colors in December 2015. It was in April 2015 that Ravitch declared about the Alexander/Murray compromise bill,
One may quibble with details, but the bottom line is that this bill defangs the U.S. Department of Education; it no longer will exert control over every school with mandates. This bill strips the status quo of federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators. . . .This is a far better bill than I had hoped or feared.
This was untrue when Ravitch first posted it, and while it served its purpose to quash ESSA skepticism or any potential rebellion against the corporate reauthorization scheme for ESEA, Ravitch's statement remains more of false today than when she first uttered it.  Since the ESSA became law, in fact, annual federal testing mandates continue unabated and without any provisions for opting out, and her claim of ESSA "stripping of the status quo of federal power" has allowed, instead, ALEC-crafted legislation to proliferate with ALEC template bills issued to corporate state legislatures for passage.  To say that that the ESSA under consideration in April 2015 was "far better than I had hoped" says more about Diane Ravitch than a truckload of skeptical critics of her stealthy conservatism ever could.

Since passage, corporate education initiatives under ESSA percolate and proliferate as part of a dark campaign across the fifty states.  As the corporate foundations and the Feds knew, there is no organized or funded opposition to corporate education reform at the state or local level.  Nor are there education reporters who are not owned by high tech oligarchs.  And with NPE/FairTest and their union bosses quiet as church mice about the continuing rollout of competency-based learning, personalized learning, etc., the corporate ed reformists continue to incessantly push the next wave of high tech profiteering state by state, in hopes of guaranteeing a proliferation of computer-canned and online crap courses that will further cheapen the educational experiences of public school students, while further devastating the profession of teaching.   

After Ravitch and her loyalist bloggers stationed at their permanent Basecamp made sure that ESSA would get done without protests from the hapless herd of teachers who hang on Diane's every wooden word, Ravitch gave Alexander's office nine chances to try to turn the ESSA sow's ear into a silk purse.  Did she offer any dissenting views to the Alexander propaganda?  Don't think so.  The handful of teachers, bloggers, or parents who are not serving as her court eunuchs or maids have been barred from commenting at her blog.

What ESSA cannot do to end education as we know it with its support for brain-sucking tablet screens for every kindergartner, it will likely get done as part of its charter stimulus package.  While the Feds have already spent over $3 billion on charter schools, this year will set a new record with $333,000,000 going to these segregated chain gang-style schools.  No more are charters to offer a chance for a thousand flowers to bloom--corporate ed reformists insist on "proven high-quality" charter schools, i. e., the KIPP Model. 

What the elite paternalists at ED and the white corporate foundations have settled on as the solution to the poor black and brown problem is the "no excuses" grit school, where children are subjected to constant character grating that molds the 50 percent of kids who are not washed out to fit the 12 hour work days that are required to turn out test scores that burnish brand names like KIPP, Achievement First, Rocketship, YES Prep, Uncommon Schools, Mastery, etc.  These forced child learner-labor camps leave children as compliant automatons unprepared for the thinking that college would require if they ever got a chance to go there.

Now we know that these apartheid charters don't have to be that way.  We know from the history of the Race to the Top grant process that the fed ed department can be very effective in getting hungry state grant applicants to do whatever the fed priorities might be.  If it had not been for bonus points added to RTTT grant applications for corporate education priorities at ED, we would not have widespread 1) Common Core adoption by states, 2) value-added teacher evaluation systems, 3) uncapped charter school growth, and 4) big data commitments for high tech infrastructure by states.  The RTTT grants were used to get all this done.

ED could just as easily incentivize charter grant applicants to use humane student management practices, real teachers with real professional preparatiion, and transparent finance systems.  Or ED could incentivize socioeconomic diversity at charter schools, rather than accepting the sad fact that most are almost all poor and all brown or black.  

That is not happening with ESSA charter school grant applications.  

Instead, the former charter kingpin in charge of federal education programs, John King, has made sure that applicants for the first FY16 traunch worth $65 million does nothing to challenge the segregated nature of "no excuses" charter schooling that remains the educational choice of white elites for the poor of color.

To underscore the Department's awareness of the segregated nature of charter schools and the insignificance of this fact, King and his corporate handlers have devised an extra point system to incentivize certain competitive preference priorities.  As you may guess, increasing diversity in charter schools will get you no extra points on your application.
Competitive Preference Priorities: For FY 2016 and any subsequent year in which we make awards based on the list of unfunded applications from this competition, these priorities are competitive preference priorities. Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(i) we award up to an additional 15 points to an application depending on how well the application addresses Competitive Preference Priority 1, and an additional five points to an application that meets Competitive Preference Priority 2. Applications addressing each of these priorities may receive up to a total of 20 priority points.
These priorities are:

Competitive Preference Priority 1—High-Quality Authorizing and Monitoring Processes (Up to 15 additional points)
To meet this priority, an applicant must demonstrate that all authorized public chartering agencies in the State use one or more of the following:

(a) Authorizing processes that establish clear criteria for evaluating charter applications and include a multi-tiered clearance or review of a charter school, including a final review immediately before the school opens for its first operational year.

(b) Authorizing processes that include differentiated review of charter petitions to assess whether, and the extent to which, the charter school developer has been successful (as determined by the authorized public chartering agency) in establishing and operating one or more high-quality charter schools.
(c) Clear and specific standards and formalized processes that measure and benchmark the performance of the authorized public chartering agency or agencies, including the performance of its portfolio of charter schools, and provide for the annual dissemination of information on such performance.

Competitive Preference Priority 2—One Authorized Public Chartering Agency Other Than a Local Educational Agency, or an Appeals Process (0 or 5 points)
To meet this priority, the applicant must demonstrate that the State—

(a) Provides for one authorized public chartering agency that is not a local educational agency (LEA), such as a State chartering board, for each individual or entity seeking to operate a charter school pursuant to State law; or

(b) In the case of a State in which LEAs are the only authorized public chartering agencies, allows for an appeals process for the denial of an application for a charter school.

Invitational Priority: For FY 2016 and any subsequent year in which we make awards from the list of unfunded applications from this competition, this priority is an invitational priority. Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(1) we do not give an application that meets this invitational priority a competitive or absolute preference over other applications.

This priority is:

Public Reporting of Charter School Demographics
The Secretary encourages projects that specify how, on an annual basis, the SEA publicly reports, or will publicly report, on student demographics (e.g., socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, English language learner status, and disability status) of each charter school in the State, and how the SEA publicly reports comparable data for school districts and public schools in the surrounding areas.
So you can earn extra points (up to 15) by making sure that the new charters that are opening are "high quality" KIPP Model schools, and you can earn up to 10 extra points by making sure the local public school system is not not the only charter authorizer.  But, and this is the important "but," federal charter grant applicants are given zero points for the "invitational" priority, which means that you may or may not report on socioeconomic status of students, language status, ethnicity, race, or disability.  And you are certainly not required to do any reporting.  Or to put it another way, you do not have to worry about the exercise of that awful "federal power" that Ravitch is so down on.


  1. Say good-bye to the DoED and NCLB, i.e., ESSEA funds, it was the plan all along, right there for anyone to see who read the original legislation. Today, the states have taken over the ed corruption scheme ala ALEC and a well organized campaign. if President Trump takes over, there won't be one stitch of grass that won't be privatized

    Parents and teachers have to unite and fight this together - teachers are too fearful of their pay checks and benefits being taken away. Little do they know that's the plan.

    Christie has devastated public education in NJ with steep budget cuts on top of testing mandates and PARCC bullshit. Class sizes are ballooning. Teachers are exhausted, demoralized, depressed and angry. Students are anxious, stressed and feeling like failures, especially those with special needs or ELL's. Any teacher who can, is getting out as fast as possible. Looks like the frogs are jumping. Districts looking hard for more frog to put on a slow boil because can't find substitutes and teachers to fill vacancies. They'll eventually jump too.

    How to end the madness?

  2. Anonymous8:11 PM

    The market for real teachers with real credentials is rapidly diminishing.

    Abigail Shure