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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Understanding KIPP Model Charter Schools, Part 10

In the Part 9 from Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys through "No Excuses" Teaching, Barbara Veltri provided some details on the role that Teach for America plays in sustaining the paternalistic "no excuses" corporate reform schools. Part 10 picks up where that chapter left off.  

For previous posts in this series, google "Understanding KIPP Model Charter Schools."

Chapter 10
“KIPP is grad school for TFA gluttons for punishment”
If you were in TFA and it wasn’t punishing enough for you, then KIPP is right up your alley. (KIPP teacher, 1166)

You cannot teach someone to be a great teacher in twenty days.  (KIPP teacher and TFA trainer, 1178)
         Teach for America and KIPP Model schools maintain a mutually-supportive ideological bond and business relationship. Without the 30-40 percent of KIPP teachers who are presently or formerly TFA corps members, KIPP and its total compliance charter emulators would be hard-pressed to find enough teachers to maintain their operations.  At the same time, TFA alums with aspirations for leadership benefit greatly from schools No Excuses charters.  For without KIPP and the other No Excuses charter chains, TFA alumni, with their two years of teaching experience, would have few opportunities to move into school leader positions and without the requisite administrative and leadership training that is typically required of public school administrators. 
Some KIPP Model schools prefer teachers who have matriculated from TFA, while others like to recruit first-year TFA teachers so that they “they don’t have to unlearn ‘bad’ teaching habits.”  Another KIPP teacher noted that TFA alumni do particularly well at KIPP because they are naïve and have “the mindset of a missionary” who “believes that kids need to be broken before we can build them up.”
         Seven of the former No Excuses interviewed were former TFA corps members, and all of them had received repeated solicitous emails about KIPP through their TFA email accounts.  One teacher formed specific expectations regarding what KIPP would be like from the emails that she received while working as a TFA teacher in a public school in the Bronx.  Not surprisingly, the emails focused on expectations, order, outcomes, team, and leadership:
I think my expectations going in were that there was going to be some real consistency at a school level regarding expectations for academic achievement and discipline.  I was excited to feel part of a larger community. . . . . I was excited to be part of a team.  From an expectation standpoint, I figured I would be working very hard and that I would be part of a team and that by deploying the KIPP approach, that we would be able to generate some significant outcomes.  I also felt like the principal at my school was a really dynamic leader…
         Another former TFA member who found out about KIPP during her TFA service was more explicit about the ongoing mythologizing of KIPP that happens during the TFA teaching stint, as well as KIPP’s “harvesting” of TFA alumni as they transition out of their TFA-assigned schools.  She indicated that TFA, too, engaged in efforts to “funnel” or “channel” those leaving their assigned schools into the KIPP organization or into “TFA staff positions.”  She said that there was a “constant barrage” of communications urging alumni to “stay affiliated in some way:” 
. . . from the very beginning of my experience, from the five week training program that Teach for America employs, all the way through my two year commitment, KIPP was really sort of mythologized as the end-all, be-all, the ideal model for a classroom of high achieving students, from day one of joining Teach for America and seeing videos of KIPP classrooms, up until towards the end of my two year commitment when I was considering next steps, KIPP really actively coming in and harvesting new employees from core members who were finishing up their two year commitment.  It was always something that was before me over the course of my two years with Teach for America.  I really started to feel like I was being recruited into almost the next phase of my TFA experience towards the end of my second year as I was preparing to transition into being an alumni.
TFA encouraged her to submit a resume to the KIPP database, and soon after she did, she began receiving emails and phone calls from KIPP administrators “trying to gauge my interest in coming on board with a KIPP school.”  This teacher talked about how she was conditioned at TFA “to believe that if there’s any slacking of will at any point—if there’s any departure from these philosophies and precepts [of total commitment], which I think are held in common with KIPP (they just look different), then that’s a sign of someone giving up.” 
She talked of regularly feeling tired and of feeling guilty for being tired, as admitting tiredness could be a sign of flagging commitment:  “It’s almost this idea of a fundamentalist cult.  Someone’s not allowed to question, someone’s not allowed to doubt.  If they do, that means that they’re fallen; that means that they’re out.  There’s no room for conversation.  There’s no room for nuance.” 
         When asked how this conditioning was reinforced, she said that because she had “a very positive relationship” with her closest supervisors at TFA, they shared their disappointments with her in regards to her peers who were members of the same TFA cohort:
I know that the way that they would talk to me about certain peers of mine, who were the same year in the program, the way that they would talk about some of those peers who were less committed, or some of those peers who were starting to balk under some of the expectations, or thinking about doing something after the two year experience that had nothing to do with education, had nothing to do with Teach For America, there was always a tone, an undercurrent. 
This teacher said she found a similar insistence on staying connected to KIPP in the plaque she was given when she left: “the only reason I have it on my wall is because all my students signed it and I appreciate looking at what they had to say.  But the centerpiece of it [says] ‘once a KIPPster, always a KIPPster’.”
          Another former KIPP teacher referred to how a “self-sacrifice ideology” was common among successful TFA and KIPP teachers.  To her this represented the “scariest type” of successful KIPP teacher:  “Those that just stay in it and feel that there is nothing else left better to do.  They do not have a life.  I have some teammates; they don’t talk to their family regularly.  They don’t eat healthy….They are at work until 9-10 o’clock at night.  KIPP is their life.  Anything KIPP, they’re there, even on Saturdays and Sundays.” 
One teacher talked of a type of TFA-KIPP synergism that had devastating effects on one of her colleagues at KIPP, who was also an active TFA enlistee at the time:
We have a Teach for America corps member, who is an outstanding English I teacher from the region.  She was denied leave after having several anxiety attacks.  The ambulance actually came to our school to pick her up.  She has been neglected by our instructional coach in the school.  She has been told that she has to model our instructional coach and the other powers that be.  She has had bronchitis on many different days.  She has been yelled at and told, ‘Oh you look fine,’ even though she was about to pass out and eventually collapsed that same day, from not taking off.  She is going to quit Teach for America.  She is going to quit KIPP and between the two, they have run her ragged.

AFT Opens the Door for IBM

The NYTimes reports that IBM's supercomputer has moved beyond winning Jeopardy games against human opponents.  With the support and assistance of AFT's Randi Weingarten, IBM's Watson has now taken on Common Core 3rd grade math instruction as the initial step for becoming the lead teacher for U. S. schools, and beyond:
Randi Weingarten, president of the teachers’ union, said that one of the challenges of the Common Core has been that teachers are asked to teach math in a way they were never taught it themselves. Watson, she said, should be able to help with that

“We have moved from memorization and application of mathematical formulas to helping kids think it through,” Ms. Weingarten said. “If you don’t really, fundamentally understand that,” she said of the new methods, “it is root canal for an elementary-school teacher.”
I guess this is what Weingarten was talking about when she said, "we have to give teachers the necessary tools and resources to effectively teach the new standards."  No need for expensive professional development, and who knows, if things go as Bill Gates would like, we may eliminate the need for professional teacher preparation, altogether.
we have to give teachers the necessary tools and resources to effectively teach to the new standards or they are doomed to becoming another failed education reform." - See more at: http://www.aft.org/press-release/aft-poll-800-teachers-finds-strong-support-common-core-standards-and#sthash.Y0ddW1Ec.dpuf

We should remember, too, that it was Randi Weingarten who reminded us that "the Common Core standards should be a guide, not a straitjacket. They should inspire creativity for teachers and students."

we have to give teachers the necessary tools and resources to effectively teach to the new standards or they are doomed to becoming another failed education reform." - See more at: http://www.aft.org/press-release/aft-poll-800-teachers-finds-strong-support-common-core-standards-and#sthash.Y0ddW1Ec.dpuf

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Give a Thousand Dollars: Help Immortalize Diane

For a thousand tax-deductible dollars, you can 1) buy a journal page to help NPE continue its semi-commitment to sometimes challenge corporate education reforms that it, otherwise, supports, and 2) create an archival testament to honor Diane Ravitch's desire to remain historically noteworthy.  

The quote below is from a piece published in The New Republic a short time after the 2011 SOS March in DC.  The piece is worth reading, even if its writer, Kevin Carey, has affiliation issues, too.  (Interestingly, it seems that Diane's political conversion might have never happened if Joel Klein had not aroused in Diane a powerful personal animus.  Some things don't change, I guess.)

So help Diane make sure history reserves a friendly place for her among the other great women of American history.  She already has spot in mind, even if no one from AFT has yet sponsored a fundraiser.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Who's Behind the K-12 Online Learning Bonanza?

The International Association for Online Learning (iNACOL) is meeting in San Antonio in late October for a big symposium to advance all sorts of competency based personalized outcomes based blended online digital bullshit notions that have re-charged the dying batteries of the corporate education reformers.  

Who's behind these fads from the previous century now repackaged for another generation of back-to-basics mossback antiquarians?   

All the big paternalists, social efficiency zealots, and profiteers, along with a couple of new ones that have product lines ready to sell.  This is where the action is, and this where the resistance must focus:

States of MegaGrit

by Susan Ohanian





























Monday, September 26, 2016

Retired Teacher's Thoughts on Union Misleadership

Denis Ian served for 34 years as a high school teacher. 

by Denis Ian

Teacher unions are being destroyed from within and without. And it’s been happening for a long while.

The same “reform" forces that wormed their way into the the curriculum discussions and redesigns also used their wealth to purchase political influ
ence. And their worming was not confined only to state elected officials, but extended to national union leaders and major inner city unions as well. Think Weingarten and Garcia.

If these union leaders could be captured by funding temptations and empty promises of continued influence, well, then the take over of public education would get a whole lot easier. And that is precisely what has happened from without.

The AFT and the NEA leadership are hand-maidens to the reformists. Of course, they peacock their independence for their membership, all the while acquiescing on issues that will alter the lives of the teachers they represent … high stakes testing, teacher evaluations, and curriculum design. Think Weingarten and Garcia.

The leadership of large, inner city unions seem especially easy to seduce. Michael Mulgrew, the NYC UFT union boss, has embraced the Common Core … and all of the attending slop that rode in with that lousy reform. And he did it for Judas money. For small, temporary gains that, in the end, will only rot out the lives of his rank and file, but seal the deal for decades to come. Short term gain, long term pain.

Of course, these union leaders have been seduced by powerful temptations. How else to explain the quick and early endorsement of a pro-reformist like Clinton … when Bernie Sanders seemed to be the overwhelming great fit for unions across the nation? Well, because … because there are expected rewards for those leaders should Clinton win. And, of course, that was always a more likely outcome. 

These leaders make the case that they are important and influential “players” … and that is a necessary role to play in order to stay on the inside of the issues.

But it is now clear that they have become quite comfortable on the inside … and they have lost touch with those who looked to them for leadership. To the rank and file, the they have become a disconnected elite. “Animal Farm” swine. A union upper-crust with a broken stethoscope … unable to listen to the heartbeat of those who brought them to office.

This divide and conquer strategy would make Caesar grin.
But there’s more.

Teacher unity is also being fractured from within.

For some reason, the outside threat posed by these never-ending reforms … reforms we all see as profession-wrecking … does not seem quite lethal enough to some.

There are more than a few who do believe the future belongs to the reformers … and they’d prefer to be rewarded for their early cooperation. So they have hopped on the charter school band-wagon … sermonizing us all how wonderful these new situations are for disadvantaged kids … when in reality that are advantaging themselves.

They are slurping up what they can in this moment of union and educational chaos. They’re educational junk-yard dogs … surviving and prospering under hallelujah rants of curing sick students of long-term educational maladies … just like traveling evangelical charlatans under canvas tents. Think Weingarten and Garcia.

These reluctant tacit approvers of charter schools rationalize their system-wrecking decision to go the charter route because … because they are “social justice” champions. As if no other teachers have ever been champions for disadvantaged students in the past.

I think this “social justice” crusade is a cover … a ruse … so that themselves don’t come under fire for super-screwing … along with the reformers … the classroom teachers left behind in now even more poorly underfunded classrooms.

Lots of teachers have no allegiance to some ideology that seeks to resegregate kids in our schools. Thousands of teachers see their mission as educators … teachers of knowledge … and not as social Gandhi’s. They do not see the classroom as a bully-pulpit or as a town square. They see their involvement with children as mentors and wizards of learning and nurturers of curiosity. They do not see themselves as coaxers of would-be social activists. They do not see students as tools for a personal agenda.

Teaching has become a cover activity for feel-good identifications for youngsters … a how-to manual for challenging “the system” rather than a construct for improving the intellectual skills that will enhance their lives more than becoming crafty rally professionals.

If we separate ourselves over social ideologies, well, then our profession is doomed. It’s why these “pop up” charter schools … run by social activists get a “pass” when other charter schools get the severe scrutiny they deserve. They are bad stuff.

Every charter school is a siphon that slurps up funding from regular public schools … the schools that have served us so well for so long. 

Those charter dollars should be used to repair our most needy schools. Instead … we are resegregating ourselves back in time all the while insisting we are moving the social clock forward. We are lying to ourselves.

This is how we have lost our union ethos. Our solidarity identity. And our political clout.

And this is why there are knives sticking out of our backs.

Denis Ian

Sunday, September 25, 2016

From Neighborhood Schools to Learning Eco-Systems, A Dangerous Trade

If we hope to preserve neighborhood schools for future generations we must recognize how reformers are reframing the idea of public education in dangerous new ways. A coordinated campaign of ALEC legislation, philanthropic investments, and slick re-branding is underway with the ultimate goal of replacing school buildings and certified, human teachers with decentralized, unregulated learning eco-systems and non-credentialed mentors and/or AI “tutors.”

It is a challenging concept to grasp. Therefore, I have decided to work on a series of posts. Taken together, I hope they will provide a base of information that people can share with others. This initial post will provide a framework for understanding the concept of a learning eco-system. Subsequent ones will cover: school redesign, digital badging, credit-bearing ELOs, Social Impact Bond financing, and changes to teacher training/hiring.

What is a learning eco-system?

Proponents of a data-driven, technology-mediated approach to public education see 21st-century learning as a “quest” in which participants diligently work to assemble proof that they’ve obtained the assorted skills and bits of knowledge they need to compete for jobs that pay a living wage. Rather than a humanistic approach that values individual creativity and civic discourse, the focus is on gathering data and shaping children to become standardized cogs in service of the global economy. The intent is to maintain the status quo, not to develop thinkers who might tip the apple cart and create a future that better serves the needs of the masses. Screen time trumps face time.

By shifting how we think about education-from a human process that happens within a community of learners to a game in which students demonstrate standards and accumulate badges-reformers aim to move much of the  K12 education process out of physical school buildings where face-to-face interaction is the primary mode of instruction, and into virtual classrooms, game environments, cultural institutions, and work settings. This is how they will attempt to replace neighborhood schools with learning eco-systems.

Click here to read the entire article at Wrench in Gears.

How Unions Came to Support ESSA

We know that much of the rationale for the NEA/AFT/NPE support of ESSA comes from the need to support the Clinton agenda, which is, of course, the Gates agenda, the Broad agenda, etc.  

But long before Hillary became Wall Street's most recent neolib darling, however, there were other reasons for AFT/NEA support for corporate education support that had to do, specifically, with The Union Reform Network's (TURN's) corporate cancer that is metastasizing inside the "teachers' unions." 

The pages below are from this document written by an associate prof and a doctoral student at Rutgers, who were paid by the Gates Foundation for their propaganda.  Of course, look for the stars on the Acknowlegement page below to see who else is thanked.

If you have any inkling that the TURN cancer is spreading in your state or town, please contact me.  I am doing some research that is not sponsored by the Gates Foundation.  It is not sponsored at all.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Teacher Evaluation, the Prequel

Imagine being able to evaluate a teacher before she is even hired!  Too good to be true, you say?  Read on.

Imagine the ability to hire a teacher that you know in advance will be able to produce those test scores necessary to 1) help your school system stay head and shoulders above your neighbors, 2) help your poorest schools avoid turnaround and charter takeover, or 2) help your charter company gain more contracts in the ESSA era of "no excuses" expansion.  

Imagine being able to avoid the mistake of hiring those touchy-feely humanist losers who don't have the "growth mindset" necessary to initiate total compliance neural re-channeling and brain-bathing that has made Angela Duckworth and Carol Dweck the new heroines of 21st Century eugenics.

And imagine being able to take out the messy guesswork of school administrators making subjective decisions about hiring new teachers.  None of that squishy intuition or personal connection business between principal and applicant.  

What if we had a tool to select new teachers who bring the psychological and demographic characteristics that have been shown to generate high test scores in low-performing schools. 

Welcome to TeacherMatch!

TeacherMatch CEO and co-founder Don Fraynd . . . .say[s] that more data-focused hiring practices can both help districts attract and secure top-notch candidates and more accurately predict whether a teacher will be effective in the classroom.
In Deefield, IL, the HR office says gut instinct is a thing of the past: "We're not even allowed to mention it during the hiring process. . .":
Using proprietary screening tools from AppliTrack and HumaneX Ventures, the [Deerfield, IL school] district first looks for themes in candidates' application materials and screening interviews that indicate a commitment to growth, both professionally and with students. Initial high scorers participate in a series of structured interviews, and based on those scores, get invited to a site-based interview. The district then spends the first two years evaluating whether each new hire's performance matches expectations.

Using information pulled from a variety of assessments, including the Northwest Evaluation Association's Measure of Academic Progress, the Deerfield district has preliminary data that 85 percent of the people it hired for 2014-15 had a positive impact on students.

"We're to the point now where we have such faith in our hiring protocols that résumés and letters of recommendation take a backseat to the online application," Fisher said. . . .

Friday, September 23, 2016

Another defeat in court for right-wing privatizer David F. Welch

“People need to understand that there’s tons of money in nonprofits.” — Brett Bymaster

David F. Welch neoliberal corporate education reform pusher

Gates Foundation rag EdSource and irrepressible education writer Peter Greene recently announced another resounding defeat in court for the anti-public education outfit Students Matter. The trial court ruled against David F. Welch's corporate reform group in Doe vs. Antioch. Welch's other action, the wrongheaded Vergara suit, recently ended with the Supreme Court of California's refusal to hear his group's appeal. I had some observations reproduced here.

Once more right-wing extremist David F. Welch costs the people of California untold sums of money with his reactionary group’s wrongheaded causes of action. One wonders how many school libraries could have been stocked with the resources squandered defending against these bad faith lawsuits brought by his group.

As a Juris Doctor candidate myself, I suppose I can consider Marcellus McRae, Joshua S. Lipshutz, and Theodore Boutrous of corporate firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher as somewhat instructive. They have demonstrated repeatedly how NOT to read statutes, how to present evidence that is neither logically nor legally relevant, and how to make bad faith arguments without conscience. I will take their lessons on how not to conduct myself as an attorney to heart.

Seems like they need refreshers in issue spotting and ethics. Having just scored a 124 on the MPRE myself, perhaps I could help them with the latter.

Mis-Educative Technology and Human Capital Management: Part 2

See Part 1 here.

Triumph Learning’s Waggle is a personalized learning system now in use by Clarke County Schools in Athens, Georgia, where Dr. Philip Lanoue is Superintendent.  Dr. Lanoue was named Superintendent of the Year in 2015 by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA’s next conference is entitled “Personalized, Accountable, and Visionary).  Lanoue's name is prominently posted in Triumph Learning's online ads and in their sales promotions.  

The video linked from this Waggle ad is provided further down in this post.  In the video, Dr. Lanoue and two of his principals at Clarke County praise the new Waggle system for a number of reasons, chief among them being that students may progress at their own pace and that the system’s endurance training system (it grades for Grit) requires students to get the right answer before moving on.  

The learning analytics running within Waggle are handled by Knewton, which has the capacity to collect, store, and share data on individual student performance for both academic proficiency and "grit." 

Earlier this year, Knewton and Pearson created a partnership to "personalize K–12 math education starting with elementary school students." 
Utilizing Knewton’s adaptive learning platform, Pearson is updating enVisionMATH2.0, a dynamic digital curriculum. The product tailors core instruction for each student, helping teachers better address unique individual needs and ensure that the entire class is on track to achieve shared goals.
Below, then, is the video testimonial for Waggle by Dr. Lanoue and his principals.  If if all sounds rather vague, it is.  Stay tuned after the video:

What Lanoue and the principals fail to point out is that teachers may choose the Common Core standards that students will be assigned, but after that, Knewton's analytic capacity takes over, selecting the material for students to work on based on past performance.  Waggle then initiates and scores the assessments.  That is all explained here, in this YouTube video provided by the company.

Following Dr. Lanoue's #1 Superintendent Prize in 2015, he was a hot property.  In fact, he was almost selected as Superintendent for Fulton County, GA early in 2016.  Unfortunately, back in Clarke County during the final hiring phases, there was an unfortunate and entirely mishandled incident involving the rape of a 15-year old girl at school.   

Coming as it did during the final stages of Fulton County’s hiring decision process in February 2016, no one got around to telling the girl’s parents about the Clarke County rape incident for a month, and only then because the story broke in the local Athens paper:
Top school administrators and school board members learned of the report Jan. 7, the day it happened, but parents, teachers and others didn’t find out until an article appeared Feb. 4 in the Athens Banner-Herald/Online­Athens.com, when three male Cedar Shoals students were arrested on felony rape and assisting in a rape charges, the report noted.
Soon after the incident hit the news pages on February 4, Dr. Lanoue withdrew his application from Fulton County and decided to remain at his post in Clarke County.  

Dr. Lanoue continued his public engagements without interruption, however.  In April 2016, Diane Ravitch's NPE invited him to provide a keynote during NPE's annual conference in Raleigh, NC.  

This is from the conference blurb (my bolds):

With a proven track record in leading school reform and building positive community and school relationships, Superintendent Philip D. Lanoue has led the Clarke County School District in Athens, Georgia since July 2009. He is the 2015 National Superintendent of the Year, as well as the 2015 Georgia Superintendent of the Year. Dr. Lanoue is also one of the nation’s top 50 educational innovators in digital learning as named by Converge magazine. Under his leadership, the school district has been honored as a Title I Distinguished District for being Georgia’s #1 large district for closing the achievement gap. The district has received numerous state recognitions as a model technology school district, Georgia’s #1 Career Academy and the state’s top award for exceptional Response to Intervention practices.

In July, an Athens, GA grand jury concluded that Lanoue should not have been allowed to investigate his own participation in the mishandled rape incident.  Imagine that.

On September 1, Lanoue announced he would be leaving his post as Clarke County superintendent on March 1, 2017.
We may wonder what will happen to Dr. Lanoue and to the many high tech projects that Dr. Lanoue introduced in Clarke County, including Waggle.  High speed wireless networks are now systemwide, and all students in grades 3-12 now have laptops.  You might say that there is a lot of Waggling going on there.  

Interestingly, Clarke County's transformative technology model is borrowed from Ruben R. Puentedura:

And who is Ruben Puentendura, you ask (my bolds below):
Dr. Ruben Puentedura is the Founder and President of Hippasus, a consulting firm based in Western Massachusetts, focusing on transformative applications of information technologies to education. He has implemented these approaches for over twenty-five years at a range of K-20 educational institutions, as well as health and arts organizations. He is the creator of the SAMR model for selecting, using, and evaluating technology in education, which currently guides the work of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, as well as projects in Vermont and Sweden. His current work explores new directions in mobile computing, digital storytelling, learning analytics, and educational gaming, focusing on applications in areas where they have not been traditionally employed. He can be reached at rubenrp@hippasus.com.
If you been out of the loop for a long time, you may want to go over to Save Maine Schools and Wrench in the Gears to find out more about this "transformative" tech model in schools.  You might start with this piece.

Small world, isn't it?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Unbearable Costs of "Unity"

The other day after I posted my communique to the Ravitch forces that reiterated my conclusion that we are NOT allied but, rather, that her actions have made me the enemy, Norm Scott spent some of his valuable time to send me a comment to say that too much time had been devoted to the debate about who is an ally and who is an enemy.  Here is part of his comment:
. . . . I think the amount of time and energy going into this debate pushes this to the ledge. What is the point when there are so many horrible forces on the attack? She is an incrementalist - I don't think that works but I don't have to spend my time addressing that issue because I would rather go after Randi and crew and ed deformers. I would rather have the new Ravitch than the old one. . . .Why not let ESSA come apart?
Here is my response to Norm. 
If too much time has been devoted to this issue, then I am wondering why you are helping to keep it alive by suggesting I let Diane and NPE go their merry way, all the while pretending to be against all the policies that their enthused endorsement of ESSA has enabled. Your preferred solution, it seems, is to "let ESSA come apart." I suppose like NCLB's coming apart, which took almost a decade and a half, and time enough to entirely unhinge the public school system and to waste money on 7,000 charter schools where children and teachers are regularly abused.

Sorry, I don't have that kind of time. Besides, how can ESSA "come apart" when Diane and the corporate unions are hellbent to get it implemented. The Ravitch books and blogs are very effective in maintaining the pretense that she is leading a network of resistance, and it's even fun to read sometimes, but it keeps the impetus to organize and fight contained. It's all talk and no action. Of course, that is her primary purpose.
She is not an incrementalist--she is a policy schizophrenic. 
This morning Norm offered this sadly disappointing follow-up comment:
I guess you think your work will have a major impact. I don't think that way about my work. I'm just a small cog - and there was a time when you and I were a tiny minority of people fighting ed deform -- I'm going back 15 years for me. ESSA is not the main enemy - the charter movement is and as long as Ravitch is on that case I am not wasting time attacking her. Or the corporate assault which she deals with it. ESSA will come apart but your war on Ravitch will do nothing to stop ESSA. I was part of the war on NCLB when our union supported it back in 2003 and 04. All we can do is point out what will happen and as it does people will sign on. Your attacks on her and her crew don't move the ball forward because building a force to take on the main issues is primary in this war. I was one of her critics before her change of mind. Her book helped moblize [sic] so many teachers and others. So she left out the union role but I can live with it. Is she perfect? Far from it. I'm not looking for perfection. Our enemies have nukes and we have pee shooters. Any pees Ravitch shoots at them is better than none. We should do our work and support things Ravitch and NPE do when they do it right - I have morphed from a lone warrior as I get older -- I bet I have less time left than you. I'll be long gone and the battle will still be on.
My response to Norm:
Notwithstanding your sad lecturing, Norm, to "do our work and support things Ravitch and NPE do when they are right," I am of the opinion that this is the same kind of thought disorder that has plagued you and other good union members for a long time.  It clearly suggests that even though we know the leadership is corrupt and sadistic, we should celebrate when they open the torture chamber door and throw us a bone.  

So very sad. And I'm sorry you are feeling are feeling sorry for yourself today.

But let's talk about the issues you raise here.  

If, as you say, the charter movement is the main enemy, Norm, then I am wondering why you are not a little incensed by the fact that Ravitch's endorsement of ESSA, which will provide billions of dollars for another generation of partially-online, no excuses charter schools.  I think you have to weigh that heavy support for ESSA against the speeches, blog fluff, and book stuff, which have made Diane a lot of money since her ostensible conversion a few years back.  

Diane has consistently stated her opposition only to the "for profit" charters, even though they constitute a tiny percentage of the 7,000 charters nationwide.  This July she this as buffer to criticism of the Clintons' longtime support for charters: 

At the very least, we can be glad that Clinton is opposed to the for-profits, which rip off taxpayers and divert public funding to their stockholders and owners. Let’s hope that means she is prepared to cut off federal funding that goes to the scam artists of the charter world.

Yes, well, let's hope in one hand, spit in the other, and see which fills up first.  Clinton is onboard the charter train, which is one of the chief reasons Diane and the unions to put their support behind ESSA.

You should remember, Norm, that I, too, was very vocal in supporting Diane's 2008 move away from supporting NCLB policies.  I went so far as to review one of Ravitch's book, which she linked from her blog with this note: 
. . . . Jim Horn has been a thorn in the side of the know-nothings [CorpEd] for many years. He’s smart, he’s tough, and he has a long memory.

In this review of “Reign of Error,” he reminds me of my own long sojourn in the wilderness of bad ideas. Now, I am happy to say, he welcomes me into the fold as an ally in the fight to preserve public education.
Since posting that review in 2013, I have become critical of Diane Ravitch's positions on a number of issues.  Here's just a few.

Early in 2016, she called me out by name, along with others, for questioning connections between FairTest and CorpEd.  In doing so, she didn't hesitate to go on the attack, all in the name of maintaining unity: 
Deborah Meier, a long-time leader of genuine school reform and an opponent of standardized testing, read an article by Jim Horn of “Schools Matter” that referenced a simmering feud among allies. The basis for the article was a series of posts (see here and here) and comments on this blog. Several readers watched the angry comments and wondered what was going on.

As you will see in Horn’s piece, he and others are angry at Fairtest, which has led the fight against high-stakes testing for many years. Horn, Mary Porter, and Emily Talmadge warned that Fairtest was taking Gates money and was no longer trustworthy. Lisa Guisbond of Fairtest replied several times on the blog, insisting that Fairtest had not sold out, that it had taken a one-times Gates grant of $5,000 to study performance assessment. There was a lot of back and forth. . . .
Are you still reading, Norm?  Then three days ago when Diane Ravitch posted "Allies Should Work Together, But Not Everyone Agrees," she pretended to not know who I am or why I would, in any way, be upset with NPE or Diane Ravitch. 
". . . he has an intense and personal animus towards me. Again, I can’t explain it. I don’t know why. . . . I have never met him. I hear he doesn’t like me. I don’t know why."
Would you attribute this lie, Norm, to her dotage or to her disingenuous nature?   I think you know that Ravitch knows why there is smoke in her tent and why activists are sawing at the guy lines.  

She knows, too, that as long as she can feign ignorance and pretend that she is being stalked by psychopath, she does not have to respond to her decision in 2015 to cut backroom deals for supporting ESSA.  Or maybe she did not cut deals at all--maybe she simply accepted what Lamar Alexander was offering.  

As long as Diane can convince you and her other readers that her pea shooter blog is more important than the big guns she puts on the table to support ESSA's corporate education reforms, she will never be held accountable for the treacherous acts already committed and future ones made to order for those who don't recall the past.
So Norm or anyone else should stop pestering those who do not support ESSA or ESSA supporters.  We are not allies, and we are not united.  Period.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Understanding KIPP Model Charter Schools: Part 9 (TFA)

Teacher attrition is high enough that "No Excuses" charter schools could not keep their doors open without a constant infusion of new blood from Teach for America and penal preparation programs like Relay.  In the chapter below from Work Hard, Be Hard . . . contributed by Dr. Barbara Veltri, who published a book about TFA in 2010 entitled Learning on Other People's Kids: Becoming a Teach For America Teacher, Veltri provides an encapsulation of TFA's place in keeping corporate ed reform dreams alive.

Chapter 9
Teach For America’s Socialization and Manipulation
by Barbara Veltri
It’s like the Peace Corps. But, you know, creepier. --D. Chernicoff, Yale Daily News, (2006)
This chapter chronicles the evolution of Teach For America’s (TFA) rebranding, from a teaching-as-service non-profit, to a leadership network with a voracious appetite for expanding and creating new revenue streams.  I examine how Teach For America’s corps members are selected and socialized to support the organization’s revamped trajectory away from teacher supply to leadership expansion. Data for this chapter included a range of sources, from insider interviews to TFA annual reports, business plans, tax returns, web sites, public records, and other documents. A cautionary tale illuminates how private venture philanthropy and “public good” corporate education reform initiatives[i] are managed and manipulated.  
The Mission Design of America’s #1 Educational Non-Profit
Twenty-five years ago Princeton University Sociology major, Wendy Kopp, founded Teach For America. It’s mission: recruit, train, and place recent college graduates without education credentials into poor rural and urban schools for two-year teaching commitments (Kopp, 2003). The new non-profit organization, subsequently dubbed America’s National Teaching Corps (Veltri, 2010) was charged with addressing the shortage of qualified teachers in underserved regions of the U.S. (Kopp, 2003; Veltri, 2010).  In 1994, Teach For America was granted 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit organization, which permitted donors to claim exemptions from income taxes, too.
Teach For America targeted areas to field-test the education reform agenda in America’s poor communities, where high populations of children of color reside. These urban and rural areas were never properly funded in any way imaginable, and they had gone mostly unnoticed by the business community until Ms. Kopp recruited recent grads from select colleges to begin teaching there.
With substantial financial support from corporations and foundations in hand by the mid-1990s, Ms. Kopp focused her attention on garnering support from the federal government. This ongoing support from the federal government was provided principally through The Corporation for National and Community Service, CNCS), commonly referred to as AmeriCorps (Kopp, 2003).  Under an arrangement with AmeriCorps, TFA teachers may receive up to $11,290 during their two-year stints to repay student loans.  Too, TFA has received generous federal grants.  In 2010, alone, TFA and KIPP (Wendy Kopp is married to KIPP’s President and CEO, and TFA alum, Richard Barth) each received separate $50,000,000 Investing in Innovation grants from the U. S. Department of Education. 
The Socialization of Teach For America’s Corps
            Socialization of corps members-as-future-leaders in the reform pipeline depends heavily on incorporating a unifying message and philosophy to its incoming teacher trainees (Kopp, 2003; Kopp & Farr, 2011; Brewer, 2014). Teach For America safeguards the training of its recruits at a dozen Corps Training Institute locations across the country.  A singular, robust, and paternalistic socialization of its Corps Member teachers remains a foundational element to the mission of TFA. 
Toward this end, Teach For America espouses its own brand, image, logo, color scheme, scripted training program, division of labor, sanctions and rewards, and public persona.   In 2014, Teach For America accepted 15% of its applicant pool (Teach For America, 2014). Corps applicants are selected based upon particular TFA-identified criteria, and principal among them is the crucial measure of “fit” (Dobbie, 2011), a metric based largely on belief and commitment:
The last TFA measure is fit, which measures whether an applicant believes TFA’s goals are attainable through the TFA approach. The fit variable is scored using overall interviewer impressions of knowledge, and commitment to the belief in the ability of children to achieve, and the belief in the TFA focus on raising student academic achievement (p. 6).
            TFA encourages a oneness mindset that relies upon an expectation that a singular, unifying belief, will be commonly held as a prerequisite for success and belonging (Veltri, 2015) within a “community of feeling’ that breeds “identical judgment” (Lyotard, 1991).  Teach For America’s insiders recognize this “community of feeling” as the crux of the enculturation into the TFA philosophy (Brewer, 2014; Sondel, 2014; Veltri, 2010). This socialization most often leads to an ongoing commitment that persists beyond one’s two-year teaching affiliation with the organization.
Teach For America’s socialization efforts promote; (1) corps conformity, (2) corps identity, (3) corps competition, (4) corps collaboration, (5) corps cohesiveness, and (6) corps cliques.  Insiders are adept at perceiving contradictions between TFA’s official narrative and the methods used to attain its ends:
TFA is an incredibly hierarchical organization where there is a tremendous amount of leadership by passive-aggressive use of fear. You can really see this at Institute, particularly with the school directors who are under intense pressure from the Institute's managing director to produce 'transformational gains' from students in, literally, 10 days of teaching. (Andrew)
Teach For America’s “truths” refine, streamline, and reinforce a singular message, and that message speaks often, speaks louder, speaks to a network of supporters in high places, and rarely allows for differing viewpoints.  Many TFA insiders face a dualism in how they respond to and/or acknowledge their own self-efficacy as corps members and alumni (White, 2013).
Some comply, embrace, or cope during their committed affiliation with TFA, doing what they have to do to get by (Brewer, 2014; White, 2013; Veltri, 2010; Veltri 2015).  Others subvert surreptitiously and are determined not to lose themselves in the TFA enculturation, and these Corps members “see” through the information presented to the public.  Corps members who assume personae that remain compliant and eager to embrace TFA methods and non-teaching duties during the two-year TFA teaching assignments find favor in post-teaching roles within the TFA organization.
The Role of the TFA Corps Member in Education Reform
 TFA adheres to a strategic policy of recruiting young, recent college graduates who generally do not challenge the organization during their first two years, while they “learn the ropes ”in order to later reap the benefits of “being a good corps member.”  “Good” corps members complete the task at hand with enthusiasm and later recognize financial advantages of their TFA affiliation, post-teaching.  Teach For America also employs niche recruiters who target evangelicals, dreamers, veterans, Native Americans, and LGBT candidates. (Teach For America, 2014).   
            Teach For America’s applicants are not recruited just for the short-term teaching positions they accept but are, in effect, recruited for their future worth to the TFA network and its agenda. Many TFA teachers are groomed by the organization and vetted for leadership positions following their two years of service.  Regardless, all Corps members are expected to remain loyal to the cause:
So like yes, we’re supposed to keep it, education reform, in the forefront and no matter what you do after the 2 years are up, you’re supposed to stay focused on education because you’ve been there. So you can take any influence you may have in your future and use that towards education reform (Jackie).
A barrage of e-mails inundates corps members with opportunities for leadership and policy roles within the TFA alumni network of charters, including KIPP and other total compliance schools.  Teach For America has become the feeder system (Taylor, 2010) that is crucial to sustaining charter management organizations: “simply put, Teach for America, Inc. has become an employment agency for charter schools” (p. 1).  One TFA teacher said,
Of the most touted alumni in a particular community, how many work in public school districts in a position that has a direct impact on teaching and learning? Most of the heroic tales of TFA alums come from charter systems, ‘education reform’ groups, and roles in government bodies that are undermining public education. For example, here in ______, the alums who are most held up as examples of the power of TFA are charter school founders and leaders, people who work for the state's charter school association, or head up not-for-profits focused on education reform that are very cozy with those who most threaten our schools (Caryn).
With five weeks of pedagogical preparation that includes practice teaching time, Teach For America attempts to drive home the message to power constituencies and legislative bodies that TFA novices should be considered as highly qualified and effective beginning teachers.  This mantra reverberates as TFA “truth,” even as novice corps members struggle in out-of-field teaching assignments, Special Education or resource placements, and other site-based duties for which they are not qualified:
The program is atrocious—the TFA training is completely worthless and inadequate when it comes to actually preparing people how to teach, they are so full of biased/worthless statistics, the staff is a bunch of cliché-spouting TFA robots, etc. and the list goes on (Darrell).
Corps member insiders report that the organization creates lists of those considered for leadership positions, and leadership begets privilege.  Elisa Villanueva Beard, co-CEO of Teach For America states, “Civic leaders call regularly and say, ‘We want to know who is available and ready to take on a bigger role’… And we will always have names at the ready” (Simon, 2013, p. 2).   TFA acts as an incubator for education-industry business and educational governance organizations, political offices, NGOs, non-profit corporations, foundations, and think tanks. 
Tracy-Elizabeth Clay, TFA’s General Counsel, addressed Teach For America’s alumni at Harvard Law School, focusing on the organization’s initiatives to better harness TFA’s alumni in law: “The long-term vision is to create a ‘talent pool’ from which school districts, CMOs and legal advocacy groups can draw from” (TeachForUS, 2012).  Corporate education insider, Rick Hess, predicts, “five, ten years out, we’re going to be talking about hundreds of TFA [political] candidates in all likelihood” (Wieder, 2012).
Alliances with Friends in High Places
Teach For America did not work in isolation to achieve their goals. Its “mission” was, and continues to be advanced, by a network of supporters from the corporate, legislative, university, media, and political spectrum.  For over a decade, Teach For America has directed its efforts towards expanding the donor pool and to deepening political leaders’ commitment to TFA’s policies.  It has also concentrated on quadrupling leadership placement of TFA alums across the entire political landscape, while protecting the brand and successfully contributing to the stream of alumni-led Charter Management Organizations (CMOs).
TFA has continued to grow by charging fees for teachers it delivers to school districts in poor communities, while urging network alliances to help TFA continue its rhetorical campaign to eliminate educational inequity—even as childhood poverty in the United States of America grows worse (Wieder, 2012; Jehlen, 2012). 
 Those who capitalize on education innovation propel Teach For America’s mission. Quazzo, Cohn, Horne & Moe’s (2012) Global Silicon Valley Advisors report that the global education market is worth $4 trillion dollars and have partnered with Teach For America: “Talent has poured into the sector from leading not-for-profits like Teach For America and elsewhere where bright, talented young people have witnessed educational inequity and can visualize solutions” (p. 24).
Most TFA post-teaching educational careers projectile is classroom based. Evidence suggests that TFA has become less of an alternative pathway to teaching children in poverty, and more of an insulated training ground for corporate, media, and philanthropic hierarchies motivated to reform public education across the PK-16 landscape. (Kamenetz, 2014; Kovacs, 2007; Simon, 2013; Wieder, 2012; TFA, 2012).  Increasing numbers of TFA’s alumni are leading large scale school districts, state education departments, and virtual and charter school networks (Simon, 2013). 
With generous support of their alliance of policy makers, corporations, foundations and philanthropists, Teach For America has remained flush with cash as it has grown its network of teachers and former Corps members dedicated to the TFA mission.  So what happened to America’s Teaching Corps? The non-profit’s energies today are more directed toward recruiting potential leaders, building an enduring movement, seeking and finding funding and favor from corporations, lobbyists, university presidents and deans, the media, philanthropists, and national and state policy makers.  As one source reported, “what is happening beyond the 2-year commitment seems to be much more important now than ever before. What has changed is how much emphasis TFA places on this goal (at the expense of the shorter-term goal of developing successful classroom teachers)” (TeachForUs, 2012).
At the same time, TFA has grown increasingly focused on countering document concerns and criticism (Joseph, 2014) through “obsessive PR games to cover up its lack of results in order to justify greater expansion. ”  Teach For America perpetuates a revolving teacher syndrome and “disruptive turnover cycles” (para 1) that does nothing to limit the educational inequity to which TFA pays lip service. Teach For America is not a solution to what ails education in America’s poorest communities, yet policy makers and the public are persuaded to believe so.
From the U. S. Department of Education to Congress to the Office of the President, and across state executive and legislative bodies, TFA finds favor. As one former head of Florida’s Office of Evaluation and Assessment told me,  “TFA are the sweethearts of education policy. People fall over themselves to support them.”  That favor translates to a burgeoning financial base. Teach For America reported $1.15 billion dollars in revenue for 2009-2013.  Teach For America invests millions in public relations to keep its critics at bay.
Teach For America runs a conveyer belt of new teachers in and out of communities who learn to teach on poor people’s children (Veltri, 2010). The overwhelming and overwhelmed TFA novice teachers enter communities and schools in under-resourced areas, across America, without strategies, support, or training.  One mentor of special education said,
Everyone of our E.D. (Emotionally Disabled) kids is taught by TFA. I went into a class of emotionally disturbed middle schoolers. The teacher is TFA, a very bright, recent grad, top-tier school, TFA. The kids were very quiet when I walked in. I sensed that something was wrong. The teacher imploded on the kids. They were not permitted to eat in the cafeteria. They are E.D. You cannot threaten the kids, but she was doing that in front of me. So, why is the district hiring them? 43% are new TFA, and 23% are the 2nd year TFA (Dr. B. mentor, SPED teachers).
Teach For America does not address the pressing demands and needs of its novice teacher-trainees, who are still learning on children in the most impoverished and segregated schools in the country. An Atlanta public school teacher (4th year) was surprised to find a first year TFA teacher sitting on the floor outside her classroom, crying in the hallway. She asked supportively,  “Which one [student] would you like me to take out of the classroom for you?" The novice corps member sobbed, “Take them all, I can't do this.” 
Sadly, rookie CMs (corps members) often have to reach out to friends and family in education for help, or go under the TFA radar to seek help from credentialed teachers. Corps members find fewer veteran educators at their schools, because in far too many classrooms, especially charter managed urban schools that recruit high populations of minority children of color, TFA rookies are often the only teachers hired.  As one CM told me, “those TFA teachers who are doing ‘well’ are those placed at some of the best charter schools in the area, so their success has nothing to do with the support TFA offers.” (Jaqueese)
Sara noted that 11 of the 12 teachers at the Phoenix area charter school, where she worked as a bilingual teacher were TFA. The biology teacher shared that she was leaving in May.  Unsure of what that meant, Sara asked innocently, 
"But you just got here last year, right? Where are you going?"
"My plan is to go to medical school," the biology teacher replied emphatically. "I'm not here to be a teacher for more than I have to." 
Sara shook her head:
            “It all makes sense now. They are all going somewhere, and the kids are just a means to advance their plan, for their life. They might know biology, but they are not really teaching it. It's more like they are commanding the kids to learn it.  I'm in their classrooms. I see what’s going on. Some of them are trying, and many of them are smart, but they are not really teaching. I can tell that their heart isn't in it, you know?”
            Between one and five percent of Teach For America teachers are certified educators who majored in elementary, secondary or special education in a college or university program. 
Manipulation of Education for the Public Good
The corporate, governmental, and philanthropic supporters of Teach For America publicly claim to advocate for children, but with checkbooks and legislative directives, they choose instead to pledge allegiance to a non-profit wolf in sheep’s clothing that has ransacked the educational landscape. George Soros (2010) cautions,
The trouble is, that special interests also seek to disguise themselves as protectors of the public interest, and it takes a discerning eye to discriminate between the genuine and the phony, especially since both sides are forced to resort to similar methods of persuasion (pp. 93-94).
But, whose interests does Teach For America protect?  My research tells me that veteran educators across the country (particularly those of color), children of color in high poverty communities, and struggling corps trainees are not benefitting from Teach For America’s expansion, leadership, and movement building.  Corps members confirm that they are required to lobby their own legislators with scripted correspondence prepared by TFA to insure the organization’s best interests are retained, a duty not advertised by TFA’s recruiters when canvassing campuses (Veltri, 2015). 
Teach For America’s operationalizing strategies lack transparency, and they play fast and loose with the facts. As Duke psychology professor, Dr. Dan Ariely (2013) points out, however, “collaborative cheating” is not uncommon among ideological altruists whose arrogantly rationalize misappropriation of both public trust and public dollars: “We found that altruism is a strong motivator for cheating. Based upon these results we could speculate that people who work for ideological organizations such as political groups and not-for-profits, might actually feel more comfortable bending the moral rules—because they are doing it for a good cause and to help others” (p. 232).
Teach For America’s network hides behind the TINA thesis (There is No Alternative) (Saltman & Gabbard, 2003, p. 6).  The favor granted to TFA is repeatedly justified by those who claim Teach For America uniquely addresses educational inequities through recruitment of bright and innovative applicants for service that is tantamount to a civil rights campaign.  But the lack of transparency appears to be catching up with America’s Teacher Corps.  
TFA alumni have interrogated the Teach For America ‘truths’ for a decade and are organized and vocal. The #ResistTFA social media movement deconstructs the organizational rhetoric presented in the public domain, and alumni researchers offer significant and solid evidence of inconsistencies in the TFA ‘mission’ rhetoric and outcomes, (Brewer, 2014; Kretchmar, Sondel, & Ferrare, 2014; White, 2015).  College seniors at elite universities such as Penn, Harvard, and Berkeley increasingly scoff at being patronized by an organization that dangles a charter network affiliation prize upon completion of teaching for two years in an under-resourced school (Jehlen, 2012; Wieder, 2012; Fischer, 2013).
In 2014, the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), a nation-wide coalition of savvy university undergrads, became TFA’s worst nightmare. Operating on college campuses, the USAS traveling program, “The TFA Truth Tour,” exposes the dark side of corporate education reform (Ascherman & Li, 2014). USAS seeks to remove TFA from campuses nationwide.  They are aware of TFA’s promises and rhetoric, and know that their peers will serve as the human capital fueling TFA’s pipeline of corps teachers to public and charter schools in poor communities (Ascherman & Li, 2014). 
To add to TFA’s public relation woes, many stakeholders are no longer willing to give TFA a free pass.  District administrators, school boards, parents, students, teachers, researchers, TFA alumni corps members, and savvy college seniors (the real game changers) are on to the non-profit’s “hide and seek” schemes and practices. Offering temporary teachers with minimal preparation for poor children of color seems like an inadequate corporate solution to a very public problem, especially when it funded by  hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate and federal charity that could be spent on efforts to end poverty or to create diverse schools. Manipulating a legitimate desire for public good to fit narrow corporate objectives is not meritorious. The time has come; the rules, consequences, and alliances could be about to change.    


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