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

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Gatekeepers: Philadelphia Education Fund Adopts New Paid Access Policy

From Wrench in the Gears
December 16, 2017

Farah Jimenez is a member of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission and current director of the Philadelphia Education Fund (PEF), a nonprofit that hosts monthly conversations on topics related to public education in Philadelphia. These days, if you want to attend one of their Education First Compact meetings, you’re going to have to jump through a lot of hoops. That wasn’t previously the case. Advance registration for meetings is now required, a policy put in place after Ms. Jimenez was hired in April 2016. When registering via the website, attendees are strongly encouraged to financially support the organization as either a series subscriber or by purchasing individual tickets. Corporate and foundation subscribers pay $750, while individuals pay $100; though there is the option to donate more.

Until this month you could secure immediate admission to meetings via online registration without paying anything, as long as free tickets were available. However, a recent policy change states anyone who is not a paid subscriber is now automatically put on a waitlist. This policy will allow PEF to screen out people they deem undesirable, without requiring them to rescind tickets that have already been granted. PEF has done this to me twice, and not just to me, but to at least two other activists. There is a clear sense that Compact meetings are not meant to be truly “public” meetings, even though PEF’s mission revolves around public education. At the beginning of the December Compact meeting Jimenez stated that what was said in the room stays in the room; that nothing be shared via social media. I understood that to mean these are essentially closed-door discussions. So, moving forward if a person wants to have access to these discussions they have to 1) be willing to pay or 2) not voice any questions or opinions that might upset the people deciding if they get into the next meeting. That is a huge problem.

Betsy DeVos Is Undermining Students' Rights Under the Guise of Deregulation

Betsy DeVos Is Undermining Students' Rights Under the Guise of Deregulation: The Trump administration's 'troubling' zeal for deregulation could hurt marginalized students, caution David C. Bloomfield and Alan A. Aja.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Money for what Mr. Kuhn? A Big Data, Future Ready Superintendent promotes funding equity at NPE.

from Wrench in the Gears
December 14, 2017 
This week the Network for Public Education launched another video in their series on the privatization of public education. The video featured John Kuhn, superintendent of the Mineral Wells Independent School District in Mineral Wells, Texas. Kuhn, an admittedly charismatic speaker, discussed the important issue of funding inequities and how lack of funding hurts students in low-income school districts. I was curious where Mr. Kuhn’s school district was located, because I have been following the work of a number of intrepid parent activists in Texas who have been busy exposing the next wave of privatization in the state including: education savings accounts, social impact bonds for mathematics instruction, and districts of innovation. 
When I pulled up the Mineral Wells ISD website, I was surprised to see a link for “Future Ready” in the “Learn More About Us” footer of each page. I had shared my concerns regarding the “Future Ready” pledge last October. You can read about them here. If you want the short version, the program is affiliated with the reform outfit The Alliance for Excellent Education and funded by the Gates Foundation, Google, Apple, Pearson, Summit Learning and the Carnegie Corporation, among others. Those who sign the pledge commit to “implementing meaningful changes toward a digital learning transition.” The “About the Effort” page of the Future Ready website makes it clear pledge signers support the idea that “personalized” learning is about adoption of digital technologies: “We believe every student deserves a rigorous, personalized learning environment filled with caring adults and student agency. District leaders must recognize the potential of digital tools and align necessary technologies with instructional goals to support teaching and learning.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Sticks a Giant Fork in Steve Bannon @alternet

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Sticks a Giant Fork in Steve Bannon @alternet: The silverware is out for Trump's former adviser after Roy Moore's stunning defeat. The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial page has knives out for former top Trump political strategist Steve Bannon.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Elmo isn't Gramsci for kids and the mythical soft bigotry of low expectations

This short essay was originally published on The Daily Censored on August 11, 2011. It would seem that all of the old works on that site are gone. That's unfortunate because I published a lot of work there. I had a teaser here linking to it, a practice I stopped doing precisely because I've learned from harsh experience that websites die and all the content is lost (like my At The Chalkface works). I was able to track down a reprint on Susan Ohanian's site, but her site is having issues as well. Ultimately, I was able to retrieve a copy of the reprint from the Wayback Machine.

I want to reproduce this last sentence from Ohanian's introduction, since she had such insight into why the essay was important:

“The hardline right wing may well love the vacuous phrase “soft bigotry of low expectations,” but let’s remember that education deform democrats love it just as much. It is mostly used to put progressive activists on the defensive.” — Susan Ohanian

Elmo isn't Gramsci for kids and the mythical soft bigotry of low expectations

“We address the soft bigotry of low expectations so that we may ignore the hard racism of inequity.” — John Kuhn

Although this footage isn't new and commentators have already discussed it, it deserves reexamination since it illuminates one of the core false tenets of the corporate education reform canon.

Amidst the bizarre assertion that Sesame Street is indoctrinating children in some sort of insidious left wing plot, reactionary Ben Shapiro says that:

"I talked to one of the guys who's at Children's Television Workshop originally and he said the whole purpose of Sesame Street was cater to black and hispanic youths who, quote unquote, did not have reading literature in the house, there kind of this soft bigotry of low expectations that's automatically associated with Sesame Street."

Ahhh — the chimerical "soft bigotry of low expectations." As opposed to the hard bigotry of the pervasive institutional racism underpinning our economic system, which facilitates the division of workers and submerses a majority in abject poverty in order to make a small minority obscenely rich. The very same minority, by the way, that supports privatizing public education via charters and vouchers.

The dubious phrase is beloved by the hardline right. The Birchers at the Heartland Institute [1] use the phrase with reckless abandon. Cato, Manhattan, Hoover, and all the other reactionary right wing think tanks repeat the phrase "soft bigotry of low expectations" as if it's the mantra necessary to permanently bring back the gilded age they all pine for.

Of course the nonsensical phrase isn't limited to fringe right-wing kooks that also think John Galt and Howard Rourke are historical figures. Many supposed-liberals, or at the very least Democratic Leadership Council party operatives, use the phrase as often, if not more often than their teabagging counterparts.

The vile billionaire hedge fund shyster Whitney Tilson uses the phrase incessantly. Remember too that the ever obtuse Tilson helped form two of the most virulent corporate reform and privatization pushing organizations in existence: Teach for America (TFA) and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). The latter, DFER, uses the phrase in its privatization propaganda. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has used the phrase. TFA's Wendy Kopp has had a lucrative career peddling the phrase. The snarling queen of Erasuregate, Michelle Rhee, cherishes such phrases. Los Angeles' poverty pimping opportunist Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proudly plasters the phrase on twitter.

The unprincipled construction "soft bigotry of low expectations" is typically credited to the Council on Foreign Relations's arch-reactionary Michael Gerson, who was the speechwriter for fraudulent Rod Paige's Texas Education Miracle co-fraud, George W. Bush.

Like all the philosophically threadbare propaganda from the right, the expression is vapid and vacuous, without any real meaning whatsoever, putting it right along with "no excuses," and "working hard and being nice." Professor Noam Chomsky best addresses these types of phrases:

"It doesn't mean anything... That's the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody's going to be against, and everybody's going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn't mean anything. Its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something: Do you support our policy?" [2]

The policy in question is to ignore poverty and demand a false accountability from all of poverty's victims. While there are countless works discussing this, a recent pair of essays by my Schools Matter colleague Professor P. L. Thomas, EdD, really get to the heart of this issue: Poverty and Testing in Education: "The Present Scientifico-legal Complex" part 1 and part 2.

Humane Expectations Devoid of any Bigotry

In my many years I've never come across an educator that had anything but "realistic expectations tempered with compassion and empathy" for their students, regardless of where they taught. Moreover, for right wing reactionaries to accuse hard working women and men that have dedicated their lives to educating inner city students of bigotry of any sort smacks of hypocrisy of the highest order. It's laughable on its face.

Of course compassion and empathy are foreign words to the rogues gallery discuss above, none of whom have ever taught in their lives. Well, with the exceptions of Wendy Kopp and Michelle Malkin — I mean, Michele Bachmann, er, — I mean Michelle Rhee (sorry it's so easy to confuse those three). Rhee is so devoid of empathy and compassion that one of the most enduring stories from her short stint as a TFA missionary is when she taped her students mouths shut with masking tape and then walked them to the lunchroom, bleeding lips and all. Kopp is seemingly less of a sociopath than Rhee, but it's clear her passion for fame and fortune outweigh any compassion she might have once had.

Access To Books

The other thing reactionary Shapiro gets entirely wrong before employing the hackneyed "soft bigotry of low expectations" nonsense, was to dismiss the Children's Television Workshop's catering to children that "did not have reading literature in the house." Access to books in the home is a major indicator of academic achievement and impoverished families have very limited access to books. This is a fact, and not something to be dismissed by a sniveling right winger threatening to "take them [Elmo and Big Bird] out back and cap them."

Another one of my Schools Matter colleagues, the distinguished Professor Stephen Krashen, PhD, has researched and written extensively on the subject of access to books. Here are a small sampling of his available short articles linking to longer works on the subject.

Given the staunch anti-intellectualism, lack of knowledge about all thing pedagogical, and academic aversion that whiny right wingers like Shapiro are known for, it's no wonder that he didn't get the whole importance of providing additional educational resources for children that "did not have reading literature in the house" like the prescient folks at Children's Television Workshop always have.

"True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity." [3]

Now that we're discussing these things, let's talk about the stark racism and classism stemming from the corporate education reform movement, which is orchestrated by the same plutocrats that aired Shapiro's television program. After all, those are the sort of things that vacuous phrases like "soft bigotry of low expectations" are supposed to distract us from.


[1] Heartland Institute is none other than Parent Revolution's sister organization. Word is that in addition to co-hosting school privatization forums that Ben Austin and Ben Boychuck formulate policy together.

[2] Chomsky, Noam. Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, Second Edition. New York: Seven Stories Press., 1991. pp. 25-26.

[3] Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary Edition. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc., 2009. p. 45.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Jay Mathews' Sisyphean Defense of KIPP

Even as the drumbeat grows louder each day against the dehumanizing "no excuses" charter reform schools, the Washington Post's Jay Mathews holds out in his cushioned cell of corporate reportage that is designed to intercept and deaden any protest against Jay's favorite billion dollar corporate welfare charity, the KIPP Foundation. 

For Jay's skinny-ties-and-white-socks generation of old privileged white guys, the allure of the KIPP Model has always been KIPP's false promise to dissolve the education problem of the disadvantaged without the need to implement expensive, unpopular (among whites) social and economic interventions that acknowledge poverty as a systemic cause for education deficits.  Following a long tradition of racist social policy, the KIPP Model treats the multitudinous manifestations of poverty as resulting from cultural and character deficiencies among the poor, which must be stringently treated with abrasive behavioral solvents that break down the nasty residues left by poverty.  In other words, cleanse the children's character/culture, rather than doing something about ending child poverty.

The KIPP Model's miseducative and racist whitewash is implemented by white-girl schoolteachers who are marginally prepared and tyrannically managed by white male overseers.  Whether employed by Success Academy or KIPP or Uncommon Schools one of the other KIPP knock-offs, the KIPP Model claims to wash away the cultural grime of the poor, thus leaving behind middle class versions of black and brown children whose character has been fortified by pipe dreams of Ivy League colleges that, unbeknownst to them, remain the inherited intellectual preserves of the elite.

When a new book appears that is critical of the KIPP Model's callous disregard for democratic values, humane treatment of children, and responsible public accountability for the billions of public dollars sent each year to the KIPP Model corporate hell schools, Jay is quick to spin, defend, and, otherwise, try to upend any such criticism, whether empirically based or logically argued.  He tried as much when my book came out last year (my responses here and here), and this week he has once again sprung to KIPP's defense following the publication this fall of another book that criticizes KIPP's dehumanizing and racist practices.

Try as he may, however, Jay has no way to refute the glaring fact that the KIPP Model embraces apartheid schooling for black and brown disadvantaged children.  In responding to the observation that KIPP is "segregated by design," Mathews whines this week that KIPPs are "mostly located in low income neighborhoods where children need better instruction." 

Indeed.  Schools using the KIPP Model are intent upon making the case that segregation and poverty don't matter, and that test scores can be wrung out of the poorest and most isolated communities, thus proving that working harder and being nicer are all that is required to upend generations of institutional racism.  KIPP, in fact, goes looking for these poorest communities when deciding upon new KIPP locations.  For in poor communities of color, KIPP encounters the least resistance to inhumane practices that middle class parents would never allow, and in the poorest communities KIPP managers encounter minimal amounts of oversight and accountability.  There they have free rein to impose their draconian and corrupt experiments.

It is in these poor communities that KIPP is free to exercise its extreme paternalism and zero tolerance programs that require total compliance among children and parents, where the goals of intellectual and ethical development are displaced by a rigid and isolating corporate character training that places blame for society's most egregious moral failures of the past or future at the feet of the most vulnerable children who are expected to blame themselves should they fail to live up to KIPP's expectations.

At some point, we may assume that Jay will stop pretending that his feigned stupidity will protect him from the culpability that he shares in KIPPs' crimes against children.  Or maybe not.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

This fundamentalist Christian group is being allowed into public schools to convert other people’s children

This fundamentalist Christian group is being allowed into public schools to convert other people’s children

Education News That the Ravitch Camp Ignores

With an army of AFT and NEA social media trolls and Basecamp bloggers at her disposal, Diane Ravitch never has to go searching for education stories to re-post at her blog, along with Ravitch's characteristically wooden introductions to them.  

The Ravitch machine maintains a daily steady stream of articles critical of charters schools, standardized testing, and corporate education reforms.  If you could discern Ravitch's actual policy positions from the articles she posts, you would think that she is resistant to corporate education reform, rather than functioning as corporate education's chief enabler and corporate union propagandist.

Diane's true colors, however, are easier to discern by the education news that she would rather we not see in the big stories that she does not report.

On December 2, Alternet published an important article by New York parent, Jake Jacobs, that lays bare Hillary Clinton's complicity in advancing the corporate education agenda during the 2016 presidential campaign.  

Ravitch's own support for Clinton is well-documented, and the Alternet article is the kind of news that Diane would rather keep in the dark, for it reminds us once more of the complicity by NPE, AFT, NEA, FairTest, and the other corporate union satellites whose tight orbits around big corporate donors are well-defined and entirely predictable.  Here is a clip:

. . . .Tying campaign donations to a singular issue like expanding charter schools might in days past been seen as a prohibited quid-pro-quo. But in this cycle, Podesta, O’Leary and Tanden all busily raised campaign money from the same billionaire education reformers with whom they were also talking policy specifics.
But they did more than talk. On June 20, 2015, O'Leary sent Podesta an email revealing the campaign adopted two of Powell Jobs' suggestions, including "infusing best ideas from charter schools into our traditional public schools.” When Clinton announced this policy in a speech to teachers, however, it was the one line that drew boos.

“Donors want to hear where she stands” John Petry, a founder of both Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Success Academy, New York’s largest network of charter schools, told the New York Times.  Petry was explicit, declaring that he and his billionaire associates would instead put money into congressional, state and local races, behind candidates who favored a “more businesslike approach” to education, and tying teacher tenure to standardized test scores.
Clinton’s advisors warned her that wealthy donors like Petry, Whitney Tilson, or Eli Broad could walk if she didn’t support charter schools. Broad would indeed threaten to withhold funding from Clinton when she criticized charter schools for excluding difficult students. John Podesta and Ann O’Leary would publicly correct Clinton, reaffirming her commitment to charters.
The revolving door was also in full swing, with top Clinton and Obama administration officials working for “non-profits” run by Powell Jobs and Tom Steyer. In the end, the influence of the various well-connected “experts” advising Clinton could be felt in an official education platform that endorsed a test-centric approach that was becoming unpopular with parents, students and educators. . . .

Thursday, November 30, 2017

KIPP Marketing: Apartheid Schools Help Empowerment

A KIPP charter school in Nashville is on the forefront of a new corporate marketing strategy to promote segregation as a "positive" for civil rights, and the local NPR station is helping out.  And how is this KIPP school doing that?  Actually, it's nothing new, for it involves heavy doses of propaganda that lead children to believe at an early age that they, alone, are responsible for their own life conditions and outcomes:
Many schools aspire for racial diversity. But that’s not quite the aim of the newest charter school in North Nashville. KIPP Nashville College Prep Elementary says it is embracing what is a reality . . . that students are primarily African-American, and instead of swimming against the current, it’s trying to turn cultural isolation into a positive.
As this KIPP is using the same dehumanizing "no excuses" regimen that have earned KIPP the moniker, Kids in Prison Program, along with the festooning of Ivy League college banners, the NPR reporter seems to think there is something different going on, even though he's uncertain just what it is:
The differences are subtle. But they're everywhere.

It's the college banners that hang in every classroom — they're all promoting historically black institutions. The murals on the walls show smiling black children, reading books while sitting on thrones. Kindergartners learn the new school song, set to a hip-hop track.

"All of the power is in my hands. I now can conquer the world," they sing.
It is horrible to see this kind anticipatory set up for self blaming in KIPP middle schools, but to see this kind of positive psychology brainwashing used with disadvantaged kindergarten children is truly criminal.  One has to wonder if these children get to sit on their "thrones" when they are isolated and humiliated "on the porch" for breaking rules, with their "MISCREANT" signs around their necks.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Growing Influence of Jounce Partners

by Lisa Haver and Lynda Rubin
Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools
November 24, 2017
It would be safe to say that no public school teacher in Philadelphia has seen or heard any colleague forcing a student to face the wall and repeat the same phrase 25 or 30 times. Any principal who witnessed such an occurrence would be within his or her rights to formally reprimand that teacher.
Wall Practice: 
1. After giving feedback and monitoring to the point of automaticity, have teacher(s) turn toward a wall in the room to practice the skill 10-20 more times (primarily used for multi-teacher PD sessions).
2. Frame as optimal practice because greatest number of reps can be achieved this way. 
3. Emphasize the importance of every rep being executed perfectly and with exaggeration of nuances.
Incredibly, that is precisely what teachers in some district schools are being forced to do. It is but one of the tactics developed by Jounce Partners as part of its intensive coaching and professional development plan, already in use at McDaniel Elementary, one of the eleven schools designated last year as "Priority Schools". The district has approved Jounce as a partner for principal and teacher training in schools that have been included in its "System of Great Schools".
The district hired Cambridge Education to conduct surveys of the parents, teachers, students and community members at last year's "Priority schools". APPS members heard these stakeholders ask for more staff, return of NTAs and librarians, more counselors, smaller class size, less standardized testing and more after-school activities. We did not hear any member of any the eleven school communities ask for the removal of teachers and principals or more training for teachers. Nevertheless, the SRC approved a resolution to enter into a $70,000 contract with Jounce Partners for "Implementation of High-frequency teacher Coaching for School Transformation" at McDaniel Elementary. That resolution, one of 142 approved by the SRC at its June 2017 Action Meeting, stated:
Through this partnership, Jounce will intensively train the school leader and coaching team to implement the high frequency coaching model described above. Jounce personnel will function as on- site instructional coaches, coaching teachers daily to kickstart implementation of the high-frequency coaching model. Jounce will also co-plan and co-facilitate a summer coaching institute, will participate in regular classroom visits, will co-facilitate monthly coaching step back meetings, and will work with school leaders and teachers to establish and codify weekly co-teaching and coaching practices. The partnership will provide an on-site Jounce coach for 5 half days each week, who will directly coach teachers in addition to working with the leadership team.
There was no deliberation or discussion among SRC members before the vote, no explanation of the program by Dr. Hite in his remarks, and no staff presentation on the subject. The McDaniel faculty was told just months before the resolution passed that they had to reapply for their jobs; future employment at the school was contingent on their agreement to participate in the Jounce training. A ten-day summer "training institute"" was mandatory.
The district has contracted with Jounce to work at other district schools including Vare-Washington in previous years. In Spring 2017, the SRC approved a new charter application for Deep Roots Charter, to be operated by Jounce staffers.
One teacher subjected to the training program in a Philadelphia charter school for three years 1has described it as "dehumanizing". The Jounce program breaks down both teaching and learning into isolated skills:

High-repetition practice: In a coaching session, a teacher may repeat the same specific skill twenty times, thirty times, or even more, allowing her to build automaticity, which leads to a) excellent execution every time, and b) freed up cognitive energy for teaching tasks.

Baldwin Teaches 'Trump School' To Iowa Democrats

Monday, November 27, 2017

Weingarten: AFT "very much aligned" with TURN

In 1997 the Clinton Administration was well on the way to realizing its goal of 3,000 charter schools by the year 2000, and the future looked bright for corporate education reformers of the charter industry.  Both Republican and Democratic corporate ed reformers were jumping on the charter bandwagon.  Even so, a significant stumbling block remained: teachers' unions.

Albert Shanker, who served as AFT president until his death in February 1997, had once been a champion of charter schools as centers of innovation, but by the early 1990s, Shanker came to understand that charter schools were quickly morphing into tools to corporatize and privatize public education.  Although Shanker had hoped that charters would provide diverse progressive experiments that could help to integrate public schools, Shanker recoiled at the segregated, exploitative charters that embodied the preferred paternalistic model of corporate philanthropists like Bill Gates and Eli Broad.

Shanker's death offered an opportunity that Eli Broad would not miss to shape the future of AFT in Broad's image.  

Broad was quick to provide several million reasons for AFT's new president, Sandra Feldman, to restore AFT's positive vision of charter schools and to embrace the agenda of corporate ed reformers.  The implantation of the corporate cancer, The Union Reform Network (TURN), was the result of Broad's efforts, which then and now was led by AFT corporate mouthpiece, Adam Urbanski.

Like a disease eating away the union body that Shanker had built up during the previous two decades, TURN sought to make AFT and NEA into assets for advancing the corporate reform agenda.  AFT President, Sandra Feldman did not disappoint the corporate reformers, as she embraced charter schools, as well as a steroidal levels of testing accountability that came with NCLB in 2001.  She helped design NCLB, which was used to soften public resistance to the spread of more charters to replace the "failing" public schools.

Feldman was also an advocate for NCLB's utterly corrupt Reading First, which spent billions of federal dollars to promote programs that proved to be total failures in terms of improving children's reading skills and interests.

Feldman's successor, Charles McElroy, continued Feldman's policies during a transitional period from 2004 to 2008, and he helped to prepare the ground for the coming of Randi Weingarten, corporate reformers' choice to lead AFT for another generation of lucrative charterizing. The year before Weingarten was installed as AFT president, McElroy bizarrely testified that charters had helped AFT "accomplish the things we have been fighting for."

Since 1997, TURN has metastisized in 34 AFT and NEA affiliates, and the national TURN office lists Michael Mulgrew and Adam Urbanski among its leaders. 

Before becoming Randi Weingarten's choice for AFT's Executive VP, Mary Ann Ricker served as president of St. Paul's AFT affiliate, which has been a hotbed of TURN activity since 2005, when Ricker became President of the local.  For instance,  Ricker was instrumental in establishing the Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools, a charter school authorizer created by the ST. Paul AFT local and funded in part by the national union, AFT.  The Minnesota Guild has been responsible providing financial support for some of the lowest-rated charter schools in St. Paul.  Read this piece to get the big picture on AFT complicity in Minnesota's charter industry.

So now it comes as no surprise that Randi Weingarten has come out with a full-throated endorsement of the TURN agenda, which would make the AFT and NEA more effective weapons of corporate education reform's war on public education:
Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, told In These Times she can recall when her former union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) in New York City, became a founding TURN member. At the time, she says, UFT was seen as a “risk-taking” local for joining this reform-minded coalition. Today, however, Weingarten says TURN is seen not as unusual—but as the standard operating procedure for teachers’ unions. She added that AFT’s values are “very much aligned” with TURN’s. Weingarten, and the union is proud to join with TURN to turn their ideas into reality. 
The NEA did not return multiple requests for comment.
Weingarten's announcement follows Diane Ravitch's recent endorsement of the TURN agenda. With such high-powered endorsements of the corporate ed agenda, we may expect to see, perhaps, the eventual awakening of the parents and teachers who have been lulled into supporting the enemies of the values that public education advocates hold dear.

Gambling With Our Futures: Big Data, Global Finance and Digital Life: Article and Resources

November 26, 2017

Through predatory public-private partnerships, global financiers are in the process of digitizing not only our education system, but many other aspects of public service delivery. This 10-minute video provides an overview of “Pay For Success” and social impact bonds, detailing how their operations hinge on intrusive and oppressive collection of data from our classrooms, homes, jails, and clinics.
By defining “success” in narrow terms suited to outcomes-based contracting, powerful investors will control how public services are delivered. Securitization of debt associated with program operations will turn our lives, including those of our children, into fodder for financial speculation. YouTube categorized this video as a comedy; perhaps based on the whimsical nature of the collages. After watching it, however, I’m confident you’ll see it’s truly a horror show. A slide share version of the video can be viewed here and a PDF of the script is available here.
I wish to express my deep appreciation to all who offered support and input on the creation of this piece, especially Dr. Tim Scott whose groundbreaking research is foundational to understanding this topic (read more herehere and here) and Mary Porter for her valuable editorial insights. The artwork was prepared with scissors and construction paper at my kitchen table with the goal of making this critical information accessible to a wider audience. My hope is that it will pique your interest and spur you to explore the linked resources that follow.

Monday, November 20, 2017

KIPP Franchise Fees Worth $6,000,000 Annually to Execs

Few people know that the KIPP Foundation's home office in San Francisco collects an ongoing franchise fee of $30,000 per year from each of its 200+ schools. 

I know that $6,000,000 doesn't sound like a lot of money when we consider that KIPP schools collect over 600,000,000 public dollars each year to support KIPP's segregated and dehumanizing enterprises, but $6 million is almost enough to make payroll for the execs at the KIPP Foundation home office (and don't feel sorry for Mike Feinberg--he gets paid hundreds thousands more from KIPP Houston each year).  

Of course, $6 million would also pay salaries for librarians for all KIPP's 90,000 students, none of whom now have real libraries.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Indiana’s Sneaky SAT Agenda and the College Board

By Doug Martin 

In yet another sneak attack on Indiana public education and communities, the State Board of Education’s Graduation Pathways Panel, in a move to eliminate the abusive and redundant end-of-course assessments, “has recommended that students take the SAT, ACT or a similar college entrance exam instead” in order to finish high school, a move which would sit well with Hoosier Republican lawmaker and past Indiana State Board of Education member, Todd Huston, who is now Senior Vice President of State and District Partnerships at the College Board— the owner of SAT.   

The Graduation Pathways Panel is chaired by Byron Ernest, the state board of education member who recently resigned as leader of K12, Inc’s “beleaguered Hoosier Academies charter school network amid state sanctions due to years of failing academics.”

Concerning the SAT recommendation, the South Bend Tribune notes: “The change was introduced to the draft proposal less than a day before the panel voted to send it to the state Board of Education. While other parts of the plan have been available for public comment for weeks, few schools, teachers or families have been able to give input about the exam requirement change.” The State Board will vote next month on new graduation requirements, and state lawmakers “would then codify the plan in the 2018 session.” The new recommendations, if approved, will start with the class of 2023. 

Since the U.S. Department of Education has declared that “Indiana will no longer be able to include students who earn the general diploma in calculating school graduation rates,” 30 percent of those being special needs students, the State Board, actually, is adding another assault by proposing an exam which will weaken schools’ graduation passing rates and prime them for possible takeover by charter school operators. 

And then there’s Todd Huston and the College Board.  Huston, who has received $36,000 from the DeVos-Walton funded Hoosiers for Economic Growth PAC and $2,500 from Charter Schools USA, along with $1,000 from Michelle Rhee’s Students First PAC, was one of Al Hubbard’s “GOP Powerbrokers” who met privately years ago to hash out the Indiana school privatization plan before any laws were introduced.

Not only is Huston paid handsomely by the College Board—for which he is listed as a lobbyist in New York—raking in $325,433 in the period from July 1, 2013 to June 31, 2014, with $47,000 listed as additional compensation from the organization and other related organizations, he promotes Silicon Valley’s online future-of-schools agenda by convincing schools to use “the SAT Suite of Assessments to give students a chance to show their best work and get better results with tools like Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy®,”  a tool which now has the blessing of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, whose Zuckerberg Initiative, in partnership with the College Board, seeks to give “students in lower-income communities and rural areas greater access to college pathway advisors and SAT prep mediums like Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy. 

Huston and the College Board both accept edtech’s dream of a future education system where there are no school buildings, Huston telling the media a few years ago that “educators must remake the high school day to catch up with evolving technologies and methods.”  In 2016, unsurprisingly, K12 Management, the online corporation from Herndon, Virginia, handed Huston’s campaign $500.

Huston is also the past Indiana Charter School Board member who, after leaving his job as Tony Bennett’s chief of staff, went back to his old job with Cisco Systems.  Bennett, in turn, then used $1.7 million of state money to purchase video-conferencing equipment from Cisco which wasn't used.  Some of the equipment was never even delivered.
David Coleman, the leader of the College Board and the master behind the Bill Gates-funded Common Core, gave Huston $10,000 for his 2012 Indiana House campaign and Tony Bennett received $2,500 from Coleman the same year.  Coleman, in 2015,  made $742,278 for his role as the College Board CEO and a little over $155, 000 in other compensation from the organization and related organizations.        

Huston went to work for the College Board in October 2012 , and Lewis Ferebee, the Indianapolis Public Schools supt., has been a member of the College Board’s board of trustees since November 2015. 

In 2017, the College Board’s board of trustees was highly criticized by nonprofit governance experts for not doing anything to rein in “the College Board, which had about $77 million in annual profit and $916 million in revenue in 2015” and a whole slew of problems in 2016.  As Reuters notes in 2016, there were “cheating rings in Asia that exploit security weaknesses in the SAT and enable some students to gain unfair advantages on the exam.”  In 2016, a  “massive security breach” exposed around 400 questions “for upcoming SATs,” and College Board members knew that a redesigned test “was overloaded with wordy math questions, a problem that handicaps non-native English speakers and reinforces race and income disparities that Coleman has vowed to diminish.” Lloyd Thacker, from the Education Conservancy, asked “What is the mechanism that holds them accountable? I’m scratching my head.  There doesn’t seem to be a countervailing voice here at all.”  Reuters found that many trustees were sent an email in 2015 telling them not to do interviews with the news outlet concerning the SAT.  

In July 2017, San Diego's school board took legal action against the College Board “after the Advanced Placement tests of more than 500 of the city's high school students were declared invalid because their seats were too close together.”  The College Board didn’t notify Scripps Ranch High, where the test was given, about its new seating arrangement protocol, according to the school, “until two days before the testing.”

The College Board has a history of questionable practices.  In 2008, it settled with New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo’s office after an investigation found that the College Board was running a kickback scheme where “the College Board, which developed and marketed numerous products and services related to student financial assistance, gave significant discounts on those products and services to certain colleges which agreed to place the College Board's loans on their 'preferred lender' list. This effectively directed students towards loans that might not be the best or least expensive option for them."  The College Board “is no longer a lender,” for other unrelated reasons, “although it continues to provide financial aid advisement services to students,” ABC News wrote at the time.

The College Board, too, came under fire for not giving better oversight when a cheating scandal in New York in 2011 led lawmakers to ask questions, and in June 2015, a printing error which gave some SAT takers extra time to finish sections of the test involved 487,000 students. 
The College Board (and the makers of ACT) sell your children’s data freely.  As the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy’s Rachael Stickland and Leonie Haimson write, students, while taking the SAT, may be asked to hand over personal information (which may include social security number, “grade point average, religious affiliation, ethnicity, family income, interests, citizenship, disabilities  and more”) on an opt-in questionnaire and click a box which says they agree to be a part of the College Board’s Student Search Service. The College Board and ACT then sell some of the information to colleges and universities, which can use the data against students applying for admission.  

According to recent information on the College Board website, the social security numbers, disability information, grades, scores, and parental income are off limits, but POLITICO in 2014 wrote that these marketed "profiles can include information about the students’ grades and academic coursework — and also religion, ethnicity, citizenship status and expected need for financial aid in college. The ACT also lets customers filter student profiles by family income, parents’ education levels and student disabilities."  

POLITICO, in 2014, also noted that "the College Board did recently update its privacy policy, after Vice President John McGrath told POLITICO it might not have been clear to students exactly how much information is shared with third parties."

POLITICO also stated that a woman from Illinois sued both the College Board and ACT for selling her personal information, but the case was dropped when it was discovered that the woman "had never even taken a College Board exam".  

In 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago rejected another lawsuit against the College Board and ACT (which a federal judge had thrown out earlier) which sought damages for the selling of personal information which may have included "name, address, sex, birthdate, school, grade level, ethnic group, email address, and intended college major."  EdWeek summed up the verdict by writing that “The court said the plaintiffs could not show that the test organizations' profiting from their information deprived them of any economic value of that information.”
Although the College Board would not disclose how much it makes from such information, Stickland and Haimson, using POLITICO figures, estimate that “ACT’s profits generated from selling student profiles were approximately $15 million in 2012.”  The College Board, according to information on its website, now sells student personal information at 43 cents per name.

A lot of Indiana taxpayer money will be wasted on SAT fees, if this issue goes through.  According to Eric Weddle, the “state education department has estimated a $5 million cost for every high school student to take the SAT or ACT.”  Although the actual cost of the changes being proposed is unknown, “the panel avoided answering concerns from local districts about the fiscal impact.” Bob Behning “suggested state agencies would put together budget requests for the General Assembly if additional funds are required.” 

As Furman University education professor and researcher Paul Thomas writes concerning the SAT in South Carolina schools in his “New SAT, but same old problems” piece published on October 22 2017, “SAT average scores should never be used to rank schools, districts, or states in terms of academic quality; this caution, in fact, comes from the College Board itself.”  Regardless of what promoters say of the new and supposedly approved SAT, the research still shows that “High-stakes test scores are mostly markers for race, social class, and gender; and are in only small ways reflections of achievement. Most standardized test data are 60 percent or more correlated with factors outside the schools, teachers, and students,” Thomas writes.  Better yet, as Thomas sums up, “we need the political will to address crippling social issues related to food insecurity, stable work and housing, and healthcare, but we also need the political will to stop changing standards and tests every few years and, instead, confront directly the inequities of our schools (such as tracking and teacher assignments) that mirror the inequities of our communities.”