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

Monday, March 27, 2017

We change the world by showing up. I went to Seattle and got a video on Ed Reform 2.0/Learning Ecosystems to share.

by Alison McDowell
Posted on Wrench in the Gears
March 27, 2017

This weekend I relished the opportunity to meet up with some wonderful activists with whom I have been collaborating online for many months. Virtual worlds provide useful starting points for building networks and sharing information, but nothing beats being able to be in the same physical space, shake hands, share a hug, and discuss the future of education looking directly into each other’s eyes.

There are days when I wonder how I ended up where I am, where this is all headed, and who am I to be pushing the conversation forward? But I continue to believe that our voices matter, our questions matter, and public discussion matters. The future our children and grandchildren inherit hinges on our willingness RIGHT NOW to challenge educational surveillance and profiling being enabled by so-called “personalized” online adaptive learning systems and a “playlist” approach to education that is aligned to workforce skills and social-emotional competencies. I am heartened to hear of the legal challenge in Tennessee regarding a student’s right to have a human teacher rather than a computer. I was grateful to have a full room of everyday people, people like you, show up to the Lake City Library on a Saturday morning to hear what I had to say, and I hope you will help carry the message into your community.

While in Seattle we spent an afternoon visiting ed-reform landmarks, including the visitor center of the Gates Foundation. There wasn’t a gift shop, but I did get the best possible souvenir of my trip, a professionally done video prepared by Mike McCormick. Thank you Mike! I hope you will consider watching it, sharing it and starting these important conversations where you live. You might find this post on digital curriculum a useful starting point.

Link to the slides used in the presentation.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

KIPP Sues to Protect Sweatshop Teaching Conditions

KIPP, Inc. has filed a federal lawsuit to block further implementation of a union contract at a South Bronx KIPP school that KIPP has summarily ignored. 

Here's the list of contract violations cited in a November 2016 letter to KIPP.  Based on my own research, I am not at all surprised to see this list of common violations, as they exemplify the KIPP "culture" of exploitative, abusive, illegal, and inhumane employment practices:

Monday, March 20, 2017

"Don't take any pictures and don't tweet this out. . ."

NEA VP, Becky Pringle, helped wrap things up and put a sweet bow on them at the 2015 International Association of K-12 Online Learning conference that outlined Silicon Valley's dystopian future for school kids. 

In an era when young adults are tethered to their IPhones and exhibit all the symptoms of what might be called a debilitating technological autism, Gates and his young protege, Zuckerberg, see a profitable vista opening up before them, as children become more and more dependent on technological tools that replace teaching and learning among humans.

We now know that NEA and AFT are signed on this nightmare plan, too, that views knowledge as a commodity that requires only Google to unlock.  What about teachers?  They will be necessary insofar as children must be goaded to be enthused by their own subjugation to an education future ruled by algorithms.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

NEA and AFT among Leaders of Blended/Personalized Learning

If you have been wondering why NPE, FairTest, BATs, Diane Ravitch's Basecamp, etc. have had almost nothing negative to say about the brave new world of competency-based, personalized blended learning, then you might want to sit down for a moment and follow the links below.  

It seems the corporate unions that all the anti-reformy groups serve became signatories in 2015 to a wide-ranging blueprint for the future of schools.  It is a future based on heavy doses of computer technology for instruction, curriculum, and assessment, with less teaching by real teachers in fewer school buildings, with great wads of money going to Silicon Valley billionaires. 

In a 2016 blog post from Gisele Huff, Executive Director of the Jacquelin Hume Foundation, we find this paragraph:
Personalized learning is an idea whose time has come. The Foundation was an early supporter of Education Reimagined and I participated as one of 28 strange bedfellows in the production of its vision document (http://ow.ly/ZmPpn). That document has become the North Star for the transformation of a 100-year old educational system which no longer serves America’s children. Among the other signatories of document are the two leaders of the NEA and AFT, evidence that there is a consensus for an entirely different approach to the learning experience.
Here's the Advisory Board for Education Reimagined.  And here are the principal corporate donors:
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,  Chan Zuckerberg Initiative,  Jaquelin Hume Foundation,  Nellie Mae Education Foundation,  Oak Foundation.
Breathe deeply.  Now if you are a K-12 educator still sending money to any of the organizations named in the first paragraph of this post, you are contributing to your own burial fund each time you do it.

Anti-Child Advocate, Neil Gorsuch (Mr. de minimis)

If America's special needs schoolchildren are damaged beyond measure in the near future by the judiciary, you can thank the preppy fascist now in line to become the next Supreme Court justice:
At the Supreme Court podium in January, lawyer Neal Katyal was hit with a series of questions that he wasn’t really ready for.

The justices wanted to know who came up with the legal standard “merely more than de minimis” ― a phrase that could undercut the law for students with disabilities across the country. If upheld, the standard would reduce the educational benefits those children are promised under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

“What’s the origin of this phrase, ‘More than de minimis’? Who thought this up?” asked Justice Samuel Alito. The law generally defines “de minimis” as being so small as to be legally insignificant.

“Who invented it?” asked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, noting that it isn’t found in the Supreme Court’s leading precedent on states’ responsibilities under the IDEA.

While Ginsburg was setting up her question, Justice Elena Kagan jumped in to emphasize the word “merely” — as if to underscore that the standard Katyal was defending is indeed a stingy one.

The accomplished appellate attorney, who is representing a Colorado school district in the dispute, didn’t have a good answer, saying only that the standard was developed over time by the lower courts. But he would have nailed the response if he’d simply said, “Neil Gorsuch.”

Judge Gorsuch, who is now President Donald Trump’s eminently qualified Supreme Court nominee, broke new ground when he used “merely more than de minimis” in a 2008 ruling. That decision has become the touchstone for Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, the case the justices heard in January and will likely decide by the end of June.

Gorsuch picked the phrase “out of the blue,” said Jack Robinson, the Colorado lawyer representing the child at the center of the current case. . . .

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Trump's Cultural Beheadings

To build support for the kinds of multicultural beheadings and institutional cleansing that the Trumpeteers are pressing for, it will be necessary to create a world devoid of empathy and emotional intelligence.

It is quite natural, then, for Trump's team of death worshipers to zero out educational networking and funding for arts and humanities.  Their agenda requires no humanity, nor does it admit any feeling for others.  I can only sustain the support it needs when people no longer care about the living.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Riding the 'turnaround' merry-go-round in the continuing assault on Philadelphia public schools: Part VI - Who is Afton Partners?

 by Ken Derstine
@ Defend Public Education
March 14, 2016

The previous article in this series was posted June 2, 2016. This series has detailed the assault on Philadelphia public schools by corporate education reform business and financial interests. At the last posting, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission had not acted on the non-renewal recommendation of its charter office for Aspira, Universal, and Mastery charters. 

Pennsylvania law mandates that a charter term is five years and must undergo a renewal process after that.  There is a stipulation in the law that the renewal process can be extended for one year, if there are mitigating circumstances.  That one-year extension can only be used one time. They have been postponing the renewals month after month since April 2016. Aspira’s was postponed without the SRC even taking a vote in 2015.

Now, as can be seen in Part VI in this series, the privatization merry-go-round is spinning ever faster in the assault on Philadelphia public schools.


In a recently released report by Afton Partners, the cost of students leaving Philadelphia public schools to transfer to charters was examined. The study had been commissioned in February, 2015 by the School Reform Commission, which functions as a school board and makes all final decisions for Philadelphia schools.

In “is the glass half full or half empty” coverage, the Philadelphia Inquirer published Report: Philly schools still face costs when students go to charters vs. the Philadelphia Public School Notebook’s Students leaving Philly schools for charters less costly than once thought.

According to The Notebook article, the resolution calling for the contract with Afton said the analysis would take place between February 20, 2015 and May 1, 2015. SRC officials claim the report “got lost in the shuffle as old administrators left and new administrators replaced them.” The District’s Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson, appointed February, 2016, said he first got word of the report last summer and has been working with Afton “to make sure the report addressed all questions.”

Why is the report being released now? Could it have something to do with a bill in the Pennsylvania House introduced by Speaker Mike Turzai on March 6th which would require the Philadelphia School District to add 3,000 charter seats per year? This bill would undercut the charter oversight authority of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC). The establishment of the SRC in 2001, as part of the state takeover of the School District, abolished local control of public schools, along with any hope of any type of democratic process.  A 2014 bill passed by the legislature imposed a $2/pack cigarette tax for school funding; it included a last-minute provision that the SRC consider applications for new charters each fall.  Rejected applicants would be able to appeal to the state Charter Appeal Board.

Now, invoking the states rights' provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Turzai wants to completely take even this oversight from any local influence. He has been agressively intervening in the SRC's charter approval process lobbying for approval of charters that the SRC has rejected. The SRC's Uri Monson said the bill is unessessary because in the SRC's five year financial plan presented last year there is an already projected annual growth of charter enrollement of between 2,700 and 3,000 seats.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

NPE Action Helps Halt Dead Bill

The NEA/AFT support group at NPE are declaring victory over a Congressional bill that had been shelved weeks before Diane Ravitch rallied the unwary and naive to sign an online letter to stop what was already dead.

Ravitch, in the meantime, was able to add thousands of unsuspecting souls to her database for future efforts to pry dollars from them to support her role in promoting AFT/NEA/DNC talking points.

And now that it has become common knowledge that H.R.610 was never ever close to a vote and posed no real threat, Ravitch has quickly claimed victory.

In doing so, she and her NEA/AFT patrons ask for your continued financial support.  

Four SASIC Charter Schools Shut Down in San Antonio

It was the school kitchen floor covered with meat blood after holiday break that made one charter teacher suspicious. She soon, thereafter, quit, and became a whistleblower.

Now all four of the SASIC corporate reform schools have been shut down, pending an investigation.

For the State of Texas to investigate, you know something stinks.  Oh yeah, the meat.

Serving rotted meat is not the only charge facing these charter industry predators.

Here are some of the other charges listed in a letter to Commissioner Mike Morath from State Representative, Diego Bernal:

Friday, March 10, 2017

What Ending Regulations on ESSA Will Mean

Yesterday, Diane Ravitch had this bit of news at her blog:

. . . .The Senate also voted to roll back an Obama administration rule to “hold schools accountable,” which passed by only 50-49, over vociferous Democratic opposition. Frankly, I don’t know which rule this is. If it was the Obama-Duncan-King test-based accountability, then I think its repeal or elimination is a step forward. As we saw again and again over the past eight years, the Obama Department of Education had an obsessive devotion to test-based accountability that harmed students, teachers, and schools. If this is what the Senate knocked down, count me in. Even the znational Academy of Sciences issued a report critical of test-based accountability, but Duncan was as smitten with standardized testing as DeVos is smitten with vouchers.

Now we all know that Diane is busy, but is she too busy to find out that the squeaker bill resulted from a joint resolution introduced by Ravitch's close friend and former boss, Lamar Alexander.  

Is she too busy to find out before posting at her blog that this bill has nothing to do with ending test-based accountability? Did she not do her due diligence to find out the facts, or was she too much in a hurry to use opportunity to bash Obama, while ignoring the potential for this dangerous Congressional action by her chum, Lamar?

Whatever the reason for her shabby reporting, later yesterday she posted this:

The U.S. Department of Education may pull this off its website.

Download it now. These are John King’s accountability regulations, based on FLORIDA accountability, including A-F ratings for every school!

The Senate voted to revoke them by 50-49.

Farewell and good riddance!

Apparently, someone tipped off Diane to the fact that Alexander's resolution, which passed both Houses and is now headed to Trump for his signature, is to discard the guidance in the USED Regulations for implementing ESSA.  

ESSA stays intact, with all the requirements for annual testing and required shuttering of the lowest 5 percent of schools, along with gargantuan charter school grants, relaxed oversight for charters, and all the huge new incentives for more screen-based schooling for kids.

Also staying intact, too, in the ESSA are requirements for school rating systems, even though they may not be “A-F.”

As she waves a “farewell and good riddance” to the guidance contained the Regulations, Ravitch does not tell her readers that ESSA remains entirely intact, which is to say, it is the same piece of dreck that she and her pal Lamar pushed through in late 2015.

In fact, there is reason to believe that that the removal of federal regulations could escalate the move to state voucher programs that hand over cheap vouchers to the poorest children to “choose” a charter school or a below-average private school.  States will be free to make it up as they along, as long as they stay true to privatization intent and methodology within ESSA.

There is also reason to believe to that the removal of federal guidance for ESSA may result in more special needs children and ELL students going unidentified and unserved.

In fact, there are some former Obama officials who point out a host of things that will be lost by losing the federal guidance.  

No doubt I and everyone else will find some elements of the trashed guidance as awful as the ESSA itself, but I would argue that some guidance is better than none, especially when you have Trumpists ready to burn down all public institutions, without forethought of consequence.  

Here's a few aspects of the trashed guidance that might have helped provide consistency, transparency, or clarity:

States must develop a uniform procedure for reporting per-pupil expenditure data, ensuring uniformity in how this new information is conveyed across all districts in the state. Similarly, each must develop a common way for reporting of new educator data, defining terms like “inexperienced” and “out of field” teachers.

Each state’s accountability system must be statewide—in other words, a single system used throughout the state, with a uniform methodology for differentiating and identifying schools for improvement.

Any state choosing to include former English learners and/or students with disabilities in its accountability system cannot cherry pick which students to include; all former students in those subgroups must be captured.

States must identify all schools with a subgroup performing similarly to the lowest-performing 5 percent of the Title I schools for “additional targeted support” in 2018–19, but states do not have to begin annual identification of schools with consistently underperforming subgroups of students for targeted support until 2019–20—clarifying the two distinct kinds of targeted support schools, with different identification and exit criteria.

States must make their exit criteria for identified schools transparent and publicly available, just as districts must ensure that school improvement plans are publicly posted to build awareness and understanding among the local community
States that permit students in comprehensive support schools to transfer to another school must ensure that the receiving school is higher-performing—that is, that it is not (1) among the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state or (1) a high school with graduation rates below 67 percent.

States must identify low-graduation-rate high schools using the four-year adjusted cohort rate; the statute is silent on the graduation rate measure that should be used here even though the four-year rate must be used for goal-setting under the law.

In addition to identifying the local education agency for each charter school on its district report cards, report cards must also indicate the relevant charter authorizer for the school to provide greater transparency in states with multiple authorizers.

States must communicate with parents and other stakeholders in a manner that is accessible, including by providing written information in languages that parents can understand and, where practicable, by providing information in alternate formats for parents with disabilities.

States must develop their state ESSA plans by conducting meaningful stakeholder engagement with a broad array of groups (beyond those listed in the statute) and take into account feedback at all phases of the process—planning, drafting, implementation, and revision (which the rules clarify must occur at least once every four years). Furthermore, many of these principles also apply to the collaborative process districts and schools must use to develop school improvement plans in partnership with their local communities. 
And here are a few flexibilities that will no longer be afforded, as Diane “waves farewell and good riddance” to ESSA regulations:

States can stagger their implementation timelines so that they use indicators based on the 2017–18 school year to identify their first cohort of low-performing schools in 2018–19. States may also have a planning year so that interventions in these schools must fully kick in by the 2019–20 school year.

States can use the Academic Achievement indicator to give schools partial or extra credit, via an achievement index, for students that are either approaching or exceeding proficiency.

States may develop varying methodologies to differentiate and identify low-performing schools in order to include special kinds of schools in their statewide system (such as newly opened schools, very small schools, schools with non-traditional grade configurations, schools without tested grades, and schools designed to serve unique populations like newcomer schools).

States may use graduation rate data for accountability purposes (especially identification of low-graduation-rate high schools) that lag a year behind other accountability data to account for summer graduates.
States can use a hyperlink to another part of their state website to provide parents and other users with a full description of their school accountability system on district and school report cards, enabling states to reduce the length of their report cards and preventing duplicative information.

States must ensure that at least one intervention in identified schools will be evidence-based, but all activities in the school’s improvement plans do not need to be supported by evidence (as defined in ESSA).

States may provide school improvement funds under section 1003 funds to any school identified for comprehensive or targeted support and improvement, even if the identified school is not a Title I school.

States may create lists of evidence-based interventions to better support school improvement plans developed by districts and schools; use of the list may be optional or required, depending on the state’s policy preference.

While comprehensive support plans must be approved by the state, district, and schools, the regulations provide states the final authority to ensure these plans pass muster, are completed, and can be implemented, particularly if districts or schools disagree on elements of the plan and are at an impasse.

States can tailor their English language proficiency (ELP) goals for different groups of English learners, rather than setting a single timeline for achieving ELP that all students must meet; the timeline applied to a particular group of English learners can vary depending on the characteristics of those students.

States can include the test scores of former students with disabilities in subgroup data for up to two years for accountability purposes.

States can include both former English learners and students with disabilities in the respective subgroups for any indicator that is based on state test scores, rather than only the Academic Achievement indicator.
States may include both former English learners and students with disabilities in calculating graduation rates if they were part of the subgroup at any point during high school, even if the student exited during high school.

States can take advantage of both statutory exemptions for including recently arrived English learners in accountability systems, using student-level characteristics to determine which exception is appropriate for which students.

States may use a composite score within their accountability systems in order to include English learners with disabilities in cases where students cannot be tested on all four ELP domains.

States may count recently arrived English learners in participation rate calculations if that student is included in the accountability system by using an exception where they take the state’s ELP test instead of its English language arts assessment.