Rahm Emanuel wants to privatize public education as much and as fast as he can. Aside from closing down 50 schools in one fell swoop, the mayor privatized custodial services to two companies for $340 million over three years, promising cleaner schools and cost savings.

But, as reported by Catalyst, a respected journal that covers education in Chicago, principals complain that their schools are filthy and rodent-infested. The corporations have promised to improve.

Sarah Karp of Catalyst wrote, in an article titled “Dirty Schools Now the Norm Since Privatizing Custodians: Principals”:

“The $340 million privatization of the district’s custodial services has led to filthier buildings and fewer custodians, while forcing principals to take time away from instruction to make sure that their school is clean.

“That is the finding from a survey done by AAPPLE, the new activist arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.”

The leader of AAPPLE, principal Troy LaRiviere, is an outspoken defender of Chicago’s public schools and its students.

Valerie Strauss summarizes responses from principals to the new arrangement:

“Principals reported serious problems with rodents, roaches and other bugs, filthy floors, overflowing garbage bins, filthy toilets, missing supplies such as toilet paper and soap, and broken furniture — issues they said they didn’t have before. Now, many said, they spend a lot of time trying to clean their buildings.”

One of the companies, Aramark, announced recently that it would lay off 476 custodians, 20% of the custodial workforce. This may improve its profits but is likely to worsen its services.

Tom Ratliff, a member of the Texas state Board of Education, wrote this article for the Longview News-Journal. It is a warning to parents not to assume that charter schools are better than public schools. On average, he says, the opposite is true.


Public schools ranked higher for financial accountability:


During the 2012-13 school year (the most recent year of the rating), Texas’ traditional public schools far outperformed charter schools in both academic and financial measurements. Don’t take my word for it, look at the information straight from the Texas Education Agency:
Financial accountability: bit.ly/1rIFYsm
Academic accountability: bit.ly/1pXZ3RZ
To summarize these reports, I offer the following:
The FIRST rating is the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas and, according to the education agency, is designed to “encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources in order to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.” I think we all agree, that’s a good thing to measure.
According to the agency, the FIRST rating uses 20 “established financial indicators, such as operating expenditures for instruction, tax collection rates, student-teacher ratios, and long-term debt.” How did the schools do? Glad you asked.
Traditional ISDs: 89 percent ranked “superior” and 1.2 percent ranked “substandard.”
Charter schools: 37 percent ranked “superior” and 20 percent ranked “substandard.”
Yes, one out of five charter schools ranked “substandard” on how they spend the tax dollars supporting them, while almost 9 out of 10 ISDs ranked “superior”.


And public schools outperform charter schools academically too:


Let’s shift our attention to academic performance. If the academic performance is good, the taxpaying public might be more understanding of a low rating on a financial measure. Unfortunately, the charters do not compare well there, either, under the 2014 TEA Accountability System.
Traditional ISDs: 92.6 percent met standard, while 7.4 percent did not.
Charter schools 77.7 percent met standard, while 17.3 percent did not.
Again, almost one out of five charter schools failed to meet the state’s academic standards.


And then Tom Ratliff asks the best question of all:


“Where is the outrage from groups like the Texas Association of Business or the Austin Chamber of Commerce?” Those groups rarely miss an opportunity to criticize the shortcomings of traditional ISDs. Why not express concerns when numbers like these relate to charter schools? If these numbers were attributable to ISDs, you can bet those groups would be flying planes around the Capitol and holding press conferences like they have in the past. A little consistency would be nice when asking for taxpayer-funded schools to perform as expected.”


Ratliff points out that his father wrote the original charter law. It is refreshing to see a policymaker looking at the data and seeing that competition does not translate into better education or more accountability. By the way, Tom’s father Bill Ratliff –former Lieutenant Governor of Texas–is already a member of the blog’s honor roll for his willingness to speak up and think for himself. A good Texas family.

The Providence Student Union Is an inspirational group of high school students who have shaken up Rhode Island. Due to their creative protests against high-stakes testing, especially the use of a normed, standardized test for graduation, they won the support of the Boston Globe and then the state legislature, which declared a moratorium on using tests for high stakes purposes.

Take a moment and help PSU organize other high school groups.

This is a letter from Aaron Regunberg, one of the PSU leaders who just won the Democratic primary for a seat in the State Senate:

“PSU was nominated for an award from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation for $100,000 dollars. Here’s all the information:


And here is the award site:


As you can imagine, $100,000 would be game-changer – not just for our organization, but really for the fight for public education across our state. Everything we’ve been able to do has been on a shoestring budget; with that level of resources, we could create a student union in every urban district in Rhode Island and really change the power balance for public ed in RI.

In order to win, we need to get more online votes than the 5 other nominated groups. We’ve had a really late start – as we’ve been working on the actual state elections until this last Tuesday – and now need to kick into high gear.

If you could encourage your loyal readers and fans to vote (takes 10 seconds) and spread the word, it truly could make a radical difference here in RI. You can use the language from the post on RIFuture above.


Bertis Downs, a member of the board of directors of the Network for Public Education, lives in Georgia. He sent the following comment, which gives hope that the citizens of Georgia will support their local public schools and vote for a Governor who wants to improve them. An earlier post described Governor Nathan Deal’s desire to create a statewide district modeled on the failed RSD in New Orleans (failed because most of the charters are rated D or F by the state and the district as a whole is one of the lowest performing in the state).


Bertis writes:



Some narrative-shifting appears to be going on here in GA I am happy to report (but not resting on any laurels as we are up against the Big Money snake oil nonsense like everywhere else of course)

But some examples:

–from Savannah Morning News, this is good to see, a clear and direct report on the effects of budget cuts over time–


–from middle Georgia, Macon’s Telegraph had a recent editorial on education and poverty with a key paragraph:

“During this political season, there is no better question to ask the candidates, particularly those running for state school superintendent and governor, what they plan to do to support the state’s K-12 education system. Then, whoever is elected, will have to be held accountable if they don’t keep their word.”


–and in Athens news, check out this editorial on our school board and superintendent pushing back about the absurdities of the new testing heavy statewide teacher evaluation system– the Athens Banner-Herald supporting the position of our local educators is a good thing:


–finally, here is an interesting piece on the GO PUBLIC film recently screened in Athens:


Jason Carter has built his campaign on public education issues and slowly but surely the word is getting out that if we want to truly support public schools and teachers in Georgia, Jason Carter is the right candidate for governor. And with the incumbent faltering by the day, his talking points now featuring unabashed support for Jindal-style reform gimmicks like RSD, it’s no wonder the polls are tied and Jason has a serious chance of winning by attracting moderate Republican and independent education voters. Nobody, Republican, Democrat or Independent, nobody likes to see their local schools diminished and weakened, good teachers leaving teaching, and their children’s love of learning sapped away by the high-stakes overtesting being done these days in the name of “reform.” People are realizing the fact that under the current state leadership, that’s what Georgia will continue to get– if Deal gets another term.

From reader Chiara:


This is absolutely amazing. [Ed: read the story in the link]


The Ohio Department of Education has chosen a lobbying group. StudentsFirst, to direct efforts to “inform” parents on whether to turn over a bunch of public schools to private contractors under the Parent Trigger:


“Columbus Superintendent Dan Good said yesterday that the district is working to understand all the nuances of the law. On Tuesday, the school board is to hear a presentation by the Education Department and StudentsFirst, the group that the department chose to inform and organize parents”


Rules released by the department yesterday refer to StudentsFirst as a “neutral third party,” but Columbus Education Association President Tracey Johnson said the group is not neutral; it’s a school-reform lobbying organization.”


This is ridiculous. Our state Department of Education is completely captured by lobbyists.


They’re a joke. I resent paying these people. I think StudentsFirst should put them on the payroll and take them off mine. They are actively working against existing public schools in this state.


Chiara is right. StudentsFirst, founded by Michelle Rhee, is not a neutral third party. It actively lobbies and advocates for charters, vouchers, and high-stakes testing in states across the nation. It also supports the parent trigger. According to the article cited by Chiara, one in five of the schools in Columbus are eligible for parent takeover, even though many of them have been reconstituted and turned around previously. The laws have been written in such a way as to label many schools as failures without actually doing anything to help them. This sets them up for privatization. StudentsFirst has no track record of improving schools. It is a lobbying organization for privatization.


This was sent to me as a gift by George McLaughlin. George was one of the teachers at Central Falls High School in Central Falls, Rhode Island, who was summarily fired along with the rest of the staff, without due process or evaluation.

“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have…and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

— from Mother Teresa”

Peter Greene read the preceding piece by EduShyster about the strategy, tactics, and philosophy of “no excuses” charter schools. He was troubled, alarmed, repulsed by the behaviorist methods.

I was reminded of what we use to call “brainwashing.”

He thought of Frederick Douglass.

This is, quite frankly, an alarming post.

EduShyster learns about the techniques, strategies, and philosophy of “no excuses” charter schools by interviewing Joan Goodman, who directs the Teach for America program at the University of Prnnsylvania.

Goodman describes how the “no excuses” charters program young children to obey authority without question. ” To reach [their] objectives, these schools have developed very elaborate behavioral regimes that they insist all children follow, starting in kindergarten. Submission, obedience, and self-control are very large values. They want kids to submit. You can’t really do this kind of instruction if you don’t have very submissive children who are capable of high levels of inhibition and do whatever they’re told.”

“In order to maximize academic accomplishment, no time can be wasted and anything that’s not academically targeted, that’s not geared to what the students have to know, is time wasted. So there is almost no opportunity for play, for relaxation, very little time for extra-curricular activities. The day is jammed with academics, especially math and reading because that’s what gets tested. The view of time and strict discipline are related, by the way; in order to get these kids to attend over very long hours—they have extended days and extended weeks—you have to be tough with the kids, really severe. They want these kids to understand that when authority speaks you have to follow because that’s basic to learning. So they don’t have the notion of learning that more progressive educators have, that learning is a very active enterprise and that children have to be very participatory and thinking and speaking and discussing and sharing and having initiative. That’s not their view of learning. It’s too variable across teachers, the objectives are too non-specific, and time is wasted.”

Just as the children are programmed, their teachers too must be programmed to demand total obedience and not to permit any deviationfr the rules.

This is an important interview. It explain much about the robotic behavior that “no excuses” charters value. It is something that young white teachers do to black children.

Remember Central Falls? That is the small district in Rhode Island where the superintendent Frances Gallo decided to fire every staff member at the high school in spring 2010 because of low test scores. Gallo got the support of State Commissioner Deborah Gist, and the firings got the approval of Arne Duncan, who was supported by President Obama. The Rhode Island firing squad was hailed as heroes, even though none of the fired staff had been individually evaluated. The firings set the stage for the national conversation about “reform,” and reflected Duncan’s belief that the first step in reform was to fire everyone and start over. That fall, “Waiting for Superman” was released with a mammoth publicity campaign about bad teachers, failing public schools, and amazing charter schools.

Central Falls has now become a magnet for charter schools. Superintendent Gallo welcomes them, as does the mayor. One-third of the students in the district are enrolled in charters, and more are on the way.

“A nonprofit organization backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is spending $7.5 million to buy and renovate a former Catholic school for the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy.

“The group, Civic Builders, of New York City, has purchased the former St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Academy on Lonsdale Avenue. According to Civic Builders, the sale will provide a permanent home for BVP’s middle school while helping the Holy Spirit Parish pay for improvements to its buildings….

“Roughly a third of Central Falls’ students attend a charter school. But rather than view charters as a threat, Central Falls Supt. Frances Gallo welcomes the diversity of choices they offer.

“Blackstone Valley Prep has proven itself as a model of academic success,” she said. “Don’t we want what’s best for our kids?”
The success of charter schools such as BVP is linked to a longer school day and setting high expectations, Gallo said, noting that homework is mandatory.

“It’s not because our teachers can’t compete,” Gallo said.

“These kids get only one shot at an education,” said Central Falls Mayor James Diossa. “It’s important that if parents feel strongly about a school, they can go. We welcome the almost 400 students, teachers and staff to Central Falls, more than 100 of whom call our community home.”

Not everyone was happy to see charters picking off students and resources from their public schools.

“Because of its size, Blackstone Valley Prep has come under criticism from some surrounding districts, which fear the charters will siphon limited resources from district-run public schools.

“We have way too many charters serving the Central Falls area,” said Jane Sessums, president of the Central Falls Teachers Union. “But we have a mayor and superintendent who have supported charter schools. That sends the wrong message to parents.”
Sessums said Gallo and Diossa “should be advocating for our public schools.”

“The nonprofit also has access to New Market Tax Credits, a program set up by the IRS to encourage development in needy communities such as Central Falls.” These tax credits enable investors to double their money in seven years.

Educators in Néw York are trying to make sense of the state’s evaluation system. The formula is supposed to consist of observations (60%); state scores (20%); and local assessments (20%). Yet the results don’t line up with common sense or common knowledge.

Some principals seem to be giving higher observation scores to teachers they want to protect because they believe they are valuable and don’t want to lose them

“In Scarsdale, regarded as one of the best school systems in the country, no teacher has been rated “highly effective” in classroom observations. It is the only district in the Lower Hudson Valley with that strict an evaluation. In Pleasantville, 99 percent of the teachers are rated as “highly effective” in the same category.”

Charlotte Danielson, whose rubric is the basis forest teacher evaluation systems, called these results “laughable.”

“Pleasantville schools Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter defended her district’s classroom observation scores, which use the Danielson model — saying the state’s “flawed” model had forced districts to scale or bump up the scores so “effective” teachers don’t end up with a rating of “developing.”

What is truly laughable is the effort to turn the art and craft of teaching into a scaled metric, like weighing apples at the supermarket. What is essentially a matter of human judgment, based on experience and wisdom, cannot be measured and graded. Its results will always be flawed, and the very act of measuring the unmeasurable will change teacher behavior to conform to the scale. If all we want is higher scores, this might be a good way to get them. If we want inspired teaching, it is not.


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