I just watched the gubernatorial debate in New York. It included four candidates and is the only debate that will be held as Cuomo did not want to give his opponents any free air time. So there was Governor Cuomo, running on three lines (democrat, Working Families Party, Women’s Equality Party); His Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, running on three lines (Republican, Conservative, and Stop Common Core); Howie Hawkins, Green Party; and Michael McDermott, a Libertarian Party.

There were two education questions.

One was, what’s your position on Common Core? All four candidates opposed it. The Libertarian said his nine-year-old daughter can’t understand her homework, and neither can he. He said something along the lines of, “8+6=14, but why ask her to add 8+2+7-4-3?”

Cuomo insisted he had nothing to do with adopting Common Core and blamed it on the Board of Regents. He said he doesn’t appoint them, the Legislature does.

Then came a question on charter schools. Howie Hawkins opposed any expansion of them and said we must fully fund our public schools. Astorino said he was a product of public schools, his children attend public schools, and his wife teaches special education. He didn’t say where he stands on charters. McDermott denounced charters and said they undermine local control, which he strongly favors. Cuomo said nothing about charter schools and talked about taxes and other subjects. He changed the subject instead of acknowledging his fervent support for charter schools. Cuomo did not take credit for passing legislation that requires New York City to give free public space to charters or to pay their rent in private space.

The takeaway? None of the candidates supports Common Core (not even Cuomo, who has been an enthusiastic supporter of the standards until recently and has insisted on making test scores the basis of educators’ evaluations), and charters (which enroll 3% of the state’s students, received no endorsement, even from their biggest cheerleader, Governor Cuomo.

With his campaign chest of $45 million, Cuomo has a big lead over his challengers. But the Governor would not publicly endorse Common Core or charters. He left a sour taste, as there can be no doubt that his current rhetoric is campaign mode and that he will revert to supporting Common Core, high-stakes testing, teacher-bashing, and charters after he is re-elected.k

This just in from Atlanta.

 

Federal Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr., has appointed a special receiver to operate the “business” of Mosaica, which, according to the complaint and motion filed by its creditor, Tatonka Capital, has $20 million in unpaid debt and $10 million in operating losses in the last year. The receiver will be responsible for the continued operations of all the charter schools now being run by Mosaica.

 

This is the riskiness of the charter business. Mosaica is a “for-profit” charter business that is not making a profit and is instead deep in debt.

 

It is amazing the children are turned over to for-profit corporations for their education.

 

This is one of the dangers of “reform,” in which the motivating goal is profit, not education.

Alan Singer sees a pattern:

Andrew Cuomo gets large campaign contributions from hedge fund managers, and Andrew Cuomo becomes a charter cheerleader. This, despite the fact that charters enroll only 3% of New York state’s children. At the beginning of his term as Governor, he promised to be the students’ lobbyist. Who knew that he intended to be the lobbyist for the 3% while ignoring the vast majority of children, who are enrolled in public schools?

Singer notes some fascinating details about Cuomo’s support for charter schools:

“It is probably just a coincidence. Could charter school dollars pouring into Andrew Cuomo’s reelection campaign at the same time that new charter agreements are approved by New York State really be “Quid Pro Cuomo”? Readers and voters have to decide for themselves.

“One month before Election Day, the State University of New York Charter School Committee gave its approval for seventeen new charter schools in New York City, including fourteen new Success Academy charter schools. This will eventually give the politically connected network headed by its contentious chief executive, Eva Moskowitz, a total of fifty charter schools in the city with over 16,000 students. Three new charter schools were also approved for a group called Achievement First.

“According to Joseph Belluck, the committee chairman, “parents in the communities where these schools are do not care about the politics of this issue. They want their kids to have good schools, and they want their kids to have a good education.” That may be true. However, it is Belluck’s job to know about the political issues, especially about the influence of political contributions, and take them into account before these decisions are made. But again, maybe he did.

“Belluck, a partner in the Manhattan law firm, was appointed to the SUNY Board of Trustees in June 2010. Before founding his law firm in 2002 he was counsel to the New York State Attorney General. Belluck is a major Democratic Party contributor. According to the website Little Sis, between 2004 and 2012 he gave $134,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign and about $200,000 to other Democratic Party candidates and committees.

“According to at least one website, in 2010, Belluck donated over $50,000 to Cuomo’s successful gubernatorial campaign. New York Press reported that Belluck donated $21,900 to Cuomo in 2008, $34,000 in 2009, and $60,000 in 2012. The Albany-Times Union called Belluck Cuomo’s second largest donor. Belluck is so politically connected that his law firm includes Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson. Sampson, by the way, was indicted in 2013 by a federal grand jury. He pleaded not guilty to charges that he stole money from the sale of foreclosed homes. The charges are still pending.”

Jeff Bryant writes that we are stuck in stale thinking about education. Our leaders think that there is a new or better way to do testing and accountability, which is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We have been stuck in the testing and accountability paradigm for at least a dozen years, in fact, for more than a generation. Governors and Congressmen think that “reform” means more and better tests.

But there comes a time to say, “that doesn’t work. We have been testing and holding people accountable since the passage of NCLB and even earlier.” It failed. It is time to think anew before we “reform” our teachers to distraction and our schools to extinction.

Bryant writes:

“Since the passage of No Child Left Behind legislation in 2002, the nation’s schools have been dominated by a regime of standardized testing that started in two grade levels – 4th and 8th – but eventually rolled out to every level for the vast majority of school children. Then, the Obama administration took the policy obsession with testing to extremes. Race to the Top grants and other incentives encouraged school districts to test multiple times throughout the year, and waivers to help states avoid the consequences of NCLB demanded even more testing for the purpose of evaluating teachers, principals, and schools. The latest fad is to test four year olds for their “readiness” to attend kindergarten.

“An increasingly loud backlash to the over-emphasis on testing has been growing and spreading among parents, teachers, and students for some time, resulting in mass public rallies, school walkouts, and lawsuits. There are clear signs those voices are starting to have an effect on people responsible for education policy…..

“What if instead of just getting rid of NCLB, we got rid of the thinking that created it? That was a question I asked three years ago when the failed legislation was gasping toward its tenth birthday. At that time, I likened the thinking behind NCLB to an econometric approach to problem solving, which is unsuitable for a pursuit like education that is values driven.

“Now there’s a new book arguing that we can’t change the way we think about education policy until we change the way we talk about education. The book is Dumb Ideas Won’t Create Smart Kids: Straight Talk About Bad School Reform, Good Teaching, and Better Learning by Eric M. Hass, Gustavo E. Fischman, and Joe Brewer.

“The book queries why federal and state policymakers put so much energy into “reforms” – such as raising standards and standardized testing – that have very little to no evidence of effectiveness. What the authors contend is that policymakers continue down the same never-ending path to policy failure because they operate from a failed “prototype” for education – a way of thinking about teaching and learning that leads to conclusions that sound good but are built on false beliefs (what the authors call “rightly wrong thinking”). And rather than looking for genuine results, policy makers tend to adhere to a “confirmation bias” that dismisses contrary evidence and reinforces the prototype.

“The authors observe that we tend to talk about schools – and indeed the whole nation – through the metaphor of the “family.” And whenever we think about family, we tend to think about two kinds: the “strict, authority-based” kind and the “caring nurturance-based” kind. It’s the authors’ belief that current education policy is dominated by the former and needs lots more of the latter.

“Policy adhering mostly to strict authoritarian ideals, they contend, promotes a faulty approach to education…..

“What’s needed instead of this failed strict, authority-based approach is a shift to the caring nurturance-based approach, the authors believe. This shift, they argue, would replace the metaphors we use to talk about education with metaphors that are more compatible with how students actually learn.

“Because the conduit-to-empty vessel approaches to education – too much step-by-step instruction, over-testing, and “delivery of lots of right answers” – lead to policies and practices that actually hinder learning, the authors call for a “learning as growth” metaphor.

“The learning as growth metaphor would reinforce thinking about students’ minds as “soil” and ideas and understandings as “plants.”

“The logic of learning as growth metaphor is based on two key ideas,” the authors write. “First, people develop or construct their ideas and understandings … Second, people need support to help them construct accurate understandings.”

“In this metaphorical description, the teacher’s role is more akin to a gardener and the education process more aligned to cultivation. “It says that teaching and learning are cooperative activities,” the authors write. “Like a plant, a student’s understanding will thrive when he or she gets attention tailored to his or her individual needs.”

“The authors also call for replacing the freedom as the lack of constraints metaphor with a “freedom as support” metaphor, which equates freedom to providing the resources teachers need to teach and the students with more opportunities to learn.

“Schools, for example should act as community centers that provide tutoring and library materials, and possibly food and health services,” the authors maintain. “Students need the inputs of basic resources to survive and thrive.”….

“Calls for “better testing” and evermore complicated “accountability” metrics are pruning around the edges of a dead shrub. With a new way to think about education, with the language of learning as growth, we can get beyond today’s failed remedies. Let’s talk it up.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that KIPP plans to double its enrollment in Los Angeles over the next six years.

 

KIPP has received many millions in gifts from the U.S. Department of Education, the Walton Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and others committed to privatizing the public schools.

 

“KIPP LA currently operates 11 schools that serve about 4,000 students; by 2020, the organization wants to grow to 9,000 students in 20 schools.”

 

In the second-largest district in the nation, 9,000 is not a significant number, but the ripple effect will cause the closure of public schools in the district.

 

 

 

 

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey seems to be running for the Republican nomination for President in 2016. If he does run, please remember his repeated attacks on public school teachers. Jersey Jazzman documents them here.

JJ shows how he fabricates his claims against teachers. He flat out makes up the facts. He accused the New Jersey Education Association of running billboards accusing him of “hating children.” That was supposed to make NJEA look cruel and paint him as a victim of this vicious and unscrupulous union. Except it wasn’t true.

This man should not be President. He is reckless with the truth. He is not trustworthy. He has no respect for teachers. Don’t forget.

Warren Simmons, president of the Annenberg Institute, here releases a set of rules for the operation of charter schools intended to make them transparent and accountable. The question he raises is whether charters can become not only more transparent and accountable, but can they operate without damaging public schools.

 

The report recognizes that some charters have no interest in accountability or transparency. Indeed, there are so many well-documented cases of fraud and abuse that it is hard to be sure that this industry can be regulated, especially when it has often made sizable campaign contributions to legislators in a position to write regulations.

 

The Annenberg report begins:

 

In the last two decades, charter schools have grown into a national industry with 2.5 million students, more than 6,000 schools, and a burgeoning market of management services, vendors, policy shops, and advocacy organizations. State laws and charter authorizing standards have not kept up with this explosive growth.

Although most charter operators work hard to meet the needs of their students, the lack of effective oversight means no guarantee of academic innovation or excellence, too many cases of fraud and abuse, and too little attention to equity. The standards and policy recommendations in this report aim to ensure that there is a level playing field between traditional public schools and public charter schools and that charters are fully transparent and accountable to the communities they serve.

 

Frankly, we can’t even be sure that the majority of charter operators are in the business for themselves or for their students. Many of the small one-off charters have been replaced by charter chains that operate as chains usually do: with a commitment to the bottom line. I don’t think that White Hat in Ohio or Imagine or K12 Inc. or Academica in Florida will change their operations in response to this report.

 

Here is a summary of their recommendations: Read the full report for the detailed recommendations:

 

Traditional school districts and charter schools should collaborate to ensure a coordinated approach that serves all children

School governance should be representative and transparent

Charter schools should ensure equal access to interested students and prohibit practices that discourage enrollment or disproportionately push-out enrolled students

Charter school discipline policy should be fair and transparent

All students deserve equitable and adequate school facilities. Districts and charter schools should collaborate to ensure facility arrangements do not disadvantage students in either sector

Online charter schools should be better regulated for quality, transparency and the protection of student data

Monitoring and oversight of charter schools are critical to protect the public interest; they should be strong and fully state funded

 

Meanwhile, Peter Greene has a test to tell whether or not a charter school is a public school. It must meet four criteria.

 

It must be financially transparent.

 

It must be accountable to the voters.

 

It must “play by the rules,” for example, hiring accredited teachers.

 

It must serve the entire population, not just those it wants to serve.

 

How many charters would pass this test?

 

 

Wendy Lecker, a civil rights attorney in Stamford, joins the many others who complain that charter schools have been allowed to proliferate in an irresponsible manner, with minimal or no supervision. She writes that it is time to reassess the charter movement and to set new standards for accountability. Across the country, charter school frauds have been exposed, in which the operators are profiting handsomely while refusing to accept the same children as the neighboring district. The latest example is in North Carolina, where a local businessman is making millions of dollars by supplying goods and services to his four publicly-funded charter schools while insisting that he has no obligation to open the books to public scrutiny. Connecticut has had its own charter scandal, with the implosion of Jumoke Academy.

 

 

Lecker writes:

 

Almost daily, headlines are filled with stories of charter school fraud or mismanagement. Recent revelations about possible illegal practices in charter schools in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere have led even charter supporters to try to distance themselves from the “crony capitalism” fueling this sector.

 

It is cold comfort that Connecticut officials are not alone in allowing unscrupulous charter operators to bilk taxpayers. It is time to reassess the entire charter movement in Connecticut.

 

Recall the original promises made by charter proponents: that they would benefit all public schools — showing public schools the way by using “innovative” methods to deliver a better education to struggling students in an efficient, less expensive manner.

 

None of those promises have been kept. Charters cannot point to any “innovations” that lead to better achievement. Smaller classes and wraparound services are not innovations — public schools have been begging for these resources for years. Charter practices such as failing to serve our neediest children, e.g., English Language Learners and students with disabilities, and “counseling out” children who cannot adhere to overly strict disciplinary policies, are not “innovations” — and should be prohibited.

 

Charters often spend more than public schools. Charters in Bridgeport and Stamford spend more per pupil than their host districts. And while it appears that charters in New Haven and Hartford spend comparable amounts, they serve a less needy, and less expensive, population. Moreover, Connecticut charters need not pay for special education services, transportation, or, if they serve fewer than 20 ELL students, ELL services.

 

While Connecticut owes billions of dollars to our neediest districts, officials provide higher per-pupil allocations to charters. For example charter schools receive $11,500 per pupil from the state, but Bridgeport’s ECS allocation is only $8,662 per pupil. Bridgeport is owed an additional $5,446 according to the CCJEF plaintiffs, not including the cost of teacher evaluations, the Common Core, and other unfunded mandates imposed over the years.

 

Connecticut increased charter funding over the past three years by $2,100 per pupil, while our poorest school districts received an average increase of only $642 per pupil.

 

 

Here are Lecker’s proposals for reform of privately managed charter schools:

 

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform’s “Public Accountability for Charter Schools,” is a good starting point. The report outlines areas that demand equity, accountability and transparency: such as enrollment, governance, contracts, and management.

 

Connecticut must require, as a condition of continued authorization, that charters serve the same demographics as their host districts, through clearly delineated controlled choice policies.

 

Charter schools must maintain transparent and publicly available annual records and policies regarding enrollment, discipline and attrition. Charters must ensure that they do not employ subtle barriers to enrollment, such as strict disciplinary policies or requirements for parent participation as a condition of attendance. No such barriers exist in public schools.

 

Charters must prove that they meet the specific needs of the host community in a way the public schools do not. Charters must not be imposed over community opposition. State officials must assess the negative impact of charters on a district, including segregation and funding effects.

 

Charters must post all contracts and fully disclose revenues and expenditures. Charter officials, board members and employees must undergo background checks and disclose any relationships with contractors, state officials and others dealing with their school. Parents in charter schools must be allowed to elect charter board members.

 

Charters must show evidence annually that their unique educational methods improve achievement.

 

 

 

This may seem unthinkable, but Pearson–the mega-giant British publisher of tests and textbooks–might lose its $500 million dollar testing contract for the state of Texas. So says the British publication,
The Telegraph. The entrepreneurs and profiteers of education are worried about the future. How sad. Will they buy each other up? Will they make money or lose money? So many problems when you live or die by profit margins. So many lobbyists to hire. So many campaign contributions to make. Welcome to the new and tawdry world of the education industry.

 

 

Katherine Rushton writes:

 

Most people have, at some point in their lives, felt a bout of nerves as they awaited a crucial set of exam results. Pearson’s chief executive, John Fallon, could be forgiven for having the same feeling.
Next month, the London-listed education giant will face its own version of this peculiar kind of torture, as it learns whether Texas plans to renew its contract for Pearson to provide testing in schools. The deal is a valuable one, worth around $500m (£310m) over five years. It is also a matter of particular strategic importance.
Texas is amongst America’s biggest and most influential states when it comes to education spending – the linchpin in the North American market, which accounts for 59pc of Pearson’s revenues and 66pc of its profits. And it has a long history of doing business with the British company, whose chief executive cut his teeth in the US textbook market, and whose former boss, Dame Marjorie Scardino, is herself American.
If the educational testing business were an election, this would count as Pearson’s safe seat. Yet there are signs Pearson may be about to lose its grip on its traditional stronghold. An audit of the Texas Education Agency recently found problems with the way the Pearson contract was tendered and managed.

 

Pearson has had other setbacks, like the loss of the Apple-Pearson iPad deal in Los Angeles.

 

The e-industry is facing difficulties, says Rushton:

 

“In this transition from print to digital, we don’t have all the infrastructure, but directionally things are moving the right way,” a Pearson spokesman said.
“There are short-term headwinds and long-term opportunities. It is not going to be a clear, straight path. It’s hard work. It’s a case of trial and error as you innovate. The question is, ‘How quickly do you learn?’”….

 

Some analysts argue that Dame Marjorie carefully timed her exit at the end of 2012. Pearson expanded enormously under her tenure, using a series of acquisitions to develop digital products and expand in emerging markets, notably China.
Mr Fallon, these analysts argue, is now unfairly having to grapple with a ragtag bag of companies, shouldering the blame for a combination of changing market dynamics and decisions taken by his predecessor.
Others claim Dame Marjorie is the one being scapegoated. They argue that the FTSE 100 business she led for 16 years is wobbling because of much more recent decisions, and that Fallon has lost key staff and contracts because of a reduction of investment in digital projects.
Whichever interpretation one adopts it is clear that Pearson’s troubles are not all of its own making. Its current turbulence started at a time when the tectonic plates of the education industry were already shifting rapidly. Part of this is down to a redrawing of the battle lines between established rivals. In America, McGraw-Hill Education has lately sharpened its focus on digital products under new chief executive David Levin, the former boss of UBM.
News Corp’s education division has also upped its game, under the guidance of Joel Klein, the former New York City schools chancellor.
But there are also a number of new rivals bearing down on the sector: Some of these are start-ups. We are in the midst of an unparalleled splurge in investment in new digital education businesses. In 2008, venture capital firms ploughed just $200m into the sector. This year, that sum is on course for $1bn.
Meanwhile, established technology giants like Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung are all making inroads into the industry, in the hope that they will build loyal audiences to sell other products to down the line. “We’ve handed education to the big software and hardware providers,” says a senior industry figure. “Google is slated to have 20m teachers working on Google apps, and it’s all free. The margins are different because the motivations are different. Google can give away education because it is securing customers for the future.”
At the moment, the big technology companies tend to partner with the traditional players – Apple was supposed to provide the iPads for LA’s $1bn digital project, for example, but Pearson was responsible for the content. However, we have already seen this story play out in other industries. It is only a matter of time before these technology giants start producing their own content, and try to disintermediate the traditional publishers altogether.
“Partnering with one of these guys is like going to bed with a serial rapist,” one senior source says. “It is only a matter of time.”
He identifies Amazon as the biggest single threat. Its motivation is clear. The more educational content it provides, the more likely it is users will become dependent on its ecosystem and use it for future purchases.
Organisations that are not trying to make money arguably pose an even greater challenge, however. In 2011, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla, ring-fenced between $1.5bn and $2.5bn to fund education projects. The endowment, informally dubbed the Zuckerberg fund, is a relatively low-key operation at the moment, but industry figures speculate that he will end up tackling education, in much the same way as Microsoft founder Bill Gates established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve world health.
Those sorts of initiatives should only ever be welcomed, but they do not make life easier for traditional education companies.
One former Pearson executive argues that “for-profit” organisations in education are “seriously under threat”, and could end up losing their footing altogether.
But the Pearson’s spokesman feels differently. “The private sector has a pivotal role to play,” they say.
Either way, Pearson has reached a crucial moment in its trajectory. Fallon has to whip the ragtag bag of businesses he inherited into a smart, digital company. Otherwise, the venture capital firms could soon start circling and pick-pick-pick it away.

 

Three incumbents on the Indianapolis school board have collectively raised about $6,000.

Their opponents have raised over $100,000 from corporate reformers who want to bring more charters to the district. Follow the money.

 

The challengers are heavily funded by groups like anti-teacher, anti-union, pro-privatization Stand for Children, the Chamber of Commerce, and big contributors from across the nation. Clearly, the corporate reformers want to hasten the pace of privatization.

 

Stand for Children has sponsored anti-teacher, anti-union legislation in Illinois and in Massachusetts.

 

Will voters in Indianpolis allow the corporate reformers to buy control of their public schools and turn them into privately managed charters? If you live in Indianapolis, defend your community’s public schools. Tell the corporate reformers they are not for sale.

 

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