If teachers had turned out to vote–teacher Justin Katz would have been in the runoff for the Palm Beach County school board. He lost by 54 votes of 15,400 votes cast.

Teacher Joshua Katz lost in Orange County by 67 votes out of 14,500 cast.

The moral of the story: if you want change, get out and vote!

Alan Singer compares Arne Duncan’s recent denunciation of over-testing–that is, his own policy in Race to the Top–to George W. Bush’s infamous victory speech in Iraq under a banner saying “Mission Accomplished.”

He notes that Duncan offers a one-year delay in using test scores to evaluate teachers, while the other leading voice in American education proposed a two-year moratorium. Wouldn’t you think a simple phone call between Arne and Bill could have settled the matter? You know, it’s not like states or local districts have anything to say about how or when teachers should be evaluated. This decision belongs to Arne and Bill.

Last week, the Lee County, Florida, school board voted 3-2 to remove the district from state testing. Some members want to reconsider. They have scheduled a meeting at a time when students, parents, and teachers are likely to be unavailable.

Bob Schaeffer of Fartest issued the following statement:

​​​​​​​​​
for immediate release Friday, August 29, 2014
NATIONAL CENTER FOR FAIR & OPEN TESTING (FAIRTEST) STATEMENT
BY PUBLIC EDUCATION DIRECTOR BOB SCHAEFFER

As a 15-year resident of Lee County, I have closely followed the Lee School Board’s debate about standardized testing misuse and overuse, testified at recent public hearings on the topic, ready Attorney Martin’s memo and communicated directly with School Board members.

The Lee School Board has the right to reconsider its vote to “opt out” of state-mandated testing. But the decision to schedule a special meeting at 8:30am on a weekday — when working Lee County public school parents, district educators, and students cannot attend is outrageous. Those are the stakeholders most directly impacted by the decision.

This important session must be rescheduled to a date and time when more members of these constituencies can participate in the democratic process.

The massive public relations campaign promoting worst-case scenarios and hypothetical “doomsday” penalties from the state ignore the damage being done to Lee County children by continued compliance with standardized exam misuse and overuse mandates.

Precipitous action to reverse the Board’s vote is not justified. Lee students do not face any immediate risk. It would make better sense to see what other districts do (for example, Palm Beach is considering a resolution similar to Lee’s) and how the state responds.

Rather than rescind the August 27 vote, a more measured approach would be to establish a committee of administrators, educators, parents and assessment experts to assess testing policies and propose a measured action plan to implement the goal adopted by the Board.

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
4163 Dingman Drive, Sanibel, FL 33957
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 696-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org

Dr. Nicholas Gledich, Superintendent of Colorado Springs School District 12 has proposed a three year moratorium on high stakes standardized testing. This takes courage in test-happy Colorado.

Dr. Gledich understands that high-stakes testing cheapens education, demoralizes teachers, and makes testing far more important than it should be. Tests should be used periodically to see how students are doing and if they need extra help. But today they have become the be-all and end-all of schooling. That’s not what the best private schools do. That’s not what public schools should do.

Thank you and congratulations, Dr. Gledich! Welcome to the honor roll!

In a stirring editorial, the “Nation” magazine endorsed Zephyr Teachout for Governor of New York. Its editorial makes clear that Andrew Cuomo has served the interests of Wall Street, not the people of New York. He is an austerity Governor who has been a disaster for the state’s public schools and children, as well as those who serve the children.

It says, in part:

“We believe New Yorkers who want a more progressive government should vote for Teachout on September 9. The Nation makes this endorsement with the understanding that Teachout may not be able to overcome the political barriers that have been erected, in the state and nationally, to a grassroots, idea-driven campaign. But we believe her candidacy holds out the potential for forging the bold, people-led politics we seek in 2014 and beyond.

“A vote for Teachout sends two critical signals. First, it objects to Cuomo’s approach to electioneering and governing, which is too heavy-handed, too top-down, and too prone to cutting ethical corners. While the governor has done some good on issues like marriage equality, his rightward tilt on education and economic issues has crippled New York’s fight against inequality. And Cuomo has stumbled badly when it comes to addressing corruption, as evidenced by the recent revelations that he meddled with the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, which he created in 2013.

“But there’s more to this challenge than legitimate criticism of Cuomo and corruption. Teachout offers an example of what it means to be a progressive Democrat in the twenty-first century. A distinguished academic and activist, she has been in the forefront of advancing progressive reform for nearly two decades. As a professor at Fordham Law School, the author of important books on political and economic policy, a key figure in Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, and a visionary organizer on behalf of banking and business reforms, she understands that the Democratic Party must move toward progressive populism in order to become more than a tepid alternative to Republican extremism.

“Thus, the second signal that a vote for Teachout will send is a demand for change in the Democratic establishment, which cannot continue to dance around the issue of income inequality. It must reject austerity cuts and embrace investment in infrastructure, education and communities, as Teachout and others in the party’s populist wing have. It must recognize the political appeal of battling crony capitalism and corruption. And in the midst of a digital revolution every bit as disruptive as the Industrial Revolution before it, the party’s leadership must recognize the necessity of supporting Net neutrality, ending the digital divide and expanding broadband Internet access—issues that Teachout and her running mate for lieutenant governor, Tim Wu, have highlighted.

“A victory by Teachout and Wu would be a dramatic upset—one with the potential to overturn political calculations nationwide. But even a respectable finish could illustrate the strength of the progressive base and keep the proposals that Teachout and Wu have been fighting for alive.

Veteran educator Michael Deshotels filed a public records request last June to find out how the state tests were scored. The state claimed that the tests were harder but the scores held steady. Deshotels got the records and concluded that the state had manipulated the scoring of the tests.

He writes:

“It turns out that the number of correct answers required for a passing score (or a level of basic) was significantly reduced for three out of four categories of the LEAP high stakes testing. Once one knows how the passing scores are routinely manipulated it’s no surprise that the percentage of students scoring basic or above remained steady. The test grading scale for LEAP was adjusted or “equated” (to use the lingo of testing experts), apparently to make certain that the perceived performance of students on the new Common Core aligned tests remained steady.”

Crazy Crawfish (aka Jason France, who was a data analyst for the Louisiana Department of Education) wrote a post about the same scores called “Standardized Lying.”

He writes:

“Student performance in Louisiana is dropping rapidly. The decline started just about the time John White became superintendent of Education and has accelerated rapidly with the introduction of Common Core in Louisiana schools. Based on a sample analysis of the very meager data LDOE finally released under threat of lawsuit it is clear that not only is student performance not increasing or staying steady, it Is in fact declining, and being masked by a lowering of the number of correct answers required to pass LEAP and iLEAP tests….

“I don’t have magical powers, but I can confidently predict this is something you will find and see happening across the nation, especially in education Reformer infested territories. There is nothing standardized about the testing of Common Core, the only standardization comes in in the form of lying about it.

“Proponents of Common Core, and the High Stakes testing required by it, have claimed the comparability of test scores across states will make for meaningful comparisons. To have this meaningful comparison, all states must teach the same curriculum and all must administer identical tests from one of the two federally funded consortiums (Smarter Balanced and PARCC). However neither consortium controls the cut scores; those are entirely in the control of the states. These scores can go up or down as local politics require.

“Let me spell this out for you. If you want to show progress in your state you can artificially inflate the scores to show improvement. If you need to make a case for more charter schools and school closures simply lower the scores and take them over and then raise the score back to show that reform worked. That is exactly what Louisiana has done and no doubt other reform markets as well. The actual data shows the Reforms, including Common Core, have had the exact opposite effect, and a very dramatic one.
Even though the proposed tests are identical, even though the curriculum is identical, the actual scores and their meanings are left up to individual states to determine. That fact nullifies the argument for identical standardized tests and even the need for a standardized curriculum. Our scores, our levels of achievement, will not be and are not comparable to scores in other states. These tests are actually the opposite of comparable. NAEP and DEIBELS are national tests that are comparable, and neither of them requires a standardized curriculum nor extensive, expensive, technology intensive, obsessive testing, like Common Core does.”

The New London school board voted 6-0 to withdraw its offer of a contract for the superintendent job to Terrence Carter, a leader of the school turnaround organization AUSL in Chicago.

After the “Hartford Courant” published articles about discrepancies in the background of the man chosen to be the next superintendent of the New London schools, the school board asked a law firm to investigate the claims made about Terrence Carter. Carter was a high-level official at the Academy for Urban School Leadership in Chicago, which was in charge of most of the city’s “turnaround” schools. He was well-credentialed as a reformer.

A few days ago, the law firm of Shipman & Goodwin released the results of its investigation.

It confirmed the charges leveled by reporters Jon Lender and Kathleen Megan.

It was painful for me to read. I felt badly for Mr. Carter. How many others have inflated their credentials to move ahead? I don’t find his conduct acceptable. I just felt embarrassed for him.

Ruth Conniff of “The Progressive” reports that the FBI is becoming more assertive in its investigation of criminal behavior by charter schools. Charter schools receive millions of dollars of public money with minimal accountability. In some states, they have gone to court to fight public audits, claiming that the schools are public but the organization running them is a private corporation.

Conniff reports: “From Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge, from Hartford to Cincinnati to Albuquerque, FBI agents have been busting into schools, carting off documents, and making arrests leading to high-profile indictments.”

She adds:

“Charter schools are such a racket, across the nation they are attracting special attention from the FBI, which is working with the Department of Education’s inspector general to look into allegations of charter-school fraud.

“One target, covered in an August 12 story in The Atlantic, is the secretive Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who runs the largest charter-school chain in the United States.

“The Atlantic felt compelled to note, repeatedly, that it would be xenophobic to single out the Gulen schools and their mysterious Muslim founder for lack of transparency and the misuse of public funds.

“It isn’t the Gulen movement that makes Gulen charters so secretive,” writes The Atlantic’s Scott Beauchamp, “it’s the charter movement itself.”

“Kristen Buras, associate professor of education policies at Georgia State University, agrees.

“Originally, charter schools were conceived as a way to improve public education,” Buras says. “Over time, however, the charter school movement has developed into a money-making venture.”

“Over the last decade, the charter school movement has morphed from a small, community-based effort to foster alternative education into a national push to privatize public schools, pushed by free-market foundations and big education-management companies. This transformation opened the door to profit-seekers looking for a way to cash in on public funds.”

And more:

“”Education entrepreneurs and private charter school operators could care less about innovation,” says Buras. “Instead, they divert public monies to pay their six-figure salaries; hire uncertified, transient, non-unionized teachers on-the-cheap; and do not admit (or fail to appropriately serve) students who are costly, such as those with disabilities.”

“Rebecca Fox Blair, a teacher who helped to found a small, alternative high school program in Monona, Wisconsin, says she was struck by the massive change in the charter school movement when she attended a national charter school conference recently.

“It’s all these huge operators, and they look down on schools like ours,” she says. “They call us the ‘mom and pop’ schools.”

“There are now more than 6,000 publicly funded charter schools in the United States — a more than 50 percent increase since 2008.

“Over that same period, “nearly 4,000 traditional public schools have closed,” writes Stan Karp, an editor of Rethinking Schools. “This represents a huge transfer of resources and students from our public education system to the publicly funded but privately managed charter sector.”

“And all that money has attracted some unscrupulous operators.”

One big-time operator is K12, whose CEO was paid over $4 million last year. K12 is active in the corporate-advocacy group ALEC. The corporation, listed on the New York stock exchange, was founded by the Milken brothers.

“ALEC added K12 to its corporate board of directors just before its national convention in Dallas at the end of July.

At the Dallas meeting, ALEC also trumpeted the launch of a new charter school working group. Among the measures the group discussed:

* Legislation to exempt charter school teachers from state teacher certification requirements, and allow for charter schools to be their own local education authority.

* A bill to give charter schools the right of first refusal to purchase or lease all or part of unused public school properties at or below market value, and avoid taxes and fees.

* A controversial measure proposed by Scott Walker in Wisconsin to create a statewide charter school authorizing board, bypassing local authority over charter schools, even as charters drain funds from local districts.”

In addition to the investigations cited by Conniff, the FBI raided the offices of The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, whose CEO was eventually indicted for numerous violations of the law.

Also, June Brown, the founder of the Agora charter school in Pennsylvania, was investigated by the FBI, indicted, and charged along with other executives for the theft of $6.7 million from three charter schools. When she was tried, the jury cleared her on some counts, deadlocked on others, and federal prosecutors vowed to retry her. A local newspaper reported on the trial:

“Two of Brown’s co-defendants pleaded guilty before the trial, while two others were acquitted…..

“The case is the fifth federal prosecution of local charter school operators in seven years, raising questions about the regulation of the growing charter school movement.

“Before 2008, Brown collected full-time salaries as the chief executive officer of three charter schools she founded. In addition, two management firms she owned collected millions in fees for services to the Agora Cyber Charter School, which she also established.

“Prosecutors charged that Brown provided little or no services to Agora in return for the money.

“Neither Brown nor her co-defendants testified in the case. Defense attorneys argued that the charter schools achieved excellent outcomes for students and that Brown’s compensation, while perhaps generous, was not illegal. They also argued that prosecutors had not proved that June and other officials had falsified documents to cover up financial fraud.

“Several witnesses testified that forged signatures and fabricated documents were used to support Brown’s claims for compensation.”

Why do we see the same story in state after state? Wherever for-profit charter schools exist or wherever state law allows charter schools to hire for-profit management companies, someone is making a lot of money that was supposed to go for educating students.

The latest story comes from Florida, where for-profit charter entrepreneurs are making big dough.

Noah Pransky of WTSP writes about the financial success of for-profit Charter Schools USA.

“Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are authorized by – but not operated by – each school district. For each student who “chooses” a charter, his or her school gets state dollars that would have otherwise gone to the school district.

“Charter Schools USA (CUSA) has been operating charter schools in Florida for 20 years, including recently-opened schools in Hillsborough County: Woodmont Charter, Winthrop Charter, and Henderson Hammock Charter. Although charter schools sometimes struggle financially at first, CUSA eventually collects a 5% management fee from each to provide administration and guidance.

“But 10 Investigates found a much bigger pot of money CUSA has been able to tap into: rent. When the company helps open a new school, its development arm, Red Apple Development, acquires land and constructs a school. Then, CUSA charges the school high rent.

“For example, Winthrop Charter in Riverview may struggle to balance its budget this year thanks to a $2 million rent payment to CUSA/Red Apple Development. The payment will equate to approximately 23% of its budget, even though CUSA CEO Jon Hage has been quoted as saying charter school rent should not exceed 20%.

“Both CUSA and Winthrop Charter officials tell 10 Investigates that the schools are operated as nonprofit entities, and robust FCAT scores and happy parents are proof of success.”

As long as the scores are high and the parents are happy, who cares what happens to taxpayers’ dollars?

Pransky interviewed Pat Hall of the League of Women Voters, which published a study critical of the financial dealings of the charter industry:

“But among CUSA’s critics is the League of Women Voters, which recently released a study suggesting a troubling lack of separation between a charter school’s advisory board and for-profit management companies. It also indicates charter school teachers aren’t often paid as well and profits all-too-often play a role in educational decisions.

“That means that children aren’t getting what they’re owed by the public funding,” said Pat Hall, a retired Jefferson High department head and Hillsborough County’s education chair for the League of Women Voters.

“The study also revealed school choice creates a higher risk of disruption to a child’s education, as “statewide closure rate of charters is 20%” and “Charters are 50% of all F-rated schools in 2011.” In the last week, last-minute problems displaced a hundreds of charter school students from St. Petersburg to Delray Beach.

“Hall acknowledges many charter schools are teaching children in unique and successful ways, but says Charter Schools USA isn’t offering students anything that’s not available in public schools. She adds that the schools are so focused on FCAT fundamentals, they forego many traditional aspects of the school experience.

“While many CUSA schools may not have amenities such as a library or cafeteria, a company spokesperson said moving those amenities to the classroom can improve a student’s learning atmosphere.”

In a much-awaited decision, Governor Jerry Brown has appealed the Vergara decision.

LOS ANGELES (CBS / AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown appealed a court ruling that struck down tenure and other job protections for California’s teachers, setting himself apart from leaders in some other states who have fought to end such protections or at least raise the standards for obtaining them.

Attorney General Kamala Harris filed the appeal late Friday in a Los Angeles County court on behalf of the governor and the state.
The move came a day after Superior Court Judge Rulf Treu finalized his June ruling that found five laws violated the California Constitution by depriving some of the state’s 6.2 million students of a quality education. He’d earlier said the system “shocks the conscience.”

The governor’s one-page notice of appeal said that under the state’s constitution “the important issues presented in this case — if they are to have statewide legal impact — must be reviewed by a higher court, either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of California.”

It says that for reasons that are “unclear and unexplained” actual school districts were dismissed as parties to the lawsuit before trial, meaning the court’s decision “applies only to parties that have no role or duties under the challenged lawsuits.”

It also criticizes Treu for failing to provide details on the legal basis for his reasoning, and simply making his tentative decision final instead of elaborating and expanding on in the ruling that was affirmed Thursday.

Republicans had urged state leaders not to appeal the ruling and criticized his decision to do so Friday.

“A federal court ruled that the State of California is depriving minority children their constitutionally guaranteed right to an equal education and the governor decides to appeal? Unbelievable,” Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said in a written response.

California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson had asked the attorney general for the appeal earlier Friday because he lacked the legal authority.

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