Search results for: "commonweal"

Most of the time, we engage in covil discourse, even with people whom we know are rigid ideologues whose minds are blted closed. but every once in a while, someone opens a window and yells out, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” And they say what’s really on their mind.

Rep. Brian Sims did that in Pennsylvania recently. He called out the conservative Comminwealth Foundation after he received a mailing from it. He wrote on his Facebook page:

“See, I already know that you are all racist, homophobic, sexist, classist, ableist, anti-American, bigots whose single driving motivation is to secure the wealth of your multimillionaire donors at the expense of every single working person and family in the Commonwealth. See, I told you I already get it so you don’t need to waste money sending me proof…actually go ahead and waste that money!”

Thanks to reader GST for bringing this important story to our attention: a court in Pennsylvania ruled that the School Reform Commission may not cancel the contract of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. This is a battle that has gone on for two years, as the unelected School Reform Commission looks for ways to cut the budget. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia schools are suffering from former Governor Tom Corbett’s deep budget cuts, and the Legislature has refused to fulfill its responsibility to the children of Philadelphia.

 

Commonwealth Court judges have handed a win to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, ruling that the School Reform Commission cannot throw out the teachers’ union’s contract and impose new terms.

 

The decision was confirmed by Jerry Jordan, PFT president, on Thursday morning.

 

“This is a very big victory,” Jordan said.

 

After nearly two years of negotiations, the district had moved on Oct. 6 to cancel the teachers’ contract and impose health-benefits changes that would save the cash-strapped system $54 million annually, officials said.
In the decision, judges said that neither the state Public School Code nor the Legislature have expressly given the SRC the power to cancel its teachers’ contract.

 

“This Court is cognizant of the dire financial situation which the Districtcurrently faces and the SRC’s extensive efforts to achieve the overall goal of properlyand adequately meeting the educational needs of the students,” Judge Patricia A. McCullough wrote for the court. “There have been numerous difficult decisions that the SRC has been forced to make in an effort to overcome these economic hurdles, including a one-third reduction in staff and theclosing of 31 schools in recent years.”

 

But the law does not give the SRC the power to cancel a collective bargaining agreement.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/school_files/District-cant-impose-contract-court-rules.html#GVqP31QcrCMOdFmZ.99

For the past few years, the impoverished Chester County public schools in Pennsylvania have been in deep deficit because of competition with charter schools and cyber charters that suck funding away from the public schools.

The biggest charter school is the Chester Community Charter School, founded and operated by multimillionaire Vehan Gureghian, a lawyer and businessman who was a major contributor to former Republican Governor Tom Corbett and a member of his education transition team.

Governor Tom Wolf tried to save the public schools of Delaware County by reducing the exorbitant amount of special education funding that is transferred from the public schools to charter schools and reducing the equally egregious funding of cyber schools. But his plan was rejected by a judge yesterday.

The Keystone State Education Coalition posted these articles this morning, which explain the situation:

“The district pays local charter schools about $64 million in tuition payments – more than it gets in state aid – to educate about half of its 7,000 students.”

Judge rejects Wolf challenge to charter funding

MARI A. SCHAEFER AND CAITLIN MCCABE, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS POSTED: Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 9:41 PM

A Delaware County judge ruled Tuesday that the Chester Upland School District must abide by the state’s charter school funding formula and keep paying the charter schools that now educate about half of the struggling district’s students. After a hearing that stretched two days, Common Pleas Judge Chad Kenney said the commonwealth’s plan was “wholly inadequate” to restore the district to financial stability. He also faulted the state and district’s lawyers for failing to provide “meaningful specifics or details” as to how they arrived at the plan. Kenney did approve two smaller requests: He said the district can hire a turnaround specialist and a forensic auditor.

The ruling was a setback for the Wolf administration and the district’s state appointed receiver, Frances Barnes, who had contended Chester Upland schools might not be able to open next week without a change to the formula. It was not clear if they would seek to appeal Kenney’s ruling.

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20150826_Judge_rejects_Wolf_challenge_to_charter_funding.html#FaBkHDktlZRAO83z.99

Judge derails Pa. plan for Chester Upland recovery

By Vince Sullivan, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 08/25/15, 10:33 PM EDT

CHESTER >> Just minutes after a public meeting with the receiver of the Chester Upland School District ended with an impassioned plea for support of the public school system, a Delaware County judge denied proposals to alter charter school funding which would have eliminated a $22 million structural deficit. President Judge Chad F. Kenney denied portions of a plan proposed by Receiver Francis V. Barnes, with the support of Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Department of Education, that sought to reduce payments to charter and cyber charter schools that educate Chester Upland School District. Barnes was seeking to cap the regular education tuition reimbursement for cyber charter students at $5,950, and to reduce the tuition reimbursement for special education students in brick-and-mortar charter schools from $40,000 to $16,000. Both changes would have been consistent with the recommendations of two bipartisan school funding commissions. Other portion of the plan calling for a forensic audit, a financial turnaround specialist and the delay of a loan repayment were approved.

http://www.delcotimes.com/general-news/20150825/judge-derails-pa-plan-for-chester-upland-recovery

Chester Upland charters struggle to account for $40,000 price tag for special education

WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA BENSHOFF AUGUST 25, 2015

In court Tuesday, charter schools in the Chester Upland district defended their claim to $40,000 in tuition for each special-education student they enroll. According to Pennsylvania’s calculations, the charters need — and, in fact, currently spend — well below that on those students.

The debate about how much money charters need to fulfill federal requirements for a “free appropriate public education” for special-education students is at the heart of reforms proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf and the district’s receiver, Francis Barnes, last week. And it’s at the center of a battle in Delaware County court this week between state and charter school officials.

Witnesses for the state Department of Education said Tuesday that none of the schools claimed spending more than $25,000 per special-education student in annual self-reports.

http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/85551-chester-upland-charters-struggle-to-account-for-40000-price-tag-for-special-education

So what exactly is in that Chester Upland Charter Special Sauce?

Here’s the bottom line on Chester Upland charter school special education funding. Would this have been allowed to go on for years if charter schools were “public” in more than name only and were subject to taxpayer scrutiny on a regular basis?

Right-to-know requests for financial information regarding the operations of Charter School Management Company have been blatantly ignored for years.

“Let’s look at Chester Upland’s special education enrollment, while considering that, in general, special education students diagnosed with autism, emotional disturbance and intellectual disability require the highest expenditures, while those with speech and language impairments require the lowest expenditures.

Special education students on the autism spectrum – generally requiring high expenditures – make up 8.4 percent of the entire special education population at the school district, compared to 2.1 percent at Chester Community Charter School and zero percent at Widener Partnership and Chester Community Schoolof the Arts.

In the emotional disturbance category, another often requiring high expenditures, 13.6 percent of all special education students are categorized as emotionally disturbed in the school district, compared to 5.3 percent at Chester Community Charter, none at Widener or Chester Community School of the Arts.

For the intellectual disability category, the final category generally requiring high expenditures, the school district again serves a much larger percentage of this category: 11.6 percent for the school district, 2.8 for Chester Community Charter School and none for the others.

Conversely, for special education students requiring the lowest expenditures, the speech and language impaired, only 2.4 percent of the school district’s special education population falls into this category, compared to 27.4, 20.3 and 29.8 percent, respectively, at the charters.

Clearly the lion’s share of the need requiring the highest expenditures remains with the school district, but an exorbitant amount of funding goes to charters, where most special education needs can be addressed for comparatively low cost.”

Guest Column: The case for the Wolf recovery plan
Delco Times Letter by Frances Barnes POSTED: 08/24/15, 10:24 PM EDT

To the Times:

This is an open letter from Chester Upland School District Receiver Francis V. Barnes.

This afternoon (Aug. 24), Chester Upland School District and the Pennsylvania Department of Education will appear before President Judge Chad Kenney seeking approval of an amended Financial Recovery Plan to restore financial integrity and balance the books, which is vital for the district and the charter schools it funds. The plan treats charters fairly by not reducing payments made for about 70 percent of charter students, but it does reduce unreasonable special education and cyber payments to charter schools. Reducing unreasonable payments will make the allocation of funds more equitable for all students in the Chester, Chester Township, and theUpland geographical area, regardless of which school they attend. Under the current formula, funds for special education students are not allocated equitably. The district is required to pay charter schools more than $40,000 per special education student, regardless of the actual cost to educate that student, while the district receives less than needed to educate its own special education students.

http://www.delcotimes.com/opinion/20150824/guest-column-the-case-for-the-wolf-recovery-plan

Here’s Dan Hardy’s coverage of the same issue from 2012:

Chester Upland: State special ed formula drains millions from district

By Dan Hardy, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: FEBRUARY 06, 2012
As Delaware County’s financially troubled Chester Upland School District struggles to stay afloat, officials there say they are paying millions more than they should on special-education students who attend charter schools.
School districts pay charters to teach their children, using a complicated formula set by state law. About 45 percent of Chester Upland’s students attend charters.

Chester Upland’s payments are based on the previous year’s expense of educating students in its own schools, minus some costs charters do not incur.

For regular-education Chester Upland students this year, that figure is $9,858 per child.

But flaws in the state charter-school law, district officials say, make payments to charter schools for special-education students much higher, costing Chester Upland about $8 million more than is reasonable.
Chester Upland’s per-student special-education charter-school payment this year is $24,528, more than twice as much as for regular students and thousands per student more than the state average.
http://articles.philly.com/2012-02-06/news/31030424_1_charter-schools-special-education-cost-special-education

Blogger Steven Singer reports that parents and children of a school in Puerto Rico are fighting to protect its contents and to persuade the government to reopen the school.

For more than 80 days, about 35 parents and children have been camping out in front of their neighborhood school in the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico.
The Commonwealth government closed the Jose Melendez de Manati school along with more than 150 others over the last 5 years.
But the community is refusing to let them loot it.
They hope to force lawmakers to reopen the facility.
Department of Education officials have been repeatedly turned away by protesters holding placards with slogans like “This is my school and I want to defend it,” and “There is no triumph without struggle, there is no struggle without sacrifice!”
Officials haven’t even been able to shut off the water or electricity or even set foot inside the building.
The teachers union – the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR) – has called for a mass demonstration of parents, students and teachers on Sunday, Aug. 23. Protesters in the capital of San Juan will begin a march at 1 p.m. from Plaza Colón to La Fortaleza (the Governor’s residence)….

Unfortunately, things look to get much worse before they’ll get any better.
The government warns it may be out of money to pay its bills by as early as 2016. Over the next five years, it may have to close nearly 600 more schools – almost half of the remaining facilities!
Right on cue, Senate President Eduardo Bhatia is proposing corporate education reform methods to justify these draconian measures. This includes privatizing the school system, tying teacher evaluations to standardized test scores and increasing test-based accountability.
“Our interest is to promote transparency and flow of data through the implementation of a standardized measurement and accountability system for all agencies,” Bhatia said, adding that the methodology has been successful in such cities as Chicago.

Chicago? Really? As usual, there are moguls and captains of industry behind the machinations, ready to sacrifice the education of children in Puerto Rico so the bond holders are repaid.

Jersey Jazzman reviews the economic mess in Puerto Rico. The Commonwealth was burdened by billions of dollars in debt that it could not repay. Much of the debt was held by hedge funds that speculated on the chances of repayment. The government decided to default on its crushing debt.

Hedge funds offered advice. Close schools, fire teachers, cut university spending. What about the future? Not their problem.

JJ, also known as Mark Weber, does some cAlculations about school spending in P.R. He also discovers this fact:

“Here’s a quick-and-dirty graph showing the differences in school-aged poverty rates between the 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico. Not even Mississippi or DC come close to matching Puerto Rico’s 55 percent student poverty rate. It’s extraordinary, and it’s probably underreported. The entire island’s child poverty rate is as high as Camden, NJ, America’s poorest city.

“But these guys want to cut funds to Puerto Rico’s schools. Think about that….

“I’m always hearing from reformy types that education is the pathway to the middle class (all others doing necessary work that doesn’t require college are left hanging, however). Why, then, would hedge-fundies, who subsidize charter schools on this very premise, think it was a good idea to slash education in Puerto Rico when it really does return higher wages for the island’s citizens? If you want to grow Puerto Rico out of its debt, why slash the one thing — education — that we know will grow the island’s wages?

“I know next to nothing about macroeconomics, but I understand that governments should not borrow with abandon without a clear plan for repayment, and without using their borrowings for investments that will generate economic growth. I actually don’t think it’s fair to shift the entire blame for Puerto Rico’s woes on Wall Street, although they certainly deserve some of it.

“It’s clear to me, however, that forcing Puerto Rico to fully repay the hedge funds while cutting school spending is both stupid and immoral. This is an island that desperately needs a high-quality education system as part of a program of social rebuilding. From all early indications, Puerto Rico has been inexcusably stingy in funding its schools and paying its teachers.”

The New York Times reported in June that hedge funds invested heavily in Puerto Rico, feeling sure that the Puerto Rican government could turn the economic crisis around.

Now that the debt crisis has worsened, hedge funds are advising the government of Puerto Rico to save money by closing some schools, laying off teachers, and cutting university budgets. Most people think of education as the seed corn of future growth, but not the hedge funds. They want their debts repaid. Maybe they will propose bringing the African model of cheap, for-profit schools to Puerto Rico, which will cut costs considerably while opening new investment opportunities. (See here.)

According to the Times:

Hedge funds like Appaloosa Management, Paulson & Company and Blue Mountain Capital gathered in a conference room at the Barclays offices in Midtown Manhattan last September to talk about what was then the hottest trade: Puerto Rico.

An hour into the conversation, however, it became clear that if things started going bad, not everyone in the room was going to get along. Some had wagered on real estate, while others had bought up the debts of the central government and its troubled electric utility.

Those divisions intensify an increasingly contentious battle the hedge funds are beginning to wage to salvage an investment that, less than a year ago, looked like a sure thing.

This week’s announcement by Gov. Alejandro García Padilla of Puerto Rico that the commonwealth may seek to delay debt payments has thrown the hedge funds’ investment strategies into turmoil.

The governor said that at the rate the debt is developing, every person in Puerto Rico would owe creditors $40,000 by 2025.The Bonds That Broke Puerto RicoJUNE 30, 2015
Puerto Rico is struggling with more than $70 billion in debt and a sluggish economy.Puerto Rico Debt Crisis Splits Congress on Party Lines and Draws Muted Response From White HouseJUNE 29, 2015
Gov. Alejandro García Padilla plans to discuss the island’s fiscal crisis on a televised broadcast on Monday night.Puerto Rico’s Governor Says Island’s Debts Are ‘Not Payable’JUNE 28, 2015
Even debts that appeared to be secure now seem in jeopardy, sending hedge funds and other investors scrambling to re-examine their legal rights and potential remedies should the government push for a restructuring.

The Commonwealth’s biggest cheerleader on Wall Street has been John Paulson:

For the hedge funds, the idea was to lend the money at high interest rates, then flip the bonds to traditional municipal bond investors, like mutual funds, once the fiscal crisis on the island had passed. As part of that strategy, some of the hedge funds circulated research last summer arguing that Puerto Rico’s problems were overstated.

But Governor García Padilla is now contending exactly the opposite, releasing a report by former officials at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that says that Puerto Rico’s deficit is worse than it appears and that the commonwealth cannot solve its problems without restructuring its debts, possibly even its general obligation bonds.

Still, Puerto Rico’s relationship with the hedge fund industry is complicated. At the same time the government is gearing up for a series of restructurings with hedge funds and other creditors, officials are courting investments in the broader economy.

Hedge funds have been among the few investors willing to take a chance that Puerto Rico can turn things around.

Puerto Rico’s biggest hedge fund cheerleader in New York has been the billionaire John A. Paulson. Mr. Paulson told investors at an investment conference in San Juan last year that Puerto Rico’s economy was turning a corner. He went as far as to predict it would be the Singapore of the Caribbean, referring to the Southeast Asian city-state that is considered the region’s biggest economic success story.

Mr. Paulson bought up some of the island’s most exclusive luxury hotels, including the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel and the La Concha Renaissance hotel and tower.

And he has acted as a de facto liaison between the commonwealth and Wall Street.

Stuart Egan is a high school teacher in Clemmons, North Carolina. This letter is addressed to a key Republican who is leading the charge to shift more public funds to privately managed charter schools.

This is an open letter to Sen. Jerry Tillman, R- Randolph County and the Majority Whip in the NC State Senate. This letter concerns his amendment to House Bill 334 to remove oversight of charter schools from DPI and his primary sponsorship of Senate Bill 456, a bill to forward more public money to charter schools.
Sen. Tillman,

Your crusade to create a lucrative charter school industry at the hands of public schools again has reached new heights of irrationality and hubris, and it is indicative of an exclusionary attitude when it comes to serving the people of North Carolina.

I am not surprised that you as a leader of the GOP caucus in the North Carolina General Assembly would spearhead a campaign to keep privatizing education in North Carolina, but the fact that you are a retired public school educator pushing this agenda makes me think that your commitment to provide a quality education to all of our state’s children simply vanished when you took an “oath” as a politician.

As reported on July 23rd in Lindsay Wagner’s news story entitled “Tillman’s bill impacts charter school oversight”, you championed an amendment to House Bill 334 that now places oversight of charter schools under the care of the State Board of Education and out of the Department of Public Instruction’s jurisdiction.

What this does is essentially place the responsibility of monitoring charter schools into the hands of an entity that is not prepared for that task. When pressed on the matter, you expressed that you intended to allocate funds to allow the SBE to hire personnel to monitor charter schools. Really? Spend more money on charters by creating a situation where you can protect them from checks and balances? This sounds more like a way for you to fashion a favorable situation for new charter schools to not only operate more freely, but be less transparent.

Ms. Wagner also detailed the abrupt manner in which you fielded questions from other legislators who were concerned with the surreptitious manner in which you operated. You stated that “DPI was never in love … with charter schools.” By whose standards is this true? Yours? Is it because DPI has been able to identify indiscretions with many charter schools that needed to be corrected?

When Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) confronted you for more clarification about why your amendment was actually beneficial to children of North Carolina, you hid behind a curtain of illogical clichés and glittering generalities. Sen. Stein asked in what ways DPI had inhibited charter school creation and you shot back, “I’m not going to give you the details. A good lawyer would never do that.” That’s odd. You are a lawmaker. You should produce details. In fact, good lawyers very much pay attention to details.

When further pressed to offer details as to why DPI should be divested of charter school oversight, you said, “We don’t air dirty laundry here.” Senator, if there is enough dirty laundry to create the need for your amendment, then you probably need to show everyone the stains. And where and when should this “dirty laundry” get aired? It seems like you were in the laundromat already.

You were in a meeting specifically to address House Bill 334 and you brought forth an amendment which totally changes the scope of how charter schools are managed and then you bullishly refused to explain yourself. If your reasoning is so sound, then why did you not clarify it? When people refuse to answer questions that require thoughtful answers, then it usually means that one is either hiding some secret agenda or really has no logical reasoning whatsoever, or both. I am thinking that it is both because this is just the last of a series of actions that have shown you bulldozing the public schools to create more charter schools without oversight.

A June 4th report by Laura Leslie for WRAL entitled “Senate Education Leader blasts charter chief” detailed your outburst in a meeting concerning why DPI refused to grant charters for many new charter school applications. Reading your comments makes you sound like a playground bully who did not get his way. The first few sentences of the report used phrases like “angry outburst” and “public dressing-down” to describe your tirade. Joel Medley, the State Office of Charter Schools director, actually explained to you the reasoning for the denial of some charters. He did not seem to hide behind some political agenda. He was willing to air dirty laundry for the sake of the state’s welfare. No lawyer needs to explain that.

Let’s go back a few weeks. I now refer to the April 28th edition of the Winston-Salem Journal, when education writer Arika Herron reported that you proposed a bill (SB 456) which “would send more money to charter schools” by taking more from traditional public schools in next year’s budget (“NC Senate bill would send more money to charter schools”). I have to admit; at least you are consistent.

It appears that you publicly ignore that charter schools can practice exclusion and in many cases divert public funds to unregulated entities. Charter schools are not required to offer transportation or provide free/reduced lunches. They can selectively limit enrollment and hire non-certified educators. Most charter schools simply lack transparency. And a further consequence is that SB 456 targets poorer people because you introduced a bill that would exclude more poor people (who still pay taxes) from the benefits of a quality education that you perceive only charter schools can give.

Sen. Tillman, you do not seem to care if your wish to expand charter schools actually widens the income gap that so much grips our state. You made that perfectly clear on Feb. 23rd, 2011, when you were shown on a video posted by Rob Schofield on the ncpolicywatch.org website. You fielded a question that expressed concern over whether lower-income kids could have equal chances to attend charter schools. Your response was indicative of the exclusionary attitude that your proposed bill embraces.

You said, “It’s certainly okay if they don’t go there [the charter school]. They can go to their public schools. They can get their free and reduced price lunch. And they can do that. But the charter school itself and the commission must decide what they can do and when they can do it financially. And that’s where we are now and that’s where we’re gonna’ be and I’m certainly for that.”

With a response like that, how can you claim to represent all North Carolinians? The fact is that no matter the socioeconomic background of the students, traditional schools do succeed when proper resources are allotted (money, textbooks, time, respect, etc.). When teachers have the support of the public AND the legislature, any school can show student growth. However, your statement leads one to think that you are promoting exclusivity based on income levels.
And this is not the first time that you have alienated those who suffer from poverty.

You were a primary sponsor for the Voting Reform Act in the 2013-2014 sessions, leading the charge to fight non-existent voter fraud in our state by fast-tracking a voter ID law that was purposefully constructed to keep many people’s voices from being heard, especially minority and low-income citizens. If these people are silenced, then how can they democratically affect outcomes in elections that may sanction positive change for their children and grandchildren including issues surrounding public education? You seem to be denying them the very right that you have sworn to protect and uphold as an elected official.

As a public school teacher, I am amazed that you continue to belittle the very public schools that you yourself once served as a teacher, coach, principal and assistant superintendent – for over 40 years! You are drawing a pension for being a public school retiree!

But now you are a seven-term state senator and a willing participant in transforming North Carolina from what was considered the most progressive state in the Southeast into what has regressed into a stagnated commonwealth ruled by reactionary policies.

And what seems most egregious is that you are the co-chairman of the Senate’s Education Committee. Your decisions impact ALL STUDENTS! You have a direct influence in how schools are funded, what they can teach, and how they are measured. Surely you remember the Jeb Bush inspired letter-grading system you helped implement that found most “failing” schools in North Carolina resided in areas where there were concentrated pockets of poverty.

As a public official you are under oath to uphold the state’s constitution which ensures all students a quality public education. Instead you are compromising all students in traditional schools while taking more of the valuable money and resources allocated for them to give to charter schools that do not have to abide by the same regulations.

If you truly want to positively impact public education, then invest more in pre-K programs and expand Medicaid so more kids come to school healthy and prepared. Reinstitute the Teaching Fellows program to keep our bright future teachers here in North Carolina. Then give decent raises to veteran teachers so they finish their careers here instead of in other states.

Real leaders take away obstacles that impede those who are served. You are creating more.

Stuart Egan, NBCT
West Forsyth High School
Clemmons, NC

Fairtest reports that George Washington University has grown the long list of universities that no longer require students to take the SAT or ACT for admission. These universities recognize that students’ grade-point-average over four years is more predictive of college success than any standardized test.

GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY GOES TEST-OPTIONAL;
MOVEMENT OF SCHOOLS TO DE-EMPHASIZE ACT/SAT ACCELERATES
WITH 40 DROPPING ACT/SAT REQUIREMENTS IN PAST TWO YEARS
Today’s announcement by George Washington University that it will no longer require most applicants to submit ACT or SAT test scores is the latest example of a surge of schools dropping admissions testing requirements. According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), 40 colleges and universities have adopted test-optional policies since spring 2013.
Like George Washington, many of the institutions going test-optional in the past two years are among the most competitive in the U.S. The list includes Beloit, Brandeis, Bryn Mawr, Drake, Hood, Kalamazoo, Sienna and Wesleyan. A growing number of public universities, such as Eastern Connecticut, Monmouth State, Old Dominion, Plymouth State, Rowan, Temple, and Virginia Commonwealth, have also eliminated ACT or SAT score requirements for all or many applicants
FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer explained, “The test-optional surge recognizes that no test—not the SAT, old or new, nor the ACT – is needed for high-quality admissions. Many independent studies and practical experiences have shown that test-optional admission enhances both academic excellence and diversity.”
FairTest’s list of ACT/SAT-optional schools (at http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional) now includes more than 180 schools ranked in the top tiers of their respective categories. More than one-third of top-ranked national liberal arts colleges have test-optional policies.
– regular updates for FairTest’s chronology of test-optional adoptions and list of top-tier schools with test-optional or test-flexible policies are online at http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional

A regular commenter on the blog who calls him/herself “Democracy” posted these insightful thoughts about the state of “leadership” and its willingness to follow the corporate reform script instead of standing up for sound policies and practices that promote good education:

 

 

 

Part 1

 

I’ve been commenting on this blog for a while, lamenting the state of “leadership” in pubic education.

 

The fate of Joshua Starr in Montgomery County, MD is a good example. Starr was actually trying to bring more equity to the system, he wanted to de-emphasize testing, he opposed merit pay, and he was collaborative, generally. A teacher rep said Starr made sure teachers were “included in the decision-making process for most major decisions.” Still, Starr seemed to favor the Common Core, and in an interview with NPR he bragged about the county’s “SAT and AP scores.” Sigh.

 

Starr’s replacement was to have been Andrew Houlihan of Houston, who later withdrew his name from consideration.

 

Houlihan’s dissertation was on the use of data. He has described himself as “a big data person. I love using data to make decisions.” Except, apparently, Houlihan never really understood what the “data” said. He bragged about an Arnold Foundation grant that, he said, was “transforming” the recruitment of teachers. And he bragged about Houston’s merit pay program – ASPIRE – that, he said, rewarded “our most effective educators” for “accelerating student progress.”

 

The Arnold Foundation is a right-wing organization founded by a hedge-funder who resists accountability and transparency in derivatives markets but calls for them in education. Its executive director, Denis Cabrese was former chief of staff to DIck Armey, the Texas conservative who now heads up FreedomWorks, the group that helps to pull the Tea Party strings and gets funding from the billionaire arch-conservative Koch brothers.

 

Fairfax County recently hired Karen Garza, who was also in Houston. Garza led the ASPIRE program, a pay plan that was funded (in part) by the Broad, Gates and Dell foundations, the very same groups that fund corporate-style “reform” and that support the Common Core. And while researchers point out the dangers of value-added models, noting that they “cannot disentangle the many influences on student progress,” Garza said they were “proven methodology” that are both “valid and reliable.”

 

Fairfax and Montgomery, by the way, are considered two of the better school systems, nationally.

 

Part 2

 

Meanwhile, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) recently concluded its Spring conference, titled “Inspiring Leadership for Innovation.” The conference was focused on “college and career readiness,” “leadership skills essential to changing school cultures,” and “superintendent success stories.” The featured speakers were Jean Claude Brizard and Marc Tucker.

 

Brizard has been a failure as a superintendent in Rochester and Chicago. According to a columnist who followed him closely, Brizard “engaged in gross misrepresentations of data and sometimes outright lied. He made promises he didn’t keep. He did one thing while saying another.” As to his two failed superintendencies, Brizard admits that “there were some mistakes made.”

 

Marc Tucker says that he wants high-stakes tests in grades 4, 8 and 10, and “the last exams would be set at an empirically determined college- and work-ready standard.” Additionally, “every other off year, the state would administer tests in English and mathematics beginning in grade 2, and, starting in middle school, in science too, on a sampling basis. Vulnerable groups would be oversampled to make sure that populations of such students in the schools would be accurately measured.” Tucker wants all schools systems to take PISA, because he thinks that the test scores of 15-year-olds are somehow tied tightly to economic growth and competitiveness. You know, jobs.

 

Sigh. Tucker just keeps regurgitating the same-old song, all over again: college and career “readiness.” To Tucker, that’s why public education exists. He says nary a word about citizenship.

 

And what about those jobs? The Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that most new jobs created in the United States over the next decade will NOT require postsecondary education. These are jobs like personal care aides, retail clerks, nursing assistants, janitors and maids, construction laborers, freight and stock movers, secretaries, carpenters, and fast food preparers.

 

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/most-new-jobs.htm

 

In addition to its Spring fling, VASS selected its 2016 superintendent of the year. While the award comes from VASS, a VASS-selected panel –– comprised of the state superintendent of instruction, and the heads of the Virginia Education Association, state PTA and state school boards association, the state ASCD, and the directors of the state associations of secondary and elementary school principals –– picked the winner. In other words, the top education “leaders” in the state –– those who should be familiar with research and evidence –– were responsible for choosing the state’s “best” superintendent.

 

A few years back, this recently-named “superintendent of the year” forced a test-score-tracking software program called SchoolNet on teachers. She was advised against it because of its problems, but she went ahead anyway. It ended up being a $2 million-plus failure. SchoolNet was later bought by Pearson. The superintendent is still withholding 268 SchoolNet-related emails from public scrutiny, claiming they are “exempt” from the Freedom of Information Act.

 

 

Part 3

 

This VASS-award-winner’s school division sent out what it called a “leadership” survey several years back. It was a skewed-question survey designed to produce pre-determined results. But it did allow for comments. And they were instructive. They included comments such as “..this is the worst leadership the county has ever had,” and “Honesty, integrity and fairness are lacking,” and “…teachers have very little voice, and “…the system does not care about me or most other employees as individuals, and “county schools leaders seem to be increasingly inept and far-removed from the day-to-day realities of public education.” Again and again and again, commenters said these things about the top “leadership:”

 

“does not listen to teachers…”
“does not ask what people think before it accepts major policies…”
* “…teachers are not listened to…our opinions have been requested and ignored…”
* “…when I offer my opinion, i has been dismissed.”
* “l..leaders seek input, but then usually, disregard the opinions of those not in agreement with the administration…decisions are made top-down before input is received.”
* “decision making is so top-down — stakeholders are seldom consulted…”
* “…decisions have already been made…”
* “…teachers feel that their professional judgment is not valued…”
* “most administrator are arrogant…and remove themselves with any type of collaborative dialogue with teachers.”
* “…they do not want to hear complaints, or you are labeled as a troublemaker…”
* “the county asks its employees for input but these requests are superficial…the decision have already been made by the people ‘downtown’…”
* “you ask people to think critically but we must toe the party line…”
* “We are not asked what we think…it is common knowledge here that you are not allowed to address concerns that may be negative…”
“I see few examples of teachers being involved in decision making.”

 

A blue ribbon resources utilization committee recommended a climate survey of the schools years earlier, noting that one had been done repeatedly in county government. Teachers asked for a climate survey in the schools too, and even offered to help write one. A climate survey still hasn’t been offered.

 

This “superintendent of the year” forced STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) “academies” on all of the county high schools. The original claim was that research showed a STEM “crisis” in America, and that this move was “visionary.” Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin – which has laid of thousands of STEM workers – was invited to the schools to make his STEM spiel. When asked for the “research,” the superintendent couldn’t produce any. There’s a reason for that. The research shows there is no “crisis,” no “shortage.” In fact, there’s a glut.

For example, Beryl Lieff Benderly wrote this stunning statement recently in the Columbia Journalism Review (see: http://www.cjr.org/reports/what_scientist_shortage.php?page=all ):

“Leading experts on the STEM workforce, have said for years that the US produces ample numbers of excellent science students. In fact, according to the National Science Board’s authoritative publication Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, the country turns out three times as many STEM degrees as the economy can absorb into jobs related to their majors.”

 

When VASS selected this “superintendent of the year” for 2016, it noted certain “indicators of success.” What were they? It cited an increase in the “number of students enrolled in AP courses” and SAT scores that were higher than the state average. Never mind that the SAT is not tied to the school curriculum and that this school division is one of the most affluent in the state. There is no better predictor of SAT score than family income.

 

The research on SAT – and ACT – and AP courses finds that they are mostly hype. The SAT and ACT just don’t do a good job of predicting success in college or life. Moreover, research finds that when demographic characteristics are controlled for, the oft-made claims made for AP disappear. In the ‘ToolBox Revisited’ (2006), a statistical analysis of the factors contributing to the earning of a bachelor’s degree, Adelman found that Advanced Placement did not reach the “threshold level of significance.” Other research finds that while “students see AP courses on their transcripts as the ticket ensuring entry into the college of their choice…there is a shortage of evidence about the efficacy, cost, and value of these programs.”

 

This is the current state of public education’s “leadership.”

 

Unlike the Allstate commercial, I don’t think we’re in ‘good hands.’

Good news–no, great news–from York City, Pennsylvania! Because of the district’s fiscal problems, exacerbated by state budget cuts (a designed crisis), the state appointed a receiver who wanted to turn the entire district over to a for-profit charter chain. A lower court upheld the state’s decision. However, an appeals court overturned the state takeover. This fortunate event reflects the change at the top, as Governor Tom Corbett was defeated by Tom Wolf. Corbett was bent on budget-cutting and privatization. Wolf is not. Corbett and his receiver were set to hand all the schools in York City over to Florida-based Charter Schools USA. That won’t happen.

Ending almost five months of uncertainty about who will control the York City School District, an appeals court in Harrisburg on Wednesday put a stop to the state’s push to appoint a receiver, someone who would’ve had almost all of the school board’s powers.
The order filed in Commonwealth Court throws out a judge’s previous decision appointing David Meckley as the district’s receiver, along with the appeals of that ruling. That comes after the attorneys for the state, district and other sides met earlier this week after a hearing and filed an application asking the court to end the case.
On Dec. 1, the Pennsylvania Department of Education filed a petition in the York County Court of Common Pleas asking a judge to appoint Meckley as the district’s receiver. As receiver, Meckley, the district’s state-appointed chief recovery officer, would’ve had all of the school board’s powers – with the exception of levying taxes.
The state had argued that the York City School Board did not follow Meckley’s instructions, including his request to turn the district’s buildings into charters. The judge granted the state’s petition to appoint Meckley as receiver at the end of the December, which the district almost immediately appealed.
Meckley resigned as chief recovery officer on March 13, saying he could not move the district forward as Gov. Tom Wolf was opposed to turning its buildings into charters.
Carol Saylor, who previously worked as a superintendent of a school district in Lancaster County and has almost 40 years of experience in education, has since been appointed to replace Meckley as chief recovery officer.

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