Archives for category: Accountability

Superstar principal Troy La Raviere in Chicago steps back to assess the deadlock between the mayor and the Chicago Teachers Union.

 

He recalls a recent conversation with Paul Vallas. He writes:

 

“I’m not an admirer of his education policy, but Vallas was the last Chicago Public Schools CEO to leave the district with a structurally balanced long-term budget. He also left CPS with a fully funded pension system, and over $1 billion in reserves. When Vallas returned to Chicago this past August, I was fortunate enough to have an hour-long conversation with him a few days before we both participated in a panel at the City Club of Chicago. During our conversation—and during the panel—Vallas outlined the financial rules that kept CPS budgets balanced during his tenure. Those practices included the following:

 

“He did not add programs without identifying additional revenue to pay for them.

 
“He did not borrow for operational expenses.

 
“He did not spend on new schools when there was declining enrollment. Building new schools should be based on demographics, not school reform ideology.

 
“He did not redirect funding for pension payments toward other spending projects.

 
“After Vallas’ departure, the mayor’s appointees to CPS lost all fiscal discipline and consistently violated every one of these sound budgeting practices. As a result of their mismanagement, CPS now claims they need “shared sacrifice” from teachers. Teachers union officials don’t seem to have the kind of consistent and concise messaging the Mayor’s office has, so the average news consumer may not notice that within CTU’s response are the keys to solving CPS’ fiscal crisis. I will take the liberty of fine-tuning CTU’s message and speaking as the Chicago public school teacher and union member I once was, before becoming an administrator nearly a decade ago.”

 

LaRaviere then describes what is necessary to fix the budget. And he identifies who must share in sacrificing to put the system in a sound financial footing.

 

If you want to see our Acting Secretary of Education John King deflecting any responsibility or accountability for the ethical lapses of senior officials in the Department, here is a link to the full hearing. 

 
King finds a variety of ways to shift responsibility. He insists he is not accountable. Not me. Someone else said it was okay to have outside income and not report it to the IRS. Does the ED still give ethics briefings to political appointees? Apparently not.

 

To be fair to King, he has only worked at the Department for a year, understudying the role of Secretary. Who appointed Danny Harris as chief information officer? Who supervised him? Who reviewed his disclosure forms? Call them to testify too.

 
Who is accountable in this Department that has made “accountability” its watchword?

If you open this link, you can see every state’s report card. This shows which states value their public schools. It shows which states resist privatization, which states finance their public schools adequately and equitably, which states encourage teacher professionalism, which states promote opportunity for all students.

 

Read about your state. It is on one page. Share it with your elected officials and school leaders.

 

The most important goal of the NPE report is to get the public and policymakers to understand what matters most in improving schools.

 

Our nation has pursued failed market-based policies for 15 years. It is time to do what works, based on evidence and experience.

John Abeigon, president of the Newark Teachers Union, wrote an article calling on the corporate charter chains to come clean about their finances and their practice of skimming the easiest-to-educate students, and to stop boasting about unverified results.

 

Abeigon writes:

 

“The time has come for New Jersey taxpayers to take a close look at corporate-sponsored charter schools in New Jersey. So-called school-choice advocates are pumping millions of dollars into political and advertising campaigns to protect the status quo when it involves the quasi-secret operations of privately managed charter schools in cities like Newark and elsewhere. The strike a wedge between Newark’s parents to draw the attention of taxpayers away from their financial shenanigans.

 

“The Newark Teachers Union has asked for more transparency in the management of corporate-backed charter schools. The Newark Public Schools have two monthly meetings where the school board and superintendent can be held accountable for the actions of their school. When was the last time the citizens of Newark were invited to a KIPP board meeting? What about Uncommon Schools?

 

Also, as these charters have grown, banks and corporations have developed ways, and found alternative credit routes, to provide capital to charter schools at favorable rates. What are these rates? And what are they funding? Have taxpayers and state legislators had an opportunity to review these credit applications?

 

Why are Newark’s corporate-run charters so afraid of transparency and democracy? Are Newark taxpayers allowed to run for election on a North Star Academy school board? Where are their financial statements? Where are their attendance reports? How are they spending taxpayer money? And why must the union be asking these questions?

 

“Second of all, corporate-charter advocates try to make the argument that Newark parents are “voting with their feet” and leaving public schools. But this is very misleading. Strong community schools like Dayton Street School were closed, forcing students from their communities. And still a vast majority of students elected to choose traditional public schools at their first option when they filled out their choices under One Newark.

 

“On top of that, the corporate charter industry throws millions of dollars into advertising their schools and broad claims of undocumented success. When was the last time you saw a billboard or TV commercial advertising your local traditional school? Or the many successful magnet high schools in Newark? There is no true choice here, just a financial tidal wave to push parents towards the corporate charter schools. They burn the village down, and then yell as loudly “This village has failed it’s citizens!”

 

“It is also very misleading when charters tout their successes without providing any evidence beyond their press release. As much as they promise “blind lotteries” are used to select their students, the numbers don’t hold up. Newark’s charter schools somehow manage to end up without the more challenging populations. They have far lower number of special ed, LEP, and poverty students.

 

“And as the charters expand, they continue to cream off select student groups, leaving the traditional schools with a more concentrated population of more challenging and more expensive students to educate — while draining away the very financial resources needed to provide these students with a quality education.

 

In contrast to the charters, the Newark Public Schools take students as they are:

 

“We educate all students, and we are proud of that. No matter what their IEP’s say. No matter what language their parents speak or if their parents are not involved in their lives. No matter if they are homeless or coming to school hungry every morning. That is what a Newark educator does, and shame on corporate-sponsored so-called school-choice advocates for denouncing that work for their financial and professional gain.

”

 

Abeigon concludes that if charters really are doing a good job, as they claim, they should open their doors and their books. They should share the secrets of their success, if it is real. Be transparent and be accountable to the public.

 

 

 

 

Earlier I posted a story about the four-hour grilling of the US Department of Education’s Chief Information Officer, Danny Harris.

 

According to the Washington Post, Mr. Harris had two outside businesses. And there was more that raised eyebrows:

 

The lawmakers’ concerns centered on an inspector general’s investigation that found Harris ran an after-hours car-detailing and home-theater-installation business that employed two subordinates from his agency and also allegedly accepted payments from other subordinates for the work.

 

The hearing also examined Harris’s effort to help a relative find work at the department and his close friendship with an agency vendor whose company has been awarded about $10 million in contracts to perform work that falls under the purview of his office.

 

Harris also failed to report an estimated $10,000 in income from his outside activities on federal disclosure forms and to the Internal Revenue Service, according to federal officials.

 

 

Here is a five-minute clip from that hearing, where Mr. Harris testifies and where Acting Secretary of Education John King insists that Mr. Harris was cleared by Department officials of any wrongdoing. This is a fascinating exchange and I highly recommend that you watch it.

Paul Thomas of Furman University spent 18 years as a teacher in South Carolina. He now prepares teachers and writes articles, posts, and books.

 

He writes here about South Carolina’s reaction to the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Politicians and editorialists say there must be no back-sliding on accountability, that the state must recommit to holding teachers, students, and schools accountable.

 

But he notes that South Carolina’s dedication to testing and accountability started thirty years ago, and the state still lags far behind other states. So-called reformers say that the answer is to double down on failed strategies. Wouldn’t you think that thirty years of failure is enough?

 

Thomas writes:

 

The greatest education challenge, then, facing our state is addressing poverty and racism in our society so that education reform has a chance to succeed. Without adopting policy that deals directly with stable jobs with adequate pay and benefits, healthcare, childcare, and an equitable criminal justice system, our schools are destined to continue to struggle.

 

Next, we need to reconsider entirely education reform—not based on accountability but on equity of opportunity.

 

Labeling and ranking our schools—whether we use more than test scores or not—has been harmful, and it is past time to consider another process. As Bruce Baker, Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, and researcher Gerald Bracey have argued often, educational rankings tend to reveal more about conditions outside of the school’s control than about the quality of education. Overwhelmingly in all types of educational rankings the greatest predictor of high or low rankings is wealth or poverty.

 

However, The State actually hits on a better alternative: “But the focus must remain on the core function of the schools: providing all children in this state the opportunity to receive a decent education, of the sort that will allow them to become self-supporting, productive, taxpaying citizens.”

 

Equity of opportunity must replace accountability in SC—although this doesn’t mean lowering expectations or absolving schools or teachers from their responsibilities to students and the state.

 

What I propose is transparency about the opportunities to learn that all students are receiving in the context of social programs that help every student enter the doors of those schools on much more equal footing than they have historically or currently.

 

Those equitable opportunities must include for all students access to experienced and certified teachers, open door policies for challenging courses and programs (such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate), and equitably funded schools and facilities across the state. As well, we must end inequitable disciplinary policies and outcomes, tracking, and harmful current policies such as third-grade retention based on reading scores.

 

But grading and ranking schools must end as well.

 

Will we waste another generation of children by holding onto failed strategies?

Film maker Michael Moore is a native of Flint, Michigan. He is outraged by what happened to the people of Flint when Governor Snyder’s emergency manager decided to save money by switching Flint’s water supply from a safe source to an unsafe one.

 

Moore wrote this post to identify 10 things about the crisis that are little known and make you even more outraged.

 

Here are a few examples:

 

 

1. While the Children in Flint Were Given Poisoned Water to Drink, General Motors Was Given a Special Hookup to the Clean Water.

 

A few months after Gov. Snyder removed Flint from the clean fresh water we had been drinking for decades, the brass from General Motors went to him and complained that the Flint River water was causing their car parts to corrode when being washed on the assembly line. The governor was appalled to hear that GM property was being damaged, so he jumped through a number of hoops and quietly spent $440,000 to hook GM back up to the Lake Huron water, while keeping the rest of Flint on the Flint River water.

 

Which means that while the children in Flint were drinking lead-filled water, there was one — and only one — address in Flint that got clean water: the GM factory.

 

2. For Just $100 a Day, This Crisis Could’ve Been Prevented.

 

Federal law requires that water systems which are sent through lead pipes must contain an additive that seals the lead into the pipe and prevents it from leaching into the water. Someone at the beginning suggested to the governor that they add this anti-corrosive element to the water coming out of the Flint River.

 

“How much would that cost?” came the question. “$100 a day for three months,” was the answer.

 

I guess that was too much, so, in order to save $9,000, the state government said f*** it — and as a result the state may now end up having to pay upwards of $1.5 billion to fix the mess.

 

3. There’s More Than the Lead in Flint’s Water.

 

In addition to exposing every child in the city of Flint to lead poisoning on a daily basis, there appears to be a number of other diseases we may be hearing about in the months ahead. The number of cases in Flint of Legionnaires Disease has increased tenfold since the switch to the river water.

 

Eighty-seven people have come down with it, and at least 10 have died. In the five years before the river water, not a single person in Flint had died of Legionnaires Disease. Doctors are now discovering that another half-dozen toxins are being found in the blood of Flint’s citizens, causing concern that there are other health catastrophes which may soon come to light.

 

4. People’s Homes in Flint Are Now Worth Nothing Because They Cant Be Sold.

 

Would you buy a house in Flint right now? Who would? So every homeowner in Flint is stuck with a house that’s now worth nothing. That’s a total home value of $2.4 billion down the economic drain. People in Flint, one of the poorest cities in the U.S., don’t have much to their name, and for many their only asset is their home.

 

So, in addition to being poisoned, they have now a net worth of zero. (And as for employment, who is going to move jobs or start a company in Flint under these conditions? No one.) Has Flint’s future just been flushed down that river?”

 

Read the other six reasons to understand the terrible injustice done to the people of Flint by their own government.

 

Here is the last point, which explains why the state government did what it did to the people of Flint:

 

“When Governor Snyder took office in 2011, one of the first things he did was to get a multi-billion dollar tax break passed by the Republican legislature for the wealthy and for corporations. But with less tax revenues, that meant he had to start cutting costs.

 

“So, many things — schools, pensions, welfare, safe drinking water — were slashed. Then he invoked an executive privilege to take over cities (all of them majority black) by firing the mayors and city councils whom the local people had elected, and installing his cronies to act as “dictators” over these cities.

 

“Their mission? Cut services to save money so he could give the rich even more breaks. That’s where the idea of switching Flint to river water came from. To save $15 million! It was easy. Suspend democracy. Cut taxes for the rich. Make the poor drink toxic river water. And everybody’s happy.

 

“Except those who were poisoned in the process. All 102,000 of them. In the richest country in the world.”

 

 

 

 

One of the funniest and sharpest commentators on the follies and madness of contemporary education policy is EduShyster, known to friends and family as Jennifer Berkshire.

 

Jennifer is launching a podcast, which she calls “Have You Heard?”

 

Her first podcast is about the opt-out movement in Philadelphia. She is a great interviewer, and her podcasts will help to spread the word about the good and terrible things happening in education today.

 

She travels the country in search of stories, and she will be interviewing some of the leading figures in education from different ends of the ideological spectrum, asking tough questions.

 

Add EduShyster’s podcast to your reading and listening routine.

The edu-propaganda film “Waiting for ‘Superman'” promulgated the myth that charter schools were the equivalent to Superman, that powerful guy who flies through the sky to save the city from destruction time and time again. Geoffrey Canada says in the film that he cried when he learned that Superman was not real, because help was not on the way. But the film proceeds to construct a fairy tale in which children are saved by leaving public schools, Catholic schools, and even suburban schools and enrolling in a charter school, if they were lucky enough to win the lottery. More than five years have passed since the release of that film in September 2010, and we now know that charter schools are a mixed bag. Many get lower test scores than district public schools; those that get higher test scores, on closer inspection, have weeded out the kids likely to have low scores. Yet politicians continue to promote them as a sure cure for the neediest children.

 

Peter Greene here explains the fascination with Superman. No matter how many times sensible people and experienced educators warn that improving education is never quick or easy, that there is no secret sauce, no magic bullet, no miracles, the charter promoters are still selling their pie-in-the-sky.

 

The fundamental Superman idea is that some external force, some deus ex machina, will descend from the skies (or corporate headquarters) and perform miraculous feats. In the case of school reform, the belief in Superman is expressed through such mechanisms as a state takeover, a turnaround strategy in which everyone gets fired and replaced, a charter takeover, an Achievement School District. The very act of bringing in new management is supposed to have a transformative effect. Although there is no research, experience, or evidence, our leaders refuse to abandon their belief in Superman, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and Santa Claus.

 

Greene writes:

 

The emergency management system we see in Michigan is just one way of expressing the Superman Theory of Change– there are Supermen among us, and they could save the lesser beings, if only we stopped holding them back. Superman could bring us excellence, but the enemy of excellence is bureaucracy and regulation and rules and, most of all, democracy.

 

Counting on Superman has led to a variety of initiatives. The various attempts to break tenure (like Vergara and Reed before it) have come from the belief that when Superman takes over a school district, he must (like a CEO) be free to hire and fire based on what he alone can see with his super vision. (And schools would work so much better if every classroom was taught by another Superman).

 

The need to break unions is part of the same trend. Unions tie Superman down, forcing him to follow a bunch of stupid rules every time he wants to strap on his cape and take to the skies.

 

Likewise, government regulations get in Superman’s way, keeping him earthbound in a web of red tape. For a Superman believer like Jeb! Bush, it makes perfect sense to say that Flint’s crisis was caused by too much regulation– if the Supermen who emergency manage Flint and Detroit hadn’t had to deal with local and federal authorities at all, they would have avoided this whole mess.

 

Superman also needs to be un-hampered by “politics.” Reed Hastings (Netflix) famously supported the idea of doing away with elected school boards entirely, because they are too unstable, too susceptible to the will and whims of the public. This distaste for politics gives, in hindsight, a new understanding to the common complaint from reformsters a few years ago, who kept bemoaning how ed reform ideas like Common Core were being tripped up by “politics,” meaning, we can now see, that people were trying to keep Superman from exerting his full powers.

 

Yes, the greatest obstacle to Superman is democracy. People get in the way. So it becomes necessary to have the state take control, to have an emergency manager with dictatorial powers, to create a commission appointed by the governor to override local school boards, to have a mayor in charge of the schools.

 

Look how well it has worked in Detroit. And now Governor Rauner of Illinois wants to take control of Chicago public schools. But politics and democracy get in the way.

 

 

When you are locked in a tough battle, be pro-active. New York opt out advocates are encouraging allies to apply for two open positions on the Board of Regents. One of the co-founders of New York State Allies for Oublic education, Jessica McNair, parent and teacher is applying. The lesson here is: get involved. Run for office. Help good candidates win. If there are no good candidates, become a candidate.

 

This article is behind a paywall.

 

I am excerpting it here:

 

ALBANY — The parent-led coalition that last spring spurred one of the largest test refusal rates in the nation is pushing to have a voice on the state Board of Regents, as one of the opt-out leaders and several opt-out supporters have applied for a position on the education policymaking board.

 
“The people in the opt-out movement, or who have opted their kids out … are people that believe in a transparent research-based process,” said Lisa Rudley, co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of more than 50 groups statewide.
Two seats on the 17-member board will be open after chancellor Merryl Tisch, a member at-large, and vice chancellor Tony Bottar, who represents the 5th Judicial District, which includes the Mohawk Valley, said they will not run for re-election. Their departures will significantly change the dynamic of the board as it continues to be impacted by the controversy over the Common Core learning standards.

 
The opt-out groups have announced their endorsement of regent Betty Rosa, who represents the Bronx, as chancellor and Beverly Ouderkirk, who represents the North Country, as vice chancellor.

 
But the parent-led movement is looking to take it a step further by getting opt-out supporters on the board itself.

 
One of the most notable applicants for Bottar’s seat is Jessica McNair, 36, a New Hartford teacher, parent and co-founder of Opt Out CNY, a NYSAPE coalition member that represents nearly 4,200 parents in Central New York. Opt Out CNY this fall called for Bottar’s resignation, saying he “ignored” their concerns.

 
McNair told POLITICO New York that with her experience as a teacher still in a classroom setting, as well as having a first- and third-grader attending public school she has a “good read on the pulse of what’s happening.”

 
“Typically teachers don’t apply because the demands of serving on the Board of Regents and working in a classroom can be pretty great, however, I really feel that an educator’s voice is what’s needed on the Board of Regents right now,” NcNair said.

 
McNair and NYSAPE have expressed frustration over the continued use of student test scores in teacher evaluations, over-testing, the use of standards that are not developmentally and age appropriate. They also have said they are disappointed in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Common Core task force recommendations.

 
The task force, charged with reviewing the Common Core, made a number of recommendations in December, including placing a moratorium on the use of state test scores on teacher and principal evaluations — a hold the Regents later put in place through the 2019-2020 school year. Local assessments will be used in their place.

 
“We’re not really addressing the issues at hand,” said McNair, who also served as an advisor to the task force. “I feel like I’ve been very outspoken in advocating for children and that we still haven’t gotten where we need to be. I also want to be a part of the solution in advocating for kids.”

 
Regents board members are selected by the Legislature during a joint session in March, a process currently controlled by the Assembly Democrats, the biggest conference. The chancellor and vice chancellor are selected by the Regents board.

 
The Assembly has collected approximately 50 applications to fill the two positions, which have a five-year term that begins April 1, according to Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Whyland did not at have the number of applicants broken down by seat at this time, or the names of who applied. The Legislature will next schedule interviews and in March elect members to the board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 166,987 other followers