Archives for category: Accountability

This week begins the make-or-break, do-or-die standardized testing that will label your child a success or a failure. I urge you not to let your child take the state test.

 

Opt out.

 

The best test for students is the test made by their teacher. Teachers know what they taught; they test what the students were taught. They get instant feedback. They can find out immediately which students didn’t understand the lesson and need extra help. They can get instant feedback about their own success or lack of success if the students didn’t learn what they taught.

 

The standardized tests are useless for instant feedback. They have no diagnostic value. The test asks questions that may cover concepts that were never introduced in class. The test is multiple-choice, creating an unrealistic expectation that all questions have only one right answer. The tests may have errors, e.g., two right answers or no right answers or a confusing question. The test results are returned months after the test, meaning that the student now has a different teacher. The test scores give no breakdown of what the student did or did not understand, just a score.

 

These days, the purpose of the tests is to evaluate the teacher;  most researchers agree that using student scores to evaluate teachers gives inaccurate and unable results. This year’s “effective” teacher may be next year’s “ineffective” teacher. “Value-added-measurement” has not proven to work anywhere. Most teachers don’t teach tested subjects and they are assigned rating based on the results of the school as a whole. A music teacher may be found “ineffective” based on the school’s math scores. This is madness.

 

Because the tests have no diagnostic value for students, they are worthless. If they can’t be used to help students or to improve instruction, they shouldn’t be used at all. We can learn all we need to know about states or cities by sampling (like NAEP, which compares states to states, and cities to cities). We can learn all we need to know about individual students by relying on teacher judgment and testing in specific grades, like 4 and 8.

 

The reason we have so much testing is because our policymakers don’t trust teachers. If we trusted teachers, we would let them teach and trust them to do what is right for their students. The more we distrust teachers, the less appealing is teaching as a job or a profession.

 

Another reason we test so much is the power of the testing corporations, which pay lobbyists in Washington and the states to push for more testing. This is big business.

 

Elite private schools rarely use standardized tests. They trust their teachers to evaluate their students’ progress.

 

We are trapped in a machine that is profitable for the few, but demoralizing to teachers and students.

 

Testing is not teaching. It steals time from instruction. Making it so important leads schools to narrow the curriculum, cutting funding for the arts, eliminating social workers and counselors, cutting recess and physical education. Making testing so important leads to states and districts gaming the system, to schools shedding low-scoring students, to cheating, to teaching to the test, and to other anti-educational actions.

 

How to stop the machine?

 

Opt out.

 

Don’t let your children take the test.

 

Deny the machine the data on which it feeds. There are corporations ready to mine your child’s data. Don’t let them have it.

 

I am reminded of the famous speech by Mario Savio, leader of the Free Speech Movement, during a protest rally at the University of California at Berkeley in 1964. He said:

 

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

 

Assert your independence. Protect your child. Stop the machine.

 

Opt out.

This is a video made by students at Middletown High School in New York.

 

It is addressed to Governor Cuomo, who once called himself “the students’ lobbyist.”

The students know he is not their lobbyist.

He is the lobbyist for the 3% of children in New York state who attend charter schools.

He is not the lobbyist for the students in Middletown High School.

Contrary to what Governor Cuomo thinks, our students are smart.

They can tell what is real and what is fake.

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters wrote the following call to action. In New York State, the legislature is providing generous subsidies to charter schools in New York City, which enroll 6% of students, at the expense of the 94% whose schools will lose funding to subsidize the rent of the charters. The charter cause is backed by billionaire hedge fund managers who spent $5 million on attack ads against Mayor de Blasio. They gave Governor Cuomo $800,000 to protect “their” schools. They care not a whit for the educational opportunities of the 94%. This is wrong. Raise your voice to help the kids who have no lobbyists, no billionaires, no hedge fund managers to protect them and their schools.

Leonie writes:

Dear folks:

PLEASE call your legislators in Albany today and urge them to vote NO on the state budget bill! On Monday, they will be voting on a budget that favors charter schools over public schools, provides them considerably more funds per student , bans charging charters rent or facility fees, and will provide any new or expanding charter free space in NYC public school buildings – or the city has to build or rent them facilities, out of taxpayer funds. NYC will be the ONLY place in the country where the district will be obligated to provide free space for ANY new or expanded charter in the future. The bill also contains very weak provisions on protecting student privacy.

1. On charters: this bill will encourage the forced corporate takeover of NYC public schools, where we already have the most overcrowded schools in the state. It will cause even more overcrowding in our already crammed schools, and make the city pay millions to house all new and expanded charters in the future. Our elementary and high schools are already 95% utilized – according to the DOE’s own figures, which even the Chancellor has admitted underestimates the actual level of overcrowding. More than half of our students are already in severely overcrowded buildings. Enrollment projections call for an increase of 70,000 more students over the next decade — and the only ones who will be guaranteed space going forward, to allow for smaller classes or to regain their art, music or science rooms, will be students enrolled in charters. This is the MOST onerous charter law in the nation and a huge unfunded mandate for NYC. For more on this see Diane Ravitch’s blog and the NYC public school parents blog.

2. On privacy: the bill is not much better. It appears to ban the state providing data to inBloom for the purposes of creating data dashboards, but not for any other purpose. And it has no mention of parental consent or opt out – except for requiring consent before vendors can give the information to other vendors, which they will still be allowed to do without consent via a huge loophole, if they call them their “authorized representatives.” It calls for a privacy officer, who will write a “parent bill of rights” under the direction of the Commissioner, who as far as we can tell, doesn’t believe that parents have any rights when it comes to protecting the privacy of their children. For a more detailed analysis, see our blog here.

The legislators are in Albany today, discussing this bill. Please call your Assemblymember (contact info here: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?sh=search) and your Senator (http://www.nysenate.gov/) today in Albany, and urge them to tell their leadership NOT to allow this bill to go forward. If it does come to the floor, they should vote NO.

Thanks for your support for the rights of NY public schoolchildren,

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
212-674-7320

Joanne Barkan has written several important articles for Dissent magazine on the role of big foundations in shaping education policy. She spoke at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin on March 1-2 about how to criticize the role of big philanthropies in reforming our schools. She prepared this draft of her remarks:

How to Criticize “Big Philanthropy” Effectively

by Joanne Barkan

Criticizing philanthropy of any kind is tricky. To most people, a negative appraisal sounds off-base or churlish—just another instance of “No good deed goes unpunished.” Criticizing the immense private foundations that finance and shape the market-model “reform” of public education in the United States produces the same reaction. “You’re going after Bill Gates?” I’ve been asked incredulously. “Leave him alone. He’s doing great work in Africa.”

Actually, the Gates Foundation’s work in Africa has serious critics, but suppose, for the sake of argument, that the foundation does much good there. Or suppose that Bloomberg Philanthropies announces tomorrow that it will spend $1 billion over the next five years to promote gun control in the United States. Would those of us who oppose market-model ed-reform but support mosquito nets for Africa and gun control here still criticize the mega-foundations? Would we criticize them in the same way?

There are at least three approaches to criticizing the role of big philanthropy in ed-reform. Understanding how they differ makes for a more effective analysis and stronger arguments.

The first approach focuses on the failure of specific policies pushed by the foundations and the harm they do to teaching and learning. For example, an exposé of using value added modeling to measure the effectiveness of individual teachers would deal with the inherent unreliability of the calculations, the nonsensical use of faulty formulas to measure growth in learning, and the negative consequences of rating teachers with such a flawed tool.

The second approach examines how big philanthropy’s ed-reform activity undermines the democratic control of public education, an institution that is central to a functioning democracy. The questions to ask are these: Has the public’s voice in the governance of public education been strengthened or weakened? Are politicians more or less responsive? Is the press more or less free to inform them?

This approach pinpoints certain types of foundation activity: paying the salaries of high-level personnel to do ed reform work within government departments; making grants to education departments dependent on specific politicians remaining in office; promoting mayoral control and state control of school districts instead of control by elected school boards; financing scores of ed reform nonprofits to implement and advocate for the foundations’ pet policies—activity that has undermined the autonomy and creativity of the nonprofit sector in education; funding (thus influencing) the national professional associations of government officials, including the National Conference of State Legislatures, the United states Conference of Mayors, and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices; and funding media coverage of education.

The third approach examines large private foundations as peculiar and problematic institutions in a democracy. This approach considers big philanthropy in general and uses ed reform as one example of how mega-foundations undermine democratic governance  and civil society. The objections to wealthy private corporations dedicated to doing good (as they see it) have remained the same since the early twentieth-century when the first mega-foundations were created: they intervene in public life but aren’t accountable to the public; they are privately governed but publicly subsidized by being tax exempt; and in a country where money translates into political power, they reinforce the problem of plutocracy—the exercise of power derived from wealth.

Of course, all three approaches to criticizing big philanthropy can be part of the same discussion, but the distinctions help to create a more coherent point of view. They make answering the inevitable challenges easier. Here are some of those challenges and possible responses. Not everyone will agree with the responses. Consider them feasible options.

Challenge: You seem to believe that ed-reform philanthropy is some sort of nefarious conspiracy. Here we go again with conspiracy theories.

Response: By definition conspiracies are secret and illegal. The ed-reform movement isn’t a conspiracy. When people or organizations work together politically in a democracy, it’s a coalition or movement. This is true even when—as is the case with the ed-reform movement—huge amounts of money are being spent by mega-foundations and private meetings take place.

 

Challenge: You wrongly depict the ed-reform movement and the foundations involved as homogeneous with everyone marching in lockstep. The movement is actually very heterogeneous and rife with disagreements.

Response: Coalitions and movements are rarely, if ever, completely homogeneous. Yet their members agree generally on basic principles and goals. That’s how they make progress. The ed-reform movement is no different. The most significant policy difference among ed-reform foundations is on vouchers—the per-pupil funding that parents can move from a district public school to a private school, often including religious schools. Some foundations, for example, Walton, support vouchers; others, for example, Gates and Broad, do not.

Challenge: You constantly impugn the motives of the mega-foundations. Do you really think Melinda Gates or Eli Broad wants to hurt children?

Response: Of course, the philanthropists aim to do good, but they define “good.” It makes no sense to question their motives. The directors of the Walton Foundation believe that school vouchers will improve education. By supporting vouchers, they believe they are doing good. But when philanthropists enter the public policy fray, they—like everyone else—legitimately become fair game for criticism of their positions and activity. Tax-exemptions shouldn’t create sacred cows.

Challenge: Private foundations spend perhaps $1.5 or $2 billion annually on K-12 education in the United States. That’s minuscule compared to the more than $525 billion http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_205.asp that government spends every year. You exaggerate the influence that private foundations exert with their drop-in-the-bucket donations.

Response: Government spending on public education goes to basic and fixed expenses. Most states and urban school districts can’t cover their costs—they run deficits and/or cut outlays. Sociologists have shown that discretionary spending—spending beyond what covers ordinary running costs—is where policy is shaped and changed. The mega-foundations use their grants as leverage: they give money to grantees who agree to adopt the foundations’ pet policies. Resource-starved states and school districts feel compelled to say yes to millions of dollars even when many strings are attached or they consider the policies unwise.

Challenge: Private foundations don’t weaken democracy. They add another voice to the democratic debate. This increases pluralism and actually strengthens democracy.

Response: Money translates too easily into political power in the United States, and the country is becoming increasingly plutocratic. Mega-foundations exacerbate this tendency. In the realm of public education policy, they have too much influence, and this undermines democracy.

Joanne Barkan’s writing on philanthropy, private foundations, and public education reform has appeared in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nonprofit Quarterly, the Washington Post, Dissent magazine, and other publications. Many of her articles can be found at http://www.dissentmagazine.org/author/joannebarkan.

Denis Smith is a retired school administrator who worked both as a sponsor representative for charter schools as well as a consultant in the state charter school office. In this five-part series, he offers his perspective about charter school governance and how this mechanism designed to provide transparency and accountability for public entities is sorely lacking and may in fact be the “fatal design flaw” of these schools.

Part Two

In September 2008, Dennis Bakke, the founder and CEO of Imagine Schools, one of the nation’s largest charter school chains, wrote a lengthy internal memo to his company’s regional directors that contained his candid views on the role and function for the governing boards of “our” schools, as he described the Imagine brand. The memo, which became widely known a year after it was sent by email to his key contacts within the company he founded along with his wife, Eileen, is quite revealing and offers a snapshot about how executives of private national charter school chains want absolute control of the “public” schools they operate. Due to its length, the memo is condensed within the following passage.

What are we learning about the selection and care of board members for our schools? Most Board members become very involved in the life of the school. Often, even before the school begins operation, the Board members have taken “ownership” of the school. Many honestly believe it is their school and that the school will not go well without them steering the school toward “excellence”. They believe they are the “governing” Board even if that adjective to describe the board has never been used by an Imagine School person. Many become involved in the daily life of the school, volunteering and “helping” teachers and other staff to get things done. Even those who are not parents, take “ownership” of the school as if they started it… [The board members] didn’t finance the start up of the school or the building. They didn’t find the principal or any of the teachers and staff. They didn’t design the curriculum. In some cases, they did help recruit students.

The complete text of this revealing memo is found at this link: http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20091102/LOCAL10/911029966/1216/LOCAL1006

Bakke’s memo is important because it mirrors the thinking of national charter school chains as well as those who are managed by smaller for-profit management companies which may operate within a state or a regional basis. All control and direction for the school comes on high from corporate, and such constructs as school governing boards and local governance amount to distractions. Clearly, local control is an oxymoron to the Dennis Bakkes of the charter school industry.

The memo also makes it clear that no autonomy is expected of the boards which are chosen mostly by the company’s regional managers. While the best of our nation’s schools usually feature a collaborative model where teams of teachers work with school administrators, privatization of public schools that are operated by national chains seems to come only with a top-down approach, and any semblance of a governing board to provide guidance and oversight for the school’s operations is not to be tolerated in Bakke’s world.

In Ohio, the Revised Code treats a charter school as a school district, with its own treasurer, chief administrative officer, and governing board. But state law also allows great latitude regarding the operation and governance of the school, and current law requires that each school have a minimum of five board members, with no other qualifications stated in the law.

With such latitude, it should come as no surprise that the law is silent regarding the place of residency of board members, registration of the members with the secretary of state, citizenship requirements for members of the governing board, let alone how an appointed governing board member is obligated to represent the interests of the school’s stakeholders – students and their families.

In such loose legal construction, charter schools become the creatures of those who “own” them, rather than the public who pays for them and expects resident children to receive an appropriate education. Yet the charter school chains have it both ways. When convenient, the management companies refer to “public charter schools” and “schools of choice,” yet operate them in a manner that doesn’t accept the principle that the public owns the school rather than the corporation that operates the building. To add more complexity to the muddled charter school world, Imagine and some other chains also own some buildings as one way to add emphasis to their usage of the term “our” schools.

This flaw in charter school genetic code will, over time, be its undoing, for the American public is showing signs of increasing impatience with institutions, and like it or not, charter schools will not be immune from this impatience. In the end, charter school chains can’t have it both ways. If they believe the companies “own” these “public” schools, then surely the public will understand that the companies also “own” the boards. When the public fully realizes this state of affairs, the backlash against privatization will begin in earnest.

An owned or bought board is not characteristic of our democratic system. School governing boards were created to provide oversight, set policy, ensure that laws are adhered to, and hire and evaluate the school’s executive and financial officers. If charter school boards are not doing these things, they should be abolished so that the facade of faux governance is exposed. We the public can’t let national chains like Imagine have it both ways.

Across the nation, parents and educators are raising objections to the Common Core standards, and many states are reconsidering whether to abandon them as well as the federally-funded tests that accompany them. Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Business Roundtable vocally support them, yet the unease continues and pushback remains intense.

Why so much controversy?

The complaints are coming from all sides: from Tea Party activists who worry about a federal takeover of education and from educators, parents, and progressives who believe that the Common Core will standardize instruction and eliminate creativity in their classrooms.

But there is a more compelling reason to object to the Common Core standards.

They were written in a manner that violates the nationally and international recognized process for writing standards. The process by which they were created was so fundamentally flawed that these “standards” should have no legitimacy.

Setting national academic standards is not something done in stealth by a small group of people, funded by one source, and imposed by the lure of a federal grant in a time of austerity.

There is a recognized protocol for writing standards, and the Common Core standards failed to comply with that protocol.

In the United States, the principles of standard-setting have been clearly spelled out by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

On its website ANSI describes how standards should be developed in every field. The American National Standards Institute

“has served in its capacity as administrator and coordinator of the
United States private sector voluntary standardization system for
more than 90 years. Founded in 1918 by five engineering societies
and three government agencies, the Institute remains a private,
nonprofit membership organization supported by a diverse
constituency of private and public sector organizations.

“Throughout its history, ANSI has maintained as its
primary goal the enhancement of global competitiveness of U.S.
business and the American quality of life by promoting and
facilitating voluntary consensus standards and conformity
assessment systems and promoting their integrity. The Institute
represents the interests of its nearly 1,000 company, organization,
government agency, institutional and international members through
its office in New York City, and its headquarters in
Washington, D.C.”

ANSI’s fundamental principles of standard-setting are transparency, balance, consensus, and due process, including a right to appeal by interested parties. According to ANSI, there are currently more than 10,000 American national standards, covering a broad range of activities.

The Common Core standards were not written in conformity with the ANSI standard-setting process that is broadly recognized across every field of endeavor.

If the Common Core standards applied to ANSI for recognition, they would be rejected because the process of writing the standards was so deeply flawed and did not adhere to the “ANSI Essential Requirements.”

ANSI states that “Due process is the key to ensuring that ANSs are developed in an environment that is equitable, accessible and responsive to the requirements of various stakeholders. The open and fair ANS process ensures that all interested and affected parties have an opportunity to participate in a standard’s development. It also serves and protects the public interest since standards developers accredited by ANSI must meet the Institute’s requirements for openness, balance, consensus and other due process safeguards.”

The Common Core standards cannot be considered standards when judged by the ANSI requirements. According to ANSI, the process of setting standards must be transparent, must involve all interested parties, must not be dominated by a single interest, and must include a process for appeal and revision.

The Common Core standards were not developed in a transparent manner. The standard-setting and writing of the standards included a significant number of people from the testing industry, but did not include a significant number of experienced teachers, subject-matter experts, and other educators from the outset, nor did it engage other informed and concerned interests, such as early childhood educators and educators of children with disabilities. There was no consensus process. The standards were written in 2009 and adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia as a condition of eligibility to compete for $4.3 billion in Race to the Top funding. The process was dominated from start to finish by the Gates Foundation, which funded the standard-setting process. There was no process for appeal or revision, and there is still no process for appeal or revision.

The reason to oppose the Common Core is not because of their content, some of which is good, some of which is problematic, some of which needs revision (but there is no process for appeal or revision).

The reason to oppose the Common Core standards is because they violate the well-established and internationally recognized process for setting standards in a way that is transparent, that recognizes the expertise of those who must implement them, that builds on the consensus of concerned parties, and that permits appeal and revision.

The reason that there is so much controversy and pushback now is that the Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education were in a hurry and decided to ignore the nationally and internationally recognized rules for setting standards, and in doing so, sowed
suspicion and distrust. Process matters.

According to ANSI, here are the core principles for setting standards:

The U.S. standardization system is based on the following set of globally accepted principles for standards development:*Transparency Essential information regarding
standardization activities is accessible to all interested
parties.
* Openness
Participation is open to all affected interests.

* Impartiality

No one interest
dominates the process or is favored over another.

* Effectiveness and Relevance


Standards are relevant and effectively respond to regulatory and
market needs, as well as scientific and technological
developments.

* Consensus
Decisions are reached through consensus among those
affected.

* PerformanceBased
Standards are performance based (specifying essential
characteristics rather than detailed designs) where
possible.

* Coherence


The process encourages coherence to avoid overlapping and
conflicting standards.

* Due Process
Standards development accords with due process so that
all views are considered and appeals are possible.

* TechnicalAssistance

Assistance is offered to developing countries in the formulation and application
of standards.
In addition, U.S. interests strongly agree that the process should be:

* Flexible, allowing the use of different methodologies to meet the needs of different technology and product sectors;

*Timely, so that purely administrative
matters do not result in a failure to meet market expectations;
and

* Balanced among
all affected interests.

page7image15608

Lacking most of these qualities, especially due process, consensus among interested groups, and the right of appeal, the Common Core cannot be considered authoritative, nor should they be considered standards. The process of creating national academic standards should be revised to accord with the essential and necessary procedural requirements of standard-setting as described by the American National Standards Institute. National standards cannot be created ex nihilo without a transparent, open, participatory consensus process that allows for appeal and revision.

United States Standards Strategy
http://www.us-standards-strategy.org

If the answer is yes, please come to one or both of the two
sessions where I am speaking on April 3. I will give the
John Dewey Society lecture at the
Convention Center, 100 Level, Room 114, from 4-7 pm. (Lots of time
for discussion). My topic: “Does Evidence
Matter?”
Fair warning: The room holds only 600
people. Before the Dewey lecture, I will join Philadelphia parent
activist Helen Gym and Carl Grant of the University of Wisconsin
(chair) in a special Presidential session from 2:15 to 3:45,
on the same level in Room 121B The
title of the session is:
Rising to the
Challenges of Quality and Equality:

The Promise of a Public
Pedagogy
If you join me at the early session,
you will have to race with me to the lecture, and the room may be
full.

Florida Republicans are rushing through a voucher bill with no accountability for state tests. Even with state tests, it would be a terrible bill as its purpose is to destroy public education.

One leading voucher advocate bluntly told an audience in California that the game plan was to sell the bill as being a benefit to poor minority kids. Of course, that’s a scam. The main goal is to break public education, crush the unions, and fund every backwoods church school where kids can learn 17th century STEM skills.

Critics say it will divert up to $1 billion from community public schools.

Florida is rapidly racing to the bottom. Will Arne Duncan speak out to stop this unconstitutional diversion of public funds to religious schools? Will President Obama?

Marc Tucker has written an excellent post on the failure of punitive accountability.

The working theory behind the Bush-Obama “reforms” is that teachers are lazy and need to be motivated by rewards and punishments and the threat of public shaming.

This is in fact a theory drawn from the early twentieth century writings of Frederick Winslow Taylor, who studied the efficiency of factory workers.

Tucker writes:

Let’s start by examining the premises behind the prevailing system.  The push for test-based accountability systems to evaluate teachers have their origin in the work of a professor of agricultural statistics in Tennessee who discovered that differences in teacher quality as measured by analyses of student test scores over time accounted for very large differences in student performance.  Many observers concluded from this that policy should concentrate on using these statistical techniques to identify poor teachers and remove them from the teaching force.  At the same time, other observers, believing that the parents would choose effective schools for their children over ineffective schools if only they had information as to which schools are effective, pushed to use student test data to identify and publicly label schools based on the available test score data.  And, finally, policymakers passed the NCLB legislation, requiring the identification of schools as chronically underperforming and remedies involving the replacement of school leaders and staff, and, in extreme cases, closing schools down.

All of these accountability systems are essentially punitive in design and intent.  They threaten poor performing schools with public shaming, takeover and closure and poor performing individuals with public shaming and the loss of their jobs and livelihood.  The introduction of these policies was not accompanied by policies designed to improve the supply of highly qualified new teachers by making teaching a more attractive option for our most successful high school students—a key component of policy in the top-performing countries.  There is a lot of federal money available for training and professional development for teachers but no systematic federal strategy that I can discern for turning that money into systems of the kind top-performing countries use to support long-term, steady improvements in teachers’ professional practice.  I conclude that policymakers have placed their bet on teacher evaluation, not to identify the needs of teachers for development, but to identify teachers who need to be dismissed from the service.  And, further, that the way to motivate school staff to work harder and more efficiently is to threaten them with public shame and the loss of their job.

Race to the Top incorporates the ideas of economist Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, who has argued in various writings that the way to improve results (test scores) is to “deselect” the bottom 5-10% of teachers based on the test scores of their students.

As Tucker shows, modern cognitive psychology recognizes that people are motivated to do their best not by humiliation and punishment, but by a sense of purpose, professionalism, and autonomy.  Unfortunately, neither our Congress nor the policymakers in the Obama administration are familiar with modern cognitive psychology, with the work of scholars and writers like Edward Deci, Dan Ariely, or Daniel Pink, nor with the organizational theory of Edwards Deming, who acknowledged that people want to do their best and must be allowed and encouraged to do it, not threatened with dire punishments.

A reader writes:

“How do you like this for accountability???
Lack of regulations, accountability and transparency invites charter school fraud

“Pet care, alcohol, vacations and other personal purchases were charged to taxpayers via Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy charter school, according to a 2013 state audit. The school misspent $520,000 in public money. Two former officials from the Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy are awaiting trial in Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas for theft in office and tampering with public records. Based on the states past record of recovering misspent funds by charter schools, the school districts from which these funds were extracted will not receive reimbursement

“In the now-closed Lion of Judah charter school fiasco, $1.2 million in public funds were lost but the court agreed to a settlement of $195,000 in restitution from the charter school operator. It is interesting that the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge approved a payback of less than 20% of the funds misspent and indicated that a prison sentence was not proper because the state didn’t properly anticipate the mistakes that could be made when citizens tried to run charter schools. It appears that the charter school operator received a lenient sentence for the fraud committed due to the judge’s view that the charter school law in Ohio is defective.

“On February 25, the State Auditor issued a finding for recovery in the amount of $507,206 against a Cleveland businessman who had unlawful interests in public contracts awarded to the now-closed Greater Heights Academy. Other persons involved in this charter school operation have been charged with a conspiracy to defraud the charter school of over $400,000.

“In a news release regarding the Greater Heights Academy charter school case, the State Auditor said, “…I’ll never understand what motivates people to steal from children.” An equally puzzling incomprehension is what motivates state officials to enact and continue to support charter school laws that provide for a license to steal.

“When will lawmakers regulate charter schools in ways to stop the fraud on the public and the low quality education provided to charter school students? Not until the public becomes outraged and demands that state officials refuse campaign contributions from charter school operators and advocates and begin to regulate charter schools.

“But hey, you know they are all in it for the kids. Aren’t you just wowed by the “innovation”? I’m sure people in NYC would love to know what is happening in the charters that they pay for.”

And what happens when the State Comptroller is legally barred from auditing charter schools, as in Néw York, because charter schools are not “a unit of government.” That means they get public money but they are not public schools and may not be audited by public authorities.

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