Archives for category: Accountability

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

District Administration magazine, which is written for district administrators, contains a startling poll conducted by the magazine.

 

When asked whether they expect the opt out movement to grow in their state, 60% said yes. Only 24% disagreed. The remainder neither agreed nor disagreed.

 

When asked whether political pressure against the Common Core would grow in their state, 62% said yes. Only 18% disagreed.

 

When asked whether the implementation of new standards and tests were “generally successful” in my state, 32% agreed, and 37% disagreed.

 

What this poll suggests is that the people who are in responsible positions in school districts see test resistance growing, and the Common Core faring poorly.

 

 

The Detroit Federation of Teachers, the AFT, parents, and students filed a lawsuit against Detroit Public Schools and state-appointed Emergency Manager Darnell Earley.

 

Earley was the Emergency Manager in Flint, when the decision was made to change the source of the town’s safe water supply to the polluted water in the Flint a River.

 

“According to the lawsuit, DPS “has not performed its duty to its students, parents, teachers and community to provide a minimally adequate education and to properly maintain the schools.”

 

 

“The lawsuit said DPS and Earley have allowed the condition of some schools to “deteriorate to the point of crisis” and “forced Detroit’s school-age children to spend their young lives in deplorable surroundings risking their health and safety in the process.”

 

 

“The lawsuit also said, “It is not a surprise that due to this, and other reasons, including budget cuts and mismanagement, that DPS is in dead last in academic performance with a majority of its students being left behind the rest of the country.”

 

“Last week, the city of Detroit posted the inspection reports from 11 schools from Jan. 12 to Jan. 17.

 

“Each school inspected was found to have multiple violations. Nine schools had damaged or falling ceiling tiles while five schools had a rodent problem. Four had leaky roofs and three had heating issues….

 

 

“At Carleton Elementary, Teachers posted pictures showing water damage and pieces of tile coming loose and falling off the ceiling,” the complaint states. “One teacher reported the debris striking a student in the head during testing.”

 

“Other examples include pictures of rodent droppings at Dossin and bathroom equipment that doesn’t work at Osborn….”

 

“With the lawsuit, DFT is hoping that the court will remove Earley from his duty as emergency manager and restore local control over DPS. Also, they want the court to force DPS to perform periodic inspections, investigate complaints filed by parents and teachers and fix all code violations found by the city of Detroit.

 

“On top of that, the plaintiffs also want DPS to “develop and institute a capital plan that provides the students of Detroit 21st century schools in which parents would want to send their children and educators would want to teach.”

I earlier reported that Steve Van Zant, superintendent of a small district, had been charged with conflict of interest for helping districts authorize charters in other districts (which is legal under California law), then getting contracts with the charters for his private business.

 

Now, crack reporter Maureen Magee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports the story (reprinted in the Los Angeles Times):

 

By the time Steve Van Zant left the Mountain Empire Unified School District in 2013, he had overseen the authorization of more than a dozen charter schools to operate in other districts throughout San Diego County — with several going on to hire his education consulting firm.

 

All the while, Van Zant coached at least one other district on how to approve out-of-town charters, according to emails obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune. As more districts approved far-flung charters, Van Zant’s EdHive consultant business took on some of the schools as clients.

 

The San Diego district attorney’s office arraigned Van Zant on Jan. 15 on a felony conflict-of-interest charge from an undisclosed incident in May 2010 while he was superintendent of Mountain Empire.

 

The district attorney’s office declined to disclose details of its investigation, and it is unclear whether the charge relates to his work with charter schools. According to the criminal complaint, Van Zant violated laws that prohibited him “from being financially interested in contracts made by him in his official capacity.”

 

The Union-Tribune has tracked a charter empire built by Van Zant by taking advantage of what some call a shortcoming in state law that gives districts a financial incentive to place charters in other school districts. By placing charters outside its boundaries, a district can raise new funds — up to 3 percent of a charter’s revenue — without any threat to enrollment or state attendance funds.

 

More than 80 out-of-district charters have been approved in San Diego County, the vast majority of which were authorized by small East County districts — several with help from Van Zant, who includes a list of charter clients on his LinkedIn professional network profile…

 

When Van Zant accepted the job in 2013 as superintendent of the Sausalito Marin City School District, he was positioned to devote even more time growing his consulting business. He would commute from his Mission Bay home for the three-day-a-week position in Northern California with a starting salary of $165,000 and still run EdHive, which recently opened an office in Symphony Towers in downtown San Diego…

 

 

California secretary of state documents show that Van Zant’s wife, interior designer Ingrid Van Zant, registered the corporation in 2011. Steve Van Zant listed himself as both president and vice president of EdHive in 2015 on financial disclosure forms filed with Marin County

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After leaving Mountain Empire in the summer of 2013, Van Zant helped usher through another charter in the Pine Valley-based district.

 

You are a charter God. Like Matt Damon in ‘Good Will Hunting.’ – Former Alpine Superintendent Tom Pellegrino in an email to Van Zant
The former superintendent personally petitioned the Mountain Empire school board to authorize the County Collaborative Charter School. Van Zant would go on to serve as director, and he listed his EdHive consulting firm as the provider of back-office services in charter petition documents.

 

By soliciting business from the district so quickly after leaving office in Mountain Empire, Van Zant has raised questions about whether he violated the Political Reform Act, which calls for a one-year “cooling off” period before government officials can lobby their agencies — or do business with them — after leaving.

 

The County Collaborative charter enrolled 201 students in the 2014-15 school year, and lists Van Zant’s downtown San Diego EdHive office as the school’s address on a California Department of Education website. Van Zant is listed as the charter’s director, a position missing from financial disclosure documents filed in Marin after taking office in Sausalito.

 

 

 

Jersey Jazzman gets irked by those who boast about the superior results of charter schools in Newark. He wrote a critical review of Dale Russakoff’s book The Prize, because she ignored basic data about charter schools and she wrote that the charter schools operated with a leaner administration and more services. Not true, says JJ, who in his real life is a teacher and a graduate student at Rutgers University named Mark Weber.

 

In this post, JJ lays out in easily comprehensible graphs, using state data, what the real comparisons are.

 

First, he compares the results of a highly-touted charter school in Newark to a suburban public school and shows that the charter school lags. But wait, you think, that’s not a fair comparison, and that is his point.

 

I don’t point this out to suggest either that Montclair’s schools are superior, or that TEAM/KIPP’s schools are inferior. Without adequately controlling for at least the observed variations in each district’s populations (and acknowledging that there are likely many unobserved variations), any comparison between the two systems is utterly pointless. My point here is that facile, a-contextual, cherry-picked factoids like these are completely meaningless, and that people who bring them up time and again show themselves to be fatuous. 

 

Using state data, he demonstrates that Newark public schools spend more on instruction than the city’s charter schools; that NPS spends far more on student support services — guidance counselors, nurses, librarians, psychologists — than the charters; that NPS spends more on support personnel than charters; that NPS has lower administrative costs than ANY charter in Newark; that the costs of administrative salaries is lower in Newark public schools than most Newark charters.

 

Jersey Jazzman has a refreshing impatience with false claims. How long can “reformers” get by on propaganda?

 

The series about the new Every Student Succeeds Act is concluded. I want to thank Senator Lamar Alexander and his staff, especially David P. Cleary, chief of staff, for responding to my questions. I know that readers have additional questions or want clarifications of some of the statements. The new law is the result of negotiations between the two parties. Questions will inevitably arise as the new law is implemented. Meanwhile, feel free to submit your questions and you can be sure that Senator Alexander’s staff will answer them as best they can. Let me add that there are things in this law I like, and things I don’t like. I will spell those out in a separate post.

 

Here are the links to each of the posts written by Senator Lamar Alexander’s staff.

1. ESSA and Testing

2. ESSA and Teacher Evaluation

3. ESSA and the Bottom 5% of Schools

4. ESSA and Opt Outs

5. ESSA and Special Education

6. ESSA and Teacher Education

7. ESSA and Charter Schools

8. ESSA and the Federal Role

9. ESSA and Common Core

Despite the documented failure of the Tennessee Achievement District, the Charlotte Observer thinks it is worth a try to copy the same model in North Carolina. In Tennessee, the ASD was created to take over neighborhood public schools that rated in the lowest 5% in the state based on test scores and give them to charter operators. Within five years, starting in 2012, those charter schools would rank in the top 25% in the state. But the ASD schools are not on track to show any improvement.

 

Gary Rubinstein demonstrated that four of the original six schools in the ASD remained in the bottom 5%, while the other two are in the bottom 6%.

 

A recent Vanderbilt study concluded that the ASD schools were ineffective, although they held out hope that they might get better over time.

 

Ron Zimmer of Vanderbilt said the study showed that the district’s own innovative public schools outperformed the charters:

 

Zimmer’s team, which was asked by the state to keep tabs on progress from the outset, zoomed in on test data more closely than the typical measures of “below basic” and “proficient.” While there were some changes year-to-year — up and down — there was no statistical improvement on the whole, certainly not enough to catapult these low-performing schools into some of the state’s best, which was the lofty goal.

 

“It may be a little disappointing to those who were advocating for the Achievement School District that we haven’t seen better results at this point,” Zimmer says.

 

The Vanderbilt researchers found more encouraging results with the turnaround efforts known as iZones led by local districts in Memphis and Nashville.

 

Chalkbeat Tennessee stressed that if the state wants real improvement, it should look to the iZone model run by the Shelby County public schools.

 

Days before the Tennessee Achievement School District is to announce whether it will take over five more Memphis schools next year, Vanderbilt has released a study suggesting the city’s low-performing schools would be better off in Shelby County Schools’ Innovation Zone.
The study, released Tuesday, shows that iZone schools have sizeable positive effects on student test scores, while the ASD’s effects are marginal. That means that students at ASD schools are performing mostly at the same low levels they likely would have had their school not been taken over by the state-run school turnaround district.

 

A little over a year ago, two Metro Nashville school board members complained that the ASD (which now manages 27 charter schools) wanted to take over one of Nashville’s high-performing public schools as a way of boosting ASD’s lackluster performance. Parents were outraged, as they were in many of the other takeover schools.

 

While the charter movement is allegedly predicated on parental “choice,” that choice seems to vanish when appointed ASD officials decide to impose a charter school on a community. The ASD is pushing forward despite protests by parents, teachers, community members, a variety of elected officials from the community (including current and former school board members), and even the MNPS Director of Schools.

 

Why, under these circumstances, would the ASD insist upon a hostile takeover of Neely’s Bend when other local schools clearly require more attention? The answer is simple: The ASD is trying to save itself. It has cherry-picked a school to boost its own dismal performance. This is a prime example of a government bureaucracy attempting to justify its own existence.

 

Although originally conceived as something very different, the ASD has become a way for state officials to hand over neighborhood schools to charter operators. This has not proven to be an effective solution. Despite higher per pupil expenditures (the exact amount has not been revealed), the ASD is underperforming. In Memphis, where nearly all ASD schools are located, district-operated schools outpace ASD schools, and, in fact, the ASD overall showed negative growth in every single subject area in 2014.

 

The ASD did take over Neely’s Bend, and just last month the Black Caucus in the Legislature called for a halt to ASD expansion because of community opposition and no results.

 

Why should North Carolina adopt a model that has shown no results? What is it about failure that the Charlotte Observer editorial board likes? Why not adopt proven practices that strengthen public schools–like reducing class size, adding a health clinic– instead of handing them over to privately operated charters?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Savage at Eclectablog has been following the fortunes and misfortunes of the Michigan Education Achievement Authority since its inception in 2011.

 

Savage was thinking of writing a summary of the serial scandals, corruption, incompetence, and educational disaster, but decided the best way to show it was to post a list of the headlines of the stories he has written about the EAA.

 

This was Governor Rick Snyder’s pet program for “saving” the poor children of Detroit from their failing public schools. Instead of helping the public schools, Snyder decided to create this special district, in which all the lowest-performing schools were clustered. There, they would be under the control of a single administrator, selected by the Governor. The first EAA leader was John Covington, a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. He swiftly left his job in Kansas City (which lost its accreditation after he departed) to take the higher-paying job in Detroit. He left the EAA under a cloud.

 

This should be a documentary about the failure of corporate reform. Maybe someone who sees Chris Savage’s stories will start thinking of making that documentary. It is a very sad story, because the children of Detroit need a good education, and they are not getting it under Governor Snyder’s rule.

Detroit teacher Shalon Miller wonders why separate and unequal is okay in Michigan in 2016. She describes the horrendous conditions in the schools. How can children learn in such conditions?

 

Miller writes:

 

“Since I have been at Cody, I have taught in horrible conditions. Classrooms have old, drafty windows that are poorly insulated. In some rooms, we have to wear winter coats in class until lunch time. In other rooms, it can be ridiculously hot. Both temperature conditions are extremely distracting to the educational process. It’s hard for kids to concentrate when their hands are freezing or they’re sweating profusely. When it rains, water leaks into the classrooms from the roof. We have had to place buckets under the leaks and pray for dry weather. Unfixed structural damage causes water-soaked tiles to frequently fall from the ceiling of classrooms. The carpet has an ever-present moldy smell.

 

“These conditions are a slap to each and every student, teacher and other school employee. Combined with the other dilapidated school buildings and inferior learning conditions, they are a slap to the entire city of Detroit.”

 

Last year, community partners stepped in to ameliorate the worst of the problems. Yet there is high teach her turnover as teachers leave for suburban schools with greater resources and stability.

 

 

Miller writes:

 

“Sometimes I feel hopeless. I wonder why people who have the power over our schools don’t care about my students. I wonder why my students are left in the worst conditions possible. I wonder why it’s the same problem in urban communities across America. Why is separate and unequal okay in 2016?

 

“Gov. Rick Snyder and the governor-appointed emergency manager for Detroit schools can say they understand our frustration, but simply saying they understand and then throwing their hands up in air isn’t good enough.

 

“I say, enough is enough. It’s not okay to tell 47,000 kids that they’re not important enough to warrant decent educational environments. It’s not okay to have beautiful suburban schools in the state of Michigan and let Detroit schools rot. It’s not okay to ignore the community’s plea for help. It’s not okay to disrespect teachers by refusing to give them a pay raise in over a decade. It’s not okay to take control of Detroit schools and let things go from bad to worse.”

 

Governor Snyder controls the public schools of Detroit. He likes accountability. When will he be held accountable?

 

 

 

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