Archives for category: ALEC

Blogger Educational Alchemy sees behind the Department of Education smokescreen. The goal of the Obama administration’s “Testing Action Plan” is not what it appears.

Now that almost every school is testing online, it is time to move on to the next stage of the education revolution. Outsourcing online testing to vendors.

The wave of the future: Competency-based assessments.

Here is an excerpt:

This is what the “Testing Action Plan” (TAP) says:

The new plan will “include competency-based assessments, innovative item types.” It states also “The Department will also share tools already available to do this work, including The Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) Comprehensive Statewide Assessment Systems: A Framework for the Role of the State Education Agency in Improving Quality and Reducing Burden and Achieve’s Student Assessment Inventory for School Districts.”

This is what it means:

Remember CCSSO? They are the ones who crafted the Common Core State Standards. The standards were developed to create a “standardized” system that allows third-party companies to develop systems for outsourcing education. Now with a set of “national” standards as benchmarks, instruction can be metered out by online edu-tech companies who provide new “competency” based instruction and assessment. No teacher required.

In 2010, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (who supported Common Core) convened the Digital Learning Council, a diverse group of more than 100 leaders in education, government, philanthropy, business, technology and members of policy think tanks led by Co-Chairmen Jeb Bush, and Bob Wise (both integral in the creation and promotion of Common Core). It’s an ALEC model-endorsed comprehensive framework of state-level policies and actions “designed to advance the meaningful and thoughtful integration of technology into K12 public education.”

This idea is stated again toward the end of the Testing Action Plan (TAP): “Congress should continue to require the Department to work with external assessment experts to ensure states are using high-quality assessments that are aligned with state-developed standards and valid for the purposes for which they are used.”

TAP Says:

“…the Department granted a temporary waiver to New Hampshire to pilot a competency-based assessment system in four districts ….” as a way to set a national example. (and), “The Department will work with external assessment experts…”

What this means:

The department will outsource education curriculum and assessment to corporations just like it did in NH where they “…have adopted unique and innovative learning approaches, such as digital learning, that create a more flexible learning schedule that extends beyond the school day.”

The Alliance for Excellent Education (Bob Wise serves as president) in 2013 stated: “Competency-based advancement is an important part of New Hampshire’s strategy for implementing the Common Core State Standards.”

Read the post with care. Every element is there for a transition to the next stage of relinquishing control of curriculum and assessment to the vendors.

Cathy Fuentes-Rower went to the Indiana legislative hearing about the teacher shortage, and she patiently waited seven hours to testify. Cathy is a parent, not a teacher. She was forced to listen to a lineup of “experts” who insisted there was not too much testing, compared to Florida; and there is no teacher shortage, because the superintendents who reported a shortage are biased, and the conservative NCTQ said the data were inconclusive.

When she finally testified, she spoke out boldly.

She said:

I am a mother of four children in public schools.

I know that my children’s learning conditions are their teachers’ working conditions.

This educational environment has become a pressure cooker for our kids and teachers because the legislature has decided that somehow educators weren’t accountable enough. The learning and teaching process has been transformed into a test-taking, data collecting nightmare to somehow prove accountability… at the root of which is an apparent deep distrust of teachers.

We’ve had standardized tests for a long time. But it is what is at stake when the kids take the test now that has transformed their experience.

In the past, standardized tests were just one aspect of an overall assessment of how our kids were doing. We trusted teachers to relay to us how our kids were learning. Now it has become the end-all be-all. If my eleven year-old doesn’t score well on a test, it could affect his teacher’s job, his school’s letter grade, the label on his district, property taxes, and the community as a whole.

This intensity of pressure comes down and lands right on the shoulders of my child.

Who stands between my child and that weight of the world? Buffering him and protecting him from this stress?

His teacher. And for teachers whose students have special needs, live in poverty, or are learning English as a new language, the pressure to perform is tremendous. The consequence is a stigmatizing F on their small heads—or in 3rd grade, flunking.

These policies are not brought about because parents clamored for them. Parents have not been begging for a better school than their neighbor’s child. They’ve been begging for a great school. Period.

Parents want equity. Instead, we get competition.

Competition involves winners and losers. No 6 year-old should be a loser when it comes to educational opportunity.

These recent changes in policy are occurring all over the country. And this is also why the teacher shortage is not unique to Indiana. Bills that have transformed our kids’ learning environment into a pressure cooker are all from the same source: ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council). The goal of this organization is to create more competition in education and to privatize it. There is even an Indiana Reform Package of model legislation on the ALEC website touting our reforms. Our governor has written the introduction to the ALEC report card on American Education. Many members of our education committee are or were ALEC members. In fact, you, Rep. Behning, our house education committee chair, were the ALEC chairperson for Indiana for several years.

The A-F grading of schools, teachers’ loss of voice in advocating for kids through the loss of collective bargaining, the draconian 3rd grade reading law, vouchers and charters creating a competition for funding, a developmentally inappropriate 90 minute block of literacy instruction, these are all ALEC laws. They were not backed by research of what are best practices in teaching. They were not created by teachers. Parents do not want this obsession with data.

We want funding for our public schools such that all children have smaller class sizes for individualized instruction. We want WHOLE CHILD accountability for our teachers and our schools. That means research-backed education. Kids learn through play. Are they getting recess? Kids need to have time to follow their interests and do hands-on projects. Are they getting the broad curriculum and what is NOT on the test: social studies and science? Many of these things are being squeezed out for test prep. Do our high schoolers have extracurricular activities—things that keep them connected and wanting to go to school?

We want our teachers to be paid as the professionals that they are and to have more time for teaching and less for testing. You cannot reduce the time on testing if you don’t reduce the stakes attached to it.

We want a multi-measure evaluation of teaching and success.

You cannot say you respect teachers when every single thing they do is micromanaged by having to prove themselves with data. You cannot quantify joy, creativity and critical thinking. My children are not numbers.

They are unique human beings who are learning and growing. I don’t want my eleven year-old college and career-ready because he is a child. I don’t want him to have pressures to perform like an adult, because he is not one. His teachers know how to give him that childhood, they know what is developmentally appropriate for him, AND research (yes data!) shows that giving him these learning experiences will ensure that when the time comes, he will be ready to take his part in our society and our democracy.

So let teachers do their jobs. The best way to do this is to give them a voice, allow them to create policy, not business people and legislators who know nothing about it. Certainly not ALEC backers who make money off of it.

There is nothing more precious to me in this world than my children and every day I entrust them to the care of their teachers. I care more about what they tell me regarding my kids’ education than I do about any stinking ISTEP score. This is because they are the professionals. I trust them to do their jobs.

If you truly support teachers, you will, too.

Thank you.

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer

Andrea Gabor, the Michael R. Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism at Baruch College in New York City, has recently written about the disappointing results of the chartering and privatization of almost every school in New Orleans.

Jonathan Alter was unhappy with her article in the New York Times because he is a fervent believer in the privatization of public education by charters.

The irony, as Gabor notes, is that she and Jonathan were classmates at the Francis W. Parker School, a noted private progressive school in Chicago many years ago. The “no-excuses” charters that Alter so admires are nothing like the Francis W. Parker School.

If you have read Lawrence A. Cremin’s The Transformation of the School, a magisterial history of progressive education, you know that Francis Parker preceded John Dewey as the “father of progressive education.” Here is the thumbnail sketch of the man who started the progressive education movement: Francis Wayland Parker (October 9, 1837 – March 2, 1902) was a pioneer of the progressive school movement in the United States. He believed that education should include the complete development of an individual — mental, physical, and moral. John Dewey called him the “father of progressive education.” He worked to create curriculum that centered on the whole child and a strong language background. He was against standardization, isolated drill and rote learning. He helped to show that education was not just about cramming information into students’ minds, but about teaching students to think for themselves and become independent people. This is the spirit that infused the school where Andrea Gabor and Jonathan Alter were both educated.

But now Jonathan Alter is a rabid advocate of “no-excuses” charters that look nothing at all like the Francis W. Parker School. Also, Alter is a fierce opponent of teachers’ unions. Generally, progressives support unions, because they understand that unions build a middle class and enable working people and poor people to raise their standard of living. That is not Alter’s perspective. He seems to think that having union-free schools is a recipe for success, even though there is no evidence for his belief and much evidence to the contrary (think Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey, three unionized states that are the highest scoring states on NAEP).

In this post, Andrea Gabor gives some homework lessons to her former classmate.

Alter’s biggest mistake is that he fails to see public school systems as, well, systems. Even if he’s right that the “top quintile” of charter schools perform very well, that’s virtually meaningless from the perspective of creating a better system. There are good public schools as well as good charters, after all. A 20-percent success rate is meaningful only if you can show a path to scaling that success in a practical way.

The two questions we should be asking are: A) What is the best method by which to improve all schools? B) If, as in New Orleans, charter schools are used as Trojan horses for turning public schools into dumping grounds for the weakest students and, eventually, eliminating public schools altogether, what is the cost of doing so—to kids and to our society?

There is growing evidence that the market model of large-scale public-school replacement by charter schools—one based on a competitive race for limited philanthropic funding for whoever produces the highest test scores—is a zero-sum game that can only work by sidelining the most vulnerable kids.

Gabor goes, point by point, through the problematic nature of the New Orleans story.

I hope Jon Alter sits down with his former classmate and gives some more thought to his extreme views, which echo those of Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, ALEC, and the Koch brothers.

Destroying our nation’s public schools is not a liberal goal, or should not be.

The Wisconsin government has slashed funding for K-12 public schools while expanding and enriching the state’s voucher program. This is a clear-cut victory for ALEC, the corporate-funded lobby for privatization.

“Since Republicans took over our state Capitol in 2011, they have cut $1.2 billion from public K-12 education. Under this latest budget, 55 percent of school districts will get less general student aid than they did last budget cycle and Wisconsin is spending $1,014 less per public school student than it did in 2008.

“Yet for the private school special interests, this budget was like Christmas morning, with presents that blew the student enrollment caps off the statewide private school voucher program, diverted an additional $600-800 million from public schools over the next decade and increased per-pupil spending in the statewide private voucher system more than what even Governor Walker had proposed. The cherry on top was the last minute, late night passage of the special needs voucher program, which funds private schools for special needs students without requiring specialized instruction, teacher training or current legal protections.”

Way to go, Scott Walker, in meeting your goal of destroying public education. Way to go in destroying a historic democratic institution.

Philip Lanoue, superintendent of the Clarke County public schools, wrote a strong column opposing Governor Nathan Deal’s plan to takeover “low-performing” schools. Deal wants to copy Tennessee’s faltering “Achievement School District,” which has shown no progress in the past four years. Why anyone would copy a failed model is puzzling.

Lanoue cites several reasons for opposing the state takeovers, the most fundamental being the elimination of local control of schools. He may not have known when he wrote this article that elimination of local control is

He writes:

The Opportunity School District superintendent will have final decision-making authority over all aspects of the school, which would no longer be under the control of local superintendents and school boards. This is in direct contrast to current governance structures in public and charter schools, which require checks and balances through board governance models. In addition, the superintendent would have sole authority to select schools that qualify as “failing” schools. This does not align with the current movement to have more local control, as the selection of schools does not require any level of input by the State Board of Education, local boards of education, local school districts, governance entities or communities. The current budget for this program includes 3 percent administrative costs, and is concerning in this time when public education budgets are already suffering.
Here in Athens-Clarke County, a governance model based on democracy is a cornerstone of how we operate — as it is across the state. To take away democratic principles is monumental and allows Georgia communities to be stripped of their identities as having primary responsibility of educating their children. To impact schools and communities, we must take a collaborative and comprehensive approach to reform centered on the creation of dynamic learning environments strongly joined with quality early literacy; physical and mental health care; and positive and safe home and school environments. In a time where collaboration is the key to systemic change, simply changing governance as the key to reform has a greater result of creating divisions — not unity.
Educators, school boards and local school communities have the ultimate responsibility for providing engaging learning environments that ensure all students achieve. To change the Georgia Constitution to take away that responsibility will fragment communities across the state, and sets a very dangerous precedent for future decisions in educating all Georgia students.

Dr. Jim Arnold, superintendent of the Pelham City schools, explains why Georgia has a teaching shortage. The answer can be summed up in a few words: Governor Nathan Deal and ALEC, and one very long sentence:

Is it any wonder that many teachers have finally reached the point where they are fed up with scripted teaching requirements and phony evaluations that include junk science VAM and furlough days and increased testing that reduces valuable teaching time and no pay raises and constant curriculum changes and repeated attacks on their profession from people that have no teaching experience and the constant attempts to legislate excellence and cut teacher salaries and reduce teacher benefits and monkey with teacher retirement and SLO’s for non-tested subjects and state and federal policies that require more and more paperwork and less and less teaching and tighter and tighter budgets that mean doing more and more with less and less and longer school days and larger classes with higher and higher expectations and a political agenda that actively encourages blaming teachers for societal issues and the denigration of public education and market based solutions and legislators bought and paid for by ALEC and a continued reliance upon standardized test scores as an accurate depiction of student learning and achievement with no substantive research to support such a position and top-down management from people that wouldn’t know good teaching if it spit on their shoes and slapped them in the face? No wonder teachers are discouraged. No wonder teacher morale is at an all- time low. No wonder more and more teachers are retiring.

Please read the rest to find out what should be done about Governor Nathan Deal’s embrace of Alec’s agenda to get rid of public education.

As some people recognize, unions helped to build the middle class in this nation. Their disappearance just happens to coincide with growing income inequality, a shrinking middle class, and a growing divide between the 1% and everyone else. Why would corporations want to get rid of unions? Unfortunately, many corporations want low-wage workers who work overtime without extra pay. Unions wouldn’t tolerate that. So unions must go. They have nearly disappeared in the private sector, where people can be fired at will, with no cause. The strongest unions are in the public sector, and the teachers’ unions are the largest unions, so they are constantly attacked by those who want to get rid of the last union and have a totally free market.


Here is a useful comment by our reader, Laura H. Chapman:


There is a fairly new scheme by corporations to insert their policies into local government, with killing unions priority one.


Without much fanfare, the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC—the source of corporate-friendly and “free-market” state legislation—has spawned ready-to-use model legislation and ordinances for local governments.


ALEC’s progeny is called the American City-Council Exchange (ACCE). Set up in 2014, it is designed to promote “America’s only free-market forum for village, town, city, and county policy makers.”


In addition to proposing model ordinances and legislation at this smaller scale of governance, ACCE is also intended to diminish the influence of the National Conference of State Legislatures as a go-to-source for policy ideas and status reports on legislation. For example, the National Conference has a searchable data-base on pending or passed legislation of great use for legislators and their staff. This data base and search engine means YOU can track 50 issues in education with state-by-state reports–summaries of legislation and the text of bills. Because the National Conference is not a 100% shill for market-based policies framed by corporations, ALEC and ACCE claim it is “too liberal” as a source for ideas about legislation.


Here is how the ACCE works. Elected officials in villages, towns, cities, and counties pay $100 for a two-year membership. They are identified as members of “the Public Sector.” Here is the ACCE pitch members of the public sector.


“ACCE members receive academic research and analysis from ALEC/ACCE policy experts who work with issues, processes and problem-solving strategies upon which municipal officials vote. Provided with important policy education, lawmakers become more informed and better equipped to serve the needs of their communities.” So corporations are the sources of policy expertise and the proper way to “educate” public officials. No need for local expertise, public debate, and so on. Local elected officials can now become shills for ALEC/ACCE.


Corporations pay $10,000 to be a member of an ACCE Committee, or they pay $25,000 to become members of the Founder’s Committee with more influence on priorities.
Here is the pitch for members in “the Private Sector.”


ACCE Committee members “provide industry insights during policy creation.” “ACCE Council Committees closely imitate the city government legislative process: resolutions are introduced, meetings are conducted, experts present facts and opinion for discussion, after which lawmakers take a vote.”


The ACCE is basically a pay-to-play scheme for peddling corporate views to public officials at the local level, with a very low threshold of expense for local and policy makers to be open to ready-to-use corporate friendly ordinances and legislation. The scheme comes with the bonus of a tax deduction because ACCE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.


ACCE first two initiatives are already in circulation, thanks to regional chapters and the nurture by ALEC of this strategy to control local governance. Some elected officials who are Democrats are trying to blow the whistle.


One of the first ACCE initiatives is a model ”Right to Work” ordinance, a local version of ALEC’s anti-union model legislation.


A second is designed to limit local government oversight of the process of contracting for municipal water and wastewater piping. Apparently the municipal and wastewater industry wants to secure total autonomy for project engineers to set performance criteria for the piping in these huge public works projects. This may also be a scheme to by-pass EPA’s 2011 “green infrastructure” practices for administering the “Clean Water Act.” For both model ordinances go to


In addition to these initiatives, I think we will see more of ACCE’s influence, working in tandem with other efforts to get rid of locally elected local school boards, to have all education funding follow the child, and set up “virtual” and/or multi-location districts to process funds, meet any remnants of public accountability, all with appointed CEOs. The Center for American Progress and venture capitalists like Global Silicon Valley Advisors want to accelerate popular acceptance of such schemes as “essential” to get more bang for the buck, to allow for more choice, and so on. Getting rid of local school boards s also a strategy for killing unions.


If your community still permits unions and suddenly decides to scrap those with something that looks like a ready-made ordinance, it could be from ACCE. It might come with claims that it will not only save money on salaries, but reduce pension obligations, permit fires and hires based on performance, and also be good for business, especially for those corporations who have paid for access to your elected officials. BEWARE.


Corporations do not want employees to have due-process rights. Many also have NO respect for authentic democratic governance and the electoral process—witness the current efforts of billionaires with corporate fortunes to buy the next President of the United States and also to make it difficult to vote.

Dan DeLamater of Athens, Georgia, is a conservative Republican, a public school parent, and an insurance executive. Maureen Downey posted his article on her blog “Get Schooled” in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

DeLamater says he is “disgusted” by Governor Nathan Deal’s proposal for a statewide “opportunity school district,” in which the state would abrogate local control and take over low-performing schools. He wrote: Unfortunately, opportunity in this administration is defined by crony capitalism not beneficial education reform.

DeLamater came to see that ALEC was behind the state takeover plan:

First, we have learned about ALEC, a hideous national legislative-steering organization where lobbyists, private interests, and legislators craft legislation behind closed doors. There is no sunlight on this entity. There is no accountability. Participants are back-room puppet masters controlling the local and national political agenda. Until recently, most of us had no idea it even existed.

Regarding one important topic, ALEC is admittedly and proudly against public education. The for-profit education industry rules ALEC’s agenda here – including testing companies, consultants, for-profit schools. And lest you doubt ALEC’s influence in Georgia, know that state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, has served as National Chairman for ALEC.

Second, we have learned that Gov. Deal has become enamored with state takeover of school districts. The power play topped the governor’s education agenda in the last legislative session, in the form of the legislation to allow a state-wide referendum to create the “Opportunity School District.”

This state takeover is contrary to the long-standing “conservative” mandate of local control within the Republican Party since a state takeover clearly usurps locally elected school boards. This is contrary to any information provided by the governor’s appointed Education Reform Commission as their recommendations are still under construction to this day. This is contrary to our state’s Constitutional mandate as Georgia state government is forbidden to control local school districts.

Third, we know the governor hired an inexperienced but eager-to-lead Erin Hames as his education expert. The statewide-elected Georgia state school superintendent was evidently not an appropriate expert for Gov. Deal. This is not a surprise, of course. After all, Deal has minimized and circumvented the voters’ superintendent for years – John Barge previously and Richard Woods recently.

Hames lobbied for the takeover law, pushed it through the legislature, then–before leaving public employ–created a consulting business to advise districts on how to avoid falling prey to the law she helped to pass.

Her first contract was a no-bid contract with the Atlanta Public Schools for $96,000.

DeLamater writes:

The APS Board has $96,000 available to hire Ms. Hames. I fear for those who are not as fortunate as the APS. Or Gov. Deal. Or Ms. Hames. Or their friends. I wonder where public school children in Georgia fall in this pecking order… you’ll be hard pressed to find their interests represented by anyone involved in this sordid tale.

If you want to get rid of public education, unions, and the teaching profession, Scott Walker should be your candidate. As this article shows, he dances to ALEC’s tune.

He prides himself for breaking public sector unions in Wisconsin. At one campaign stop, he said that his victory over the unions proved that he could beat terrorism.

He is a wrecking ball for public education. He has expanded charters and vouchers. He is a cheerleader for privatization.

He is ALEC’s boy.

What is ALEC? Read here. It is the organization that works on behalf of deregulation, corporate profits, and privatization. It writes model legislation for states. Inexplicably, the IRS allows it non-political, charitable (c3) status, although it is deeply partisan.

The state board of education in Kansas voted to drop teacher certification requirements for six districts, including two of the state’s largest.

Kansas is preparing for the 19th century, when teachers needed no professional preparation.

“Cynthia Lane, superintendent of Kansas City USD 500, one of the affected districts, called the compromise “a reasonable outcome.”

“The bottom line,” Lane said, “is we want every possible tool in order to put the right staff in front of our kids.”

Who dreamed up this scheme to lower standards? ALEC.

“Earlier in the day, more than a dozen educators and parents gave impassioned statements to the board in hopes of persuading the 10-member body not to exempt the districts from licensure regulations.

“James Neff, a chemistry teacher from Manhattan USD 383, said Kansas’ current rules, which stipulate that teachers need formal, academic training in pedagogy, not just subject matter, are critical to the “integrity” of the profession.

“A subject matter specialist is just a subject matter specialist,” Neff said, “but a teacher is something different.”

“The measure will waive the state’s licensure regulations for a group of districts called the Coalition of Innovative Districts, a program that the Legislature established in 2013 based on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council….,

“Critics who spoke earlier Tuesday against dropping the requirements included education professors, Kansas Parent Teacher Association president Denise Sultz and Topeka USD 501’s Marie Carter, who recruits teachers for the district.

“They warned of the difficulties that untrained teachers can face managing large class sizes, understanding pedagogy and the learning process, and serving students with a variety of skill levels, including those with learning disabilities or behavioral issues.

“No members of the public spoke in favor of the waiver Tuesday.”


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