Archives for category: Bush, Jeb

Politico reports that Jeb Bush won’t back down on Common Core, choice–vouchers, charters, online charters–and the rest of corporate reform that offers huge opportunities for entrepreneurs. It was his conference, and he offered a line-up of star speakers, including Condoleeza Rice, a newly minted education expert who promotes charters and vouchers, and Amanda Ripley.

Rice apparently doesn’t know that vouchers have produced no academic gains in Milwaukee, Cleveland, or D.C.

“- Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio concluded the conference on Thursday night with a wide-ranging discussion about education reform. Rice said the public school system is in and of itself unequal, and defenders of the “status quo are on the defensive.” Critics of school choice like to say that it’s taking money away from public schools, she said. “Well, what can they do? They can get better,” she said to applause. Wealthier families are already sending their children to private school and disadvantaged families are trapped in failing schools, she said. “We need to give parents that wouldn’t otherwise have the means to send their children to a school system that works for them,” Rice said.

- The national summit continues today with a lineup of guests including OECD Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher, New Mexico state education chief Hanna Skandera, Louisiana Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard and author Amanda Ripley. The agenda: Watch live:”

Will Bush’s full-throated support of Common Core hurt him in Republican primaries? Will choice mean anything if every school has the same standards and the same tests?, in its useful summary of happening events, posts the following two items:


FSU REVOLTS AGAINST THRASHER: Florida State University students are calling for a national day of action as the university’s Board of Governors is set to finalize the appointment of state Sen. John Thrasher as FSU’s next president. Students have railed against Thrasher for months, questioning how a politician with no higher education experience can run the school. They’ve also questioned [ ] Thrasher’s ties to the billionaire libertarian Koch brothers, who have previously given him campaign cash. Today, students are rallying against the “corporatization of education” by taking to social media with hashtags like #UnKoch and #FSUisNotforSale. They’re asking supporters to change their profile pictures on Facebook in solidarity. And they want to see pictures of students holding signs that read “We support FSU students in their fight against corruption” posted online. The students are also denouncing what they call the corrupt influence of Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. Twenty schools are supporting the effort, the protesters tell Morning Education, in addition to five organizations including the American Federation of Teachers. More information:


HOW EDUCATION IS PLAYING IN THE PINE TREE STATE: The Maine gubernatorial race is a competitive three-way battle between incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage, Democratic candidate Rep. Mike Michaud and Independent Eliot Cutler. Michaud wants to give students enrolled in public colleges a free sophomore year as a way to reduce dropouts. He also wants to ditch A-F grades for schools, which he has called “demeaning,” and he has said he worries about the financial impact that charter schools have on traditional public schools [ ]. LePage, however, is a big fan of charter schools and has led a major expansion effort in the state. In 2011, he signed legislation [] that made Maine the 41st state to allow the creation of publicly funded charter schools. That legislation allows a state commission to approve up to 10 charter schools over 10 years, but LePage wants to expand beyond that limit. LePage has also been a strong support of virtual charter schools, which Michaud opposes. Cutler has said [ ] he supports capping the number of charter schools, including virtual charters, at 10.



FLORIDA: State Senator John Thrasher has no qualifications to be president of Florida State University. As the item says, he has close ties to the powerful Koch brothers. The Koch brothers have generously funded programs in higher education to spread their message of free-market libertarianism. Apparently one of the brothers bought control of the Economics Department at Florida State University, so why not the Presidency? A staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times wrote in 2011:



A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity: the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university.

A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University’s economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting “political economy and free enterprise.”

Traditionally, university donors have little official input into choosing the person who fills a chair they’ve funded. The power of university faculty and officials to choose professors without outside interference is considered a hallmark of academic freedom.

Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it’s not happy with the faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet “objectives” set by Koch during annual evaluations.


It is good news that the students at FSU are standing up for their university and for academic integrity. Will the Koch brothers care? Probably not. Will the Board of Governors? We will see.


MAINE: Governor LePage is a Tea Party radical who wants to tear down public education in the state by opening charter schools to splinter communities and even a virtual charter school, which will extract cash from local school districts and transfer it to shareholders in a for-profit corporation. Two years ago, the Portland (Maine) Press Herald published a blockbuster story about the profit motive behind the governor’s push for a virtual charter school. The writer, Colin Woodard, won a prize for investigative journalism for reporting on the links between Maine education officials and Jeb Bush’s “Foundation for Educational Excellence,” while following the money trail behind Maine’s sudden interest in having a virtual charter. LePage won last time when he received a plurality of votes, as two candidates split the majority. Maine does not have a run-off. Once again, he is facing two good candidates, and neither will drop out. If I lived in Maine (one of my best friends does), I would vote for Congressman Mike Michaud, who is well-qualified and likelier to defeat LePage. He was president of the Maine Senate before his election to Congress.

The New York Times reports that Jeb Bush has the consent of his family to run for President.

With the war in Iraq now seen as a poorly planned disaster, with No Child Left Behind considered a toxic brand, with Florida’s education “miracle” turned into a free-for-all for entrepreneurs, what will his program be? More charters, more vouchers, more virtual for-profit schools? More wars to prove our might in distant lands? More benefits for the 1%?

The GOP field is slim pickings. Jeb may be the one.

Chris in Florida, who teaches young children, writes:

“My district has become program driven. We have a program to teach reading but there are now 3 reading blocks in our day since we are a D school. The state mandates a program for Tier II intervention and another program for extra reading instruction. There is no correlation between the fragmented programs. We have a program for math and another for math intervention. We have a science program but no social studies program and both are given a meager 20 minutes a day. Several programs are online only and kids hate them and say they are boring and too hard.

“We are no longer allowed to teach with good books or to have classrooms humming with excitement over a praying mantis or a bag of apples. That is not in the programs. We are threatened with discipline if we are caught doing things the old way during random walk throughs using the nefarious Danielson rubric.

“I sneak what I can as far as read alouds and living things in when I can but our discipline problems are skyrocketing and the kids are bored and overwhelmed much of the day with recess no longer allowed either.

“This is the result of Jeb Bush, NCLB, RTTT, CCSS, and all the reformist mess.”

This prize-winning story by investigative reporter Colin Woodard follows the money trail in Maine, as Governor Paul LePage seeks to make a name for himself in the world of digital learning. It was originally published two years ago, but remains relevant. Woodard dug through more than 1,000 documents that he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and his story won the George Polk award.

Conservatives are backing away from Common Core in response to angry parents who see it as a federal takeover of their local schools. Several states have dropped the Common Core assessments or the Common Core standards.

But one conservative is not backing down: Jeb Bush. He has become the flag-bearer for the Common Core. He and Arne Duncan are the most ardent proponents for the embattled national standards.

The Wall Street Journal reports that his gamble is risky in Republican primaries but would be a plus in general elections.

Critics note that the Gates Foundation, which paid to develop the standards, is one of Jeb Bush’s biggest donors, but foundation spokesmen scoff at the suggestion:

“No one doubted that Mr. Bush governed Florida from 1999 to 2007 as a conservative. He cut individual and corporate taxes, signed the “Stand Your Ground” law pushed by gun owners and ended affirmative action in university admissions and state contracting. On education, he spearheaded a law that assigned schools letter grades based on their test scores and required third-graders who couldn’t read to be held back. He also pushed for taxpayer-funded vouchers to let students in failing schools attend private schools, a program that courts struck down.

“As the GOP has shifted to the right, it is tea-party activists who are now among Mr. Bush’s most ardent opponents. In addition to unhappiness with the federal role in education, conservative activists see a corporate connection to the initiative.

“Since 2010, Mr. Bush’s foundation has received $5 million from the Gates Foundation, and it gets donations from companies in the education industry, including Pearson U.K.:Common Core. (News Corp publishes The Wall Street Journal.)

“All Common Core roads lead to K Street,” wrote commentator and activist Michelle Malkin, one of Mr. Bush’s biggest antagonists, referring to the Washington turf of many lobbyists.

“A spokeswoman for the foundation, Jaryn Emhof, rejected criticism over corporate funding. “We have a firewall,” she said. “They don’t get any say over our reform agenda.”

Governor Rick Scott signed legislation to expand the state’s voucher program, despite the opposition of the state’s PTA associations, the NAACP, the teachers’ unions, and the League of United Latin American Citizens. Critics said the vouchers would drain resources from public schools. The voucher expansion was a high priority for former Governor Jeb Bush, who is a power in the state.

Rita Solnet, president of the Florida chapter of Parents Across America, said:

“Voucher schools will not be held to Florida’s Common Core curriculum nor will they have to deliver its associated, highly trumpeted, high stakes tests that 2.6 M other FL students endure. No merit pay, no need to pursue credentialed teachers, no accountability for $3 billion of public tax dollars.

“Had the Governor not signed SB 850 today, the voucher program would have still grown to nearly $1 billion anyways with the escalators built in.

“Something is very wrong when the agency services 59K students in primarily religious schools and they admittedly provided false numbers for an alleged wait list. Something is very wrong when their non profit president is on video admitting to giving away a million dollars each year to legislators who favor voucher programs.

“Siphoning $3 billion away from 2.6 M students is shameful.”

Peter Greene here picks apart an article by Patricia Levesque defending the Common Core, testing, and accountability.

Who is Patricia Levesque? She is CEO of Jeb Bush’s organization called the Foundation for Educational Excellence. It is safe to assume that she speaks for Jeb Bush in celebrating the Flrida miracle, Common Core, and the immense value of standardized testing and accountability.

Levesque is critical of those who question the value of a one-shot standardized test or the value of holding teachers accountable for their students’ test scores.

This, he writes, is what he learned from Levesque:

“Student success depends on testing and accountability. Not teaching. Not learning. Not supportive homes. Not a supportive classroom environment. Not good pedagogical technique. Not a positive, nurturing relationship with a teacher. Just tests. Tests with big fat punishments attache to failure.

“Perhaps what we need is an all-test district. Every day students file in, receive their punishments for the previous test results, take a new test. I mean, if testing is the whole key to learning, the whole key to a successful life itself, then why are we wasting classroom time on anything else? Let’s just test, all day, every day. “

Back in 2011, the Florida legislature decreed that every student must pass an online course as a graduation requirement. Was this decision based on research about the value of online learning? No. It was justified as a means of readying all students for an online workplace but there is as yet no solid evidence that students learn better online. Perhaps it was sheer coincidence that the legislature’s mandate coincided with former Governor Jeb Bush’s determination that digital learning was the wave of the future; Jeb launched a national campaign, well funded by the technology industry, to promote digital learning, including a high school graduation requirement to take at least one or two courses online or no diploma. Six states have since adopted Jeb’s propsal and require students to take at least one course online as a graduation requirement. That sold a lot of new hardware and software but there is still no evidence of its necessity or value.

The Orlando Sentinel found that many seniors are familiar with digital technology but they have not met their graduation requirement:

“More than 11,000 Central Florida 11th-graders — about 43 percent of the region’s juniors — have not yet passed an online course, even though they must do that to earn a diploma next year. The class of 2015 is the first to fall under the online-learning requirements the state adopted four years ago.

“Spencer Thompson, 16, met the requirement at his parents’ insistence, but he isn’t surprised many classmates have not.

“I think it’s forcing a lot of kids to do something they don’t want to do,” said the junior at Hagerty High School in Seminole County.

“Some teenagers think they learn better with an in-person teacher, Spencer said, and some have found it a hassle to fit an online course into their schedule. Online courses, he added, are a useful option — he’s taking a virtual math class next year — but shouldn’t be required.”

Now districts are scrambling to find ways to help students meet the requirement for virtual coursework. “Orange, Seminole and Volusia schools next school year will enroll any 12th-grader who hasn’t taken an online class in new “blended learning” economics or government courses.

“These courses will be taught during the school day, with a teacher at the helm, but at least 50 percent of their lessons — enough to meet the state’s requirement — will be delivered via computer. Because economics and government both are required for graduation and typically taken senior year, administrators have a captive audience and a way to make sure students meet the online rule.”

Some students don’t have a computer or Internet access at home. Some prefer face-to-face interaction with a teacher. For a time, students took their drivers education courses online, but “the Legislature later decided that would not count for the graduation rule.

“This year, lawmakers reversed themselves, so if Gov. Rick Scott signs the latest bill, starting in July students can again use an online driver’s education class to help earn their diploma.”

Really, it shouldn’t matter what course the student takes as long as the purpose of the mandate is filled: to divert more public money to private vendors.

In Maine, Jeb Bush’s “Digital Learning Now” campaign stalled when a local reporter wrote an award-winning story about the money trail connecting Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence, the tech vendors, and Maine politicians.

Thus far, the concept of VAM–or value-added measurement–has an unbroken record of failure. Wherever it has been tried, it has proven to be inaccurate and unstable. Teacher and student records are erroneous. Teachers are judged based on students they never taught. VAM demoralizes teachers, who understand they are being judged for factors over which they have little or no control.

The major perpetrators of this great fraud are Bill Gates, who bet hundreds of millions of dollars on the proposition that test scores could be a major factor in identifying bad teachers and firing them, and Arne Duncan, who required states to use VAM if they wanted to be eligible to get a share of his $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund.

Yet a third perpetrator was Jeb Bush, whose love affair with data is unbounded. Bush went from state to state selling “the Florida miracle,” which supposedly proved that testing and accountability were the keys to solving America’s educational problems.

One of Jeb’s acolytes was Hannah Skandera, who was chosen as Secretary of Education in Néw Mexico but was never confirmed because of her lack of classroom credentials. As Secretary-designate, she sought to import the Florida model of testing and accountability.

When the state released its new teacher evaluation ratings, teachers and students showed up at the Albuquerque school board meeting to complain about errors. Teachers talked about missing and incomplete data. One student said he was part of a team that placed first in the state in civics, yet he failed his end-of-course government exam.

“James Phillips teaches calculus to Advanced Placement students at Albuquerque High School. He described how the previous week had seen him publicly praised by board member Marty Esquivel, who called him the best math teacher in New Mexico. Just days later, Phillips was notified that the PED had also ranked him “minimally effective.”

“Wendy Simms-Small, a parent of three APS students who’d helped organize the day’s rally, said she started getting active after hearing rumors that hundreds of teachers were planning on leaving the school system.

“I got curious and wanted to find out why,” she said. “As a member of this community over many years, I have never seen the demoralization of professional individuals like this ever before.” She said the pressure of testing had also taken a toll on her kids.

“Private corporations reap great rewards when school systems implement standardized testing,” said Simms-Small, “so it’s my belief that they’re motivated financially to turn our children into pawns for profit.”

At some point, the data-obsessed federal and state policy makers will have to concede that they were wrong or face a massive parent-teacher rebellion. They are literally destroying the nation’s schools with their mad ideas. It is time for a revival of common sense or a public discussion of the true meaning of education.


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