Archives for category: California

Peter Schrag has written sensibly about education issues for many years.

In this article, he analyzes the complexities of the Vergara trial, in which a rich and powerful coalition of corporate reformers are trying to eliminate due process rights for teachers.

In the end, he argues, the outcome of the trial won’t change much for poor kids.

If the plaintiffs win, some very good veteran teachers may be fired to save money.

The legislature will enact some new laws, perhaps basing layoffs on “effectiveness” (i.e. test scores) rather than due process, but as we know from the recent report of the American Statistical Association, test-based accountability (VAM) is fraught with problems and will end up stigmatizing those who teach in high-poverty schools.

He quotes Russlyn Ali, who was Secretary Arne Duncan’s assistant secretary for civil rights and is now supporting the Vergara plaintiffs:

 

Laws that make it hard to dismiss or replace teachers were originally designed to protect them against the nepotism and the racial, social and cultural biases that were all too common in education until well after World War II. If those protections are curtailed, and if a new system relying heavily on “effectiveness” — itself an uncertain standard — is put in place, what’s to say it won’t make teachers competitors and undermine morale and collaboration?
It’s possible that if the courts find that the tenure laws in this case offend constitutional equal protection guarantees, many of the system’s other inequities might be open to legal challenge as well. Ali, among others, has that hope, and she sees Vergara as a first step in that larger battle.
But if the Vergara plaintiffs win a resounding victory in this case, don’t look for any quick change in the schools or some great improvement in outcomes for disadvantaged kids. There are just too many other uncertainties, too many inequities, too many other unmet needs.

 

My view: the trial continues the blame game favored by the Obama administration and the billionaire boys’ club, in which they blame “bad” teachers as the main culprit in low academic performance. Their refusal to recognize that standardized tests accurately measure family income and family education is their blind spot. It is easier to blame teachers than to take strong action to reduce poverty and racial segregation. It is sad and ironic that the most segregated schools in the United States today are charter schools, yet the Obama administration wants more of them. If the Vergara plaintiffs win, there will be fewer teachers eager to risk their reputation teaching the kids who have the greatest needs. If the plaintiffs win, this case will then be a setback for the rights of the kids, no victory at all.

 

If the corporate reformers refuse to attack the root causes of low test scores, then Peter Schrag is quite right to say that nothing much will change.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-schrag-vergara-teacher-union-20140403,0,3459594.story#ixzz2ygmthcp2

 

The Vergara trial in Los Angeles is an effort funded by a very wealthy man to eliminate due process for teachers in California. The theory of the case is that when teachers have tenure (due process), then it is hard to fire bad teachers. Thus, the civil rights of minority students are violated by the very concept of due process, because more of those who teach them should be fired. But tenure ties the hands of their administrators, so students are harmed.

 

The lead plaintiff, a student named Elizabeth Vergara, had a teacher named Anthony Mize. As it happens, Mize doesn’t have tenure and has never had a complaint lodged against him or a disciplinary proceeding. If he was the “bad” teacher as the plaintiffs’ attorneys claim, why wasn’t he fired?

 

One of his colleagues wrote to describe him.

 

Next month will mark 20 years that I have taught with LAUSD.
I had the privilege of working with Mr. Anthony Mize , one of the alleged “grossly
incompetent teachers”, named in this suit. for four of those years. Despite the precarious and ever-vacillating status accorded him by LAUSD, the RIF notices, his relegation to long-term sub status in his own previous classroom and the subsequent loss of benefits such as paid sick leave and holidays, I never saw him give less than 100% to the school, and to his students. Mize is a natural teacher, knows his content area and is sensitive to his students needs, both as learners and as human beings. He is sorely missed at our school site, To anyone who has worked alongside this young man, it would be almost laughable that he could be so singled-out, were it not so deplorable. The latest insult in a long line of abusive treatment by the Powers That Be… As an early commenter stated, if Mr. Mize was the best example of a poor teacher that the plaintiffs could summon, they really don’t have much of a case.
Does anyone remember Attorney Joseph Welch’s reply to Senator Joe Mccarthy in the Army-Macarthy hearings? It resounds in my ears as I follow this case:
” Have you left,Sir, no sense of decency? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” (I paraphrase)
That quietly uttered statement is widely credited for the beginning of the end of the tyranny and witch hunts initiated by Senator Mccarthy. We must all continue to speak truth to power, for when we do, tyrants fall. Thank you, Anthony, for all of us.

A friend who observed the proceedings in the Vergara trial sent me the following notes, based on the testimony of Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond. She is probably the nation’s leading expert on issues related to teacher recruitment, preparation, retention, and support. Her testimony, based on many years of study and experience, was devastating to the plaintiff’s case.

Linda Darling-Hammond’s testimony

Overview

Yesterday, expert witness Linda Darling-Hammond, a renowned scholar and Stanford professor, has refuted the main arguments of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Darling-Hammond, whose insights come from both research and experience, stated that measures based on student test scores do not identify effective teachers, that two years is enough time to identify teachers who should be counseled out of the profession, and that extending that period beyond two years would harm students.

Excerpts

On what a good evaluation process looks like.

“With respect to tenure decisions, first of all, you need to have – in the system, you need to have clear standards that you’re going to evaluate the teacher against, that express the kind of teaching practices that are expected; and a way of collecting evidence about what the teacher does in the classroom. That includes observations and may also include certain artifacts of the teacher’s work, like lesson plans, curriculum units, student work, et cetera.”

“You need well-trained evaluators who know how to apply that instrument in a consistent and effective way.

“You want to have a system in which the evaluation is organized over a period of time so that the teacher is getting clarity about what they’re expected to do, feed back about what they’re doing, and so on.

In California – note related to the tenure decision, but separately – there is a mentoring program that may be going on side-by-side; but really, that does not feed into the tenure decisions. It’s really the observation and feedback process.”

On the problem with extending the tenure beyond two years

“It’s important that while we want teachers to at some point have due process rights in their career, that that judgment be made relatively soon; and that a floundering teacher who is grossly ineffective is not allowed to continue for many years because a year is a long time in the life of a student.

“So I think that having the two-year mark—which means you’re making a decision usually within 19 months of the starting point of that teacher – has the interest of allowing a – of encouraging districts to make that decision in a reasonable time frame so that students aren’t exposed to struggling teachers for long than they might need to be.”

Other reasons why two years is enough

“My opinion is that, for the first reason I mentioned earlier—the encouragement to make a judgment about a grossly ineffective teacher before many years go by is a useful reason to have a shorter tenure period – or pre-tenure period.

“But at the end of the say, the most important thing is not the amount of time; the most important thing is the quality and the intensity of the evaluation and support process that goes on for beginning teachers.

On the benefits and importance of having a system that includes support for struggling teachers

“Well, it’s important both as a part of a due process expectation; that if somebody is told they’re not meeting a standard, they should have some help to meet that standard.

The principal typically does not have as much time and may not have the expertise in the content area that a mentor teacher would have. For example, in physics or mathematics, usually the mentor is in the same area, so the help is more intensive and more specific.

“And in such programs, we often find that half of the teachers do improve. Others may not improve, and then the decision is more well- grounded. And when it is made, there is almost never a grievance or a lawsuit that follows because there’s ben such a strong process of help.

“The benefits to students are that as teachers are getting assistance and they’re improving their practice, students are likely to be better taught.

“And in the cases where the assistance may not prove adequate to help an incompetent teacher become competent, the benefit is that that teacher is going to be removed from the classroom sooner, if, sort of, they allowed the situation to just go on for a long time, which is truncated by this process of intensive assistance….

“The benefits to districts are that by doing this, you actually end up making the evaluation process more effective, making personnel decisions in a more timely way, making them with enough of a documentation record and a due process fidelity, that very rarely does there occur a problem after that with lawsuits; which means the district spends a little bit of money to save a lot of money and to improve the effectiveness of teaching for its students.

On peer assistance and review (PAR) and other mentoring programs

“A PAR program and other programs that mentor teachers typically improve the retention of teachers; that is, they keep more of the beginning teachers, which is where a lot of attrition occurs. But they do ensure that the teachers who leave are the ones that you’d like to have leave, as opposed to the ones who leave for other reasons.”

On firing the bottom 5% of teachers

“My opinion is that there are at least three reasons why firing the bottom 5 percent of teachers, as defined by the bottom 5 percent on an effectiveness continuum created by using the value-added test scores of their students on state tests, will not improve the overall effectiveness of teachers….

One reason is that, as I described earlier, those value-added metrics are inaccurate for many teachers. In addition, they’re highly unstable. So the teachers who are in the bottom 5 percent in one year are unlikely to be the same teachers as who would be in the bottom 5 percent the next year, assuming they were left in place.

“And the third reason is that when you create a system that is not oriented to attract high-quality teachers and support them in their work, that location becomes a very unattractive workplace. And an empirical proof of that is the situation currently in Houston, Texas, which has been firing many teachers at the bottom end of the value-added continuum without creating stronger overall achievement, and finding that they have fewer and fewer people who are willing to come apply for jobs in the district because with the instability of those scores, the inaccuracy and bias that they represent for groups of teachers, it’s become an unattractive place to work.

“The statement is often made with respect to Finland that if you fire the bottom 5 percent [of teachers], we will be on a par with achievement in Finland. And Finland does none of those things. Finland invests in the quality of beginning teachers, trains them well, brings them into the classroom and supports them, and doesn’t need to fire a lot of teachers.”

A teacher in California sent me the latest state testing guidelines and was disturbed to see the large number of forbidden topics.

I was not surprised because in 2003, I published a book called “The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn.” I reported that testing and textbook publishers, the federal government and state education agencies collectively adhere to a long list of banned words, topics, and graphics (Do Not Show a Rainbow! Do Not Show a Female in a Tank Top! Do Not Show the Sole of a Shoe! Do Not Show a Cow with Udders! Do Not Even Mention Sex, Poverty, Religion,Violence, War, Witches, or Evolution!)

Actually, the only new addition to the list of banned topics is “complex discussions of sports,” and I assume this was added on the assumption that boys are likely to know more about sports than girls. So the topic is gender biased.

You might well wonder what material is permissible on the state tests once all if the below has been deleted. Me too. Maybe a discussion of the healthfulness of grains and vegetables?

Here are the current guidelines, no different from what I wrote about in 2003:

“To keep the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) free from potentially biased, sensitive, or controversial content, the following topics are avoided on the examination:

“Violence (including guns, other weapons, and graphic animal violence)

“Dying, death, disease, hunger, famine
War

“Natural disasters with loss of life

“Drugs (including prescription drugs), alcohol, tobacco, smoking

“Junk food

“Abuse, poverty, running away

“Divorce

“Socio-economic advantages (e.g., video games, swimming pools, computers in the home, expensive vacations)

“Sex

“Religion

“Complex discussions of sports

“Slavery

“Evolution, prehistoric times, age of solar system, dinosaurs

“Rap music, rock concerts

“Extrasensory perception, witchcraft
Halloween, religious holidays

“Anything disrespectful, demeaning, moralistic, chauvinistic

“Children coping with adult situations or decisions; young people challenging or questioning authority

“Mention of individuals who may be associated with drug use or with advertising of substances such as cigarettes or alcohol

“Losing a job, home, or pets

“Rats, roaches, lice, spiders

Dieting, other concerns with self-image
Political issues

“Any topic that is likely to upset students and affect their performance on the rest of the test.

“It is important to note that these guidelines are applied in the context of the purpose of the test as well as the overall passage or item. For example, some topics (e.g., the socio-economic advantages) may be mentioned in a text, although an entire passage would not focus on these topics.”

The Vergara trial in California is a calculated effort to remove due process protections from teachers. The plaintiffs claim that the superintendent must be able to dismiss teachers at will, without the bother of a hearing. The billionaires sponsoring this attack on teachers’ job protection insist that any protections for teachers in the workplace violates the civil rights of students. They gathered a group of students who were willing to blame their teachers for their low test scores, hired a team of crack lawyers, and sued. Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy, whose district is being sued, testified for the plaintiffs; he wants the power to fire more teachers without delay.

Win or lose, the billionaires hope to create a template for similar attacks on teachers in other states.

An observer at the trial distributed this account of the proceedings last week.

“On Friday, two teachers pegged as “grossly incompetent” by the Plaintiffs took the stand: Anthony Mize and Dawna Watty.

“Mize was the eighth grade English teacher of the case’s namesake, Elizabeth Vergara. He worked at Maclay Middle School for five years. He started at Maclay as an intern teacher in 2008, was laid off due to reduction in force in 2010 and was then hired back as a long-term substitute for the following three years. He was never hired back on tenure-track, nor did he ever achieve tenure.

“Mize was a good teacher. He took on leadership roles in the school. He was creative and caring in the classroom. He never was disciplined. He never received negative evaluations or observations. His evaluations all had positive comments. He testified that he believed Vergara learned in his class – in which he followed an instructional guide with a lesson-by-lesson layout provided by LAUSD, and used a textbook to supplement.

“Watty taught Brandon DeBose in her fifth grade class at Ruby Bridges Elementary. She has taught more than 900 fifth graders over her 28 year career. Despite having opportunities to transfer to more affluent schools in Alameda Unified School District, Watty chose to stay put because she loves the students and because the school has a strong community feel. She said, “It’s a diverse population. I learn from them. They learn from me. We’re a family. We’re a community. We have students with some severe needs, and we try to meet the needs of all of our students…coming to school is the one thing that they have that is constant in their life…”

“Like Mize, Watty has never received a negative evaluation. She has never received a complaint from a parent about her teaching. She has received much positive feedback, including parents of her students asking to have their younger children assigned to her. She often receives visits from former students.

“Both Mize and Watty testified that neither Vergara nor DeBose nor their parents ever complained or asked for additional help.”

So, neither teacher ever received a negative evaluation.neither was ever disciplined. One never had tenure or tenure rights (why hasn’t John Deasy already fired him, since he was Vergara’s teacher?) should teachers be fired whenever a student doesn’t like them?

Who will want to teach when any teacher can be fired for any reason or no reason at all?

Here are some readings about the trial.

California is in the midst of a crucial election for State Superintendent. This article by Gary Cohn describes the players and the context.

On one side is experienced educator Tom Torlakson, who is running for re-election.

On the other side is Marshall Tuck, graduate of Harvard Business School, investment banker, former leader of Green Dot charter schools. He is a strong supporter of privatization of public education and has attracted support from the usual crowd of entrepreneurs, millionaires, billionaires, etc.

California now has more charter schools than any other state in the nation. If Tuck wins, the privatization movement will gain a major stronghold.

Start here to understand the setting for this crucial campaign:

“An election campaign now being fought almost completely out of public view could radically alter the way California’s school children are taught. If Marshall Tuck unseats incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the state’s public education system could become a laboratory for a movement that prizes privatization and places a high value on student test scores over traditional instruction. The contrasts between the two top contenders in the nonpartisan race could not be more dramatic – nor could the stakes for the country’s largest education system.

“The 40-year-old Tuck is a Harvard Business School graduate who has worked as an investment banker for Salomon Brothers and as an executive at Model N, a revenue-management software company. He is a former president of Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school operation in Los Angeles, and later served as the first head of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools — former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s controversial education nonprofit that tried to improve 17 low-performing public schools, with mixed results.

Tuck’s candidacy is supported by the same mix of wealthy education privatizers, Silicon Valley and entertainment money, hedge fund and real estate interests that backed privatization candidates in the 2013 Los Angeles Unified School District school board election — when billionaire businessmen such as Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg gave large campaign contributions to an unsuccessful effort to defeat board member Steve Zimmer. (The Broad Residency, an education management program operated by the Broad Foundation, lists Tuck as an alumnus.)

“Tuck is also supported by former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, a polarizing figure who was once believed to be a potential contender for Torlakson’s job. Like Rhee, Tuck supports using student test scores as a way of evaluating individual teachers’ performances. Critics of this policy, which is favored by school privatizers, claim that it forces classroom instructors to “teach to the test” and scrap curriculum that is not seen as reaping high student test scores.”

We must keep watch on what happens in California. This race may determine the survival of public education in that state, or whether the state will continue monetizing education and creating a dual-school system.

David Welch is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who is spending millions of dollars in legal fees to try to strip teachers of any due process rights or job security.

Who is he and who are his allies?

This investigative report provides some answers, though no one can truly explain the animus towards teachers that blames them for poverty, inequitable funding, large classes, poor leadership, racism, incompetent administrators, and myriad factors beyond their control. Even the most expert, dedicated teachers will lose if Welch wins.

Michelle Rhee is on a national vendetta against teachers. According to an investigation by a special unit of Al Jazeera, Rhee has poured large sums into a campaign to attack unions and teachers in California, using the services of a politically powerful lobbyist in Sacramento.

Since there is no research to support her campaign to destroy unions and to eliminate due process from teachers, her crusade is either an ego trip or payback for her failure to crush the teachers in DC.

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The Vergara trial in Los Angeles prompted this National Board Certified Teacher to reflect on the power dynamics in LAUSD. And how it affects the students. The trial is funded by a very wealthy tech entrepreneur whose legal team claims that due process rights for teachers denies the civil rights of minority students because it is harder to fire teachers if they get a hearing. Superintendent John Deasy testified for the plaintiffs who are suing his districts because he says he can’t fire ineffective teachers.

The classroom teacher wrote this commentary on the trial and the issues:

“The Vergara case is truly the epicenter of everything wrong with the direction of American public education.

“Sorry in advance for this long post, but this case connects a lot of dots…from my classroom in Los Angeles…to Wall Street…to The White House.

“The words in this case are twisted in Orwellian ways, where a term like “Civil Rights” gets to be used by the oppressors instead of those trying to liberate kids from their dictums.

“Teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District is an exercise in futility these days. Watching this court case unfold with its Trojan Horse arguments about the best education for students is like hearing the 1% argue that what the financial system needs is less regulation so that the poor people of the country can be free to achieve their American Dream.

“Their words are all about “liberty” and “justice” and “equality”, but it is obvious who reaps the benefits of those terms.

“It is no coincidence that our District Superintendent John Deasy, was the first witness called to testify against the teachers of his own district.

“He knew that he had the backing of the very rich benefactors who have paved his life in education. He keeps winning because there is no realistic way to challenge his authority.

“The Editorial Board of the LA TIMES, like the Editorial Boards of papers like The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune are enamored by this sort of superintendent–a man who is brought in to kick teachers’ whining butts and bring up test scores. The cosmetic nature of HOW they do it is apparent to anyone who looks at it.

“They have lowered graduation requirements and (as in our school) have brought in empty BS “Advisory” classes that the kids can get full credit for attending (that’s 40 additional credits after four years!!!) so that graduation rates can be boosted. No one is going to do an in depth analysis of this because the public wants results! Arne Duncan can give a big hooray for Deasy and company because the graduation figures are going up! Numbers don’t lie!

“Are our kids “smarter” because John Deasy is our superintendent? No. The pedagogy that Deasy believes in is small-minded and literal. If a teacher in LA is doing great things in his or her classroom, the chances are it’s IN SPITE of the District, not because of it. The only true education emphasis that Deasy champions is the same one that most of the 1% from Bill Gates to Barack Obama to Arne Duncan adhere to: Get the most kids through the education factory they oversee (and often profit from) towards the goal of making them somewhat competent in the world to not go out and steal. It is a very low bar. Very few schools and administrations treat education as a mind-blowing, explosive and subversive experience. That would be about the last thing on John Deasy’s agenda.

“For Deasy and those who back him, Education is defined by them alone, using their own, limited metrics about what they think constitutes “education”.

“For Deasy’s system, creative teaching is seen only as an added bonus–not a primary function. If it happens, great, but it is not the most important aspect of education. Creativity and the emphasis on a critical understanding of the world is not the thing the system values most. Deasy, Duncan, Gates and Pearson value kids responding to its metrics. Actually, if those metrics are achieved, then the Education System says the “product” is successfully educated.

“The truth is that the System will NEVER get the results from this urban population of kids (or for most others either) because they neglect to deal with a variety of factors: Poverty, environment, lack of parental wherewithal, economic forces that dictate a certain path for the working class that Deasy oversees.

“But Deasy’s route to “success” was vastly different from that likely of the students he oversees. In fact, ironically, his path was much more “American” in its orchestration of how the country actually works: Inheritance, privilege and obsequiousness. Although most people are tired of hearing about Deasy’s PhD “controversy” (http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/education/blog/2008/10/prince_georges_says_goodbye_to.html) it is always worth remembering because it is a perfect metaphor for how Deasy has always gotten his way throughout his entire education life. With the tremendous support of a financial power structure that has bolstered his career from Day One, Deasy has been the beneficiary of those whose interests he promotes. First it was the financial interests of billionaires Bill Gates and later Eli Broad which morph conveniently into the political interests of the neo-liberal Democrat agenda.

“Brought in and imposed upon the city by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Deasy consolidated his support by having Eli Broad pony up millions into LAUSD to “buy” support for him. Deasy has enjoyed the unfaltering support of The United Way, the Chamber of Commerce, multi-millionaire Jamie Alter-Lynton’s LA SCHOOL REPORT and The LA Times…behind these entities are all men and women of great wealth who have thrown their considerable influence backing Deasy’s “Reform” Agenda but do not send their own kids to LAUSD. Our current Mayor Eric Garcetti is a product of the UCLA Lab School and the tony Harvard Westlake Prep (as Mayor Emmanuel sends his kids to University of Chicago Lab where the Obama kids also attended).

“No matter.

“Like many other inner cities with very separate education agendas for other people’s children, these socially-liberal Titans of LA Power pull the strings for a school system that is both racist and classist. The type of education that Deasy prescribes for the kids of LAUSD would never go over in his former school district of Santa Monica. Educated, mostly white and financially secure parents would not tolerate the low bar for their own kids. They would not tolerate the class size that our students endure and are supposed to “buck up” and learn in, nor the pitiful lack of electives, art, drama or field trip opportunities.

“As for LAUSD teachers? Most suffer in silence. Our system’s teachers are cowed and intimidated. Where do they look for support? How did they become the enemy? Hundreds of teachers in “jail” in LA. Deasy gets a 91% disapproval rating from the very people he leads and it doesn’t garner a shrug. Imagine if the Secretary of Defense got that rating from the troops or any municipal Police Chief from the officers on the street? There would be calls for firing immediately, but teachers are demonized and can be ignored. Everyone from Obama to Bill Gates to Arne Duncan gives lip service to “WE LOVE TEACHERS!” but it is in much the same way as Colonel Sanders LOVES his chickens.

“Only a neo-liberal, corporatist agenda could get a piece of agitprop like the anti-union teacher film WON’T BACK DOWN at the last Democratic Convention. Wall Street loves people like Arne Duncan and John Deasy and Barack Obama. No matter that these people never had any experience in public urban education before they rose to power, they have sought to undermine teachers and student opportunities at every level.

“They have no shame of putting my students in a real-life movie that actually SUBVERTS their interests. They will back law suits like Vergara v. California stating its “for the kids”. Deasy will claim that his teachers are the problem, instead of the social issues that hold students’ lives in their sway. Ghastly, Deasy then claims that its HIS OWN self-serving, self-aggrandizing, self-benefiting educational policies (and those of Gates, Broad, Pearson, et. al) that are the life preservers for the kids.

“Our kids are afloat in a desperate sea and the “rescue” ship they send is manned by cannibals.

“The LAUSD School Board is a feckless lot. It is too much inside baseball to go into the individual psychologies of the seven members. Suffice to say they read the newspapers and are always VERY concerned how they appear to the editorial boards who keep them in line. Education is political and its big business. To say otherwise is ignorant at best and downright disingenuous at worst. I do not hold out much hope for this sorry lot because they are all in over their heads.

“Without rehashing the iPad story, LA’s citizens got upset because they saw it as a ridiculous waste of their money–while teachers saw it as horrifying waste of resources and priorities. We were told by our leader, Deasy, that iPads were a Civil Rights issue which was met with universal derision. We are now forced to figure out some way of threading the needle of asking the public to actually give MORE to public education which actually IS a Civil Rights issue, but it has been polluted by Deasy’s “version” of Civil Rights. When our own district stabs us in the back, undercutting our desire to make the public understand what the system truly needs, then what hope do we have to actually do right by our kids?

“John Deasy, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and Barack Obama have miserably failed all urban kids. Their education is a disaster for my students. But the people who have the influence and power to change it don’t realize it (charitably?) or they simply BELIEVE the “philanthropists” when they say something is true and necessary because they also NEED those people for their political survival. And they get their backing because they back them. And so on and so on and so on….

“To connect the dots even further in this depressing spirit, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) has announced that Bill Gates will be a keynote speaker at their 2014 Teaching and Learning conference next month. As a National Board teacher, I am horrified by this entity that is supposed to recognize the excellence in teaching is becoming just a shill front. Education is political and the National Board steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the destruction of public education. In fact, Gates has given so much money to this organization that it has created a toxic influence in the organization, reducing the “reliability” of what National Board constitutes great teaching.

“My disenfranchised classroom loses out simply because we can’t buy our way into a seat at the table.

“My kids can’t “buy” their way into a PhD.

“My kids have to accept what Deasy and The LA Times tells them is necessary for them.

“Who is our court of appeal in this system?

“Vergara v. California is the rich’s power grab. American public education is on trial not by “the people” but by the oligarchs who use it as a punching board to misdirect the culpability of many of these elites in creating the societal pathologies these kids navigate everyday.

“The true enemy of the nine students whose names are cynically being used in the suit are not their teachers–but those who exploit their desire for a true education–and will replace their trust with fat bank accounts in someone else’s name at a desk very far away (and with a much better window view) than theirs at the school’s they originally came from.”

California continues to outpace the nation in the growth of charter schools and charter enrollment, with 104 new schools and 48,000 additional students, according to a report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

California now has 1,130 charter schools serving 519,000 students.

“The state figures represent a 6.1 percent increase in schools since 2012-13 and a 10.3 percent rise in charter student enrollment. Nationwide, the number of charters rose 7.3 percent. There were 436 new schools and 288,000 students added, for a total of 6,440 schools educating more than 2.5 million students.”

The president and CEO of the National Alliance, Nina Rees, pointed out that this was “the largest increase in the number of students attending charter schools we’ve seen since tracking enrollment growth.” Rees previously served as an education advisor to Vice-President Dick Cheney and to Michael Milken.

At the same time, a member of a charter school in Newport Beach, California, was accused of stealing $750,000 from the school by promising the other members of the board that he could invest it and parlay it into $3 million. He “didn’t return a dollar.” The alleged theft would be the largest from any California charter school. The organization runs five online charter schools.

Charter schools are virtually unregulated and unsupervised in California because the state education department lacks the staff to oversee them. Misdeeds are almost always dependent on whistle-blowers, not official investigations.

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