Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Teacher Angie Sullivan wonders why her school is being turned around yet again and how many staff will be fired again. This is, of course, the idea embedded in Race to the Top, the idea that scores will go up if part or all of the staff is fired, and the whole school is disrupted and “turned around.” This approach negates the values of stability, consistency, and other old-fashioned notions in favor of disruption and chaos. “Creative destruction” usually turns out to be just plain old destruction, and it destroys trust.

Angie writes:

33 schools in Vegas are being considered for “turnaround”.

My principal announced Standford Elementary was one. No one could really understand why – because most of the staff turned over last year and most of us just got there. The former principal had turned it around – and then they moved her out and someone new in.

In 2013-2014 we taught one set of standards – and tested in another because at the last minute we became the test school for SBAC. Our old computer lab computers could not even run the SBAC tests. So we lost all our stars – mainly due to confusion, new staff, old technology, and general disruption.

So I’m out with all the holiday shoppers buying a suit – because tomorrow I have to not only do parent conferences and my regular busy day . . . I have to interview for half an hour in the middle of the day.

Very disruptive. Congratulations! And Happy Holidays!

Are there about 2,600 (80 x 33) Vegas teachers going through this interview process right before the holiday?

I guess if you are one of the 800 long term subs (they have driven off the licensed teachers) – you probably get to skip the interview?

Pricey Teach for America get to skip it too I bet.

Which suit will help me keep on teaching my at-risk kids that I love? Red? Purple?

What is the official color of destruction, disruption, and devastation?

I hope I don’t cry – I need all the self-respect I can get.

They keep saying not to worry – why do they call it an interview? Interview means . . . Worry.

Angie

Film-maker Brian Malone of Malone Media has completed a documentary about the corporate assault on public education. the film is called Education, Inc.

Please take a look at the trailer and let Brian know what you think. His email is brian@malonetv.com

Find it here:

https://www.facebook.com/edincmovie

Trailer

Lee Barrios is a retired Nationally Board Certified Teacher in Louisiana.

Open letter to BESE –

Occasionally, albeit rarely, I receive confirmation that I am not only NOT crazy but that I am correct. Because I always base my actions on evidence and am always open to correction, it doesn’t really surprise me and I sleep well at night.

This BESE, on the other hand, ( 8 of you to be exact) have proven that you have personal agendas and are determined to support the lies of Supt. White and his well known cadre of business and political promoters. You are all very intelligent individuals and have ample opportunity to seek out and understand the truth. I give you no benefit of the doubt.

As I have said repeatedly, you are complicit as proven by your actions. However it is never too late to redeem a modicum of respect and honor by standing up and admitting you have been duped. It appears that now is an appropriate time to do that.

You all and John White have created chaos, pain, suffering, loss of excellent teachers, embarrassment for our state, and REAL damage to the education and lives of our children. You must understand that there can be NO test this spring and that the whole high stakes testing accountability must be overhauled and transformed from a purely punitive weapon to some kind of constructive process. Get rid of all the TFA junkies in LDE and replace them with education experts so that can be accomplished! Begin with Supt. White!

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT
Secondary English, Journalism, Gifted
178 Abita Oaks Loop
Abita Springs, Louisiana 70420
http://www.geauxteacher.net

“If a child struggles to clear the high bar at five feet, she will not become a “world class” jumper because someone raised the bar to six feet and yelled “jump higher,” or if her “poor” performance is used to punish her coach.” – – CommonSense

http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/The-Myth-of-Average-Todd-Rose-a

“I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in standardizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture.”—— Albert Einstein

Ed Berger, an experienced educator who lives in Arizona, writes that the corrupt politics of the state are hurting children and public education. Berger has worked in education in Arizona since 1991, and during that time he has met many dedicated, hard-working teachers, doing their best to educate children with inadequate resources.

 

What have I experienced? Great things at all levels Pre-K-University! Dedicated teachers and administrators constantly working to improve our schools; dedicated human beings fighting for children and quality education. They are pitted against an economic system that has created pockets of poverty which damage children and their potential for learning, and political ideologues who want to destroy or profit financially from public education.
I am witnessing first-hand the calculated destruction of Arizona public schools and the professional educators who serve our children.

 

Arizona is a ‘right-to-work state.’ No worker’s rights means no organized opposition to the politicians who control the State. As with other public employees, educators have no power to confront and expose abuses and those who damage our schools and children.

 

Arizona is a ‘one-party-rules state.’ One powerful political party controls what happens to our children and our community schools. That party is closely aligned with the religious right. Those groups gets access to the education tax dollars citizens pay. With tax dollars, they inject religious bias into the curriculum in the schools they run. Politicians in Arizona have effectively broken down the barriers between church and state.

 

How do they do it? Too many make profits from the education tax dollars citizens pay for our children. They do this by privatizing schools, bypassing safeguards, and taking over or eliminating elected school boards that stand in their way. They exempt, stop, modify, or eliminate accountability. They stop full audits and the release of specific information about what these profit-driven schools do to, or for children. They maintain a chokehold on information.

 

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been diverted from public education–which enrolls 85% of the state’s children– to private bank accounts. The children are cheated.

 

Berger writes that:

 

In Arizona, under the cloud provided by the Legislature, hundreds of millions of dollars are not accounted for. As a result of legislation, well over 600 charter schools have been created since the mid-90s. There are over 450 of these partial schools active now. Whole industries including banks and finance systems, school management services, and curriculum businesses have risen to get a ‘free’ piece of the public education pie. Public tax dollars are being diverted into private ventures. All of these services come out of the tax dollars that citizens are led to believe educate children.

 

Services already provided by law in our public district schools are being duplicated at great cost to taxpayers. In Arizona, ‘schools- of-choice’ spend valuable resources on rent and purchases of buildings. This results in public funding used to buy, build, or lease space. It often pays the property mortgages for private corporations and crooked individuals who will end up owning the buildings. What a great deal for kids. Right?

 
Besides siphoning off teaching money for buildings, kids are not getting the comprehensive curriculum and services that our district schools must provide. Partial schools cheat children by not exposing them to at least 10 disciplines taught by certified and vetted professionals.

 

He adds:

 

Arizona is a state controlled by ALEC (Alliance Of Legislative Executive Councils). Much of the Alliance’s agenda comes from the teachings of the radical right-wing John Birch Society, the legacy the Koch Brothers continue to force on America. The Koch Brothers, ALEC, and the Arizona political machine advocate the destruction of public education in America, the end of workers’ rights and worker organizations, and the right to access public tax dollars for their own profit. They call it “privatizing.”

 

More often than not, legislators allow ALEC teams to write the legislation they will introduce and vote in. This process subverts the democratic process of representative government. It is in fact, corporation representation.

 

The public schools are starved of the resources they need to educate the children. The ALEC-controlled legislature is trying to destroy public education.

 

This is political corruption of the worst kind, the kind that hurts children and undermines the future of the state.

The race for state superintendent in California cost over $26 million, far more than the governor’s race. Tom Torlakson, the incumbent, was supported by the California Teachers Association. Marshall Tuck, the charter school executive, received large sums from billionaires. The key issue between them was teacher due process rights. Torlakson appealed the Vergara decision; Tuck prouded not to do do.

The Network for Phblic Education, which endorsed Torlakson, analyzed the spending behind Tuck’s campaign.

“Heavy hitters in the “education reform” movement, namely Broad, Walton and Fisher, really stepped up to the plate for Tuck by donating millions to multiple Independent Expenditure Committees, (AKA Super PACs) as well as smaller direct contributions to Tuck’s campaign. The biggest Super PAC contributing to Tuck was the deceptively named “Parents and Teachers for Tuck for State Superintendent, 2014.” The Super PAC’s funding came from no less than a baker’s dozen of privatization focused billionaires, and assorted elites from the financial and technology sectors, with a net contribution of almost 10 million dollars.

“Parents and Teachers for Tuck also received contributions from a host of other Super PACs with names like Parents and Teachers for Putting Students First, Education Matters, EDVOICE, and Great Public Schools for Los Angeles. A closer look at these Super PACs tells us that they too are funded by essentially the same cast of characters behind Parents and Teachers for Tuck, with additional millions from the Broad, Fisher and Walton families lining the coffers of each of the Super PACs.

“But you’d be hard pressed to find a public school parent or teacher who contributed to any of the Super PACs for Tuck.”

We recently learned that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has proposed to adopt a civics course designed by the Bill of Rights Institute, which is funded by the highly political, very conservative billionaires, the Koch brothers. Fortunately, Bill Bigelow of “Rethinking Schools” has researched the materials produced by the Bill of Rights Institute. Bigelow says that the Koch brothers have donated millions of dollars to the Bill of Rights Institute, which promotes free-market libertarianism and above all, respect for property rights. The BRI was “launched in 1999 and funded by the Charles Koch Foundation, the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, and David Koch. The BRI directors include Mark Humphrey, Koch Industries senior vice president; Ryan Stowers, director of higher education programs at the Charles Koch Foundation; and Todd Zywicki, a senior scholar of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, funded with corporate donations from the likes of Koch and ExxonMobil. Until 2013, the Bill of Rights Institute president was the Koch operative Tony Woodlief, who headed the Market-Based Management Institute in the Kochs’ hometown of Wichita, Kansas, and served as president of the Mercatus Center….”

 

“In its materials for teachers and students, the Bill of Rights Institute cherry-picks the Constitution, history, and current events to hammer home its libertarian message that the owners of private property should be free to manage their wealth as they see fit. billofrightsinstitute_libertarianmssgAs one Bill of Rights lesson insists, “The Founders considered industry and property rights critical to the happiness of society.” This message that individual owners of property are the source of social good, their property sacred, and government the source of danger weaves through the entire Koch curriculum, sometimes with sophistication, other times in caricature. For example, in one “click-and-explore” activity at the BRI website, showing the many ways that government can oppress individuals—”Life Without the Bill of Rights?”—a cartoon character pops up with a dialogue bubble reading, “The gov’t took my home!” An illustration shows his home demolished.

 

“Educator resources for “Documents of Freedom” at the BRI site underscore this business-good/government-bad message: “When government officials can make any laws they please—and hold themselves above the law—there is less economic growth, less creativity, and less happiness. Entrepreneurs won’t be willing to risk time and money starting businesses. Writers and speakers will restrain their words. Everyone will worry that his freedoms can be destroyed at the whim of a powerful government agent….”

 

“Focusing narrowly on property rights to the exclusion of racism and issues of social inequality are not limited to history lessons in the BRI materials. One section on the website is “Teaching with Current Events,” and includes a lesson, “Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine Laws.” It offers quiet cover for Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, mentioned in the lesson’s introduction. Here’s the lesson’s first discussion question: “Florida’s ‘Stand-Your-Ground’ law states ‘A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.’ How would you put this law in your own words?”

 

“A follow-up question asks students to search the Constitution and Bill of Rights to support this law. But nothing in the lesson encourages students to search their own lives or to view Stand-Your-Ground from the standpoint of people who might be victimized by someone like George Zimmerman. The sanctity of an individual’s property is paramount—here and everywhere in the BRI materials.

 

“This lesson is especially disingenuous given that Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law was a product of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council—a Koch-funded outfit that promotes “model” conservative legislation. The Kochs not only pay for laws to be written and passed, they now pay for them to be legitimated in the school curriculum as well.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connecticut wants to transform its state university and community colleges for the 21st century. Who gets the nearly $2 million contract to redesign the system? Why, the Boston Consulting Group, of course. They are management consultants who specialize in outsourcing, privatizing, and downsizing. Jonathan Pelto reduces that the high-priced prescription will destroy the community colleges.

 

As Jonathan Pelto reports, BCG helps public authorities devolve their responsibilities to private entities. The lead consultant from BCG points to Néw Orleans and Dallas [?] as examples of successful transformation.

 

Any one of us could have written an equally compelling report for $500 or $1,000, not $1.8 million. But then Connecticut wouldn’t have the BCG logo on the cover of the report.

EduShyster, aka Jennifer Berkshire, interviews political economist Gordon Lafer in this post. He explains the role of corporate education reform in a broad economic and political context. This is one of the most enlightening interviews she has conducted. I urge you to read it.

 

She asks Lafer whether Walmart is helping poor kids get a better education by swelling the coffers of the Walton Family Foundation, which generously funds charters and vouchers across the nation.

 

He replies:

 

First of all, the thing that correlates most clearly with educational performance in every study is poverty. So when you look at the agenda of the biggest and richest corporate lobbies in the country, it’s impossible to conclude that they want to see the full flowering of the potential of each little kid in poor cities. To say *I want to cut the minimum wage, I want to prevent cities from passing laws raising wages or requiring sick time, I want to cut food stamps, I want to cut the earned income tax credit, I want to cut home heating assistance. Oh but, by the way, I’m really concerned about the quality of education that poor kids are getting*—it’s just not credible. You’re creating the problem that you now claim to want to solve….Walmart has no trouble filling positions and operating with very high turnover because what’s demanded of people who work there is so little. They’re certainly not asking *where are we going to find more people who can do algebra and craft well-written paragraphs? In fact, the big problem with the *send every kid to college* argument is that there aren’t jobs for these kids after they graduate. You cannot find an economist who predicts that more than one-third of jobs in the US are going to require a college degree in our lifetime. The real question is not how can everybody be a college graduate, but how can people make a decent living. And here is where you see that the same corporate lobbies that are pushing education reform are doing everything possible to make that harder.

 

EduShyster pushed Lafer to explain how the corporate reform agenda made sense–especially the combination of budget cuts for the public schools combined with tax cuts for corporations. Lafer answered:

 

I think the direction that the most powerful forces in the country is pushing is a bleak and frankly scary one—that at some level they want us to forget the idea of having a right to a decent public education, which is one of the last remaining entitlements, and make it more like health care, which is increasingly seen as a privilege. What’s being done to schooling is, I think, devastating on its merits. It has ideological implications for lowering expectations for what you have a right to as a citizen or a resident. And it raises big, profound questions: How does your experience in school affect, not just your skill set for employment, but your sense of yourself as a person and what you think you deserve from life? I think that for the real one percent, the big political challenge is *how do we pursue a policy agenda that makes the country ever more unequal and that makes life harder for the vast majority of people without provoking a populist backlash?* One of the ways of doing that is by lowering people’s expectations, and one of the key places to do that is in the school system.

 

The good news is that the interview ends on a hopeful note. We can’t abandon hope, because if we do, we are lost from the get-go. We must believe that a political awakening will happen if we work hard enough to make it happen, and that the Robber Barons will be tamed. American history runs in cycles, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., argued, and we must not give up believing that we can make change. Because we can.

 

 

 

In part 1, we learned that Forbers asked a group of billionaires how to fix American education. In this installment, a group of leaders review the billionaires’ agenda.

“In our last installment, Forbes called a summit of Many Very Rich People to lay out what it would cost to fulfill the Must Have list for remaking American education. Now, we’re going to sit around with some alleged representatives of education stakeholders. And we should note that it’s happening in the department of Forbes.

“Paul Tudor Jones (founder of the Robin Hood Foundation) will be directing traffic as Andy Cuomo, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten and Kay Henderson (DC school chancellor) jaw about this. I should note that I’ll be walking you through the Short and Marginally Sweeter transcript; apparently there is a longer version, but I just can’t bring myself to go there.”

So here are the billionaires’ five Big Ideas:

“1) Teacher efficacy– recruit best and brightest

2) Universal Pre-K– because childhood is too long

3) School leadership– give principals greater power over staff

4) Blended learning– broadband and computers for everybody

5) Common Core/ College Readiness– insert all classic baloney arguments here”

What do our leaders think? They love the Big Ideas. But they have different timelines and slightly different strategies.

Take Cuomo, for example:

“Cuomo observes that he didn’t get anything done by being nice, so he made everybody’s money contingent on how well they follow his orders and he hasn’t had any problems since. Money buys compliance!”

Here are Kaya Henderson and Arne Duncan:

“Henderson gives Arne some strokes for being the only government guy who will fund innovation, and I think we can all agree that using a bureaucratic waiver maneuver to create new laws without the benefit of Congress is pretty innovative. The guillotine was also hot new stuff in its day.

Arne will now deliver more History from an Alternative Universe:

Having a common way of measuring success is just so basic and fundamental to all of your businesses–that’s a radical concept in education. We need to get to that point of having a high bar and having clear ways of measuring how everybody is stacking up against that bar. Under No Child Left Behind, about 20 states dummied-down their standards, they reduced their standards. Why? To make politicians of both parties look good. It was terrible for children. Not one person challenged those politicians. Until [philanthropic leaders] and the broader citizenry hold politicians accountable, we’ll continue to be mired in mediocrity.

“It’s true. In thirty-plus years of teaching, I have never measured success in any manner. Just throw darts at a board and call it a day. But states did not dummy down under NCLB to make politicians look good. They did it to save their states’ school from punishment under the heavy brainless hand of top-down federal mandates. They did it to avoid an unavoidable punishment that was inevitable because the feds set standards that nobody believed could be met, but they set them anyway. The dummying down was a completely predictable result of the perverse incentives built into a unsustainable punishment-based test-driven system created by educational amateurs in Washington DC. Dammit, Arne, if you want to learn a lesson from NCLB, learn that one, and learn it in some manner other than repeating the same damn mistakes.”

Peter Greene here tells the jaw-dropping story of what happened when Forbes convened a group of billionaires to share their ideas about how to redesign American education.

What would it take, Forbes asks, to move our middling international test scores to the top five in the world?

Why not ask some of the richest people in the nation, who never taught, probably didn’t go to public school, and perhaps never set foot in a public school?

Where do the unicorns come in? Here is what Peter says about the Common Core, which the billionaires love:

“Wonder how CCSS is still hanging in there? One likely answer is that rich guys just love it. “While Common Core has critics on both extremes of the political spectrum, those in the sensible center rightly view high national standards, coupled with tools to achieve success, as a no-brainer.” This is unintentionally hilarious to me because I do indeed believe that Common Core makes the most sense if you do in fact have no brain. The Forbes Factoid Squad projects that it will cost $185.4 billion to make CCSS fully happen, but will yield returns of $27.9 trillion. Do you suppose that rich guys smoke really, really good drugs. Laced with unicorn blood?”

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