Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Peter Greene continues the debate about reform, civility, and honesty.

Have critics of the reformers corrupted the debate by being snarky?

Or have reformers corrupted the debate by calling themselves reformers as they seek to strip teachers of job rights and taking money from public schools for religious and private schools?

Greene writes:

“We play a lot of games with defining what qualifies as a lie (it depends one what the meaning of “is” is). I say, any time you shade or misrepresent the truth in order to influence, shape or control the behavior of other people, that’s a lie. For me, that also explains what’s wrong with lying– it’s an attempt to take away another person’s ability to make their own informed decision. Lying is destructive because it breaks relationships. It’s wrong because it’s about stealing another person’s freedom to choose.

“How do we react to being lied to?

“Well, when someone lies to you, they are sending some of the following messages:

* I don’t care about you enough to actually show up for this conversation
* I think you’re stupid
* We both know I’m lying, but you’re powerless to do anything about it, so neener neener
* You don’t matter; I’m in charge here
* This is not a real conversation

“Lies, depending on how much power you have in the situation, are somewhere between angering and funny. Depending on how much power you have and your temperament and the history of the relationship involved, you will choose something somewhere between playing along and fighting back. Playing along can either be about resignation or the hope that playing along will eventually lead to real dialogue. Fighting back can be about open aggression, or about snark and sass and sarcasm.

But here’s the most important thing I know about lying.

Lying closes the door to real dialogue. Closes it absolutely and completely.

So maybe snark and sass are a way of breaking that down. Maybe, for me, it’s a way of saying, “Look. I want you to know that I don’t believe that bullshit at all and you can stop shoveling it so we can move on to something else.”

In the education debates, sorting out the players is hard as hell. There are reformsters who I believe are being honest– they just don’t know what they’re talking about. I believe there are others who are looking for good faith ways to improve education. And I believe that there are some who haven’t had an honest word to say about education in years.

“They are not always easy to sort out. New NEA president Lily Eskelson Garcia seems to believe that Arne Duncan is sincere but just wrong. I’m not so sure, but she’s met him face to face, and I have not. like the majority of teachers, I’ve got to make these judgments from home, from words on a screen. And not everyone is so obviously full of it as She Who Will Not Be Named or the various lying hucksters pushing charters to make a buck…..

“Sometimes a lie is so outlandish that the truth sounds like mockery, and I think many parts of the conversation have sailed way past that point. There’s no way to respond to something like “We will get better teachers in classrooms by removing job security for the profession” that doesn’t sound like snark. There’s no way to inject honesty and truth into a discussion of using testing to measure teacher effectiveness without making proponents of VAM sound foolish. If the emperor has no clothes on, there’s no way to have an honest conversation of his wardrobe that doesn’t leave him feeling naked.

“To move forward, we need honesty more than we need niceness. The people who have injected large lies into the conversation have raised the bar for how tough honesty is going to be (which is often the point of making the big lie), but we can’t be afraid to go there. We can’t make the mistake of matching lies with lies; reformsters are not brain-damaged fiends who drink the blood of children under a full moon. But if pointing out the truth is going to feel ugly and snarky and sassy, we can’t be afraid to do it. Honesty is an essential navigating tool for finding our way out of this sea of strife and confusion.
A civil conversation requires honesty. And the conversation these days about charter schools — and, indeed, about tenure and test-based teacher evaluation and seniority and vouchers and standards and just about every other education policy on the table today — is anything but honest.”.

The University of Arkansas issued a study claiming that charter schools get a higher “return on investment” than public schools, yet are underfunded especially given their great “productivity” and “ROI.” (I admit I stumble over the idea of applying ROI when we are talking about education and children, but that’s just me.)

Bruce Baker of Rutgers University analyzes the University of Arkansas study and takes it apart.

Baker shows that the Arkansas study “shamelessly” and “knowingly” uses bogus data. The Arkansas study is meant to refute an earlier critique of their work by Baker.

Here is what Baker concludes:

“The acknowledgement of my critique, highly selective misrepresentation of my critique, and complete failure to respond to the major substantive points of that critique display a baffling degree of arrogance and complete disregard for legitimate research.

“Yes – that’s right – either this is an egregious display of complete ignorance and methodological ineptitude, or this new report is a blatant and intentional misrepresentation of data. So which is it? I’m inclined to believe the latter, but I guess either is possible.

“Oh… and separately, in this earlier report, Kevin Welner and I discuss appropriate methods for evaluating relative efficiency (the appropriate framework for such comparisons)…. And to no surprise the methods in this new UARK report regarding relative efficiency are also complete junk. Put simply, and perhaps I’ll get to more detail at a later point, a simple “dollars per NAEP score” comparison, or the silly ROI method used in their report are entirely insufficient (especially as some state aggregate endeavor???).

“And it doesn’t take too much of a literature search to turn up the rather large body of literature on relative efficiency analysis in education – and the methodological difficulties in estimating relative efficiency. So, even setting aside the fact that the spending measures in this study are complete junk, the cost effectiveness and ROI approaches used are intellectually flaccid and methodologically ham-fisted.

“But if the measures of inputs suck to begin with, then the methods applied to those measures really don’t matter so much.

“To say this new UARK charter productivity study is built on a foundation of sand would be offensive… to sand.

“And I like sand.”

Paul Horton, who teaches history at the University of Chicago Lab School, here analyzes the origins of neoliberalism and its attack on the public sector.

The “rhetoric of economic freedom” has put a price tag everything. Self-interest and me-first have become the ideology of the day, and anyone who dares to think of what is in the best interest of society or how to raise up the poor is scorned as a Marxist or collectivist.

Horton writes:

“In effect, “the invisible hand” behind the push to create new education markets is coming from Wall Street investors who are flush with capital for investment. Wall Street bundlers and investment firms are buying up stock in charter school companies and big education vendors. These bundlers not only fund both party’s campaigns, they also sell stock, betting on the futures of big education vendors, start-ups, charter schools, and vouchers. They “encourage” political leaders to pursue policies that will hedge their bets on education products and to view all schools as portfolios that will increase in value as long as the Feds and the states pursue policies that encourage privatization.

“But Wall Street bundlers are far from the only group that embraces a radical version of libertarianism as a way to legitimate opening new markets in education. “Hardcore libertarianism has been making inroads among a younger set of tech entrepreneurs, who see its goals of limited government as being compatible with their general hatred of innovation-stifling regulation. And as more and more tech founders become phenomenally wealthy, many are naturally drawn to the right-wing political ideologies that help them preserve more of that wealth,” according to Kevin Roose in an article for New York magazine.

“Not surprisingly, this same set of Silicon Valley and Seattle billionaires has teamed up with Wall Street bundlers to push neoliberal attacks on public education by pushing an agenda that supports charter schools, computer driven learning, and assessment schemes that are designed measure success of students and teachers in “real time.” Value added measures (VAM) for teachers based on student test scores are designed to reduce the power of unions by making it easier to get rid of ineffective teachers. Charter schools are created both as competition for public schools to give parents “choice” and as a way to hire nonunion teachers at cut rate salaries–teachers who can be hired and fired with no job protections or due process.

“This neoliberal-libertarian agenda for education violates the values of the American Revolution that affirmed that promise of public education in the Northwest Ordinance that reserved the proceeds from the sales of public lands to build public schools and the later Morrill Land Grant Act (1862) that used the proceeds of public land sales to create public universities that would serve the interests of the public.

“Neoliberal corporate education reform is nothing short of an attack on the political DNA of the United States. This agenda makes a mockery of Jefferson’s idea about a school as an “academical village” designed to create leaders to serve the commonwealth. Corporate education reform also disgraces the legacy of the fight for integration and equal funding during the Civil Rights movement by encouraging the resegregation and the resource starving of public schools to create more “choice” in the form of charter schools.

“The Tea Party might rant on and on about liberty and taxes these days, but Republicanism, or the idea that we have to “rise above faction” to serve the commonwealth was the glue that held the American revolutionaries together…..”

“Nothing is sacred: public servants, those who promote the humanities and the arts, and those focused on caring for others are viewed by neoliberals as naïve at best. Public servants deserve little or no respect because only the market can truly establish value. They are contemptuously seen as the new “welfare queens,” or the “forty-seven percent” because the very idea of the public is emasculated, shorn of value, a heavy drag on a fine tuned and lean market system. Neoliberals believe that almost everything public should be strangled and flushed, to use Grover Norquist’s intentionally crude image.

“Toward this end, public schools and public teachers have been subjected to a relentless barrage of negative propaganda for almost thirty years. Many corporations want to force open education markets, Microsoft and Pearson Education to name two of the largest, demand “free markets,” “choice,” and “free enterprise.” Public schools are defunded and closed, so that parents can choose among competing charter schools supported by city, state, and Federal policies. Politicians of both parties at every level are funneled campaign contributions from charter school investors for their support of “school choice.”…….

“The privatizers want us to forget all of this history; they want us to forget the idea that public anything is a good idea. Parents who demand quality public neighborhood schools are as American as apple pie. The corporate education reformers are motivated by ideas that have no respect for tradition or for common human decency. They devalue the aspirations represented in the Declaration of Independence. We need to push back and demand a limit to privatization and a defense of the Commons.”

Jon Pelto reports that New London, Connecticut, is about to award a lucrative contract as superintendent to a “reformer” who has called himself “Dr.” without having earned a doctorate. Pelto commends Hartford Courant reporter Jon Lender for digging up the story.

Pelto writes:

“For more than eight years, “Dr.” Terrence Carter, the incoming New London superintendent of schools and self-described education reform expert, bragged that he had a Ph.D.

“At one point, Carter’s bio materials claimed that he had a doctorate from Stanford University.

“In another article his doctorate came from a joint program between Stanford and Oxford.

“And more recently he claimed his doctorate was from Lesley University.

“But it was all a lie.

“Interestingly he also claimed that he was hand-picked to be an education reform leader by none-other than the Arne Duncan, President Obama’s anti-teacher, anti-public education, pro-Common Core Secretary of Education.

“In a breaking news story written by the Hartford Courant’s investigative reporter Jon Lender, we now learn that the incoming New London superintendent of schools is an expert —- an expert at falsifying his resume.

“And just watch how the Malloy administration, Commissioner Stefan Pryor, and Special Master Steven Adamowski try to explain this embarrassment.

“After reading the Courant article, one thing is clear.

“The New London Board of Education is scheduled to vote on “Dr.” Terrence Carter’s lucrative contract on Monday night.

“Before that meeting, Malloy and Pryor need to make sure that Carter withdraws his name from consideration.

“And if Malloy and Pryor fail to do that, then the New London Board needs to reject Carter and re-open the search.”

This letter came from an anonymous source in San Francisco whom I know to be trustworthy. Why the anonymity? The usual reason: fear of being fired for blowing the whistle. It raises the question of why some people teach under difficult circumstances when they could hang up a shingle with a snappy name and get funded for big ideas that have never been tried.

He writes:

Tom Vander Ark’s Ed Week column ran a guest commentary by Sandy Speicher, an executive of the San Francisco design firm IDEO, which appears to lay the groundwork for IDEO to become involved in education “reform” projects.

The column touts an IDEO project in San Francisco brainstorming the use of “design thinking” to improve the “school food experience” in San Francisco public schools, and strongly implies that IDEO’s ideas have been implemented. That’s false; none of the ideas has been implemented in any SFUSD school. This is an important point for observers to be aware of if IDEO continues to hype the project, given the fact that Speicher’s column made it appear that IDEO’s ideas had been implemented and had an impact.

IDEO’s work on the “design phase” of this project was funded by the Sara and Evan Williams Foundation; Evan Williams is a founder of Twitter. The foundation “has committed to providing ongoing support as the school district begins to bring these design ideas to life,” according to IDEO (though in reality, it remains to be seen if the school district will ever be able to use any of the ideas at all).

Here are some points about the IDEO school food proposals in San Francisco schools.

The project deliberately focuses on improving the “experience” but not the actual food.

Again, none of the recommendations — not one — has been implemented in any San Francisco school at any time. The Speicher commentary implies that they have, but that’s inaccurate.

None of the recommendations has even been tested in a real-life San Francisco school setting. Some have been tested on a very small scale, but not in a real-life setting. There was one test in a school cafeteria during the summer with student volunteers who were compensated for their time, not actual populations of students during the school day. There was ample time — no lunchtime rush — and there were plenty of adults, far more than are present in an operating cafeteria during a real school day. And there was no attention paid to the ironclad National School Lunch Program regulations for school meals.
The project actually makes a recommendation that’s likely to lower the quality of the food: increasing the use of government commodity products, which are widely criticized for their inferior quality.

The project’s recommendations for middle and high schools would result in eliminating the use of items from Revolution Foods, a vendor whose products have improved the quality of SFUSD school meals.

The recommendations were made largely without awareness or consideration of the National School Lunch Program regulations for school meals, meaning some or many would be impossible to implement.

The recommendation that has won most acclaim (communal meals at small tables with an adult at each) would require vastly more adults than currently staff SFUSD cafeterias — either depending heavily on volunteers or at greatly increased staffing cost.

The amount that the Williams Foundation has provided is not publicly known. Estimates are that $1 million has been paid to IDEO and $400,000 to SFUSD.

Despite the issues detailed above, SFUSD officials and school board members have given high praise to the IDEO project. Observers speculate that that’s in the hope of securing more funding from the Williams Foundation for school food programs.

For more background, here’s a San Francisco Chronicle feature written by an IDEO insider on the project:

Here’s a critique by San Francisco parent volunteer Dana Woldow, an expert and frequent commentator on school food issues:

Russ Walsh has been teaching about literacy for 45 years. He started blogging to share his thoughts.

But then he discovered that his views about literacy did not exist in isolation. They were part of a great national debate that involved the Common Core, education reform, charters, and other aspects corporate education reform. He read other bloggers and found that he was engaged as a. Teacher,a reader, a writer, and a thinker. These were not stages of development but a process of thinking, writing, and acting.

Now he too is part of the national debate.

A reader sends a simple recipe that city officials in places like Chicago and Philadelphia use when they want to close a public school and open a charter school:

“They create the demand by killing the public school BEFORE they close it. They underfund it, cut all the specials, close school libraries, let guidance counselors go, get rid of attendance officers, class sizes become huge. What is a parent to do? There would be LITTLE demand if the neighborhood PUBLIC schools were funded properly.”

In recent days, there has been an extended discussion online about an article by California whistle blower Kathleen Carroll, in which she blasts Randi Weingarten and the Teachers Union Reform Network for taking money from Gates, Broad, and other corporate reform groups, in some cases, more than a dozen years ago. Carroll also suggests that I am complicit in this “corruption” because I spoke to the 2013 national meeting of TURN and was probably paid with corporate reform money; she notes that Karen Lewis, Deborah Meier, and Linda Darling-Hammond also spoke to the TURN annual meeting in 2012 or 2013. I told Carroll that I was not paid to speak to TURN, also that I have spoken to rightwing think tanks, and that no matter where I speak and whether I am paid, my message is the same as what I write in my books and blogs. In the discussion, I mentioned that I spoke to the National Association of School Psychologists at its annual convention in 2012, one of whose sponsors was Pearson, and I thought it was funny that Pearson might have paid me to blast testing, my point being that I say what I want regardless of who puts up the money. At that point, Jim Horn used the discussion to lacerate me for various sins.

Mercedes Schneider decided to disentangle this mess of charges and countercharges. In the following post, Schneider uses her considerable research skills to dissect the issues, claims and counterclaims. All the links are included in this piece by Schneider. Schneider asked me for my speech to the National Association of School Psychologists as well as my remarks to the TURN meeting, which are included.

I will make two points here. First, Randi has been my friend for 20 years, and I don’t criticize my friends; we disagree on many points, for example, the Common Core, which I oppose and she supports. I don’t hide our disagreements but I won’t call her names or question her motives. Friends can disagree and remain friends.

Second, I recall learning how the left made itself impotent in American politics by fighting among themselves instead of uniting against the common adversary. I recall my first job at the New Leader magazine in 1960, where I learned about the enmity among the Cannonites, the Lovestonites, the Trotskyites, the Mensheviks, the Schactmanites, and other passionate groups in the 1930s. That’s when I became convinced that any successful movement must minimize infighting and strive for unity and common goals.

Even earlier, Benjamin Franklin was supposed to have said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Jeanne Kaplan served on the Denver school board for years and watched with a heavy heart as fake “reformers” took over Denver and Colorado. Now Colorado has the most punitive teacher evaluation law in the nation, thanks to Arne Duncan and Colorado’s State Senator Michael Johnston. When the NEA voted a resolution calling on Duncan to resign, the reporter didn’t speak to a teacher. No, the call went to Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform, the organization of hedge fund managers. When did DFER become the spokesman for Democrats or teachers or regular voters?

If your school has been closed, if the staff was fired in a “turnaround,” you have experienced the theory of disruptive innovation, which is associated with Harvard Business Professor Clayton Chistensen.

Or perhaps your neighborhood school fell victim to Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of “creative destruction.”

Just so you can see these ideologies from a critical perspective, be sure to read Harvard historian Jill Lepore’s critique of Christianson’s work on disruptive innovation, which first appeared in “The New Yorker.” She challenges his thesis and argues that those bold start-ups flamed out, while stable institutions live on. And yet the idea of disruption has become wildly popular, as we now see in education policy.

Charters and vouchers are disruptive. Firing entire staffs is disruptive. The results of these “innovations” have been unimpressive and sometimes disastrous, yet their champions continue to demand more and more. To understand why, read this article.


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