Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

John Paulson, a fabulously wealthy hedge fund manager, gave $8.5 million to Eva Moskowitz to expand her Néw York City-based chain of “no excuses” charter schools.

Last year, when Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to block the expansion of charter schools and to charge them rent for the use of public space–which he promised in the campaign–hedge fund managers gave millions to Governor Cuomo and spent several millions on a TV ad campaign attacking de Blasio. Eva brought thousands of her students and parents to Albany tolobby for her schools. The Governor and the legislature agreed that the city had to give free public space to charters or pay their rent in private space. In doing so, they ignored the law giving the mayor control of the schools.

“Success Academy, which was founded in 2006 by Eva S. Moskowitz, a former member of the City Council, is known for its high student test scores, as well as its sometimes polarizing methods. The network will have 34 schools as of this fall, but there appears to be enough demand for it to grow. This year it received more than 22,000 applications for fewer than 2,300 seats.

“Ms. Moskowitz has plans to grow to 70 schools within five or six years, and last year, she said she would like to have 100 schools within 10 years.”

Paulson sees Moskowitz’s chain as an antidote to poverty, but he seems unaware of her small proportions of the neediest students or the high attrition rate.

Rumors abound that she may run against de Blasio for Mayor in 2017.

Mercedes Schneider teaches high school English in Louisiana. She has ten weeks of unpaid vacation. What did she do on her vacation? She wrote a book about school choice. She set herself a goal of 1,000 words a day, and she stuck to it. She has written three books in three years. The first one was a bestiary of corporate reformers called “A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education.” The second was “Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?” A book a year! My first book took seven years. I am impressed.

The New York Times has a fascinating article today about how a handful of very wealthy people invested in Andrew Cuomo and the Republican majority in the State Senate to gain control of public schools in Néw York City and state. The article says they want to continue former Mayor Bloomberg’s policies of closing public schools and replacing them with charter schools and tying teacher evaluations to test scores.

The leader of this effort, the story says, is former chancellor Joel Klein, who now works for rightwing media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Unmentioned is the undemocratic nature of this purchase of public policy. There was a mayoral election. Bill de Blasio won handily, after making clear his opposition to Bloomberg’s education policies. So, the reformers lost at the polls but used their money to nullify the voters’ choice.

Carole Marshall is a retired teacher who taught in the schools of Providence, Rhode Island. She was invited to participate in shaping Rhode Island “strategic plan” for 2015-2020, but soon became disillusioned when she realized that the designers of the strategic plan were going through the motions, pretending to listen to the public. Before they even started the process, they knew exactly what they wanted. They surveyed parents but ignored their strong wishes for schools that emphasized student creativity and self-motivation. The ultimate plan proclaimed what the planners wanted all along: blended learning, where students spend hours on a computer and fewer teachers are needed.

The strategic plan was produced by a California organization called “the Learning Accelerator.” The leaders wrote recently that the state’s plan for 2015-2020 was created by thousands of Rhode Islanders “through a process that is built upon the principles of transparency, engagement, empowerment and respect.” But in reality the public has been kept in the dark about what is really happening and why. The process was not at all transparent, and what looked like engagement was really a dog and pony show with a completely different agenda.

The “sole method” of this organization, Marshall writes, is to sell blended learning through disruptive innovation.

Marshall warns that the plan sounds good but it is not. Who will benefit? Not teachers or students, but venture capitalists and vendors of technology products.

Brian Malone, documentary film-maker, has self-funded a film about the corporate assault on public education.

 

His film is a MUST-SEE. It is titled EDUCATION, INC.

 

Malone is a parent of two children in the public schools of Douglas County, Colorado. He documents the well-funded effort to take control of the local school board. Grassroots activists running for school board raised $40,000. Corporate reform privatizers received over $1 million in funding, which they used for a slick propaganda campaign. They won control of the school board and immediately began implementing their plans for vouchers, charters, union-busting, and salary caps for teachers. The exodus of teachers from the district more than doubled. The district paid hired guns (including former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett) to praise its “reforms.” A commissioned study by Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute hailed DougCo as “the most interesting district” in the nation.

 

Malone crisscrosses the nation, interviewing teachers, parents, and trying to interview leaders of the privatization movement (who usually refuse to be interviewed).

 

What he shows dramatically is the huge pot of money coming from organizations connected to the Koch brothers, Jeb Bush, Michael Bloomberg, and other advocates for dismantling the public school system and replacing it with a free market of unregulated private schools and charters. He takes a close look at ALEC and its national network of rightwing extremists dedicated to privatization. Extremists and billionaires are pouring large sums into state and local school board races and into state legislative races. The only way to stop them is to go to the polls and vote for candidates who support public schools. The only way to make that happen is to education the public.

 

This is an important film about the future of American education. It is a call for citizens to get involved and take back their public schools from those seeking to privatize them.

 

Malone plans a national “house party” to show the film on August 14. Please contact him and get a copy and invite your friends and neighbors. EDUCATION INC. is a great place to start informing the public about the monied elite that wants to steal their schools and divert the funds to corporations, entrepreneurs, consultants, charter schools, and vouchers.

 

Go to the website for the film to learn how to get a copy: http://www.edincmovie.com or google Education, Inc.

The superintendents of the Philadelphia public schools, William Hite, is a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. The BSA is a major proponent of charter schools, and a major critic of public schools, which it considers to be failing, failing, failing.

 

Superintendent Hite has filled up the top administrative jobs of the public school system with veterans of the charter school movement.

 

Guess that is what he learned as a Broadie.

Ohio ‘s charter watchdog had to resign because he wasn’t watching charters with vigor. Some charters, especially if they were GOP campaign contributors, barely got a glance from the watchdog.

Stephen Dyer writes:

“Looks like David Hansen, who is the husband of Kasich’s presidential campaign manager, was forced to resign as the state’s top charter school watchdog because he (tell me if you’ve heard this before) rigged the state’s accountability system to benefit big Republican campaign donors. Sad day for Ohio’s kids and another setback for the state’s quality-based charter school community. http://bit.ly/1Kesmgi

​Best,​

Stephen Dyer
Education Policy Fellow
Innovation Ohio
35 E. Gay St.
Columbus, OH 43215
http://www.innovationohio.org

Fund Education Now, a public school advocacy group in Florida, says that the Jeb Bush-ALEC machine gives out grades to legislators. Those who get an A are the ones who want to privatize public education and create profits for their buddies.

 

Florida voters need to understand that in the topsy-turvy world of Florida school politics, an A from the Bush-ALEC machine is actually an F.

 

Fund Education Now writes:

 

 

This is the season when the Foundation for Florida’s Future, the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries of Florida release their 2015 Legislative Report Cards. In particular, the Foundation assigns grades to legislators’ based on their willingness to pass the Jeb Bush/ALEC-driveneducation reform/privatization policy agenda.

 

These grades are a road map for voters. When your favorite Senator repeatedly gets an A grade from these folks, that’s a sign. It’s a big part of why legislators are willing to look foolish as they defy all logic to pass policies that hurt children and harm public schools.

 

Since 2009, parents, teachers, grandparents, districts and students have raised a mighty voice against the mind-numbing, narrowed curriculum, disrespect to teaching and the insane numbers of unfair high stakes tests. Every major newspaper has repeatedly demanded better from legislators. Despite all objections, politicians follow the plan and spend millions of public dollars on vendors, often in support of schemes promoted by wealthy ROI philanthropists eyeing a piece of what Joel Klein and others see as a $600 billion dollar education industry.

 

Sadly, it’s not enough to drive get out the vote numbers. Voters must know who they are voting for. Take Florida’s Orange County Delegation: There are 13 members and 8 of them got As from Jeb’s Foundation. These legislators carry the water for a particular, extreme policy group, not for voters. Parents seeking relief from Florida’s cruel education reform policies will get zero help from these lawmakers.

 

Orange County Delegation 13 members/8 A grades from FFF:

 

Sen. Hays, R, Dist. 11

Sen. Gardner, R, Dist. 13

Sen. Soto, D, Dist. 14

Sen. Stargel, R, Dist, 15

Rep Cortes, R, Dist 30

Rep. Sullivan, R, Dist. 31

Rep. Eisnaugle, R, Dist. 44

Rep. Miller, R, Dist. 47

 

The remaining 5 members of the Orange delegation who voted or advocated against high stakes testing, tying teacher pay to test scores, corporate tax voucher expansion, handing over voter approved public school tax millage to for profit charters and other measures received considerably lower grades, including an F for Orange’s Rep Bracy, D, Dist. 45.

 

Voters must understand that politicians who push policy agendas such as School reform are rewarded in many ways. Money pours into races from PACs such as the American Federation for Children and the Florida Federation for Children. And the education reform/privatization agenda seeks to redefine “local control” to reference state legislatures. As a result, duly-elected Florida school board members are under attack for disagreeing with reformers.

 

It’s interesting to look at a smaller Florida district whose entire delegation is under the sway of education reform. Superintendent Walt Griffin recently wrote a letter to Commissioner Pam Stewart asking to allow Seminole to return to paper and pencil abandon the state’s troubled FSA and switch to a nationally norm referenced test such as the ACT. How much support will Griffin get from his public servants?

 

Seminole County Delegation: All 5 members received an A grade from FFF:

 

Sen. Simmons, R, Dist. 10

Rep. Brodeur, R, Dist. 28

Rep. Plakon, R, Dist. 29

Rep. Cortes, R. Dist. 30

 

Those who work to advance high stakes education reform policies cross all political stripes. If a candidate is not willing to turn down education reform campaign funding, that’s a problem. If a candidate refuses to oppose using tax dollars to create multiple uneven, unfair school systems, that’s a deal-breaker.

 

We have reached a point where a candidate’s dedication to investing in and improving public education must be a litmus test for service. Legislators often give constituents less than 2 minutes to talk in Tallahassee while policy lobbyists such as Jeb’s Foundation for Florida’s Future are afforded unparalleled access across the board.

 

Using power and money to drive policy and elections is not restricted to Florida. The Foundation for Florida’s Future is part of an establishednational agenda. In fact, its affiliated with the Foundation for Excellence in Education National, whose motto is: Turning Reform into Reality.

 

It’s a cruel irony that politicians are so eager to earn grades for passing policies that hurt children. Now voters must use these education reform “loyalty grades” as a tool to weed out politicians who don’t deserve reelection.

 

 

 

“Students Matter,” the Silicon Valley-funded group that launched the Vergara lawsuit to block teacher tenure in California, is now suing 13 school districts for their failure to use test scores in evaluating teachers.

 

The goal is to compel the entire state to use value-added-modeling (VAM), despite the fact that experience and research have demonstrated its invalidity and lack of reliability.

 

The Southern California school systems named in the latest filing are El Monte City, Inglewood Unified, Chaffey Joint Union, Chino Valley Unified, Ontario-Montclair, Saddleback Valley Unified, Upland Unified and Victor Elementary District. The others are: Fairfield-Suisun Unified, Fremont Union, Pittsburg Unified; San Ramon Valley Unified and Antioch Unified.
“School districts are not going to get away with bargaining away their ability to use test scores to evaluate teachers,” said attorney Joshua S. Lipshutz, who is working on behalf of Students Matter. “That’s a direct violation of state law.”

 

The plaintiffs are six California residents, including some parents and teachers, three of whom are participating anonymously.

 

In all, the districts serve about 250,000 students, although the group’s goal is to compel change across California.

 

“The impact is intended to be statewide, to show that no school district is above the law,” Lipshutz said.

 

The plaintiffs are not asking the courts to determine how much weight test scores should be given in a performance review, Lipshutz said. He cited research, however, suggesting that test scores should account for 30% to 40% of an evaluation.

 

The current case, Doe vs. Antioch, builds on earlier litigation involving the Los Angeles Unified School District. In 2012, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the school system had to include student test scores in teacher evaluations. But the judge also allowed wide latitude for negotiation between the union and district.

 

The court decision was based on the 1971 Stull Act, which set out rules for teacher evaluations. Many districts had failed for decades to comply with it, according to some experts.

 

Will the Silicon Valley billionaires help to find new teachers when the state faces massive teacher shortages based on the litigation they continue to file?

 

 

 

 

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera went to the Aspen Ideas Festival and learned about a brilliant new strategy for the new economy. The status quo thinking of American business today is that the road to profit requires constant cost-cutting: Hire the lowest cost workers, outsource jobs to countries that pay less than American workers expect, cut, cut, cut.

We have seen the same mindset in education, where school boards bring in Teach for America and welcome teacher churn because it means young workers who won’t stay around long enough to qualify for a pension. It also means that experienced teachers are a burden instead of a treasure, because they cost “too much.”

Joe Nocera heard a radically sensible idea from a professor at MIT named Zeynep Ton. She said that instead of cutting costs to the bone, employers should “provide employees a decent living, which includes not just pay but also a sense of purpose and empowerment at work.” This strategy “can be every bit as profitable as companies that strive to keep their labor costs low by paying the minimum wage with no benefits. Maybe even more profitable. Getting there requires companies to adopt what Ton calls “human-centered operations strategies,” which she acknowledges is “neither quick nor easy.” But it’s worth it, she says, both for the companies and for the country. Surely, she’s right.

Nocera writes:

Her thesis comes out of research she did early in her academic career on supply chain management in the retail industry, focused especially on inventory management. What she and her fellow researchers discovered is that while most companies were very good at getting products from, say, China to their stores, it was a different story once the merchandise arrived. Sometimes a product stayed in the back room instead of making it to a shelf where a customer could buy it. Or it was in the wrong place. Special in-store promotions weren’t being executed a surprisingly high percentage of the time. She saw this pattern in company after company.

As she took a closer look, Ton says, she realized that the problem was that these companies viewed their employees “as a cost that they tried to minimize.” Workers were not just poorly paid, but poorly trained. They often didn’t know their schedule until the last moment. Morale was low and turnover was high. Customer service was largely nonexistent.

Yet when she asked executives at these companies why they put up with this pattern, she was told that the only way they could guarantee low prices was to operate with employees who were paid as little as possible, because labor was such a big part of their overhead. The problems that resulted were an unavoidable by-product of a low-price business model.

She sought out companies that valued employees and treated them well. They had middle-class wages, better morale, good training, and minimal turnover. Their employers wanted to keep them for a long time.

These findings reflect the work of scholars like Edward Deci, G. Edwards Deming, and Dan Ariely (summarized in Daniel Pink’s “Drive.”) People are motivated to work harder when they are given autonomy, support, and respect. Deming wrote that people want to take joy in their work, and their employers should make it possible for them to do so.

Could someone share the news with the corporate reformers in education, who love disruption and churn, and who think that motivation stems from threats and rewards. Their thinking reflects the behaviorist ideas of Frederick Winslow Taylor, now a century old. Time to enter the 21st century.

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