Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Anthony Cody writes that the corporate reformers have decided that it’s time to shift the narrative. Having spent the past few years ginning up a crisis climate about our “failing schools” and the need to fire “bad” teachers, the reformers realize the public is tuning them out. There’s an old line about npt wanting to listen to a broken record but there aren’t too many people left who remember what a record is (you know, the vinyl discs that were either 78, 45, or 33 rpm; if they got a scratch, the needle would get stuck in a groove, and the same notes would play over and over, to the point of tedium).

Cody says that Gates is now funding “success” stories. We all love success stories. But what we really need is honest, objective reporting about how testing and choice are working and how they affect children and the quality of education.

Cody writes:

“In 2010, a stark image was broadcast around the nation. It showed a child seated at a school desk surrounded by absolute devastation and ruin. That image was used promote the movie, “Waiting For Superman.” The movie was boosted with a $2 million advertising grant from the Gates Foundation, and was further promoted on Oprah and NBC’s Education Nation – also underwritten by the Gates Foundation. The clarion call was “public schools are broken and bad teachers cannot be fired

“But that is not what we hear now, for some reason. Now, we have stories of success popping up in the media – strangely sponsored by some of the same people who were shouting warnings of calamity just a few years ago.

“How and why has the prevailing story advanced by sponsors of education reform shifted over the past four years from one of failure and doom to one of success? And how is our media cooperating with the crafting of these dominant narratives?”

Well, it is not all happy talk. We still have the Vergara attack on teachers’ due process; we still have loopy efforts to judge teachers by test scores; we still have Pearson buying up every organization that measures American education; we still have Arne Duncan with his snide comments about parents, students, and schools.

I would settle for objective reporting about our schools, better informed and more of it.

Peter Greene was offended by the graceless attack on Carol Burris, published by billionaire-funded Edpost, which loudly proclaimed its intention to elevate the tone of the discussion, and now this. Burris is a respected principal in New York, admired by her peers as an inspirational leader. Yet here is a woman who worked at the U.S. Department of Education on Arne Duncan’s team, with nerve enough to call out Burris as misinformed about the Common Core, or even a liar. Let’s just say this embarrassing hit piece did not elevate the tone of the conversation, nor was it informative. If this is what $12 million produces, the billionaires should get their money back.

Greene writes:

“Headliner Ann Whalen wins the Well That Didn’t Take Long Prize. She tosses out EdPost’s highflying promises about raising the conversational tone in education discussions and goes straight to calling Burris a liar. Well, she uses a nifty construction to do it (“When you can’t make an honest case against something, there is always rhetoric, exaggeration or falsehoods, but it’s disheartening when it comes from an award-winning principal and educator like Carol Burris”) but for those of us who can read English, yeah, Whalen just called Burris a liar.

“And the she tries to refute Burris’s arguements by lying. (Hey– I never made any hollow promises about elevating the conversation).”

Ken Previti alerted me to the appearance of this story in Harper’s, called “PBS Self-Destructs.” Unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall, so you will either have to subscribe or run out and buy a copy.

Aside from Bill Moyers, PBS has paid little attention to the astonishing, destructive, breath-taking assaults on the very principle of public education. Nor, with the exception of an occasional piece by John Merrow, has PBS devoted air time to the outrageous attacks on the teaching profession and the very idea of collective bargaining. Now is the time for hard-hitting journalism to exposé the outrageous profiteering by tech companies and the testing industry, and the capture of education by economists who think that whatever can’t be measured doesn’t count. Where is the Public Broadcasting System when public education is under siege?

WOW! Read this!

The revolution is beginning. The reformers are in trouble. People are waking up and catching on.

“Dad Gone Wild” writes about how he loved Punk Rock. He thought he was the only one. No one understood. That was back in 1977.

Now he found himself wondering about education reform. It didn’t feel right to him. He started looking, and he discovered he was not alone.

He writes:

“Then a crazy thing happened. Slowly but surely punk rock began to creep into the mainstream. I can remember the first time I heard the familiar chorus of the Ramones blasting from a car commercial. Iggy Pop music was being used in Carnival Cruise ads. New bands were being formed that sited the forefathers as instrumental in their formation. The truth was beginning to reach people and they were embracing it. It was all very magical and validating.

“I see a similar thing taking place in the world of education. A few years ago when I first started paying attention to education policy it was all about the power of Teach for America, Charter Schools and Choice. These were tenets that never felt right to me but the voices of support were so great I felt like I was missing something. After all Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Wendy Kopp, David Levin and Mike Feinberg are all highly educated individuals who have studied education policy extensively. How could they possibly be wrong? Then I discovered Diane Ravitch.

“Discovering Diane was a feeling akin to the first time I heard a Clash record. Wait a minute there are people that feel like I do who can help formulate these feelings and give them voice? It was awe inspiring and I wanted more. So instead of hanging around record stores I started hanging around Twitter and other social media sites. Instead of discovering the Ramones, Undertones, Replacements and Husker Du, I began to discover Bruce Baker, Gary Rubenstein, Anthony Cody, Edushyster, Crazy Crawfish and Julian Vasquez Heilig. I read, and still do, everything they wrote. I followed the people they followed and my mind once again just began to expand.”

And he joined with other parents and they started fighting for their schools, and they started pushing back against legislation that would hurt their public schools.

“These days it seems everywhere I look there is a parent group or community group pushing back against the reform agenda. People are starting to realize that our schools may need work but they don’t need scrapping. They need us all to get in together and work to improve them. There is realization that schools are a cornerstone of our community and a healthy school translates to a healthy community. They are starting to realize that poverty in America is very real and fighting it is essential to improving our schools. I can not express to you how much it makes my heart sing to see this uprising. If it continues, not only will we improve our schools but we’ll improve our communities.”

WOW! The wheel is turning, the revolution is underway.

A new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gives Louisiana high marks on providing choice but low marks for academics. It should be noted that Louisiana has higher levels of child poverty than other states, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not go into that.

“A new U.S. Chamber of Commerce report gives Louisiana’s public education system very low marks on academic achievement, international competitiveness, workforce preparation and bang for the buck. It flunked Louisiana in five of 11 categories, with a D+ in the sixth.

“The state’s low academic standing has been widely documented. However, the chamber says its report has a particular focus on the 21st century workforce.

“Louisiana did see some gains. Scores went up on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2013, especially for low-income and minority students. But compared to other states, Louisiana was still at the bottom. The state’s 2013 Advanced Placement pass rate was worse than any state except Mississippi.

“Pass rates were even lower in subjects that the chamber considers important for the 21st century economy: only 30 in 10,000 students passed a foreign language AP test, and 4 in 10,000 passed the AP computer science test.

“When measured against an international exam, the Programme for International Student Assessment, fewer than 20 percent of Louisiana students met the global standard in reading and mathematics.

“The chamber gave Louisiana a failing grade on “return on investment.” After controlling for the cost of living, the chamber’s report says, “student achievement in Louisiana is very low relative to state spending,” which is about at the national median.

“The chamber released the report card Thursday. The research was conducted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

“Given Louisiana’s poor national and international standing, the chamber found the state’s internal testing results dubious and lacking in credibility. In 2011, pass rates for Louisiana’s LEAP and iLEAP tests were much higher than the national rates. That gave an inaccurately rosy picture of student performance, said the chamber, which awarded a D-plus for “truth in advertising.”

The state got an A for parental choice. As we have seen in numerous earlier reports, many children use state vouchers to attend schools with no curriculum and uncertified teachers. Maybe all that choice is dragging down academic outcomes. But “even some of the better grades were lower than in the chamber’s previous report. In 2007, chamber researchers gave Louisiana an A for teaching, a C for the credibility of its own test pass rates and an A for data collection. It gave the state a B for the rigor of its academic standards, praising its English benchmarks and graduation exit exam.” Under John White, the state is losing ground.

Hmm, I seem to recall that Louisiana was the state that was #1 on StudentsFirst report card, probably because of vouchers and charters.

State superintendent John White thinks that Common Core and its hard tests is the cure-all for low performance. Rigor. Harder tests. That’ll raise performance. Kind of like an athlete who can’t jump a 4-ft bar. Raise it to 6 feet. That’ll do it.

For further information contact:

Clovis Gallon, 717-487-2530, clo95@hotmail.com
Lauri Rakoff, 717-577-8327, lrakoff@psea.org
YORK CITIZENS TO SCHOOL BOARD: STOP THE CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF OUR SCHOOLS
Community members will march outside School Board, Community Education Council meetings
York, Pa. (Sept. 12, 2014) – Parents, educators, and members of the York community are calling on York City School Board members to reject the bids of two out-of-state charter corporations competing to take over the city’s public schools.
The School Board is reviewing proposals from Charter Schools USA and Mosaica Education, Inc. to take over every one of the city’s public schools. This would be a first-of-its-kind experiment in Pennsylvania public education, allowing a private corporation to profit from the education of York schoolchildren.
“No other school district in Pennsylvania has handed over every one of its public schools to a for-profit charter corporation,” said Clovis Gallon, a teacher and member of the York City Education Association. “York students should not be treated like guinea pigs in some grand experiment.”
Parents, educators, and members of the York community will march outside of the York City School Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 17 and a Charter School Presentation for the Community Education Council on Wednesday, Sept. 24.
The details of both events are below. Media coverage is encouraged.
What: York City School Board Meeting

Where: York City Schools Administration Building

When: Wed., Sept. 17, 5:30-6:30 p.m. (School Board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.)

Details: The march will occur outside the Administration Building. Participants will then attend the School Board meeting.

What: Community Charter School Presentation

Where: Hannah Penn K-8 School

When: Wed., Sept. 24, 5:30-6:30 p.m. (Community Education Council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.)

Details: The march will occur outside the school cafeteria. Participants will then attend the Community Education Council meeting and Charter School Presentation.

The corporate takeover experiment is being pushed by the York City School District’s chief recovery officer, an appointee of Gov. Tom Corbett, who falsely claims this is the district’s only hope in the face of financial challenges.

“Gov. Corbett has starved York’s public schools of needed resources, and now his appointed chief recovery officer is blaming the city’s schools for not providing children with a rich enough educational diet,” said Gallon. “What York schools really need is for state lawmakers to reverse the Corbett funding cuts.”

York community members look forward to sending a message to school officials that they support their community schools and strongly oppose a corporate takeover by an out-of-state charter operator.

“Local taxpayers and elected officials should be making decisions about the education of York’s children – not an out-of-state corporation with its eye on the bottom line,” said Gallon.

A data analyst who worked for the past several years in the New York City Department of Education wrote the following about Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain. Most of the data he cites comes from public records maintained by the city or state education departments. His footnotes are at the bottom of the post.

Building a Charter Chain, and a Mayoral Campaign, on Lies

Over the past few days a deluge of, what for lack of a better word can only be described as Success Academy propaganda material, has appeared in the New York City media. The New York Daily News published an opinion piece written by what they termed “a researcher” and a “graduate student” that used the veneer of data to argue that Success Academy is a true success and miracle story.[1] Careful analysis reveals that many of the claims are outrights lies and the rest are half-truths.

Let’s start digging in.

Claim #1: “Success Academy schools serve a similar share of special needs students relative to their zoned counterparts.” This is a lie. According to the latest public data on the New York City Department of Education’s Progress Report website [2] the 4 Success Academy schools in Harlem had a total of 2540 students enrolled. Of these students only 17 were special education students with the highest level of need. That’s 0.6% of their students. By contrast the average percent of special education students with the highest level of need at community elementary/middle schools throughout New York City was 9.4% and 14% in Harlem. The average community school in NYC serves 1,500% MORE of the highest need special education students than Success Academy.[3] Such a vast disparity, in what to a significant extent are disabilities based on neurological, medical and physical differences, can’t be explained by anything other than Success Academy not serving the neediest students in the community.[4] You might think it would be hard for the researchers who penned the propaganda in the Daily News to top this lie. They will manage to surprise you.

Claim #2: “the school is more successful in teaching students English…27% of Success Academy students passed the ELL writing exam, compared to 19% at nearby schools.” This is a lie. The school is not successful at teaching English Language Learners. The “researchers” somehow forgot to mention that Success Academy only serves ELLs who are already amazingly good at English. According to the New York State data [5] over 90% of the ELL students at Success Academy are proficient or advanced in kindergarten (that is before Success Academy would have had much of an effect). Seems that Success Academy only serves English Language Learners who already know English. There ARE data suggesting that Success Academy IS very successful at kicking ELLs out (perhaps the few intermediate level ELL students who manage to slip through the lottery).[6]

Claim #3: “Success Academy students scored on average 39 points… ahead of others from equivalent backgrounds.” This is a lie. It is only by misrepresenting the “equivalent background” that they can make this claim. As we have seen in the first two lies that were exposed above, these “researchers” have not even come close to controlling for “equivalent backgrounds.” They have not controlled for level of special education need. They have not controlled for English Language Learner performance levels. They have not controlled for parent characteristics. They have not controlled for home environment. They have not controlled for peer effects of creaming some of the most advantaged students in each neighborhood.[7]

Claim #4: “the overall rate of attrition at Success Academy is far from alarming.” This is a lie. The “researchers” make this claim by comparing the yearly rate of attrition at Success Academy to that of other, nearby community schools. But that is an absurd comparison to make. After all, the data show that Success Academy is serving some of the most economically, linguistically, and academically privileged students in Harlem.[8] On top of that parents must actively choose to enter a lottery to get into Success Academy and must put up with Ms. Moskowitz’s hazing.[9] The fact that even after such a thorough screening process every single year, year after year, another 10% of the student body leaves IS rather disturbing.

Claim #5: They dismiss as a “side argument” the notion that “the choice not to backfill drives up scores.” It is a moral imperative to point out that only charter schools are given this “choice.” Public schools serve all students, from all circumstances, at all times (even when charter schools kick those very students out right after “census day,” the day districts use to calculate enrollment for budget purposes). It is disturbing that this difference seems to carry such little weight with so-called education reformers. It can only make one wonder how invested they really are in the success of each and every student.

It is also disturbing that these researchers seem unable to use basic logic and arithmetic. An Independent Budget Office report showed that charters are more likely to lose the students who score poorly on the New York State exams and who are more often absent.[10] Losing 30% of the students who will test poorly before they enter the first testing grade (i.e. 10% attrition each year through 3rd grade) can have a huge effect on test outcomes. Since it is reasonable to assume that Success Academy replaces those students with ones more likely to do well on the exams, the whole Success Academy effect can be explained by attrition.[11]

Let’s use the data from Harlem Success Academy 1 as an illustration. This year’s 8th grade cohort, the one that started kindergarten in the 2006-07 school year, dropped from 83 students in kindergarten to 63 students in 3rd grade. This means that at least 25% of the cohort disappeared even before the first exam.[12] As the disappearing students are the ones least likely to do well on the exams that means that in 3rd grade these students can be expected to score proficient on the New York State exams at a rate that would be about 25% higher than would be expected based solely on other factors (such as the creaming and self-selection noted above). This effect fully accounts for Success Academy’s, now obviously banal, outcomes.

Claim #6: “growth data from 2013 suggests that in the upper grades, on average, students maintain their high early achievement rather than moving further ahead.” Now this one is interesting since the researchers are more or less admitting that a Success Academy education amounts to very little. If students are not growing more the more time they are spending in these schools, what exactly is Success Academy accomplishing? This little fact shows that the rest of their essay amounts to little more than apologetics and lies. It is implausible to assume that Success Academy accomplishes magic in the early grades and then barely manages to hold ground in upper grades. In fact, this is another piece of evidence suggesting that Success Academy amounts to little more than an accounting trick.

However even this is a half-truth since the most recent (2012-13) New York City Department of Education Progress Report data show that Success Academy lagged well behind its “peer” schools in English exam growth.[13] Success Academy scored in the 39th percentile on English exam growth for their overall student population and in the 21st percentile on English exam growth for the students who began with scores in the lowest 1/3 of students citywide.

Claim #7: “The implication is that, through “drill and kill” instructional techniques, Success Academy is teaching students only low-level skills…The reality is much different.” Here the “researchers” mislead in various ways. They state that “Success Academy students get more science instruction than their peers.” It is unclear how they know this since no evidence is cited. They forgot to mention that according to a Success Academy teacher “We do not teach history or foreign languages in elementary school.[14]” The teacher also revealed that “Test prep starts in November.” A former teacher noted that the “Entire school focused on remaining at top of network schools assessment wise.” [15] From another interview, “All of the other grades, besides seventh and eighth grade, have been doing test prep since…the beginning of November. So that means they weren’t having English class, they were just doing stupid passages by random authors of no literary basis, quality, and just doing multiple choice questions for the past two months or so. [16]”

The “researchers” also somehow forgot to mention that exactly zero Success Academy students scored well enough on the Specialized High School Admission Exam to be admitted to one the city’s top high schools.[17] This forgotten piece of data supports the teachers’ claims that a very narrow sort of test prep characterizes Success Academy curriculum, as little of it appears to generalize to other exams.

Conclusion: Given all the other tricks in the Success Academy playbook including suspension rates 2-3 times the district averages [18], teacher attrition rates approaching 75% a year [19], the ability to spend thousands of more dollars per student thanks to deep pocketed ideological foes of public schools [20], the ability to grade its own exams (public schools are legally prohibited from doing so), and lots more instructional time, Success Academy must be considered an utter failure.

The media, as seen in the “puff piece” in the New York Times Magazine [21], is clearly getting behind Eva Moskowitz’s planned mayoral campaign. However, the accumulating lies cannot withstand scrutiny. Eva has fought audits of her schools and has refused to be transparent with Success Academy data. These are not the characteristics that we want in an elected official. Nor in a leader of schools.

[1] http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/results-real-article-1.1929656
[2] http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/tools/report/default.htm
[3] By the way, Success Academy did not do any miracles with these students. Fewer than 20% tested proficient on the NYS English Exam.
[4] Not that that has stopped shills for the charter school industry from trying http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/ttr-charter-speced-crpe-mead.pdf
[5] http://data.nysed.gov/
[6] http://commonal.tumblr.com/post/58209601458/harlem-success-academy-charter-and-attrition
[7] They also convert a 39 point difference in test scores into being “3 years” more advanced than other students. To put this ridiculous claim in context, let’s note that 39 points is about 12% of the average total score for general education students in New York City on the New York State exams. They are essentially claiming that a student who scores a 92% on an exam is 3 years more advanced than a student who scores an 80%.
[8] http://andreagabor.com/2014/05/09/a-demographic-divide-in-east-harlem-the-neediest-kids-go-to-public-schools-not-charters/
[9] Here is one parent’s description on insideschools.org: “I attended the orientation & was “turned off” by Ms. E. Moskowitz condescending & offensive approach. She was bordering on insulting. When informing the parents of their obligations to attend the after-school games/activities, she said,“All parents are expected to attend and stay for the entire time. Don’t think you can come for a little while & leave to go get your hair done”. “Another comment made in poor taste was when a parent ask if there was financial asst. 4 uniforms. Ms. M’s response was, “No.you have six weeks to save up”.”
[10] http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/2014attritioncharterpublic.pdf “Among students in charter schools, those who remained…had higher average scale scores…compared with those who had left for another New York City public school.” “Absenteeism is an even greater predictor of turnover for students in charter schools, compared with its predictive power for students in nearby traditional public schools.”
[11] Since Success Academy refuses to transparently share its data we are unable to determine exactly how much of a role attrition plays in the early grades. The public data only show overall cohort sizes, so when Success Academy loses 10% of its students a year, if it backfills those seats in grades K-3, the cohort size appears to remain stable through those years. As the “researchers” admit to at least the 10% annual attrition rate we will accept their numbers. But it is also possible that attrition is even higher in the early grades, since “survivor bias” makes it reasonable to assume that the longer a student has been at a Success Academy school the more likely they are to remain.
[12] See the previous endnote for an explanation of why this is likely an underestimate.
[13] http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/1550033E-3F15-4746-BD1A-DF3364721785/0/2012_2013_EMS_PR_Results_2014_04_24.xlsx this data does not account for the selective attrition effects noted above and is therefore a very optimistic figure for the real outcomes within Success Academy schools
[14] https://dianeravitch.net/2013/10/04/mole-in-success-academy-speaks/
[15] http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Success-Academy-Charter-Schools-Reviews-E381408_P5.htm
[16] http://honestpracticum.com/exclusive-interview-a-tfa-teacher-working-at-success-academy-part-1/
[17] http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/gonzalez-success-charter-students-fail-top-city-schools-article-1.1833960
[18] http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/success-academy-fire-parents-fight-disciplinary-policy-article-1.1438753
[19] http://www.wnyc.org/story/302768-high-teacher-turnover-at-a-success-network-school/ and http://www.citylimits.org/news/articles/5156/why-charter-schools-have-high-teacher-turnover#.VA60YP_wvcw
[20] http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/ttr-charter-rent_0.pdf
[21] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diane-ravitch/charter-schools_1_b_5781474.html

A few years ago, I “debated” Jonathan Alter on a Denver radio show but soon realized that I had entered a zone where facts were irrelevant because Alter’s mind was made up. He loves charter schools. He thinks testing and accountability are the answer to the deep problems of education. He is contemptuous of public schools and the teachers who work in them. He thinks that unions exist to protect failed teachers.

Jersey Jazzman, who is completing a Ph.D. In education research, tries here to set Alter right. It is a hopeless task, in sorry to say. Alter has a deep ideological devotion to charter schools, and he won’t listen to data about attrition or how many kids with special needs are excluded from them.

But I’m glad that JJ has the will to try.

Which is the most powerful player behind the scenes in corporate reform?

This article says, without doubt, McKinsey.

Where did David Coleman, architect of the Common Core standards, get his start: McKinsey.

Which firm pushes the narrative of a “crisis in education”: McKinsey.

Which firm believes that Big Data will solve all problems? McKinsey.

Look behind the screen, behind the curtain: McKinsey.

Mercedes Schneider decided to analyze how the conservative journal “Ednext” gauges public opinion about one of its favorite reforms, charter schools.

She reviews the wording of the questions asked over several years.

She notes that Ednext never mentions charter school scandals, which are a hot topic in states like Michigan, Ohio, and Forida.

“There’s a lot of unregulated money to be made in “school choice”– so much so that the FBI is conducting investigations nationwide on criminal behavior rampant in America’s charter schools.

“That the gross negligence of states to regulate “choice” has yielded fertile ground for criminal activity appears to have escaped any survey question posed by EdNext.

“The hidden component of “choice” is the systematic dissolution of the traditional, local-school-board-run public school system. Indeed, EdNext is a corporate-reform-promoting nest that is especially fond of defunding traditional public education via under-regulated charter schools.”

She wonders about the wording of the questions:

“He never addresses charter scandals at all. Imagine if he had asked this version of his charter question:

“As you may know, many states permit the formation of charter schools, which are publicly funded but are not managed by the local school board and are exempt from many state regulations. Charter schools are prone to scandal, as evidenced by a recent nationwide, FBI investigation. Do you support or oppose the formation of charter schools?

“I’m thinking the “completely oppose” category would suddenly become rather popular.”

Schneider suggests a way to improve the poll:

“If Peterson and his EdNext followers really wanted to know what charter school parents think of “choice”– and the degree to which “choice” is “forced choice”– they could ask in their survey. They could ask charter parents why they do not “completely support” their “chosen” schools.

“They could also ask charter parents what exactly has them “somewhat supporting” or “neither supporting nor opposing” their “choice” schools.

“The opinions of the general public on charter schools are not as telling as the opinions of those actually utilizing the charter schools.

“But it appears that EdNext minds are already made up. Charter schools are good–and there will be no asking for potentially contradictory specifics from those who actually *choose* them.

“And certainly no questions connecting charters and the FBI. I mean, that would be really bad for charter “choice.”

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