Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker calls out the charter sector of Connecticut for its unabashed practice of racial segregation.

A new report from Connecticut Voices for Children finds that charter schools are hyper segregated and that they exclude children with disabilities and English language learners.

Don’t expect the State Commissioner of Connecticut to care: he was co-founder of one of the state’s most segregated charter chains.

Charter founders think they are advancing civil rights by creating segregated schools but that turns history on its head, Lecker writes:

“As the Voices report notes, the practices engaged in by charter schools and condoned by the state reveal a troubling approach to choice. For them, choice is about advancing the individual interests of families, rather than any broad community wide educational goals; such as desegregation. The authors found that when individual interests are the goal of choice, then choice policies undermine the goal of equitable educational opportunity for all students.

“The idea of equity for all was the driving force behind the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. declared that “I am never what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”Lyndon Johnson’s motto was “doing the greatest good for the greatest number.”

“The principles of communal good underpinned Connecticut’s commitment to school integration. Connecticut’s Supreme Court deemed that having children of different backgrounds learn together is vital “to gain the understanding and mutual respect necessary for the cohesion of our society.” The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall maintained: “Unless our children learn together, there is little hope that our people will learn to live together.”

The charters have a peculiar idea of civil rights, one that does not reflect the views of Dr. King or Justice Marshall:

“Choice as practiced by charter schools perverts the notion of integration. In its annual report, under the goal of reducing racial isolation and increasing racial and ethnic diversity, Achievement First Bridgeport wrote that the school’s “African-American, Hispanic and low-income students will outperform African-American, Hispanic and low-income students in their host district and state-wide, reducing racial, ethnic and economic isolation among these historically underserved subgroups.”

“Achievement First defines integration as children of color getting better standardized test scores. Justice Marshall must be spinning in his grave.”

In the eyes of charter leaders, higher test scores–achieved by pushing out o excluding low-performing students–trumps integration.

Reader Chiara Duggan says that study after study shows that charters and vouchers demonstrate that data don’t change their minds. She is right. The charters that get high test scores systematically exclude the most challenging students. Some public schools get higher test scores because they serve affluent districts. The differences between charters, vouchers, and public schools tend to be small if they enroll the same students. But the Status a quo pays large numbers of people to argue that the Status Quo–the destruction of an essential institution of a democratic society–is “working” and has positive effects. When the test scores don’t support their argument, they shift the goal post and claim that the private schools–the charters and vouchers–have higher graduation rates. They take care not to mention attrition rates, which are very high. In the case of Milwaukee, the “independent” evaluators from the Walton-funded University of Arkansas quiet.y acknowledged that 56% of those who started in voucher schools left before graduation.

Chiara writes:

Oh, data doesn’t matter to ed reformers. It’s a belief system. Private is better than public. You can’t move someone off a belief with numbers.

How many times have you see a voucher study like this over the years? Once a year for two decades? Yet Democrats and Republicans and paid lobbyists and pundits still promote publicly-funded private schools over public schools. Vouchers have expanded every single year in this country under ed reformers. There isn’t a scintilla of evidence that they’re any better than the public schools they undermine and then replace, but it simply doesn’t matter.

“Students attending private schools receiving taxpayer-funded vouchers in a new statewide program did not score as high overall as public school students on state tests in reading and math, according to data released Tuesday by the Department of Public Instruction.”

It doesn’t matter what public schools do; improve, don’t improve, whatever. They are the designated punching bags for the punditry set. It’s knee-jerk at this point. Heck, a lot of people are PAID to bash them. It’s a smart career move.

I think this may inadvertently benefit public school students. As it becomes more and more clear that privately-run schools don’t outscore public schools in any meaningful way, the goalposts will move, and standardized test scores will no longer be the measure. I think it’s already happening. Ed reformers may actually do something that benefits public schools, and deemphasize the lunatic, obsessive fealty to test scores. They’ll do it it only to defend their own schools, but public schools may benefit collaterally.

Read more:


When the union-busting Wall Street crowd gathers with Governor Cuomo at their pretentious “Camp Philos,” there won’t be any public. School parents or teachers there. The few willing and able to fork over $1,000 were told they were not welcome. So Cuomo and his buddies want to “reform” public schools without the voices of those who matter most: Students, patents, and teachers.

The New York State United Teachers plans to picket their exclusive gabfest. Message: our public schools are not for sale.

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Picket in the Pines! Put the PUBLIC back in public education!

Sunday, May 4, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Lake Placid, NY.
Register online:
RSVP via Facebook:


Education Reform Now, a union-bashing “reform” group run by Wall Street hedge fund managers, is hosting a retreat at Lake Placid May 4-6. The hedge-funders’ deep-pocket Political Action Committee – Democrats for Education Reform – also will hobnob at the $1,000-a-head “Camp Philos.”

These groups promote non-union charter schools, overreliance on standardized tests and Common Core, student-data collection, vouchers, merit pay, test-based teacher evaluations, privatization, and removing teacher unions from almost any role in shaping curriculum or determining working conditions.


Picket in the pines to put the “public” back in public education! For too long, so-called “reformers” have drowned out the voices of parents and teachers. These hedge-fund propagandists have contributed to New York State’s Common Core mess, the (failed) In-Bloom push for student data, and the spread of corporate charters that undermine public schools serving all kids.


Sunday, May 4, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.


Meet at the Comfort Inn
2125 Saranac Ave
Lake Placid, N.Y. 12946


Register online at

The deadline to register is Wednesday, April 30.

Based on participation and need, buses from NYSUT Regional Offices will be made available.


Promote via Twitter. Use the hashtag #picketinthepines.

RSVP via the official Facebook event – and share with your friends!


1-2 p.m.

2-3:30 p.m.
Presentation by Sabrina Stevens of Integrity in Education

3-4 p.m.
Picket Sign-In and Sign Making

4-5 p.m.
Picketing at the Whiteface Lodge where Education Reform Now and DFER are meeting

See you there!

Picket in the Pines:

According to the first filing of spending in the Newark race for Mayor, the hedge fund managers’ group Education Reform Now has given $850,000 to Shavar Jeffries, a charter school supporter.

Jeffries’ spending is about triple the spending of his chief opponent Ras Baraka, and the gap is expected to grow given the deep pockets of Jeffries’ supporters on Wall Street.

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Ras Baraka for mayor, in light of his opposition to closing public schools. He is a high school principal and a member of the City Council of Newark.





ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) is an organization founded in 1973 to promote free-market ideas throughout society. ALEC has about 2,000 members who belong to state legislatures. It is funded by major corporations. Its purpose is to write model legislation that members can bring back to their state, to spread the gospel of ALEC. It supports charters, vouchers, online charters–all forms of privatization. It opposes collective bargaining. It does not believe in due process rights for teachers or any form of job security for public employees. It does not support local control, as it promotes laws that allow state commissions to override decisions by local school boards if they deny charters to private groups.

Among its proposals is the third grade reading guarantee, in which children are flunked if they don’t pass the third grade reading test. What this has to do with free-market capitalism is beyond my understanding. It is punitive towards little children, putting more faith in a test than in teachers’ judgement. There is no research to support this policy, but we know already that zealots are unimpressed by research or evidence.

Here is a comment by faithful reader Chiara Duggan of Zohio:

“This is the ALEC model bill on high stakes testing in third grade.

“It’s nearly identical to Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee:

“C) Beginning with the 20XX-20XY school year, if the student’s reading deficiency, as identified in paragraph (a), is not remedied by the end of grade 3, as demonstrated by scoring at Level 2 or higher on the state annual accountability assessment in reading for grade 3, the student must be retained.

“Just shameful that adult lawmakers were purchased by this lobbying group, and third graders will be paying the price.”

This reader, a lawyer in Mine, asks important, thoughtful questions that go to the heart of the current debate over the future of education–from pre-kindergarten through graduate school. Is technology now promoting the demand for objective, measurable means and ends? Is the technological culture at odds with the humane goals of the Western intellectual tradition? Do we treasure only what can be measured? Or do we recognize that what we treasure most can seldom be quantified, unless it is money? Should we give up and let the corporate reformers place us and our children into “the market”? Or do we resist and fight for the value of every child, for the value of deep and reflective learning, and for the principles of democracy?

He writes:

I recently finished reading two books, Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society and Neil Postman’s Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, both of which are rather depressing for those of us who seek intellectual quality in education.

According to both authors, we have moved into a technological culture that is driven by the unstoppable quest “efficiency” and the unwavering belief that a technique (including both methods of action and specific devices) exists that will provide “maximum efficiency” for any task. Modern, so-called “neo-classical”, economic theory is based on this very idea. (Although I agree with Noam Chomsky that “neo-classical” is neither new nor classical.) Not surprisingly then, the dogmas of neo-classcial economists are treated like the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation. As Ellul notes, the problem is a sociological and cultural one, one that we cannot simply “correct” by modifying our attitudes or values. Only a radical change in society can really change our culture.

So, when I look at the reformers, I have begun to see that they are the champions of the technological culture (technopoly) and are applying the values and tenets of that culture to our schools. (Which, as T.S. Elliot once remarked, are the repositories of our culture.) Since neo-classcial dogma teaches the rational inerrancy of the “the market” in determining the most efficient practices, then schools must be privatized. The market needs “objective measures” of school, teacher, and student performance. Since computers can manipulate data in an “objective” way, then we must structure our schools to function in accordance with computer-based evaluations of schools, students, and teachers. To do anything else is, by definition, irrational.

To defeat this, we must start to offer a different vision. A vision that puts humans and human development ahead of “efficiency” and “rationality”. That’s a tall order. For me, it requires returning to the basic values of the Western intellectual tradition, since our current cultural monster arose from the abuses of modern thought that displaced the ideas of the Enlightenment after the Industrial Revolution. I think we can do this, but it will a long, hard road.

Julie Vassilatos, a Chicago parent, blogs about school issues.


In one of her latest posts, she realized she could  no longer use the term “education reform” because it was a complete phony and misrepresentation of reality.


She writes:


Something in me snapped today and I realized that I am finished using the phrase “education reform.”


That’s how folks refer to the constellation of ideas firmly entrenched in the White House right now, upheld by almost every governor of every state, red and blue, and most mayors, notably our own. It includes the tenets that privatizing our schools will improve them, that the Common Core State Standards are the fix for all that ails our failing schools, and that testing our students more and more will raise test scores.


But this, truly, is not “reform.” Some of these are ideas that have been implemented for 25 years all over the country to little effect.


This is the status quo.


So I’m not going to call it reform anymore.


I’m going to call it what it is. Corporate control of education.



I want you to read her whole post so I hate to print too much of it. But it is so on-target, so clear-headed, so obvious that I am going to have to give you even more to think about, then go open the link and read how this Chicago mom went straight to the heart of the beast:


In every instance, every plank in the platform, every element of this effort can be traced back to cash–flowing into the coffers of very rich corporate entities and individuals.


Like Pearson, one of the testing companies that is creating the tests and the test prep materials, all new and improved and Common Core aligned, and who lobbies Congress to mandate more tests.


Like Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, a huge proponent of charters and innovative uses of technology in schools. What kind of technology does he advocate as the best fix for students today? In Learning Lab modules at his Rocketship Charters kids sit at a computer monitor, streaming video content for 100 minutes per day.


Or Rupert Murdoch. He is a cheerleader for what he calls a $500 billion industry of education technology including content and assessment.


Or Bill Gates. His push for the Common Core, the inBloom initiative to harness students’ big data, and his vision for the classrooms of the future, which will be heavily dependent on his own technologies.


The proponents of this snake oil have managed to control the rhetoric for so long that we don’t even blink when they say that their education plan is “the civil rights issue of our time.” They say this a lot.


So if we wish to stand up against the corporate control model we are not only anti-reform but anti-civil rights.


They say they want “excellent teachers,” and by this they mean they want to get rid of union teachers and replace them with uncertified, pensionless staff handling up to 50 kids at once who receive their education from handheld devices or monitors.


They say they want “school choice,” which usually means less choice: families can’t choose their neighborhood schools that the city has underfunded to the point of death throes, pouring its available money instead into privately supported charters.



I don’t know Julie, but I know this: She has seen through the sham rhetoric and the phony claims. She has seen through the facade to the internal workings of a machine that hurts children, closes community schools, and will ultimately do grievous harm to our democracy.


She writes:


Enough little bits of reality have popped out that folks are starting to notice. The stranglehold grip on the narrative held by the corporate education controllers is beginning to weaken. Because we can all see with our own eyes that it isn’t actually civil rights for kids to have their school closed or subjected to a turnaround. It isn’t actually higher order critical thinking to bubble in bubbles. And it isn’t education and it isn’t reform to work toward the dismantling of public schools in our city and our country.


It’s stale old rhetoric that is losing its power. And it can no longer conceal the naked emperor, nor the naked greed of the corporate power grabbers.


Thanks, Julie, for seeing through the PR baloney.


I am so tired of the media accepting the corporate bosses’ claim that they are “reformers.” Listen up, reporters. They are NOT reformers. Their program is the corporate control of education.

Perhaps someday historians will figure out how the Obama administration pulled the wool over the eyes of so many people about its plans for urban schools. As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama named Professor Linda Darling-Hammond as his senior education advisor. She went on national television to describe the progressive policies he would pursue if elected.

Soon after the election, President-elect Obama dropped Darling-Hammond and selected his basketball buddy Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. He introduced Duncan as someone who had enjoyed remarkable success in turning around the Chicago public schools. We now know that Duncan did not enjoy remarkable success, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is applying a wrecking ball to the Chicago public school system.

What went wrong? How did Obama fool us? Once he was elected, why did he choose as Secretary a non-educator who was determined to make standardized testing the centerpiece of his program, to advance the privatization of America’s public schools, to demoralize teachers, and to make common cause with the nation’s most rightwing governors? Why does Duncan never speak out against segregation? Why does he pretend that poverty doesn’t matter so long as poor kids have “great” teachers? Why does he never speak out against vouchers? What will historians say about Race to the Top, which turns out to have as much evidence as No Child Left Behind?


The Obama Administration’s “Scorched Earth Policy” for Urban Schools

By Dr. Mark Naison

The Obama Administration, in the five years it has been in office, has pursued an Education “Scorched Earth” policy in major urban centers, closing public schools en masse and replacing them with charter schools. And for the most part, Democratic Mayors have enthusiastically supported this policy. Only in the last year, there has been finally been some resistance to this policy, by newly elected Mayors in New York and Pittsburgh. That resistance must spread if public education is to survive and be revitalized in Urban America. Electing anti-testing, anti-charter school and pro public school Mayors in big cities should be a major priority of activists in the last three years of the Obama Presidency, along with building the multi-partisan movement against the Common Core Standards. That is the only way we can build public schools into strong community institutions where creative teaching and learning is practiced and honored.


Dr. Mark Naison is one of the Co-founders of BATs with Priscilla Sanstead

Here is a guide to setting yourself up as a pundit who writes for major newspapers and is called for quotes by reporters:

Robert Shepherd writes:


Becoming an “EdDeform” EduPundit Made EZ

The nineteenth century was the era of the traveling medicine show. Grifters slithered from town to town in rural parts of the country, peddling magical elixirs. John D. Rockefeller’s father was one such. He would show up in a town, put on a little spectacle, sell some bottled cures for cancer and lameness, and then skeddadle off just ahead of the law.

Today, in place of the Snake Oil Salesman, we have the EduPundit.

The EduPundit doesn’t sell magic elixirs. He or she sells Magic Formulas for learning. Now, how does the Aspiring EduPundit come up with a Magic Formula to sell? Well, that’s the easy part. Magic Formulas are lying around all over the place.

The secret to becoming a well-remunerated Edupundit is to take a blindingly obvious idea and make it into a Magic Formula by giving it a Brand Name. Or, if you are in a hurry, start with the Brand Name and then come up with the Magic Formula based on that. I’ve done some of this work for you. Just choose items from the following lists. Note: The Brand Name for your Magic Formula doesn’t have to have an item from List Three. Those are optional. And it can have an item from List Four OR List Five OR both.

List one:

List two:

List three:

List four:

List five:

If you would like the complete Aspiring EduPundit iPhone App for Choosing Your Aspiring EduPundit Brand, which includes many more lists like the one above (Jump Starting Formative Engagement! Engaging Formative Jump Starting!) just sign up at our website or write your name on a stack of hundred dollar bills and send them to yours truly.

Of course, in addition to the Brand Name, you will need a “Key Graphic” or “Concept Map.” This you can very easily create yourself using Smart Art in Microsoft Word. A circle made of three arrows, an idea pyramid, a web—these are all standard. You know the shtick. Remember: In presentations, you must always unveil your inane graphic with great drama, as though it were the Holy of Holies. It is THE REVELATION.

2014 update: Be aware that the great river of Edupundit green is now running almost exclusively from the bank accounts of a few Ed Deform Plutocrats and from the coffers of those Plutocrats’ wind-up toys in foundations, think tanks, state departments of education, and the USDE. So, if YOU want to be a big barker on the educational midway this carnival season, if you want to be invited to speak at conferences, to write professional books for teachers, to be invited to chair committees, and to get paid for putting your name on textbooks you didn’t actually write or edit—if you want to be a PLAYAH—you will have to PRACTICE YOUR EQUIVOCATION. Hold your nose and learn to collaborate with Ed Deform, but do so with sufficient finesse that you can deny your collaboration when actual classroom teachers seem ready to identify you as Vichy swine.

For a copy of Equivocating on the Common Core and Standardized Testing for Aspiring EduPundits, sign up for my course at Anyone Can Be an InstaEdupundit dot com.

Jason Stanford attended a conference in Austin to mark the 50th anniversary of passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And don’t you know, the people who were responsible for No Child Left Behind think they acted in the tradition of civil rights leaders.

He writes:

“At the Civil Rights Summit celebrating the Civil Rights Act’s 50th birthday, everyone agreed that equal opportunity to education was a civil right. If that’s true, then who are today’s Freedom Riders and who is standing in the schoolhouse door? Education reformers see themselves as modern-day civil rights heroes, but the real continuation of non-violent protest can be found in the parents and students in the grassroots opt out movement that is refusing to take standardized tests.

“In this fight, the power is almost all on the side of those who assume you can make a pig heavier by weighing it a lot, to put it in terms LBJ would have liked. And without any sense of shame or embarrassment, those who created this testing culture see themselves as his descendents.

“On the issue of education, we’re dealing with the meaning of America, and the extent of its promise, and in this cause the passion and energy of Lyndon Baines Johnson still guides us forward,” said George W. Bush in his speech at the LBJ Presidential Library.

“Bush started it with No Child Left Behind, but Barack Obama’s Race to the Top is no better. Education Sec. Arne Duncan called Common Core “the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education.”

“One of the problems with this policy discussion is that the pro-testing crowd can’t understand how anyone could be against using tests to measure learning.”

Stanford writes that Bush, Margaret Spellings, and Sandy Kress can’t see any problems with the current round of high-stakes testing that can’t be fixed by more and better tests. One longs to see he three of them take the eighth grade math tests and publish their scores. I am willing to bet they might be less enthusiastic if they did.

Jason Stanford thinks that the true heirs of the cilvil rights protests are not the testers but the parents and students who opt out. They do not face the physical peril of the original civil rights movement, but they have demonstrated they are willing to stand on principle for what is right, without money or power to support them, just the conviction that the standardized testing industry does not hold the key to civil rights or equity or justice or better education.

Frankly, the people who brought us NCLB should stay quiet until it disappears into the mists of history, unlamented.


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