Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Denis Smith used to work for the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversaw the charter schools. Now that he has retired, he can speak freely.


In this post, he reflects on the recall of faulty cars and airbags. And he wonders, what if faulty charters could be recalled?


The post is priceless for the number of links to industry malfeasance.


He includes a long list of charter industry failures, suggesting that embezzlement and cooking the books is not a one-off phenomenon, but a systemic failure.



Here are some examples of problems in that other, non-automotive, non-manufacturing industry:


A record 17 industry locations in one city – Columbus – closed in just one year.
One of the industry’s treasurers embezzled nearly $500,000 from several locations, earning a two-year prison sentence.
An executive in the industry, operating under a phony consulting contract, also embezzled about a half-million dollars, while employee salaries had to be cut in an economy move.
In Cleveland, five industry executives were charged with stealing nearly $2 million in a scheme that saw the creation of five shell companies to receive public funds. Even the board chairman, who owned the building in which the industry operated, was part of the fraud that was detailed in a 32-count indictment.
Three industry treasurers were singled out several years ago for their responsibility with more than $1 million in “questionable spending,” according to audit findings.

Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report writes a scathing commentary on Arne Duncan and John King. 


Unlike his underqualified predecessor, John King is highly qualified to nail down the gains of educational privatizers. For the last ten months, King has been Arne Duncan’s deputy, and before that he headed the New York State Department of Education. Like Duncan, he’s never taught in or administered a public school in his life. King started out as a charter school teacher and administrator, and eventually headed a chain of charter schools with exceptionally onerous disciplinary policies.

As commissioner of NY State Department of Education King was instrumental in forcing Common Core, a standard curriculum developed by non-educators and corporate consultants from the Gates Foundation, the testing industry and others, upon parents and schools while his own children attended a local Montessori school, which of course did not administer standardized testing. In New York King distinguished himself as a thin-skinned, tone-deaf bully, insisting in the face of widespread public opposition that cutting recreation, music, literature and real teaching in favor of Common Core’s “teach to the test” and other “run-the-school-like-a-business” practices were good for children and good for education.

There are two pieces of good news here. The first is that the $4 billion in stimulus funds the administration had under Duncan to coerce states and school districts into compliance is gone, and provisions of the successor to No Child Left Behind, which of course will institutionalize as much of the privatization regime as possible, are not yet finalized. The second is that like Arne Duncan, John King is no charmer, no persuader, and no salesman. He’s an arrogant autocrat in a highly public, highly visible position, committed to enforcing a set of massively unpopular policies. There’s a serious political opportunity here to galvanize and make visible a movement of national resistance to the juggernaut of school privatization. The Obama administration is well aware of this, and is transparently seeking to buy time with empty declarations of intent to reduce emphasis on standardized testing.


Emily Talmage writes a letter to the reformers. It is civil. It is polite. It is strong and clear.


She knows that every “I Quit” letter makes them happy. That is what they want. They want to get rid of career teachers. They don’t want people with experience. They want enthusiastic young college graduates who will work a 70-hour week and then leave. Who won’t complain if they are replaced by technology.


But Talmage has news for the reformers. She is not leaving. She plans to stay and fight. And she is not alone.


I am here to tell you that there is a growing army of us – yes, army – who are refusing to quit, despite the havoc you are wreaking on our profession.


I am here to tell you that not only have we vowed not to quit – we have also vowed to fight.


We are getting organized, and are rapidly growing in our ranks.


So let it be clear that just as you have declared war on us, we have declared war on you.


Yes, you have your freakish amounts of money and the political power you’ve bought with it.


You have your strategically formed foundations and your consultants with their arsenal of devious, deceitful tricks.


You have your wickedly distorted narratives that you have spent years crafting.


You have your egos and your algorithms and your data that means whatever you want it to mean.


But we have more than that.


We have families – parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers – and the unthinkable amount of love they generate each day.


We have momma bears whose claws are out and fangs are bared.


We have whole communities who will not stand idly by as their schools go under due to your business plans.


We have deep, fiery anger at the way we, as professionals, have been treated over the last decade, and even deeper anger over the way our children have been used as guinea pigs in your covert experiments.


We also have the truth.


So be prepared.


We are not quitting, and will not be surrendering.




Teachers (and mothers, and fathers, and grandparents, and communities…) Everywhere

As we have read, Eli Broad is underwriting education coverage in the Los Angeles Times. His support came about the same time that the billionaire announced his plan to provide 260 new charters for half the students in LAUSD at a cost of near $500 million, which he and friends would assemble. Public education in the district would suffer a loss of students and resources and would be collateral damage.

To those those concerned about Broad’s plan for mass privatization, the LA Times has advice: “Stop whining.”

Good investment, Eli.

Jeannie Kaplan, who served two terms on the Denver school board, describes here how the usual monied privatizers managed to win every seat on the Denver school board at the same time that “reformers” went down to defeat in nearby Jeffco and Dougco.

The money rolled in from Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)–the hedge funders–and other national reform groups to keep the privatization agenda in control, with not a single dissenter. Some of it is “dark money,” the kind that is hard to trace or not revealed until the election is closed.

Jeannie writes:

“Reformers” in Denver are claiming victory, and to some extent they should. They have been successful in buying a 7-0 school board. Following is the story of how the last seat was purchased on November 3 and how the big money was able to hold on to the two “reform” seats up for re-election.

“Should you not wish to read all of my analysis here are the headlines:

“District 1: The incumbent was going be difficult to beat, for while voting for all things “reform,” she has managed to keep most of “reform” out of her mostly affluent, mostly white district.

“District 5: There was no way “reformers” were going to lose this seat. This was the only remaining obstacle to a unanimous board, the only thing standing between public dialogue and silent acquiescence to all staff proposals.

“At large: Had the election been held on Friday, October 28, 2015, the challenger, Robert Speth, parent not politician, would have defeated Board President Allegra “Happy” Haynes.”

Read on.

Maybe it is just me, but I find myself outraged by the “reformers'” incessant manipulation of language.

“Reform” seldom refers to reform.

“Reform” means privatization.

“Reform” means assaults on the teaching profession.

“Reform” means eliminating teachers’ unions, which fight for better salaries and working conditions.

“Reform” means boasting about test scores by schools that have carefully excluded the students who might get low scores.

“Reform” means using test scores to evaluate teachers even though this practice has negative effects on teacher morale and fails to identify better or worse teachers.

“Reform” means stripping teachers of due process rights or any other job security.

“Reform” means that schools should operate for-profit and that private corporations should be encouraged to profit from school spending.

“Reform” means acceptance of privately managed schools that operate without accountability or transparency.

“Reform” means the incremental destruction of public education.

I am reminded of George Orwell’s lines from his prophetic novel 1984:

“War is peace.

“Freedom is slavery’

“Ignorance is strength.”

The goal of the leadership in the novel was to teach the population “doublethink.” To believe in contradictory ideas.

So we see schools closed, teachers and principals fired, and we are supposed to believe this is “reform.”

The media, with few exceptions, say that what is happening almost everywhere is “reform,” so it must be reform to replace public schools with privately managed charters, and to fire experienced professionals and replace them with newcomers, with untrained and inexperienced teachers and with principals who taught for one or two years.

It must be reform to allow out-of-state billionaires to buy local and state school board elections so they can control the schools of a state they don’t live in.

I confess I am also irritated by the habit of referring to young children as “scholars.” To me, a scholar is someone who has devoted his or her professional life to the advancement of knowledge. If a five-year-old is a “scholar,” what do you call a distinguished university professor who is widely recognized for her research and publications?

Has the public been suckered into believing that the destruction of public education is “reform”?

Does the public willingly accept the idea that hedge fund managers and equity investors are taking control of what is supposed to be a public responsibility?

Will we let them monetize our children and their public schools?

Does the public understand that a small group inside the Beltway wrote the “national standards” behind closed doors, that one billionaire (Bill Gates) paid for them and paid millions to national education organizations to advocate for them, and that the federal government bribed 45 states to endorse them?

How long will the public tolerate tests tied to those standards that are designed to fail 65-70% of the nation’s children?

How much longer will we allow the nation’s children to be labeled and sorted by standardized tests whose outcomes may be predicted by family income?

When will the public realize that test-based accountability does not improve education, does not promote better teaching, and actually reduces the quality of education?

How long can the Emperor parade through the streets before someone tells him he is naked?

How long can a charade persist before the public knows they have been conned?

How long will it take to unmask this great theft of a democratic institution that belongs to the public, not to entrepreneurs, foundations, rightwing ideologues, hedge fund managers, or their compliant politicians?






Peter Greene here explains why he objects to Mike Petrilli’s defense of “no-excuses” charter schools that exclude or push out students they don’t want. Mike is the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which supports school choice, vouchers, charters, and high-stakes testing. In an article on the “Bloomberg View” website, Mike argued that disruptive students hurt high-achieving students, so it is appropriate to throw them out so the other students have a chance to reach their full potential.


Petrilli wrote:


Imagine that we wanted to prioritize the needs of low-income students who demonstrated the aptitude to achieve at high levels and a willingness to work hard — the kids with the best shot to use a solid education to put poverty behind. What might we do?

First, we would put in place “universal screening” tests to look for gifted students in early elementary schools. We would ask all schools, including those with a high percentage of poor students, to identify at least 10 percent of their students for special programs, and then allow these kids the opportunity to spend part of their day learning with other high-achieving peers, and to go faster or deeper into the curriculum. A recent study by David Card of the University of California at Berkeley and Laura Giuliano of the University of Miami demonstrated that this sort of approach is particularly effective for high-achieving, low-income students.

By middle school, we would embrace tracking so that poor, bright students had access to the same challenging courses that affluent high achievers regularly enjoy, and that are essential if young people are going to get on a trajectory for success in Advanced Placement classes in high school and at more selective colleges.

Finally, we would ensure that schools were safe and orderly places to be — balancing the educational needs of disruptive students with the equally valuable needs of their rule-abiding peers.

Yet in most cities we do very few of these things. This is in large part because many progressives are convinced that any sort of tracking is classist and racist, and amounts to giving up on certain kids, and they have worked to ban it. (Ironically, political leaders in the poorest neighborhoods themselves are asking for more schools for the gifted and talented.) Most accountability systems still work on getting low-performing students up to basic proficiency in reading and math, rather than pushing schools to help all students get as far as they can.

Meanwhile, discipline “reforms” are focused overwhelmingly on reducing punishments, often with little attention to the potential downside for learning in the classroom. Yet as common sense — and solid research — tells us, that downside is real. For instance, a study by the group Public Agenda found that 85 percent of teachers and 73 percent of parents felt the “school experience of most students suffers at the expense of a few chronic offenders.”

Frustrated that the traditional public schools aren’t willing to prioritize their children’s needs, many low-income strivers have turned to high-quality charter schools instead. But now those are under attack, too. In recent weeks, the “PBS Newshour” and “New York Times” had highly critical coverage of Success Academies, charter schools in New York City that have shown excellent results in improving student performance. The reports focused on the academies’ suspending students aggressively and removing those who are chronic disrupters. There were similar controversies over the relatively high rates of suspensions and expulsions at charters in Chicago and Washington in recent years.

Peter Greene takes issue with Petrilli on a number of points.

He writes that he does not want docile and compliant students.  I don’t need compliant students. I need students who have some drive and initiative and are occasionally obnoxious because they are excited about stuff. Just in general, I see a real contradiction between striving and complying….

Petrilli talks about disruptive students as if disruptor status is permanently and unwaveringly a thing. The student who is a gigantic, disruptive pain in the butt on Monday may be the shining light on Wednesday. Being a disruptive student is not like being left-handed. For that matter, the student who is absolute disaster in your class may be my top student.

This is betterocracy at work, the notion that some people are just better than others, and that’s just how it is, and the purpose of public institutions like school is to sort out the Betters from the Lessers, allowing the Betters to rise and the Lessers to stay in place, as if every persons level of Betterness is fixed and static, wired into their dna.

Disruptosity is not an absolute, static condition. Worse, talking about “disruptive students” is like talking about “bad kids”– it locks a child into some sort of permanent state that colors all our interactions with him, instead of recognizing that we’re seeing a particular behavior on a particular day, but that behavior is not who the child is.

If a child is disruptive, Greene writes, he wants to know why. I may need to find a way to shut my disruptor down now so I can do my job for the rest of my students. But part of my job is to find out what is going on with the disruptor, because there’s a long list of reasons that a student might act out, and all of those reasons are important to know, particular as a representative of the school that is quite possibly the only place where the child encounters caring, professional adults.

Greene writes that the disruptive students may include some of the smartest students:

Like much of his talk on this subject, his call for universal screening to look for gifted students in elementary school seems to assume that academic aptitude goes hand in hand with striverliness, while not going along with disruptorosity. That is kind of hilarious. Because nobody knows how to spread chaos, disorder, and disruption like a really smart student. Particularly a really smart student who finds himself up against a school that wants him to show how compliant he is.

Greene has a proposal that will solve everyone’s problems with disruptive students:

It’s probably fair to say that there are some students so troubled and challenged that a traditional school setting just doesn’t work for them, and they become chronic disruptors. But that’s a small percentage. And since they are a small percentage of the school population and charters only have capacity for a small percentage of the school population and charter operators claim to know the secrets of making all students from all backgrounds successful, why don’t we do this– let the charters have the disruptors.

The strivers will be left in disruption-free public schools, safe and freed from Those People who interfere with their education. The disruptors will be set straight by the edu-wizards of the charter world. It’s perfect.

Now there is a modest but feasible proposal: Let the charters be the schools that solve the problems of disruptive students, a tiny fraction of the student population. Then everyone would join in the Hallelujah Chorus to charter  miracles.


Bill Gates recently said that he didn’t realize how hard it was to change education. It is really hard work. He has no idea. Sitting in his air-conditioned offices overlooking Seattle, flying in his personal jet, relaxing on his family yacht, surrounded by hordes of assistants and aides, he has no idea of what teachers do and no understanding of why his efforts to “reform” schools keep failing. He thinks it is hard work.


But, in Valerie Strauss’ blog, she quotes Nancy E. Bailey, a special education teacher who left the classroom because of the damage done to her students by high-stakes testing. Bailey explains to Gates what is really hard work. It is harder than “philanthropic work.”


Bailey, who wrote the 2013 book “Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students,” challenged Melinda and Bill Gates to spend “some serious time in poor public schools” to learn what is really hard in education for teachers and students — and to “spend time with the many moms of students with disabilities who home-school not because they want to, but because schools have cut special education services.”


Here is a shortened version of her admittedly incomplete list of what’s really hard in education (and you can see the full blog post and list here):


Being an over-tested kindergartner, not getting any recess, and being made to feel you are a failure before you get started in your schooling.
Working as a teacher on a day-to-day basis with students who come from abject poverty and must deal with the many troubling consequences that come with a life lived in hardship.
Being a child with disabilities and being afraid of a high-stakes test (or several) you don’t understand and feeling like a failure!
Being made to read before you are ready,
Failing third grade based on one test.
Being a high school student who has to focus on test-taking and not given ample time to explore real career options.
Being poor and working only in math and reading with little opportunity to participate in music or art classes.
Deciding if you can afford to leave teaching because you hate the changes that negatively impact children, including all the high-stakes Common Core testing.
Knowing you have to teach to pay the bills but understanding why parents dislike you for being forced to implement harsh reforms.
Being told you will have to reapply for the job you need in the career you hold dear because your school has been turned into a charter school.
Working with overcrowded class sizes because some reformer doesn’t know better and thinks class size doesn’t matter.
Not being able to get to all your students because your paraprofessional has been let go.
Not being able to go to the bathroom when you need to because your paraprofessional has been let go.
Not being paid for a master’s degree on which you spent time and money to better yourself professionally.
Working in a crummy school building while a brand new charter school is opened down the street.
Getting judged for your teaching by the test scores of students you don’t have.
Being forced to focus more on data than children, and filling out mounds of time-consuming and often useless paperwork.
Watching your young students fail computer-based tests because they can’t type fast enough.
Knowing how much time you spent learning to be a teacher and watching others with inadequate training get jobs.
Being forced to put away your developmentally appropriate student play kitchens, puppets and costumes in kindergarten.
Seeing your school put money into iPads when there are so many other things needed.
Working in a school with no librarian or media specialist.
Sending your child to a school that has no school nurse.
Not having enough guidance counselors to work with you when your student has mental health issues.
Not having appropriate special education services to offer children who need them.
Being a student in a no-excuse charter school and knowing that you could be punished for the smallest disciplinary infraction.
Having your local school board ignore your pleas to keep your public school open.




Dr. Yohuru Williams, historian at Fairfield University in Connecticut, recently delivered a blockbuster speech to a conference on educational justice in New York City.

He begins by quoting FDR on the Four Freedoms, then moves on to weave together the current movements and issues of our day. It is eloquent and powerful rhetoric on behalf of children, justice, and equity.

I promise if you start watching, you won’t be able to stop.

Conflict of interest? How could it not be?

Billionaire Eli Broad is underwriting education coverage at the Los Angeles Times.

Eli Broad wants 50% of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District to be enrolled charter schools. He intends to pool $490 million to create 260 new charters.

The LA Times wrote an editorial endorsing Broad’s plan to privatize a huge part of public education.

One man wants his way. Eli Broad does not believe in democracy.


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