Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Paul Bucheit writes about five aspects of corporate education reform.

1. Privatization takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

2. Testing doesn’t work.

3. The arts make better scientists.

4. Privatization means unequal opportunity for all.

5. Reformers are primarily business people, not educators.

To read his explanation, open the link.

Jeanne Kaplan recently retired as an elected member of the Denver school board. She has started her own blog where she will keep track of education in Denver.

Here is her inaugural post, where she lays out the facts about “reform” in Denver. The biggest “success” has been the steady increase in privately managed charter schools, most of which get free public space. The educational gains are harder to find.

She writes:

“My name is Jeannie Kaplan. I had the honor and privilege of serving on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education for 8 years, from 2005 through November 2013. Michael Bennet was superintendent, having been selected in June of 2005. Mr. Bennet served until January 2009 when he was selected to be the junior Senator from Colorado. His replacement was and continues to be Tom Boasberg, Michael’s childhood friend and former DPS Chief Operating Officer.

“I believe today as I did when I first ran for the school board that public education is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy. I am starting a blog to explore and hopefully shed some light on the complicated issues challenging public education today. I am going to be writing about my passion, public education, with a focus on Denver Public Schools. I will try to provide a voice for a side of this debate that is often overlooked by the main stream media.”

Jeanne Kaplan is one of our nation’s strongest voices for public education and for democracy.

Laura Chapman writes in response to a post about OECD ratings for higher education in different nations based on ability of adults to answer standardized test questions. This comes as the U.S. Department of Education has declared its intention to rate, rank, and evaluate colleges and universities by a variety of criteria, then to tie funding to ratings. That is, to bring the data-based decision making of NCLB to higher education.

Chapman writes:

“OCED should not be messing around with ratings of higher education programs based on totally flawed assumptions, statistical and other wise.

“Meanwhile, two developments bearing on higher education in the United States are worth noting.

“ALEC, the conservative provider of model state legislation, wants to close a lot of public colleges and universities on a fast track.

“According to Politico (June 27, 2014) in ALEC’s next meeting members will consider endorsing the “Affordable Baccalaureate Degree Act,” which would require all public universities to offer degree programs that cost less than $10,000 total for all four years of tuition, fees and books.

“What’s more, the bill would mandate that at least 10 percent of all four-year degrees awarded at state schools meet that price point within four years of the act’s passage.

“Universities would be encouraged to use online education and shift to competency-based models rather than the traditional credit-hour model to keep costs down. If members of ALEC endorse the bill, they will begin circulating and promoting it in state legislatures.

“I think the bait will be taken in state legislatures. This is a fast track toward the demolition of higher education with the political point of saving taxpayers money. The suggested cap on the cost at $2,500 a year for two full semesters of course work is about what my undergraduate program cost in the mid 1950s.

“I believe part of the intent is to devalue specific degrees, namely those in the liberal arts and humanities, and “impractical” sciences (e.g., archaeology, philosophy, and history) where competencies are not cut and dried and tend to consolidate over multiple years. The unstated agenda is for all public colleges and universities to function as engines for economic growth, literally as vocational schools, with on-line completion of specific tasks the primary evidence of competence. ALEC model legislation also opens the door for more degrees based on “skill sets” from life experience–not entirely without merit—but a can of worms and general attack on the value of formal education, leaving only a diploma or certificate as a credential worth the investment.

“Concurrently, the Gates Foundation is promoting the use of the same flawed measures being foisted on K-12 education for higher education, specifically a version of student learning objectives (SLOs) to rate teachers, courses, programs, and entire universities on their success in improving “outcomes.”

“Aided by first-year funds from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, nine states and 68 participating two-year and four-year institutions will document how well students are achieving key learning outcomes. The Association of American Colleges and Universities and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association appear to have bought into this version of K-12 accountability including a process that sounds just like that “multi-state” project known as the common core initiative.

“In essence, these institutions are being enticed to think that Peter Drucker’s debunked theory of management–by-objectives (The Practice of Management, 1954) is the best way to map learning outcomes of higher education, course by course, with “summative” grades for programs, and for the institution as a whole- one size fits all. The whole project is marketed as value-based education— a phrase that is likely to tempt statisticians into using all the new metrics into dubious evaluations of faculty performance. See http://www.aacu.org/”

Anthony Cody is confused by the contradictions of the corporate reform movement. “On the one hand, we have a seemingly utopian project with bold pronouncements about the boundless capacity of all students – even those with serious learning disabilities – to succeed on ever more difficult tests. On the other hand, we have tests that are apparently intentionally designed to fail in the realm of two thirds of our students.”

Cody considers the views of Bill Gates, who has finally admitted that student motivation plays a role in whether students learn.

Cody points out that student motivation is affected by their sense of their own future. Yet as Gates himself admits:

“Well, technology in general will make capital more attractive than labor over time. Software substitution, you know, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses… It’s progressing. And that’s going to force us to rethink how these tax structures work in order to maximize employment, you know, given that, you know, capitalism in general, over time, will create more inequality and technology, over time, will reduce demand for jobs particularly at the lower end of the skill set. And so, you know, we have to adjust, and these things are coming fast. Twenty years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower, and I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”

So if there are fewer jobs, a shrinking middle class, and fewer opportunities for social mobility, students face a bleak future. How can they be motivated in an economy where their prospects are dim?

Cody writes:

“Gates is suggesting we increase taxes on consumption by the wealthy, and use those revenues to provide a sort of subsistence level payment to the poor. He opposes an increase in the minimum wage because it might raise employer costs, which they would then try to cut by laying people off.

“Gates is unconcerned about income inequality as an issue. He defines poverty as abject starvation and homelessness, and hopes employers can be convinced to keep on employees because they do not cost very much.

“The motivation of 50 million K12 students in the US is directly related to the degree to which their education leads to a brighter future. We have a big disconnect here when the future does not, in fact, offer much chance at access to college or productive employment. And as Wilkinson and Pickett established in their book The Spirit Level, the level of inequality societies tolerate has a dramatic effect on the mental state and wellbeing of its citizens…..

“As I wrote earlier in the week, there seems to be an attempt to use ever more difficult Common Core aligned tests to certify as many as two thirds of our students as unworthy of such opportunities.

“This brings to mind a dystopian future where an underclass of Common Core test rejects is allowed to subsist with the bare minimum payments required to keep starvation at bay, while a shrinking cadre of insecure workers maintain the machinery that keep the lights on and the crops harvested.

“The fundamental problem of the current economy is that we have not figured out a means by which the top 1% can be persuaded to share the prodigious profits that have flowed from technological advances…

“I cannot reconcile how this future of growing inequality and a shrinking workforce intersects with the grand utopian vision of the Common Core. So then I go back and have to question the validity of the promises made for the Common Core, since the economic projections Gates is making here seem sound….

“These economic problems will not be addressed by Common Core, by charter schools or any other educational reforms. They will not even be addressed in a significant way by what we might praise as authentic education reforms, such as smaller class sizes or more time for teacher collaboration – though these are worthwhile and humane things.
Imperfect as they have been, public schools have been an institution under mostly democratic control, funded by taxpayers, governed by elected school boards, and run by career educators. Market-driven education reform is bringing the cruelty of commerce into what was part of the public sphere, attempting to use test scores to open and close schools like shoe stores, and pay teachers on test score commissions as if we were salesmen.

“The rhetoric of the corporate reform project draws on the modern movement for civil rights, and even Bill Gates asserts that his goal is to fight inequity. But elites have rarely, if ever, designed solutions that diminish their privilege, and this is no exception. It appears that corporate education reform has devised a means to affix blame for inequity on classroom teachers, even as technological advances make it possible to transfer even more wealth into its sponsors’ bank accounts, with fewer people being paid for the work that remains necessary. The promise that the Common Core will prepare everyone for the American dream is made a lie by the intentionally engineered failure rates on Common Core aligned tests.”

In the television series called “The Wire,” there is an episode dedicated to “juking the stats.” Since it is a program about the police, criminals, and the drug trade, “juking the stats” means that the officials were able to manipulate crime data to show that crime was up–requiring more police–or down–showing their success in slowing a crime wave. Now we know that the corporate education reform movement has become expert at “juking the stats” to make public schools look bad so that the “reformers” can privatize them.

 

Many years ago, David Berliner and Bruce Biddle wrote a book called The Manufactured Crisis, describing how certain think tanks and government officials were manipulating data to make it appear to the public that the schools were in crisis. A gullible media, loving sensational stories about the “failure” of our schools, reported the “reformer” claims without bothering to check facts.

 

The corporate reformers of our day thrive on their own manufactured crisis. They seize upon any factoid to make schools and teachers look bad. They ignore the compelling facts that our schools are underfunded and overwhelmed with the problems of children in poverty. The corporate reformers’ solution to the problems they identify: More testing, more privatization. They think that students get smarter if they are tested more often, so more tests. They assume that privately managed schools must be superior to public schools, despite clear evidence that they do not produce better results and–unregulated and unsupervised–many are vulnerable to corruption, nepotism, self-dealing, and fraud.

 

In this article, Carol Burris shows how the college remediation rate has been shamelessly inflated by corporate reformers intent on advancing their agenda of privatization. Chief among those who have overstated the remediation rate is Secretary of Education Duncan, who said in Massachusetts that the college remediation rate was 40% when it was about half that number. As she demonstrates, one “reform” think tank announces the “crisis” of a 40% college remediation rate, and others soon repeat it until it becomes conventional wisdom. But it is not true. Like almost all the data trotted out by the reform crowd, it is inflated to promote their political agenda of privatization. Or they use their doctored stats to promote the Common Core, even though there is no evidence whatever that Common Core will make every student “college and career ready.” The campaign for Common Core increasingly looks like an advertising gambit that promises that your clothes will be cleaner than ever, your teeth will be whiter than ever, your weight will drop in a matter of days, if only you use this product.

 

When will the reformers target the root causes of low academic performance: poverty, segregation, and inequitable allocation of resources? Ever.

 

 

This just in from a member of NEA from Massachusetts who is at the Denver convention. She hopes that Lily Eskelsen, the new president, will be a champion and fighter for kids, teachers, and public schools. Is she THE ONE? Will she stand up to the phony “reformers”? Will she fight for democratic control of the schools? Will she tell the plutocrats to use their billions to alleviate poverty instead of taking control of the schools?

I think Lily has it in her. Until proven wrong, I am placing bets that she will stand up fearlessly for what is right, that she will tell Arne Duncan to scram, that she will tell the billionaires to get another hobby.

Here is the message from one of her members:

My comment is awaiting moderation on Lily’s Blackboard.

Here it is.

Lily, thank you for posting this opportunity for substantive engagement on the Gates question.

I’m an activist NEA member in Massachusetts, in a low income district heavily engaged with the policies Bill and Melinda have imposed through their legislative interference and advocacy lobbying, with the compliance of the outgoing Massachusetts Teachers Association leadership.

MTA and NEA compliance directly aided in the imposition of Gates-backed corporate domination in my Commonwealth’s public schools, in my school, in my actual classroom, and over the actual living students I teach.

The (false) distinction you make between Gates’ imposed “standards” and the accountability measures he demands for them will allow the NEA to continue to take his money, and I’ll admit that almost chokes rank-and-file teachers who live and work under his heel. I am going to argue that you to can make a decision of your own, when you take office, to give that money back to him.

First, I’d like to offer congratulations on your succession to the presidency of NEA. The Representative assembly that voted you in brought with it a new activism and determination, and voted in resolutions which break sharply with the previous administration, of which you were a part. We look to you with great hope, holding our breath against it for fear of disappointment.

The Common Core standards can’t “stand on their own merit”. They were backwards-engineered to warp the teaching of language and literature into assessment readiness, with its own novel testing vocabulary. strung together with the bogus Moodle diagram you inserted in this page. The aligned WIDA tests that are now being imposed on ELL students, from the earliest grades, will steal the short and precious window of their childhood. People are tweeting me that those children can’t wait while you do your homework and find that out.

We’re fighting right now for schools in New Bedford and Holyoke that are already being taken over. They were full of living children, just a few weeks ago when we left them. What will we find in August?

We’re asking you to become the courageous and powerful leader of an engaged and mobilized union. I know you saw and felt the hall rise to its feet behind these initiatives. That felt different and deeper than the hearty applause for your victory, did it not?

Bring us to our feet: give back the Gates money.

The website I linked for you is an Education Week column describing the actual effects of the Gates Foundation’s profit-centered philanthropy model in the third world. It’s the responsibility of Americans to become aware of it, when we take money from American corporate philanthropies and allow them to pursue their profits internationally under the subsidy of our tax code.

Why Arne Duncan needs to listen to Bill and Melinda | Li…
I do not hate the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I know it might seem strange to have to make that statement, but such are the times we live in.
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Mother Jones published this article in 2013 when Campbell Brown started her campaign against “sexual predators” in the New York City public schools (there are none, apparently, in charter schools, thank goodness!).

 

Campbell Brown is now leading the lawsuit attacking tenure, seniority, and due process for teachers in New York state. Her organization has found half a dozen student plaintiffs who claim that their teachers were “bad” teachers, which denied them a quality education.

 

The big difference between then and now in Campbell Brown’s group is that in 2013 her public relations firm was connected to Republicans.

 

Her current PR spokesman is Robert Gibbs, who was President Obama’s White House press secretary.

 

What Ms. Brown seems not to know is that there are sometimes false accusations made by students. I recall that when I lived in D.C. in the early 1990s, a junior high school teacher was accused of sexual misconduct by several girls in his class. The evidence seemed overwhelming given the number of complaints. The teacher was pilloried in the press. But when the police interviewed each girl individually, they did not corroborate the other stories, and in a matter of days, they all admitted they had trumped up the charges to punish a teacher who had given them too much work and had too high standards. That was an elementary lesson: an accusation is not a conviction. Everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

 

One curious aspect to this copycat case is that no one has been able to establish the basic claim that every child would have a “great” teacher if no teacher had due process rights or any job protections whatever. What seems more likely is that teachers will flee to affluent districts, if they can, to avoid the low value-added scores that are attached to teaching the most challenging students. Inner-city schools attended by the poorest children will find it more difficult to maintain a stable staff. Some victory that would be.

 

If people like Campbell Brown really cared about poor kids, they would fight for small class sizes, arts teachers, school nurses, libraries, and improved conditions for teaching and learning. They don’t.

 

 

Peter Greene responds to the NEA resolution. Calling for Arne Duncan to resign. he first deals with the debate on Twitter, about who would replace Arne Duncan. The assumption behind the discussion is that President Obama has no idea what Duncan has been doing and that when he finds out, Duncan will be ousted.

Then he takes on the NEA resolution.

Greene quite rightly points out that Duncan is doing exactly what the President wants. Were he to leave, which is unlikely, he would be replaced by someone as committed to high-stakes testing, privatization, closing schools, and undermining the teaching profession as Duncan. A likely replacement: Ted Mitchell, the newly appointed Undersecretary of Education, was most recently the CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, the epicenter of privatization and anti-public school activism. Then there is always Michelle Rhee, whom the President and Duncan have lauded.

I can personally vouch for the fact that Duncan is doing exactly what Obama wants. In the fall of 2009, I had a private meeting with Secretary Duncan, just the two of us, no staff. It was very pleasant. He was charming, pleasant, and took notes. I asked him, “Why are you traveling the country to sell Race to the Top accompanied by Reverend Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich? Why Gingrich?” His answer: “because the President asked me to.”

Arthur Camins, Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ., points put that drug makers are not allowed to make unsubstantiated claims. They are required to gather evidence and to disclose possible negative side effects. They can make boasts, offer up dubious facts, and get away with it. They speak about the individuals’ “right to choose” without acknowledging the harm to the community’s public institutions.

In a thoughtful article, Camins says that the debate about school reform has been obscured by “the fog of war,” a public relations blitz that appeals to individualism and self-interest, replacing evidence and any sense of the common good.

He writes:

“One weapon in the arsenal of opponents of current policies has been to point out the absence of evidentiary support. In fact, there is no system inside the U.S. or around the world that has made substantial systemic progress through charter schools, merit pay or test-driven accountability. Resistance is growing, but so far this line of attack has not built enough widespread public understanding to deter policy makers. Maybe that is because the supporters of these policies have effectively obscured their real goals and values.”

He concludes::

“Stories of dysfunctional, conflict-plagued, private agenda-driven local school boards abound. There are countless examples school boards making uniformed decisions that do not serve the interests of children. However, privatization and shrinking of public participation in decision-making is not an antidote to ineffective, uninformed democracy. Public knowledge and clear-eyed evidence are. History is replete with evidence that the side effect of disenfranchisement in the name of improvement is benefits to the few and disaster for the many. Arguments that restricting democracy will benefit everyone have always been the coins of autocrats and self-appointed experts driven by blind faith or ideology and narrow self-interest.

“The drive to privatize educational governance, especially with respect to expansion of charter schools, has two unstated goals. One is to open up the vast education market to individuals looking for a new profitable place to invest their capital. Another is more cynical. Some people have given up hope for systemic improvement. Instead, they are willing to settle for a system that only provides an opportunity for those they deem to be the deserving and capable few among the unfortunate many. Hence, the negative disruptive side effects of school closings in poor communities are the price that the many will pay to save the lucky few.

“Let’s report the evidence and side effects so the public can decide: Which side are you on? Are you willing to give up your right to democratic participation and risk the future of your child or your neighbor’s to privilege the lucky few? Are you ready to give up on the common good?

“For the sake of clarity, I’ve attempted to present complex issues in binary terms. Assuredly, there are gradations. In reality, ensuring the wellbeing of individuals is inseparable from advancing the common good. The old labor slogan, an injury to one is an injury to all, said it simply, but well. Put another way, my personal gain is diminished or even negated when it comes at the expense of another.

“We need an educational system based on these values. I think, when asked, the public may agree.”

John Stocks, the executive director of the NEA, voiced the anger and frustration that so many of the members are feeling. He gave a rip-roaring speech. But, sadly, he did not mention the perfidy of the Obama administration or the duplicitous role of the Gates Foundation in undermining the teaching profession.

Here is a high point:

“We’re frustrated by the barrage of bad ideas from so-called education “reformers” ….

We’re worried by the assaults on our individual rights … and our collective rights to organize.

And we’re angry because many of the people behind these attacks are questioning our integrity and our commitment to our students.

Our opponents want to do more than just wear us down. They want to destroy and dismantle our public schools.

You might be wondering… why in the world would they want to do that?

Why would they want to tear down the institution that built the economic engine of the world?

Why would they slam-shut “the door to opportunity” for millions and millions of Americans?

Why destroy an institution that created the middle class in our country?

… that gave Americans from all walks of life a sense of common purpose and destiny ….

These are big questions…. And, frankly, they all have a simple answer: money.

That’s right — money.

WE look at public education as an investment in our children and our country … a down payment on a brighter future.

But THEY see the dollars that are spent on public education, and they wonder how they can grab a fistful.

It’s not hard to connect the dots when you look at all the ways they reap their profits:

Testing and more testing

Privatizing food… custodial… and transportation services

Vouchers that siphon resources from public schools to private ones, and

For-profit companies that are privatizing our schools and threatening the greatest higher education system in the world.

So, yes, some people have a very clear financial motive for wanting to dismantle public education.

But it’s not just their motives that make me angry…. It’s the fact that their policies are BAD for students… and BAD for educators.

Policies that prioritize testing over teaching… that label and punish … and that completely disregard the important role that experience plays in effective teaching and learning.”

Whose policies “prioritize testing over teaching?” NCLB and Race to the Top. But he didn’t say that.

Whose policies demand that teachers be labeled and punished if their students don’t get higher scores? The Obama administration. Whose money funds the economists who claim that test scores are the true measure of education? Bill Gates.

But he didn’t say that.

When you dare not say the name of your oppressor, you show weakness and fear at a time when courage and fortitude are needed.

John Stocks has it in him to say and do the right thing. He knows. Let him lead.

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