Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

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.

Kevin Welner, executive director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, has advice for the test-loving reformers: Stop making excuses!

For the past 15 years or more, a passel of organizations have pushed test-based accountability; they never met a test they didn’t like and they used test scores to bash teachers and American public education. They ARE the status quo. They own the U.S. Department of Education. Their views are backed by federal law, the No Child Left Behind Act, and by the billions handed out by the federal Race to the Top. They have had the admiration and financial support of Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family, and dozens of other philanthropic (testophilic) foundations. Their theory was simple: More testing will produce higher achievement; test scores can be used to weed out bad teachers; test scores can be used to fire teachers and principals, and to close public schools. Test, test, test, test and one day all children will be proficient, everyone will go to college, and there will be no more poverty.

When NAEP 2013 scores were released, Arne Duncan boasted about the success of test-based accountability. See? The scores are up! The states that got Race to the Top funding are making higher scores! See! See!

Except: the 2015 NAEP scores didn’t go up. In fact, most were either flat or declined. Some of the scores declined the most in the Race to the Top winning states. The theory failed.

But, as Kevin Welner shows, the test-loving reformers now resort to excuses. Sometimes they even sound like those who disagree with them: It must be demography! It must be poverty! It must be the opt-out movement! It must be the lingering effects of the 2008 recession! It is an anomaly, a minor blip! Wait until 2025 before judging!

Kevin writes that it is a mistake to draw causal inferences from test scores, as is now so common. There are many reasons that scores go up or down, and not all of them are apparent. I would add that it is a mistake to use standardized tests as the Holy Grail of education because they have limitations and flaws; they are a social construct, not a scientific instrument. If nothing else, the 2015 scores should teach test-loving reformers not to make tests the measure of all things. Perhaps now they will agree that schools and education and students must be evaluated with far greater sophistication and understanding than simplistic standardized tests permit.

Kevin Welner writes:

This morning’s release of results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports a dip in scores, according to multiple sources. These lower grades on the Nation’s Report Card are not good news for anyone, but they are particularly bad news for those who have been vigorously advocating for “no excuses” approaches — standards-based testing and accountability policies like No Child Left Behind. Such policies follow a predictable logic: (a) schools are failing; and (b) schools will quickly and somewhat miraculously improve if we implement a high-stakes regime that makes educators responsible for increasing students’ test scores.

To be sure, the sampling approach used by NAEP and the lack of student-level data prohibit direct causal inferences about specific policies. Although such causal claims are made all the time, they are not warranted. It is not legitimate to point to a favored policy in Massachusetts and validly claim that this policy caused that state to do well, or to a disfavored policy in West Virginia and claim that it caused that state to do poorly.

However, as Dr. Bill Mathis and I explained eight months ago in an NEPC Policy Memo, it is possible to validly assert, based in part on NAEP trends, that the promises of education’s test-driven reformers over the past couple decades have been unfulfilled. The potpourri of education “reform” policy has not moved the needle—even though reformers, from Bush to Duncan, repeatedly assured us that it would.

This is the tragedy. It has distracted policymakers’ attention away from the extensive research showing that, in a very meaningful way, achievement is caused by opportunities to learn. It has diverted them from the truth that the achievement gap is caused by the opportunity gap. Those advocating for today’s policies have pushed policymakers to disregard the reality that the opportunity gap arises more from out-of-school factors than inside-of-school factors.

Instead, they assured us that success was a simple matter of adults looking beyond crumbling buildings and looking away from the real-life challenges of living with racism or poverty. As a substitute, we were told to look toward a “no excuses” expectation for all children. This mantra has driven policy for an entire generation of students. The mantra was so powerful that we as a nation were able to ignore the facts and fail to provide our children with opportunities to learn.

His question: Will we now focus where we should have focused for the past 15 years, on opportunity to learn?

His wish: Would the reformers please reflect and stop making excuses?

Carol Burris, experienced educator and executive director of the Network for Public Education, writes hereL about the 2015 NAEP scores.

She reminds us that Arne Duncan crowed about the scores in 2013. His Race to the Top states proved he was right. Now he says, it takes time to absorb the changes I have imposed on the nation’s schools. Wait until 2025 to judge.

As usual, a brilliant piece.

Gary’s latest post has a smart title: “For Whom the Bell Tolls; It Tolls for Rhee.”

Having received Race to the Top funding, and being part of the (not so) great “reform” movement, the District of Columbia enthusiastically endorsed every reformy idea that involved high-stakes testing, or test-based accountability. Of course, D.C. school leaders Michelle Rhee and her successor Kaya Henderson supported Common Core and joined the PARCC testing consortium (one of the few to remain in PARCC).

The scores were released yesterday. Gary has analyzed them and made some important discoveries. The scores overall were pretty awful, as you would expect from a test that was designed to fail most students. But, surprisingly, the much-abused D.C. public schools outscored the much-lauded D.C. charter schools. How could that happen? How embarrassing for the Walton Family Foundation, which has poured so much money into charterizing the D.C. schools, as well as to Eli Broad, who recently announced his intention to open more charters in D.C. to save more kids from the terrible public schools. And yet those “terrible” public schools got higher scores than the charter schools! Go figure.

Rhee used to say that she would turn D.C. into the best urban district in the nation. She used to scoff at the educators who preceded her, citing the fact that only 10% met the standards in math. Well, what percent do you think met the “proficiency” standard in math? 10%.

Gary writes:

So of course the ‘no excuses’ crowd begins making excuses. But rather than saying that the quality of the PARCC test could be an issue, they instead say things like, “We knew this was going to happen. We just need to adjust to the new more rigorous standards.” This may buy them a few years, but I have to wonder how long supposedly ‘data driven’ reformers can continue to ignore data that refute their agenda.

Mitchell Robinson, professor of music education and blogger, ponders whether the education wars are winding down. He thinks not. The contention over policy issues remains profound.

To help explicate the issues, he has compiled a brief guide to the different “sides.” In a recent post by Sam Chaltain, who does think the battles are subsiding and a new convergence is on the horizon, one side is the “practitioners, and the other is the “policymakers.” Robinson says the labels illustrate a clash of views.

Robinson writes:

“Mr. Chaltain’s descriptors for the two sides in the war on education are revealing, in that he sees a clear distinction between those who actually teach (the “practitioners”), and those who establish and enforce the rules and policies that govern that practice (the “policy makers”). Perhaps unintentionally, his labels also highlight a major flaw in our current education enterprise: public education policy is being written and administrated largely by persons who have not themselves attended public schools, have no degrees or certification in education, have never taught, and have spent little time in public schools. Whatever meager educational background that the members of what I term the Deformer “edu-tribe” may have is often accrued through alternative routes to the classroom (i.e., Teach for America, The New Teacher Project, the Michigan Teacher Corps), and their educational credentials are often received via online programs that require little or no actual teaching experience, residencies or interactions with other teachers or professors with actual teaching experience.

“Many of the “foot soldiers” in the Deformer army wind up in high-level positions in state departments of education, policy think-tanks, on school boards and as leaders of high-profile charter school networks. They reach these positions of power and authority with shockingly little experience in classrooms, or working with children, but exert out-sized influence on the shape and nature of public education. These members of the Deformer “advance force” parrot a regressive agenda of union-busting, tenure-smashing, and teacher-demonizing, paired with an obsessive devotion to standardized testing, “data driven decision making”, charter school expansion, and privatization as the “answers” to the “crisis in public education”–while remaining seemingly oblivious to the fact that it was their policies that manufactured the crisis they claim to be addressing, and which are paying off so handsomely for the investors who fund their charter schools and pay their generous salaries.”

On the other side are what Robinson calls “the Guardians of Oublic Education.”

“The members of this army largely consist of teachers, retired teachers, and teacher educators, most of whom have significant experience as classroom teachers, multiple degrees in education, and a career commitment to children, schools and education. Few Guardians entered the profession by alternative routes, instead earning their credentials in traditional colleges and universities, under the tutelage of professors who had themselves been classroom teachers before moving to higher education. Many of these activists earn graduate degrees in their chosen field–even as states now refuse to pay for additional degrees–and seek out weekend and summer professional development opportunities at their own expense in order to remain certified.

“The activism practiced by these Guardians is not their sole focus as professionals–rather, these teachers blog at night after lessons have been planned, and kids put to bed, or on rare quiet weekend mornings and afternoons when a few minutes can be stolen from other tasks and responsibilities. And the conflict in which they are engaged is a non-linear war–they are fighting not just the Deformers, but also their support staff in their underground bunkers, typing away on banks of sleek laptops as they push back against kindergarten teachers furiously hammering out their frustrated rants on the ridiculousness of testing 6 year olds, or 3rd grade teachers pointing out the illogic of retaining 8 year olds who struggle with reading.”

The “Deformers” are well-paid. But the Guardians work not for money but for conviction.

“These writers and activists don’t receive a penny for their efforts, in stark opposition to the Deformers’ forces, who are stunningly well-compensated for their work. Instead, these bloggers often toil away in anonymity, providing a voice for the thousands of teachers that have been silenced for speaking out against the reform agenda.”

He provides a list for each side. My lists would be longer. Make your own lists or additions. I would certainly place ALEC, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder, and a number of academics and philanthropists on the Deformer list.

Blogger Educational Alchemy sees behind the Department of Education smokescreen. The goal of the Obama administration’s “Testing Action Plan” is not what it appears.

Now that almost every school is testing online, it is time to move on to the next stage of the education revolution. Outsourcing online testing to vendors.

The wave of the future: Competency-based assessments.

Here is an excerpt:

This is what the “Testing Action Plan” (TAP) says:

The new plan will “include competency-based assessments, innovative item types.” It states also “The Department will also share tools already available to do this work, including The Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) Comprehensive Statewide Assessment Systems: A Framework for the Role of the State Education Agency in Improving Quality and Reducing Burden and Achieve’s Student Assessment Inventory for School Districts.”

This is what it means:

Remember CCSSO? They are the ones who crafted the Common Core State Standards. The standards were developed to create a “standardized” system that allows third-party companies to develop systems for outsourcing education. Now with a set of “national” standards as benchmarks, instruction can be metered out by online edu-tech companies who provide new “competency” based instruction and assessment. No teacher required.

In 2010, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (who supported Common Core) convened the Digital Learning Council, a diverse group of more than 100 leaders in education, government, philanthropy, business, technology and members of policy think tanks led by Co-Chairmen Jeb Bush, and Bob Wise (both integral in the creation and promotion of Common Core). It’s an ALEC model-endorsed comprehensive framework of state-level policies and actions “designed to advance the meaningful and thoughtful integration of technology into K12 public education.”

This idea is stated again toward the end of the Testing Action Plan (TAP): “Congress should continue to require the Department to work with external assessment experts to ensure states are using high-quality assessments that are aligned with state-developed standards and valid for the purposes for which they are used.”

TAP Says:

“…the Department granted a temporary waiver to New Hampshire to pilot a competency-based assessment system in four districts ….” as a way to set a national example. (and), “The Department will work with external assessment experts…”

What this means:

The department will outsource education curriculum and assessment to corporations just like it did in NH where they “…have adopted unique and innovative learning approaches, such as digital learning, that create a more flexible learning schedule that extends beyond the school day.”

The Alliance for Excellent Education (Bob Wise serves as president) in 2013 stated: “Competency-based advancement is an important part of New Hampshire’s strategy for implementing the Common Core State Standards.”

Read the post with care. Every element is there for a transition to the next stage of relinquishing control of curriculum and assessment to the vendors.

Mercedes Schneider writes here about the latest campaign filings of funds received.

Four billionaires have donated huge sums to purchase seats on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The board under Governor Bobby Jindal has avidly supported charters, vouchers, for-profit virtual charters, and attacks on teachers.

But the chairman of the board stepped down, and there are several highly credible candidates.

To make sure that the anti-public school, anti-teacher privatizers retain control, the following billionaires have funded a super-PAC to overwhelm the middle-class educators and other citizens who are running for the state board:

Michael Bloomberg (New York): $800,000

Eli Broad (California):$250,000

John Arnold (Texas): $625,000

Walton Family (Arkansas):$400,000

An ordinary person might be able to raise $40,000-60,000 to run for state board. The billionaires are destroying democracy with their obscene donations and their goal of buying control of a democratic institution.

You will note that none of them lives in Louisiana yet they feel okay about determining the future of public education for the people of Louisiana and their children.

A reader named mrobmsu left a comment on the last post, the one saying that Eva Moskowitz demands an apology from PBS and John Merrow. It made me laugh out loud. (LOL). Here it is:

Nation’s Children, Parents and Teachers Demand Apology by Eva Moskowitz and Success Network, Campbell Brown, Michelle Rhee, Teach for America, StudentsFirst, the New Teacher Project, Democrats for Education reform, Arne Duncan, John King, Bill Gates, The Walton Family Foundation, The Heritage Foundation, KIPP, Wendy Kopp, David Coleman, the Relay Graduate School, Education Post and Peter Cunningham, Chris Stewart and Every Hedge Fund Manager and Investment Banker Who Has Profited from Corporate Education Reform

Not to be picky, but I think Eli Broad would demand an apology for being omitted from the list.

Peter Greene watched the debate and became outraged, as only he can.

So this is how it’s going to be. The GOP is going to have a cartoon discussion about education, focusing on how to use charters to dismantle public ed and on how to find wacky ways to pretend that we’re not havin’ that Common Core stuff. And the Democratic line on public ed? The Clinton campaign locked in on their line months ago– stick to the safe-and-easy topics of universal pre-K and accessible, cheaper-somehow college education.

That mantra is comfortable and easy. Plain folks can listen to it and hear, “Aww, more pre-school for those precious cute little kids, and a chance for young Americans to make something of themselves,” while corporate backers, thirsty hedge funders, and ambitious reformsters can hear, “Expanding markets! Ka-ching!!”

The unions made their endorsement early. Did that take education off the table as an issue?

Really? We don’t want to hear anything about the disastrous policies of the last twelve years that have systematically broken down and dismantled American public education and the teaching profession? Dang, but I could have sworn we wanted to hear about that. But I guess now that the union is on Team Clinton, our job is not to hold her feet to the fire so much as it is to give them a little massage and carry some baggage for her so that she can save her strength for other issues. Important issues. Issues that aren’t US public education.

Sanders, with his focus on how the rich have commandeered so many parts of our democratic society, is so close to making useful statements about the education debates, but it just doesn’t happen. And I’m not sure how somebody helps it happen at this point. And those other guys? Generic Candidates #3-5? I don’t know what they think about education, but I suppose now that the education vote is supposedly locked up by Clinton, they won’t feel the need to go there.

Bottom line– US public education, despite the assorted crises associated with it (both fictional and non-fictional) is shaping up to be a non-issue once again in Presidential politics. I would say always a bridesmaid, never a bride, but it’s more like always the person hired for a couple of hours to help direct the car parking in the field back behind the reception hall. Or maybe the person who cleans up the reception hall after the bridal party has danced off happily into the night.

Alan Singer reviews some of the many charter school scandals, some of which were reported here. But he has some new ones that you should know about.

Here are some good examples:

While the New York Times seems determined to promote charter schools, other news agencies and educational groups are expressing increased reservations about their lack of performance, excessive expense and political and financial backing. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reports that 2,500 charter schools have failed since 2000. The list includes “ghost” schools that collected public funds but never served any students. These include 25 charter schools in Michigan that were awarded federal grants of between three and four million dollars in 2010-2011 but never opened. CMD estimates that during the last twenty years the charter school industry has received over three billion dollars in federal tax dollars that should have gone to public schools….

A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research on North Carolina charter school enrollment and performance from 1999 to 2012 found that “charter schools in North Carolina are increasingly serving the interests of relatively able white students in racially imbalanced schools.” Enabling legislation “explicitly stated that charter schools could not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity.” However, the study found the percentage of White students attending North Carolina charter schools is increasing as is the number of schools where White students predominate. In Durham County, “where the rapid growth of charters has not only increased racial segregation,” it has “also has imposed significant financial burdens on the school district.” Their research suggests that charters are systematically recruiting White and academically higher performing minority students to boost school-wide performance on standardized exams and that the trends they observed will continue and accelerate….

Detroit 90/90, a charter school management company that operates Detroit’s largest charter school network is busy fighting efforts by its teachers to join a union. The company is currently challenging a National Labor Relations Board ruling during the summer that Teach for America recruits should be in the same bargaining unit as regular teachers. Maybe they are on to something, but the charter management company claimed TFA recruits were” temporary service workers,” not professional educators, and ineligible to become part of the teachers’ union.

There seems to be a very strong push by hedge fund managers to charterize more and more public schools. Perhaps they are afraid that the public is catching on and time is running out for them. They see that their millions are harming the vast majority of kids, who are in public schools, but they don’t care. They don’t care about results. This is a game for them, a hobby, a better activity than polo. It is about money, power, and greed.


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