Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Jeb Bush created the “Foundation for Educational Excellence” with two goals in mind. First, to burnish his credentials as a “reformer.” Second, to serve as a vehicle for advocating vouchers, charters, online learning, and high-stakes accountability.

Peter Greene writes that we now know who contributed large sums to Jeb’s FEE. We may safely assume that they shared Jeb’s policy goals.

He writes:

It is not an exact list in that donors are organized by ranges. So we know that Bloomberg donated somewhere between $1.2 million and $2.4 million, which is quite a margin of error. But it’s still a chunk of change, either way.

Joining Bloomberg Philanthropies in the Over a Cool Million Club are these folks, a completely unsurprising list:

Walton Family Foundation (between $3.5 mill and over $6 mill)
B&M Gates (between $3 mill and over $5 mill)
Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation (between $1.6 mill and $3.25 mill)
News Corporation (between $1.5 mill and $3 mill)
GE Foundation (between $2.5 mill and over $3 mill)
Helmsley Trust (at least $2 mill)

The Might Have Hit a Million Club includes

The Broad Foundation
Jacqueline Hume Foundation
Robertson Foundation
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Kovner Foundation
The Arnold Foundation

Beyond those, we find Florida businesses and a fair sampling of folks who have a stake in the FEE mission, like McGraw Hill and Renaissance Learning.

For the most part, it is a familiar list of billionaires and mere multimillionaires. What Greene notes is that there is no evidence of a grassroots base for Jeb’s activities. It is the same old, same old super-rich people–the 1%, if you will–fattening one of their favorites spokesmen.

Or, as he writes:

The truth about FEE is a reminder– for the gazillionth time– that we have yet to see an actual hard-core full-on grass roots movement in support of reformster policies. It’s also a reminder that if education issues were being decided on merit, or if all the Rich Person money just dried up tomorrow, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Ed reform is a big delicate rosebush in the middle of the desert, and money is the water that keeps it alive. Shut off the water, and it’s done.

Since there have been no positive results for any of the billionaires’ favorite Big Ideas, there is always the chance they will get bored. Never underestimate the power of boredom among the glitterati.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse for Detroit, here come the stars of the corporate reform movement with advice to do more of what Detroit has been doing without success.

 

More than half the students are in charter schools, but Detroit doesn’t have enough, it seems. The lowest-performing schools were dumped into the woebegone “Education Achievement Authority,” under an emergency manager with dictatorial powers, but that didn’t go anywhere.

 

If Detroit can’t get its school problems solved, it won’t be for lack of quality advice from national education experts.

 

As city and state leaders seek to figure out how best to salvage Detroit Public Schools and improve performance across a complex network of school choices, top school reformers from around the country want a piece of the action, too.

 

Last week, Michael Petrilli, CEO of the D.C.-based Fordham Institute, and Eric Chan, a partner at the Charter School Growth Fund, were a few of the latest to drop in on Detroit. Excellent Schools Detroit, which is helping lead the conversation locally about improving all city schools, invited them to town to discuss how best to create the right environment for quality charter school growth.

 

The more insights, the merrier. Other cities have undergone major school turnarounds, and there are consistent guidelines for success. When asked what Detroit needs to do to start showing results for kids, Petrilli and Chan echoed similar ideas.

 

“Deal with low-performing schools, and encourage high-performers,” says Petrilli, whose organization works to raise the quality of U.S. schools. “There are concrete things we can do.”

 

The examples of success offered by Petrilli and Chan: New Orleans, the District of Columbia, and Memphis. Privatization is the answer. Neither Petrilli nor Chan has an idea about how to improve public education. Just privatize it. Get rid of it. Bring in high-quality “seats.”

 

Readers of this blog have read again and again that most charter schools in New Orleans are rated D or F schools by the state of Louisiana; D.C. continues to be one of the lowest performing districts in the nation, as judged by the NAEP; and Memphis is home to the all-charter Achievement School District, whose founder Chris Barbic promised would produce a dramatic turnaround in only five years. That turnaround has not happened. Not in  New Orleans, D.C., or Memphis.

 

Surely there must be better examples of success for corporate reform. Or are there?

 

 

 

 

Our blog poet, who signs as SomeDam Poet, contributed these words of wisdom:

 

Hail Arne
Full of Gates
The Core is with thee
Mes-sed art thou among Reformers
And mes-sed is the fruit of thy room, RTTT

 

Our Coleman
Who aren’t an educator
Hollow be they claim
Thy King-dom come,
Thy will be dumb,
In NY as it is in Washington
Spare us this Core our daily bore,
and forgive us our testpasses,
as we forgive those who testpass in charters ;
and lead us not into DAM nation,
but deliver us from Common Core.

 

Amen

Connecticut’s Governor Dannel Malloy vetoed legislation requiring the state education commissioner to have educational experience and qualifications.

 

He said it encroached on the governor’s authority to name anyone he wanted, regardless of qualifications.

 

Mayor Bloomberg took that path when he appointed publisher Cathie Black as schools chancellor. She lasted three months.

 

Will Governor Malloy be comfortable if the pilot of his next flight has no experience? Will he go to a hospital where his surgeons are fresh from college with no training or experience?

In an interview, John White made it clear that he wants to keep his $275,000 job as state superintendent in Louisiana. Bobby Jindal pushed the state board to hire him after his brief stint as superintendent of the Néw Orleans Recovery School Diistrict. White loyally implemented Jindal’s agenda of vouchers, charters, for-profit schools, and attacks on teachers’ due process, as well as test-based evaluation. But then Jindal and White locked horns over Common Core. Jindal wanted out, White didn’t. (White’s only school experience is TFA. Also he attended the unaccredited Broad Superintendents’ Academy.)

Now one of the leading candidates for governor has said White has to go. Open the statement for links.

John Bel Edwards issued the following statement;

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@johnbelforlouisiana.com; 225-435-9808
Edwards: John White Will Never Be Superintendent On My Watch

BATON ROUGE, La. – State Representative and candidate for governor John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) responded to news that State Superintendent John White wishes to remain in his current position under the next governor’s administration.

“I have no intention of allowing John White, who isn’t qualified to be a middle school principal, to remain as Superintendent when I am governor,” Edwards said. “We have so many highly qualified candidates right here in Louisiana that we don’t need to go looking in New York City for our next head of K-12 education.”

White’s tenure as State Superintendent has been frought with controversy and accusations of wrongdoing. In 2012, White was embroiled in scandal after emails revealed political motives behind his fight to ensure that expanded school vouchers were approved by the Louisiana Legislature. Thanks to testimony by Rep. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Supreme Court later found the voucher scheme to be unconstitutional, because it did, as White denied, illegally divert funding designated for local city and parish public schools. Later, voucher schools approved under White’s watch were shown to lack a requisite number of teachers, lunch rooms, and other resources common to any proper school. In 2013, he was accused of having purposefully inflated letter grades for certain schools. For at least three years, White knew about inequities in special education funding which violated directives in the La. Constitution, but declined to take action to correct the problem even after the Legislature urged and requested that he do so in 2014. Under White’s watch per pupil funding for public k-12 schools was frozen despite many new unfunded mandates. During the same time period the per pupil amount paid to private schools through the state voucher program increased each year.

Citing these controversies Edwards said,”We need genuine leadership at the helm of the Louisiana Department of Education. We will have that when we elect a genuine leader as governor.”

White’s only formal training in educational administration was earned during six weekend trainings at the Eli Broad Superintendent’s Academy, meant to be an introduction to issues facing Superintendents at the local level.

The Atlantic has an interesting feature about teacher protests around the world. Most are about low pay, but others are about working conditions, lack of respect, and–in the United States, at least–the standardization of curriculum and testing that is eliminating teacher autonomy and professionalism.

What is interesting in addition to the substance of the piece is the fact that it appears on the website of The Atlantic. For many years, The Atlantic was firmly tied to the corporate reformers and could be counted on to give them plenty of space for their views. Recently, however, The Atlantic has published numerous articles that conflict with the privatizers’ well-honed narrative of failed schools that can be “rescued” by taking away teachers’ job protections or by adopting the Common Core or some other reformy nostrum.

I thought maybe the ownership had changed. It has not. It is still owned by David G. Bradley, who also owns the National Journal.

The Wikipedia page for The Atlantic contains this tidbit:

The Atlantic Media Company receives substantial financial support from the Gates Foundation through the National Journal ($240,000+) to provide coverage of education-related issues that are of interest to the Gates Foundation and its frequent partner in education policy initiatives, the Lumina Foundation.[37][38] Critics have suggested that this funding may lead to biased coverage and have noted the Lumina Foundation’s connections to the private student loan company Sallie Mae.[39][40][41] Gates-funding of the National Journal is not always disclosed in articles or editorials about the Gates Foundation or Bill Gates, or in coverage of education white papers by other Lumina or Gates Foundation grantees, such as the New America Foundation.[42]

According to the New York Times in 2010, David Bradley’s wife, Katherine Bradley, paid $100,000 for a public relations firm to help Michelle Rhee polish her image.

During contract talks earlier this year, Ms. Rhee turned to Anita Dunn, the former communications director for President Obama, to help with her image.

A gift of $100,000 toward her fee was paid by an education philanthropist, Katherine Bradley, the wife of the publisher David Bradley of The Atlantic Monthly and National Journal.

Now it is Ms. Dunn’s firm, SKD Knickerbocker, that is coordinating Ms. Rhee’s rollout of her new group. Whatever advice it may have given her to bring all sides together when she was a public official, she clearly feels unrestricted by that now.

Google Katherine B. Bradley and Michelle Rhee to see the many ties between them.

Yet The Atlantic is now publishing articles sympathetic to teachers. Very puzzling. Did someone at The Atlantic have a change of heart? Or mind? Or get informed? Would love to know more about how they switched their views, as expressed in what they choose to publish.

A comment by a reader:

 

 

Education and the Industrial Imagination

 

 

Prof. Ravitch and followers of her blog are of course right to underscore the fact that for-profit colleges and universities must be understood in the broader context of an increasingly dominant business or industrial model of education. It is helpful to spell out that model more precisely, so that our criticisms can be more clearly and forcefully targeted. Let me take a stab at that here.

 

On the industrial model, educating whole persons for lifelong growth is replaced by education as just another industrial sector, on a par with any other sector. Education’s job is to manufacture skilled labor for the market in a way that is maximally efficient. Knowledge on this model is a market commodity, teachers are delivery vehicles for knowledge content, and students are either consumers or manufactured products. Educational institutions on the industrial model are marketplaces for delivering and acquiring content, tuition is the fair price for accessing that content, and the high-to-low grade differential is the means for incentivizing competition. It is not clear where growth, community, and democracy come into the picture.

 

 

A school may train more students with fewer teachers, and an industrial sector may produce more clothes, cars, or animal protein to meet market demands with lower overhead costs. These products can then be used, or put to work to produce more things. The industrial imagination stops here, with efficient production. This is arguably useful, but what else has been unintentionally made, to which industrial thinking is oblivious? Have we made narrower lives? Have we embittered and disabled? Have we anesthetized moral and ecological sensitivity? Have we, in John Dewey’s words, made life more “congested, hurried, confused and extravagant”? If the answer is a qualified yes, then these are questions that should be central to public deliberation about education. It would be a tragedy that trivializes all of our successes if we continue unchecked down a cultural path in which schools—or industries—gain efficiency and increase productivity by frustrating human fulfillment.

 

 

Steven Fesmire, author of Dewey (Routledge, 2015)

EduShyster has a fascinating report on the festivities in New Orleans, where the National Charter School Conference is meeting. The event was supposed to be a celebration of the complete elimination of public education in New Orleans, but something unexpected happened. A group of charter teachers from Ohio disrupted a session to ask a charter founder why he fired teachers for trying to organize a union at his schools.

Here is the backstory:

When is *disruption* not just a super cool buzz word but something that’s actually, well, *disruptive*? That would be when teachers at the National Charter Schools Conference in New Orleans ask the CEO of an Ohio charter management organization about firing teachers for trying to organizing a union at his schools—and using taxpayer money to pay the fine when he got caught. This went about as well as you might expect. And when security arrived, combing through the crowd for disruptors, that’s when things got really disruptive…
Our story actually starts long before the bon temps starting roulez-ing at this year’s charter conference in the Big Easy. In 2014, teachers at two I CAN charter schools in Cleveland decided to unionize in hopes of improving working conditions at the school, raising pay and reducing sky-high turnover. And when the school year ended, seven teachers who were leaders of the organizing effort, found themselves no longer working at the schools. Why? Because they’d been fired by school leaders, who, according to a federal complaint filed by the teachers, *led teachers to believe they were under surveillance and pressured teachers into revealing who was leading the organizing effort.*

But wait—it gets better (for realz)
The feds sided with the teachers, finding that I CAN was guilty of *interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees.* The order, similar to an indictment in a criminal case, also accused I Can of *discriminating in regard to the hire or tenure or terms or conditions of employment, thereby discouraging membership in a labor organization.* I Can founders Marshall Emerson and Jason Stragand, meanwhile, acknowledged that they’d like their schools to remain union free, then paid the $69,000 in backpay they were ordered to pay the fired teachers with tax-payer money.

At the National Charter School Conference in New Orleans, the CEO of I CAN charters was talking about his plans for growth, emphasizing the importance of “hiring, working with, and retaining good teachers,” when one of his teachers disrupted his presentation. She asked, “Um, how do you square that with firing a bunch of them when they tried to organize a union?” and a group of other charter teachers began handing out leaflets about the situation at I CAN. In no time at all, security guards were there to corral the disrupters, which wasn’t all that easy.

EduShyster says that the teachers were “cage-busting,” to use Rick Hess’s term, people who bust out of their cages and take ownership of their schools.

This is all very funny, because the “reformers” have made a virtue of disruption. They call it “creative.” But apparently it is not welcome when they are the ones disrupted!

Montclair, New Jersey, is a beautiful suburb, not far from New York City, which has long had a reputation for its good schools and its successful racial integration. But lately its schools and parents have been in turmoil. The town is split between supporters of public education and supporters of “reform” (aka privatization and testing). Recently the “reformers” have subpoenaed emails of those who support public schools, looking for a nefarious plot, for sources of funding, undue influence by teachers’ unions, or for any contacts with that notorious critic of corporate reform, Diane Ravitch. Apparently, their search turned up nothing. No national plot; no outside funding; no contact with me. Just local parents trying to fight off privatization and high-stakes testing. The corporate reformers filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for more than 1,000 emails written by Michelle Fine, who is a professor the City University of New York and a vocal critic of privatization and high-stakes testing.

 

Why Montclair? Montclair not only has parents devoted to their local public schools, it also is home to some of the most celebrated luminaries of the corporate reform movement. Voila! A clash of David and Goliath!

 

As Stan Karp explained in this article contrasting the two faces of “reform” in Newark and Montclair, Montclair adopted a mayor-appointed board to maintain its integration policy. But times changed, and in the current political context, the appointed board brought in a Broad-trained superintendent, whose actions deepened the divisions.

 

Karp wrote:

 

As the policy context for education reform has changed, the appointed board has become increasingly contentious.
It was against this backdrop that, in the summer of 2012, as Cami Anderson was hollowing out Newark, Montclair hired a new superintendent. Penny MacCormack was new to the state, had never been a superintendent, and wasn’t known to many in Montclair. But those who track state education politics knew she had been a district official in Connecticut who was recruited by Cerf to be an assistant commissioner in Christie’s DOE. The department had received several grants from the Eli Broad Foundation and was staffed with multiple Broad “fellows.” MacCormack, Cerf, and Anderson all have Broad ties.
MacCormack was at the N.J. Department of Education for less than a year when she suddenly resurfaced as the new Montclair superintendent without any public vetting, a clear sign the board knew this was a controversial hire.
Her welcome reception began with a video about the origins of the magnet system in the struggle to integrate the town’s schools. Some honored town elders who had played key roles were in the audience. MacCormack awkwardly attempted to connect her vision to the compelling town history framed in the video. Despite the town’s commitment to equity, she said, wide “achievement gaps” remained, and addressing those gaps would be her No. 1 priority.
MacCormack didn’t pledge to restore the equity supports that had been eroded in recent years or challenge Christie’s budget cuts. Instead, she announced that the Common Core standards and tests, and the state’s new teacher evaluation mandates, would “level the playing field” and “raise expectations for all.” “And,” she said, “I will be using the data to hold educators accountable and make sure we get results.”
After she finished, a latecomer took the floor and told the audience how lucky Montclair was to have MacCormack come to town. It was Jon Schnur, the architect of the Race to the Top. He also lives in Montclair. We later learned that Schnur was MacCormack’s “mentor” in a certification program she enrolled in after being hired without the required credentials to be superintendent.
In Montclair, there was no formal state takeover and no contested school board elections. Instead, the long reach of corporate education reform had used influence peddling, backdoor connections, and a compliant appointed school board to install one of their own at the head of one of the state’s model districts.

 

Over the next few months, MacCormack’s plans took shape, drawing on a familiar playbook. There was major shuffling at central office; experienced staff were replaced by well-paid imports. Half the district’s principals were moved or replaced.
The new superintendent created a multiyear strategic plan: a 20-page list of bulleted goals, strategies, and benchmarks. One stood out. MacCormack wanted to implement “districtwide Common Core-aligned quarterly assessments in reading, writing, mathematics, social studies, and science” from kindergarten through 12th grade.” The proposal quickly became a dividing line.

 

The school board backed McCormack’s plan for Common Core and more frequent testing; a large number of residents pushed back against the quarterly tests, forming a group called Montclair Cares About Schools (MCAS). The parents held public forums and collected signatures for petitions.

 

But then things took a bizarre turn:

 

A few days before the first quarterlies were to be given, things went completely off the rails. Emails began circulating that some of the tests had been found on an internet scavenger site, GoBookie, which robotically scoops up and sells documents without authorization.
The news traveled quickly. The board called an emergency meeting to initiate an investigation, not just into the source of the released tests, but also into “other incidents of conduct that may be contrary to the board’s best interest.”
The board began issuing subpoenas. It sought one board member’s private emails and phone records, and warned teachers not “to destroy any emails or documents related to the investigation.” It even went after anonymous critics on local social media sites, issuing subpoenas for their internet addresses so the critics could be questioned.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey stepped in and told the board their subpoenas were a gross violation of free speech rights. Still, the board pressed its investigation through months of turmoil and mounting legal fees. Finally, a state agency quietly confirmed that the tests had been posted online in error. The furor was fueled by a mistake, not an act of sabotage.
The episode dealt a serious blow to the board’s credibility. It also reflected the distorted priorities of corporate reform. As LynNell Hancock, journalism professor and grandmother of a 5th grader, wrote on Valerie Strauss’ education blog: “This is a Montclair I hardly recognize. It’s not the children, the quality of the schools or the town’s democratic values that have changed. It’s a paradigm shift in school leadership, a top-down technocratic approach that narrows its focus to “fixing” schools by employing business strategies—more testing, more administrators, limited interference by the public or the teacher union.”

 

As matters heated up, with charges and countercharges, Superintendent McCormack abruptly resigned to accept another job.

 

But the avengers of corporate reform did not give up in their battle for control.

 

Mark Naison wrote this week:

 

In Montclair NJ, a strong coalition of parents and educators has resisted, and pushed back corporate reform. This in the very town where so many of the national ed deformers live.

 

After a two year struggle, the Broad Academy Superintendent resigned, leaving behind an $11.5 million dollar deficit. Within a week, the mayor, the President of the Montclair Teachers Association and the Board of School Estimate resolved the budget crisis with little loss to staff positions. And by the end of the year, we enjoyed a 48% opt out rate on the PARCC, a new pro-public education interim Superintendent and Board of Education. Education may be back in the hands of educators.

 

But in this town where national reform luminaries live, they have not swallowed defeat gracefully.

 

With substantial funding, they formed Montclair Kids First and hired Shavar Jeffries, who ran for mayor in Newark and lost on a pro-charter platform, as their lawyer. Jeffries went to work bringing ethics charges against a progressive town councilman, relying upon the Open Records Act to extract emails of key progressive board members, principals and the President of the teachers union and FOILed more than 1000 of Michelle Fine’s emails over two years.

 

Watch out, hide the kids. MCAS and CUNY are coming after Montclair Schools!

 

MKF (and the MSW laundered emails on their blog) came looking for the union(s); external funding; a national game-plan; a proxy relationship to Diane Ravitch. They found no money or funding, just parents and a community organizing to save public schools from the tentacles of reforms. These are the tired tactics education reformers use: They live in a world of opposition files created for their critics. They throw money to fund their reforms; they throw money to silence their opponents. But when they find nothing, they resort to tactics like this—their latest propaganda piece, a movie version of private emails.
But propaganda can be a tricky thing. MSW posts are no more accurate now than they were before they had access to private emails, full of misattributions and ideas out of context. Expensive glossy MKF mailers bring on the tired reform narrative of failing schools only to be corrected by parents and school officials; and their recent propaganda film has popped up, like a jack in the box clown, above Michelle Fine’s many wonderful talks on race, justice, and privatization of education—an unintended counterpoint to their silly video. And if MCAS weren’t enough, they now claim CUNY is after Montclair Schools! Cue up the eerie music and dial up your paranoia. Enjoy the sounds and images of desperate reformers looking for your support.

 

Video
https://youtu.be/Q7uBr7TnCQM

 

 

 

This is a staggeringly funny ending to Mike Miles’ brief and stormy tour of duty as superintendent of schools in Dallas. Miles, a Broadie, did all the Broadie-type things: firing principals, driving out teachers, installing a rigid test-based evaluation system, setting unrealistic goals, demanding total obedience. Like Michelle Rhee, the word “collaboration” was not part of his vocabulary.

The Dallas Morning News described his tenure as marked by “disruptions, scandals, clashes.” 

Miles lost support — and not just from board members — because of his management style, some district observers say.

“Mike Miles shot himself in the foot so many times, and I believe that’s because he was not a lifelong educator,” said Michael MacNaughton, chairman of a district watchdog group called Dallas Friends of Public Education. “He was a military man who is used to giving orders and having them followed without question.”

As he was delivering his resignation speech, he stopped and said he was going off-topic. Then he proceeded to compare his departure to the conclusion of Camelot. (Will Richard Burton play Mike Miles?)

Here is the report from journalist Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning News:

For the next three-and-a-half minutes, he described the final scene in the movie “Camelot.” King Arthur and Lancelot regretfully determine there’s no way to avoid the war triggered by Lancelot’s affair with Arthur’s queen. A boy comes up to Arthur determined to fight. Arthur asks him why and the boy recites the ideals of Camelot. Arthur knights the boy and orders him not to fight, but to run away and retell the story of those ideals to everyone he meets.

“Run, boy!” Arthur yells.

Miles wraps up his anecdote with: “I would say to those who want to continue this vision, who are a little afraid we are not going to get there, to take heart. And to the city I would say ‘Run, boy.’”

Weiss notes that Miles did not say who was Lancelot or Guinevere in his re-run of Camelot.

Weiss added to the hilarity today by posting a reference to another “Camelot,” the one by Monty Python. Read it, it is funnier than the first one. Broadies do inspire thoughts of Monty Python.

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