Archives for category: Education Industry

Florida has a bigger problem than opt outs: early this morning many districts experienced major technological problems with the state exams.

 

Miami-Dade (the largest district in the state), Palm Beach County, Pasco County, and Okaloosa County have suspended testing due to computer failures.

 

Look for updates here on the Facebook page of Parents Across Florida.

https://www.facebook.com/ParentsAcrossFlorida?ref=hl

 

Jeb Bush, the father of Florida’s punitive testing and accountability system, was expecting to get a big boost for his campaign from the Common Core testing. He is the leading proponent of computer-driven everything; his Foundation for Educational Excellence (now headed by Condaleeza Rice) is funded by major tech corporations who are heavily invested in educational software and hardware.

 

Here is the first story about the breakdown of state testing in major school districts.

 

 

 

Ira Shor writes:

 

I refused PARCC for my 5th grade son in Montclair, NJ, and refused all PARCC test prep. AP at his school said that an alternate learning session will be available for him. My exchanges with AP and Principal have always been cordial; it’s the Broadie Supt. hired by the reactionary Board of Ed appointed by our developer Mayor which has created hostile turmoil and aggressive punishment here. Despite their fight to silence and suppress parent criticism and opting-out, the movement grows all around them. We parents have the power to shut down PARCC, CCSS, Gates, Pearson, Duncan, and their paid cronies in govt and media if we refuse to let them experiment on our kids with nonstop testing and refuse to let them waste our precious school moneys on endless tech buys, consultants, bandwidth, software, etc. We are gaining ground and soon will be an idea whose time has come, overtaking the bullies and the billionaire boys club with our multitude of concerned parents allied with all those brave enough to join against the abuse of our kids and the wreckage of our public schools.

Paul Thomas of Furman University writes that he has a new perspective about social media. He used to get into heated debates on Twitter with “reformers,” arguing about their ideas and practices. But now he says he won’t do it anymore. He believes that when you debate a proposition, you legitimate the other side. If someone says “poverty doesn’t matter,” why debate such a silly statement?

 

Peter Greene disagrees with Thomas; he says we must engage because the public needs to be informed. He is unwilling to let error and misguided opinion shape public policy about public education.

 

Thomas writes that public policy in education has been dominated in recent years by non-educators:

 

Historically and significantly during the last three decades, U.S. public education policy and public discourse have been dominated by politicians, political appointees, billionaire hobbyists, pundits, and self-appointed entrepreneurs—most of whom having no or little experience or expertise in the field of education or education scholarship….

 

Over about two years of blogging at my own site and engaging regularly on Twitter and other social media platforms, I have gradually adopted a stance that I do not truck with those who are disproportionately dominating the field of and public discourse about education.

 

Yes, I have done my share of calling out, discrediting, and arguing with, but except on rare occasions, I am done with that. Those who have tried to include me in the “@” wars on Twitter may have noticed my silence when the other side is added.

 

Each time we invoke their names, their flawed ideas, or their policies, we are joining the tables they have set….

 

Peter Greene says, this is our house, and we should not let the entrepreneurs set the table or own it.

 

I agree with Peter. We cannot allow public education policy to be shaped without regard to facts, evidence, or experience. Peter gives the example of Common Core: for a long time, reformers claimed that CC was written by teachers. That claim was so thoroughly and frequently debunked that one seldom hears it anymore (now we hear that it was written by the narion’s governors…as if).

Like Paul, I have argued with “reformers” on Twitter. Almost always, it is a fruitless exercise. I can’t convince them, they can’t convince me, not with 140 characters, not with essays or even books. Yes, we must build solidarity.

But I am still a believer in the value of marshaling facts and evidence to prove that the test-based accountability, the teacher-bashing, and privatization schemes now promoted by leading foundations and the U.S. Department of Education are harmful to our children and our society.

 

What do you think?

 

 

 

Toni Jackson, a teacher in Memphis, wrote a powerful article about what “reform” is doing to her city, and especially what it is doing to black and brown children.

 

She writes:

 

There is a stench in the air in Memphis and it’s a smell that is permeating throughout black school districts. One can get a whiff of it in Newark, N.J., Philadelphia, New Orleans and most urban areas that received Race To The Top federal dollars for education. This awful stench derived from education reform and it’s been perpetrated on minorities with lower incomes and those who live under a lower socio economic status.

 

This stench has led corporations and politicians to the belief that they can control the education of African American and minority children (black and brown students) simply because they were granted millions of dollars by the government. They want to buy our children and they believe the federal government has given them the power to do so with the money allotted to improve student achievement.

 

So these Nashville politicians have neatly packaged the Shelby County School District, which is 85 percent African American, in a box where students are behind, teachers are ineffective, teaching jobs are tied to test scores, and student scores are tied to whether a school is slated for takeover or is closed altogether.

 

These politicians have aligned themselves with rich corporate types and they have passed laws that will give themselves total and complete power over urban schools, urban teachers, urban children, and young black and brown minds from K-12 grades in Memphis, which will lead to generational control. We have seen this before, Memphis. We have fought this fight before and now 50 years later, we are facing the same thing our grandparents faced when they went against a power structure designed to have access and control over the minds of our children. It was called the civil rights era and the legal case was Brown vs. Board of Education. That is where the state would like to take us, but we’re not going back there.

This is an excellent series of articles on the rise of the privatization movement in Pennsylvania. The bottom line, as usual: Follow the money.

 

If you want to understand the growth of charter schools in Pennsylvania, you must read this bombshell article by Daniel Simmons-Ritchie.

 

The charter lobby has spent millions to influence legislators. It also has the ability to mobilize hundreds of children to pack legislators’ offices, a tactic unavailable to public schools.

 

Pennsylvania does not allow for-profit charter schools, yet there are many for-profit charter schools in the state.

 

Do you want to know who is making money by sponsoring charters? The article has the names and details.

 

It’s no secret that Harrisburg is a hive of lobbyists, each representing industries and interests that spend millions to persuade state lawmakers to bend laws in their favor.

 

But perhaps what makes the charter-school lobby unique among the pack, says State Rep. Bernie O’Neill, a Republican from Bucks County, is its ability to deploy children to its cause.

 

In 2014, O’Neill experienced that first hand after proposing changes to a funding formula that would affect charter schools. Parents and children stormed his office and barraged him with calls and emails.

 

“They were calling me the anti-Christ of everything,” O’Neill said. “Everybody was coming after me.”

 

In recent years, as charter schools have proliferated – particularly those run by for-profit management companies – so too has their influence on legislators. In few other places has that been more true than Pennsylvania, which is one of only 11 states that has no limits on campaign contributions from PACs or individuals.

 

According to a PennLive analysis of donations on Follow The Money, a campaign donation database, charter school advocates have donated more than $10 million to Pennsylvania politicians over the past nine years.

 

To be sure, charter-school advocacy groups aren’t the only ones spending big to influence education policy in the Keystone State. The Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents 170,000 teachers and related professionals, has spent about $8.3 million over the same time period according to Follow The Money.

 

But what perhaps makes the influx of money from charter-school groups unique in Pennsylvania is the magnitude of spending by only a handful of donors and, in recent years, some of their high-profile successes in moving and blocking legislation.

 

“They are mobilized,” O’Neill said. “Let me tell you something: they are mobilized.”

 

 

The series is introduced with this summation:

 

“It’s a plan reviled by teachers, loathed by parents, and decried by local politicians, but against huge opposition, York may become the third city in America to privatize the entirety of one of its public school districts.

 

“How did a public school system in the midstate rise to the forefront of a national experiment in education reform? And how did an entire community lose control of its own decision-making ability? The answer to both those questions, education researchers and public watchdogs say, lies in large part on a concerted, multi-million dollar campaign over the past decade by for-profit schools to alter Pennsylvania law.

 

“Those changes, and the industry lobbying that continues behind-the-scenes, have implications for teachers and students across the entire state. It’s a subject we have tackled in a series entitled “The Rise of Charter Schools in Pa.”

As we have seen in Pennsylvania and other states, charters drain resources from public schools, and in some districts, like York City, Pennsylvania, cause the financial collapse of the school district.

 

Here is the latest from Louisiana: the public schools of Lafayette, Louisiana, expect to lose $17 million next year as three charter schools expand and another plans to open in August. In time, a tipping point will occur, when public education is no longer viable. As more public dollars flow to privately managed charters, the public schools will fall into deficit, cut programs and services, lay off teachers and other personnel. The plan is working, if the goal is to destroy public education.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reviewed the performance of the state’s charter schools and concluded that most were not meeting their academic targets and not closing achievement gaps.

 

Minnesota was the home of the charter movement, which began with high expectations as a progressive experiment but has turned into a favorite mechanism in many states to promote privatization of public education and to generate profits for charter corporations like Imagine, Charter Schools USA, and K12. Today, charter advocates claim that their privately managed charters will “save low-income students from failing public schools,” but the Minnesota experience suggests that charters face the same challenges as public schools, which is magnified by high teacher turnover in charter schools.

 

 

The Star-Tribune article by reporter Kim McGuire begins:

 

 

Students in most Minnesota charter schools are failing to hit learning targets and are not achieving adequate academic growth, according to a Star Tribune analysis of school performance data.
The analysis of 128 of the state’s 157 charter schools show that the gulf between the academic success of its white and minority students widened at nearly two-thirds of those schools last year. Slightly more than half of charter schools students were proficient in reading, dramatically worse than traditional public schools, where 72 percent were proficient.

 
Between 2011 and 2014, 20 charter schools failed every year to meet the state’s expectations for academic growth each year, signaling that some of Minnesota’s most vulnerable students had stagnated academically.
A top official with the Minnesota Department of Education says she is troubled by the data, which runs counter to “the public narrative” that charter schools are generally superior to public schools.

 
“We hear, as we should, about the highfliers and the schools that are beating the odds, but I think we need to pay even more attention to the schools that are persistently failing to meet expectations,” said Charlene Briner, the Minnesota Department of Education’s chief of staff. Charter school advocates strongly defend their performance. They say the vast majority of schools that aren’t showing enough improvement serve at-risk populations, students who are poor, homeless, with limited English proficiency, or are in danger of dropping out.
“Our students, they’re coming from different environments, both home and school, where they’ve never had the chance to be successful,” said April Harrison, executive director of LoveWorks Academy, a Minneapolis charter school that has the state’s lowest rating. “No one has ever taken the time to say, ‘What’s going on with you? How can I help you?’ That’s what we do.”

 
Minnesota is the birthplace of the charter school movement and a handful of schools have received national acclaim for their accomplishments, particularly when it comes to making strong academic gains with low-income students of color. But the new information is fueling critics who say the charter school experiment has failed to deliver on teaching innovation.
“Schools promised they were going to help turn around things for these very challenging student populations,” said Kyle Serrette, director of education for the New York City-based Center for Popular Democracy. “Now, here we are 20 years later and they’re realizing that they have the same troubles of public schools systems.”
More than half of schools analyzed from 2011 to 2014 were also failing to meet the department’s expectations for academic growth, the gains made from year to year in reading and math.

In the first year of this blog, someone explained the methodology of corporate reformers by referring to the marketing strategy known as FUD. This is an acronym for fear, uncertainty, and doubt. When trying to put a competitor out of business–whether in politics or commerce–spread FUD. That way, the public will distrust their brand or candidate, and be open to your promises for your brand or candidate. According to Wikipedia, the term has been used since the 1920, but more recently was adopted by IBM, then by Microsoft. We have certainly seen FUD employed against public education since 1983, when we heard from the government report “A Nation at Risk” that our very identity as a nation and a people, as well as our economic competitiveness, was undermined by our mediocre public schools. In 2012, Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice released a report on behalf of the Council of Foreign Relations declaring that our terrible public schools were a threat to our national security. What was our salvation: Common Core, charters, and vouchers.

 

Peter Greene has analyzed the reformer game-plan and boiled it down to a 3-step strategy. Step 1: there is a terrible crisis; Step 2: therefore we must do Step 3) what I prescribe.

 

Here is one of his examples:

 

1) SOMETHING AWFUL IS GOING TO HAPPEN OH MY GOOD LORD IN HEAVEN LOOOK I EVEN HAVE CHARTS AND GRAPHS AND IT IS SOOOOOOOOO TERRIBLE THAT IT WILL MAKE AWFUL THINGS HAPPEN, REALLY TERRIBLE AWFUL THINGS LET ME TELL YOU JUST HOW AWFUL OH GOD HEAVENS WE MUST ALL BEWARE— BEEE WAAAARREEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

 

2) therefore for some reason

 

3) You must let me do X to save us!

 

The trick here is to load up #1 with facts and figures and details and specifics. Make it as facty and credible as you possibly can (even if you need to gin up some fake facts to do it).

 

#3 is where you load in your PR for whatever initiative you’re pushing.

 

And #2 you just try to skate past as quickly as possible, because #2 is the part that most needs support and proof and fact-like content, but #2 is also the place where you probably don’t have any.

 

In a normal, non-baloney argument, #2 is the strongest point, because the rational, supportable connection between the problem and the solution is what matters most. But if you are selling baloney, that connection is precisely what you don’t have. So instead of actual substance in #2, you just do your best to drive up the urgency in #1.

 

Thus, we have a constant litany of complaints about test scores, graduation rates, dropout rates, etc., linked to solutions that have no evidence that they will have any impact whatever on test scores, graduation rates, dropout rates, etc. Where is the evidence for vouchers and charters? There is none? Where is the evidence to take away teacher tenure? There is none. Where is the evidence that merit pay improves student performance? There is none. Where is the evidence that evaluating teachers by test scores improves education? There is none.

 

Evidence doesn’t matter. So long as reformers play on the public’s doubts and fears for their children, they can keep pushing failed policies.

 

 

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, a parent in Bloomington, Indiana, posted the following “rant” (as she calls it) on her Facebook page. She is one of the parents who is outraged by Governor Pence’s unrelenting attack on State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who was elected in 2012 with more votes than Governor Pence. She is a member of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. The great majority of parents—Democrats, Republicans, and independents–send their children to public schools, not to charters or voucher schools. They see clearly what the Governor and the Legislature are up to: the destruction of their community’s public schools. They know what is behind it: money, campaign contributions from private interests who will profit by the proliferation of for-profit charters. And they are furious that their votes for Ritz have been disregarded by Pence and his allies.

 

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer writes:

 

“Governor Pence has swooped down on his white horse and hat to right the wrongs of the ISTEP. You have got to be kidding me.

 
Fixed ISTEP?

 
Yes. The same way that dissolving his secondary department of education at the start of this session (CREATED BY HIS OWN EXECUTIVE ORDER WASTING MILLIONS OF OUR HARD-EARNED TAX DOLLARS) “FIXED” the troubles with Ritz and the SBOE.

 
Governor Pence has created both problems and then somehow gets credit for finding solutions. Heck, he doesn’t need his own state-run newspaper. He’s got a confused unaware citizenry.

 
It was the pressure of his constituency and that of the super majority that made them PASS A LAW TO STOP COMMON CORE AND CREATE NEW STATE STANDARDS. Yes, the feds require college and career ready standards. So give up the waiver already. Democrats, Republicans– these are corporate education reformers we are talking about and they are not doing ANY OF THIS FOR YOUR KIDS. It is all about the money.

 
Glenda Ritz put together new state standards by including as many of the players she could and being sure that she was including all of the many standards that the supermajority, SBOE and governor required of her. She and her staff wanted to ask for a halt to the accountability until they could roll out and test this assessment. This is our superintendent enacting THE POLICY SET BY THE GOVERNOR THE SBOE AND THE SUPERMAJORITY. (Yes, in line with the federal requirements. So drop the waiver already. Aren’t you so flipping proud of your surplus as others have pointed out).

 
But it’s not even about standards. There is NO RESEARCH that shows that standards educate children. I thought they salivated over data? SHOW ME THE DATA.

 
It’s about Chambers of commerce blaming teachers for not having kids “college and career ready for a global economy” while they and their corporate interests ship jobs overseas or avoid paying workers a living wage so the top tier can make more money. SHOW ME THE JOBS, INDIANA SUPERMAJORITY. Because these kids in public schools can sure as heck show you some jobless parents.

 
It’s about making money off of these exams that show that kids are failing and blaming the schools of education for creating these teachers who can’t get kids to test well. Let’s test the teachers to test the schools of education to prove that they, too are failing. Watch them open their virtual online academies of teacher preparedness training. OR, more profitable, let’s create more Teach for America unskilled well-meaning teachers to replace those union thugs.

 
It’s about a narrative that calls superintendents CEOs and views schools as businesses and education as a product and our kids.. widgets in a factory. Those unskilled laborers are creating a better product because of competition.

 
It’s about a message that claims that our public schools are failing. And the offer: MARKETS WILL SOLVE EVERYTHING.

 
It’s about ALEC (google ALEC and destroy public education) and the Friedman Foundation and creating a market. Choose your schools, privatize the system so the markets can improve everything. Try charters (where only engaged parents can transport kids and get on lotteries and no democratic accountability to the people exists because there is no voting for a board to run them and they are proven to be no better and no worse, but way way more open to corruption and harm for kids).

 

Try your voucher (then you don’t have to go to school with those kids. Except, of course in your private school doesn’t want to keep you or deems you a behavior problem).

 
Where these have existed, public schools have not improved. What of the kids in those schools?

 
Here’s the thing.

 
My child is not college and career ready because he is a child. A test does not begin to sum up what I want for him. I trust teachers. i believe in public education because I believe that every single child regardless of background should have the same opportunity to a free, high quality public education as it states in our Indiana constitution. I believe that accountability means:

 
Every child should have a school that has enough nurses, social workers, guidance counselors, gym teachers, art teachers, music teachers, librarians, small class sizes, electives, hands-on projects, science experiments, theater, band. Every child. But instead our schools are being strangled. They are jumping through hoops where every. single. thing. is. tied. to. a. score. And the purpose is money.

 
Tell you what:

 
Let’s privatize firefighters and police officers. They don’t get to houses in the inner cities or out in rural areas fast enough. Let’s see if competition improves things. Oh? That child in the meth trailer out in the county? Too bad. If his parents weren’t on drugs maybe they could have afforded to buy a house closer to the damn fire department.

 
No, you know what? I don’t ride the city bus. But my teens could use a new used car. Give me a voucher for the money for public transportation because the money should follow my child. I don’t like to touch the books at the library either, gimme my voucher for Barnes and Noble.

 
Ridiculous? Our ancestors would be appalled that we want to go back to the days where the children lie dying neglected in the streets.

 
Governor Pence and his friends at ALEC, the Koch brothers, don’t believe in democracy. They don’t believe in a government for the people, by the people and of the people. They don’t believe in democratically elected school boards and schools.

 
Glenda Ritz was in the way of a much bigger agenda. My child who has not yet lost his baby teeth is a pawn in a game that has taken away our local control, relegated our public school system to a circus act of jumping through testing hoops to please the ringmaster… who can bring the tent down at any time.

 
Fix the problem? Be rebellious, Indiana. Wake up and smell the fascism. You’ve got someone who gets his way by executive order and a supermajority with no checks and balances. The one dissent in the education policymaking just lost her major responsibilities–not by democratic vote, but by changing her position through statute.

 
Follow the money and you’ll find the motivations.

 
I hope the mama bears and papa bears, and yes, the Grandma and Grandpa Grizzlies will get mad enough to do something radical:

 
Vote. Until then, see you at the protests and rallies.”

 
-Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer

The following letter by Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, appeared in the Wall Street Journal in response to a column by Eva Moskowitz about “The Myth of Charter Cherry Picking” (it is behind a paywall):

 

Mulgrew writes:

 

 

Eva Moskowitz must have been staring in the mirror when she wrote her latest screed about the “big lie” about charter vs. public schools (“The Myth of Charter-School ‘Cherry Picking,’” op-ed, Feb. 9). Even as others in the charter sector are beginning to acknowledge that differences in student demographics and attrition are a real problem in comparing charters to district schools, she and her organization have refused to admit that many charters don’t educate children with the same challenges as do public schools.

 

Let’s look at one among many examples—Success Academy 3 in Harlem. It shares a building with a local public school, but her charter has half as many English-language learners, fewer than a third as many special-education students and no “high-needs” students in the special-ed category versus 12% in the public school.

 

She also confuses student mobility with student attrition. Most schools in poor neighborhoods have high student turnover. But while public schools—and some charters—fill empty seats, Ms. Moskowitz’s schools don’t. According to state records, more than half the students in one Success Academy class left before graduation.

 

While Ms. Moskowitz cites a recent report from the city’s Independent Budget Office about student attrition in charters, she neglects to mention an earlier IBO report that found that it is the less successful students who tend to leave New York City charters. And as Princess Lyles and Dan Clark note “Keeping Precious Charter-School Seats Filled,” op-ed, Feb. 3), failure to fill these seats allows a school to maintain “the illusion of success,” as the percentage of proficient students rises.

 

So when Ms. Moskowitz and her allies claim that charters educate the same kinds of children as do the public schools, who is telling the truth?

 

 

Michael Mulgrew

 

 

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