Archives for category: Education Industry

Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He sees right through the Obama education policy and recognizes that it is a continuation of George W. Bush’s failed No Child Left Behind.

 

In this astonishingly candid interview with Josh Eidelson in Salon, Rep. Grijalva lacerates Race to the Top, high-stakes testing, privatization, and the other features of the Obama education policy.

 

Rep. Grijalva recognizes that the Obama program is now driven by financial interests:

 

Obama’s education secretary is “a market-based person,” his education policy manifests a “market-based philosophy,” and “we continue to starve public schools,” the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus charged in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

 

The privatization of education “began as driven by ideology, but now [it’s] getting momentum because of the financial aspects,” Rep. Raul Grijalva argued to Salon. The Arizona Democrat called charter schools “a step towards” privatization, called the Chicago teachers’ strike a “necessary pushback” and warned of a “self-fulfilling conflict of interest.”

 

 

Grijalva was the first Congressman to support the Network for Public Education’s call for public hearings on the overuse of standardized testing, their costs, and misuse. Not only does he see the problem with high-stakes testing, but he understands that test scores are used to set schools up to fail and to be privatized.

 

He told Eidelson:

 

One of the things driving, right now, education is … mandatory testing … the frequency, the quantity of the testing that’s going on …

I understand accountability. I don’t have a problem with testing as a teaching tool, to help to guide the improvement in children. But what’s happened is the standardized testing has become the end-all-be-all in terms of curriculum, in terms of how you prepare students for the future.

And I think that issues related to what these tests are, how we are impacting communities that have, let’s say, learning disabilities … students who use primarily languages other than English, how are we dealing with cultural differences …

A whole hearing on testing, the culture of testing, and what it is producing for public education.

What you see … is a real move toward the privatization of schools, based on what test results are. A school doesn’t do well, a school doesn’t do well again, then suddenly there is a movement to either let that school be run by private management [or] let the students then go somewhere else — usually to a private charter school.

 

Rep. Grijalva sees the pattern on the rug: The game is rigged to starve public schools and force families to seek private alternatives:

 

And so we see enrollment in our public education system dropping as a consequence of people leaving the schools, or the schools being converted into more private institutions as opposed to the public schools … Public schools are still held to the standards that they should be held to … whatever situation they come into school, that [children] always be treated and educated in the same manner. Yet other schools outside the public institution system can pick and choose who they want to educate … and leave to the public schools a less and less diverse grouping of students, a more difficult group of students, with shrinking resources. At the same time all of this is going on, the funding at a national level and at a state level continues to shrink for public education.

 

Eidelson asks him the crucial question–do you think there is any hope for change from the Obama administration, and Rep. Grijalva gives an insightful, powerful response:

 

I think the fight is keeping some of the worst from happening, No. 1. No. 2, as long as we are resource-deprived in public schools, they’ll never be in that competitive mode that Duncan talks about, OK? As long as we shift public resources to accommodate private ventures in education, and as long as you continue to be myopic about “one mandated test tells us all,” “one Common Core will be the solution …”

There’s also, you know, a shrinking of our curriculum in order to satisfy prepping for tests, as opposed to getting people ready in a more holistic way to be better human beings, and educated better …

If you continue to starve the schools, public education, then they’re never going to be [in] a position to be competitive. And if you do independent analysis, the public education system, compared to private charter schools, is no worse and no better. You know, there’s not a significant difference – yet … we continue to starve public schools. That’s why you see enrollment drop …

There’s a demographic shift going on in our schools … So this is a time to invest in those schools, because this generation of kids of color — with many of them having English learners coming into our public schools — those are the new Americans … Those are the generations of the future …

The public schools have always been one of the most powerful integrative social institutions that we have in our country, that build community and build the kind of allegiance to the values of this nation as part of the education process. Now you have a new demographic group coming into our schools, you’re disinvesting from the schools, and you’re leaving the public schools to that demographic with less resources and less attention. This is a really, really wrong time to be pulling [away] from the commitment to public schools. And it’s probably one of the times in our history when we should be doing more investment. Because this is the generation that is going to have the greatest responsibility for our nation come 10, 20 years from now.

Sol Stern of the rightwing Manhattan Institute is a fierce advocate for the Common Core Standards. He is a journalist of great rhetorical skill, not a classroom teacher or a scholar or researcher. Stern is a devotee of E.D. Hirsh Jr.’s Core Knowledge curriculum, and he thinks that Common Core will install CK in every school in the nation. He cant accept the reality that CCSS is not the vehicle to impose CK. It must be puzzling to him, if not infuriating, that his arch-enemy Lucy Calkins and her colleagues have written the best-selling book about the Common Core, called “Pathways to the Common Core.” That sort of thing can make a person cranky.

In his piqué, Stern wrote an article excoriating me for abandoning this great national experiment. He didn’t seem to notice that my major objection to the CC was not substantive but procedural–that is, the absence of participation of knowledgable parties in the drafting process, the lack of any effort to include early childhood educators or experts in educating students with disabilities or any classroom teachers, the absence of any means of appealing or revising the standards, the failure to try them out before imposing them nationwide–all of which made their implementation speedy but built distrust. Process matters. Democracy matters. I have consistently maintained that it is better to go slowly and get it right than to move fast and sow dissension and suspicion. Back when I was on the dark side, Sol was a friend, so I decided not to be offended by his unprovoked attack on me.

However Mercedes Schneider, who probably knows more about the Common Core than anyone else, decided to respond to Stern and set him straight. He responded to Schneider, dismissing her, a mere classroom teacher in Louisiana, with disdain. And here, in this new post, Mercedes Schneider–who is not only an experienced classroom teacher but holds a Ph.D. In research methods, again corrects Stern’s fundamental misunderstanding of the Common Core.

Our friend Edward Berger returned from a long period of rest, reading, and reflection, and he is back in fine form.

He wrote a letter to President Obama and the First Lady to warn of the damage their education policies are inflicting on the nation’s children, teachers, and schools.

He writes:

“Prior to your administration, with few exceptions, public schools were not created as sources of investment income or profit. Schools were run by democratically elected boards under state supervision. Schools were accountable for financial management and academic achievement. A proven (if not100%s effective) means of teacher accountability and school effectiveness was in place and functioning well in areas where great poverty and futility were not generated by our failed economic system.

“Prior to your administration, the tax dollars Americans pay for public education could not be accessed by profiteers or religious groups and cults. No taxpayer was forced to support a religion, ideology, or partial school with their education tax dollars.

“Sadly, strengthened by your administration, an unproven and false use of testing replaced the tests used by educators to understand student needs and to teach effectively. Data generated by wrong and unproven means is causing great harm to students and teachers throughout America. The only known beneficiaries of this drive for data are the corporations creating the tests, and the egos of billionaires who use their wealth to force their “hunches” on our schools.

“Your administration supports those who can buy access to schools and thus children’s minds. Your administration accepts the whims of billionaires who have no certification, little or no contact with professional educators, no concept of the history of American education and how education is delivered, and most devastating, they have very little concern for our children. Almost all send their children to separate schools that do not follow the rules your administration is instigating.”

And much more.

Ravi Gupta is an ambitious young man who has boldly entered the booming world of charter entrepreneurship.

He may even be planning his own charter chain.

He opened one in Nashville, one of those “no excuses” charters designed especially for kids of color, with long school days and tough discipline.

And now he plans to open another in Jackson, Mississippi. In this interview, he compares the education reform debate to the “Game of Thrones.”

Apparently some folks from Mississippi think it is funny that he talks about defining “who WE are as a state and where WE want to go.”

Ravi is from Staten Island, New York.

In Nashville, Gupta has gotten into heated exchanges with two elected school board members. He blasted one on Facebook, where he claimed the school board member was in a “drunk rage” when he wrote a sharp exchange with Gupta.

In another instance, he rudely criticized board member Amy Frogge for raising the issue of attrition at charter schools; Gupta said she was out of bounds criticizing his school because she had not visited it. Gupta accused her of acting like a “birther,” making completely unsubstantiated charges.

Gupta’s angry blasts at the school board members occurred shortly after the board unanimously granted him permission to open a second charter school in Nashville.

Gupta is only 29, and has known great success in his adult life. He seems to have a short fuse.

His school should offer courses in anger management.

One of the most absurd conceits of the “reformers” is that they are leaders of the civil rights movement of our time. They bust unions. They strip teachers of hard-won due process rights. They include in their ranks the titans of Wall Street. How long can they pretend that they have any common ground with Martin Luther King Jr., who died while helping the sanitation workers of Memphis who wanted a union ?

In this post, Julian Vasquez Heilig conducts a mock interview with labor leader and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. Heilig seeks to show how Chavez would see today’s Status Quo billionaires and their apologists.

A sample:

“Q: How about charter and voucher approaches that help the few at the expense of the many?

A: We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

Rocketship Charters are planning to open in Nashville and Memphis, but there have been a few problems along the way.

Lisa Fingeroot of the Nashville Ledger writes that the for-profit corporation,which relies on computers to cut costs, has experienced a dramatic decline in its test scores in the past few years. Once hailed as the “next big thing” because of its high scores, that reputation has melted away, as this article shows.

 

Fingeroot writes:

 

Rocketship opened its first elementary school in California in 2008 and earned a national reputation for success with a “blended” learning model in which students spend a part of the day learning online while supervised by an aide instead of a certified teacher. The rest of the students’ day takes place in a traditional classroom.
The online learning program allows a 50-to-one student-teacher ratio, has come under fire from educators and has contributed to a drop in test scores for Rocketship students, documents show.
Even though California-based Rocketship will abandon the online program, Kristoffer Haines, senior vice president of growth and development, is accusing critics of distorting company goals by wrongly claiming the online program was designed simply to cut costs so more money could be syphoned from each individual school and used to fuel company expansion into more states.
Rocketship’s learning model has found support among many of the nation’s education reform spokesmen, including former Florida Gov. and potential Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who promote the use of computers as a method to individualize student instruction.
But Rocketship took a public relations hit earlier this year when the California Department of Education released test scores showing a steady decline in student test scores between the 2008-09 and 2012-13 school years. During that period, the company grew from one to seven schools and also implemented the higher student-teacher ratio pilot.
The test scores, calculated at the request of Education Week, a national trade magazine for educators, show a correlation between growth of the company and incremental drops in test scores.
But Rocketship officials downplay the scores and blame the drop on the online pilot program, which they say will be nixed before the Nashville school opens for the 2014-15 school year.

 

The company spokesmen boast of “phenomenal results,” but “the results calculated by California officials for Education Week show the percentage of Rocketship students who scored proficient or better in English/language arts dropped by 30 percentage points in five years, and the number scoring that well in math dropped by more than 14 percentage points.”

 

In another article, Fingeroot disclosed that Rocketship had been siphoning funds from charters in one state to finance the opening of new charters in other states.

 

She writes:

 

A national charter school group tapped to open schools in both Nashville and Memphis is dumping plans to syphon money from its schools here and in California to finance expansion into other states, a company official says.

The plan by Rocketship Education to use tax dollars collected in one state to finance the opening of schools in another state has elected officials and charter school observers questioning whether the move is legal.

But that plan has been scrapped and will be replaced in May with a similar business model that shows money will not be moved from state to state, says Kristoffer Haines, senior vice president of growth and development.

Revenues generated at a Nashville school, however, could be used to help jumpstart another Rocketship school in Nashville, he adds.

Even that kind of money movement isn’t winning points from Metro Nashville school board member Will Pinkston, a vocal opponent of unrestricted charter school growth.

“Any charter operator needs to be keeping those dollars in the school and not using them to fund growth inside or outside the community,” Pinkston says.

The Metro school board has approved one Rocketship charter school, but the company has plans to ask for at least one more in Nashville.

Rocketship does not need local approval, though, because it has state approval to take over failing schools in both Nashville and Memphis through the Achievement School District established to improve Tennessee schools performing in the bottom five percent of all schools.

The Rocketship plan to fuel growth through local schools called for cutting staff to save money, and taking an additional $200,000 per year from each of the company’s existing schools to use as seed money.

“It’s called ‘cross subsidization,’ and whether it is legal or not is very questionable,” says Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University whose research includes the monitoring of more than 300 charter schools around the United States.

“Why would taxpayers in Tennessee want to pay for schools in another state,” he asks.

The plan was first found on the company’s website, but was removed when it became ammunition in a California neighborhood fight over whether Rocketship would be allowed to open a second school in the community.

Haines accuses critics of distorting the information and called the plan “outdated” because much of it was based on an old 2010 plan that was meant only for California schools and only to fund additional California schools, he explains.

In yet a third article, Fingeroot shows how “nonprofit” charter chains are very profitable through real estate transactions and high salaries.

She writes:

 

 

Even though a plan to allow for-profit charter school management companies in Tennessee is dead for the current legislative session, the “Educational Industrial Complex” is still cranking out profits, says the professor who coined the phrase.

 

“There’s not much difference in profit and nonprofits,” says Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University and a member of the National Education Policy Center in Colorado who studies and monitors charter schools.
“At the end of the year they can clear profits by putting it into salaries and bonuses for executives,’’ he explains.

 

Funds also can be moved or paid into a web of for-profit sister companies that have contracts with the nonprofit charter school.
“It’s really a scam,” Miron says of the many different scenarios that can be used. “To really follow the money, you would have to really understand the facilities companies.”
Miron is particularly wary of the real estate deals like those currently being seen in Nashville and Memphis.

 

In Nashville, the new Rocketship Education school building on Dickerson Pike is being built by a hedge fund company owned by tennis star Andre Agassi. Investors in the company provide financing for construction, and the company acts as a mortgage holder.

 

Each Rocketship school pays between 12 and 20 percent of its budget to the main Rocketship company for a facilities fee. The money is then used for the mortgage payment, says Kristoffer Haines, senior vice president of growth and development.

 

For the company’s California schools, the fee is about 18 percent. He anticipates a facilities fee in the high teens for the new Nashville school.

 

In the end, Rocketship will own the building and “the taxpayer’s interest is not protected,” Miron says. If the charter school closes, the building is still owned by the company, even though it was paid for with tax dollars via facilities fees.

 

“We’re seeing more and more of this,” Miron adds.

 

Nationally, the charter school failure rate is estimated to be about 15 percent.

 

For investing in a school project, investors are given tax credits as high as 39 percent, which allows them to double their money within seven years, says Metro Nashville school board member Amy Frogge, an active opponent of for-profit charter schools.

 

It’s an attractive enticement for hedge fund managers, who have begun flocking to Memphis charter schools to get their share, she adds.

 

The question is whether taxpayers expect their tax money to reduce class size and pay for art teachers, social workers, school nurses, and other kinds of direct school enrichment, or whether they know they are enriching hedge fund managers, investors, and executives of charter chains.

 

 

 

 

 

I am late posting this article because it appeared about the time I started dealing with health issues (a bad fall that took out the ACL in my left knee).

It deserves wide reading because it is an accurate portrait of the money and power behind the charter school movement. I commend the writers, Javier C. Hernandez and Susanne Craig for getting the story that took place behind closed doors in Albany and executive suites in Manhattan. It is the best investigative report that I have seen in the “New York Times” on the money fueling the charter movement.

it answers a few basic questions? Why did Governor Cuomo take the lead in fighting to “save” charter schools after Mayor Bill de Blasio approved 14 out of 17 new charters? How did it happen that Eva Moskowitz bused thousands of students and parents to Albany on the very same day that Mayor de Blasio had scheduled a rally to support pre-kindergarten funding? Which billionaires and millionaires put up more than $5 million to create and air attack ads on television against de Blasio? Who masterminded the deal that gave charter schools preferred status over public schools in New York City? Who arranged that they could not be charged rent, that they could expand and push public school kids out of their buildings, and that the city had to pay their rent if they opened in private space?

Spoiler alert:

The deal in the legislature “gave New York City charter schools some of the most sweeping protections in the nation, including a right to space inside public buildings. And interviews with state and city officials as well as education leaders make it clear that far from being a mere cheerleader, the governor was a potent force at every turn, seizing on missteps by the mayor, a fellow Democrat, and driving legislation from start to finish.”

Money was always a potent factor in the backroom dealings:

“A lot was riding on the debate for Mr. Cuomo. A number of his largest financial backers, some of the biggest names on Wall Street, also happened to be staunch supporters of charter schools. According to campaign finance records, Mr. Cuomo’s re-election campaign has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from charter school supporters, including William A. Ackman, Carl C. Icahn, Bruce Kovner and Daniel Nir.

Kenneth G. Langone, a founder of Home Depot who sits on a prominent charter school board, gave $50,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaign last year. He said that when the governor asked him to lead a group of Republicans supporting his re-election, he agreed because of Mr. Cuomo’s support for charter schools.

“Every time I am with the governor, I talk to him about charter schools,” Mr. Langone said in an interview. “He gets it.”

And more is on the way, not only for Cuomo, who not only delivered for the billionaires who love charters, but for Eva Moskowitz, who will not only get a 8 new charters–not just the 5 that de Blasio originally approved–but lots of extra money, which will not be used to pay rent:

“Daniel S. Loeb, the founder of the hedge fund Third Point and the chairman of Success Academy’s board, began leaning on Wall Street executives for donations. Later this month, he will host a fund-raiser for Success Academy at Cipriani in Midtown Manhattan; tickets run as high as $100,000 a table.”

Moskowitz claims that her schools don’t spend any more than real public schools, so it remains to be seen how she pans to spend the millions that Dan Loeb will raise for her schools in a single night.

And the sweetest part of the deal for Moskowitz’s Success Academy 4 in Harlem is that her elementary school can now expand to a middle school and take more space away from PS 149, which was once considered the host school. First, she can evict the kids with severe disabilities (her own charter has none), then, thanks to Governor Cuomo, she can evict all the other students and take the entire school away, if she wishes. Sort of like a parasite that grows and grows.

A teacher describes a new start up–open the link and see if you can find a teacher in the lineup of leaders–funded by Rupert Murdoch and aligned with the Common Core. Thar’s gold in them thar hills!

She writes:

“You probably know about this outfit already, but take a look at the team members of Teach Boost. Quite telling. I am enraged.

(By the way, we are not K-12 educators. We teach at-risk youth between 17-21 with the goal being passing the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) and college and career readiness. Of course, the test is Common Core-aligned, ensuring significant failure and dropout rates as we go forward.

Note in particular the connections to corporations, particularly Wireless Generation/Amplify:

https://teachboost.com/company/team

The TASC:

http://www.tasctest.com

Peter Dreier, a professor at Occidental College and fervent advocate for public education, asks why public education continues to lavish so much favorable attention in the leaders of the privatization movement while disregarding dissenting voices or–worse–treating our nation’s public schools shabbily.

He suggests that the Republican attack of public funding of PBS may have made the network dependent on the billionaires who favor privatization and view public schools with contempt.

With the sole exception of Bill Moyers, who has run programs about ALEC’s efforts to destroy every public service, and who recently interviewed me about the profit motive in the privatization movement, PBS has made no effort to investigate the assault on public education across the nation.

Dreier contrasts the lavish attention devoted to the privatization propaganda film “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” with the absence of attention to a remarkable new film celebrating the daily struggles of public schools in Pasadena, California. This film, “Go Public,” tells the true story of life in a public school. Will it appear on public television? That’s up to you.

The same might be said of “Rise Above the Mark,” another well-produced film that tells the story of real life in schools today and the insidious efforts to destroy public education by the powerful and complicit politicians.

David Sirota recently compelled PBS to return $3.5 million to billionaire John Arnold, who had underwritten a series on the “pension crisis,” an issue dear to him as a critic of defined benefit pensions.

Maybe Dreier’s critique will encourage PBS to give equal time to our nation’s public schools, not just their critics.

PS: I mistakenly attributed the article to another wonderful Paul–Paul Horton. Wrong! My bad!

Paul Rosenberg writes on Salon about the well-honed Fox-News style tactic of “crying wolf,” “the sky is falling,” we are in an “unprecedented crisis” to achieve political ends, in the present case, the privatization and monetization of public education. In urban districts, the privatization is gobbling up public schools and turning them over to private corporations–both for-profit and non-profit. In suburban districts, which are not prepared to relinquish their community public schools to charter chains, the gold rush is on to panic these districts into buying edu-schlock and paying consultants to train teachers to meet the federal government’s latest mandate.

What Rosenberg describes is what I earlier called the deliberate use of FUD–fear, uncertainty, and doubt–by the well-paid PR machine of the Status Quo privatizers.

Here is a small sample of Rosenberg’s comprehensive review of scare tactics and whom they benefit:

“In September 2012, for example, economist Jeff Faux, principal founder of the Economic Policy Institute, wrote an article, “Education Profiteering; Wall Street’s Next Big Thing?” which first noted, “It is well known, although rarely acknowledged in the press, that the [education] reform movement has been financed and led by the corporate class,” but then went on to note a crucial change:

In recent years, hedge fund operators, leverage-buy-out artists and investment bankers have joined the crusade. They finance schools, sit on the boards of their associations and the management companies that run them, and — most important — have made support of charter schools one of the criteria for campaign giving in the post-Citizens United era. Since most Republicans are already on board for privatization, the political pressure has been mostly directed at Democrats….

“What’s more, Faux noted, there was less money for Wall Street to play with from the sources they had burned, but the money-making opportunities in education were proliferating like never before:

“You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up,” Rob Lytle, a business consultant, earlier this year told a meeting of private equity investors interested in for-profit education companies….

“This is the context in which Andrew Cuomo hooked up with Wall Street, as the New York Times reported in May 2010. Cuomo’s ticket to Wall Street came courtesy of Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, a PAC that “advances what has become a favorite cause of many of the wealthy founders of New York hedge funds: charter schools.” Members who met with Cuomo included “the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.” But in retrospect, 2010 was nothing. As already noted, Cuomo has raised $800,000 from Wall Street charter school supporters — roughly half that total from Moskowitz supporters alone.

“The Philanthropic Dimension

“Money may be all the motivation Wall Street needs, but there’s more. Philanthropy has always been a means for the wealthy to extend their influence over society beyond the marketplace, to serve a multitude of functions. Northern philanthropists spent an enormous amount of money bringing education to Southern blacks after the Civil War, for example. This brought them into prolonged and complex conflicts with both Southern elites, who resisted virtually all education efforts, and with blacks who resisted the Northern philanthropists’ focus on industrial education (epitomized by the Tuskegee model), as well as their broader pattern of trying to appease Southern white racism. (See, for example,”The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935.”) Although highly conflicted and complicated, these efforts eventually synergized with blacks’ own broader civil rights struggles to bring about the integration of public education in the South — at which time, Southerners’ first response was the policy of massive resistance, including the creation of private academies, and the closing of public schools.

“Amazingly, three decades later, the education panic reform movement began the process of recycling the racist Southern resistance strategies as general solutions for the purported failure of public education. Another three decades further on, those very same anti-civil rights strategies are now being touted as the key to civil rights. The reasons are at least partly psychological. After the financial crises decimated the economy, Wall Street elites and their 1 percenter allies were profoundly defensive, as seen most shockingly in remarks comparing their critics to Nazi Germany. But the “productive” manifestation of this same acute status anxiety was arguably much more destructive — that is, the intense desire to re-create themselves as moral leaders, not lepers, by recasting public education as a locus of evil, and portraying its destruction as “the civil rights struggle of our time” — which they, of course, would be only too happy to lead.”

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