Archives for category: Education Industry

When Mayor Bill de Blasio was being hammered by $5 million of emotional attack ads accusing him of “evicting” 194children from one of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy schools in Harlem, the Mayor called Paul Tudor Jones to plead for a truce.

Paul Tudor Jones is a billionaire hedge fund manager who is heavily invested in privately-managed charter schools. He manages $13 billion in his business. Being so very rich and successful, he decided to fix poverty. He created the RobinHood Foundation to raise money from his rich buddies, and it has done some good work. It raises $80 million in a single night at its nnual dinner.

Jones now has a big goal. He wants to save public education.

Never having been a teacher nor a public school parent (not clear if he ever attended a public school), he nonetheless feels fully qualified to redesign American education based on the same principles he learned as a successful hedge fund manager.

The money of Jones and his friends is now used to destroy a basic democratic institution, which they don’t like. Their money supports schools that cherry-pick students who are winners, just as they manage their investments. The idea of equal opportunity has no role in his world.

That may be why the negative TV commercials about de Blasio never explained that no students were being evicted from charter schools; they wanted more space to grow a middle school in PS 149 in Harlem, which meant the actual eviction of students with severe disabilities.

But in the world of Paul Tudor Jones, students with disabilities don’t count. They are not winners. They must be evicted to make more room for kids with high scores.

Aren’t we lucky to have Paul Tudor Jones to redesign American education? To tell us how to train teachers?

A few years ago, Michigan governor Rick Snyder decided that the best way to fix the financial problems of districts in deficit was to put them under the control of an emergency manager to straighten out their finances. Some districts, however, are so poor that they don’t have enough money to educate their children. It is the state’s duty to help them.

In 2011, an emergency manager decided to give the Muskegon Heights school district to a for-profit charter chain, called Mosaica. It has not been profitable, and the district’s deficit continues.

Mosaica just received an emergency bailout from the state because it couldn’t meet its payroll. The corporation ended its first year in deficit because of the cost of repairs.

Years of deferred maintenance required expenditures of $750,000 to bring the buildings up to code. Meanwhile revenues have shrunk as enrollment dropped from 1400 to 920.

Lingering question: why did the state allow this impoverished, largely African American school district to fall into such shabby condition? Will for-profits be more cautious in the future about taking over neglected districts? Or will they have a commitment from the state for subsidies that were not available to the school district when it had an elected board?

Amanda Potterton of Arizona State University presented this paper at the recent annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Now that these charter chains are going national, it is a good time to review them.

Potterton writes:

Last November, I wrote a commentary published in Teachers College Record about two “highly performing” charter school management organizations (CMOs) in Arizona, BASIS and Great Hearts Academies; I summarize the findings below. These top-ranked schools rarely serve all students. When the demographics of these schools are compared to demographics of all public school students in the state, it is clear that disadvantaged students are vastly underserved by these schools. This is a critical issue that should be considered alongside enthusiastic calls for increasing the numbers of charter schools.

I compared the demographics of these schools using the most recent data available(2010-11) in Common Core of Data (CCD) (U.S. Department of Education, 2013). The BASIS schools I examined did not serve any students who received free or reduced lunches (a common indicator of family poverty), or who were English Language Learners. In comparison, 45% of Arizona’s public school students received free or reduced lunchand 7% were English Language Learners. Few students who had Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) attended BASIS schools, compared to 12% of Arizona’s total student population. Similarly, the Great Hearts Academy schools provided little to no service to students with special needs and to those who were English Language Learners. Five English Language Learners attended Great Hearts schools, four of whom attended Teleos Preparatory Academy. With the exception of Teleos Preparatory Academy, which serves a diverse population of students, all of these top-ranked schools served between 53% and 86% white students. In comparison, 43% of Arizona’s public school students are white. On the other hand, American Indian students, Hispanic students and Black students were underrepresented at these schools compared to state averages (except for Teleos Preparatory Academy, whose majority percentage of students were Black/ non-Hispanic). Among the schools noted above, Teleos serves the greatest number of poor and minority students. According to state accountability data, student achievement at Teleos is lower than student performance at the other Great Hearts Academy schools (Arizona Department of Education, 2013). Producing high test scores with low income minority children is apparently as hard for charter schools to do as it is for regular public schools.

I also highlighted some recent reports about BASIS schools that document questionable methods for enrollment procedures, high attrition rates, and methods including “counseling out” of students who might negatively affect average school performance rankings (Safier, 2013; see also Welner, 2013). The figures above suggest that “highly-ranked” BASIS schools serve a privileged demographic; Safier’s story suggests that they likely select even further amongst that privileged group. Visually striking declines in student enrollment at Arizona’s BASIS and Great Hearts schools in 2010-2011 are evident in the figure below:

Enrollment Declines: Arizona’s BASIS and Great Hearts Schools
enrollment

Other researchers have highlighted declining enrollment numbers in the years nearing graduation at BASIS schools (see, for example, Casanova, 2012). BASIS school representatives responded (BASIS_Communications, 2012) by challenging interpretations of the low numbers shown in the data, albeit without adequately addressing Casanova’s main concern about the “enrollment drop across grades.” Casanova’s analysis highlights the low numbers of enrolled students in the upper grades. The graph displayed above raises a question of basic comparability: is it even fair to include these schools in a comparison with Arizona’s public schools, since they are not drawing a representative population of Arizona’s public school students?

Finally, Ann Ryman (2012) documented business practices within BASIS and Great Hearts Academy schools that reveal potential conflicts of interest between board members and owners (see, also, these comments from Gene V Glass, 2012, here and here). These charter school organizations make large profits at the expense of the government and community members, through fees, book purchases, and building contracts. Other investigators have highlighted questionable practices that provide considerable access to policy makers who influence Arizona’s lawmakers. For example, Mercedes Schneider (2013) created a map of Great Hearts political connections, highlighting significant access between CMO executives and policy makers who influence laws, including members at the Goldwater Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The connections between executives of CMOs and policy leaders who influence lawmakers further complicate the problems of educational inequality and appear to provide charter schools with unfair competitive advantages. Children and taxpayers are the losers when public education dollars are at stake.

Citation:

Potterton, A. U. (2013). A citizen’s response to the President’s charter school education proclamation: With a profile of two “Highly Performing” charter school organizations in Arizona. Teachers College Record. Retrieved from http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=17309

References:

Arizona Department of Education (2013). Teleos Preparatory Academy > Great Hearts Academies- Teleos Prep. Retrieved from http://www10.ade.az.gov/ReportCard/SchoolSummary.aspx?id=90143&ReportLevel=1

BASIS_Communications. (2012, April 13). Re: The newest problem with graduation rates. [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-newest-problem-with-graduation-rates/2012/04/12/gIQAwsH2DT_blog.html

Casanova, U. (2012, April 13). The newest problem with graduation rates. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-newest-problem-with-graduation-rates/2012/04/12/gIQAwsH2DT_blog.html

Glass, G. V. (2012, November 18). May I have the envelope please. And the Pulitzer for education reporting goes…. Retrieved from http://ed2worlds.blogspot.com/2012/11/may-i-have-envelope-please-and-pulitzer.html

Glass, G. V. (2012, December 2). “Judge us by our results”. Retrieved from http://ed2worlds.blogspot.com/2012/12/judge-us-by-our-results.html

Ryman, A. (2012, October 12). Insiders benefiting in charter deals. Retrieved from http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/20121016insiders-benefiting-charter-deals.html

Safier, D. (2013, April 17). BASIS charter’s education model: Success by attrition. Retrieved from http://blogforarizona.net/?p=645

Schneider, M. (2013, March 25). Arizona education: A pocket-lining, “conflict of interest” mecca. Retrieved from http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/arizona-education-a-pocket-lining-conflict-of-interest-mecca/

U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Search for schools, colleges, and libraries. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/globallocator/

Welner, K. G. (2013, April). The dirty dozen: How charter schools influence student enrollment. Teachers College Record. Retrieved from http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/TCR-Dirty-Dozen

In recent years, Indiana has gone overboard for charter schools, believing that they held the secret to raising the test scores of low-income students.

But blogger Steve Hinnefeld analyzed the passing rates by income levels and discovered that public schools outperform charter schools in Indiana.

He wrote:

“I merged Department of Education spreadsheets with data on free and reduced-price lunch counts and ISTEP-Plus passing rates. Then I sorted by free-and-reduced-lunch rates and focused on schools where 80 percent or more students qualified for lunch assistance. Results include:

“For charter schools: Average passing rate for both E/LA and math, 48 percent; passing rate for E/LA, 62.3 percent; passing rate for math, 62.5 percent.

“For conventional public schools: Average passing rate for both E/LA and math, 57.2 percent; passing rate for E/LA, 64.1 percent; passing rate for math, 68.1 percent.

“The data set includes only schools that enroll students in grades 3-8, who take ISTEP exams; it excludes high schools and many primary-grade schools. I also tried to screen out nonstandard schools such as juvenile detention centers and dropout recovery schools.”

He also reported that fewer charter schools get high grades from the state than public schools.

Not what you would call a high-performing sector, despite the boasting and promises.

The mainstream press in Ohio is starting to take a closer look at charter schools, many of which are money pits for big donors to Governor John Kasich and the legislature.

The Akron Beacon-Journal published a remarkable, three-part series on charters, looking closely at the peculiar financial operation of the for-profit White Hat management company.

In this article, the reporter discovered that most charters won’t tell anyone who is in charge.

Journalists learned that most charter schools will not provide basic information. They are neither transparent nor accountable.

“The calls were made as part of a school-choice project by the Akron Beacon Journal and the News­Outlet, a consortium of journalism programs at Youngstown State University, the University of Akron and Cuyahoga Community College.

“In a phone-call blitz that began in early January, students in the journalism lab called 294 of Ohio’s 393 charter schools in operation at the time, seeking basic information:

“• Who runs the building?
• Who is that person’s supervisor?
• Who is the management company in charge?
• How does one contact the school board?
• When does the board meet?

“Public accountability was difficult. Of the 294 called, the results by March 26 were:

“• 114 — more than a third — did not return messages seeking information.
• Eight refused to answer.
• Seven said they would call back but did not.
• 73 provided some of the information.
• 80, or about 1 in 4, provided the information requested.

“By law, Ohio charter schools “must follow health and safety, ethics, public records and privacy laws; and comply with open meetings laws,” states a 2014 position statement by the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Citizens are not required to provide reasons for the requests.”

In the second article in the series, a reporter finds that board members of White Hat charters has no idea where the millions of taxpayer dollars go.

“As a board member of four publicly funded charter schools in Akron and Cleveland, Charlotte Burrell will watch this year as $5.3 million in taxpayer money passes through her financial reports.

“She knows most of it will go to White Hat Management ­— a private, for-profit Akron-based company that runs 32 charter schools in Ohio. But unlike an elected school board member who can obtain intimate details about spending, her hands are tied. What White Hat does with the money, she said, is beyond her control.

“She does, however, control “unrestricted net assets.”
She pointed to the line item on a budget at a joint board meeting in February for two of the charter schools — University and Brown Street academies. Of $2.1 million in expected yearly funds, unrestricted dollars for both schools totaled roughly $1,500, or less than 0.1 percent.

“That’s what we concern ourselves with the majority of the time,” she said.
She’s satisfied, so long as a school treasurer — employed by White Hat — says the money spent by White Hat adds up.

“So, who is in charge of the nonprofit, publicly funded Ohio charter schools that 20 years ago did not exist? This school year, more than $900 million in state and local tax dollars — some of it approved by local voters — will be transferred from local schools to charters.

“In Ohio, charter schools are required to satisfy strict federal guidelines as nonprofit organizations under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, including board autonomy. If the board is not independent of the company, the IRS is supposed to throw up a red flag.
But state law allows private companies to throw out nonprofit boards that challenge them.

“At many White Hat-operated schools, this already has happened. Last summer, boards in Akron and Cleveland expressed dissatisfaction with White Hat, so White Hat forced them out and new boards were formed.
The three unpaid board members who attended the February meeting said they were recruited by White Hat to serve. They turn over 95.5 percent of funding to White Hat, which then hires the staff, pays the bills and gives rent to its for-profit affiliates that own the tax-exempt school properties.”

.

“The IRS’ checklist to qualify for federal tax-exempt status draws a bright line between the charter-school governing board and the management company hired to run the school. The company should not create the board or recruit the members, and any evidence of boilerplate contracts from one school to the next suggests the company may be in control.

“Richard Schmalbeck, a Duke University professor of law and a former tax law attorney, said the description of relationships between private companies and Ohio charter schools may be problematic.

“The charter schools appear to be run by a for-profit organization,” he said.
Because the private company creates and owns the nonprofit school, then recruits a governing board that would give a favorable contract to the private company, “There may be a private benefit problem. Charities are supposed to operate exclusively for charitable purposes, and not for the purpose of advancing for-profit business ventures.”

“Schmalbeck is disappointed but not surprised that the IRS, buried in applications, might carelessly grant tax-exempt status to a nonprofit created or controlled by a private company. “If these facts are accurate and fully disclosed to the IRS, I think the IRS should withhold 501(c)(3) status,” he said.

“Ohio law requires schools to obtain 501(c)(3) status. The federal government allows 27 months to apply. Some charter schools are created and disappear in less than two years.
University and Brown Street were created by a White Hat attorney in September 2011, or 28 months ago. The board for each school, represented by the same attorney, had yet to file as of mid-March.

“Last year, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) barred the creation of four White Hat schools when the state determined that boilerplate contracts would strip too much power from the boards.

“So directors who owe their position and continued appointment to White Hat are voting a lucrative operator contract to White Hat. Since a community school is a public entity, ODE feels this is not permissible,” ODE’s Mark Michael wrote in an email rejecting White Hat’s applications.
This was a rare event, though, because the legislature has shifted direct regulation of charter schools from the state to school-choice friendly groups known as sponsors — such as Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, a two-time sponsor of the school at 107 S. Arlington St.

“Initially sponsored by ODE and known as Hope Academy University Campus, the state handed over control after State Rep. John Husted — now secretary of state and a recipient of at least $139,033 in campaign contributions from the Brennans — sponsored legislation that effectively stripped ODE oversight.

“Buckeye Community Hope then took over. Peggy Young, director of the group’s Education Division, takes the position that the boards have ultimate authority.

“We’ve seen boards fire management companies, so in that sense they have ultimate control of the school,” Young said.

“However, when 10 school boards attempted to fire White Hat, it didn’t work out so well. Because White Hat had trademarked school names and bought up real estate through affiliate companies, the renegade boards couldn’t force White Hat out of the building.

“All but one has since contracted with another private company, this one a Delaware-based affiliate of a Florida company founded by a former White Hat employee.

Young saw that as the board maintaining control.

“I’ve had boards do that. They move next door. They have the students. The records,” Young said.

The old buildings didn’t stay empty. They have students and teachers, and board members who say they were recruited by White Hat.

And their attorney, Amy Goodson, whose name is on incorporation papers for several White Hat-managed schools, said it’s “pretty typical” that lack of wherewithal forces boards to enter contracts with big name companies.

“What happens is, I can’t say broadly, but in the case of University and Brown Street, those were education models that White Hat creates,” said Goodson, who is paid by the board. “It’s kind of a chicken and an egg thing because you have to have someone start this.”

Burrell is unaware of her predecessors’ disapproval of White Hat. To the contrary, it’s been “fabulous” working with White Hat, she said.

When asked if she could provide some of the financial information that prior boards continue to seek in court, she replied: “That comes under the management company, not the board. So you would have to interview those persons at White Hat.”

A third article describes IRS rules supposedly governing the tax exempt status of charter schools.

Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com. Contributing to this story were NewsOutlet reporters Matt Hawout and Sara Rodino.

TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, the University of Akron, Cuyahoga Community College and professional media outlets including, WYSU (88.5-FM) and The (Youngstown) Vindicator, The Akron Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).

http://www.ohio.com/news/local/irs-sets-rules-on-how-charter-schools-qualify-for-tax-exempt-status-1.477137

Lets hope that journalists keep asking questions. The public has a right to know who and what they are funding, and where the money goes.

Jon Hage cashed in on the charter industry in a big way. And where else but Florida, where for-profit schools are welcome no matter what their quality.

EduShyster tells the story here of Jon Hage, a non-educator who is one of Florida’s most successful charter entrepreneurs.

“Have you ever encountered a story so sadly tragic that you were forced to break your own rule regarding pre-noon winebox decanting? I have… Hankies at the ready, reader, for we are *going there.* I’m talking about the super sad true tale of Charter Schools USA founder and CEO Jonathan Hage and his wrenching decision to part with his yacht: the aptly named Fishin’ 4 Schools. In other words, onto every teak deck a little salt water must spray. It’s time to don your stripes, reader; we’re goin’ fishin’.”

She says the boat has been listed for sale for $350,000. Just like your typical superintendent’s boat.

I encountered this article on Twitter, and a reader was kind enough to forward it in the comments section.

 
http://ow.ly/vcl92

 

I Just Want to Teach…..Not Give Useless Tests: The Current Plight of Alabama’s Hoover City School Teachers
Part One: Changes in the Elementary Program
by Deborah G. Camp, Ph.D

 

K-5 teachers at Hoover City Schools began the 2013-2014 with not only a classroom of new students but with new central office administrators espousing Draconian practices and attitudes, especially with regard to the use of what they call “formative assessments.” Prior to this year, an elementary assessment schedule had been in place for several years and had been constantly tweaked to provide the most bang for the amount of time taken for classroom-based assessments to avoid wasting precious instructional time that can never be replaced. . The assessments consisted of interview-type instruments that were administered individually by teachers since research indicates these type tests to be superior with regards to getting the most valuable information from students especially the youngest ones. Some math assessments consisted of a sample of paper-and-pencil computation problems so teachers could study student errors to diagnose how children may be thinking. A quick-scoring oral language assessment had been added at the lower grades since teachers reported that this area of the language arts seemed to be a trouble spot with many students.
At kindergarten teachers’ requests two years ago, the amount of testing at the beginning of the year had been significantly reduced so that teachers could better acclimate children to this thing we call school rather than wasting those valuable first weeks of school individually administering assessments. Only those students whose teachers’ judgments caused them to suspect serious learning problems were assessed early in the school year. Otherwise, classroom-based assessments began in the middle of the year, giving children time to adjust to kindergarten and teachers time to observe the children as they went about their classroom activities.

 
All decisions about classroom tests from grades K to 5 were made collaboratively with the district curriculum director, principals, teacher leaders such as reading coaches and math facilitators, and teachers at large. The assessment schedule was revisited every summer based on teacher feedback. Sounds pretty fair, huh?
Well, elementary teachers and principals were told – not asked – that these teacher-administered and scored instruments would be replaced with computer-based assessments at each grade level: easyCBM for grades K-2 and Global Scholar for grades 3-5. Both tests would measure reading and math. At the first reading coach meeting, one reading coach commented that her teachers liked the results that the former interview assessments yielded. One of the new district administrators commented, “Well, those teachers can continue to give those tests in addition to easyCBM, but if I hear any complaining from them about it taking too much time away from instruction, they will incur my wrath.” Wow! Great way to build relationships and rapport.
Suddenly kindergarten children were herded into computer labs during the first few days and weeks of school and expected to not only manipulate a computer (regardless of whether they had any experience with technology or not) and push keys on an inanimate object that could not look into their eyes to see if they understood the question, whether they were timid, or whether they were too restless to perform such a task. Teachers were told the easyCBM for both reading and math would be administered mid-year and end-of-year as well with the strict warning that “Your students better benchmark on the mid-year administration or else.” Again, really? This is how district administrators are treating teachers?

 
On January 23, 2014, one first grade teacher expressed her frustration this way. “This is probably the most discouraged I have ever been as a teacher. Doing the ‘easy’CBM testing this week on 6/7 year olds has absolutely killed me and more importantly my precious children. They hated every minute and it DOES NOT measure anything worth looking at in my opinion. Simply getting them logged into it is not a DAP (developmentally appropriate practice) for K, 1, or 2nd graders. How did we get here? I feel like this is a bad dream and even though they say they won’t put emphasis on our test scores, I know they will. I have already started to see signs of that. I have never once been questioned about my teaching or any method of instruction. However, if things appear a certain way to others, that is when noise will start being made. I am just exhausted. I have a constant stomach ache right now and feel so much pressure it makes me want to stop teaching.”
Another kindergarten teacher commented that some of her students did not understand what to do at all at the beginning of the year, so they just sat there the entire time and stared at the monitor. She also commented that easyCBM is nothing more than DIBELS on the computer. Research conducted by many educators suggests DIBELS is just a big ol’ waste of time. A 2nd grade teacher made some general as well as specific comments, “We have a lack of leadership outside the schools, and no value is placed on teacher opinions as professionals. Central office administrators are losing sight of the children and what is or is not developmentally appropriate just for the sake of obtaining a score/number. Teachers are being asked to do more than is humanly possible in the school day. EasyCBM and Global Scholar are being used as performance indicators rather than as formative assessments intended to give us diagnostic information. We teachers have been ‘silenced’ and are unable to voice our thoughts, opinions, and ideas. The people making the decisions are distant from the classroom and don’t spend time in them or talking with us teachers. There has been a massive shift in philosophy in the system, and no one at central office has any early childhood or elementary degrees or experience.”

 
Here’s another kindergarten teacher’s take on easyCBM. “The overwhelming opinion is that it is horrible for young children, particularly kindergarten. The expectations are unrealistic, the questions are deliberately confusing, and asking 5-year olds to take it in a computer is ridiculous. For example, my class performed particularly low, so I re-administered the test using paper and pencil, and the results were immediately and drastically higher – even on bad questions. Taking the computer out of the mix made a big difference. One of my student’s parents reported that her child came home and said, ‘I’m not smart.’ When the mother probed further, the child said, ‘I took a test on the computer today and I didn’t know many of the answers.’ In one hour time period this test managed to damage the child’s self esteem and taint his view of school.”

 
The 3rd – 5th grade teachers have expressed frustration with the Global Scholar computer-based assessment and question the results it yields. The central office administrators have provided little information about “how the test works” or item specifications of the assessment, but yet again kids are herded into computer labs to take a test neither they nor their teachers know anything about. The teachers know the standards that are tested but have no idea how the test questions are structured.
One 3rd grade teacher stated, “I hate Global Scholar with every fiber of my being. The questions are completely ridiculous and not grade level appropriate. For example, my 3rd graders had questions about algebraic equations with variables. This is not even in our curriculum. These questions basically stress these kids out because they have no clue what they are asking. How is that really assessing what they know? They don’t even learn it at this grade level! They ‘say’ the reading passages adjust to their reading level based on their answers. Well, I have a student who can barely read her name and she gets the same degree of difficulty and length passages as my kiddo reading on a 6th grade level. She doesn’t even read it! She looks long enough to keep it from kicking her out and then guesses. These are not appropriate for her to even be reading! And it frustrates her! The Fountas and Pinell Assessment is MUCH more accurate for me to ‘find their reading level.’ I just hate the whole testing thing! Every bit of it. These poor babies are just trying to do the best they can every day and we have to make them sit down and take hours long tests and tell them ‘just do the best you can.’ When in fact, some of their bests aren’t good enough. I think it’s another one of these one-size-fits-all tests that does not reflect true student performance. And to be completely honest, my kids do not take the computer assessments as seriously as paper and pencil ones. They just start clicking!!”

 
Another 3rd grade teacher said, “When I gave the test in the fall I was appalled at the level of the questions as reported by the students after the test. I knew the chances of my children performing well was slim. Several of my students who struggle (based on what I know and how I assess) scored in the high average range so I knew they guessed really well. Also, one of my students who is in the enrichment program and scored the highest score in 2nd grade when being screened for enrichment scored in the below average range. This is clearly an example of her freezing up and the test not looking at her as a whole. The ONE thing that I can say about Global Scholar that is somewhat positive is it does allow for some critical thinking and reasoning in the multiple choice answers. Many of the questions included two completely unrealistic answers so if the kids were able think logically about the question they had a better chance of succeeding. On the winter assessment my students performed a little more true to what I was seeing. I would like to think that this was because they have been taught to think and spent more time thinking about the questions! Or it could be because I told them before we went in that many of the questions would have unrealistic answers and for the students to eliminate them first! Having said all that, I obviously put very little stock in what those scores say. The number attached to the child tells me nothing about what that child knows/doesn’t know, and/or what that child is capable of.”

 
To add insult to injury, the central office administrators have been meeting with teachers and administrators to share the growth students have made on the easyCBM and Global Scholar since the beginning of the year. Any college measurement and evaluation course will teach you to NEVER judge student performance on merely one test or indicator but consider multiple measures, including, yes, teacher judgement. But obviously Hoover does not believe teachers have enough sense to determine on their own how well students are performing.
On March 4th, the central office administrators met with the elementary teachers to publicly share each school’s grade level scores on either the easyCBM or Global Scholar. The scores were shared in a PowerPoint, so teachers knew which teams’ students across the district scored well or not. You won’t believe this…..the teachers whose students had shown the most progress from fall to spring were given candy. Cadbury Easter egg because those schools did “EGGsactly what they were supposed to do,” said the curriculum administrators. One teacher reported, “In 20 years of teaching I have never been made to feel so small!! I am just sick to my stomach. I sent my husband a text and told him he had to find a way for me to leave because I cannot be a part of this!!” Only the candy teachers were identified by school and grade level. The rest of the scores were shown by grade level and if there was growth made and if it was enough growth. 4th grade was just barely on the edge of staying in the “high average” category.
Another teacher commented, “There were LOTS of people there, and I know many who felt the same as I did. And I was already prepared to turn down the candy should I or my school had been one of the ‘most improved’ schools. Lots of people are upset and contacting each other besides me. As I was looking around the room I kept thinking that I wasn’t the minority in the room. So many teachers in there that I have taught with and respect and feel and share the same thoughts. It was just so belittling!”

 

 

One teacher commented that the presentation was “creepy. She (the curriculum administrator) was like a preacher. She’d get really loud and then whisper. This was done to make people laugh and people were encouraged to clap. She said she was very concerned about 4th grade. I do love those darn Cadbury mini eggs though. I guess I should stop and grab some candy for my class for when they do well on an assessment since we’ve time traveled back to 1982.”

 

 

Stay tuned for Part 2: Changes in the Secondary Program

 

 

Deborah Camp served in public education for 30 years in Alabama before recently retiring. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Alabama, and a master’s degree in elementary education, an Educational Leadership certificate, and a doctorate in Early Childhood Education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her work experience includes 17 years of teaching assignments in special education, elementary, middle school, and reading specialist in Jefferson County Board of Education and Hoover City Schools. She served as the district director of curriculum and instruction in Hoover for 13 years. She was selected as the Alabama Elementary State Teacher of the Year in 1998 and inducted into the Jacksonville State University Teacher Hall of Fame, Middle School Division, in 1999. In 1997 she obtained National Board Certification in English Language Arts/Early Adolescence and was one of the first 25 teachers in the state to earn National Board certification and was one of the first 900 teachers in the nation. She has conducted workshops on numerous topics in education at the local, state, national, and international level. She has authored several professional articles and books. Although retired, she continues to advocate for fair work conditions for teachers and equitable education for all children.

 

Dr. Camp is also a proud Alabama BAT. Find out more about the BadAss Teachers at http://www.badassteacher.org

 

Stephen Dyer, a former legislator, explains here why charters in Ohio are very different from those in some other states.

The question he does not address is whether charters in other states operate as secretively and non-transparently as those in Ohio. Don’t expect to get an answer from the Obama administrations’ Department of Education, which loves the charter industry. We will have to wait for an enterprising researcher or journalist to dig deep and investigate.

Charters in Ohio collect $900 million yearly from taxpayers, but there are important questions they will not answer.

Dyer writes:

“Now it is true that sometimes it’s tough to get information out of traditional public schools. As a former reporter, I remember many rounds I’d go with districts about whether I could get information. But I never remember failing to receive this kind of information:

“Who runs the building?

“Who is that person’s supervisor?

“Who is the management company in charge?

“How does one contact the school board?

“When does the board meet?

“Only 1 in 4 Ohio Charter Schools answered these five basic questions. That’s right. Only 1 in 4 Charters told members of the public, who pay $900 million a year for these schools, when the school board meets. And these schools are called “public schools” throughout the Ohio Revised Code. Perhaps this is why courts around the country are finding that Charter Schools aren’t actually public schools? Because they act like private schools?

“Look, Ohio taxpayers fork over $900 million a year for Charter Schools. They deserve to know how that money is being spent. Because they would be able to find the answers to these five questions on every single traditional public school website. You wouldn’t have to set up phone banks to find out the answers to these basic five questions, the way the Akron Beacon Journal did for Charters.

“Can you imagine if the Beacon called Akron Public Schools and they refused to tell them who the Superintendent was, or when the board met, or how to contact the board? I mean, that is just beyond imagination, right? But Charters, we are told, are just as public a school as APS. So why do they operate under such a shadow?

“Ohio’s Charter School system is a disaster. It needs serious overhaul.

“Ohio’s Charter Schools take far more kids from school districts that outperform the Charter than the other way round. They spend nearly 3 times as much on administration than the average school district. They spend more per pupil overall than traditional school districts. And because the state pays about twice as much per pupil for the typical Charter School kid than the typical traditional public school kid, kids not in Charters get several hundred dollars less in state revenue than the state says they need. So what’s the bottom line for Ohio’s Charter Schools in comparison with traditional public schools, overall?

“They perform far worse academically

“They cost the state far more

“They spend more per pupil

“They spend far more on administration

“They are far less transparent”

Why is this situation possible? Two reasons: charter lobbyists make large campaign contributions to politicians, especially Republicans. They are not public schools, and need not be transparent or accountable.

Some districts, thinking that they have latched on to new thinking, have adopted the idea of a portfolio model.

This means that they pretend that their community’s public schools are akin to a stock portfolio. They keep the winners and “dump the losers.”

This is truly a dumb idea. It turns out that the “loser” schools are the ones serving the children with the highest needs, who get the lowest test scores.

 

Closing their school doesn’t help anyone learn to read, doesn’t help immigrants learn English, doesn’t help children with disabilities.

 

But some exceptionally thoughtless district leaders have adopted this as the newest, most indispensable fad.

 

As it happens, there was a discussion at AERA about the portfolio model

 

One of the panelists explained what it was, and another–who has the ear of the district’s power brokers–endorsed the idea of “dumping the loser schools.” 

 

Mark Gleason, CEO of the Philadelphia Partnership Schools, said  it was time to dump the “loser schools.”

 

And that is what his organization advocates. It has said nothing about the massive budget cuts that the Philadelphia schools have absorbed.

 

It has been silent about the systematic stripping of the public schools by Governor Corbett and the legislature. It has thrown its weight behind the idea of charter schools and stripping teachers of due process. Then policies of the PSP are no different from those of the extremist rightwing ALEC.

 

“You keep dumping the losers and over time you create a higher bar for what we expect of our schools,” Gleason said Friday while speaking on a panel at the American Educational Research Association conference, which has been held in Philadelphia over the last week.

 

Last year, Philadelphia closed 24 schools in the wake of massive state budget cuts and the rapid expansion of charter schools.
Parents United for Public Education leader Helen Gym said that Gleason held “extremist” views on public education.

 

“Mark Gleason is not an educator, and I think that’s one thing that should be pretty clear. He has been a relentless promoter of questionable reform models that have really wreaked havoc in other places. And he has unprecedented access to the Mayor’s Office of Education, to the School District, to push his agenda,” she told City Paper.

 

PSP, which issues large grants to schools that it wants to see expanded and lobbies policymakers, has become a lightning rod for criticism by public-education advocates since its 2010 founding. The group backs the expansion of charter schools and frequently opposes the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. It has quickly become a major force in city education politics, thanks to millions of dollars of funding from The William Penn Foundation. Controversially, PSP’s board includes conservative figures Janine Yass, the wife of voucher-advocate and investment-fund manager Jeffrey Yass, and Republican powerbroker Chris Bravacos.

 

Someday, our policymakers will look at ideas like portfolio districts and review the havoc they have created. They are hurting children. They are destroying communities. They should stop calling themselves “reformers.” They are destroyers of the lives of children, families, and communities. Mark Gleason, I mean you. Have you no shame?

 

 

I don’t often agree with the libertarian CATO Institute, as I am not a libertarian. I appreciate the necessity of a vigorous federal government that provides a safety net and protects the neediest. However, I don’t appreciate the federal government doing what is clearly illegal, that is, controlling, directing, and supervising curriculum and instruction via the Common Core standards. Although its supporters, including President Obma nd Secretary Duncan, repeat that its development was “state-led,” that was a deception. Bill gates funded them because the Feds were barred from doing so, but the Feds funded the tests that will control curriculum and instruction. There has been no louder cheerleader than Duncan.

Now we learn from CATO that the Obama administration wants to make CCSS a permanent part of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It says,

“President Obama proposes changing Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – of which NCLB is just the most recent reauthorization – to a program called “College- and Career-Ready Students,” with an annual appropriation of over $14 billion.”

Title 1 is the key part of the original 1965 ESEA. It was intended to distribute federal aid to schools that enroll poor kids, no conditions attached. The funding is based on a formula tied to need, not a competition. Using it to cement CCSS into every school would be a travesty and a misuse of federal power.

Hopefully, there are alert members of Congress watching who will block this move. It will hurt poor kids by tying their eligibility for aid to a program of standards and standardized testing that consistently labels them as low-performing. They need equitable resources more than they need the untested CCSS.

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