Watch Superintendent William Cala, as he eviscerates the so-called reform movement, including charter schools, the private money that shapes the politics of education, the reformers’ indifference to poverty, their refusal to acknowledge the root causes of low test scores, and the mandate that we all have to raise our voices and take action to stop the takeover of our schools. Education “reform,” he says, is not about educating children, it is about money and power.
Ginia Bellafante has a dynamite article in The Néw York Times about a new protest organization called the “Hedge Clippers.”
The Hedge Clippers picket, demonstrate, and call attention to the political activities of the 1%. In addition to promoting the proliferation of charter schools, they lobby for low taxes–on the rich.
“Two weeks ago, several busloads of New Yorkers made a pilgrimage to Greenwich, Conn., to visit the waterfront estate of the hedge fund titan Paul Tudor Jones II, where, suffice it to say, they were not invited in to see the china. It was a rainy Saturday afternoon and the protesters, many of them ordinary working people who have felt cheated by the inequities of a tax system that favors the rarefied few, were there to call attention to Mr. Jones’s educational agenda, built on the premise that the extravagantly rich know better how to teach reading, and to his support of Republican candidates and causes in the New York State Legislature that disadvantage the poor and working class.”
Mr. Jones was one of the funders last year of the multi-million dollar TV campaign to stop Mayor de Blasio’s effort to deny public space to charter schools and to charge rent to those that could afford to pay. Not only was that campaign to stop the mayor successful, but Governor Cuomo persuaded the legislature that all charters in Néw York City were entitled to free public space, regardless of their assets, and the city had to pay their rent if they were located in private space.
While fighting to protect and expand charter schools, the hedge funders supported a group called Néw Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, which helped Republicans retain control of the State Senate. That is their guarantee that there will be no new taxes on the 1% and minimal new funding for traditional public schools.
Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo received millions from Wall Street for his re-election campaign, and he spoke at a charter school rally last year where he declared his fealty to charters. Only 3% of the students in Néw York state are enrolled in charter schools. In 2012, Cuomo said he would be the “students’ lobbyist.” Now we know that what he meant was that he would be the charter students’ lobbyist.
Steve Matthews, superintendent of the Novi school district, here explains how the education profession has been attacked and demonized, with premeditation.
So you want to kill a profession.
First you demonize the profession. To do this you will need a well-organized, broad-based public relations campaign that casts everyone associated with the profession as incompetent and doing harm. As an example, a well-orchestrated public relations campaign could get the front cover of a historically influential magazine to invoke an image that those associated with the profession are “rotten apples.”
Then you remove revenue control from the budget responsibilities of those at the local level. Then you tell the organization to run like a business which they clearly cannot do because they no longer have control of the revenue. As an example, you could create a system that places the control for revenue in the hands of the state legislature instead of with the local school board or local community.
Then you provide revenue that gives a local agency two choices: Give raises and go into deficit or don’t give raises so that you can maintain a fund balance but in the process demoralize employees. As an example, in Michigan there are school districts that have little to no fund balance who have continued to give raises to employees and you have school districts that have relatively healthy fund balances that have not given employees raises for several years.
Then have the state tell the local agency that it must tighten its belt to balance revenue and expenses. The underlying, unspoken assumption being that the employees will take up the slack and pay for needed supplies out of their own pockets.
Additionally , introduce “independent” charters so that “competition” and “market-forces” will “drive” the industry. However, many of these charters, when examined, give the illusion of a better environment but when examined show no improvement in service. The charters also offer no comprehensive benefits or significantly fewer benefits for employees. So the charters offer no better quality for “customers” and no security for employees but they ravage the local environment.
Then create a state-mandated evaluation system in an effort to improve quality…..
That is how it begins.
For his willingness to speak out honestly and courageously, I add Steve Matthews to the blog’s honor roll as a hero of public education.
Why do we refuse to learn from successful nations? The top ten high-performing nations do not test every child every year.
Why aren’t we willing to learn from educational disasters in other nations? Take Chile, for example.
In this post, two scholars–Alfredo Gaete and Stephanie Jones–explain what happened in Chile when national leaders imposed the free-market ideas of two libertarian economists, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.
Inspired by the ideas of such neoliberal economists as Hayek and Friedman, the “Chilean experiment” was meant to prove that education can achieve its highest quality when its administration is handed over mainly to the private sector and, therefore, to the forces of the market.
How did they do this?
Basically by creating charter schools with a voucher system and a number of mechanisms for ensuring both the competition among them and the profitability of their business. In this scenario, the state has a subsidiary but still important role, namely, to introduce national standards and assess schools by virtue of them (in such a way that national rankings can be produced).
This accountability job, along with the provision of funding, is almost everything that was left to the Chilean state regarding education, in the hope that competition, marketing, and the like would lead the country to develop the best possible educational system.
So what happened? Here are some facts after about three decades of the “Chilean experiment” that, chillingly, has also been called the “Chilean Miracle” like the more recent U.S. “New Orleans Miracle.”
First, there is no clear evidence that students have significantly improved their performance on standardized tests, the preferred measurement used to assess schools within this scenario of the free market.
Second, there is now consensus among researchers that both the educational and the socioeconomic gaps have been increased. Chile is now a far more unequal society than it was before the privatization of education – and there is a clear correlation between family income and student achievement according to standardized testing and similar measures.
Third, studies have shown that schools serving the more underprivileged students have greater difficulties not only for responding competitively but also for innovating and improving school attractiveness in a way to acquire students and therefore funding.
Fourth, many schools are now investing more in marketing strategies than in actually improving their services.
Fifth, the accountability culture required by the market has yielded a teach-to-the-test schema that is progressively neglecting the variety and richness of more integral educational practices.
Sixth, some researchers believe that all this has negatively affected teachers’ professional autonomy, which in turn has triggered feelings of demoralization, anxiety, and in the end poor teaching practices inside schools and an unattractive profession from the outside.
Seventh, a general sense of frustration and dissatisfaction has arisen not only among school communities but actually in the great majority of the population. Indeed, the ‘Penguins Revolution’ – a secondary students’ revolt driven by complaints about the quality and equity of Chilean education – led to the most massive social protest movement in the country during the last 20 years….
The ‘Chilean Miracle’ – like the ‘New Orleans Miracle’ – it seems, is not a miracle of student growth, achievement, equity, and high quality education for all. Rather, it is a miracle that a once protected public good was finally exploited as a competitive private market where profit-seeking corporations could receive a greater and greater share of public tax dollars.
It is also a miracle that such profit-seeking private companies and corporations, including publishing giants that produce educational materials and tests, have managed to keep the target of accountability on teachers and schools and not on their own backs.
Their treasure trove of funding – state and federal tax monies – continues to flow even as their materials, technological innovations, products, services, and tests fail to provide positive results.
Why are we allowing philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and the U.S. Department of Education to force us to follow the same path as Chile? Are we powerless? No. Show your displeasure by opting out, speaking out, contacting your elected representatives. Organize demonstrations and protests. Make them notice you. Stop them.
Joshua Leibner writes here about a new HBO television show called “Togetherness,” selling the idea of charter schools as the latest trend for hip white families.
They don’t want their children to be in a minority. But they are uncomfortable with the idea of private school. The charter school offers them a chance to avoid “those” children and get a free education and at the same time, think they are on the cutting edge.
The show’s creators, Mark and Jay Duplass, are the very talented Hollywood powerhouse titans of smart, artsy films about the white middle class and its obsessions; their work dominates Sundance and they have a four-picture deal with Netflix. The brothers also live in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles School Board District 5, and that’s where they’ve set “Togetherness.” It also happens to be where I live and will send my son to school when he is old enough. Although the show is ostensibly about the marriage and lives of Hollywood sound man Brett and his wife, Michelle, the charter school plotline is enlightening and can be discussed in light of not only LAUSD’s relationship to these characters, but to the nation as a whole.
The charter school speech-maker, David Garcia, an aspiring politician, begins with the mantra that has been drummed around the country for the last 20 years: “Our public education system is broken.”
Is it broken in Palos Verdes? In Beverly Hills? In Malibu? Or any of the richer districts that surround L.A.? No, but definitely, apparently, in Eagle Rock.
Michelle goes up to David after his speech and says, “My daughter is going to start kindergarten and we’re talking about where is she going to go… what is she going to do… I’m wondering why is there not some community place — somewhere I can put her and feel good with a lot of different people. I don’t want to put her in a private school where she doesn’t get to experience what life is like where we live. I mean why is there not a great place?”
The Eagle Rock public schools are obviously not an option for Michelle. Our local elementary schools — Eagle Rock, Rockdale, Dahlia Heights — get conflated into the fictional “Townsend Elementary,” and are clearly not gonna cut it. It goes without saying.
Michelle has previously been shown speaking longingly to her husband, who has all but decided to put their kid in private school: “Don’t you want her to be in a different kind of community with kids of different colors and economic backgrounds?
That obviously — to these characters and to many real life members of their demographic — isn’t the public schools.
But why not? One LAUSD school board member has said pointedly that “maybe it’s time for the district to look in the mirror and figure out what can be done within district schools to make parents less eager to remove their children into charters.”
True enough. And maybe it’s time for charter school advocates to look into their own mirror.
Is it, could it actually be, the “bird shit” and “five-day-old sloppy joes”? No, because episode 6 demonstrates how hard Michelle is willing to work to find and clean out an old building for the new school. Surely, cleaning up some bird feces at an already functioning facility and agitating for better food — or packing a lunchbox — would have been much easier.
Is it because a bloated school bureaucracy is truly causing these parents to be “disenfranchised and lost”? Not really, because when David and Michelle finally make their impassioned plea for a charter to the public school commission in Sacramento, they are met with misty-eyed commissioners and an implied approval.
Could it be — gasp! — race, or class? Eagle Rock Elementary School is only 17 percent white, with 57 percent of the kids qualifying for subsidized school lunches.
No, no, no, no! the series replies. In the final episode, there is Michelle leading a post-racial bandwagon, driving up to Sacramento to argue their case. Along with David, the show’s sole Latino, there’s a gay Asian political consultant and a black principal who will fight for this charter. They all bond over a car karaoke hit.
Wealthy white people, as a rule, control the charter school industry across the country. White people run the billionaire philanthropic foundations that funnel money into charter schools. White people dominate the editorial boards of the major urban papers who sympathize with charter school interests.
No surprise that the film-makers have a deal with Netflix. Netflix is owned by Reed Hastings, who sits on the board of KIPP and Rocketship, and who predicted at a California Charters Schools Association that one day there would be no boards of education, only charter schools. Hastings, at last look, was a multimillionaire, but he might be a billionaire.
Nicholas Tampio, political science professor at Fordham University, here explains the profit-driven ambitions of Pearson and the philosophy of Michael Barber, the chief academic officer of Pearson. It is no surprise that Pearson looks to the American testing market as a cash cow. It is no surprise that it hires the best lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and in the key state capitols. It is no surprise that it is extending its reach across the globe, trying to persuade other nations that they need standardized tests to measure children and adults.
But what you need to read about is Michael Barber’s driving ideology, which he summarized in his book “Deliverology.”
We can learn more about Pearson and its sweeping vision for the future by turning to a 2011 book by the company’s chief academic officer, Michael Barber. In “Deliverology 101: A Field Guide for Educational Leaders,” he lays out his philosophy and, unintentionally, reveals why parents, teachers and politicians must do everything they can to break Pearson’s stranglehold on education policy around the world.
Barber has worked on education policy for British Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as for McKinsey & Co. “Deliverology,” written with assistance from two other McKinsey experts, is clearly inflected by the worldview of management consulting.
The authors define “deliverology” as “the emerging science of getting things done” and “a systematic process for driving progress and delivering results in government and the public sector.” The book targets systems leaders, politicians who support education reform and delivery leaders, employees responsible for the day-to-day implementation of structural change.
Deliverology alternates between painting a big picture of what needs to be done and offering maxims such as “To aspire means to lead from the front” and “Endless public debate will create problems that could potentially derail your delivery effort.”
In a democracy, we do engage in “endless public debate,” but such debates slow down the reform train. That is why corporate reformers like mayoral control and state takeovers. They like one decider who can tell everyone what to do. Local school boards are not easy to capture, there are too many of them. Like ALEC, the corporate reformers want to bypass local school boards and give the governor–or a commission he appoints–total control.
Barber believes in the “alchemy of relationships,” or the power of a small group of people working together to enact structural change. For example, Barber applauds Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program for providing a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform public education in America,” including through the Common Core. Barber’s book offers leaders advice on how to implement the Common Corestandards that Pearson employees helped write.
Taking inspiration from Margaret Thatcher’s motto “Don’t tell me what, tell me how,” Barber rarely discusses what schools should teach or cites scholarship on pedagogy. Instead, the book emphasizes again and again that leaders need metrics — e.g., standardized test scores — to measure whether reforms are helping children become literate and numerate. Of course, Pearson just happens to be one of the world’s largest vendors of the products Barber recommends for building education systems.
This spring, a prominent anti–Common Core activist tweeted, “I don’t think the Ed reformers understand the sheer fury of marginalized parents.” Barber understands this fury but thinks the “laggards” will come around once enough people see the positive results.
Deliverology even instructs leaders how to respond to common excuses from people who object to education reform.
“Deliverology” is a field guide — or a battle plan — showing education reformers how to push ahead through all resistance and never have second thoughts. As Barber quotes Robert F. Kennedy, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Parents and teachers who do not want to adapt to the new state of affairs are branded “defenders of the status quo.” Barber ends the book by telling reformers to stick with their plans but acknowledge the emotional argument of opponents: “I understand why you might be angry; I would not enjoy this if it were happening to me either.”
The best way to throw a monkey wrench into the plans of the “deliverologists” is to resist. Opt out. Refuse the test. Join with other parents to resist. Say no. Don’t let Pearson define your child.
This is a very funny video. First you see Governor Andrew Cuomo, who plans to enrich the testing industry by testing everyone who works or enrolls in a school. He is a huge supporter of charter schools, having received millions of dollars in campaign funds from charter advocates on Wall Street. Charter students are 3% of the students in New York state.
Then you will see two key supporters of charters, both leaders in the New York state senate, which is controlled by Republicans. Neither has any charters in their districts. They represent Long Island, where parents are passionate about their public schools, where the graduation rate is far higher than that of the state, and where the anti-testing movement has a large following. These state senators don’t want charters in their districts, but would be happy to see more charters elsewhere. What is also ironic is that Albany, the state capitol, closed two charter schools just weeks ago for financial and academic failures.
Let me cut to the chase– I cannot recommend enough that you watch Defies Measurement, a new film by Shannon Puckett.
The film is a clear-eyed, well-sourced look at the business of test-driven corporate-managed profiteer-promoted education reform, and it has several strengths that make it excellent viewing both for those of us who have been staring at these issues for a while and for teachers and civilians who are just now starting to understand that something is going wrong.
The film is anchored by the story of Chipman Middle School in Alemeda, a school that up until ten years ago was an educational pioneer, using the solid research about brains and learning (and where Shannon Puckett once taught). They were a vibrant, exciting, hands-on school that defied expectations about what could be done with middle schools students in a poor urban setting. And then came No Child Left Behind, and we see a focus on test scores and canned programs replace programs centered on creating strong independent thinkers, even as Laura Bush comes to visit to draw attention to the school’s embrace of testing culture. It is heartbreaking to watch some of the teachers from the school reflect on their experience a decade later; one sadly admits that she sold out, while another says she still feels remorse, but that she didn’t sell out– she was duped, making the mistaken assumption that the important people making edicts from on high knew something that she did not. She no longer thinks so.
The story of Chipman is a backdrop for considering the various elements that have played out in the reformosphere over the last decade. The film looks at the flow of reform-pushing money, the smoke-and-mirrors rise of charters and how that has failed in the Charter Dreamland of New Orleans, the misunderstanding of how kids learn (if you’re not a Howard Gardner fan you’ll have to grit your teeth for a minute), the history of standardized testing, the false narrative of US testing failure, the rise of resegregation, the corrosive effects of reform on the teaching profession, the destructiveness of Race to the Top, and how teaching the whole child in a safe and nurturing environment is great for humans, even if it doesn’t help with testing.
A group of activist parents have turned the tide against high-stakes testing in Texas. They organized, informed themselves, informed others, and button-holed their state legislators about the overuse and misuse of testing in Texas’s public schools. Because of their activities and their persistence, they persuaded the legislators to reduce the number of tests needed to graduate. They are continuing their campaign by exposing the cost and continued overuse of standardized testing.
The group is called TAMSA, or Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, but admirers often call them “Moms Against Drunk Testing.”
They created a powerpoint to explain their concerns.
The powerpoint can be seen here. Watch it and consider doing the same thing in your state. If we organize and mobilize like TAMSA, we can turn around legislatures across the nation.
A group called the “Hedge Clippers” organized a protest in front of the building where hedge fund manager Dan Loeb lives, to protest his funding of Republican control of the state senate, as well as charter schools. This is the kind of political activism that was common in the late 1960s to protest the war in Vietnam, but has seldom been seen in this country since then.
A story on WBAI reported the protest rally:
Shame the hedge fund billionaires, go where they live and demonstrate. This is a technique used in Latin America called escrache, but it’s also being used in New York City.
“Hedge Clippers, I guess you can kind of consider everything we do as part of Occupy Wall Street.” Activist Nick McMurray says Hedge Clippers keep the movement going.
“You can call us radicals, but at the end of the day we’re just people putting our foot down and we’re trying to stand up for what’s right and for what we really need in the world and in New York State.”
Zachary Lerner with NY Communities for Change @nychange led Hedge Clippers in a mic check: “Dan Loeb’s politics demonize the immigrants. Dan Loeb’s politics are hostile. Dan Loeb’s politics are powerful. Dan Loeb’s money is massive, so We the People are fighting back.”
Over the weekend, the Hedge Clippers chose the Central Park West residence of hedge fund billionaire Dan Loeb as their target. The hedge fund mogul gave over a million dollars to a super pac, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany. According to a Nation Magazine expose, it poured $4.3 million into six senate races. This helped tip the balance in favor of Senate Republicans here in New York State, where we have six times as many registered Democrats as Republicans. And Dan Loeb sits on the board of Success Academy, Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools
“There’s a paper trail for everything.” says Nilsa Toledo, a hedge clipper with New York Communities for Change. “He has given mega money to Success Academy and all these pacs for charter schools, on top of giving mega millions to our Senate and our Governor who is supposed to be representing the people, not just the people with a lot of zeros in their bank accounts. That’s really unfair. That’s why we’re standing together against it.”
Toledo has children in public schools in Flatbush, Brooklyn. She says billionaire hedge funders like Dan Loeb, behind charter school funding and lobbying efforts, hurt public schools forced to co-locate, to share their space. “I think that they should pay their own way. They shouldn’t co-locate in public schools. It happened to my son’s school and the quality is so different. In the charter side they have flat screen tvs. Every kid has a laptop and meanwhile I’m paying for that, but in my son’s school, they are lacking. Textbooks are still from 1998. lt’s really disgusting. The teacher’s have to pay out of their own pocket, just to make sure the kid’s have basic education and it’s not right. Our public schools are already owed billions of dollars. Public schools in the city have been underfunded and our government is ignoring that, but meanwhile they are passing policies that benefit the few. All these tax breaks and all these loopholes that are being exploited by these guys are not being closed, but meanwhile our kids are suffering, our communities are suffering and we need to stand up together to make a change.
Mindy Rosier teaches Special Education at a Special Needs School in Harlem. She came out to protest the hedge fund billionaire: “For Daniel Loeb to pay his fair share, to pay his taxes. He’s a contributor to Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy which has been stealing from my school for eight years and tried to kick us out, so I’m here to stand up for my community, for my students, for public schools. If you’re not helping the public schools out, you’re not a friend to the City as far as I’m concerned.”
Protesters chant, “Pay your taxes, Dan Loeb. Pay your taxes, Dan Loeb.”