Archives for category: Education Industry

The school board of the San Diego Unified School District voted 5-0 to urge Congress to eliminate the federal mandate of annual testing, Read their full statement below.

 

Remember that one of the crucial elements in the grassroots movement to roll back the tide of high-stakes testing started in Texas, when school board after school board voted to oppose high-stakes testing, and eventually more than 80% of the state’s school boards voted against high-stakes testing. The legislature heard the voters, and pulled back from a proposal to require 15 tests for high school graduation.

 

This is how a movement grows. Congress is rewriting NCLB as you read this. It is said to be on a fast-track for reauthorization in both the Senate and the House. Almost all the D.C.-based interest groups have joined to demand that YOUR children and YOUR students be tested annually. The best way to stop this out-of-control train of failed policies is to organize, speak up, speak out, demonstrate. Urge your school board to adopt a resolution akin to the one passed unanimously in San Diego. Visit the offices of Senator Patty Murray, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Al Franken, and all the Congressmen and Senators who are about to pass legislation keeping NCLB intact for another seven years. Make your voice heard.

 

The resolution adopted by the school board of the San Diego Unified School District on February 10:

 

SAN DIEGO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

RESOLUTION IN THE MATTER OF SUPPORT

TO REMOVE THE ANNUAL TESTING REQUIREMENT FROM THE ELEMENTARY

AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT (ESEA)

AND MAKE OTHER MODIFICATIONS AS CONGRESS CONSIDERS REAUTHORIZATION OF ESEA (NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND) )

 
RESOLUTION
WHEREAS, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,” was due for reauthorization in 2007, and the U.S. Congress has not reached a bipartisan agreement that will ensure passage to streamline existing federal requirements and allow states and local educational agencies to develop and implement policies that will best support students; and
WHEREAS, there are several significant aspects of ESEA that should be amended during the Act’s reauthorization, including the elimination of sanctions and unintended consequences; granting states and local educational agencies greater local flexibility; the elimination of federally mandated, annual standardized testing; and maintaining provisions of ESEA that support its original intent of supporting students with the greatest needs; and
WHEREAS, the nation’s future, social well-being and economic competitiveness relies on a high- quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship, and lifelong learning; and
WHEREAS, the over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to contribute and thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and
WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that high-stakes standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness, and the over-reliance on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing student’s love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate; and
WHEREAS, the San Diego Unified Vision 2020, long-term strategic plan, Quality Schools in Every Neighborhood, supports and provides for quality teaching, access to broad and challenging curriculum for all students, closing the achievement gap with high expectations for all, and is committed to using multiple formative measures of success that go beyond standardized achievement tests; and
WHEREAS, the ESEA Discussion Draft repeals the long-standing Title I Maintenance of Effort (MOE) and the Title IX General Provisions MOE requirement, and without them, state and local education funding could be lowered by states with no consequences to the state’s ongoing receipt of federal aid; and
WHEREAS, the ESEA Discussion Draft freezes funding for reauthorized programs for Fiscal Year 2016 through Fiscal Year 2021, eroding the investment of federal funding for public education that would result in reductions in services to student subgroups that require additional investments and support systems, including low-income, English learners, and students of color; and
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District calls on the U.S. Congress and the Obama Administration to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act,” eliminate the federally- mandated, annual testing requirement in each of Grades 3 through 9, and at least once in Grades 9 through 12; promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability; and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District calls on the U.S. Congress to reinstate the current Maintenance of Effort requirements in ESEA to protect the integrity and benefits of federal ESEA programs; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District supports a ESEA reauthorization bill that provides states and local educational agencies with additional flexibility to design their own accountability systems, including how states identify schools that are under-performing and determine appropriate interventions or technical assistance to support student growth and achievement, and support the use of multiple measures and growth models of academic achievement that reflect a well-rounded education necessary for success in the 21st century; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District supports a ESEA reauthorization bill that provides school districts the flexibility and resources needed to respond to the educational challenges in local communities, and provides greater local flexibility in the use of ESEA funding for Titles I, II and III as states and school districts are in the best position to make spending decisions to facilitate local innovation and student achievement, without placing undue burdens on districts that would adversely impact effective governance; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District supports an ESEA reauthorization bill that eliminates the inflexible sanctions and prescriptive actions that currently result in more schools being identified as Program Improvement if one or more student subgroup misses Annual Yearly Progress, as without the sanctions, districts would have more flexibility to use Title I funds to develop and/or implement programs and services that have evidence of improving student outcomes and advancing academic progress of all student subgroups; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District calls on the U.S. Congress to remove the funding freeze for reauthorized ESEA programs that would severely cut services over the next six years, and urges the passage of a modernized version of ESEA that is fully supported by federal investments in Title I, which has been woefully underfunded for decades.

 
Adopted and approved by the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District at the regular meeting held on the 10th day of February 2015.

Stephanie Simon reports in Politico.com on a major investigation of Pearson and its extraordinary ability to profit from its activities, whether or not they are successful.

 

She writes:

 

A POLITICO investigation has found that Pearson stands to make tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and cuts in student tuition from deals arranged without competitive bids in states from Florida to Texas. The review also found Pearson’s contracts set forth specific performance targets — but don’t penalize the company when it fails to meet those standards. And in the higher ed realm, the contracts give Pearson extensive access to personal student data, with few constraints on how it is used.
POLITICO examined hundreds of pages of contracts, business plans and email exchanges, as well as tax filings, lobbying reports and marketing materials, in the first comprehensive look at Pearson’s business practices in the United States.
The investigation found that public officials often commit to buying from Pearson because it’s familiar, even when there’s little proof its products and services are effective.
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, for instance, declined to seek competitive bids for a new student data system on the grounds that it would be “in the best interest of the public” to simply hire Pearson, which had done similar work for the state in the past. The data system was such a disaster, the department had to pay Pearson millions extra to fix it.
Administrators at the University of Florida also skipped competitive bids on a huge project to build an online college from scratch. They were in a hurry. And they knew Pearson’s team from a previous collaboration. That project hadn’t been terribly successful, but no matter: UF dug up the old contract and rewrote it to give Pearson the new job — a job projected to be worth $186 million over the next decade.
And two public colleges in Texas not only gave Pearson a no-bid contract to build online classes, they agreed to pay the company to support 40,000 enrollments, no matter how many students actually signed up.
Pearson has aggressive lobbyists, top-notch marketing and a highly skilled sales team. Until the New York attorney general cracked down in late 2013, Pearson’s charitable foundation made a practice of treating school officials from across the nation to trips abroad, to conferences where the only education company represented was Pearson.
The story of Pearson’s rise is very much a story about America’s obsession with education reform over the past few decades.
Ever since a federal commission published “A Nation at Risk” in 1983 — warning that public education was being eroded by “a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people” — American schools have been enveloped in a sense of crisis. Politicians have raced to tout one fix after the next: new tests, new standards, new classroom technology, new partnerships with the private sector.
K-12 superintendents and college administrators alike struggle to boost enrollment, raise graduation rates, improve academic outcomes — and to do it all while cutting costs.
In this atmosphere of crisis, Pearson promises solutions. It sells the latest and greatest, and it’s no fly-by-night startup; it calls itself the world’s leading learning company. Public officials have seized it as a lifeline.
“Pearson has been the most creative and the most aggressive at [taking over] all those things we used to take as part of the public sector’s responsibility,” said Michael Apple, a professor of education policy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 

And that is only a sampling of the contents of this explosive report. Read it to find out where your taxpayer dollars are going.

 

As an added bonus, Simon also wrote about how Pearson used its foundation to bolster its profits.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/pearson-education-115026.html#ixzz3RLxhh6ub

 

 

Imagine Schools is one of the nation’s largest for-profit charter chains. Its schools were closed down in St. Louis and in Georgia for poor performance, but the corporation is undeterred.

Problems continue, however, as Imagine’s business model doesn’t always pass muster.

Here is the latest, written in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette about Imagine’s legal troubles in Missouri:

“U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey ruled in December that Imagine Schools Inc. profited from a “double-dealing” lease scheme and that it must pay the local board of the now-closed Kansas City school nearly $1 million.

“The national charter school chain used its own finance company, Schoolhouse Finance, to sell Imagine Renaissance’s two campuses to obtain lower lease rates, according to the suit. While it benefited from the lower rate, it continued to collect taxpayer dollars through the local charter board at the higher rate.

“There is not evidence that Imagine Schools ever told any Renaissance board member how Imagine Schools would benefit from the leases,” the judge wrote.

“The Kansas City Star reported that Imagine Inc. did not appeal the ruling, as the company and the local charter board have reached a confidential settlement.

“The judge’s findings are remarkable for their parallels with the charter operator’s Fort Wayne experience. The company opened the city’s third charter school, Imagine MASTer Academy, at the former YWCA campus on North Wells Street in 2006. Oversight was supposedly provided by the Imagine-Fort Wayne Charter School Inc., a local board once headed by businessman Don Willis, but the board came under fire from its authorizer, Ball State University, for lax oversight.

“Imagine’s local real estate dealings were complex from the start. The YWCA campus was purchased in 2006 by North Wells Schoolhouse LLC, an Indiana company with the same Arlington, Va., mailing address as the for-profit Imagine Schools Inc. The sale price was $2.9 million. The local Imagine school board then subleased a portion of the campus from Schoolhouse Finance, Imagine Inc.’s real estate subsidiary. Schoolhouse, in turn, sold the property to JERIT CS Fund, a wholly owned subsidiary of Entertainment Properties Trust, a Kansas City-based real estate investment trust. The same company owned the Kansas City school at the heart of the lawsuit.

“The REIT, in fact, still lists the North Wells campus among its charter school real estate holdings, although Imagine MASTer Academy – threatened with closing by Ball State – relinquished its charter and reopened as Horizon Christian Academy. Three Fort Wayne Horizon schools collected nearly $2 million in tax-funded vouchers from Indiana last year. An Imagine spokesman said at the time of the switch that Horizon would pay Imagine for operation and facility support under terms of a private agreement. About $3.6 million in state loans made to Imagine were forgiven.”

Funny. Usually you need educators to figure out what went wrong. In the case of for-profit charter chains, you need an accountant and several lawyers.

The editorialist in Fort Wayne noted that this is a cautionary tale that was not told during National School Choice Week.

Horace Meister, a regular contributor, has discovered a shocking instance of contradictory research, posted a year apart by the same “independent” governmental agency. The first report, published a year ago, criticized New York City’s charter schools for enrolling small proportions of high-need students; the second report, published a month ago, claimed that the city’s charter schools had a lower attrition rate of high-needs students than public schools. Meister read the two reports carefully and with growing disgust. He concluded that the Independent Budget Office had massaged the data to reach a conclusion favoring the powerful charter lobby. Eva Moskowitz read the second report and wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal called “The Myth of Charter School ‘Cherry Picking.’” Horace Meister says it is not myth: it is reality.

 

 

Meister writes:

 

 

In January 2014 the Independent Budget Office in New York City released a report on student attrition rates in the charter school sector in New York City.[i] A year later, in January 2015, the very same office released an “update” of the earlier report.[ii] The story behind this “updated”[iii] report reveals all that is wrong with education policy in the United States.

 

The original report had a number of fascinating revelations. It turns out that, as a sector, charter schools in New York City are using student demographics and attrition to boost their “performance” in ways that public schools cannot. This, of course, is not an indictment of any particular charter school or the dedicated staff in a specific charter school. It is an indictment of the overall corporate reform policy that favors charter schools over public schools, allows the charter sector to operate under a different set of rules than public schools so that charter schools can employ these sorts of gimmicks, and then dares to claim that charter schools are somehow better overall for students than public schools.

 

What did the original report reveal?

 

  1. Charter schools in New York City serve a much more advantaged student population than public schools. The very first table in the report showed that charter schools served 80% fewer English Language Learner students than nearby public schools. Charter schools serve 1/9th the proportion of the highest needs special education students as nearby public schools. Charter schools served a much more economically advantaged student body than nearby public schools—with three times as many students paying full-price for lunch than nearby public schools.
  2. By only accepting students in certain grades charter schools are able to artificially boost their outcomes as compared to nearby public schools. “The increased incidence of transfer to a traditional public school, instead of a charter school, might be due to the fact that many charters limit admissions to traditional starting points (such as kindergarten for elementary schools).” Of course it is the students with higher needs and higher absentee rates who are most likely to transfer at points other than the traditional ones. And, of course, it is illegal for public schools to bar students from admission at points other than the traditional ones, though this tactic is widely employed by charter schools. The disruptions caused by in-migration are also eliminated.
  3. Students with low test scores are more likely to leave charter schools. “The results are revealing. Among students in charter schools, those who remained in their kindergarten schools through third grade had higher average scale scores in both reading (English Language Arts) and mathematics in third grade compared with those who had left for another New York City public school (Figure 3)… One important difference between the two types of schools, particularly manifest when the percentage of students meeting or exceeding proficiency standard is used as the metric, is that the gap between the stayers and movers was significantly larger in charters compared with those in traditional public school.”
  4. Special education students with the highest needs are significantly more likely to leave charter schools than public schools. After leaving the charter schools these students go to public schools. “The attrition rates are higher for special education students who start kindergarten in charter schools than for special education students who start in neighboring traditional public schools. Only 20 percent of students classified as requiring special education who started kindergarten in charter schools remained in the same school after three years, with the vast majority transferring to another New York City public school (see Table 5). The corresponding persistence rate for students in nearby traditional public schools is 50 percent…Of those continuing in the same charter school, 10 percent were identified as special education students by the third year, and of those transferring out to another charter school, 16 percent were special education students (see Figure 2). But of those transferring out to another traditional public school, fully 27 percent were classified as special education students.” Of course the highest need special education students are also, as a rule, the students who perform the poorest on standardized tests.

 

Reading the original report a couple of unanswered questions suggest themselves. How do individual charter schools or charter school chains differ in the extent to which they employ the four tactics described above? Why did the report only look at the data on students in kindergarten through 3rd grade? In middle schools, where every grade takes high-stakes standardized tests, does the charter sector employ the four tactics to an even greater effect? How does the fact that charter schools only accept students who actively apply to their school impact the overall attrition patterns? As the original report asks, do “other factors such as unobserved differences in student characteristics contribute to some of the gaps in mobility patterns?”

 

An objective observer would expect that any updated report, such as the one the Independent Budget Office just released, would address at least some of the above questions. But it did not. Instead the “Independent” Budget Office folded under the pressure brought to bear by charter school advocates and their paid researchers. Immediately after the original report was released, a “researcher,” paid for by the Walton Foundation, complained that the report only looked at the highest need special education students and not all special education students.[iv] While true, this has no bearing on the four tactics that the report conclusively showed the charter sector employs to game their results.

 

A couple of weeks ago, the “Independent” Budget Office, caving to the pressure, “updated” the report to include a cohort of students through 4th grade. Their “finding:” across all special education students, such students are slightly more likely to remain in charter schools than public schools. The media parroted these claims. This “finding” is, however, entirely bogus. Instead of using the categories that generally correspond to the level of need (namely whether the student requires a self-contained class or can be supported in mixed classes or even classes that are entirely general education), the report uses the named disability category (namely speech impaired, learning disabled, other health impaired, all other disabilities) of each student. This, of course, tells us nothing about the severity of each student’s need within the category. Instead it covers up the fact, which we already know from the original report, that charter schools are much more likely than public schools to selectively attrite the students with the highest level of special education needs, the very same students who are most likely to bring down their test scores. But now special interests and the media can trumpet the fact that charter schools in New York City keep their special education students at higher rates than public schools.

 

Ignored in the new analysis is the fact that the charters serve an entirely different mix of special education students, i.e. students much, much less likely to require the highest level of accommodations and supports. Importantly, the “Independent” Budget Office did not just add these broader-brushed approaches to the analyses of the original report; it declined to repeat, with the updated dataset, the analysis of the sky-high attrition rates of highest need special education students at charter schools. It declined to repeat, with the updated dataset, the analysis of higher attrition among students with low test scores at charter schools. It declined to repeat, with the updated dataset, the analysis of student creaming by charter schools. It declined to break down the updated dataset so that we could learn more about the tactics employed by individual charter schools and charter school chains. It declined to even look at the unanswered questions about charter middle schools.

 

 

Fortunately, for those interested in the truth, at about the same time, other data were released showing just how much the charter sector in New York City relies on tricks, rather than true educational innovations, to produce their “results.”[v] The data break down the comparisons between charter schools and public schools, school by school and district by district.[vi]

 

It turns out that the charter sector suspends students at rates up to twenty-six times higher than public schools in the same geographic region, despite the fact that the charter schools serve only a self-selected student body.[vii] These data may explain how charters are able to selectively attrite the most troublesome students who bring down their test scores. They harass the students until they leave for the public schools, which are of course morally and legally obligated to accept every student.

 

It turns out that public schools serve up to five times as many students living in temporary housing as charter schools in the same geographic region.[viii] This little fact may be one of those “other factors,” mentioned in passing by the “Independent” Budget Office, that explain why public schools have a slightly higher overall student transition rate than charter schools. Obviously kids with no permanent home are more likely to move around and switch schools.

 

It turns out that all of the highest-flying charter schools serve a much, much more advantaged student body than the local public schools.[ix] It is almost shocking to see not a single charter school represented among the schools in the top quarter of student need, in any of New York City’s 32 geographic regions. The gaps in student need are even higher when looking at charter schools co-located in the same buildings as public schools.[x] In co-locations the public school serves up to six times as many students living in temporary housing, up to twenty times as many English Language Learners, and many multiples the number of special education students as the charter school in the very same building!

 

What we have here is a failure to tell the truth. The “Independent” Budget Office, aided by a compliant press, has whitewashed the story of inequity that it itself had helped flesh out just a year earlier.

 

The data could not be any clearer. Charter schools have no secret sauce. In fact, they are creating more segregation and greater inequity in our school system. The time has come to end the charade. Charter schools must be folded under the umbrella of the public school system. We must then have the difficult conversations that have been avoided due to all the tumult and distractions caused by the charter school corporate reform agenda.[xi] How do we serve all students in a nation with significant, perhaps increasing, opportunity gaps? What can schools do to help mitigate the overwhelming disadvantages that students growing up in poverty face? Since it is obvious that schools can’t do much in isolation what can we, as a nation, do to support schools in their work of providing opportunity to all students?

 

[i]http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/2014attritioncharterpublic.html

 

[ii] http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/2015charter_schools_public_schools_attrition.html

 

[iii] Apologies in advance for the generous use of scare quotes. But it’s almost impossible to tell this sordid tale without them.

 

[iv] This researcher had, by this time, already made many claims about special education students and charter schools in New York City that had been debunked. See for example http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-why-the-gap

 

[v] http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/secure/charter-school-suspensions.pdf

 

[vi] The fact that the teacher’s union had to collate this data and not a single “independent” journalist could be bothered to do so, despite the regular appearance of newspaper stories and editorials praising charter schools, tells us just how biased the media is when it comes to education policy. It suggests that media outlets would benefit by being more skeptical of charter school claims when deciding upon and reporting upon their stories.

 

[vii] http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/secure/charter-school-suspensions.pdf

 

[viii] http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/secure/demographics-charters-v-traditional.pdf

 

[ix] http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/secure/peer-index-explainer.pdf

 

[x] http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/secure/colocated-schools-sharing-buildings.pdf

 

[xi] It may not take a conspiracy theorist to assume that this conversation is exactly what the special interests groups that back charter schools want to prevent from happening.

Bill Phillis, former deputy state commissioner in Ohio, founded the Ohio Equity & Adequacy Coalition to support public education. Now retired, he is an expert on the funding of education. Consider joining his email list and contributing to its work. You can contact him at: ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net

 

 

He writes:

 

The 16 school district superintendents and the ESC superintendent in Lorain County have been engaging their respective communities in evaluating the education “reforms” handed down from Washington D.C. and Columbus. These superintendents have been speaking out responsibly regarding the “reforms,” including the voucher programs and charter industry.

 

One year ago this month they conducted a countywide opinion survey regarding the “reforms.” They learned from the poll, among other things, that a majority of the Lorain County citizens feel connected to their public schools and believe their schools are going a good job in preparing the students for the future. They found that citizens do not support many of the “reforms” handed down from Washington D.C. and Columbus.

 

Subsequent to the survey, all boards of education in Lorain County called on their legislators, by board resolutions, to draft legislation which would require “Ohio citizens to have an opportunity to review and discuss changes in education policy before they turn into educational mandates.” This initiative has positioned the Lorain County school community to exercise a positive influence on the improvement of educational opportunities via the public common school system.

 

Contact Greg Ring, Superintendent of Lorain County ESC, for information on the process used in that county.

 

The public common school system must be rescued from the privatizers, person by person, district by district and state by state. The federal government and most state governments are in cahoots with the privatizers and thus the only hope of restoring the public common school system to its constitutional role is through citizen involvement.

 

 

William Phillis
ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net
Ohio E & A

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Today, the New York Times has an article extolling the virtue of annual tests. It is written by someone who worked in the Obama administration and now works for Andrew Rotherhan’s Bellweather Partners, a consulting group. The writer claims that we learn a great deal from annual testing, and that better tests, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, are on the way (PARCC and SBAC). Of course, it is very hard to learn anything about how any child is progressing when the results from spring testing are delivered in August and when no one is allowed to see either the questions or the answers. But he doesn’t go into that.

 

Peter Greene answers the article succinctly. It is a must-read, Peter Greene at his incisive best. He calls the article:

 

A mishmosh of false assumptions. First, there are no “necessary” tests, nor have a ever read a convincing description of what a “necessary” test would be nor what would make it “necessary.” And while there are no Big Standardized Tests that are actually designed for school benchmarking and teacher evaluation, in many states that is the only purpose of the BS Test! The only one! So in Aldeman’s view, would those tests be okay because they are being used for purposes for which they aren’t designed?

 

And he adds:

 

New, better tests have been coming every year for a decade. They have never arrived. They will never arrived. It is not possible to create a mass-produced, mass-graded, standardized test that will measure the educational quality of every school in the country. It is like trying to use a ruler to measure the weight of a fluid– I don’t care how many times you go back to drawing board with the ruler– it will never do the job. Educational quality cannot be measured by a standardized test. It is the wrong tool for the job, and no amount of redesign will change that.

 

Good reminder though that while throwing money at public schools is terrible and stupid, throwing money at testing companies is guaranteed awesome.

 

Annual standardized testing measures one thing– how well a group of students does at taking an annual standardized test. That’s it. Even Aldeman here avoids saying what exactly it is that these tests (you know, the “necessary ones”) are supposed to measure.

 

Annual standardized testing is good for one other thing– making testing companies a buttload of money. Beyond that, they are simply a waste of time and effort.

 

 

Motoko Rich reports in a front-page story in the New York Times that Teach for America has seen a significant decline in the number of applicants.

 

TFA executives explain that the improved economy has drawn young people to work in high-paying jobs, instead of joining TFA (this explanation raises unintended questions about their interest in teaching or children).

 

Another suggestion is that the lure of teaching is down, since enrollments in education colleges has also declined.

 

The story suggests that TFA has lost its luster because of its close association with standards and testing, with charter schools, with evaluation of teachers by test scores (which seldom affects TFA recruits, who don’t stay in the classroom long enough to build up a record), and with weakening of teacher tenure. Some potential recruits are turned off, writes Rich, by TFA’s close association with the Walton Family Foundation, which has given it more than $50 million, no doubt because TFA staffs many non-union schools. In short, they are an integral cog in the movement to privatize public education and to undermine the teaching profession.

 

How are students learning about the underside of TFA, its close connections with the agenda of the 1%, who look down their noses at public schools and unions? At the end of the story, Rich mentions Hannah Nguyen as a student who has organized protests against TFA on campus. Hannah wants to make a career in education, not a jumping-off place to build her resume en route to working at Goldman Sachs or J.P. Morgan Chase. There are many other aspiring teachers who have become activists on their own campuses in opposition to TFA; even some former members of TFA have spoken out against the role that TFA has played in lowering the status of the teaching profession. Their efforts may have played a large role in dimming TFA’s image among their peers. What real profession would permit anyone to become a member with only five weeks of training? When veteran teachers complain about TFA, they are not protecting their jobs, they are protecting their profession.

Governor Scott Walker released a budget proposal that contains no significant increase in funding for public schools, but a large expansion of vouchers and charters for the entire state. He wants to remove the cap on the number of students who may receive vouchers to attend private and religious schools but maintain the income limit of about $44,122 for a family of four. He wants a new charter board that he and his allies control. He wants to withdraw support for the Common Core exam known as Smarter Balanced and to cancel Milwaukee’s integration funding. He proposes to lower standards for those entering teaching and to introduce A-F letter grades (a Jeb Bush invention):

 

If enacted, the proposals would cause major waves in the state’s public school systems, which have faced an onslaught of reforms in recent years, both financially and academically.

 

The governor’s budget calls for throwing out the new state standardized achievement exam aligned with the Common Core academic standards, which is set to be administered to students in third through eighth grade for the first time this spring.

 

And he wants schools to receive A-F letter grades on their state report cards, instead of the current descriptions explaining how well they’re meeting expectations.

 

Walker’s budget plan would also make it easier for anyone with a bachelor’s degree and real-world experience to get a license to become a middle or high school teacher. And to free up aid for districts statewide, the governor wants to end the Chapter 220 program designed to help racially integrate Milwaukee’s city and suburban schools — something he says will redirect $60 million in aid to other districts.

 

Even the state superintendent complained that Walker’s budget shortchanged public schools:

 

State Superintendent Tony Evers noted the governor’s budget offered no increase in the revenue limit for public schools, which is the total amount districts can raise per pupil in state aid and property taxes.

 

“That’s huge,” he said. “Schools are at the breaking point.”

 

Will this improve education in Wisconsin? Not likely, since vouchers in Milwaukee have not improved the performance of students receiving them, and several of Milwaukee’s charters are in academic distress. Letter grades have nothing to do with school improvement; they are a strategy that typically places extra emphasis on standardized test scores and sets low-scoring schools up for closure. As for inviting non-educators to become middle-school and high-school teachers, that might provide a new labor force to replace experienced teachers, but it is hard to see how it leads to better instruction to turn students over to people who have never taught and have no preparation to do so.

 

Chronicle Mclain, a high school student in Buffalo, testifies passionately before the Board of Education, in protest against closing his “low-performing” school and handing it over to a charter. He notices that at least one Board member is texting as he is speaking, and he says if he did that in class he would be called “low-performing.” The board member, a real estate developer who was recruited to the Board by charter champion Carl Paladino, ignores the student and continues texting as the young man is speaking.

 

Talk about respect! Why would someone serve on a city’s Board of Education who has such obvious disdain for students?

Paul Karrer, a veteran elementary teacher in California, likes to read David Brooks, even when he disagrees with him. But he was taken aback recently when Brooks said that the teachers’ unions are the biggest impediment to education “reform.”

 

Karrer knows that education reform is not what it appears.

 

He explains to Brooks, as if Brooks might read his column:

 

So far Ed Reform has been a nightmare, a massacre, a coup de grace on democratic public education institutions. Ed Reform has plundered the public sector, crushed teachers’ souls, and offered virtually no positive improvement even when measured by the right’s own yardstick. The right benefits on many levels in its relentless assault on public schools.

 

First, privatization feeds the Republican DNA of the government’s role as an agent of profit for business. Public education viewed through Republican eyes is viewed as a feeding trough opportunity of financial benefit. Hence, the many hedge funds lauding, testing and assessment companies, charter corporations and publishing empires whose spread will fattened wallets.

 

Virtually every mantra about Ed Reform is false or basely wrong. Charter schools do not perform better when equal measure are used. Rather, often worse. End of story. They skim the best, the brightest the motivated. And they boot out those who don’t behave.

 

Those attending charter schools have parents who have guided them to charters. Many of my students have guardians. There is a difference.

 

Because he respects Brooks, he invites him to his classroom to learn about what really matters:

 

So friend David Brooks, I invite you to spend a few hours with me at my poorest of the poor schools. Run a lap with my fifth-graders and me in the morning, see what it’s like in the mucky trenches of gang-infested poverty. Then just sit and watch, no principal, no superintendent present, observe 30 fifth-graders and their old teacher. We’ll talk, later, about the subtractive brutality and injustices of ed reform.

 

Your words carry great weight. Please be careful how you [use] them.

 

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