Archives for category: Education Reform

Many readers were upset to learn that Randi Weingarten was speaking at the Teach for America 25th reunion at the Convention Center in Washington, D.C., last weekend.

 

Randi appeared on a panel with Howard Fuller, who advocates for charters and vouchers. Fuller founded the BAEO, the Black Alliance for Educational Options. He goes around the country promoting school choice to black leaders and communities. Many years ago, he was the superintendent in Milwaukee. When he became a choice advocate, he was funded by the rightwing Bradley Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and others.

 

Randi points out in her article that vouchers have been a failure in Milwaukee, but she wasn’t there to debate Fuller. She explains here why she decided to appear at the TFA event.

 

My purpose was not to debate Fuller; it was to have a conversation about a path forward, to end the ridiculous debate in reform circles that poverty and greater economic issues don’t matter, and to debunk the notion that individual teachers can do it all.

 

I caught some flack on Twitter and Facebook for even attending a TFA event. The AFT and TFA disagree on a number of fundamental issues regarding education. I believe that teacher preparation should reflect the complexity and importance of this work, and that a crash course simply doesn’t cut it — it’s not fair to corps members or their students. Further, I think that TFA’s model of inadequately prepared teachers and high turnover deprofessionalizes teaching by design. And it’s dead wrong when districts use austerity as the excuse to hire TFA recruits as replacements for experienced teachers.

 

Read on.


In Indiana, Republican legislators want to expand the voucher program so more students can attend religious schools paid for by taxpayers. Glenda Ritz opposes the expansion.

 

“Ritz is referring, in part, to an idea in Senate Bill 334, authored by Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, that would allow schools to accept voucher students for the spring semester as late as Jan. 15 — four months after the current Sept. 1 deadline.
“The bill would eliminate provisions in state law that limit students to just one voucher per school year and would do away with current rules requiring students who leave a private school before the year ends to pay back the rest of that year’s tuition. House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said he plans to hear the bill, a signal it could have support among House lawmakers.
“At a Senate Education Committee hearing on the bill last month, Yoder said he proposed the bill, which passed the Senate last week 40-9, for programs similar to ones at The Crossing, a network of private religious alternative schools that serve about 2,500 Indiana students.
“The network includes 28 accredited private Christian schools spread throughout Indiana that cater specifically to students who struggled at other schools, were expelled or dropped out.”
“Yoder’s bill, however, would apply to any eligible student who wants to transfer to an eligible private school, not just those who are struggling and want to switch to a school in The Crossing network.”

 

Ritz may not be able to stop the legislative raid on funds that the state constitution reserves only for public schools.

 

The media has swallowed the myth that John Kasich is a moderate. They have forgotten that he tried to eliminate collective bargaining but was rebuked by Ohio’s voters. Certainly the media doesn’t know about the shameful profiteering in Ohio’s charter sector, where wealthy campaign contributors have been excused from any accountability. Just keep those campaign bucks coming!

 

At least the Cleveland Plain Dealer knows the story. Kasich’s campaign manager is Beth Hansen. Her husband David Hansen resigned as director of charter school operations after he presented phony data to the feds and won a $71 million grant to create more charter schools. Unfortunately–it must have been a “lapse of judgment”–he neglected to include in his report to the US Department of Education the F grades of Ohio’s online charter schools (a source of great profit to their owners and a reliable source of political donations).

 

In an editorial the newspaper said:

 

At this point, it’s nearly impossible to trust anything the Ohio Department of Education has to say on charter school performance, the subject of so much chicanery last year that in November the federal government froze a giant $71 million charter school expansion grant to Ohio.

 

And it just gets worse.

 

The latest news? A Jan. 29 letter from ODE to federal regulators sent in an attempt to win back the grant reveals that Ohio has nearly 10 times as many failing charter schools as it first reported to the U.S. Department of Education in its 2015 charter-school-expansion grant application.

 

The letter was in response to a federal government request for more information from Ohio as it reviews the state’s once-successful grant that would allow the best charter schools to expand using federal funds.

 

The state department of education seems to be more committed to the well-being of the charter industry than to Ohio’s children, say the editorial writers.

 

Here is the latest restatement of the charter data:

 

In the letter, the state increased the number of failing charter schools to 57 in 2013-2014 compared with six in the original application. That’s a nearly tenfold difference. At the same time, the letter reported 59 high-performing charter schools instead of 93, a 36 percent decrease.

 

So Ohio has 57 failing charter schools, and 59 high-performing charter schools. Picking a successful charter is akin to flipping a coin. Meanwhile, scarce taxpayer dollars are subsiding an inexcusable number of failing charter schools. And the state wants more.

 

If you want a candidate to take from the middle class and give to the rich, if you want a candidate to protect the powerful, if you want a candidate to attack unions and working people, Kasich is for you.

 

Valerie Strauss posted earlier today a review of Kasich’s education record. It is a mess and nothing to boast about. He is no more a moderate than Cruz, Rubio, or Bush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonder no more about what Arne Duncan will do next. The Chicago Tribune reports that he has signed with CAA, a major talent agency.

 

CAA will arrange speaking engagements for him and line up a book deal.

Reported this morning on politico. The interesting question is, what does Ptesident Obama see as his legacy in education now that Race to the Top is over? 

OBAMA’S FINAL BUDGET: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: President Barack Obama’s FY 2017 budget will propose spending billions on his education legacy, but might not invest enough for advocates focused on implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act. Obama’s budget increases Title I grants by $450 million above the FY 2016 enacted level, totaling $15.4 billion, according to documents obtained by POLITICO. But the devil is in the details: Changes in the new law, including a 7 percent set-aside for school improvement within Title I, could potentially result in initial cuts to districts’ Title I allocations. We’ve got the full story: http://politico.pro/1O0sv5N.
– “When you look at the funding and you can’t provide increases for the formula grant programs that are the center of the new law, it says a lot,” said one advocate about Obama’s proposed Title I funding.
– Grants to states under IDEA are essentially frozen at $11.9 billion. But if Congress is going to increase funding for anything, it’s likely going to be for special education because it’s a popular bipartisan issue, advocates say.
– The budget proposes a modest $1.3 billion, or 2 percent, increase in discretionary spending over the fiscal 2016 appropriation for the Education Department, at $69.4 billion.
– The budget will propose a host of legacy-building administration plans: A $4 billion computer science initiative, a $1 billion program to help attract and keep teachers in high-needs areas and a $120 million request to encourage school integration. Charter School Grants get a $17 million boost over the 2016 enacted level at $350 million and Magnet Schools Assistance gets an $18 million boost at $115 million. Both magnet schools and charter schools can be part of strategies that encourage integration, the administration is expected to emphasize.
– On pre-K: Obama’s budget includes, for HHS, $350 million in discretionary funding for Pre-K Development Grants. That’s a $100 million increase over the FY 2016 appropriation.


The following comment was written by Robert Marzano, in response to my posting of Emily Talmage’s challenge to his teaching experience and to a purported contract with the Detroit public schools. Having no staff, I am not in a position to do any independent investigation of who is right or wrong. Marzano certainly has the right to defend himself, and I am glad to provide the space. Dr. Marzano, feel free to contact me at my NYU email. I don’t know what more I can do other than post your response.

 

 

Robert Marzano writes:

 

 

“Dr. Ravitch,
This is Bob Marzano commenting on your report of my interaction with Ms. Talmadge.
“When a friend sent me her blog post, I contacted her via e-mail and informed her that at least two of the statements she made about me were false. One was that I had never taught, and the other was that I had a 6 million dollar contract with Detroit Public Schools. I gave her some details about my teaching background and told her that I do not have a contract with DPS. I spoke one day about a year ago to district administrators for a modest fee. I said I would look into the contract issue since she sent me a link to a news story she had read that reported on such a contract. She had my e-mail and there was certainly a tacit invitation for her to respond to me directly. I found out that Learning Sciences International (LSI) does have a large contract with DPS. They use some of my intellectual property in their trainings. They have since written the original news agency that published the story and informed them of the error. They will be contacting you soon with the same information. To imply that I have a large contract with a district in financial difficulties certainly paints an inaccurate and unfair picture of me. I would have hoped that you would contact me first before writing a blog that implies I have lied and now have been “taken down.”
“I’m also quite disappointed with how Ms. Talmadge has handled this. Apparently she reached out to you instead of me, and you now have spread the false information even further. You have my e-mail now, so I would welcome a conversation with you and Ms. Talmadge that is not played out on a public blog. I must admit, i don’t understand blogs. They seem to be a venue for anyone to say anything they want without verification and without consequence for inaccuracies. In closely, let me say again: it is absolutely false that I have a 6 million dollar contract with DPS. You will be receiving proof of this shortly from LSI.”

The state board of canvassers approved a petition to recall Governor Rick Snyder. Nine other petitions were rejected because of spelling errors and other defects. 
“A petition to recall Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was approved by the Board of State Canvassers Monday after more than 100 citizens attended the meeting in anger over the Flint water crisis.
“The petition approved aims to recall Snyder for creating the State School Reform/Redesign Office. Another nine petitions more directly related to the Flint water crisis were rejected (full list below.)
“The approved petition is valid for 180 days after approval at the Board of State Canvassers level. To move forward it must collect 789,133 signatures in a 60-day period within that 180 day window. Doing so would then put a question before voters statewide, most likely on the state’s Aug. 2 election.
“The board has considered around a dozen such attempts to recall Gov. Rick Snyder since November of 2015, but has rejected each attempt before today’s meeting. On Monday the board rejected nine of ten petitions for reasons ranging from misspellings to the misstatement of a law’s title.”

This morning, politico.com wrote about a new group that wants to be heard by the candidates for president. It is called Student Voice. At first, I thought this might be a group representing high school students, like the Providence Student Union, which effectively fought against standardized tests as a high school graduation test. 

This is what politico reported

“STRENGTHENING STUDENT VOICE: The non-profit organization Student Voice [http://bit.ly/1QhRJ1i ] has been touring the country in an attempt to raise awareness about the role of education in the race for the White House, among other things. They’ve been shadowing the presidential candidates and hope to get their attention in South Carolina later this month. Andrew Brennen, national field director for Student Voice, said he plans to visit eight school districts at the center of a landmark South Carolina 2014 court ruling [http://bit.ly/1T2EJ5N ], in which the state Supreme Court said the state was failing to provide a “minimally adequate” education to the state’s poorest districts. He’ll tour the schools with Merrit Jones, a high school senior and founder of the student-run South Carolina non-profit StuSpace, and listen to student stories. Brennen and Jones plan to invite presidential candidates along for the visits – they’ve already been in touch with staffers for Republican candidate Marco Rubio and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders – stressing that they want the candidates to listen to students. 
– They’re also hoping to ask a question during the Republican debate on Feb. 13. (Brennen said they’ve been in touch with moderator John Dickerson of CBS News, but they haven’t been confirmed to ask a question.) “We want to ask, what are you going to do to improve education?” Brennen said. “Not what are you going to take away, but what is one policy change that you’re going to make?” There are schools in South Carolina and across the country, like in Detroit, that “are literally falling apart,” he said. “The only education policy issue we’re hearing from the candidates is about Common Core … It would be a shame if they didn’t focus on this.”
Gosh, the Network for Public Education has been trying to get the candidates to pay attention to K-12 issues. Could this be an ally?
But then I went to the website and looked at the sponsors. Its sponsors: Microsoft, Intel, Dell, the Nellie Mae Foundation, Cengage, the Alliance for Excellent Education, and a few others. 
Not allies. Whoever they are, they can afford to pay for a PR campaign. NPE can’t. 
Wonder which questions they are eager to ask? 

Governor Dannell Malloy of Connecticut sold his soul to hedge fund managers and corporate reformers.

 

Jonathan Pelto reports the tawdry details:

 

 

“Call it the new American Way. The billionaires, millionaires and corporate elite who fund charter schools give generously to Democratic and Republican politicians and the politicians return the favor by shifting public funds into the coffers of the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

 

“Here is in Connecticut the system was clearly on display last week when Governor Dannel Malloy and his sidekick, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, rolled out their new “austerity budget” for 2016-2017.

 

“In classic fashion their plan slashes the full array of vital services while giving the wealthy yet another tax break. Their plan makes absolutely no effort, what-so-ever, to require Connecticut’s richest resident to pay their fair share in taxes.

 

“But their budget certainly targets the middle class and all of Connecticut’s working families, along with those who rely on state services to lead more fulfilling lives.

 

“Failing to even identify where 40 percent of the budget cuts would even come from, Malloy proposed a spending plan that would provide $720 million less than what would be necessary simply to maintain the current level of state services.

 

“Malloy targeted some of his deepest cuts for programs that help children in crisis, the developmental disabled, those with mental illness, Connecticut’s public schools, the state’s public colleges and universities, and municipal aid.

 

“Of course, the Governor promised – yet again – that he would not raise taxes … overlooking the fact that his budget would force cities and towns across Connecticut to raise taxes.

 

“But while everyone else loses under Malloy’s budget, charter schools win!

 

“In the midst of their budget slashing frenzy, Malloy and Wyman are actually increasing the amount of taxpayer funds going to Connecticut’s privately owned charter schools…..

 

“The Democratic governor and Lt. Governor who used to decry the lack of adequate funding for the state’s public schools are now proposing the deepest cuts to public education in Connecticut history.

 

“At the same time, their “generosity” toward charter schools only grows.

 

“The reason seems pretty obvious. Connecticut’s charter schools and their supporters have become a “golden egg” for Malloy’s political aspirations.

 

“In the months leading up to and through his re-election campaign, corporate education reform proponents and the charter school industry poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Malloy’s various campaign entities and organizations.

 

“Take, for example, Greenwich millionaire Jonathan Sackler.

 

“Sackler, whose company brought the world OxyContin, likes charter schools … a lot.

 

“Sackler serves on the Board of Directors of Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island and the Board of Directors of ConnCAN, the Connecticut charter school advocacy front group. Sackler helped bankroll the formation of Achievement First Inc. and was the founder of ConnCAN. He is also a major player in the national charter school movement.

 

“During Malloy’s re-election campaign, Sacker and his immediate family donated well in excess of $100,000 to Malloy’s campaign operation and the spigot didn’t stop when Malloy won a second term as governor. Since the 2014 election, the Sacklers have donated an additional $50,000 to Malloy’s political activities.

 

“According to reports filed with the Federal Election Committee and the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission, over the past few years, Dannel Malloy’s fundraising operatives have collected more than $330,000 from the people who serve on the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors, the ConnCAN Board of Directors or play a leadership role in Connecticut’s charter school and corporate education reform organizations.

 

“The truth is that the corporate elite behind the Pro-Common Core, Pro-Common Core testing, Pro-Charter School and Anti-teacher agenda that Dannel Malloy has been pushing have become one of Malloy’s most important sources of campaign cash.”

 

 

 

 

 

I posted this earlier, but I had not watched the entire video, just a snippet. I just watched the full video, and I couldn’t stop watching. This is the video of the Congressional grilling of the U.S. Department of Education’s Chief Information Officer Danny Harris and Acting Secretary of Education John King.

 

The entire discussion is startling. I won’t say anything more. Just watch it. If you stay for ten minutes, you won’t want to stop.

 

Rep. Chaffetz’s (R-Utah) grilling of John King is relentless. Despite his ethical “lapses,” Danny Harris received $230,000 in bonuses over time for his work, in addition to his $183,000 in salary, and $15,000 from Howard University. Plus, he ran two businesses on the side. And at one point, he consulted with the Detroit public schools. The point was made by Congresspersons again and again, that the Department of Education had one of the lowest ratings for its management of any federal department.

 

Rep. Maloney (D-NY) wanted to know why the contracts involved were not competitively bid. She did not get an answer. She wanted to know why Mr. Harris’s actions were not violations of law or policy. She did not get an answer other than the claim that DOE lawyers said there was no violation in not reporting income to either the Department or to the IRS. Astonishing.

 

One thing you learn: Acting Secretary of Education John King sees no violation of law, regulation, or policy in the behavior of the CIO, who ran two businesses on the side, did not report his income to the IRS, and oversaw a single-source contract to a friend. Mr. Harris was not sanctioned in any way; he received counseling; he received excellent evaluations. King makes endless excuses. King insists there was no violation of department policy or regulation to earn outside income and not report it. Really?

 

Where is the accountability?

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