Archives for category: Massachusetts

EduShyster has a guest column by a teacher who recently finished teaching at UP Academy in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The UP network has five schools. They are not charter schools, though their authoritarian practices appear to be modeled on “no excuses” charter schools. They are zoned 6-8 public middle schools. The schools get high test scores, and the US Department of Education recently awarded them $4.3 million to replicate. Its disciplinary polices are harsh and unforgiving. While the schools get high test scores, shouldn’t we wait and see what other results follow from such schools before paying taxpayer dollars to get more of them? I would never let my children or grandchildren go to such a soulless school, but that’s just me. In the case of UP academies, parents don’t have a choice.

 

 

I was hired to teach at UP Academy in Lawrence, MA starting in August of 2014. Everyone on staff had a duty and mine was to stand in the girl’s bathroom and make sure that the students were leaving quickly and that they only used two pumps of soap and took two paper towels. If they used more I was supposed to give them a demerit. Everything is timed, and teachers walk around with timers. Kids are timed when they go to the bathroom and when they have their snack so that they aren’t wasting valuable learning time. At orientation, which lasted a month before the start of schools, we spent an entire day on how to pass papers and how to get the students to compete against each other as they did this.
When it comes to math and English, UP Academy is teaching a lot, but there’s no emphasis on anything else. Students get social studies and science for half a year; PE and art are considered *specials* and students only get them for an hour a week. The only time students leave their classrooms is when they’re going to PE, art or lunch. After sitting all day, they have to line up in single file in total silence, not making a single peep, hands behind their backs, everything tucked in—like perfect soldiers. I’d have to transport them to my classroom, giving them merits and demerits along the way.

 

There were fifteen minutes total for the the entire class to go to the bathroom. This was twice a day, in the morning and later in the afternoon. There was an average of 32 kids in the class and when we called their names, they would indicate whether they had to go to the bathroom or not by saying *yes, thank you* or *no, thank you.* You’d start from the top of the list in the morning and those people would go to the bathroom. In the afternoon, names would get called from the bottom up. If students didn’t get called, they couldn’t use the bathroom. Students have two emergency bathroom passes they can use during the semester. If they use them up they get a detention.

 

There is more to read. Frankly, I find this bordering on child abuse. This is the kind of school that superior people design for other people’s children, not their own.

 

 

The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights jumped into the battle in Massachusetts over whether to lift the charter school cap.

 

 

The Republican governor Charlie Baker wants more charters, as does state education board chairman Jim Peyser, a long-time charter advocate.

 

 

“The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice Education Lawyers’ Committee Moves to Intervene in Charter Cap Case on Behalf of Students of Color, Students with Disabilities, and English Language Learners

 

Boston, MA – Students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners, together with the New England Area Conference of the NAACP, moved today to intervene in the pending litigation over the cap on charter schools, arguing that the cap is necessary to preserve educational opportunities for students in traditional public schools. The would-be intervenors cite evidence that charter schools divert millions of dollars from traditional public schools each year, yet serve proportionately far fewer students with disabilities and English language learners and impose harsher discipline on students of color.

 

“It is critical that the voices of students in traditional public schools be heard in this lawsuit,” said Matthew Cregor, Education Project Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and one of the lead attorneys for the student intervenors.

 

“Traditional public school students – particularly those who are underserved by charter schools – suffer immense harm as more and more funds are diverted to charter schools.” He noted that earlier this year, Boston Public Schools announced that it expects to cut $50 million from its 2016-17 school year budget, citing shifts in enrollment as one of the key reasons for the shortfall.

 

“This diversion of funds is doubly harmful to the students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners we represent,” stated Scott P. Lewis, partner at Anderson & Krieger LLP, which is representing the proposed intervenors pro bono. “These are the students who are disproportionately excluded from charter schools. Moreover, when funds are diverted from traditional public schools to charter schools, these same students experience devastating cuts to services they desperately need.” He cited the case of B.H., one of the would-be intervenors, an 8th grader with significant developmental disabilities, who attends Boston Public Schools but, because of inadequate funding, is being denied needed services.

 

“The NAACP is firmly committed to high quality, free, public schools for all,” said Juan Cofield, President of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP. “All available dollars for education should be used to improve public schools and close the education gap. Public policy which siphons funds from traditional public schools and expands a dual education system is not a constructive solution, and it will lead to the erosion of traditional public schools.” He noted that many charter schools are not welcoming environments for students of color, citing evidence of charter schools that suspend Black students at far higher rates than traditional public schools.

 

“Charter schools do not serve all students equally, and do a particularly poor job of enrolling and educating English language learners,” stated Roger Rice of Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy, another of the students’ counsel. “In 2014, charter schools enrolled English language learners (ELLs) at approximately half the rate of traditional public schools, and the number of ELLs with the lowest levels of English language proficiency is a small fraction of the few ELLs enrolled by charter schools. Charter schools drain funds from traditional public schools, but then fail to educate all our youth on an equal basis.”

 

 

 

 

Sandra Stotsky was deeply involved in the transformation of public education in Massachusetts from 1999-2003. As senior associate commissioner of education, she oversaw the development and implementation of curriculum frameworks and testing of entry-level teachers. Massachusetts rose to the top of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. As she explains here, the Bay State did not have annual testing.

She writes:

“K-12 schools have coped with an abundance of mandated testing since the early 1990s. Worse yet, under federal guidelines, the consequences of poor student performance have in the name of accountability come to fall more on teachers than students. The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) expanded the educational-level testing mandated in the 1994 authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), mandating annual testing for reading and mathematics in grades 3-8, once in high school, and at several grade levels in science.

“The 2015 re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), called ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), continued NCLB’s annual testing mandate. It did so in large part because of strong support from education researchers (e.g., Whitehurst, West, Chingos, Dynarski, among others, in Education Next). Yet, none provided evidence that annual testing via ESEA had significantly increased the achievement of low-income students in K-12 in both subjects. They couldn’t because there is none. Nevertheless, even though the national needle had not moved in reading at any National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)-tested grade in 50 years, ESSA punished the states with a continuation of annual testing and test-based accountability.

“A big question is why education researchers don’t look at what Massachusetts did and did not do to increase low-income student achievement. Remember, its average scores in both reading and mathematics, for grade 4 and grade 8, on NAEP tests in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015 were the highest or among the highest of all 50 states. On the one international test of curriculum-based achievement (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study—TIMSS), the state, entered as a separate country, tied with Singapore for first place in grade 8 science and was among the top six countries in mathematics in grades 4 and 8 in both 2007 and 2013. Surely, there should have been a long look at what the Bay State did, beyond its testing schedule.

“This is the testing that was done: From 1998 to 2000, testing took place in four major subjects (math, science, reading, and history) annually in grades 4, 8, and 10, or at one grade per educational level as mandated by the state’s 1993 Education Reform Act. After 2000, testing in math and reading took place annually but only at every other grade level (grade span testing) and at one grade per educational level annually in science and history until 2006, when NCLB’s annual requirements kicked in for math and reading because the tests were now ready for previously untested grades. The state’s high math and reading scores beginning in 2005 cannot be accounted for by annual testing. Nor can the state’s stunning performance in grade 8 science in 2007 or 2013.

“As the person in charge of the total revision or development of all the state’s K-12 standards, teacher and administrator licensing regulations, most teacher licensure tests, as well as criteria for professional development from 1999-2003, I have some basis for suggesting what I think likely contributed to students’ enduring academic gains in the past decade even if education researchers do not seem to want to learn what the Bay State did.

“Under my direction, the state department of education revised major documents to increase the content knowledge requirements in standards for all students, and to strengthen academically the licensure requirements for the state’s teacher and administrator corps. The results of high quality research were clear; teachers’ knowledge of the subject they teach is the only trait associated with enhanced gains in student achievement. The documents we developed during the years I was a public bureaucrat, including definitions of terms used, embedded policies approved by the field (via frequent public comment), the Commissioner of Education David Driscoll, and the Board of Education under James Peyser, chair.

“Annual testing at every grade level in math, reading, and science was not one of them. Nor was it apparently necessary for higher and enduring academic achievement in these subjects, even though ESSA froze it in for reading and math. Nor can the case be made today that annual testing improves low-income student achievement. It’s possible it may even retard achievement. We don’t know because the idea has not been explored by education researchers. Why civil rights organizations or the Gates Foundation support a policy that exists in no other country needs explanation.”

So, what should business leaders and think tanks do when their state’s public schools are first in the nation? Disrupt them, of course. Demand more privately managed charters, more competition. Just make sure there is no praise for accomplishments. Complain, complain, complain, so the public thinks ill of the best schools in the nation.

Jean Haverhill writes about what is happening:

http://www.endcommoncorema.com I need to offer more time to this group. The MA Business Alliance brings in Sir Michael Barber with a phony study on “PARCC” superiority to MCAS. Measured Progress in NH (formerly a research firm) conveys the Sir Michael Barber infiltrating through MA Business Alliance directly to the Board of Ed. Fordham Institute is actively pursuing this avenue. David Driscoll, of NAEP, is going to be testing our kids on “grit”. The MA Business Alliance is tying up the grass roots effort of parents (in the courts) who have diligently gathered signatures to put common core/testing onto the November ballot. People in Worcester County, Essex County, Hampshire County may not be aware of all of the intricacies/ circumstances of groups in Boston but in particular, I prefer to spend my time on calling out (a) Fordham Institute and Education Next (Michael Petrilli, Andy Smarick, Education Next) for their constant pushing on vouchers/charters and tests (b) NAEP measurement of “grit” (thanks, David Driscoll) © Measured Progress ( a “research” firm tied up with West Ed and Pearson) and the (d) MA Business Alliance trying to defeat the grass roots efforts of parents. These are some pretty powerful foes or public education as I know it. If we fight amongst ourselves, these major elements will proceed with their own agenda and their own special interests.”

Warning: wherever Michael Barber goes, testing, ranking, and privatization follows.

EduShyster was alerted by a confidential tip to the possibility that Jim Peyser, the State Secretary of  Education, remains a director of an organization that lobbies for more charter schools.

 

She checked public records and learned that Peyser is still listed as a director of “Families for Excellent Schools.” This is an organization of hedge fund managers, millionaires, and billionaires who lobby for privately managed charter schools.

 

“The Secretary of Education, Jim Peyser sets education policy for the state and also votes on said policy. And as a director for the charter school advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools, and its 501 (c) (4) lobbying arm, Peyser is seeking to influence the very state policy that he is then voting upon. In other words, he is lobbying himself.As the Secretary of Education, Jim Peyser sets education policy for the state and also votes on said policy. And as a director for the charter school advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools, and its 501 (c) (4) lobbying arm, Peyser is seeking to influence the very state policy that he is then voting upon. In other words, he is lobbying himself….

 

 

“But wait, there’s more
“If it sounds like our Secretary of Education has his hands full, both lobbying and being lobbied, consider that Father Peyser wears yet another cap these days. He is also the defendant in a class-action lawsuit vs. the state’s charter cap, defending the very cap that he is working feverishly, whilst wearing one of his other caps, to lift. The obvious question: how does he do it all? Followed by: what size hat does Peyser wear? Followed by: doesn’t Massachusetts have some kind, ANY kind of, conflict of interest law? Alas, I’m informed that its nearly as toothless as our public records law.”


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Massachusetts Jobs with Justice released a well-documented report on the dark money behind a shadowy group called “Families for Excellent Schools.” FES is leading the campaign for more charter schools in Massachusetts. Of course, FES flies under a fake flag, because the “families” are not representing the families of Boston or the families that need excellent schools. FES is a gross deception. They are representing hedge fund managers and other wealthy individuals. Their idea of “excellent schools” is Exeter, Andover, Deerfield Academy, Groton, Sidwell Friends, and other elite schools that their own children attend. But these are not the excellent schools they want for the children of Massachusetts; they prefer no-excuses schools, where discipline and uniformity produces higher test scores. In the battle between Eva Moskowitz and Mayor de Blasio over the expansion of the charter sector, FES came up with nearly $10 million to beat the mayor. That’s not the kind of money that one gathers in needy communities, but it is the kind of money one collects with a few phone calls to Wall Street movers and shakers.

 

The JwJ report tears the veil away from FES, revealing where the money comes from. Up until now, it had pretended to be just another grassroots group working for “excellent” schools, and not a hedge fund-front group pushing privatization.

 

The report also revealed that one of the directors of FES is James Peyser, the Massachusetts State Superintendent of Education. This was another shocker. Why should the public official responsible for the maintenance and improvement of public schools serve on the board of an organization dedicated to privatizing public schools. Peyser holds the same position as Horace Mann. He should be embarrassed and the people of Massachusetts should be outraged.

 

Just bear in mind that the push for privatization is occurring in the state that is far and away the best performing state school system in the United States. The expansion of the charter sector will undermine public education and divide communities. FES should be ashamed. Why don’t they take their millions and open health clinics for poor children?

 

 

News flash! There is a national test that enables us to compare reading and math scores for every state! It is called NAEP. It reports scores by race, ELLs, poverty, gender, disability status, achievement gaps. This is apparently unknown to the Néw York Times and the Secretary of Education, who has said repeatedly that we need Common Core tests to compare states.

The New York Times, America’s newspaper of record, has a story today about Massachusetts’ decision to abandon PARCC, even though its State Commissioner Mitchell Chrster is chairman of the board of PARCC. True or Memorex? Time will tell.

But the story has a serious problem: the opening sentence.

“It has been one of the most stubborn problems in education: With 50 states, 50 standards and 50 tests, how could anyone really know what American students were learning, or how well?”

Later the story has this sentence:

“The state’s rejection of that test sounded the bell on common assessments, signaling that the future will now look much like the past — with more tests, but almost no ability to compare the difference between one state and another.”

What happened to the National Assessment of Educational Progress? It has been comparing all the states and D.C., as well as many cities, since 1992. Has no one at the New York Times ever heard of NAEP?

In a strange turn of events, Maureen Healey, the Attorney General for the state of Massachusetts, issued a brief defending the cap on charter schools. There is currently a strong push by charter advocates to lift the cap so charters can expand. She speaks on behalf of the Baker administration, but Governor Charles Baker (a Republican) supports charter schools.

 

Attorney General Maura Healey, acting on behalf of the Baker administration, moved Friday to crush a lawsuit that would overturn the state cap on the number of charter schools, forcefully challenging the argument that limiting these schools deprives children of a quality education.

 
The lawsuit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court in September, names as plaintiffs five Boston students who were unable to secure charter school seats during the lottery earlier this year and were assigned instead to traditional Boston public schools that have been classified by the state as underperforming.

 
The defendants include James A. Peyser, Governor Charlie Baker’s secretary of education, and other Baker administration officials who are officially responsible for enforcing the cap, even though they strongly support lifting it to allow more charter schools.

 
That tension has raised questions in legal and political circles about how Baker, a Republican, and Healey, a Democrat, might respond to the lawsuit, which argues that the cap unfairly deprives thousands of Massachusetts students of their constitutional right to a quality education.

 
On Friday, Healey, acting as the attorney for Peyser and other education officials, made clear that the state intends to aggressively fight the suit. In two strongly worded legal filings, the attorney general argues the lawsuit should be dismissed on several grounds.

 
She contends that the argument advanced by the five plaintiffs that there is a direct link between the charter school cap and the poor education they claim to be receiving is “illogical, highly speculative, and remote.”

 
“Numerous other factors” other than the charter cap could be responsible for the poor performance of some schools, Healey writes. And simply opening more charter schools won’t necessarily help because there is no guarantee that they would be high-quality charters, she contends.

 
‘Numerous factors other than the cap could be responsible for the poor performance of some schools.’

 

“Not all charter schools in Massachusetts are high-performing,” Healey writes. “In fact, it is not unusual for the department or the board to impose conditions on existing charter schools, or close them because they do not perform as required.”
Healey also asserts that Boston has not, as the plaintiffs argue, reached its limit on the number of charter schools because it still has seats available in so-called Commonwealth and in-district charter schools, which are given more flexibility than traditional public schools, though not as much as full-fledged charter schools.

 

 

When the Indiana legislature held hearings about education, parents drove hours to testify and sat for several hours as the imported “experts” spoke. Many of the parents had to leave after waiting for five hours.

Look at what happened in Massachusetts when the Legislature held hearings about lifting the charter cap.

The politicians danced in and out; some left early. The parents waited.

The foundations testified. The parents waited.

The school committees testified. The parents waited.

The heads of charter schools testified. The parents waited.

The charter parents in their matching T-shirts testified. The parents waited.

After hours went by, and almost no one was left, the parents spoke.

Look at the photo. It tells the story.

Who owns the public schools if not the public?

The world of education policy wonks has been waiting with bated breath to learn whether State Commissioner Mitchell Chester would choose to stay with the state’s test called MCAS or to adopt the Common Core PARCC test (Chester is chair of the PARCC board).

Chester answered the question by proposing to merge the two tests and create a hybrid!

No one actually knows what this means or how it will work. Will it satisfy all parties or make everyone angry?

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