Archives for category: Michigan

Steve Matthews, superintendent of the Novi school district, here explains how the education profession has been attacked and demonized, with premeditation.

 

He begins:

 

So you want to kill a profession.

 

It’s easy.

 

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.

 

 

 

Oh, good! Governor Rick Snyder wants to be held directly accountable for the improvement of the bottom 5% of schools in Michigan.

 

He has taken away responsibility for them from the State Department of Education and transferred it to an agency he controls.

 

He must have forgotten the lessons of the Educational Achievement Authority.

Steven Ingersoll, charter school founder, was convicted by a federal jury for financial misdeeds.

 

Blogger Miss Fortune reports:

 

A federal jury found Bay City Academy founder Steven J. Ingersoll guilty of three of the six criminal counts he faced stemming from his rapacious tear through the finances of both the Bay City Academy and Grand Traverse Academy charter schools.

 

The jury found Ingersoll guilty of two counts of attempting to evade or defeat tax and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. The jury exonerated him of three counts of fraud by wire, radio, or television.

 

Throughout the trial, federal prosecutors argued that Ingersoll shifted money among business and personal accounts to avoid taxes.

 

Steven Ingersoll in 2010 purchased a former church at 400 N. Madison Ave. on Bay City’s East Side and later entered into a construction contract with Roy Bradley in order to convert the structure into the Bay City Academy charter school. Federal prosecutors alleged Ingersoll in January 2011 obtained a $1.8 million construction line of credit loan from Chemical Bank in Bay City for his endeavors with the church-academy, then used the money for his own purposes.

Ingersoll used $704,000 of this money to pay part of a $3.5 million-debt he owed to another charter school he founded, Grand Traverse Academy in Grand Traverse County, but first had it bandied around the bank accounts of his other entities and those of the Bradleys and his brother, prosecutors alleged.

 

 

The founder of the Grand Traverse Academy in Michigan is being tried in federal court for misappropriating $3.5 million of the school’s funds.

 

His attorney explained that it was a loan to pay off his taxes.

 

Attorney testifies Steven Ingersoll was aware in May 2013 of federal tax investigation when he told the Grand Traverse Academy board he could not pay his $3.5 million dollar Academy debt…and his taxes!

 

Meg Hackett, a Grand Rapids attorney representing the Grand Traverse Academy board, testified today in Steven Ingersoll’s federal fraud trial that during a May 20, 2013 Academy board meeting, Ingersoll asked the board to characterize his $3.5 million dollar indebtedness to the charter school as a “loan”.

 

For years, the Grand Traverse Academy had carried Ingersoll’s growing debt on its books, characterizing it variously as either a receivable, a related party receivable or a prepaid expense.

 

Is this sort of like a public school, where the principal borrows $3.5 million from the school?

Did you know that charter authorizers in many states are paid a fee for every student who enrolls in a charter they oversee? Did you know this fee removes any incentive to demand accountability?

This article shows how fraught with self-dealing, conflicts, and indifference many of these relationships between authorizers and charters are. It is a wild, wild world out there.

Consider this:

“Nestled in the woods of central Minnesota, near a large lake, is a nature sanctuary called the Audubon Center of the North Woods. The nonprofit rehabilitates birds. It hosts retreats and conferences. It’s home to a North American porcupine named Spike as well as several birds of prey, frogs, and snakes used to educate the center’s visitors.

“It’s also Minnesota’s largest regulator of charter schools, overseeing 32 of them.. ”

“Many of these gatekeepers are woefully inexperienced, under-resourced, confused about their mission or even compromised by conflicts of interest. And while some charter schools are overseen by state education agencies or school districts, others are regulated by entities for which overseeing charters is a side job, such as private colleges and nonprofits like the Audubon wildlife rehabilitation center…..”

“In 2010, an investigation by the Philadelphia Controller’s Office found lavish executive salaries, conflicts of interest and other problems at more than a dozen charter schools, and it faulted the authorizer – the School District of Philadelphia’s charter school office – for “complete and total failure” to monitor schools. In 2013, more than a dozen Ohio charter schools that had gained approval from various authorizers received state funding and then either collapsed in short order or never opened at all. [That hasn’t stopped Philadelphia from opening more charters.]

“Considerable state funds were lost and many lives impacted because of these failures,” the Ohio Department of Education wrote in a scathing letter last year to Ohio’s charter-school regulators. The agency wrote that some authorizers “lacked not only the appropriate processes, but more importantly, the commitment of mission, expertise and resources needed to be effective….

“It’s not just Trine. In the esoteric world of charter authorizing, there’s long been confusion and tension over the basic role of authorizers. Are they charter-school watchdogs, or are they there to provide support?

“In Ohio, many charter authorizers fall on the “support” end of the spectrum. Some go so far that they sell “support services” – back-office services, for instance, or even professional development – to the very schools they regulate. It’s a way for these groups to make additional revenue on top of the fees they’re allowed to charge the schools.”

Over the past few years, we have seen countless charter scams and frauds. This should not be surprising. When you deregulate a public service and give public money to non-educators to run schools without supervision or accountability, this is what you get.

Here is a prime example, one which I wrote about recently. This post was written and sent to me by Dr. Mitchell Robinson.

An optometrist in Michigan decided he had a new method of learning, which he called “Integrative Visual Learning.”

Robinson writes:

“What’s lost here is any discussion of Dr. Ingersoll’s “innovative” approach to learning, “Integrated Visual Learning,” which has to do with rapid eye movements. Here’s a teacher’s account of IVL, and how it was used in Dr. Ingersoll’s school:

“His claims were/are at best a novelty in my opinion. If I recall correctly, students were initially given a screener to see how their eyes tracked on a page of text. This was done with a special machine and a pair of glasses hooked up to the machine. If their eyes didn’t track from left to right (as in how a person reads a page of text) and from one line to the next in the correct “zig zag” pattern during reading, then they were considered to need “therapy.” Therapy was expensive and rarely covered by insurance.”

“What’s missing here is any description of how children learn. How does this “test” help teachers adapt instruction? What happens when a child’s eyes don’t zig zag? Are they taught differently, or just not admitted to the school?

“Um, not so much…according to another teacher:

“There was NO room in the school specifically for IVL testing. There may have been equipment, but kids were never observed for vision. The IVL methods were taught to all kids, because Ingersoll made the staff do it; middle school and high school as well. Even the Special Education teachers had to teach it. which meant critical standards were not met.”
(http://www.upnorthprogressive.com/2015/01/13/teachers-speak-out-about-integrated-visual-learning-the-continuing-story-of-dr-steve-ingersoll/)

“So while we don’t know if Dr. Ingersoll knows anything about children, or learning, or schools, here’s what we do know:

“1. He stole our money.
2. He subjected our children to radical, untested teaching methods.
3. People like this should not be permitted to set foot in our schools, much less run them.”

For a decade now, we have been told again and again by the national media that New Orleans is a “miracle” district. City after city, state after state, wants to be like New Orleans. In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder created the Educational Achievement Authority, which has been plagued with mismanagement and has shown no progress for the students in Detroit. Governor Snyder appointed an emergency manager for financially strapped, low-performing Muskegon Heights, and the emergency manager turned the students and schools over to a for-profit charter chain; after two years, the chain decamped when it was clear there would be no profit. Tennessee created the Achievement School District, where the state’s low-performing public schools were gathered, turned over to charter operators, and are supposed to be in the state’s top 20% by performance within five years; the clock is ticking, and there is no reason to believe that the five-year deadline will be met. The public schools of York City, Pennsylvania, have been promised to a for-profit charter chain.

 

And now Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal has an idea. He wants Georgia to have a Recovery School District, just like New Orleans. Here is the formula: wipe out public education and replace it with privately managed charters; eliminate any teachers’ unions; fire veteran teachers and replace them with Teach for America. What could go wrong? Note in the linked article that the enrollment in New Orleans public schools fell from 65,000 before Hurricane Katrina to 25,000 or so today. This makes comparisons pre- and post- tricky to say the least.

 

No matter. The boosters are still claiming dramatic success.

 

But along comes Mercedes Schneider, who managed to get the full set of ACT scores for the state of Louisiana. For some reason, the State Department of Education was not eager to release those scores. You will see why.

 

Mercedes wrote more than one post. They are collected here. The details are in the individual posts.

 

She begins the second post like this:

 

 

It is February, and at my high school, that means scheduling students for the next school year. During two of my classes today, our counselors were in my room explaining to students the Louisiana Board of Regents minimum requirements for first-time college freshmen who wish to attend a four-year college or university in Louisiana. These requirement are the result of legislation passed in 2010 and phased in over four years, the Grad Act.

 

One requirement is a minimum score of 18 on the ACT in English and a minimum score of 19 on the ACT in math.

 

Even though Regents also has an ACT composite requirement, one can readily substitute a high GPA in place of a lacking composite.

 

However, that 18 in English and 19 in math is virtually non-negotiable. An institution might be able to conditionally admit some students in the name of “research”; however, there is not too much of this allowed, for Regents states that the two ACT subscores are the most widely acceptable, readily available evidence that a student would not require remedial college coursework in English or math– a rule effective for all Louisiana four-year institutions of higher education effective Fall 2014.

 

Thus, the first graduating class affected by this Regents rule is the high school graduating class of 2014.

 

Remember those numbers: 18 in English and 19 in math.

 

Schneider continues:

 

Some highlights from this data:

 

Of the 16 active New Orleans RSD high schools, five graduated not one student meeting the Regents 18-English-19-math ACT requirement. That’s no qualifying students out of 215 test takers.

 

Another six RSD high schools each graduated less than one percent meeting the requirement, or 16 students out of 274 (5.8 percent).

 

Out of a total of 1151 RSD New Orleans class of 2014 ACT test takers, only 141 students (12.3 percent) met the Regents requirement. Eighty-nine of these 141 attended a single high school (OP Walker, ACT site code 192113).

 

By far, OP Walker had the highest number of Regents 18-English-19-math-ACT-subscore-qualifying class of 2014 test takers (89 out of 311, or 28.6 percent).

 

If the OP Walker were removed from RSD-NO, then RSD-NO would be left with 52 qualifying students out of 840, or 6.2 percent.

 

Sobering.

 

Notice also that the average ACT composite scores of those meeting the Regents 18-19 requirement (column G) are all above the 18 that LDOE focuses on as a minimum mark of success.

 

Clearly the theory of “raise the bar and achievement will rise” is not playing out in the New Orleans RSD when it comes to meeting the Regents minimum requirement of an 18 in English and 19 in math on the ACT.

 

No miracle here. Only more data that Louisiana Superintendent John White wishes he could hide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An article in Huffington Post reports on a study by University of Michigan researchers, led by Professor Sarah Reckhow, who found that the rhetoric of charter schools is very appealing to the public, especially to conservatives. Think of it: charters promise high achievement, better graduation rates, student success, all at a reduced cost to taxpayers. They promise that every child will go to a four-year college; not just any college, but an Ivy League college. Promise them anything but give them Arpege (for those not old enough to remember, that was a perfume ad, but lots of other words are substituted for “Arpege,” like “the shaft,” or “tyranny,” or “nothing.”). Promises, very alluring. Put that rhetoric against the reality of public schools, where some students don’t succeed, some don’t graduate, and some have low achievement. Supporters of public schools need to hone their rhetoric; the public likes the idea of non-union schools, at least in Michigan, and they don’t seem troubled by the idea of privatization. The language used by charter advocates has great appeal, even when it is not true. That must be why snake oil salesmen made a lot of money hawking their wares at state fairs in the 19th century, and why diet books continue to be best-sellers. It is the old P.T. Barnum rule.

 

Although charters are supported more by conservatives than liberals, they have bipartisan support, most notably from President Obama and Secretary Duncan. Add to that the strong charter advocacy of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rick Snyder, Rick Scott, Nathan Deal, and every other conservative governor, as well as ALEC, and it is a winning combination, politically if not educationally.

 

 

Groups against the expansion of charter schools typically argue that charter schools serve to privatize public education, thereby exacerbating existing inequalities. Supporters of charter schools, on the other hand, say that they offer parents a choice, and that employing nonunion teachers can help spur innovation.

 

The researchers found that self-reported conservatives were more likely to express support for charter schools when they learned that these schools employed nonunion teachers, while liberals were more likely to turn against charter schools when presented with information about the role of private companies in their operations — although this made less of an impact. Arguments against unions seemed to resonate more strongly with participants, and made them significantly more likely to support charter schools….

 

[Professor Sarah] Reckhow also noted that when people were asked if they support the proliferation of charter schools in their communities versus in the state’s lowest-performing districts, they were more likely to favor increasing the number of charter schools in failing areas. She told HuffPost she thought this was because respondents might be satisfied with their local school options, and might be more likely to support charter schools in places where they feel distant from the schools’ impact.

 

Still, certain aspects about Michigan politics and the state’s charter landscape may have also impacted the results.

 

“Michigan recently became a ‘right-to-work’ state,” noted Reckhow. This means that in Michigan, it is illegal to require groups of workers to pay union dues as a precondition for employment. In recent years, union membership in Michigan has dropped.

 

“This is a visible issue in Michigan,” said Reckhow. “Once you bring unions into the equation, it does affect public perception.”

 

The survey did not measure participants’ reactions to charter schools after learning about their academic results, although Reckhow said she would have been curious to see that data.

 

“In Michigan, charter schools run the gamut — some schools are high-performing and do better than nearby public schools, and a good number of charter schools are in the bottom 25 percent of schools in the state, they probably should be shut down but they’re not being shut down,” said Reckhow. “The limitation of the study is we really can’t deal with that type of question.”

 

Interesting that people liked the idea of charters…for other people’s children.

Just when you think you have heard it all, another amazing for-profit charter scandal emerges

Imagine this: an optometrist in Michigan comes up with an insight about learning: Children learn VISUALLY. So he founds a charter school and recruits other optometrists to serve on the board. In time, he has four charters, and their scores are about average for the state.

But Michigan, as the Detroit Free Press documented last year in a week-long exposé, has almost no accountability or transparency for charters, most of which are operated for profit.

Eventually, lawyers for the school noticed that the founder was borrowing large sums from the schools and repaying them by borrowing from other schools in his chain. Somehow, hundreds of thousands of dollars of public funds were somehow left in his personal bank account or that of his wife.

His trial is set to begin next month.

Peter Greene here recounts the sad story of the nation’s first all-charter district in Muskegon Heights, Michigan. You never hear about this important experiment on national radio and television. Want to know why? No big PR machine. No miracles. Instead, disaster.

Governor Rick Snyder appointed an emergency manager to impose change on Muskegon Heights. The students had low scores, and the district had a deficit. The emergency manager gave the entire district to Mosaica, a for-profit charter chain. It was “a historic opportunity” to show how private enterprise could raise scores, close achievement gaps, and succeed where the public schools had failed.

Things quickly went downhill. Teachers quit in large numbers, including new hires, wages were poor, scores remained low, discipline was erratic. The emergency manager warned Mosaica that it would be terminated if it couldn’t change things fast.

Last spring, Mosaica gave up or was pushed out or both. Even though they waived their management fee of $1 million, they couldn’t make a profit. Muskegon Heights didn’t suit their business model.

Greene concludes:

“First, Mosaica didn’t know what the hell they were doing. There are vague hints of protestations that they couldn’t be expected to fully staff and supply a system so quickly, but that’s exactly what they said they could do. They failed to recruit an adequate staff, and then they failed to retain them. They failed to provide the teaching supplies needed for the setting, and they failed to establish an environment of order and safety in the schools. The only thing Mosaica knew how to do was crunch numbers and manage cash flow (and that they did in ways that damaged every other part of their mission).

“Second, they brought no commitment, no ties, no roots, no intention of fighting to the end. They came to make money. When they couldn’t make money, they left…..

“And that is why school and business do not mix. A public school is a long-term commitment that stretches across the generations. It is a promise that a community makes to its children, past, present and future. That is not a reasonable expectation for a business, but it is the only acceptable expectation for a public school system.”

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