Archives for category: Privatization

State Senator Chris Larson regularly reports to his constituents. This newsletter describes the latest assaults on Wisconsin’s public institutions and traditions by Governor Scott Walker and his allies.

“Many of you have contacted me regarding your support for investing in education in Wisconsin. Wisconsinites take great pride in supporting their local neighborhood schools. Underinvesting in education causes our schools, teachers, and — most importantly — our students to struggle. This is worrisome and will likely have costly consequences for generations to come. Like many of you, I believe we need to get Wisconsin back on track by ensuring our future leaders have equal access to quality education.

“For-Profit Voucher Schools Continue to Be Unaccountable, Take Away Resources from Traditional Neighborhood Schools

“Communities across Wisconsin are starting to see the negative consequences of intentionally disinvesting in our traditional neighborhood schools and expanding unaccountable, for-profit voucher schools. Further, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) recently published new figures on enrollment, which showed that the number of students receiving public money to attend private schools doubled from the previous school year and is now over 2,500. Further, 75% of students receiving public money for private school have already been attending a private school prior to being publicly subsidized. This expansion has resulted in an overall increase of state expenditures on vouchers to $18.3 million during the 2015-2016 school year. In the 7th Senate District alone (excluding the city of Milwaukee), we have seen $171,860 diverted away from our public schools and funneled into private institutions. This weakens our school districts and limits the resources they have to educate our children. I have been, and will continue to be, a vocal opponent of the voucher program because of the direct harm they do to our local public schools.

“Restricting Communities from Investing in Students

“Over the past few years, Republicans in control of the Legislature have been relentless in their attacks on local control. This session, legislative Republicans introduced a bill that strips away the ability of local communities to invest in education at the local level. Assembly Bill 481 would, in certain instances, take away the right for a school district to bring funding proposals to a referendum. With fewer state resources going to school districts, the referendum process is more crucial than ever. In fact, last April, 76% of all school referendums appearing on the ballot statewide passed because our communities recognize that we cannot continue to underfund our children’s future. Taking this tool away from neighborhoods is not only an infringement of local control but could have severe impacts on cash-strapped schools.

“Community Schools: A New Vision for Education

Access to quality public education is a right that every child deserves and is enshrined in our state constitution. However, the Republican majority in our state continues to rollback local control and intentionally underinvest in our public schools, putting our children at risk. The community school legislation that I introduced with Representative Barnes addresses the complex range of factors that lead to underachievement, while strengthening local communities in the process. This forward-thinking legislation will help guarantee that our children, as well as future generations, have the necessary support to succeed year-round.

“We need to make our schools a haven, not only for educational achievement, but for all aspects of our children’s lives. A multitude of studies have shown that if a child comes to school sick, hungry, homeless, or afraid for their safety they cannot learn. We can address these problems by restructuring the way we look at education in our state.

“Higher Education

“Since the passage of the last Walker budget, our university system is having to try to find ways to deal with the $250 million cut they have been faced with. This requires flexibility and innovation on the part of administrators, as well as student leaders, and I have been proud to see the cooperation throughout the UW System. I am continuing to meet with administrators from UW-Milwaukee, as well as various technical colleges, in an effort to work together to address their funding and resource concerns.

“In a recent visit to the UW-Milwaukee, I had the opportunity to see the amazing work they are doing, despite the decrease in state investment. The new Innovation Campus in Wauwatosa is up and running, creating a unique opportunity for graduate students to work with industry professionals. The new campus houses a variety of facilities that are researching topics from early, portable Ebola detection to mobility options for neighbors with disabilities. With nationally renowned professors and industry leaders working in the lab with students it is promising to see the real-life work experience students are getting. Projects like the Innovation Campus are a direct result of the dedication of university staff and students to higher education; let us all work together to ensure their continued success.”

It is common knowledge that Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence supports charters, vouchers, and digital learning. When he announced his run for the GOP nomination, he stepped down and brought in Condaleeza Rice to lead FEE.


Who provided the money to showcase Bush’s education platform? Bush released his list of donors from 2007-14.


“WASHINGTON (AP) — Big-time donors to a nonprofit educational group founded by Jeb Bush, disclosed for the first time Wednesday, highlight the intersection between Bush’s roles in the worlds of business, policy and politics years before he began running for president….

After leaving the Florida governor’s office in 2007, Bush formed the Foundation for Excellence in Education, with a mission “to build an American education system that equips every child to achieve their God-given potential.” With Bush serving as president, the group attracted $46 million from donors through 2014.

That donor list shows the circular connections as Bush moved from governor to education advocate to corporate board member. Supporters in each of those stages of his career contributed to his educational foundation — which, in turn, sometimes supported causes benefiting its donors. They include Rupert Murdoch’s media giant News Corp., GOP mega-donor Paul Singer’s foundation, energy companies such as Exxon Mobil, even the Florida Lottery….


“If you wanted access to Jeb Bush, one of the ways to do it is to make a large donation to one of those foundations,” said Bill Allison, who until recently was a senior fellow with the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for open government…


“Records show:

—Four companies and nonprofits that appointed Bush to their boards of directors or advisory boards backed the educational foundation. One, Bloomberg Philanthropies, was among the most frequent supporters, making seven donations worth between $1.2 million to $2.4 million. Bush served on Bloomberg’s board from 2010-14. He also served on the boards of Jackson Healthcare, Rayonier Inc. and an affiliate of CNL Bank, each of which gave a lesser amount to the foundation.


—Bush’s education nonprofit provided $1.1 million in public information grants to eight states in 2013, its tax form shows. In recent years, at least nine charter school and education-related donors to the Foundation for Excellence in Education won contracts in those eight states, revealing the mirrored missions of donors and the foundation.


—The most frequent individual donor to Bush’s group was Florida citrus grower Bill Becker and his wife, Mary Ann Becker, who made eight donations worth between $225,008 and $450,000. A longtime Bush family supporter, Becker once provided Jeb Bush the use of his Cessna airplane for campaign travel….


—Major corporations backed Bush with big money. The most generous organization was the Walton Family Foundation, formed by Wal-Mart’s founders, which gave from $3.5 million to more than $6 million. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Wal-Mart Foundation gave $35,002 to $80,000 more. Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ foundation gave between $3 million and more than $5 million. Murdoch’s News Corp. made three contributions, at $500,001 to $1 million apiece. The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, built from the family real estate empire, gave more than $2 million.


—Total donations steadily increased over time, going from a 2007 maximum of $335,000 to $8.4 million in 2011 and as much as $12.2 million in 2014.

Education outfits such as Charter Schools USA, the publishing and education company Pearson PLC and Renaissance Learning were frequent contributors. So were financial groups and big businesses, with the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation giving from $1.6 million to $3.25 million and the SunTrust Bank Foundation $300,003 to $750,000. Exxon Mobil Corp., Duke Energy and BP America made nine contributions combined.”






Puerto Rico confronts massive public debt and must somehow dig its economy out of a deep crisis.


Unfortunately, as Julian Vasquez Heilig shows, a bill has been proposed to the legislature to save money by privatizing public education.


Heilig writes:


“Politicians in Puerto Rico are seeking to solve decades of fiscal mismanagement by adopting the same education reforms that are hurting children and starving school districts in the mainland United States. The disaster capitalism coming to the azure waters of Puerto Rico is very similar to the school privatization and private-control education reform causing an uproar in Chicago and Detroit….


“In October, Senator Eduardo Bhatia fast-tracked Project 1456 in the Puerto Rican Senate. School closure requirements in 1456 are the first notable parallel with the Detroit and Chicago school privatization playbook. In Chicago, 50 schools (primarily in African-American neighborhoods) were recently closed under the pretext that they were under-enrolled. A University of Chicago study showed that after neighborhood school closure, students were shuffled to a new set of low-performing schools— often charter schools…


Since 2014, the Puerto Rican government has closed 135 schools— about 10% of the schools on the island. The results of these school closings are class sizes as large as 40 students. The new law requires the closure of 400 more public schools—30% of the remaining public schools on the island. Additionally, Project 1456 requires that the government turn at least 15% of schools into Lider (charter schools) every three years under the auspices of private control and the education authority….


“While many in the mainland United States argue that charter schools are public schools— this bill makes it clear that Lider schools are public schools in name only. The bill amends Puerto Rico’s 1951 pension law by explicitly stating that charter school teachers are not public employees. As a result, they will not have access to the public pension retirement system….


“The privatization of Puerto Rico’s schools is a way to address the tens of billions of dollars in debt that Puerto Rican politicians have accrued over the past several decades. Will Puerto Rico satiate their addiction to debt on the backs of impoverished children? The answer hinges on the passage of 1456.”




– See more at:




Ann O’Leary, who advises Hillary Clinton on education policy, wrote an article in which she corrected the impression that Hillary does not support charter schools. O’Leary explains that Hillary does support charter schools, so long as they meet their obligation to include students with disabilities and English language learners and stop suspending kids they don’t want.


O’Leary takes the tack that charters are public schools, and Hillary has always supported public school choice.


She writes:


Hillary believes that every public school should be serving our students and supporting our teachers. And when charter schools are producing results, she believes we should double down on their success by scaling the model and ensure that their innovations are widely disseminated throughout our traditional public schools. That was the original bargain of charter schools.
At the same time, we must also have the courage to shut down charters that are failing our kids. And don’t just take this from me, or Hillary, for that matter. Take it from Geoffrey Canada:
“You know, people tell me, ‘Yeah, those charter schools, a lot of them don’t work.’ A lot of them don’t. They should be closed. I mean, I really believe they should be closed.”


Geoffrey Canada (who stepped down last year as leader of the Harlem Children’s Zone and now spends a large part of his time lecturing about the glories of charter schools) was the star of the anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public school propaganda film “Waiting for ‘Superman.'” He had two billionaires on the board of his Harlem Children’s Zone and $200 million in the bank. According to the New York Times, there are 15 students in a class with two licensed teachers, and individual tutors. His charter schools never lacked for money or whatever they wanted. Even so, their test scores were nothing to brag about. When his entering class failed to get high scores (according to Paul Tough’s book about Canada called “Whatever It Takes,“) Canada simply kicked the entire class out in May, when it was too late for them to get into a high school of choice. When I confronted Canada with Tough’s account on national television (“Education Nation”), he denied it and claimed he closed the whole school. But it wasn’t true. He kicked out the entering ninth grade class, everyone of them.  A public school can’t do that.


In Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and other states, charter school founders (all non-educators) have collected tens of millions of dollars in profit by running charter schools. No public school superintendent or principal can do that. In Chicago, 50 public schools were closed in a single day, to be replaced by privately managed charter schools where the citizenry has no voice. Eli Broad has proposed putting half the students in Los Angeles in privately managed charter schools; how many members of UTLA will be replaced by temps willing to work 60-hour weeks? Tennis star Andre Agassi (a high-school dropout) and his partner, investor Bobby Turner, are building charter schools for profit, and they are currently raising another $1 billion to profit from the taxpayers’ largesse. Does Hillary want to see more profiteers fatten from the taxpayers’ dollars?


I take issue with the claim that charter schools are public schools. When they have been brought to federal courts for violating the rights of employees under state law, their defense is that they are not public schools. When they have been hauled before the NLRB for fighting efforts to form a union, their defense is that they are not public schools. When charter operators in California were tried for embezzlement, the California Charter Schools Association defended them on grounds that they are not public schools and therefore not subject to the same laws. When Eva Moskowitz did not want to be audited, she went to court and insisted that the state had no right to audit her school (what public school can do that?); when she feels like holding a  political rally in Albany or at City Hall, she closes her schools for half a day (what public schools can do that?).


Another point about Hillary and charters. 93% of charters are non-union. How can she simultaneously court the millions of teachers who belong to the NEA and AFT while praising a sector that is proudly, defiantly non-union? Almost all charters are non-union, and their owners fight to keep them non-union. That’s why the far-right Walton Family Foundation has invested $1 billion in expanding the charter sector: to eliminate teachers’ unions. That’s why charters are applauded by ALEC and the likes of Scott Walker, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Rick Snyder, Rick Scott, and other rightwing governors. Is this the crowd that Hillary should be hanging with?


I do hope that Hillary thinks some more about her views of charter schools. We are hurtling towards mass privatization of public education in our urban districts. Some of these charters are for-profit or run by incompetent non-educators. For-profit charters should not get a penny of public money, not a penny. Charter chains that exclude students with severe disabilities and students who don’t speak English and students with low scores should not receive public funding. Charter chains run by foreign nationals should not get public funding. At present, charters are neither equitable nor accountable.  And there is nothing in the law that would make them so.


Why should we eliminate public schools and replace them with privately managed, unaccountable charter schools? No high-performing nation in the world has charter schools.


Please, Hillary, think about it some more. Or better yet, meet with me so I can walk you through the issue.


Denis Smith used to work for the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversaw the charter schools. Now that he has retired, he can speak freely.


In this post, he reflects on the recall of faulty cars and airbags. And he wonders, what if faulty charters could be recalled?


The post is priceless for the number of links to industry malfeasance.


He includes a long list of charter industry failures, suggesting that embezzlement and cooking the books is not a one-off phenomenon, but a systemic failure.



Here are some examples of problems in that other, non-automotive, non-manufacturing industry:


A record 17 industry locations in one city – Columbus – closed in just one year.
One of the industry’s treasurers embezzled nearly $500,000 from several locations, earning a two-year prison sentence.
An executive in the industry, operating under a phony consulting contract, also embezzled about a half-million dollars, while employee salaries had to be cut in an economy move.
In Cleveland, five industry executives were charged with stealing nearly $2 million in a scheme that saw the creation of five shell companies to receive public funds. Even the board chairman, who owned the building in which the industry operated, was part of the fraud that was detailed in a 32-count indictment.
Three industry treasurers were singled out several years ago for their responsibility with more than $1 million in “questionable spending,” according to audit findings.

This was written before I spoke in Omaha, but the reporter was well prepared and got the gist. Actually when I spoke to him, I had not yet written my speech.


What I said in Omaha:


In a few words: You are too independent, too smart, too stubborn to follow everyone else over the edge of a cliff. You have saved tens of millions (maybe hundreds of millions) of dollars by losing Race to the Top. You are a model for the nation. And without having adopted any of the so-called “reforms,” Nebraska is one of the highest-performing states in the nation on NAEP. In fact, Nebraska outperformed every state that won RTTT except Massachusetts.


Nebraska surprised me. It dragged its feet implementing NCLB. It put in a proposal for Race to the Top, but fortunately lost. It has no charter schools, no Common Core. It didn’t get a waiver because the state doesn’t want to evaluate teachers by test scores. The state commissioner Matt Blomstedt has decided not to ask anymore but to wait and see if NCLB is overhauled.


The state is mainly rural so there is not much enthusiasm for charters except in Omaha, where there is a poor black community. Some black leaders think that charter schools will be a panacea. Some white legislators agree. But so far no action on that front.


Despite the fact that Nebraska avoided almost every part of the reform menu, its students did very well on the 2015 NAEP. The state was in the top tier, ranked 9th or 11th in the nation. It outperformed every Race to the Top winner except Massachusetts, which has been number1 for years.


Nebraska is a conservative state, in the best sense of the word. It doesn’t believe in following the crowd. It doesn’t want to blow up its public schools and hope for the best. It wisely decided to wait and see. No creative disruption. No experiments on children. Just common sense.


Also, being a state where people know one another in small cities, towns, and rural communities,  Nebraska loves its public schools. Even Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, sent his own children to Omaha public schools.


But there is a new governor, and he is convinced that Nebraska needs charters, vouchers, virtual schools, the whole bag of privatization schemes.



Hopefully the good citizens of Nebraska will persuade him that conservatives don’t destroy; conservatives conserve. Hopefully, they will inform the governor that Nebraska’s public schools are among the best in the nation.


If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.

Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report writes a scathing commentary on Arne Duncan and John King. 


Unlike his underqualified predecessor, John King is highly qualified to nail down the gains of educational privatizers. For the last ten months, King has been Arne Duncan’s deputy, and before that he headed the New York State Department of Education. Like Duncan, he’s never taught in or administered a public school in his life. King started out as a charter school teacher and administrator, and eventually headed a chain of charter schools with exceptionally onerous disciplinary policies.

As commissioner of NY State Department of Education King was instrumental in forcing Common Core, a standard curriculum developed by non-educators and corporate consultants from the Gates Foundation, the testing industry and others, upon parents and schools while his own children attended a local Montessori school, which of course did not administer standardized testing. In New York King distinguished himself as a thin-skinned, tone-deaf bully, insisting in the face of widespread public opposition that cutting recreation, music, literature and real teaching in favor of Common Core’s “teach to the test” and other “run-the-school-like-a-business” practices were good for children and good for education.

There are two pieces of good news here. The first is that the $4 billion in stimulus funds the administration had under Duncan to coerce states and school districts into compliance is gone, and provisions of the successor to No Child Left Behind, which of course will institutionalize as much of the privatization regime as possible, are not yet finalized. The second is that like Arne Duncan, John King is no charmer, no persuader, and no salesman. He’s an arrogant autocrat in a highly public, highly visible position, committed to enforcing a set of massively unpopular policies. There’s a serious political opportunity here to galvanize and make visible a movement of national resistance to the juggernaut of school privatization. The Obama administration is well aware of this, and is transparently seeking to buy time with empty declarations of intent to reduce emphasis on standardized testing.


Emily Talmage writes a letter to the reformers. It is civil. It is polite. It is strong and clear.


She knows that every “I Quit” letter makes them happy. That is what they want. They want to get rid of career teachers. They don’t want people with experience. They want enthusiastic young college graduates who will work a 70-hour week and then leave. Who won’t complain if they are replaced by technology.


But Talmage has news for the reformers. She is not leaving. She plans to stay and fight. And she is not alone.


I am here to tell you that there is a growing army of us – yes, army – who are refusing to quit, despite the havoc you are wreaking on our profession.


I am here to tell you that not only have we vowed not to quit – we have also vowed to fight.


We are getting organized, and are rapidly growing in our ranks.


So let it be clear that just as you have declared war on us, we have declared war on you.


Yes, you have your freakish amounts of money and the political power you’ve bought with it.


You have your strategically formed foundations and your consultants with their arsenal of devious, deceitful tricks.


You have your wickedly distorted narratives that you have spent years crafting.


You have your egos and your algorithms and your data that means whatever you want it to mean.


But we have more than that.


We have families – parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers – and the unthinkable amount of love they generate each day.


We have momma bears whose claws are out and fangs are bared.


We have whole communities who will not stand idly by as their schools go under due to your business plans.


We have deep, fiery anger at the way we, as professionals, have been treated over the last decade, and even deeper anger over the way our children have been used as guinea pigs in your covert experiments.


We also have the truth.


So be prepared.


We are not quitting, and will not be surrendering.




Teachers (and mothers, and fathers, and grandparents, and communities…) Everywhere

Maybe it is just me, but I find myself outraged by the “reformers'” incessant manipulation of language.

“Reform” seldom refers to reform.

“Reform” means privatization.

“Reform” means assaults on the teaching profession.

“Reform” means eliminating teachers’ unions, which fight for better salaries and working conditions.

“Reform” means boasting about test scores by schools that have carefully excluded the students who might get low scores.

“Reform” means using test scores to evaluate teachers even though this practice has negative effects on teacher morale and fails to identify better or worse teachers.

“Reform” means stripping teachers of due process rights or any other job security.

“Reform” means that schools should operate for-profit and that private corporations should be encouraged to profit from school spending.

“Reform” means acceptance of privately managed schools that operate without accountability or transparency.

“Reform” means the incremental destruction of public education.

I am reminded of George Orwell’s lines from his prophetic novel 1984:

“War is peace.

“Freedom is slavery’

“Ignorance is strength.”

The goal of the leadership in the novel was to teach the population “doublethink.” To believe in contradictory ideas.

So we see schools closed, teachers and principals fired, and we are supposed to believe this is “reform.”

The media, with few exceptions, say that what is happening almost everywhere is “reform,” so it must be reform to replace public schools with privately managed charters, and to fire experienced professionals and replace them with newcomers, with untrained and inexperienced teachers and with principals who taught for one or two years.

It must be reform to allow out-of-state billionaires to buy local and state school board elections so they can control the schools of a state they don’t live in.

I confess I am also irritated by the habit of referring to young children as “scholars.” To me, a scholar is someone who has devoted his or her professional life to the advancement of knowledge. If a five-year-old is a “scholar,” what do you call a distinguished university professor who is widely recognized for her research and publications?

Has the public been suckered into believing that the destruction of public education is “reform”?

Does the public willingly accept the idea that hedge fund managers and equity investors are taking control of what is supposed to be a public responsibility?

Will we let them monetize our children and their public schools?

Does the public understand that a small group inside the Beltway wrote the “national standards” behind closed doors, that one billionaire (Bill Gates) paid for them and paid millions to national education organizations to advocate for them, and that the federal government bribed 45 states to endorse them?

How long will the public tolerate tests tied to those standards that are designed to fail 65-70% of the nation’s children?

How much longer will we allow the nation’s children to be labeled and sorted by standardized tests whose outcomes may be predicted by family income?

When will the public realize that test-based accountability does not improve education, does not promote better teaching, and actually reduces the quality of education?

How long can the Emperor parade through the streets before someone tells him he is naked?

How long can a charade persist before the public knows they have been conned?

How long will it take to unmask this great theft of a democratic institution that belongs to the public, not to entrepreneurs, foundations, rightwing ideologues, hedge fund managers, or their compliant politicians?






Peter Greene here explains why he objects to Mike Petrilli’s defense of “no-excuses” charter schools that exclude or push out students they don’t want. Mike is the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which supports school choice, vouchers, charters, and high-stakes testing. In an article on the “Bloomberg View” website, Mike argued that disruptive students hurt high-achieving students, so it is appropriate to throw them out so the other students have a chance to reach their full potential.


Petrilli wrote:


Imagine that we wanted to prioritize the needs of low-income students who demonstrated the aptitude to achieve at high levels and a willingness to work hard — the kids with the best shot to use a solid education to put poverty behind. What might we do?

First, we would put in place “universal screening” tests to look for gifted students in early elementary schools. We would ask all schools, including those with a high percentage of poor students, to identify at least 10 percent of their students for special programs, and then allow these kids the opportunity to spend part of their day learning with other high-achieving peers, and to go faster or deeper into the curriculum. A recent study by David Card of the University of California at Berkeley and Laura Giuliano of the University of Miami demonstrated that this sort of approach is particularly effective for high-achieving, low-income students.

By middle school, we would embrace tracking so that poor, bright students had access to the same challenging courses that affluent high achievers regularly enjoy, and that are essential if young people are going to get on a trajectory for success in Advanced Placement classes in high school and at more selective colleges.

Finally, we would ensure that schools were safe and orderly places to be — balancing the educational needs of disruptive students with the equally valuable needs of their rule-abiding peers.

Yet in most cities we do very few of these things. This is in large part because many progressives are convinced that any sort of tracking is classist and racist, and amounts to giving up on certain kids, and they have worked to ban it. (Ironically, political leaders in the poorest neighborhoods themselves are asking for more schools for the gifted and talented.) Most accountability systems still work on getting low-performing students up to basic proficiency in reading and math, rather than pushing schools to help all students get as far as they can.

Meanwhile, discipline “reforms” are focused overwhelmingly on reducing punishments, often with little attention to the potential downside for learning in the classroom. Yet as common sense — and solid research — tells us, that downside is real. For instance, a study by the group Public Agenda found that 85 percent of teachers and 73 percent of parents felt the “school experience of most students suffers at the expense of a few chronic offenders.”

Frustrated that the traditional public schools aren’t willing to prioritize their children’s needs, many low-income strivers have turned to high-quality charter schools instead. But now those are under attack, too. In recent weeks, the “PBS Newshour” and “New York Times” had highly critical coverage of Success Academies, charter schools in New York City that have shown excellent results in improving student performance. The reports focused on the academies’ suspending students aggressively and removing those who are chronic disrupters. There were similar controversies over the relatively high rates of suspensions and expulsions at charters in Chicago and Washington in recent years.

Peter Greene takes issue with Petrilli on a number of points.

He writes that he does not want docile and compliant students.  I don’t need compliant students. I need students who have some drive and initiative and are occasionally obnoxious because they are excited about stuff. Just in general, I see a real contradiction between striving and complying….

Petrilli talks about disruptive students as if disruptor status is permanently and unwaveringly a thing. The student who is a gigantic, disruptive pain in the butt on Monday may be the shining light on Wednesday. Being a disruptive student is not like being left-handed. For that matter, the student who is absolute disaster in your class may be my top student.

This is betterocracy at work, the notion that some people are just better than others, and that’s just how it is, and the purpose of public institutions like school is to sort out the Betters from the Lessers, allowing the Betters to rise and the Lessers to stay in place, as if every persons level of Betterness is fixed and static, wired into their dna.

Disruptosity is not an absolute, static condition. Worse, talking about “disruptive students” is like talking about “bad kids”– it locks a child into some sort of permanent state that colors all our interactions with him, instead of recognizing that we’re seeing a particular behavior on a particular day, but that behavior is not who the child is.

If a child is disruptive, Greene writes, he wants to know why. I may need to find a way to shut my disruptor down now so I can do my job for the rest of my students. But part of my job is to find out what is going on with the disruptor, because there’s a long list of reasons that a student might act out, and all of those reasons are important to know, particular as a representative of the school that is quite possibly the only place where the child encounters caring, professional adults.

Greene writes that the disruptive students may include some of the smartest students:

Like much of his talk on this subject, his call for universal screening to look for gifted students in elementary school seems to assume that academic aptitude goes hand in hand with striverliness, while not going along with disruptorosity. That is kind of hilarious. Because nobody knows how to spread chaos, disorder, and disruption like a really smart student. Particularly a really smart student who finds himself up against a school that wants him to show how compliant he is.

Greene has a proposal that will solve everyone’s problems with disruptive students:

It’s probably fair to say that there are some students so troubled and challenged that a traditional school setting just doesn’t work for them, and they become chronic disruptors. But that’s a small percentage. And since they are a small percentage of the school population and charters only have capacity for a small percentage of the school population and charter operators claim to know the secrets of making all students from all backgrounds successful, why don’t we do this– let the charters have the disruptors.

The strivers will be left in disruption-free public schools, safe and freed from Those People who interfere with their education. The disruptors will be set straight by the edu-wizards of the charter world. It’s perfect.

Now there is a modest but feasible proposal: Let the charters be the schools that solve the problems of disruptive students, a tiny fraction of the student population. Then everyone would join in the Hallelujah Chorus to charter  miracles.



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