Donald Cohen,  who runs an anti-privatization website (“In the Public Interest”), writes here about the damaging effects that charters in Detroit have had on public schools.


According to the corporate reform ideology, competition is supposed to be good for everyone.  Wrong.


Emergency managers er shave created a large charter sector to compete with the public schools. But both sectors are struggling.


“This sort of competition — a zero-sum game — only helps some students and the management organizations and investors that profit from charter schools. Because charter growth has gone unchecked, DPS is struggling–and for no good reason. Charter schools have not performed better. In 2011, they were graduating 50 percent of their students while traditional public schools were graduating 75 percent. Despite this, Governor Rick Snyder and the state legislature passed a bill that lifted an important limit on the number of charter schools allowed in the state.


“Detroit’s schools need to be fixed now. But too much of DPS’s revenue is going to paying high interest rates instead of fixing buildings and paying teachers what they deserve. If charter growth continues unchecked and traditional schools lose more students, it will be even harder for DPS to pay down its debt and afford fixed costs, like buildings, maintenance, and administration.


“Wall Street agrees. The credit rating agency Moody’s recently downgraded DPS’s credit rating citing “a growing charter school presence.” Their outlook was bleak: “Absent enrollment and revenue growth, fixed costs will comprise a growing share of the district’s annual financial resources and potentially stress the sufficiency of year-round cash flow.”


“While Detroit’s charter schools continue to increase in number, there are some students they’ve avoided. Students with special education needs make up 17 percent of DPS enrollment; but for charter schools, that percentage is 9 percent. This difference further destabilizes DPS, as these students usually have higher costs associated with their education.”



Eva Moskowitz reacted angrily to the unflattering story in the New York Times about a teacher berating a first-grader. She sent a note to her staff accusing the Néw York Times of having a vendetta against her.

Her email said:

“We must not allow the haters to bully us or stop us from re-imagining public education,” Moskowitz writes.”

She added that if a similar video came from a public school, the Times would have ignored it.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which oversees the Program in International Student Assessment (PISA), has released a lengthy study comparing the nations that take the PISA test.


The conclusions of the report confirm what almost everyone knows: the students with the lowest test scores are those who live in poverty, those who have an immigrant background, and those who live in a single-parent home (which is usually a female parent, who usually lacks the income to support the family). These findings are not surprising.


How does the US compare? Apparently there have been no changes in reading scores since 2003—despite No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top and their heavy emphasis on reading and math. There were some gains in science, which is surprising since science was not a priority subject for either of the  big federal programs.



So how does the U.S. stack up when it comes to low-performing students? Here are the results from the 2012 PISA exam – the most recent date it was administered:


In math, 26 percent of students were low performers compared with the OECD average of 23 percent.
In reading, 17 percent were low performers compared with the OECD average of 18 percent.
In science, 18 percent were low performers compared with the OECD average of 18 percent.
And 12 percent were low performers in all three subjects compared with the OECD average of 12 percent.
Notably, the share of low performers in math and in reading in the U.S. has not changed since the 2003 PISA test, but the share of low performers in science decreased by about 6 percentage points between 2000 and 2012….


Internationally, the study found that:


The probability of low performance in math, for example, is higher for students if they are socioeconomically disadvantaged, female, have an immigrant background, speak a different language at home from the language of instruction, live in a single-parent family, attend school in a rural area, have not attended preschool, have repeated a grade or have enrolled in a vocational program.



What conclusions does Andreas Schleicher, the director of PISA, reach?



One facet could be increasing access to early childhood education, through which “countries have been able to really make a big difference,” Schleicher said. Other policies that have had a big impact on student achievement include improving training and professional development for teachers and boosting the rigor of academic standards.


“The U.S. recently adopted the Common Core,” Schleicher said of the academic benchmarks being used in more than 40 states and the District of Columbia. “That has happened in many countries, and we can actually see a big impact on this.”


In what way will the increased “rigor of academic standards” help low-income students who are already far behind? How will it help students who live in single-parent homes, or homes where no one speaks the local language? Will Common Core reduce poverty or change the circumstances of children’s lives? I wish he would explain his logic.


John King is currently Acting Secretary of Education. President Obama will formally nominate him to serve as Secretary. 

King’s autocratic behavior as state commissioner of education spurred a massive parent opt out from state testing. King adamantly supports testing, VAM, Common Core, and charter schools. He taught in a “no excuses” Uncommon Schools charter with one of the highest suspension rates in Massachusetts. 

As commissioner, King defended inBloom, a Gates-funded data-mining project. After other states had withdrawn due to parent protests, King supported inBloom. The state legislature listened to parents and passed a law forcing the state to drop inBloom. After NY’s withdrawal, inBloom collapsed. 

Deborah Gist, the former state superintendent of schools in Rhode Island, has recommended a $920,000 contract for the Boston Consulting Group in Tulsa, where she is now district superintendent. The contract will be funded by “private donors.”

BCG has won similar contracts in other districts. Their reports typically recommend downsizing and privatization.

This is not good news for Tulsa.

The first question that citizens of Tulsa should ask is, what is the education expertise of this business consulting group? When last I looked, Margaret Spellings–who has never run a school district–was its education consultant. Since she is now the new president of the University of North Carolina system, who is running the education business at BCG? Who are the “experts” at BCG who know more than Deborah Gist and the teachers of Tulsa?

The Tulsa school board will be writing a blank check to BCG unless they find out exactly who is giving advice and why Tulsa should want it, even if someone else is paying the bill.

In other districts, when BCG arrives, public education is in danger.

A reader told me that the school board gave him this article to reassure him.

The lead author used to be Rick Hess’ assistant at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. None of the three co-authors ever worked in a school, according to their online bios.

What expertise do they have in education?

Here is a switch: Parents at a charter high school in New Orleans suspected massive cheating and hired a law firm to conduct an investigation. They were right. There was massive cheating.



Landry-Walker High School’s 2013-14 test results were so amazing that some New Orleans education insiders doubted they were valid. More students at Landry-Walker than at Lusher Charter, a selective-admissions school, aced geometry. In biology, the school was fourth-best in the city.


Skeptical of the numbers, the school’s parent organization, the Algiers Charter School Association, launched a 16-month investigation — without telling Landry-Walker’s principal — into what some feared could be widespread, teacher-enabled cheating. The association undertook a detailed analysis of student performance, hired outside lawyers and, for the spring 2015 round of testing, placed independent monitors in every single examination room at its flagship school, according to internal documents.


When the 2014-15 test results came back, Landry-Walker’s scores fell off a cliff. The percentage of students getting top marks in geometry fell by 51 points.

The New York Times reports today that a former Success Academy teacher videotaped another teacher demeaning and belittling a first-grade student who could not come up with the right response to her question. Other former SA teachers confirmed that children were subject to psychological abuse to force them to conform to the rigid disciplinary rules of the school.

In the video, a first-grade class sits cross-legged in a circle on a brightly colored rug. One of the girls has been asked to explain to the class how she solved a math problem, but she has gotten confused.

She begins to count: “One… two…” Then she pauses and looks at the teacher.

The teacher takes the girl’s paper and rips it in half. “Go to the calm-down chair and sit,” she orders the girl, her voice rising sharply.

“There’s nothing that infuriates me more than when you don’t do what’s on your paper,” she says, as the girl retreats.

The teacher in the video, Charlotte Dial, works at a Success Academy charter school in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. She has been considered so effective that the network promoted her last year to being a model teacher, who helps train her colleagues.

A spokesperson for the charter chain insisted that this was contrary to its rules. The teacher was briefly suspended.

But interviews with 20 current and former Success teachers suggest that while Ms. Dial’s behavior might be extreme, much of it is not uncommon within the network.

Success is known for its students’ high achievement on state tests, and it emphasizes getting — and keeping — scores up. Jessica Reid Sliwerski, 34, worked at Success Academy Harlem 1 and Success Academy Harlem 2 from 2008 to 2011, first as a teacher and then as an assistant principal. She said that, starting in third grade, when children begin taking the state exams, embarrassing or belittling children for work seen as slipshod was a regular occurrence, and in some cases encouraged by network leaders.

“It’s this culture of, ‘If you’ve made them cry, you’ve succeeded in getting your point across,’” she said.

One day, she said, she found herself taking a toy away from a boy who was playing with it in class, and then smashing it underfoot. Shortly after, she resigned.

“I felt sick about the teacher I had become, and I no longer wanted to be part of an organization where adults could so easily demean children under the guise of ‘achievement,’” said Ms. Sliwerski, who subsequently worked as an instructional coach in Department of Education schools.

These complaints sound like they come from a school of the late 19th century. Not the way most parents want their children to be treated. Not the way to prepare for the 21st century, where creativity and independent thinking should be encouraged.

Many of us could live our lives without giving a second thought to teacher education. Either we earned a degree in a teacher preparation program or we didn’t. Only those who work in these institutions are deeply engaged in their future.

Never fear, as Laura Chapman reported in the last post, and as James Kirylo documents here, Bill Gates has trained his laser vision on teacher education.

Kirylo writes:

“As most know, Bill Gates, through his foundation, has worked hard in an attempt to disturbingly shape K-12 education in his own image. Next on his radar is teacher preparation—with the awarding of $35 million to a three-year project called Teacher Preparation Transformation Centers funneled through five different projects, one of which is the Texas Tech based University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Educator Preparation (U.S. Prep) National Center.

“A framework that will guide this “renewal” of educator preparation comes from the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), along with the peddling of their programs, The System for Teacher and Student Advancement (TAP) and Student and Best Practices Center (BPC). Yet, again, coming from another guy with bags of money, leading the charge of NIET is Lowell Milken [brother of junk bond king Michael Milken] who is Chairman and TAP founder.

“Though a handful of other places could serve as an example, the state of Louisiana illustrates how NIET is already working overtime in chipping its way into K-12 education. And now that NIET is applying a full-court-press in hyping its brand in the Pelican state, the brand is working its way into teacher education preparation programs, namely through the Texas Tech based U.S. Prep National Center.

“This Gates Foundation backed project involves five teacher education programs in the country (Southern Methodist University, University of Houston, Jackson State University, and the University of Memphis– and includes one in Louisiana— Southeastern Louisiana University).

“Thus, teacher educators must be “trained” in order to propagate the NIET brand. Because I am a teacher educator at one of the impacted universities that has been recruited by the Texas Tech based U.S. Prep National Center, I was recently mandated to attend three full days of NIET indoctrination (with continued follow-up training).

“Along with my colleagues—who collectively bring a rich background of K-12 teaching experience, in addition to decades of teacher education work, a wealth of post-graduate education degrees, all of whom have made meaningful contributions to the professional community through a wide array of venues—in a teacher education program that has a sterling reputation—yet, all of which was of no concern to the NIET trainers. That is, because right out of the gate, the NIET officials were off and running, making it implicitly clear that a new teacher education sheriff is in town.”

Laura Chapman, reired arts educator, writes here with extensive documentation, about the Gates Foundation’s audacious effort to control teacher education.

Beware, Massachusetts! Gates has already planted its flag on 71 providers of teacher education.

Laura writes:

“I have been looking at all five of the Gates “Teacher Transformation Grants,” each for 33 months and just shy of $4 million for each grantee. All of the press releases are filled with jargon about “elevating” the teaching profession. The interlocking networks and complementary funding by other foundations of these new Gates investments is amazing.

“In October 2015 the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education received a 33 month grant for $3,928,656 from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to support the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) “teacher transformation” effort: The Elevate Preparation: Impact Children (EPIC) center. This is an addition to a separate Gates grant in October 2015, $ 300,000, “to launch, execute, and utilize implementation data collection at the state-level.”

“On other blogs, I have commented on this takeover of 71 “providers” of teacher education in Massachusetts, where a large administrative unit in the state department of education is functioning as one of Gates Foundation’s Teacher Preparation Transformation Centers.

“Why Massachusetts? Massachusetts has already imposed industrial strength surveillance systems on teacher prep programs. The Gates grant will complete the so-called “EPIC System” including tracking the “performance outcomes” of graduates of 71 teacher prep programs insofar as their graduates are employed by the state. Among the measures of performance (in addition to those already required in the state) are surveys of employers, parents, students, and all of the candidates who have become teachers—tracked for a minimum of three years.

“In addition, Massachusetts and six other states are part of the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP), with a focus on teacher licensure, program approval, and data systems—an initiative of the Council of Chief State School Officers. The CCSSO is so dependent of the Gates Foundation for operating support is should be regarded as one of many subsidiary operations of the Foundation.”

Gates is relentless. He is like a madman with a laboratory who won’t give up on his project to control teachers. He has said repeatedly that “we” know how to create great teachers. He believes that if everyone did what he wants, every teacher would be in the top quartile.

VAM failed. But he is moving on now to teacher education.

He never learns. He ruins other people’s lives, tries to destroy an entire profession, and expects the world to thank him.

The Tennessee legislature did not take up the voucher proposal because the sponsor realized it didn’t have the votes to pass.
Initially he wanted statewide vouchers but rural legislators were not interested. Then he narrowed it to four counties with urban districts. Then he narrowed it only to Shelby County, that is, Memphis. The sponsor, a conservative Republican, wanted (of course) to save poor kids in failing schools. 
But many legislators were dubious that vouchers actually work. There is plenty of evidence they don’t. So the bill was shelved for another day. 
We can hope that day never arrives. 
Congratulations to the BATS, the Momma Bears, the Tennessee Education Association, and other fighters for public education!


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