Have you ever wondered what the school day is like for a student in first grade? These are little children, maybe six-years-old.

Katie Lapham teaches first grade in New York City in a low-income school. Read what they do here:

http://www.livingindialogue.com/excessive-standardized-testing-first-grade-fairy-tale/

“I administered the first grade benchmarks to my class of 25 students. Pearson’s ReadyGEN ELA assessment was comprised of five multiple choice comprehension questions and five multiple choice vocabulary questions. It also contained a writing question for which students stated an opinion and included a reason (a detail from the text) to support their opinion. While students were given a copy of the realistic fiction reading passage, I was instructed to read it aloud to them three times. From the groans and sighs emitted from my students as I commenced the second reading, I deduced that they didn’t find the passage to be particularly riveting.

“A number of questions and answer choices, which I also read aloud to them, were poorly constructed and confusing. A vocabulary question tricked students by offering large and huge as possible answer choices for What does enormous mean? For one of the comprehension questions – and for the writing piece – students were required to go back to the text to get the answer. I would have lost points on the test if I hadn’t re-read the part of the text that contained the information. Students had to know where to go in the text and they had to be able to both decode and comprehend the paragraph in order to answer the questions correctly.

“As this test was administered in a whole class setting, I found it exasperating trying to make sure the students were paying attention and answering the right question. I observed that some of my strongest readers randomly picked answers – the wrong ones – and theorized that they weren’t paying close attention to the read aloud and/or to the reading of the questions. Only the multiple choice answer choices appeared on the test, not the questions.

“The first grade GO Math! assessment was comprised of 40 multiple choice questions, which I administered over the course of two days. Of the 40 questions, 15 tested skills that students haven’t yet learned. As I alluded to above, giving a test to a group of 25 first graders is emotionally taxing for the teacher. The kids sit together at tables so dividers are needed to prevent cheating. Also, first graders aren’t yet test savvy; some don’t know to consider all four answer choices before choosing the correct one. Multiple choice is NOT a developmentally appropriate method to use in formally assessing six and seven-year-olds. Furthermore, because the test is read to students, teachers must be vigilant to ensure that students are on the right question. For these reasons, I decided to split up the class into three groups for the administration of the GO Math! assessment. While I was testing a small group, laptops occupied the other students. For group three, I had to translate the test into Spanish.”

She assumes that students in affluent districts have time for activities and the arts, not just test prep.

The Guardian reports that lobbyist and union-buster Richard Berman has a new target:

“Over the last year, Berman has secretly routed funding for at least 16 studies and launched at least five front groups attacking Environmental Protection Agency rules cutting carbon dioxide from power plants, the Guardian has learned.”

This is the centerpiece of Obama’s agenda for combatting climate change.

Readers of this blog know Berman as leader of the “Center for Union Facts,” which blames teachers unions for low scores. In the recent past, he bought a full-page ad in the Néw York Times attacking Randi Weingarten and a large billboard in NYC’s Times Square repeating the same unfounded claims.

I am still waiting for Berman to explain why states without teachers unions have lower scores on NAEP than those with strong unions, like Massachusetts, Néw Jersey, and Connecticut.

But he is off to bigger targets.

Every so often, I run into someone who says that he or she cannot take seriously the claim that there is such a thing as a “privatization” movement. They think that charter schools are public schools (I do not) and they scoff at any concern about for-profit schools. They say things like, “There have always been for-profit businesses in education, selling tests, textbooks, supplies, etc., why does it matter if some corporations run schools for profit?” In their eyes, corporate reform is innovative and risky, and no one—not even the for-profit corporations—is trying to privatize public education.

 

To anyone who questions the existence of the privatization movement, I recommend Doug Martin’s “Hoosier School Heist.” Martin is a blogger who holds a Ph.D. in nineteenth century American literature. He is a native of Indiana who is deeply versed in that state’s school politics and its major (and minor) players. His book is eye-opening; actually, his book is eye-popping. It is a no-holds-barred critique of Indiana’s politically and financially powerful privatization movement.

 

Martin’s critique shows the linkages among the free-marketeers, the Religious Right, and the greedy.

 

A few examples of his snappy style:

 

“Academic progress is irrelevant to voucher supporters, for the goal is not to improve schools through competition, as they claim, but to completely dismantle traditional public schools altogether. In fact, those calling for school privatization don’t want to hold anyone with profit motives accountable, as Florida has proven.”

 

He recognizes that vouchers and charters drain funding from public schools, leaving the latter with fewer teachers, fewer aides, fewer programs—“so for-profit education management companies can take them over with temporary teachers or justify starting charter schools by deeming the neighborhood schools as ‘failing.’”

 

He sees why Wall Street is involved in the charter industry. “Making money from disasters is a Wall Street specialty, and investors have jumped on the opportunity for school privatization. Besides generating tax-exempt bonds, stocks, and other shady financial gimmicks, school privatization allows big bank CEOs, private equity firm honchos, and hedge fund managers to collect interest on loans to non-unionized charter schools which employ a temporary teacher workforce….Unlike traditional public school boards, charter school boards are unelected, undemocratic, and cloaked in mystery. Their conflicts of interest enable schemes like high rent to waste public education money.”

 

Martin challenges the corporate-sponsored claims that the public schools are failing to produce a good workforce. He says that Indiana’s newspapers and TV stations “advertise corporate school talking points, portray front group spokespeople as ‘experts,’ and seldom, if ever, question that profit motives and rigged research behind the corporate-sponsored statements that our schools are failing.”

 

The Republican-dominated legislature has taken steps to cripple the funding of public schools. “To sneak more politically connected for-profit charter schools into Indiana, in 2010 legislators cut $300 million annually from the public school budget and mandated tax caps to purposely ensure the destruction of public schools….Since the state controls the purse strings, Republican lawmakers have purposely bolted in place everything needed to start closing down Indiana schools and expanding for-profit charter schools.”

 

Martin shows how the overuse of standardized testing has benefited corporate politicians like Mitch Daniels. Not only do they stifle the critical thinking skills needed in a democratic society, not only do they send millions to testing corporations, but they demoralize and drive out good teachers. This too sets public schools up for failure.

 

One of the valuable aspects of Doug Martin’s book is his careful dissection of the sponsors of corporate reform in Indiana. A key player is called the Mind Trust, which Martin cites as an exemplar of “crony capitalism.” Martin writes:

 

“The Mind Trust typifies America’s counterfeit political Left. Mouthing the rhetoric of class warfare, civil rights, and female empowerment, the mock liberals at Education Sector, the Center for American Progress, and the New America Foundation, all supportive of the Mind Trust specifically or school privatization in general (and most bringing home six-figure salaries), attack teachers unions and public schools and connive to mount in place a school system based on corporate profit, one which disenfranchises the female teachers and minority and poor students they claim to be helping.”

 

Martin calls out the enablers of the school privatization movement, such as Eli Lilly and the Lilly Endowment, reliable funders of privatization activities, and of Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, which will recruit the temporary teachers needed for the charters. He cites the power of ALEC in the Indiana legislature, whose members pushed to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores and to judge colleges of education by the test scores of students taught by their graduates. He provides overviews of the anti-teacher, anti-union, privatization agenda of Stand for Children, DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), the Christian right, the Bradley Foundation, the DeVos family of Michigan, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which promotes charters and vouchers.

 

Martin doesn’t offer any suggestions about how to combat the well-funded, interconnected organizations that are advancing the privatization agenda. His book contains valuable information about the privatization movement, its goals, its major players, and its strategies. He leaves it to voters to figure out how to save public education in Indiana.

 

Whether or not you live in Indiana, you should read this book. The major players like DFER and BAEO operate nationally. The activities in Indiana follow a script that is being enacted in many states, probably including yours.

 

Hoosier School Heist is listed on amazon.com, or you can obtain a copy by going to the website http://www.hoosierschoolheist.com.

Bloomberg News reports that Néw York City’s public employees’ pension fund is considering an investment in a hedge fund managed by one of Eva Moskowitz’s key backers.

“The board of the $54 billion pension for civil employees, including lunchroom workers and other school aides, plans a vote Tuesday on whether to invest in Joel Greenblatt’s Gotham Asset Management LLC, according to a copy of the executive agenda. Greenblatt is co-founder of Success Academy, New York’s biggest charter-school network. Its director, Eva Moskowitz, a former city councilwoman, helped block Mayor Bill de Blasio’s bid to cut aid to charter schools.”

Mercedes Schneider read a post in Facebook purporting to reveal “the truth” about Finnish education. She contacted Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg, who is teaching at Harvard Graduate School of Education this year and asked him to comment on the allegations. His first reaction was that the article was so ill-informed that it did not merit a response. Mercedes pressed him, and he sent her his comments, which are here.

Gary Rubinstein deconstructed the claim made by the NYC charter industry that 143,000 students are “trapped in failing schools.”

As Rubinstein shows, a billionaire-backed group called “Families for Excellent Schools” decided arbitrarily that any school where less than 10% passed the new Common Core test was a “failing school.” He points out that only 30% “passed” the Common Core tests (including charter schools, which had the same pass rate as public schools). If Families for Excellent Schools had used a 20% pass rate instead of 10%, he notes, then FES could have bemoaned the “Forgotten Three-Quarters.”

Rubinstein discovered that 90% of the parents in the 371 schools arbitrarily labeled “failing” would recommend their school to other parents. Obviously, the parents don’t believe their children are “trapped.”

The claim about “children trapped in failung schools” comes from a “report” by the Walton Family-funded “Families for Excellent Schools.” This is the same group that hastily raised and spent $5-6 million last year to stop Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to charge rent to charter schools using public space. With money spent so freely on the airwaves and in Albany, Governor Cuomo adopted charter schools as his cause (only 3% of the state’s students attend charter schools). With his support, the Legislature passed a bill requiring NYC to provide free space in public schools to charters and to pay their rent if they located in private space.

The National Education Policy Center regularly reviews reports from think tanks and advocacy groups. In this report, its scholars review an effort by charter school advocates to defend charter schools against critics. The conclusion: charters promote privatization and segregation.

“National Charter School Report Misleading and Superficial, Review Finds”

Contact:
Gary Miron, (269) 599-7965, gary.miron@wmich.edu
Daniel Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Feb. 23, 2015) — A report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) attempted to “separate fact from fiction” about charter schools. The report addressed 21 “myths” regarding charter schools, which were quickly rejected. However, an academic review of the report finds that it perpetuated its own myths and fictions about charter schools rather than adding to the discourse surrounding school choice.

The report, Separating Fact and Fiction: What You Need to Know about Charter Schools, was assembled by NAPCS with no author identified. Gary Miron, Western Michigan University, William J. Mathis, University of Colorado Boulder, and Kevin G. Welner, University of Colorado Boulder, reviewed the report for the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Succinctly, the original report addressed various claims about charter schools in such areas as financial equality of charter schools, lower teacher qualifications, student selection demographics, academic outcomes, segregation, and innovation.

Yet, the reviewers found that the report’s main purpose appears to be the “repetition or ‘spinning’ of claims voiced by advocacy groups and think tanks that promote privatization and school choice.” Furthermore, the reviewers found that it relied almost exclusively on advocacy documents rather than more careful and balanced empirical research, and provides only a superficial examination of any “criticisms” regarding charter schools.l

The review is organized in a format that lists each of the criticisms identified, and then provides a short commentary based on the extant research literature. Where the original document overlooked research evidence, the reviewers provide readers with a valuable tool to examine charter school criticisms.

Additionally, the reviewers find that the report fails to redirect the sector toward its original ideals, “Charter schools were originally designed to be a new form of public school. They were supposed to be small, locally run, innovative and highly accountable. They were supposed to be open to all and were expected to provide new freedoms to teachers to creatively innovate and serve their communities.”

Instead, the reviewers point out the most disappointing non-myth that comes out of the research: “In reality, the main outcomes of charter schools have been to promote privatization and accelerated the stratification and re-segregation of schools.”

The reviewers conclude, this report is unlikely to be of any use to “the discerning policy-maker” and fails to engage the important underlying issues.

Read the full review at:

http://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find Separating Fact and Fiction on the web:

http://www.publiccharters.org/publications/separating-fact-fiction-public-charter-schools/

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

http://nepc.colorado.edu

Chalkbeat uses state data to report on high suspension rates at many charters, where strict discipline is prized.

“New York City charter schools suspended students at almost three times the rate of traditional public schools during the 2011-12 school year, according to a Chalkbeat analysis, though some charter schools have since begun to reduce the use of suspensions for minor infractions.
Overall, charter schools suspended at least 11 percent of their students that year, while district schools suspended 4.2 percent of their students. The charter-school suspension rate is likely an underestimate because charter schools don’t have to report suspensions that students serve in school.

“Not all schools had high suspension rates. One-third of charter schools reported suspending fewer than 5 percent of their students, and many schools said they did not give out any out-of-school suspensions. But 11 charter schools suspended more than 30 percent of their students — a figure likely to draw added scrutiny amid a nationwide push to reduce suspensions and a debate over allowing more charter schools to open statewide.”

http://www.brettdickerson.net/blogs-are-critical-to-re-establishing-public-schools/

I am writing today from another country. I am allegedly on vacation. I have a tech glitch. I upgraded my iPad to the latest software, and now it won’t insert links into posts. Instead it pastes old links. So I am posting the link upfront.

This is a terrific post from Oklahoma that contrasts the agenda of the two major media outlets, owned by billionaires, with the agenda of bloggers, who are not billionaires.

It is very informative. I hope you will read it. One of those billionaires is Phillip Anschutz, who lives in Colorado, not Oklahoma. One of his many corporations produced “Waiting for Superman” and “Won’t Back Down.” Another owns Regal Cinemas, the nation’s largest theater chain (2500 screens). Another is a major fracking operation. Among his political activities: fighting gay rights in Colorado and California. That only skims the surface of Anschutz’s commercial and political activism.

If education is the civil rights issue of our time, as “reformers” often claim, then the students of Newark should sue Governor Christie, Cimmissioner Hespe, and Superintendent Cami Anderson for violating their right to a high quality education.

Bob Braun reports a study showing that the ongoing disruption in the lives of students, families, and educators have failed.

“A report compiled by the Alliance for Newark Public Schools reveals that so-called “Renew Schools,” city schools singled out for special attention–Anderson would call it “reform”–not only did not produce the student progress she predicted–but, in fact, lagged behind schools throughout New Jersey whose students have the same socio-economic and racial characteristics.

“So, after 20 years of state control and four years of experimentation by Anderson, the best the state-run Newark school administration has to offer fails in comparison to schools in the poorest school districts throughout New Jersey.

“This report…revealed that, with respect to 2013-2014 academic performance, all seven (7) Newark, New Jersey, Renew Schools significantly lagged or lagged their peer schools across the state.

“In the area of student growth performance, six (6) Renew Schools lagged or siginifically lagged their peer schools…”

“The analysis also shows that Newark has failed to meet its promised academic progress targets established as a condition for the granting by the federal government of a waiver of the draconian provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Under the law and under the waiver, student progress was measured for tracked for various subgroups based on race, language skills, poverty and other factors. According to the analysis, “The Renew Schools did not meet any of the 56 targets.”

And more:

“The commissioner also hinted he would, despite her failures, renew Anderson’s contract for another year. Hespe, once a well-respected educational administrator, clearly has moved to Chris Christie’s alternate universe, an Orwellian place where truth is lying and success is failure.

“It’s an embarrassment not because she failed but because of the pain and disruption Anderson caused creating the so-called “Renew Schools.” Under her plan, new principals were brought in, entire staffs were fired, schedules were changed, days were lengthened, millions of dollars were spent–including on outside consultants with close ties to Anderson–and it all has come to nought.”

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