Steve Lopez, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, asks all the right questions about John Deasy and the blow-up of his plan to spend $1 billion for iPads loaded with Pearson curriculum.

Can he survive the release of the emails that give the appearance of impropriety?

Can he survive when the new board may have a majority of members not in his corner?

Can he survive in light of the fact that Stuart Magruder, one of the few public critics of Deasy’s decision to use school construction bonds to pay for the iPads, was reinstated to the Bond Oversight Committee?

Can he survive when the LAUSD technology committee criticized the deal with Apple and Pearson before the emails were made public?

How much worse can Deasy’s situation get? Will he tough it out or has he lost the public’s confidence?

Howard Blume and Teresa Watanabe update the Los Angeles iPad scandal and note growing demands for a full investigation.

 

This doesn’t look good for Deasy. Aquino bailed out and took another job earlier. Dan Schnur calls Aquino’s email “the smoking gun.”

 

Deasy has defended the bidding process as proper and added that he and his staff talked to vendors in pursuit of good deals and good products. The focus on Aquino, who worked for a Pearson affiliate before his hiring at L.A. Unified, sharpened Tuesday, when General Counsel David Holmquist confirmed that the district was looking into whether he had violated ethics rules.

 

Those ethics rules required Aquino to avoid dealing with Pearson contracts for a year. But he sent emails to executives with the international education-services firm before the end of his first year with L.A. Unified.

 

“I believe we would have to make sure that your bid is the lowest one,” Aquino wrote to Pearson executives in one email, dated May 24, 2012.

 

“The Aquino email is the smoking gun. Even if no laws were broken, the appearances are absolutely horrible,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. “It’s hard to interpret what Aquino said in any other way than that he wanted to fix the bid process before it even got started.”

 

 

 

 

In a recent article in the Houston Chrinicle, we read that business is mighty disappointed in the schools. They say they aren’t getting the trained employees they need. They think the schools are too easy. Some want more money spent in the schools that do well, as a reward.

No one seems to care that the Legislature slashed $5.3 Billion from the schools in 2011 and–despite a good economy–never restored it.

Here’s a challenge for those Texas businessmen who claim they can’t find workers because of the schools. Visit your local school. Spend a few days there. Ask them about their needs. Take the high school math test. Publish your scores.

If public schools are “failing,” find out who cut the budget and insist that it be restored as soon as possible. Nobody gets healthier on a starvation diet.

Arizona State Superintendent John Huppenthal was defeated by Diane Douglas, a very conservative former school board member who ran on a single issue: rolling back Common Core. Huppenthal embarrassed himself a few months ago when he admitted using a pseudonym to write disparaging comments about other people and groups on blogs.

Douglas is a big supporter of school choice.

“In the November election, Douglas will face David Garcia, an Arizona State University professor who defeated high school English teacher Sharon Thomas in the Democratic primary.”

Success has its privileges. This is certainly true when it comes to Eva Moskowitz’s charter chain Success Academy.

Juan Gonzalez of the Néw York Daily News reports that Moskowitz has moved her corporate headquarters from Central Harlem to Wall Street.

In addition, he reports:

“The new offices will cost her organization $31 million over 15 years, according to its most recent financial report.

“The same report shows Moskowitz received an eye-popping $567,000 during the 2012-2013 school year. That’s a raise of $92,000 from the previous year, and more than double the $212,000 paid to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

“That made Moskowitz the city’s highest-paid charter school executive last year. Her spokeswoman said Moskowitz’s current pay is a less lofty $305,000, with her bonus to be determined at year’s end.”

According to the SA website, during the “ 2013-2014 school year, we are serving 6,700 scholars at 22 schools.”

Earlier this year, Moskowitz humbled Mayor De Blasio when he tried to deny part of her request for new schools, offering her only five of the eight schools she sought. Her hedge funds backers unleashed a $5 million TV blast against the Mayor. With the support of Governor Cuomo, the Legislature required the city to pay the rent of all charter schools and required him to approve all those charters that had been authorized by Mayor Bloomberg’s board in its last days. Eva got what she wanted, and the Mayor retreated.

Writes Gonzalez:

“As a result, the school system is spending $5.3 million this year to house the three new Success Academy schools in buildings owned by the Catholic Archdiocese.”

Progress Ohio reports that the many thousands of secret government cables released by Wikileaks contained references to the Gulen charter schools, a number of which are being investigated by the FBI for unknown reasons. The Gulen charter chain is the largest in the nation.

State Dept. Notified CIA, National Security Council About Suspicious Charter School Visas

The U.S. State Department raised serious and repeated concerns about Turkish charter schools in America, sending cables to the CIA, Secretary of Defense and the President’s National Security Council. Special attention was paid to the large number of Turkish nationals with questionable credentials seeking visas to teach at schools such as Ohio’s Horizon Science Academies, which are linked to a controversial Islamic faith leader.

A review of over one hundred diplomatic cables made available at WikiLeaks found numerous warnings about underqualified applicants for teaching visas. One cable states that applicants “might be using the reputation of the school as a cover to get to the US.” Another, ominously observed there is “considerable debate” about whether members of their faith movement were “a threat to secular governments.”

Background

Fethullah Gulen is an exiled Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania. He is currently the subject of an extradition request[1] on charges of espionage and attempting to overthrow the Turkish government.[2] Gulen has millions of well-organized followers in central Asia and his organization is said to have “some of the characteristics of a cult.”[3] Gulen’s followers founded and administer a number of charter schools, including Ohio’s Horizon Science & Noble Academies.

These schools import the majority of their administration staff and many of their teachers on work visas from Turkey and neighboring countries. Secret diplomatic cables show that the “evasiveness” of the applicants and their “uneven at best” qualifications left State Department employees “uneasy.”They voiced these concerns to the top levels of government and even suggested the Department of Homeland Security should investigate the schools.

Memos Back Ohio Teacher Testimonies

Teachers who had worked at Dayton’s Horizon Science Academy made headlines last month when they told the state school board about apparent test tampering, attendance padding, Turish teachers who could barely speak English and even an incident when parents were not told their adolescent children were caught having oral sex at a school function.

Many of the teachers’ observations are supported by the cables. In one memo, the US consulate observed Turkish visa applicants with an “inability to speak English” and a “lack of understanding of basic math concepts (when they were going to teach math or science subjects).”

In another memo, federal officials note that Gulen schools in Turkmenistan can only employ teachers who are “fully qualified in the field.’’ Teachers employed by traditional public schools in Ohio must have a college degree and teach in the area or grade level in which they are licensed. Ohio charter schools, however, are exempt from that requirement

This led ProgressOhio Executive Director Brian Rothenberg to ask, “Why are Ohio charter schools not required to employ only qualified teachers?Taxpayers should be outraged these schools are hiring teachers who aren’t even qualified to teach in their home countries.”

Rothenberg continued, “America’s top intelligence and diplomatic personnel confirmed what a panel of Ohio teachers told the state board of education: Many of the teachers and administrators at these schools are unqualified, and students and taxpayers are suffering because of it. The only entity that doesn’t seem to understand the severity of the problem is the state school board.’’

Excerpts from Secret Cables

Over a quarter million previously secret diplomatic cables were published by WikiLeaks. ProgressOhio review approximately one hundred of them referencing Fethullah Gulen and found the following:

“There is considerable debate whether the Gulen movement represents a threat to secular governments. Skeptics argue the Gulenists seek to transform societies from the inside-out by developing sympathetic elites in a country’s government and business circles. […] Gulenists’ penchant for secrecy raises questions. For example, Gulenists seeking U.S. visas at the Embassy often are evasive about their religious views and their work-related duties in the U.S. (NOTE: Many U.S. visa applicants at the Embassy seek to work at Gulenist-linked schools in the U.S.)”[4]

“…there are concerns that Gulenist charter schools in the U.S. are capitalizing on the local successes to petition for visas for marginally qualified temporary workers.”[5]

“While on the surface a benign humanitarian movement, the ubiquitous evasiveness of Gulenist applicants — coupled with what appears to be adeliberate management of applicant profiles over the past several years — leaves Consular officers uneasy, an uneasiness echoed within Turkey by those familiar with the Gulenists.”[6]

[I]n summer/fall of 2008, the consular section received a number of visa applications for highly-skilled temporary workers (H1B) to go teach in charter schools in the U.S. The applicants all had in common a tie to a Gulenist school, either in Turkey or in Turkmenistan. Their qualifications were uneven at best. Some were bona fide teachers with several years of experience and advanced degrees. Others claimed teaching experience by assisting, volunteering, or substituting at a Gulenist school (language center or high school) in Turkmenistan. These minimally-qualified applicants prompted further investigation, and it turns out that the charter schools in the U.S. are also part of the broader Gulenist movement. The minimally-qualified applicants, petitions were returned to DHS for revocation based on a lack of qualifications, such as theirinability to speak English, possession of degrees not related to the subjects that they intended to teach and further lack of understanding of basic math concepts (when they were going to teach math or science subjects).[7]

On the other hand, we are concerned by the link with charter schools in the U.S. that have petitioned for marginally-qualified H1B candidates … These applicants were simply not convincing…might be using the reputation of the school as a cover to get to the [United States]. Post, after discussions with others in the region that see similar applicants, recommends that these H1B candidates receive a high degree of scrutiny before any visas are approved…. Further, Consular Affairs, Fraud Prevention might, in concert with the Department of Homeland Security, wish to investigate or audit these Turkish-run charter schools in the U.S. for compliance with U.S. immigration law.[8]

The ASCD published an eye-popping chart showing that NAEP long-term trend test scores for 17-year-olds were flat from 1971-2012. At the same time, economic productivity soared by 375%, and gross domestic product grew by 100%.

What do you make of that?

I have pointed out repeatedly that our students have never excelled on international tests. On the first international test in 1964, our students came in last of 12 nations. Yet as I explain in my book “Reign of Error,” over the next half-century we outperformed the other 11 nations who had higher test scores.

What do you make of that?

Mercedes Schneider reviews Michelle Rhee’s time in office as chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools. She concludes that Rhee was a failure. She wanted principals and teachers to be accountable to her while she was accountable to no one.

Schneider concludes that Amanda Ripley’s adulatory TIME cover story about Rhee as the person who would “fix” D.C. Schools and show the rest of the nation what to do was the basis of Rhee’s rise to national prominence. Schneider challenges both Rhee’s record and Ripley’s undeserved praise.

Schneider ends by challenging Ripley to write another story ifor TIME about how Rhee failed to accomplish her goals in D.C. and as CEO of StudentsFirst. Time for a correction. Will Ripley do it?

Chris Roberts, a new teacher in Ohio, was attracted to the message of StudentsFirst. He was impressed by what he read and by “Waiting for Superman.” He joined and was invited to apply for their Teachers for Transformation Academy. He was offered a stipend of $5,000 to be StudentsFirst Teacher for Transformation Fellow in Ohio. But in his fourth year of teaching, he had an epiphany. He realized that StudentsFirst was wrong about everything that mattered to him as a teacher. He turned down their offer and the $5,000. And he wrote an eloquent letter to explain why.

This is a small part of a powerful letter:

“Now after four years in the classroom, my view of education has changed. Now, I am not so convinced that the StudentsFirst agenda is what is best for students. Those “older teachers” whom I felt didn’t deserve the seniority protections were actually some of the most helpful people I’ve ever come across. Their years of experience meant they had a wealth of classroom management advice to share. They weren’t stubborn curmudgeons as portrayed by those trying to “reform” education. They are some of the most caring, loving people I’ve known. Are there a couple of bad eggs every once in a while? Yes. But that is the case in any profession. You occasionally will find a bad doctor, hence malpractice suits. But instead of “reforming” the medical field and basing doctors’ evaluations on patients’ health, politicians instead push for tort reform to make it harder to sue doctors. I guess you could say that Republicans are pushing to protect bad doctors. One of the problems that I see with eliminating seniority protections boils down to money. Schools are strapped for money, it is nearly impossible to pass a levy and the state seems content with defunding. The more experienced teachers tend to be the most “expensive”. Despite their ratings and evaluations, I could see many schools getting rid of those teachers not because they perform poorly, but because it would be cheaper to bring in a new hire. Students could suffer from this.

“As a parent, I have a problem with the evaluation systems being pushed by StudentsFirst and other corporate-driven reformers. With teachers’ evaluations being based on progress on student test scores, that means students must be tested to an extent never seen before. In every single class, multiple times a year, students are taking more standardized tests. My six-year old daughter told me this summer that she was afraid to go to first grade “because of the tests”. She is afraid she won’t do well on them. That is pathetic. Children should be excited to go to school and learn, but school has become more about tests rather than learning. School is about getting a certain score on a certain test. Education policies are killing children’s natural curiosity and desire to learn. I can’t help but wonder if this is intentional. Are there certain people out there who want to destroy public schools through excessive testing, defunding, and unfunded mandates in order to make people “want” privatization of schools? It sometimes seems like it. Whether intentional or not, unfortunately StudentsFirst’s agenda aligns with this style of reform that we have been seeing take over the public education conversation. Although I believe in free market capitalism, I see that in the case of education the more private corporations get involved in education, the worse our schools get. There are large corporations making these tests, the politicians force these tests upon our schools, and the test companies also make the textbooks and curricula for the schools to follow. It is a terrible marriage of big business and big government and children are the ones taking a hit. Teachers are becoming scripted robots and these corporations are making billions from our tax dollars, which could instead be going towards improving our schools. I, for one, do not want my children subjected to so much testing.”

This morning, Carol Burris had a post on Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet in which she tried to decipher the New Common Core test scores in New York. The first thing she noticed was that the state did not release the mean scores, which it usually does. So she calculated them herself for several key counties.

English language arts scores were flat, math scores were up. In several of the counties, ELA scores declined by three or four points. The only grade that held steady in ELA was grade 8. No gain.

“The only good news for ELA was that the achievement gap between white and black proficiency rates narrowed a bit. However, a narrower gap, achieved predominantly through lower scores of the higher performing group, is not the strategy of choice. The proficiency rate for white students dropped two points (38 percent), and the proficiency rate for black students went up one point (17 percent).”

Math scores were up, but the black-white gap may have grown.

“The lack of success of the state’s most vulnerable children on tests that are inappropriate measures of learning is breathtaking. The ELA proficiency rate for students with disabilities who are economically disadvantaged is only 4 percent. Seventy-six percent of such students remain in the lowest of the 4 score bands, 1. This is not a small group of students; they comprise 123,233 of New York’s public school children in Grades 3-8. The news was equally bad for the nearly 78,000 English Language learners whose ELA proficiency rate remained stuck at 3 percent.”

Given the inappropriate choice of “proficiency” as a passing mark, the majority of students “failed” both tests, despite increased familiarity with the standards, the curriculum, and the tests. As I have explained before, New York selected the NAEP definition of “proficient,” which is a very high mark, not grade level, and certainly not pass-fail. So long as the state insists on NAEP proficient as its passing mark, a majority of students will fail and students with disabilities and English learners will remain far, far behind. What plans does the state have for the many pupils who will not ever earn a high school diploma?

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