Archives for the month of: November, 2012

A Louisiana judge ruled against the state’s new voucher program, agreeing with the plaintiffs that it violated the state constitution by diverting public funds to private schools.

The state will appeal.

The attorney for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers explains here why the teachers are suing to block Governor Jindal’s Act 2.

It’s not because the law is “illegal,” but because it expressly violates the state constitution.

It’s not because it spends public money for vouchers but because it takes money expressly reserved for public elementary and secondary schools and gives it to private, religious and online schools, as well as post-secondary institutions, that are clearly not public elementary and secondary schools.

By Larry Samuel, LFT General Counsel

It’s time to set the record straight…and correct the inaccurate media reports as to what our Act 2 lawsuit is all about.

First, we are not claiming that the Act is “illegal.” We are claiming that it is unconstitutional. There is a difference. The constitution is the supreme law. Without it, the legislature has no power. The Constitution contains requirements that must be met.

Second, we are not challenging the use of “taxpayer money” for vouchers. Taxpayer money has been used for vouchers for 4 years in Louisiana, and we never challenged it. Why are we lodging this challenge? Because the source of the money are funds contained in the Minimum Foundation Program. Why does this matter? Because Article VIII, Section 13(b) of the Constitution states that the formula “shall be used to determine the cost of a minimum foundation program of education in all public elementary and secondary schools as well as to equitably allocate the funds to parish and city school systems.”

MFP money is going to online course providers, many of which are private (not public), out of state, and are by no stretch of the imagination “ elementary and secondary public school systems.” MFP money is going to post-secondary schools, which is clearly prohibited. Money is going to private and sectarian schools.

Also, local funds are being allocated to online course providers, post-secondary schools, and non-public schools. These are funds that voters approved at the ballot box, that specifically state that the funds shall be used for public elementary and secondary schools. The Constitution prohibits these local funds from going to private schools.

Third, in this lawsuit we are not challenging whether as a matter of policy, taxpayer money should or should not go to private schools. We fought that battle in the legislature (which is the appropriate place to raise policy issues) and we lost. This lawsuit challenges whether the constitution allows MFP money to be allocated to persons and entities that aren’t public elementary and secondary school systems.

Fourth, this lawsuit has nothing to do with a religious challenge to vouchers. We have not raised the issue of whether voucher money going to religious schools is a violation of constitutional “separation of church and state” mandates.

We are asking the Court to rule whether the MFP Resolution is a matter that is “intended to have the force and effect of law,” and if so, whether Act 2 violates other provisions in the Constitution, such as:

The provision in the Louisiana Constitution that states that matters “intended to have the force and effect of law” must be filed in the legislature prior to a fixed deadline. We contend that because the legislature missed the deadline, the law has no force and effect.

The provision in the Louisiana Constitution that states that matters “intended to have the force and effect of law” must be considered in the legislature prior to a fixed deadline. We contend that because the legislature missed the deadline, the law has no force and effect.

The provision in the Constitution that states that matters “intended to have the effect of law” must receive a majority vote of the elected members of the House (which would be 53 votes). The MFP Resolution received 53 votes. Thus, it never passed.

The provision in the Louisiana Constitution that requires a bill to have a “single object.” This provision is important because it recognizes that when a legislator casts a vote on a bill, he or she should not be faced with the dilemma of having to vote either for or against a bill that has many objects to it. We contend that the Bill that became Act 2 has a multitude of objects.
The lawsuit asks the Court to rule solely on Constitutional matters. Not policy matters. Some call us the “Coalition of the Status Quo.” We prefer to be called the “Protectors of the Constitution.”

Merryl Tisch, head of the Néw York State Board of Regents, says full speed ahead with the state educator evaluation plan.

Bruce Baker of Rutgers says she is wrong, wrong, wrong.

From NYC Parent blog (by Leonie Haimson):

Wireless Generation, owned by Murdoch/run by Joel Klein, Wins the $4.9M Contract to develop the software that will be used to report & analyze results for the new #CommonCore Assessments – both the interim and “summative” exams being developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium for 25 states (blue states in map below.)

Wireless is also developing the software/ infrastructure for the Gates-funded Shared Learning Collaborative, which is collecting confidential student & teacher data in states throughout the country, including NYS, & planning to turn this information over to for-profit commercial ventures, without parental consent, to help companies develop and market their “learning products.” The information will include among other things, names, addresses, grades, test scores, disciplinary and attendance records, and learning disability status.

The SLC has now named a new CEO, Iwan Streichenberger, who is going to direct SLC’s transition from a project to a nonprofit enterprise; to “ manage the technology and related services.”

Streichenberger was formerly the Chief Marketing Officer of a for-profit company called Promethean, where he was “responsible for product development, marketing, and sales strategy for the education technology company’s newest division.

He says he will “look forward to telling the story about the transformative technology we are building and how we are working with our industry partners to help education technology achieve its potential for students” and will be speaking about this at the SXSW Edu conference in Austin Texas March 4-7.

Here we go.

Wireless Generation Wins Contract for Common Assessments

By Jason Tomassini on November 29, 2012 12:00 PM | No comments

As the two consortia developing assessments around the Common Core State Standards move closer to the tests’ adoption, for the 2014-15 school year, they are starting to award contracts that will shape how the assessments look and operate. On Wednesday, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium announced that the software used to report and analyze results from its assessments will be developed by Wireless Generation, the education software company.

Wireless Generation will partner with Educational Testing Service (ETS) on the contract. The terms of the contract were not disclosed, but the Request for Proposal stipulated the project could not exceed $4.9 million. Smarter Balanced’s projects are funded through a four-year, $175 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The reporting system will be used for the common assessments students will take in Smarter Balanced’s 25 member states (you can view those states in the map below). The system will collect data from interim and summative assessments given to students and also track their progress toward college and career readiness, as determined by the individual standards. The data will be available to administrators and teachers as well as parents, according to a news release from Smarter Balanced. Schoolwide and districtwide reports will also be available.

The entire system will be open source, which means other computer programmers can build applications using the software’s source code. For instance, Moodle is an open source learning management platform that is used as the framework for companies like Moodlerooms.

Early next year, the public will have a chance to provide input on the system requirements. You can read the Request for Proposal here, and Wireless Generation’s winning proposal here, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Some important notes regarding Wireless Generation. News Corporation, the international media conglomerate implicated in a widespread phone hacking scandal last year, owns 90 percent of Wireless Generation, which is part of the company’s new Amplify education business. Since the acquisition, for $360 million in November 2010, concerns over possible connections between Wireless Generation’s data operations and its parent company have arose. In response, Wireless Generation has pointed out that its data operations are independent from News Corp. and the company has always complied with the many laws governing student data, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. In August 2011, the company did lose a $27 million contract to develop assessment tracking software for New York state education department because of the scandal embroiling News Corp.’s newspaper division.

(Larry Berger, a co-founder and executive chairman of Wireless Generation, serves on the board of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week.)

In somewhat related news, the Brown Center on Education Policy, at the Brookings Institution, released a report Wednesday on the cost of state assessments around the country, including a recommendation for states to join testing consortia in order to lower costs. Read more about it here.

Leonie Haimson

Executive Director

Class Size Matters

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Ohio legislators are pushing through a few tweaks to the state’s useless accountability system.

Republicans are using their super majority to ignore Democratic dissents.

Read through this description and see the game plan of labeling public schools as failing, giving them letter grades with no validity, cutting their budgets, and clearing the way for privatization.

Many of us had been under the impression that the goal of the Common Core standards was to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the nation’s schools.

As someone who spent years advocating for national standards–but has been agnostic about the new Common Core standards–it was always my hope that improving education would be, should be the goal. At least that was my hope when I worked in the US Department of Education in 1991-93 and expended a few million dollars so that teachers’ groups could write voluntary national standards in the arts, history, civics, science, foreign language, physical education, and economics (the math teachers had already written their own standards).

Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute has a completely different understanding of the Common Core. As he explains it, “reformers” expect that the Common Core standards will reveal to suburban parents just how awful their public schools are. This will set off the “reformers'” long-hoped for stampede for privatization among the smug and satisfied denizens of the nation’s suburbs.

Imagine the possibilities as everyone discovers their local school is failing and runs to the exits, demanding charters and vouchers.

Farewell, public education. Hello, free market.

Even Rick Hess has his doubts about this scenario.

Stephanie Rivera is a junior at Rutgers University preparing to become a teacher.

Stephanie was one of the leading forces in creating Students United for Public Education, a new organization in which students are joining to stand up against the privatizers, profiteers and naysayers now besieging our public schools.

She has her own blog, where she regularly debates other students who support corporate reform policies.

Stephanie is an activist on behalf of the teaching profession and on behalf of social and educational equity.

She joins our honor roll as a hero of public education because she has bravely taken on powerful forces and dared to ask hard questions.

She understands that teaching is hard work, and that it is a profession, not a pastime.

I admire her spunk, her willingness to debate, her energy, and her courage.

The future belongs to you, Stephanie, and to all the other students who understand that public education belongs to them as a democratic right to build their future.

It must not become a plaything for Wall Street and billionaires, nor a stepping stone for politicians, nor a profit center for entrepreneurs.

It belongs to you and your generation. Preserve and strengthen it for future generations, doors open to all by right.

As the assault on public education continues in Michigan, those of us who live outside the state need a guide to follow the maneuvers of the anti-public education forces.

A reader in Michigan connected me to this site, Electablog, where I discovered the latest ploy

Voters in Michigan repealed Public Act 4, which authorized the governor to appoint an emergency manager for fiscally stressed districts. These managers had dictatorial powers, overriding locally elected governments. In three districts, the emergency managers were in process of replacing public schools with privatization.

According to this blog, the repeal also nullified an earlier law that preceded PA 4. But the judge decided that the repeal left the earlier law undisturbed. So while the voters rejected the emergency manager concept, their votes did not actually end the emergency manager concept.

The judge said the repel means nothing. Got it?

As only EduShyster could, she asks a rude question.

Do affluent white people make the best teachers?

A new group has been created to advocate on behalf of public education in New Hampshire.

It is called Advancing New Hampshire Education.

It was previously called “Defending New Hampshire Public Education” in response to sustained effort in the state legislature to harm and dismantle public education.

But with the election of a new governor and a new legislature, the group changed its name.

As you will see from its website, it will continue to track destructive legislation and build public support for the public schools.

Do you know of similar grassroots groups in other states and districts?

Listen on Friday to a live debate about the future of education in Michigan, featuring State Board member John Austin and Richard McLellan of the right wing Oxford Foundation.