Archives for the month of: July, 2013

From the time Michelle Rhee started her run in DC, John Merrow was there to chronicle her progress on PBS. He posted a dozen episodes of her trials and triumphs. But last year, he began to have doubts. He began to wonder how widespread the cheating was and how much she knew. He hit a stonewall.

An experienced journalist, he wrote an opinion piece reviewing his findings. But suddenly, no one cared. Despite the fact that she had appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek, the editors said she was not a big story.

Read John Merrow and see if you agree.

The most reactionary and anti-union of the major foundations–the billionaire Walton Family Foundation–has awarded $20 million to Teach for America to send bright, ill-prepared new college graduates into the nation’s classrooms. The largest contingent –700–will go to Los Angeles.

That city has a large number of nonunion charter schools.

TFA aids the Walton ambition to privatize public schools and rid them of union teachers. As such, they are a mainstay of the privatization movement.

Columnist Dan Carpenter of the Indianapolis Star understands what Tony Bennett was doing with the A-F grading system imported from Jeb Bush in Florida.

It was never about improving but about labeling so that here would always be a fresh crop set up for closure and privatization.

He writes: “Educators, from those with traditional public schools to those operating charters to those teaching teachers in universities, already had warned him about A-F. But they saw the jeopardy the other way around: It was and is a blunt instrument that treats parents choosing schools like shoppers for backpacks. And it sets schools up for state takeover, and management by private businesses with political connections, without giving them and their communities a fair chance to explain their numbers and describe their needs. It tends to financially reward the affluent.”

The A-F system contributed to Bennett’s loss last fall to Glenda Ritz. The relentless testing that Bennett imposed was his downfall. He lost to Ritz even though he had a 10-1 funding edge, which should have sufficed in a red state. One of his biggest contributors: testing giant McGraw-Hill.

Arthur Camins explains what is wrong with the TFA approach but cautions that the recruits should not be blamed or criticized. I agree. The recruits are idealistic and well-intentioned. They are akin to Peace Corps volunteers. No one suggests that Peace Corps volunteers are qualified to be Foreign Service officers or diplomats or ambassadors. Blame the organization for its hubris, not the kids. It is the hubris that produced John White (Louisiana), Kevin Huffman (Tennessee), Eric Guckian (North Carolina), Michelle Rhee.

Camins writes in a comment:

“Behind the cheap labor, quick-fix and undermining unions appeal of TFA, there are ideas. We need to address and challenge the ideas. They include,

1) Ignorance: Knowledge of teaching and learning is easily learned and is relatively unimportant compared to content knowledge;

2) Elitism: Attending a prestigious college is prima facie evidence of the intelligence and disposition required for effective teaching;

3) Arrogance and/or Naiveté: Teaching as a profession is devalued, as it is considered as temporary employment rather than a lifetime profession in which expertise increases over time.

On the other hand, we need to be careful to attack the ideas, rather than the TFA teachers, most of whom are well-intentioned. I touched on some of this in an earlier post here: and here:”

Chicago school officials and the mayor have a mantra: CPS is broke. CPS has a deficit of $1 billion dollars.

With that rationale, CPS lays off thousands of teachers and closes dozens of schools.

But at the same time that officials plead poverty, they still find the money to do what they want to do.

Here is this Chicago blogger’s top ten.

It includes the bizarre expenditure of $1.6 million for Teach for America at the same time that CPS is laying off veteran teachers.

There may be others.

And the list doesn’t even touch on frivolities like a new $55 million stadium.

True, it is not from the school budget, but then Chicago has mayoral control and the mayor funds what he favors.

Melissa Harris-Perry did this review of the Tony Bennett grade-fixing scandal in Indiana. This is the kind of mainstream media attention that is helping to unravel the corporate reform narrative.

A few days ago, Georgia announced that it was dropping out of PARCC, the Common Core testing consortium funded by the U.S. Department of Education. State officials said the state could not afford the technology or the cost.

The U.S. Department of Education was swift to respond. It wrote Georgia to warn that it is withholding $10 million from the state’s Race to the Top funding. Maybe the timing was a coincidence. Maybe not.

The state says it needs more time to fix its educator evaluation system before it can be implemented, but the Feds insist that Georgia must start evaluating teachers and principals based on test scores without further delay.

Now for a dose of reality. Research does not support any part of Race to the Top. Research shows that tying educator evaluations to test scores produces narrowing the curriculum, gaming the system, teaching to the test, cheating, and score inflation. The most “effective” teachers teach the most affluent students in the most affluent schools. The least “effective” teach the poorest. Research shows that over 100 years of trying, merit pay has Never worked. Teachers are doing the best they know how; they are not holding back and hoping for a bonus or a biscuit.

Race to the Top will someday be remembered in the history books as a Grand Detour, when ideologues gained control of federal policy and used an economic crisis to dangle money in front of the states so they would agree to implement failed policies.

All of this will change, but not until there is wiser leadership in Washington, wise enough to banish Race to the Top and recover a common sense approach to education reform based on what children and schools need, not what misguided politicians demand.

Crazy Crawfish worked in the a Louisiana Department of Education. He has an aversion to lying. This is why he is angry, and this is why he is dangerous. He knows too much. And he knows how politicians and their mouthpieces twist the facts any way that serves them.

In this post, Crazy Crawfish (aka Jason France) describes a valiant effort by the poorest parish in the state to get out from under state control, which has been a disaster. He also describes the fancy dancing by the state to justify holding on.

While the national media love to sing the praises of Louisiana’s Recovery School District, France reminds us that the RSD is the lowest performing district in the state.

He writes: “The RSD was initially sold as a temporary fix, a band aid to be applied and removed. What it has become is the source of infection and a creator of festering sores. It’s no coincidence that RSD, after 7 years, is the lowest performing district in the state. (The state claims they are the second lowest performing district, but they also exclude the lowest 10-20% of their schools from their district average for the first 2 years after they get taken over by RSD which can be perpetuated if they simply change operators every two years.)”

And this is his warning:

“St Helena has fallen into RSDs grasp, and is trying to fight back, and we all need to do what we can to help them escape the state, the RSD.

“When you see these types of lies, this raging hypocrisy, do any of you feel safe in your higher performing districts? You shouldn’t.

“Reformers, charter operators, and RSD will be coming for all of your community schools soon enough.

“The state has control of the data, and the messaging. When they decide it’s time to make new inroads into new parishes for their corporate puppet masters, none of you, none of us and none of our children will be safe.”

Bruce Baker brilliantly explains here why he won’t use the term “corporate reform.”

The strategies now being imposed on the schools have failed when applied in corporate settings, he writes.

He looks at the use of two now-popular “reform” ideas in education: the portfolio model and evaluation by results.

The portfolio model is based on the belief that schools should compete, and that those in charge should close the ones that don’t have high test scores while adding new ones.

Baker shows that when Sears tried the portfolio model, it was a disaster.

Units competed with one another, and each one thought only about what was good for its own survival.

There was, as one would predict, the worst kind of competition for survival, with cream skimming.

The overall results were devastating to the corporation.

When IBM tried to reverse its declining fortunes, it adopted a competitive employee rating system.

This too was a disaster.

(Edwards Deming could have predicted these disasters, but that’s another subject.)

So, Baker argues that current education reform should not be called “corporate reform” because good corporations would never do what the “reformers” now insist upon.

But, I will continue to use the term “corporate reform” because I think he proves the point that I make.

The bad ideas now infesting public education came from the corporate sector, where they failed.

They are failed corporate ideas that are being imposed on public schools, where they also fail.

It is important to understand why they failed in the corporate world, because it helps to explain why they are failing in the education world.

So I will continue to refer to the “reformers” as corporate reformers because it captures the origins of their bad ideas.

They are the people insisting upon the portfolio model, upon teacher evaluation models that turn teaching into a metrical exercise, upon data as the goal of education, upon turning everything into a metric, upon closing community schools, upon lowering standards for entry into teaching. They are the people who think that Big Data can solve all problems, even those that can’t be measured. They are the people who say “you measure what you treasure,” although they sometimes say, “you treasure what you measure.” And they say, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t control it.”

If someone has a better term than “corporate reform,” I’m all ears.


EduShyster has found a dissident hedge fund manager who writes pseudonymous posts for her blog. He or she writes here about the eerie similarity between schooling in Franco’s Spain and a high-scoring charter school chain called Democracy Prep.

What do they have in common? Read the link.