Archives for the month of: February, 2017

I am sharing this article from the Washington Post because it confirms what I suspected. Trump picked cabinet members based on whether they looked the part. He wanted his cabinet to look as if they came from Central Casting. Doesn’t Rex Tillerson look like a Secretary of State? Doesn’t Betsy DeVos look like a woman who devoted her life to little children (except for the smirk and the designer suits)?

There are a couple of sane people that somehow got into the mix. Like General McMasters. Trump thinks that the way to defeat ISIS is to say the magic words, “radical Islamic terrorism.” General McMasters thinks it is a bad idea to demonize an entire religion, since we need the help of non-radicals to defeat ISIS. But Trump’s mentor Steve Bannon and his chief speechwriter Stephen Miller don’t agree with General McMasters. So expect to hear more about the war between civilizations. Even George W. Bush is speaking out against Trump’s war on the media and Trump’s war on Islam, but Trump knows his base loves it. Who ever thought we would look back on W. as a model of civility?

Texas officials had a dilemma: a girl who was transgender became a boy. His name is Mack Beggs. He took testosterone for the past two years to aid his transition. Mack loved to wrestle. He was a good wrestler. He wanted to wrestle boys, but state officials insisted he had to wrestle girls, because his birth certificate said he was born a girl. So Mack wrestled girls and won the state championship. Mack had 52 matches against girls and won every one of them. Some people in the crowd booed and jeered and said that “she” had cheated because Mack was pumped up with testosterone.

Beyond the politics are the young people who have been forced to participate within a discussion and scene that, by any measure, is difficult to make sense of. The coach said one of his girls quit the wrestling team rather than face Beggs, who has documented and shared the results of his testosterone use on social media. James Baudhuin, the attorney suing the UIL over Beggs’s participation in the girls’ division, has a daughter who had wrestled against Beggs and, at least before the suit, was among his friends.

The ordeal grew complicated, on and off the mat. Baudhuin himself said he was so conflicted that, though he’d filed a petition to keep Beggs off the mat, he would nonetheless be cheering for Beggs to win the championship.

“The 16 girls who are in [Beggs’s] bracket have been put in a very, very unfair situation because of the grown-ups,” Baudhuin said. “To me, this is a complete abject failure of leadership and accountability from the people who regulate sports in Texas. They’re doing wrong by Mack, and not just these 15 girls but all the other girls she wrestled all year.”

Veteran sportscaster Dale Hansen in Dallas tried to think his way through this nuttiness.

Mack has been taking testosterone and it shows. There’s a reason we have rules in sports against steroids, and it was an incredibly unfair advantage for him. It was also unfair to the girls who had to wrestle him….

Transitioning is a struggle I cannot imagine. It is a journey I could not make… and it is a life that too many cannot live.

The problems that Mack Beggs is facing and dealing with now remind me again that I don’t have any problems. He needs our support, and he does not need a group of old men in Austin telling him who to wrestle because of a genetic mix-up at birth.

We have argued long enough about birth certificates. It’s an argument that needs to end. You don’t have to understand – I myself don’t understand. But Mack Beggs is not the problem so many people make him out to be. He’s a child simply looking for his place in the world, and a chance to compete in the world.

Do we really not have the simple decency to allow him at least that? Because it seems to me it’s the very least we can do.

First thing this morning I posted the story about Texas State Senator Don Huffines debating middle-schoolers about vouchers. I thought they were in grades 7-12, but they were actually grades 7-8.

https://dianeravitch.net/2017/02/28/texas-kids-whup-state-senator-from-dallas-in-debate-about-vouchers/

I just received a copy of the tape. Huffines berates the students for challenging him. He is rude and condescending.

This man is a disgrace to his district. He should be laughed out of his office. Or voted out, whichever happens first. The students are far better informed than he is.

This is the best part of the exchange:

“Critics of the voucher program Huffines is pushing say the amount of the vouchers will not be large enough to actually help students attend some costly schools that will be benefiting from taxpayer dollars. One student specifically asked that question, with more grace and decorum than her adult senator could muster up.

“The student asked, “Excuse me Senator, I don’t mean to offend you but you are speaking on behalf of the students, and as a student of public education I disagree with this completely. I’ve gone to a private school before…with these vouchers, what are you going to get — $5000 a year? The majority of these private schools are $5000 a semester. How are lower income families supposed to pay for the rest of the school year?” Huffines, with a very combative and condescending tone answers, “Oh, so it doesn’t pay for all their education. It doesn’t pay for all their education, does it? The $5000 won’t pay for it, right? So you’re saying since we’re not giving them enough money to pay for all their education, screw ’em they can’t go to private school! Do you want me to give them $15,000? Is that what you want? So they can all go to Hockaday or St. Mark’s? That’s the most selfish thing I’ve ever heard.”

I propose a debate between Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the middle school students of Richardson ISD. I would pay to see that!

Please watch this video.

The president of the United States wrote for the world to see on Twitter that the major media in the United States are “the enemy of the American people.”

No other president ever uttered or wrote these words.

Could someone please brief Trump on the Constitution and its Amendments to which he swore allegiance?

He has already violated that oath by attacking the free press.

He continuously breaks that oath by disregarding the emoluments clause, which forbids him from taking any payments of any kind from any foreign powers.

This finding has been reported time and again. The best approach to college admissions testing is to make it optional, as nearly 1,000 colleges and universities already do. Or eliminate it.

Contact: Allyson Hagen, allyson.hagen@educationnorthwest.org, 503.275.9189

Study Finds High School Grades are a Strong Predictor of College Readiness for Recent Graduates from Both Urban and Rural Areas

Portland, OR – A new study by Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest has found that high school GPA was better than college entrance exam scores at predicting college course grades for recent Alaska high school graduates from both urban and rural areas.

The study focused on nearly 18,000 first-time University of Alaska students who enrolled between fall 2008 and spring 2012, and it examined how well high school GPA predicted readiness for college by timing of college entry and whether students came from rural or urban hometowns.

“A common concern around using high school GPA for placement is it might not be comparable across high schools,” said lead researcher Michelle Hodara. “So, we looked at how its predictive power might vary based on whether high school graduates came from rural or urban hometowns in Alaska. While these students attended very different high schools with potentially different rigor, high school GPA remained a strong predictor of college success.”

The study also found that high school GPA was more predictive of college course grades for students who directly entered college from high school compared with those who delayed entry.

The findings of the study may have impacts in Alaska and beyond. Colleges typically use standardized exam scores to place students in developmental education. However, research suggests this practice may result misplacing students who could have succeeded in college-level coursework. To address the misplacement of students in developmental education, community colleges are redesigning the way they assess incoming students’ college readiness. Specifically, many are using multiple measures to assign students to the highest level of coursework in which they are likely to succeed.

”Developmental education is a huge barrier to completion for many college students,” Hodara said. “Using high school GPA in the placement process is an opportunity to potentially increase access to college-level coursework to students who are actually prepared to do well in those courses.”

This study builds on a previous REL Northwest study that found high school GPA was a stronger predictor of college academic performance than scores on standardized college entrance exams among first-time students at the University of Alaska.

Video Accompanies Study Findings:

REL Northwest has developed an animated video that shares the findings of the two studies and explains the power of high school GPA to predict college readiness.

Download the report from the Institute of Education Sciences website at https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?projectID=4546

Our new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is very enthusiastic about virtual charter schools, even though the research shows that students don’t learn much while enrolled in them. Apparently, good works mean less than good profits.

In Arizona, a new online high school is returning remarkable profits. Jim Hall, retired educator, started an organization called Arizonans for Charter School Accountability, and he has a well-documented, horrifying story to tell about the defrauding of taxpayers.

News Release Contact Jim Hall

Arizonans for Charter School Accountability
arizcsa1000@gmail.com
602-343-3021
February 27, 2017
Phoenix, Arizona

The Consequences of Unregulated Charter Schools:

For-Profit American Virtual Academy Nets $10 Million Profit in 2016 After Siphoning $84 Million from Non-Profit Primavera Online. (Full report)

In its first year of operation as Primavera Online High School, for-profit charter holder American Virtual Academy (AVA) made an astounding $10 million profit in 2016. American Virtual Academy was given the charter for Primavera Online by non-profit Primavera Technical Learning Center (PTLC) in 2015 without compensation.

PTLC operated Primavera Online from 2002 to 2015 and had annual revenues of over $30 million a year with accumulated total cash assets of over $44 million with no debt. PTLC was the richest non-profit charter holder in Arizona in 2015.

On May 21, 2015 the PTLC Board suddenly decided to relinquish their charter to their software supplier, American Virtual Academy. There was no money exchanged in the transaction. PTLC is now out of the charter school business and is sitting on $44 million in assets.

Both PTLC and AVA were incorporated and directed by the same man, Damian Creamer. Creamer and his family members have received over $2 million in compensation as officers of PTLC. PTLC has employed Creamer’s software company, American Virtual Academy, since 2005 – paying AVA over $84 million from 2009 -2015 just to use software created by Creamer for Primavera Online.

In 2016 Primavera Online had a record year earning over $40 million. Creamer paid his new software company, FlipSwitch Inc., $13 million for software licenses and another $2.5 million for software support. Despite these huge expenditures, AVA cleared $10 million in profit that went to the company’s only stockholder, Damian Creamer.

Jim Hall, founder of Arizonans for Charter School Accountability commented, “This is worst case of a private citizen profiting from the actions of a non-profit organization imaginable. There is a charade going on in the charter school industry, both in Arizona and around the nation, that allows charter owners like Damian Creamer to control non-profit charter schools to enrich their for-profit subsidiaries – and themselves.”

The full report is at azcsa.org

Betsy DeVos released a statement praising the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) as a model of choice and hinting not to expect any new federal funds. Leaders were baffled and outraged, because HBCUs were created not as a “choice,” but in response to “no choice at all,” when black students were excluded from higher education.

“Most of the statement is innocuous. She praises black colleges. In perhaps a sign not to expect too much money from the Trump administration, she says, “[r]ather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential.” And she notes that black colleges were created when “there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education.”

“But DeVos goes on to link black colleges to the issue of school choice — a cause for which she is an advocate. “HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” she said. “They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”

“While that summarizes the school choice argument, social media lit up late Monday with supporters of black colleges noting that the institutions were founded because black students had, in many respects, no choice. They could not enroll at predominantly white institutions in the South, even public institutions in their own states. Further, as states created public historically black colleges, they did so to meet “separate but equal” requirements, and never took the equal part of that statement seriously. Public black colleges were created with a fraction of the budgets, programs and facilities of their predominantly white counterparts. While many students did thrive at these institutions, educators there constantly decried the lack of resources (and many maintain that continues to this day).”

Social media lit up.

Slate published an article called “Insane Betsy DeVos Press Release Celebrates Jim Crow Education System as Pioneer of ‘School Choice.'”

Ben Mathis-Lilley wrote:

First of all, it sounds like a seventh-grader wrote this, which is perhaps what happens when you put someone who has never really had a real job in charge of the Department of Education. Second, this official 2017 federal government press release celebrates legal segregation (!!!) on the grounds that the Jim Crow education system gave black students “more options,” as if there was a robust competition between HBCUs and white universities for their patronage. (When black Mississippian James Meredith chose the “option” of enrolling at the University of Mississippi in 1962, a massive white mob formed on the campus; two people were shot to death and hundreds injured in the ensuing battle/riot, during which federal marshals came under heavy gunfire, requiring the ultimate intervention of 20,000 U.S. soldiers and thousands more National Guardsmen.)

But, hey, it is good that Betsy acknowledges that the true origins of school choice were segregation schools and colleges. Even if she didn’t mean to.

This letter was sent to me by the person who created the SCAM advertisements in the previous post. i asked to explain why she decided to leave her job as a teacher at Success Academy Charter Schools. She sent the following commentary.

She writes:


When I applied to teach at Success Academy Charter Schools, I was just out of college with little teaching experience, and I was interviewing at every school I could, hoping to get my first real teaching job. As soon as I walked into Success’s Wall Street office for the interview, I knew this was a different kind of school. The space looks and feels like corporate headquarters, complete with glass-walled conference rooms and a minimalist aesthetic.

I was called into a boardroom with five or so other applicants, and someone from the “Talent” team (in charge of hiring) showed us a slick marketing video: we were being seduced. Then, one by one, we were asked to deliver a mini-lesson to everyone present. After each turn, we were given explicit feedback, which the next person was expected to implement immediately. It became clear that this was less of an interview, and more of a practical test to determine how well we could emulate the specific teaching style Success subscribes to. It was also an early introduction to the network’s trademark language and unique demands: we were told that every employee pledges support for the “dual mission,” which is to say that our job description included advocacy for “school choice” in addition to our roles as teachers.

I was placed at Success Academy Cobble Hill, which made news last year after The New York Times released a video of “Labsite teacher” Charlotte Dial berating a first-grader for stumbling during “Number Stories,” before she publicly rips the young girl’s worksheet in half. (This practice is common enough to have a nickname within the network, the “rip and redo.”) Contrary to statements made by Ms. Dial, CEO Eva Moskowitz, and Principal Kerri Tabarcea, this type of interaction is not at all out of the ordinary at Success. Ms. Dial’s harsh classroom management was known – in fact, celebrated – by school leaders. Newer hires were even sent to Ms. Dial so they could learn to model her “no-nonsense” teaching, earning her the “Labsite teacher” title and a higher salary. Perhaps most disturbingly, Charlotte Dial is still employed as a first-grade teacher at Success Academy Cobble Hill, sending a clear message to students, families, and other teachers in the network.

One of the real and valuable benefits to working at Success is that there is remarkable focus on professional development. Teachers are observed often, given feedback almost constantly, and participate in formal professional development sessions at least once a week. The caveat is that this training is entirely geared towards the specific strategies developed by Success for the purposes of social control over “scholars” and high test scores for the network.

“Scholars” are taught to value urgency. Children are expected to complete transitions in a given amount of time, often as short as ten seconds – taking any longer is considered unacceptable. This teaches students that learning is precious. It also teaches that taking one’s time, moving at one’s own pace, is irresponsible. It was heartbreaking to know that I was imparting on my young students the very same constant pressure that I felt from my supervisors.

Teachers’ directions to students must follow a stubborn formula, and are enforced just as strictly. “When I say go, safely and silently walk to your desk, take out your book, and begin reading. You have ten seconds, go.” Once at their desks, students will already know the correct posture for reading; they know that to avoid a “consequence,” their feet need to be flat and still on the floor, with their backs straight against their chairs, and two hands on their books. When I allowed for a more relaxed atmosphere in my classroom, I was reprimanded and lectured about the value of posture while reading. Any wavering from Success philosophy is treated as heresy, and often encourages unwanted attention from administrators – for instance, a teacher who fails to maintain perfect silence while students are on the carpet might be ordered to participate in “live coaching,” wherein a superior stands in the back of the room during the lesson, whispering directions into a microphone, which the teacher hears through an earpiece. In the middle of a sentence, the teacher will hear, “narrate and consequence voice,” and is expected to immediately use pre-practiced language to correct a murmuring student in the corner. Part of the reason I accepted a position at Success was for the professional development, but this was not what I had in mind.

Most of the students I taught at Success dreaded coming to school, as did most of the teachers. It is a grueling, relentless atmosphere where every second is cherished as potential learning time, and every slip-up garners an immediate consequence. There is a small fraction of people – students and adults alike – who thrive in this extreme environment. More often, the constant pressure makes for tense relationships, high anxiety, and negative affects on health and behavior. During testing season, each Success school is shipped extra pairs of pants to keep on hand, because inevitably several third graders will be so scared to sacrifice test time for a bathroom trip, they’ll have an accident. Some students react to this extreme environment in extreme ways; at the strictest Success locations, it is commonplace to hear screaming and crying in the hallways throughout the day as children as young as five break down for one reason or another. Different Success locations have different ways of dealing with this behavior, ranging from the infamous “got to go” list at Fort Greene to School Safety interventions elsewhere. If there was screaming in the hallway, one of my students would silently get up to close the classroom door. Other students continued working, both because they were unfazed and because they knew they would be held accountable for being on-task regardless of what was happening around them.

Every teacher imparts learning to students outside of their explicit lesson content. Given the tenor of current events, I have been thinking about what priorities and values I want to model in my teaching and embody in my curriculum. I want my students to know the importance of empathy, respect, and generosity. I want them to know that they matter, and that every other human matters too. I want them to feel empowered to speak up to an authority figure – including me – if they feel they are being treated unjustly. These are crucial social-emotional understandings, and though they may not affect test scores, they will surely affect students’ lives. Not only does the curriculum at Success ignore social-emotional learning, but the structure of the day allows for such minimal peer-to-peer interaction that students are unable to learn such skills from each other.

Like so many others, I quit Success because the brand of teaching the network demands prevented me from providing the quality of education my students deserve. When I tried to accommodate a restless student by allowing her to fidget on the carpet, I was told I was doing her a disservice and was ordered to keep her still. When I tried to advocate for under-performing students to undergo psychological testing so that they might receive services they needed, I was ignored or admonished, and in one instance told flat-out that the school was not testing students so as to avoid being legally obligated to provide services to them. I watched coworkers struggle to decide whether to report suspected family abuse when leaders didn’t share their concerns, given that network protocol is for school administration to make such calls. (Legally, teachers and psychologists are mandated reporters and cannot be punished for reporting suspected abuse. But with no union representation, it is difficult for an employee to feel confident that this will hold true in practice.) I was sick of overlooking the profit-driven motivations of the network, and sick of being forced to comply with practices that I believed were damaging my students.

When I use the word scammed, I am not just talking about money, and I am not just talking about those who send their kids to Success. I’m talking about the whole country, because all of us are being scammed by Charter advocates like Betsy DeVos and Success CEO Eva Moskowitz. The changes they seek put public schools at a disadvantage, as they are being forced to fight with Charters for space, funding, and high-engagement/high-resource families. Meanwhile, not all Charters perform like Success. Some are much better, with more emphasis on experiential learning and less emphasis on strict behavioral expectations. Others, like those DeVos lobbied for in Detroit, have test scores similar to or worse than nearby public schools, with the same downsides of Success – no unions, poor treatment of special education students, and high suspension rates, to name a few.

What I want people to know when they see advertisements for Success Academy is that to enroll or apply to a charter chain is to propagate a very specific brand of education. Success is funded in part by private donors like the Koch brothers and the family that owns Wal-Mart, because conservatives and big corporations have a vested interest in chipping away at public education. I call upon all teachers, all parents and caregivers, and all who care about public education to resist this model of teaching and learning. Our students deserve better.

NYT article on Dial vid: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/nyregion/success-academy-teacher-rips-up-student-paper.html

“Got to go” list: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/30/nyregion/at-a-success-academy-charter-school-singling-out-pupils-who-have-got-to-go.html

On DeVos in Detroit: http://www.freep.com/story/news/education/2017/01/18/betsy-devos-charter-schools/96718680/

Teacher turnover at SA: http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/teacher-turnover-success-academy-charter-schools

A former teacher at Success Academy charter schools–let’s call her Jane Doe–decided to use her talents as a graphic designer to create advertisements for the school where she had worked. For some reason, there are ads on billboards, in buses, and on subway trains urging students to apply to Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter Schools. This is odd because we have been told that there are long waiting lists. The waiting lists are so long that there must be a lottery. If there are long waiting lists, why are there ads to recruit students to apply? Maybe the purpose of the ads is to create a demand to exceed the supply? A marketing tool?

Jane Doe attached this comment:

I chose to respond to advertisements for Success Academy Charter Schools because every time I see those ads on websites or in subway stations, I wish they told more of the story. It’s not that the ads are based on lies; it’s true that “scholars” at Success in every grade have science class every day, it’s true that Success puts a lot of emphasis on parent/family engagement, and it’s true that the average kid at Success does much better on standardized tests than the average kid in a (non-selective) NYC public school. All of those things make it more likely for those kids to “succeed,” especially if your idea of success includes admission into a liberal arts college.

It’s also true that Success is funded in part by private donors like the Koch brothers and the family that owns Wal-Mart, because conservatives and big corporations have a vested interest in chipping away at public education. The high test scores are real, and they matter, but are they worth the pressure Success puts on its employees and its students? During testing season, the Success Network ships each school extra pairs of pants to keep on hand, because inevitably several third graders will be so scared to sacrifice test time for a bathroom trip, they’ll have an accident. There are countless tiny examples that illustrate this extreme environment, a few of which I chose for this assignment.

Families don’t pay for a Success Academy education. When I use the word scammed, I am not just talking about money, and I am not just talking about those who send their kids to Success. I’m talking about the whole country, because all of us are being scammed by Charter advocates like Betsy DeVos and Success CEO Eva Moskowitz. Neither Moskowitz nor DeVos has any actual experience in education, yet they’ve each made a wealthy career for themselves out of advocating for so-called school choice reform. The changes they seek put public schools at a disadvantage, as they are forced to fight with charters for space, funding, and high-engagement/high-resource families. Meanwhile, not all charters perform like Success. Some are much better, with more emphasis on social-emotional learning and less emphasis on strict behavioral expectations. Others, like those DeVos lobbied for in Detroit, have test scores similar to or worse than nearby public schools, with the same downsides of Success – no unions, poor treatment of special education students, and high suspension rates, to name a few.

Ultimately, my goal is for people to see a more complex picture of Success Academy. Education reform is a complex issue, especially when a person has their own kids in mind. But we need to talk about charters for what they are: a scheme to gradually privatize education to further benefit the ruling class. I hope that if and when a person sees my “ads” in conjunction with the original Success ads, it will give them a better picture of the motivations, complications, and realities of Success Academy schools.

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A Texas State Senator debated a group of students from Richardson ISD, and as they say in Texas, the kids gave Sen. Don Huffines a whupping. The students were in grades 7-12.

He tried to persuade them they needed vouchers so they could go to private schools, and a student told him it wouldn’t work because the vouchers would never be large enough to get them into the best schools.

He got testy and snapped at her:

“Huffines countered by asking: “Do you want me to give them $15,000 so they can go to Hockaday or St. Mark’s? That’s the most selfish thing I’ve ever heard.”

Huffines got hot under the collar when the students took issue with him. He lost his cool. His spokesman said “he was ambushed.”


“But Meredyth Childress, a PTA member and mother of one of the students at the meeting, said the students were not political operatives looking to “ambush” Huffines. They were given articles to review about private school vouchers before meeting with the senator. “We’re very proud of the students,” Childress said. “Both sides were passionate. One side displayed the proper respect and decorum. One side did not.”

During one heated exchange, a woman told Huffines that it wasn’t right to send money to private schools that was meant to help public schools.

“What makes you think it’s your money?” Huffines responded, adding that businesses were taxpayers. “Sixty-two percent of all taxes are paid by businesses,” he said.

At one point, Huffines barked at the group: “What are you all afraid of?”

Richardson ISD Superintendent Jeannie Stone said she was proud of how the students responded and grateful they attended the event with her and the PTA.

Bottom line: the high school students were better prepared and more thoughtful than Sen. Huffines.

They knew their stuff. He was outsmarted and outclassed.

Is Sen. Huffines as smart as a seventh-grader from Richardson ISD? What do you think?