Archives for the month of: April, 2017

Only hours after the U.S. Department of Education put out a press release announcing Betsy DeVos’ visit to the Schwarzenegger Charter School, the visit was suddenly canceled.

Wonder why? The L.A. school board election is coming up soon. California doesn’t like Trump or DeVos. Would her appearance create a problem for the pro-charter candidate Nick Melvoin and the California Charter School Association? Did Eli Broad ask her to postpone her visit until after the election to avoid embarrassing the pro-charter forces who call themselves Democrats? This might not have been the right moment to have DeVos appear in Los Angeles lauding the glories of charters.

Here is the latest press release:

From: “U.S. Department of Education” <ed.gov@public.govdelivery.com>
Date: April 30, 2017 at 3:55:39 PM PDT
To:
Subject: UPDATED ADVISORY: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ Visit to CHIME Institute’s Schwarzenegger Community School
Reply-To: ed.gov@public.govdelivery.com

[US Department of Education]

MEDIA ADVISORY
EVENT DATE: May 1, 2017
Contact: Press Office
(202) 401-1576 or elizabeth.hill@ed.gov

UPDATED ADVISORY: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ Visit to CHIME Institute’s Schwarzenegger Community School

Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ visit to CHIME Institute’s Schwarzenegger Community School has been cancelled.

For more information, please contact Liz Hill, elizabeth.hill@ed.gov

Valerie Strauss describes the scene as Trump met with the teachers of the year in the Oval Office and invited them to sing “Happy Birthday” to Melania.

Nothing was said about his plans to cut the education budget.

Peter Greene reports that Arne Duncan has landed a fat cushy gig at a huge investment firm, based on his smashing accomplishments as superintendent of the Chicago public schools and as Secretary of Education, where he reformed the American school system.

Fact check: the Chicago public schools are in deep trouble; the only federal evaluation of Race to the Top said it was a flop.

Is this the way the world works?

Betsy DeVos will visit a charter school in Woodland Hills tomorrow.

On Monday, DeVos is slated to tour the CHIME Institute’s Schwarzenegger Community School, a charter school in Woodland Hills.

Monday also happens to be May Day, and labor and community groups throughout the region are planning major protests.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, head of the Los Angeles teachers union, put out this statement:

“The timing raises questions. Los Angeles is poised for a record-breaking May Day march to resist the Trump/DeVos agenda, and to stand up for human rights and educational justice. Rather than support families and communities who march for immigrant rights and public schools, she visits a charter school, in School Board District 4. Either she is tone deaf to the educational needs of our community, or more likely, she is actively promoting her privatization agenda here in LA. With her well-known collaboration with wealthy corporate charter school backers in LA, it also begs the question: Is she here to support the charter lobbyists’ endorsed candidates, Nicholas Melvoin and Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez?”

Perhaps the California Charter Schools Association will organize a demonstration to welcome her and thank her for her contributions to the charter industry.

I am really steamed up about the utter absurdity of the U.S. News & World Report’s listing of the “best” high schools in the nation. The more selective the school is, the higher its ranking. The “best” school is the one that enrolls the “best” students.

But what about the schools that take all students and help them become the best they can be? Are they inferior to the school that excludes those kids?

The U.S. News ranking is offensive to the fundamental values of American education, which is equality of educational opportunity. Not for a few, but for all.

From a reader:

City Honors High School in Buffalo, NY is always on the list since it is highly selective and really pushes the students with both their IB program AND AP curriculum. While it looks like a great school (and it is) an average or below average or even an unmotivated advanced student would flounder in this environment. Luckily there are some other excellent high schools in the city which aren’t so “pushy” or “unforgiving”, but ultimately it is up to the student to take advantage of the situation. While students can select which high school to attend, those ending up in the neighborhood schools get the leftovers. Even though they score on the bottom, that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile institutes of learning. For example, The International School services refugees and immigrants who speak over fifty different languages. Needless to say, they don’t score highly on the assessments. The suggestion was to intersperse these children amongst the other schools, but then they wouldn’t get the special services specifically designed to help their transition into this country. (Some of them do go to other high schools when their English improves).

US News and World Reports has a narrow focus on what constitutes a quality education, but in reality which is the better school? The one that prepares exceptional students for college or the one that prepares children from war torn countries to lead a fruitful life in their new homeland?

Peter Goodman takes up the challenge that I put down a while back in a post about why we need standardized testing in every grade for every child.

It is worth noting that to my knowledge we are the only nation in the world that insists on testing every child from grade 3-8, and we have very little to show for it. Even if test scores went up, that wouldn’t mean that children are better educated. It means that we did a better job of test prep and teaching to the test. What happens to imagination and creativity when children are tested nonstop for years, given the instruction that every question has a right answer and only one right answer? None of us knows, but I doubt that it is good.

Peter notes that Regents tests have been around since the 1880s, but they were not required of every student until fairly recently, when New York Commissioner Rick Mills had the bright idea that no one should get a diploma unless he or she could pass five Regents exams. The exams were made simpler, to be sure; if the standards were kept high, most students would never finish high school.

Peter offers a number of examples of alternatives, all worth considering. The New York Performance Consortium does not administer the state exams, and their students do well in terms of high school graduation, college admission, and persistence in college.

Sometimes I wonder how my generation ever managed to acquire an education, since we almost never took standardized tests. The schools trusted our teachers to test us, using their own tests.

The only purpose of standardized tests is to compare students, to give them a ranking and a rating, but not to provide any information whatever about what they know and what they don’t know.

I said the standardized tests today are utterly useless because they provide no diagnostic information.

When my children were young, I never found out how they compared to other children. I got written reports from their teachers about their performance, where they were strong, and where they needed to work harder. I thought that was more than enough. Why are we so obsessed with comparing students in New York to students in other states? Do you care? If you do, there is NAEP, which gives you all the comparisons you need.

Julian Vasquez Heilig dissects the claims about vouchers by posing eight questions about vouchers that Betsy DeVos cannot or will not ever answer.

First is, where did the idea come from? Well, there is that famous essay by libertarian economist Milton Friedman in 1955, but there is also the advocacy of Southern politicians following the Brown decision. Friedman had the idealistic belief that parents should spend their education voucher in any school. Southern politicians persistently and loudly called for “school choice” as a way to preserve racially segregated schools.

Julian also asks about the international repute of the free market and mentions Chile, which has seen the inevitable segregation that follows vouchers. He might have also mentioned Sweden, which took the same path, and found not only increased segregation but plummeting scores on international tests.

Voucher advocates have noticed that research does not support their claims about higher test scores or better education so they have resorted to advocating for choice for the sake of choice.

Today we have the unprecedented phenomenon of a U.S. Secretary of Education who advocates for a policy that will produce ever higher levels of segregation. This is wrong.

Russ Walsh posted this column earlier this year. I am reposting it now because it is an insightful critique of DeVos’s ideology that choice is always good.

Walsh points out that there are many choices we used to have that we don’t have any more. We are not free to smoke where we want. He remembers the thick smoke in the teachers’ lounge. I remember the smokers on the commercial airplanes. He remembers the days when we drove without seat belts. We no longer have those choices. One could make a long list of the things you cannot do because of their effect on the common good, which overrides your personal choice.

School choice undermines the common good by taking resources from the schools that we are all obliged to support, even if we don’t have children.

The Los Angeles Times has written extensively about the Celerity charter schools and their record of financial mismanagement, self-dealing, and possible conflicts of interest.

In this expose, the Times revealed that the founder of the charter chain was paid $471,000 a year, 35% more than the superintendent of the Los Angeles public school system. The article also documented use of the schools’ credit card for expensive meals, hotels, resorts, restaurants, chauffeured limousines, and other personal expenses.

Now, the Times reports, the chain of seven schools is under federal investigation and in danger of losing accreditation.

Los Angeles charter schools that are part of a network currently under federal investigation have been put on notice that their accreditation is in jeopardy.

Seven schools run by the nonprofit Celerity Educational Group are spread across the Los Angeles Unified School District. Six carry the seal of approval of the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges, commonly known by its acronym WASC, an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

On Wednesday, the association sent Celerity Chief Executive Grace Canada a letter saying that after a preliminary investigation, it had found the network to be in violation of several of the agency’s policies. It demanded that Celerity provide evidence to show “why the accreditation status of all CEG schools should not be withheld,” according to the letter signed by WASC President Fred Van Leuven.

Founded by a former L.A. Unified employee, Celerity Educational Group has been operating charter schools in Los Angeles for over a decade. In recent years, it has gone national, expanding into Ohio and Florida — where it struggled to gain a foothold and eventually withdrew — and Louisiana, where it still operates four charter schools today.

But after years of relatively little scrutiny, the charter school network is now the subject of two investigations, one by the inspector general of L.A. Unified, who has been looking into allegations of misuse of public funds, and another by federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Education.

In January, agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and other agencies raided Celerity’s offices as well as the headquarters of a related nonprofit, Celerity Global Development, and the home of the organization’s founder, Vielka McFarlane.

Interestingly, the response from the charter was that what they did was not unusual in the charter sector. Everyone does it.

“In its review of the group’s financial records, The Times documented years of questionable spending by Celerity’s leaders and potential conflicts of interest.

“No one at Celerity, including McFarlane, has been charged with a crime stemming from the schools’ operations. Celerity’s leaders have repeatedly defended the network’s management and financial decisions as perfectly legal and typical of charter schools, which are privately managed but publicly funded.”

Despite the investigations, despite the revelations, the state education department wants to give this chain more students and schools:

Despite the questions surrounding Celerity’s operations, the network is poised to open two new charter schools next year. And on Friday, the California Department of Education issued a recommendation that the state Board of Education renew two of Celerity’s existing schools, which L.A. Unified had refused to grant another five-year term. The recommendation came with conditions that Celerity agree to turn over more information about its inner workings to state officials.

The marker of the first 100 days of a presidency was set during the first administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR started office with plans, advisors, and legislation.

He called Congress into session and passed monumental legislation. Like  Trump, Roosevelt had a Congress controlled by his own party.

The circumstances that Roosevelt faced were unique. Banks were shutting down. Depositors were losing their life’s savings. Businesses were running out of enough cash to keep going. At least 25 percent of American workers were unemployed. Many Americans felt it was a national emergency.

 

“When Roosevelt took power on March 4, 1933, many influential Americans doubted the capacity of a democratic government to act decisively enough to save the country,” writes historian Anthony Badger in “FDR: The First Hundred Days.” “Machine guns guarded government buildings. The newspapers and his audience responded most enthusiastically to Roosevelt’s promises in his inaugural to assume wartime powers if necessary. That sense of emergency certainly made Congress willing to give FDR unprecedented power.” Adds political scientist William Leuchtenburg in “The FDR Years”: “Roosevelt came to office at a desperate time, in the fourth year of a worldwide depression that raised the gravest doubts about the future of Western civilization.”

 The new president immediately established a new, infectious atmosphere of optimism. Even Sen. Hiram Johnson, a Republican from California, conceded, “The admirable trait in Roosevelt is that he has the guts to try…. He does it all with the rarest good nature…. We have exchanged for a frown in the White House a smile. Where there were hesitation and vacillation, weighing always the personal political consequences, feebleness, timidity, and duplicity, there are now courage and boldness and real action.”  

Roosevelt immediately called Congress into special session and kept it there for three months. He found that the Democrats who were in control were eager to do his bidding, and even some Republicans were cooperative. Raymond Moley, a member of FDR’s inner circle, said many legislators “had forgotten to be Republicans or Democrats” as they worked together to relieve the crisis.

 

FDR quickly won congressional passage for a series of social, economic, and job-creating bills that greatly increased the authority of the federal government—the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which supplied states and localities with federal money to help the jobless; the Civil Works Administration to create jobs during the first winter of his administration; and the Works Progress Administration, which replaced FERA, pumped money into circulation, and concentrated on longer-term projects. The Public Works Administration focused on creating jobs through heavy construction in such areas as water systems, power plants, and hospitals. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. protected bank accounts. The Civilian Conservation Corps provided jobs for unemployed young men. The Tennessee Valley Authority boosted regional development. Also approved were the Emergency Banking Act, the Farm Credit Act, and the National Industrial Recovery Act.

 

In all, Roosevelt got 15 major bills through Congress in his first 100 days. “Congress doesn’t pass legislation anymore—they just wave at the bills as they go by,” said humorist Will Rogers.

 

Trump’s party controls both houses of Congress. Not a single piece of legislation has passed. Here is an insightful summary of Trump’s first 100 days.