Archives for the month of: June, 2019

 

Open this link to discover the big surprise that Steven Singer’s students gave him on the last day of school.

It defines the term “psychic income.”

it explains the rewards that teachers may get that are never never never available to lawyers, hedge fund managers, even billionaires. Eli Broad will never win this prize. No member of the Walton Family will ever receive what Steven got from his eighth grade students on the last day of school.

Shawgi Tell is a professor at Nazareth College in upstate New York who writes frequently about education.

David Osborne’s Twisted Logic

David Osborne is one of America’s foremost neoliberal demagogues. He is a major representative of the so-called “Third Way,” a clever label for destructive neoliberal aims, policies, and arrangements. His constant attacks on public right can be found at the website of the Progressive Policy Institute, which is not progressive at all, as well as in a number of books emphasizing the theme of “reinventing” (read: further privatizing) government.

Osborne has spent much of his life attacking the public sector and pushing for its privatization (“reinvention”) as fast as possible. He has long been heavily funded by wealthy private interests that support neoliberal policies in every sector and sphere of society.

In the sphere of education, Osborne has been a relentless supporter of privately-operated low-transparency charter schools, which are notorious for being unaccountable, segregated, deunionized, and corrupt.

Osborne receives ample space and time on many platforms around the country to promote neoliberal disinformation masquerading as “interesting and needed discussion.” Recently, he was in Rochester, New York promoting the “benefits” of unaccountable privately-operated charter schools. His visit “coincided” with a big push by local newspapers, the Mayor, local elite, and state education officials to impose the failed state takeover model on the heavily-demonized Rochester City School District (RCSD). Naturally, thousands of people in Rochester oppose charter schools, privatization, and a state takeover of the RCSD.

On June 19, 2019, the Washington Post carried a lengthy article by Osborne with the twisted title, “‘Privatization’ doesn’t make charter schools bad. It makes them like Obamacare and Medicare.”

The entire article is straightforward disinformation designed to fool the gullible.

Comfortable with casually ignoring: (1) a large body of evidence against charter schools, (2) the fact that nonprofit charter schools are as rotten as for-profit charter schools, and that there are (3) profound differences between the meaning, definition, purpose, and scope of public and private, Osborne begins by going after some of the many people rightly opposing charter schools and privatization, starting with Bernie Sanders.

But that is not what is most important here.

The core and stubborn error with Osborne’s entire “argument,” here and elsewhere, is that it rests mainly on thoroughly and deliberately confusing the critical difference between the private and public spheres, including the very different aims, roles, and purposes of each in a modern society based on mass industrial production where all wealth is produced by working people.

Osborne desperately wants people to believe that it is more than OK if public goods, programs, and services are operated, “delivered,” or owned by the private sector. He claims that such an arrangement does not render something privatized or problematic, and that it should not really matter who runs things, as long as “the results” are “good.”

This is a self-serving, worn-out, and shallow “argument.”

Obviously, it does matter who runs, governs, and decides public programs and services in a society based on large-scale production. It matters very much and makes all the difference.

Public and Private are Antonyms

Public and private mean the opposite of each other. Public and private are antonyms. Conceptual confusion flourishes and results in antisocial policies when these different categories are mixed up and used carelessly, as so often happens.

Public refers to everyone, the common good, the general interests of society. Public means  inclusive, open, and non-rivalrous. A public service, for example, is usually free or close to free so that it is accessible by all. A public good is one that benefits everyone, whether they use it or not.

Private, on the other hand, means exclusive, not for everyone, not inclusive, not shared. Private means not open to or accessible by all.

For these and other reasons, the aims, preoccupations, outlook, drive, and agenda of public forces and private forces are not the same. Private wealthy interests and the common good are not identical; they actually contradict each other.

Osborne is eager to cover up these profound distinctions so as to justify the looting of the public treasury by wealthy private interests.

In the Washington Post article, Osborne asks: “But if a publicly funded service is delivered by a private organization, does that make it a private service?”

Yes it does. That is precisely what it means.

Once the narrow private claims of owners of capital, who are obsessed with maximizing profit as fast possible, are imposed on public programs or services, it automatically reduces the claim of workers (the producers of wealth) and the claims of government (which is supposed to serve the public) on enterprise wealth. Public-Private “Partnerships” (PPPs), for example, are nothing more than a way to funnel public funds and assets to owners of capital under the veneer of high ideals. Neoliberals cover up this money grab by “arguing” ad nauseam that PPPs are good for competition, efficiency, results, and choice. PPPs are essentially pay-the-rich schemes.

To put it another way, imposing private claims on public institutions, enterprises, and services necessarily means more public revenue for the private sector and less for the public sector. Workers and the government are the two main claimants on revenue in a public service. Once a third, private, alien claim is introduced, usually in the name of “choice,” “competition,” and “efficiency,” this automatically reduces the amount of public revenue that goes to workers and the government (which is supposed to represent the public but often doesn’t). Some of the revenues produced by working people must now go to an alien external claimant. Again, Osborne wants people to believe that publicly-funded but privately-operated services and programs are just fine, and that we should all stop complaining and just quietly embrace privatization. Osborne sees no problems with pay-the-rich schemes that harm the natural and social environment.

In reality, public goods, services, and programs are not commodities. They are not “consumer goods” or “costs.” They cannot be reduced to mere budgetary issues. This is a capital-centered way of viewing things. They are basic social human responsibilities that must be provided in a way that ensures the well-being of society and the economy. Approaching social responsibilities as a business, contract, or commodity enriches wealthy private interests and lowers the quantity and quality of services for the majority. It also increases corruption and impunity.

Neoliberals do not think it is a problem for everything in society to operate on the basis of the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the so-called “free market.” They want everything to operate according to the law of the jungle.

In the June 19 Washington Post article, Osborne gives example after example of how the rich seize and control public funds under the banner of “providing a public service.” Due to the failure to analyze society, the economy, and the difference between public and private, Osborne is unable to envision a society where the public actually controls the economy and directs the affairs of society. Objectively, he is unable and unwilling to cognize any alternatives to the destructive “Third Way.” He remains trapped in a business-centric view of life.

 

 

This is a story about a high school in Missouri that should have been on the U.S. News list of the best high schools in America. The teachers are dedicated. Many of the kids are beating the odds against them. They are hard-working. They have grit and perseverance. They will make great contributions to society.

Ray Hartmann of the Riverfront Times tells an inspiring story of students, teachers, and administrators at Normandy High School who are succeeding despite the mainstream narrative that writes them off.

Ninety-seven percent of its students are black, and a stunning 92 percent of the 3,100 kids residing in the district’s 23 municipalities are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced student lunches. The median household income in the district is $30,100, and the median home value is $69,700.

Perhaps even more daunting…the district has a 40 percent “mobility rate.” That means, unlike your Claytons and Ladues, nearly half of the kids in the district are either homeless or moving between homes in the school year.

Many people look at these numbers, writes Hartmann, and think “failing school.” But when he visited, he saw a different story.

He saw teachers who care about students, and students who are proud of their school.

He attended graduation ceremonies and wrote about two students.

Meet Kayvion Calvert, one of the privileged few. Thanks to his own initiative — and to the fact that he went to a high school that cared about him and afforded him the chance to make the most of his abilities — Kayvion is off to Alabama A&M University to major in political science and minor in secondary education, with a résumé that’s almost ridiculously impressive.

He was class president as a senior, serving all four years in student government. He was also a four-year member of the school choir, a passion he pursued while singing in both the choir at his church and another one in the community, as well as acting in drama club productions.

Obviously, Kayvion Calvert is not your average kid. And, admittedly, maybe it helped that he didn’t come from just any public school district.

Then there’s Gabrielle Brown, Kayvion’s classmate. She was class valedictorian, with a GPA of 3.96. But, in fairness, she too was a bit privileged: Not only did her high school launch her to a college scholarship in computer science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, but it provided an opportunity to supplement her high school studies in an associate degree program at St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley.

So, in addition to graduating as class valedictorian, Gabrielle is already a member of the Phi Theta Kappa college honor society, which honors students at two-year colleges. She was also a member of the high school band. And she had an internship at Centene.

You could forgive Gabrielle if she were a little boastful about all this. But she’s not, deflecting credit to the fact that she was one of the fortunate ones who attended a high school that, in an email, she termed “a critical factor” in her success.

“At my school, you establish so many connections and develop so many relationships, you meet people from so many diverse backgrounds it’s honestly astonishing,” she wrote. “The people you meet don’t just fade out of your life, either. They are present and encourage you [to] continue on your road of success.

“When I was little, going to my elementary school as a child, they had programs to help children succeed. Whether the child was advanced or a little behind, they are capable of supporting children on a more personal level and really connect with them. They influenced me to become the person I am today, and I intend to continue giving back.”

That’s not your everyday loyalty from a high school student. But kids like Gabrielle and Kayvion didn’t go to your everyday privileged high school.

No, they graduated from Normandy. Yes, the same Normandy Schools Collaborative often presented as the symbol of all that’s wrong with public education in St. Louis and the nation.

Why isn’t this heroic school on the U.S. News list as one of the best high schools in the nation, instead of all those public schools in affluent neighborhoods and charter schools that cherrypick their students?

 

Ed Johnson lives in Atlanta and fights daily against the malignant competition and punishment inflicted on the children of Atlanta by the school board and superintendent. He shares the philosophy of W. Edwards Deming, who taught the importance of collaboration and teamwork.

He wrote this post and sent it to the school board:

 

Cyberattacks and competition
I have been under cyberattack for nearly a year, now.
First, it was attempted blackmail to “expose” me by making public an old username and password I used once to visit an “unsavory” website some 25 years ago.  I hear this blackmail tactic is quite common, and successful.
 
Well, blackmail didn’t work on me, so then came invading my computer and encrypting all personal files and holding the encrypted files hostage pending my paying the one bitcoin (~680 USD) ransom demand before I would be given the decryption key.
 
Well, holding my personal files hostage for ransom didn’t work on me, so then on 18 Dec 2018, there suddenly came a great flood of email notifications from subscription and online services all over the globe thanking me for having signed up.  Fraudulent signups continue to occur at the rate of around six or so per day.  The aim of the bountiful fraudulent signups seems to be the gamble that, in the fog of hurriedly unsubscribing the many services, one is bound to click on a Trojan Horse disguised as an “Unsubscribe” link.
 
Well, fraudulent subscriptions haven’t worked on me, so two days ago, this happened: My receiving notifications of Diane Ravitch blog posts had been blocked at wordpress.com, for crying out loud!
 
For the first time, I felt panicky.  No Diane Ravitch blog posts?!!  No, that can’t be!
 
But in the end that didn’t work on me, either.  Not for long, anyway.
 
So I remain a happy camper.
 
Even so, I guess we will always have some folk who have been taught and deeply conditioned to compete “by any means necessary” to win at the expense of others.
 
Atlanta Public Schools Leadership (APSL; school board and superintendent) are pretty good at teaching and conditioning people, even young children, to win at the expense of others, when winning and losing is not at all necessary, as with their Race2Read competition, for example.
 
Just think, the many children innocently and trustingly pour themselves into reading, wanting to do their best, to be helpful, to contribute, only to have the APSL adults turn on them and declare ten reading winner kids (“Top Student Readers”) and to tell the thousands of other children they are the reading loser kids, even if that is not the reality, at all.  Because they show they utterly fail to understand variation, the APSL adults create reading winners and reading losers out of the children, arbitrarily and capriciously, and ignorantly.
 
The currently serving APSL have always shown that everybody cooperating to achieve a common goal is an extremely foreign concept to them.  As their Race2Read competition exemplifies, the APSL would rather have children, students, schools, parents and community members, and even school bus drivers, competing than cooperating and collaborating.
 
How unfortunate, here in the twenty-first century, some among the APSL keep practicing the regressive belief that competition motivates people and boosts morale and improves quality, as does, for example, school board member Cynthia Briscoe Brown opining in a school board meeting here (at 1:22:30 thru 1:24:56) that the new “Elite Bus Driver” program is a way of “boosting morale” among school bus drivers.
 
Now, tell me, what parents would want an inferior, second-rate school bus driver at the wheel of the school bus transporting their children?  Or an inferior, second-rate mechanic having worked on the school bus?  What might parents think or do if they knew the majority of both school bus drivers and school bus mechanics have been told, and have come to believe, they are the inferior, second-rate ones?
 
Intentions hold no water, here.  Again, we are in the twenty-first century and the APSL should be progressing into it, not regressing back out of it, by way of behaviorism and Taylorism.
 
One dimension along which the APSL should have already progressed further into this century is that of recognizing the unethical and immoral nature of arbitrary and capricious competition—such as the Race2Read competition and the Elite Bus Driver program—and simply not do it.
 
So, how many children made Race2Read competition losers will grow up to transfer, unconsciously, their learned reading loser position in life into a selfish coding and hacking practice of “winning” by cyberattacking others?
 
What?  Did someone just say such a matter can’t be measured so therefore can’t happen?
 
Really?

 
Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com
 

 

John Thompson says we used to disagree, but he has come around. My memory is not what it used to be, but I recall that he took issue with my use of the term “corporate reformers.” He used to think that the “reformers” were trying to help and just needed the hand of friendship extended to them. Now he thinks otherwise.

He knows that I tried to meet Bill Gates when I visited Seattle. My requests were always rebuffed. There are just so many times you can try without getting a message that the meeting will happen never.

He ponders in this post whether I hurt reformers’ feelings and whether I should care.

Ravitch acknowledged that “reformers say I am ‘mean’ or ‘harsh’ when I say that some ‘reformers’ have a profit motive or that their grand plans actually hurt poor minority children instead of helping them.” She had been told, “Bill Gates was very hurt by my comments about his effort to remake American education. He frankly could not understand how anyone could question his good intentions.” But Ravitch had never questioned his intentions, even though she “certainly question[s] his judgment and his certainty that he can ‘fix’ education by creating metrics to judge teachers.”

Ravitch confessed to being less worried about the Billionaires Boys Club’s feelings than their “constant repetition of the blatant lie that American public education is a failure.” She said, “Dear reformers, please know that I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I just wanted to let you know that your efforts to create a dual system of publicly funded schools turns back the clock to the shameful era before the Brown decision.”

And Ravitch “wanted you to know that your reliance on standardized testing is a grand mistake.” She opposed reforms mostly based on the edu-philanthropists’ theories, and wanted them to realize “your speculative plans are not ‘hurting the feelings’ of teachers and principals, they are ruining their careers, ruining their reputations, doing real and tangible damage to the lives of real people.”

John comments with his own insights:

Communicating with representatives of the nation’s elites, I learned that most of the pro-reform experts realized that something had gone terribly wrong. Although few agreed the huge body of evidence showing that their movement had taken terrible inner city schools and made them worse, most admitted that it had not produced very many positive changes. Some of the poorest students had been helped and others had been hurt. And reformers often knew that they had had far more success driving veteran teachers out of schools than in finding replacements.

I was not completely wrong in believing we could start a dialogue. A bipartisan coalition was making Oklahoma one of the first states to undo the worst education policy of the era: the use of test scores in teacher evaluations. But I was mostly wrong and Ravitch was right. The Billionaires Boys Club merely adopted a kinder, gentler public relations spin. Then, schools were further undermined by budget cuts, and the exodus of experienced teachers, leaving public education even more vulnerable.

So, we need a new round of the type of conversations that I’ve tried, while heeding Ravitch’s hard-earned wisdom.

 

We have recently heard from political candidates who claim they oppose “for-profit charter schools” but support “non-profit charter schools.”

What they don’t know is that this is a distinction without a difference. Many “non-profit charter schools” are managed by for-profit EMOs (Education Management Organizations). Some are theoretically “non-profit” but pocket big money on their lease agreements (paying exorbitant sums to lease their space from a real estate company who is owned by the charter owner).

Peter Greene explains here how non-profits make a profit. It is legal graft, in which entrepreneurs figure out how to profit from taxpayers’ money intended for students and teachers.

His article originally appeared in Forbes.

He writes:

There is such a thing as a business that specializes in charter schools and real estate. In some states, the government will help finance a real estate development if it’s a charter school, and in general developers have noted an abundance of cash. Though, as one charter real estate loan bond financier told the Wall Street Journal, “There’s a ton of capital coming into the industry. The question is: Does it know what it’s doing?” Many states have found a problem with charters that lease their buildings from their own owners as well.

Why such interest in charter real estate? One reason: the Clinton-eraCommunity Tax Relief Act of 2000 made it possible for funds that invested in charter schools to double their money in seven years. And the finance side can become so convoluted that, as Bruce Baker lays out here, the taxpayers can end up paying for a building twice– and the building still ends up belonging to the charter company.

Management Companies

Once you’ve set up your nonprofit charter school, hire yourself as a for-profit charter management organization. Over the last decade, there have been numerous examples of this arrangement, sometimes called a “sweeps contract,” where the charter school hands as much as 95% of its revenue off to a for-profit management organization. As with real estate, there have been instances where the school’s assets (books, furniture, computers, etc) have been ruled to be the property of the management company— so even if the school tanks, the organizers walk away with assets they can cash in.

 

Tom Ultican writes here about the billionaire takeover of Camden, New Jersey. It was easy. Working with Republican Governor Chris Christie, who was eager to have someone take responsibility for the schools in the state’s poorest district, the billionaires got what they wanted.

Camden was their plaything, their Petri dish.

Have they ended poverty yet?

 

Andy Spears explains how the Tennessee Legislature came to pass vouchers, after rejecting them multiple times. 

There was a popular new governor promoting an unpopular idea. And there was money. DeVos money. Dark Money. Lots of it. And aides to Governor Bill Lee who had previously worked for DeVos’s American Federation for Children (and Vouchers).

Now there’s an FBI investigation of the deal that went down to get this bill passed.

Good grief, if the FBI investigates every rigged vote for vouchers, bypassing voters, they will have no time to investigate major crimes.

Ed Johnson of Atlanta offers his reading list, to add to mine:

 

In addition to the titles Diane Ravitch lists, below, include these:

 

Andrea Gabor, After the Education Wars: How Smart Schools Upend the Business of Reform

 

Caitlin Rosenthal, Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management

 

Cathy O’Neal, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

 

Diane Ravitch, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools

 

Shani Robinson and Anna Simonton, None of the Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal, Corporate Greed, and the Criminalization of Educators

 

Happy summer reading!

https://dianeravitch.net/2019/06/26/my-list-of-books-for-summer-reading/

 

This is a wonderful article that appeared in Education Week, written by Margaret Pastor, a veteran educator in Maryland.

When I started reading, I recoiled at the thought of giving standardized tests to babies in kindergarten. Disgusting. But keep reading, as I did (if you are a subscriber).

Many of us in education have deep misgivings about the role standardized tests play in our schools. As a principal, I’ve had a front-row seat to incidents that illustrate why we should be seriously concerned. Let me tell you about one of them.

A few years ago, an assistant superintendent approached me about the performance of my kindergarten teachers. He had looked at the school’s scores from a commonly used standardized test and had identified an underperforming kindergarten teacher.

He pointed out that in one of my four kindergarten classes, the student scores were noticeably lower, while in another, the students were outperforming the other three classes. He recommended that I have the teacher whose class had scored much lower work directly with the teacher who seemed to know how to get higher scores from her students.

Seems reasonable, right? But here was the problem: The “underperforming” kindergarten teacher and the “high-performing” teacher were one and the same person.

I had just two kindergarten teachers. They each taught one morning and one afternoon class.

The idea that I should have the “high performing” teacher coach her lower-performing colleague was suddenly very concerning to me, not to mention impossible. It was clear to me that I couldn’t use standardized tests to distinguish high-performing from low-performing teachers. And this incident fed the doubts that I already harbored about using those same tests-which are meant to be “scientific”-to measure student learning.

I am married to a scientist. He runs tests on plant pathology, analyzes the results, draws conclusions, and uses the results to develop solutions to the problems he studies. I am in awe of the tidiness of the whole process.

I, on the other hand, am an educator. At best, every child is an experiment of one. We test the children’s learning with admittedly limited instruments-standardized tests-that were never designed to be used as a standalone analysis. A lot of classroom time is dedicated to preparing for these tests and giving them. Results are affected by dozens of variables that we can’t control: illness, hunger, sleep deprivation, unfamiliar forms of a test, limited command of English.

It gets better and better but I have quoted as much as I can.