Archives for category: Academic Freedom

The Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina recently offered the prestigious Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism to Nikole Hannah-Jones. Hannah-Jones is an alumna of the Hussman School who has received many honors for her writing. She recently won a Pulitzer Prize for “The 1619 Project,” which she organized and for which she wrote the lead essay, recasting the role of Blacks in American history.

But there was one hitch: Unlike previous winners of the Knight Chair, she would not receive tenure. This decision was made not by the faculty of the Hussman School, but by the trustees of the University. Mega donor Walter Hussman—for whom the journalism school is named— conveyed his disappointment to Board members and university officials about Hannah-Jones’ appointment. Hannah-Jones said she would not accept the offer unless it included tenure.

Black students and faculty were furious and saw the treatment of Hannah-Jones as evidence of systemic racism at UNC. The faculty of the Hussman School was outraged that the university board overrode their decision.

Yesterday the University board of trustees reversed their decision and agreed to offer tenure to Hannah-Jones. The vote was 9-4. They had to choose whether it would be more dangerous to offend the state’s Republican legislators or to offend their Black faculty and students and the faculty of the journalism school.

They chose.

With 33 days until he is out of office, Donald Trump appointed the members of his absurd 1776 Commission, who are tasked with restoring patriotism into all public spaces and presumably into history textbooks, although any federal interference with curriculum, textbooks, or instruction is forbidden by law. I wrote about this silly commission here.

This is Trump’s (or Stephen Miller’s) attempt to refute the New York Times’ 1619 Project and to debunk “critical race theory,” which Trump himself never heard of and can’t explain.

If Trump were a real patriot, he would follow the dictates of the Constitution and hail Joe Biden as the President-Elect. But because he puts self above country, he can’t do that, and he is no patriot at all. He is an insurrectionist.

Politico reported:

President Donald Trump is still trying to advance “patriotic education,” announcing 33 days before his departure from office his intent to appointmembers of a 1776 Commission.

The group will be led by the president of the conservative Hillsdale College, Larry Arnn, a longtime Trump ally, who will serve as chairman, the White House said Friday. Matthew Spalding, vice president for the college’s Washington, D.C., operations and dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Government, has been appointed executive director of the Commission, according to the college.

The commission is part of Trump’s defense against critical race theory and the 1619 Project, directed by The New York Times Magazine, which revisits the country’s history with a focus on slavery and Black Americans’ contributions. Trump has said he hopes to counter lessons that he believes divide Americans on race and slavery and teach students to “hate their own country.” 

Along with Arnn, others to be appointed to the 18-member panel include activist Charlie Kirk, who founded the conservative campus group Turning Point USA; Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who has declared his state “Trump Country;” Silicon Valley CEO and Trump fundraiser Scott McNealy; Brooke Rollins, Trump’s domestic policy adviser; and Mike Gonzalez, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow.

“The 1776 Committee was formed to advise the President about the core principles of the American founding and how to protect those principles by promoting patriotic education,” Spalding said in a statement. “The path to a renewed and confident national unity is through a rediscovery of our shared identity rooted in those principles.”

Spalding took a temporary leave of absence from his duties at Hillsdale for the appointment, according to the college.

Presumably, Spalding’s leave of absence will last for 33 days.

Trump wants to restore “patriotic history” and has vowed to creat a “1776 Commission” to carry out his wishes. Historians, history teachers, and everyone who cares about accurate teaching of history and academic freedom are alarmed.

Kevin Kumashiro has drafted a petition. If you agree with it, please consider adding your name.

Friends–I’m writing to folks who lead or are closely connected to a number of educational organizations/associations/centers/unions. I haven’t had a chance to update the website yet, but in just the first few hours since the first announcement went out, we already have 300+ signers, and we’ve only just begun to publicize! Individuals AND ORGANIZATIONS can endorse, so I wanted to make sure you saw this and that I reached out to you first to:

(a) invite your organization to endorse (T4SJ already endorsed, thanks!), and

(b) ask you to please help to spread the word to your members and comrades.

The announcement is below, which includes the URL to the sign-on form. I hope to push out to the media the full statement (with all the endorsements) in the coming days. Let me know if you have questions, and thanks for considering and helping,
Kevin

*

Dear Friend, Colleagues, Comrades: A coalition of organizations and a team of educators and scholars invite all educators, educational scholars, and educational organizations in early-childhood, K-12, and higher education across the United States to join us in endorsing this important new statement:

“Educating for Democracy Demands Educating Against White Supremacy:
A Statement by U.S. Educators and Educational Scholars”

To view and endorse the statement: https://forms.gle/PcSRzSSvTbDp69V36

From the Introduction: “The battle over what story about the United States gets taught in schools and who gets to tell that story is what has made education, particularly history curriculum, one of the main sites of ideological struggle. Today, as has happened repeatedly before, those who insist on teaching only a white supremacist rendition of U.S. history claim that curricula about the historical and systemic nature of race and racism are based on lies, biased, divisive, and un- or anti-American—but research soundly rejects such claims.”

From the conclusion: “Our country cannot become more just and democratic without illuminating, addressing, and healing from its long legacies of injustices, including imperialism, colonialism, and racism. As educators and educational scholars who specialize in early-childhood, K-12, and higher education across the United States, we reject the renewed calls to deny or ignore the legacies and systems of racism that have long defined and shaped U.S. schools and society and that continue to do so. Our job is to teach toward democracy by teaching the truth, and we proudly work collectively and in solidarity with the communities most impacted by injustice to do so.”

All educators, educational scholars, and educational organizations in early-childhood, K-12, and higher education across the United States are invited to join us in endorsing this statement. Read the full statement and add your endorsement here: https://forms.gle/PcSRzSSvTbDp69V36

Please forward to other educators, scholars, and organizations who may wish to join us. Thank you!
-In Solidarity-
***
Kevin Kumashiro, Ph.D.
https://www.kevinkumashiro.com
Movement building for equity and justice in education
***

We have been warned! Students are”losing ground,” “falling behind,” and in desperate need of remediation.

Laura Chapman captures the debate:


The big promotion for this Covid-19 era is how to mitigate a “slide in learning.”

The so-called COVID-slide is made up by bean counters who think that the be-all and end-all of education is captured in test scores for reading and math.

Among these high profile bean counters is the Rand Corporation. I have linked you to the following article for their solutions to the slide problem. They think it is fine to just “recruit top teachers, with grade-level experience, and equip them with rigorous academic curriculums. They will operate for five or six weeks of the summer, with three or four hours of academics every day, as well as time for enrichment activities.” In addition they “they will establish a clear attendance policy.” https://www.rand.org/blog/rand-review/2020/07/the-covid-slide-how-to-help-students-recover-learning.html

Then there is the Brookings Institution, and like all test-centered promoters of a “Covid Slide” their experts rely on test scores in reading and math to make graphs and dire predictions about ” the slide,” as if the whole of education depends on test scores in two subjects. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2020/05/27/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-student-achievement-and-what-it-may-mean-for-educators/

One more example is a widely cited “white paper” from Illuminate Education. The white paper is nothing more than a sales pitch for FastBridge, which claims to be “the only assessment system to combine Computer-Adaptive Tests (CAT) and Curriculum-Based Measures (CBM) for screening and progress monitoring across reading, math and social-emotional behavior (SEB) so you get data surrounding the whole child.”

You can sign up to receive Illuminate Education’s playbook prepared by experts who “offer actionable advice for supporting students’ social-emotional and behavioral (SEB) functioning. Implement these tips to prepare students, mentally and emotionally, to learn after a spring and summer spent social distancing.” The white paper

Click to access covid-19-slide-whitepaper.pdf

In other words, if there were no test scores, especially in reading and math, the slide metaphor would not exist and the experts in test-centric instruction would have to be more thorough in thinking about the unfolding complexities of teaching and learning. They would have to think about the support students, teachers, and parents/caregivers really need. Those supports have nothing to do with testing.

Hong Kong was a British colony for a century and a half. Under British rule, the people of Hong Kong enjoyed democratic freedoms. On July 1, 1997, the British relinquished control and Hong Kong became part of China as a special administrative region. The Chinese government promised to maintain “one country, two systems.” Over the years the Chinese government has asserted tighter control, inspiring rebellions among the people of Hong Kong, who resisted absorption into the government of the Mainland. Twenty-three years after the removal of British rule, mainland China is clamping down, hard, to stamp out freedom of speech, freedom of thought, even freedom to teach.

This article in the Los Angeles Times describes the government’s tightening of control over teachers and textbooks. Teachers who dare to speak out have been purged.

One of the greatest threats to freedom in Hong Kong is China’s intensifying pressure on schools over what to put in the minds of students. Textbooks are being rewritten, teachers are being purged and history is being erased under a new national security law to bring this once freewheeling city more firmly into China’s grip…

With China’s tightening control over Hong Kong, including passage of a new national security law, the territory’s pro-democracy activists, politicians, journalists and others are facing a Communist Party determined to crush dissent. Perhaps the greatest threat from this new purge — one that will affect generations to come — is the increasing pressure on schools and teachers over what to put in the minds of students. Both activists and bureaucrats know that a nation’s soul is distilled in the classroom; history can be erased with the silencing of teachers and rewriting of textbooks.

A Hong Kong art teacher who calls himself Vawongsir expresses his thoughts through pro-democracy doodles.
A Hong Kong art teacher going by the name Vawongsir expresses his thoughts through pro-democracy doodles, which he shares online anonymously. He lost his teaching job after a complaint was made to the authorities.(Chan Long Hei / For The Times)
“They are turning education into a tool for controlling thought in Hong Kong,” said Ip Kin-yuen, a pro-democracy lawmaker representing the education sector who is vice president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union. “There are a lot of cases of teachers being wronged, facing exaggerated accusations. I would describe it as political persecution.”

Hong Kong is being remade before the world. Chinese leader Xi Jinping is capitalizing on his country’s economic power and the planet’s preoccupation with the coronavirus to rein in Hong Kong’s democratic ambitions. Xi wants to subsume this defiant territory into his vision of national unity, even as China faces diplomatic fallout, most notably from the Trump administration, which has drawn closer to a new Cold War with Beijing in a fraught time of high-tech surveillance, shifting supply chains and America’s fallen stature of a global leader.

In my daily reading, I have often come across references to “high quality seats.” [HQS]

See here. 

See here.

While googling, I saw pictures of “high quality seats,” but they looked mostly like lounge chairs, and I could not imagine a classroom filled with them unless the teacher-student ratio was 8:1, which would be a very effective classroom.

I confess that I don’t know what an HQS is.

in my naïveté, I assumed that learning requires teachers teaching and students exerting effort.

Now I see that the “high quality” learning is in the chair.

it seems to be reformer-speak for a seat in a school that is not a public school.

But since there are so many failed and closed charter schools, an HQS can’t be synonymous with a seat in a charter school. Many children in charters are in LQS (low-quality seats).

Where does one go to find a HQS? is there a store?

Do they sell them in Walmart? Not likely.

Do you know where to find the HQS that districts are searching for?

is that the simple answer to every problem?

When I googled, I inadvertently found the answer to my question. Jan Resseger wrote it in 2016. She said that the blather about HQS was a way of dodging the crucial question of paying for a good education for all children.

Jan Resseger points out that Betsy DeVos has spent her years in office berating public schools and claiming that children and families are on their own when it comes to school choice. She reminds us of a speech DeVos gave at an ALEC conference where she scoffed at the very idea of a school system. Each of us, in her view, rows our own boat, without regard for others. We are definitely not in this together as a society or a community.

In that same speech, DeVos endorsed the rugged individualism of Margaret Thatcher, DeVos spoke of Thatcher admiringly:

I was reminded of something another secretary of education once said. Her name was Margaret.  No, not Spellings — Thatcher.  Lady Thatcher regretted that too many seem to blame all their problems on “society.” But, “who is society,” she asked. “There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families” — families, she said — “and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.”
The Iron Lady was right then and she’s still right today.

Every family on their own, no sense of mutuality, no connectedness with others. No society to protect the weak and to guarantee rights and responsibilities.

Then came the pandemic, and the world changed. Betsy is still singing the same tired song but the rest of the world recognizes that we are indeed knit together as communities and as a society, with shared responsibilities and needs. society does exist, and we all need it to function effectively. its terrifying to be on your own at a time of great peril that threatens us all, but is especially hard on the most vulnerable and weakest members of our society.

At such a time as this, we gain new appreciation for the ties that both bind and protect us. We turn to public institutions and count on them while the 1% lock themselves away in their cocoons.

She writes:

Despite public schools’ limitations in these virtual schooling months, and despite the inequity that surrounds and permeates them, however, the systemic presence of public schools—spread across small towns, city neighborhoods and suburbs; funded with state-constitution-driven formulas; organized with predictable curriculum; and staffed with millions of teachers educated about pedagogy, developmental psychology, educational philosophy, and their particular academic disciplines—leaves these institutions better prepared to serve students and to survive the current crisis with a strong foundation. Public schools are more stable than the many other institutions families need in these times when most parents have to hold jobs outside the home in order to survive.

Market-based solutions abandon children and families to fight for their survival on their own. The strong will manage. The weak will not. The inequities that already exist will deepen. DeVos’s do-it-yourself philosophy serves the haves and imperils everyone else. We must rebuild systems built around the needs of children and families and the principle of equal educational opportunity for all, accepting that society exists for our mutual protection.

This article was written by Jennifer Weiner, an education professor at the University of Connecticut. She explains why she refuses to follow the worksheets and detailed instructions for her twin sons. She recognizes that she is privileged as a person who has economic security, healthcare and is white. But there’s no reason to believe that children who lack her privileges need to be subjected to dull routine.

I read her article with pleasure, a welcome respite from the dire warnings issued by the test-and-punish crowd, by various bureaucrats, by think-tanks underwritten by the Gates Foundation, and many others who are certain that children’s brains will wither if they are not subjected daily to worksheets, test prep, and the holy tests themselves.

What happens if there is a respite in our academic Hunger Games? How will we know who will win and who will lose? This mother wants her children to have a timeout. I’m a grandmother now, but I suspect if my children were still in school, I would be in her camp. School is not a global race to the top. It should be a time to learn and explore and to find joy in reading, writing, thinking, and growing. What children miss most now is the personal contact with their teachers and the social interactions with other students. Jennifer Weiner reminds us that the NCLB pressure-cooker is unhealthy for all children, not just her own. When school resumes, we need to rethink the oppressive and pointless regime imposed on children by federal mandates and groupthink. It’s past time to rethink the status quo and place our faith in real education, students, and teachers, not tests and technology.

She writes:

Thanks to the coronavirus, my third-grade twins are home all day for the foreseeable future. I’m not going to recreate school for them.

Judge me all you want.

Out of respect for their amazing teachers, I’m making a good-faith effort to get my kids to do the work that’s been sent home, but that does not come anywhere close to filling what would have been a school day. After accomplishing the bare minimum, the agenda is to survive and watch too much TV. We are eating cookies and carbs and hoping for the best. We are loving one another and trying not to go insane.

When we got the call that our schools were closing, I knew I’d start seeing social media posts with home-schooling schedules and amazing and quite labor-intensive (for adults) activities for children.

My predictions were right: There have been color-coded home school charts with every minute scheduled, online resources on how to lead children through yoga and meditation, French lessons, and building their own rocket ships. Parents are sharing recipes with the right nutritional balance to enhance study productivity. Many have already begun to lament that they’re failing at meeting these new expectations.

I want to send a message to parents, and in particular to working moms, who will inevitably take on most of this home labor along with working remotely: This is going to be messy and that is OK.

I am not an expert in teaching third graders, particularly those like one of my sons, who has special needs and receives numerous services from talented professional educators every day to ensure he can thrive. We are so grateful to them and to our other son’s teachers and their patience, wisdom, and skill. We know that we don’t share these qualities.

I’m also not a parenting expert — a fact that would be clear if you met our wonderful but somewhat feral children. But I do know, from often painful firsthand experiences, that trying to turn mothering into a competitive sport is straight up unhealthy. It’s not a game I want to play.

My husband and I both work full time. Like so many others, we’re attempting to keep our family safe and fed during our state’s Covid-19 shutdown while simultaneously working to convince our boomer parents to practice social distancing, reaching out to other loved ones and friends and trying not to panic. Even when everything in our life is working the way it should, and with all the privileges we have — our solid health care, our economic stability, our whiteness — we often feel overwhelmed. So this pandemic felt like a bridge too far. We had to meet it head on: holding our breath, crossing our fingers. And not judging ourselves.

I’ve heard predictions from other parents about how this time without classroom instruction could lead to my kids (who, remember, are 8) falling behind so far that college will no longer be in their future. I hate to think of how parents who are preoccupied with worry about loss of income and how to provide food and shelter for their families feel.

They must be terrified their children will be unable to keep up as moms and dads with more flexibility, more security, or even full-time help talk about their aggressive at-home enrichment agendas for their little ones. Maybe this is the perfect time to call a timeout on the academic rat-race that was never healthy or fair in the first place.

Yes, we have embraced the need for some schedule, taking turns keeping an eye on the kids as they surf the internet to make sure whatever they are looking at is age-appropriate. (Of course, one of the boys wanted to learn about bombs.)

So far, we’ve seen them digging into mastodons, dwarf planets, the Mars rover and who made Legos and why. They’ve been reading a lot (mostly graphic novels and “Big Nate” books) because my kids were always avid readers and I don’t have to fight with them to do it. But there are no flash cards and no made-up projects to “enrich” them. We do not assign them essays or ensure their explorations are aligned with Common Core standards. There is no official “movement” or music time. We have not set up a makeshift classroom or given our family’s “school” a name.

We bake and have taste tests to see which cookie recipes are the best, because we like cookies and they are among the few things I know how to make. We walk and walk and walk. We eat together. We think about how lucky we are and try to help those who are more vulnerable and without our resources.

So far, the boys have played more video games and watched more television than they did during any given week before schools shut down. It keeps them busy while their dad and I try to finish our meetings before Zoom crashes.

We love each other, we yell, we apologize, we laugh, they punch each other, we yell some more, we make up. We live, we try to be compassionate and we hope this will all be a memory soon. And when it’s over, the schoolwork will be there.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, writes here about the philanthrocaptalist makeover of Tulsa University. A tale of our times.

Surely we can agree with The Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel, who says that the faculty and administration “disagree bitterly … about whether that transformation will be good or bad for the university.

Krehbiel provides plenty of space for the case made by T.U. President Gerry Clancy and the city’s philanthropists. Its supporters cite economic challenges, as well an opportunity for new revenue from courses that include cyber and health sciences. They claim that the plan is “not etched in stone,” and that it can evolve as the faculty weighs in.

Even so, Kreibiel reports, “a large number of students and alumni are furious about not only the plan itself but the manner in which it was developed … The Arts and Sciences faculty voted 89-4 not to implement True Commitment.” He also cites the participation of EAB, an education consulting firm. EAB’s role is unknown, but such secrecy is likely to be one reason why Krehbiel closed with a faculty member’s words, “I don’t think anyone is really optimistic.”

To get really pessimistic, read Jacob Howland’ articles in the Nation and City Journal magazines. He acknowledges the role of local philanthropies, especially the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), in “early-childhood education, delivering health care to indigent families, and making Tulsa more vibrant and economically robust.”

Howland writes:

GKFF spent $350 million on Tulsa’s new Gathering Place, the largest private gift to a public park in US history. The foundation has invested more than $100 million in the Tulsa Arts District since 2009. It is the major funder of early-childhood education in the state, and has spent more than $20 million in Tulsa alone on Educare early-childhood education centers.

But Howland suggests that the GKFF has overreached:

It has also pursued a strategy of populating city boards and commissions. In 2017, GKFF staff members headed the Tulsa school board and the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust, and had seats on the Economic Development Commission, the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust, and the Tulsa City Council. For the past two years, a Bank of Oklahoma executive has chaired the board of directors of the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Howland concludes, “the True Commitment restructuring were all part of Kaiser’s plan to gain control of the university.” And he argues that “TU’s administration has employed smashmouth tactics in dealing with faculty opposition to True Commitment.”

I’ve long admired the great job Tulsa edu-philanthropists have done in early education, “two generation” family supports, and criminal justice reform, and I’ve often asked GFKK leaders why they have also supported their opposite – the data-driven, competition-driven corporate school reforms that have failed so badly in the Tulsa Public Schools (TPS). I’ve repeatedly urged an open and balanced, evidence-driven public discussion of the TPS, which is led by the notorious teacher- and union-basher, Deborah Gist.

I was then saddened when the GKFF even joined with the Bloomberg and Walton foundations in funding “portfolio management” directors to “absorb the duties of the director of partnership and charter schools,” and “in the future, implement ‘new school models resulting from incubation efforts of the district.’” I was later stunned to learn that Stacy Schusterman donated almost $200,000 to California union-busting, teacher-bashing campaigns.

PreK-12 EDUCATION

http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1372632&session=2017&view=contributions

I would now urge Tulsa philanthropists to follow the links cited by journalists and educators and see if the EAB consultants have evidence to support the policies they promote, and then ask whether the values EAB proclaims are worthy of universities in our democracy.

Nowhere on the EAB website, is there any evidence that it’s approach is beneficial to students or society. EAB’s sales pitch certainly doesn’t sound like it has an appropriate role to play in higher education. On the contrary, its claim to fame is being the “brand police.” But how would its “integrated brand strategy” be able to coexist with the founding principles of universities, and their commitment to the clash of ideas? How could a commitment to academic freedom coexist with EAB brand “that all departments, schools, and colleges were onboard with.”

Its blog proclaims:

At EAB we have an ongoing fascination with organizational charts. (Really, we do.) Org charts can tell a story about a university’s strategy, its priorities, and how it gets things done. And when positions start moving on an org chart, we take notice. The latest example: The rise of the strategic marketing and communications (marcom) leader.

The most advanced marcom departments are strategic marketing partners and get involved in everything from institutional branding to admissions to fundraising. And to make sure that there’s a single source of marketing and advertising truth, they function like an in-house ad agency—their clients are departments, colleges, and offices around campus.

https://eab.com/insights/blogs/strategy/its-time-for-marketing-communications-to-have-a-say-in-campus-strategy-heres-how/

But universities aren’t a corporation where everyone is supposed to be on the same page in the search for a single “marketing and advertising truth.” To take one example, tenure protects the clash of ideas. But, EAB’s approach to “‘what you measure matters’” is a “mentality” that “sparks some ambivalence in academia to put it lightly.” So, how do you reconcile the scholarly and the business advertising mentalities? EAB’s response to tenure is:

One solution is to adopt academic metrics that also capture research effort. These metrics can include:
• The number of proposals or papers submitted
• The dollar amount of proposals
• Proportion of funding from different sources
• Benchmarks for the success rates of proposals and papers

https://eab.com/insights/blogs/strategy/3-ways-to-align-tenure-criteria-with-your-institutional-strategy/

Finally, I have enjoyed many conversations with Tulsa philanthropy leaders at events where they assembled talented professors from the O.U. and O.S.U. medical schools. Even though we disagreed on corporate school reform, I’m sure we would share our respect for those medical professionals who are battling the opioid epidemic. We would likely agree that privatization was a major contributor to the deaths of thousands of people in Oklahoma and across the nation.

I hope that philanthropists, who I am confident will contribute to the battle against opioid addiction, will ask a basic question. How many Oklahomans would still be alive and well if it was university medical professors who educated doctors about painkillers, as opposed to the drug companies’ sales reps who would misrepresent medical science in the name of “so-called unbranded promotion?” In times like these, should we not rally behind the principles which drive our universities’ search for knowledge, as opposed to something called “brand equity,” “integrated brand strategy” or whatever profit-seeking consultants spin?

The state board of education in Colorado has decided to turn over schools in three districts to a for-profit management corporation that claims it can turn the schools around, at a cost of millions of dollars. Where there the firm has ever turned any schools around before isin doubt. The political connections of the firm are not.

Read here about the story and a deep dive into the history of MGT Consulting.

In all cases, the state board gave districts the go-ahead to pay millions of school district dollars for MGT Consulting, a for-profit management firm, to virtually take over the schools. The move has elicited hope from some that the company can improve student performance after everything the districts have tried has failed. But the contracts have prompted condemnation from critics who say the firm has a dubious track record and is diverting tax dollars to private profits at a time when every cent should be spent on student needs…

Leaders of the Florida-based MGT say they specialize in allocating public money more effectively while improving teacher effectiveness in the classroom and school culture. Its management process includes sub-contracting areas of school work to other companies, and it boasts completing over 10,000 projects in many states and abroad over several decades.

MGT is more than just a school testing consultant. The limited liability corporation also consults for other government agencies, including conducting impact studies of privatizing public prisons, according to its website. MGT’s current chief executive officer also co-founded a consulting and lobbying firm tapped into a national network of for-profit education institutions, Republican education reformers, the testing industry and charter schools.

That’s part of what draws controversy as public school academia question the motives of a company headed by pro-school voucher officials working to save failing public schools — for profit…

The group began its work in the 1970s but has been led in its current iteration since 2015, when Trey Traviesa first appears as MGT’s title manager in Florida state records.

Traviesa is a longtime Floridian and former Republican state representative for the Tampa Bay area. He became a lobbyist, venture capitalist, banker and charter school co-founder after serving in Florida’s House of Representatives from 2004 to 2008.

While serving in the state House, Traviesa sponsored legislation to expand Florida’s school voucher program. That program created incentives for corporations to pay for mostly low-income students to leave their school districts and attend private schools.

MGT was hired largely on the basis of its claims of success in Gary, Indiana.

Chalkbeat wrote about the situation in Gary, which is inconclusive and certainly not a demonstration of success:

It’s early to say anything definitive. In 2017, MGT won a four-year contract to manage schools in Gary, Indiana. The deal is potentially worth about $11.4 million, if the state funds the contract for all four years and if the company meets performance goals.

Gary’s school district has about 5,000 students enrolled this year, down from about 11,000 ten years ago. The students in Gary overwhelmingly qualify for free or reduced price lunch, a measure of poverty, like in Adams 14, but only a handful of students are learning English as a second language.

In Gary, the state ordered an emergency manager to come in not only for academic problems, but because the enrollment decline and fiscal mismanagement problems landed the district deep in debt. MGT took over the responsibilities of the superintendent and the school board, at the state’s request, and reports directly to state officials.

The work has been controversial. Some lawmakers called for removing the firm when it was discovered that Tony Bennett, who was state superintendent in Indiana from 2008 through 2013, is a partner in the Strategos Group, which acquired MGT in 2015. Lawmakers argued that the policies Bennett rolled out in his time as state superintendent contributed to Gary’s financial problems that led the state to require an external manager.

MGT has not been removed, however, and Bennett doesn’t have an active role in the management of the district. According to news reports citing state officials, since the takeover, the Gary district has decreased its debt, slowed its enrollment decline, and purchased new textbooks. The latest state rating of the district has also improved slightly.

In other words, MGT has been in charge of Gary (which former state chief Tony Bennett tried to destroy) for one year. It has not created a successful turnaround, there or anywhere else.

Was the Colorado State Board of education influenced by Governor Jared Polis, who has a long record as a supporter of school choice, having founded two charters himself?