Archives for category: Accountability

Nancy Bailey, experienced classroom teachers, shares her thoughts about SLAYING GOLIATH in this post. 

Bailey commends the book for showing that the resistance has a history, and we should remember those who started it.

It returns to the start of standardized testing movement, highlighting one of the most famous resistors, Vermont blogger Susan Ohanian. Susan became one of the first voices, and, I will add, listeners, to teachers and parents on her blog. This was before blogs were popular.

She points to researchers David C. Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle and their signature book The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Frauds, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education and Richard Rothstein’s The Way We Were?: The Myths and Realties of America’s Student Achievement. These and other signature books warned about the problematic signs of disruption to our public schools. They remain a relevant part of history today.

In Slaying Goliath we are taken back to the original Save Our Schools movement and shown how the spark was lit to form new groups like the Network for Public Education and the Badass Teachers Association.

Diane remembers United Opt Out founders Peggy Robertson, Tim Slekar, Morna McDermott, Shaun Johnson, Ceresta Smith, and Laurie Murphy. UOO spared many children from the humiliation of taking high-stakes tests designed to fail teachers, schools, and the students! These education leaders stood up to the oligarchs who foisted strident policy against children and their teachers, into their classrooms. Even though this movement has been, and continues to be, waylaid by nonstop assessment in competency-based education, it has sparked a nation of parents and educators who are better-informed and committed to saving their public schools.

Diane salutes the premiere bloggers who continue to move the equation against the disruptors.

We learn about dark money and failed reforms like Common Core. There’s much, much more.

The message I took away from this book is that in order to press on, we need to better understand where we’ve been, at what point we stand in history, and how we can, as Davids and good Americans, stand on the right side of future history for a public education system that serves children, not corporations. Our public schools must be great with opened doors for everyone.

Goliath has a history. Less well known is the history of the resistance. We must remember to thank those who came before us for speaking truth to power. We must not let the Disruptors falsify history, as they have falsified a myth about our public schools.

 

Steven Singer reviews SLAYING GOLIATH in the pages of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 

He writes:

The whole text is about the community of teachers, parents, students and concerned citizens who’ve been fighting against the corporate interests trying to destroy public education.

And let me tell you, it’s like nothing 
I’ve ever read. This is a history torn from the front page. It’s a continuation of her previous two books — 2010’s “The Life and Death of the American School System,” which was a history of the decadeslong plot, and 2013’s “Reign of Error,” which was also a research-based guide to stopping the destruction. “Slaying Goliath” is a chronicle of how the movement to counter the disruptors is succeeding.

One of the things I love about it is that term — the “disruptors.” She says that it’s time we stop calling the anti-public school crowd “education reformers.” They don’t deserve that label. They aren’t trying to bring about the positive change typically associated with reform. They’re trying to disrupt our school system like a hedge fund manager or vulture capitalist would do to a business in a hostile takeover.

However, the tide has finally turned against them. After three decades, it’s become painfully clear that the snake oil they are selling just doesn’t work. Our public schools are NOT failing — they’re struggling under reduced funding and the needs of students who are increasingly living in poverty. Standardized testing is NOT an effective way to assess learning; it mainly reflects family income. Charter schools are NOT producing better academic outcomes than authentic public schools; in fact, they often do much worse while denying students basic services and scamming the public.

Where the book is truly unique is in its celebration of the education activist community. Diane Ravitch talks about groups like Journey for Justice, United Opt Out, the Badass Teachers Association, and her own organization, the Network for Public Education. She talks about education bloggers, researchers, journalists, student protestors and parent groups.

In short, Ms. Ravitch’s book is not just about the Goliath of the disruptors. It’s a celebration of everyday Davids who stand up to the hulking beast and armed with only their slingshots of facts have continually beaned him between the eyes.

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,           
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;       
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,  
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,      
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.

James Russell Lowell wrote these words before the Civil War. it is a stanza from a poem called “The Present Crisis.” Today it speaks to the Republicans in the Senate who are tasked with deciding whether a president may be impeached for pressuring a foreign government to announce an investigation into a political rival to benefit his re-election, whether a president may lie and insult and ridicule at will, and whether a president may refuse to allow members of his Administration to testify, to turn over documents, or to respond to Congressional subpoenas, thus obstructing Justice.

This is the poem in full.

The Present Crisis

James Russell Lowell – 1819-1891

When a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth’s aching breast 
Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west,         
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb 
To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime        
Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny stem of Time.               

Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantaneous throe,
When the travail of the Ages wrings earth’s systems to and fro;      
At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start,         
Nation wildly looks at nation, standing with mute lips apart,           
And glad Truth’s yet mightier man-child leaps beneath the Future’s heart.    

So the Evil’s triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill,        
Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill,          
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels his sympathies with God  
In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the sod,        
Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod.        

For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along,   
Round the earth’s electric circle, the swift flash of right or wrong;  
Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity’s vast frame        
Through its ocean-sundered fibres feels the gush of joy or shame;—           
In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim.   

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,           
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;       
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,  
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,      
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.    

Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand,   
Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land?       
Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet ’tis Truth alone is strong,      
And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng           
Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong.        

Backward look across the ages and the beacon-moments see,          
That, like peaks of some sunk continent, jut through Oblivion’s sea;           
Not an ear in court or market for the low, foreboding cry    
Of those Crises, God’s stern winnowers, from whose feet earth’s chaff must fly;    
Never shows the choice momentous till the judgment hath passed by.          

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record          
One death-grapple in the darkness ‘twixt old systems and the Word;           
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—        
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,  
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.      

We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is great,           
Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn the iron helm of fate,       
But the soul is still oracular; amid the market’s din, 
List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within,—     
“They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin.”     

Slavery, the earth-born Cyclops, fellest of the giant brood,  
Sons of brutish Force and Darkness, who have drenched the earth with blood,       
Famished in his self-made desert, blinded by our purer day,
Gropes in yet unblasted regions for his miserable prey;—    
Shall we guide his gory fingers where our helpless children play?     

Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;  
Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,    
Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified,          
And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.  

Count me o’er earth’s chosen heroes,—they were souls that stood alone,     
While the men they agonized for hurled the contumelious stone,    
Stood serene, and down the future saw the golden beam incline      
To the side of perfect justice, mastered by their faith divine,
By one man’s plain truth to manhood and to God’s supreme design.  

By the light of burning heretics Christ’s bleeding feet I track,          
Toiling up new Calvaries ever with the cross that turns not back,    
And these mounts of anguish number how each generation learned
One new word of that grand Credo which in prophet-hearts hath burned    
Since the first man stood God-conquered with his face to heaven upturned.

For Humanity sweeps onward: where to-day the martyr stands,      
On the morrow crouches Judas with the silver in his hands;
Far in front the cross stands ready and the crackling fagots burn,    
While the hooting mob of yesterday in silent awe return      
To glean up the scattered ashes into History’s golden urn.      

‘Tis as easy to be heroes as to sit the idle slaves        
Of a legendary virtue carved upon our fathers’ graves,         
Worshippers of light ancestral make the present light a crime;—     
Was the Mayflower launched by cowards, steered by men behind their time?        
Turn those tracks toward Past or Future, that made Plymouth Rock sublime?           

They were men of present valor, stalwart old iconoclasts,    
Unconvinced by axe or gibbet that all virtue was the Past’s;
But we make their truth our falsehood, thinking that hath made us free,     
Hoarding it in mouldy parchments, while our tender spirits flee      
The rude grasp of that great Impulse which drove them across the sea.         

They have rights who dare maintain them; we are traitors to our sires,        
Smothering in their holy ashes Freedom’s new-lit altar-fires;           
Shall we make their creed our jailer? Shall we, in our haste to slay,
From the tombs of the old prophets steal the funeral lamps away    
To light up the martyr-fagots round the prophets of to-day?  

New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;         
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth;     
Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires! we ourselves must Pilgrims be,           
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly through the desperate winter sea, 
Nor attempt the Future’s portal with the Past’s blood-rusted key.

 

 

Arthur Camins wrote a beautiful review of SLAYING GOLIATH at The Daily Kos. 

In light of Camins’ experience as an educator and his passion for justice, I am most grateful for his close and sympathetic reading of this book. Until recently, he was Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at Stevens Institute of Technology.

He writes, in this excerpt:

Ravitch’s first chapters, Disruption is Not Reform! and the Odious Status Quo, set the context for a thorough repudiation of the state of education in the United States: Endemic historic inequality made worse by decades of focused effort to disrupt a bedrock of American democracy, public education; Support for standardization linked to punishment of students, teachers, and schools by test scores; and, A determined effort to shift essential financial support from democratically governed public education to a competing private sector that includes privately governed charter schools and vouchers for private schools. The perpetrators call themselves reformers. Ravitch calls them disrupters. In her telling, that is a descriptive accusation, not a complement.

“No one likes the status quo,” she writes. “Disrupters claim to oppose the status quo, but they are the status quo.  After all, they control the levers of power in federal and state governments. They write the laws and mandates. They define the status quo. They own it.”  They are a somewhat disparate collective of market ideologues, self-regarding billionaires, technology titans, hedge fund managers, and entrepreneurs out to make (or steal) a fortune at the public trough.  What unites them in an unwavering faith (ideas not supported by evidence) in the power of competition to drive human behavior.  

Slaying Goliath upends the myths of declining achievement and the lies that teachers unions and incompetent teachers are responsible for poor children’s failure to rise to their potential (or do well on standardized tests.  Instead, Ravitch centers blame where it belongs, on our systemic failure to address the systemic- and personally debilitating effects of poverty.

I hope you will open the link and read the review in its entirety.

The book’s official publication date is TODAY! January 21!

The Los Angeles Times published this story of a for-profit film school that made bold promises to students, folded, then sued its former students for not paying their debts.

Only two months into pursuing his dream to be a sound engineer, David Gross knew he’d made a mistake.

The single father in 2013 signed up at a for-profit college in Burbank that convinced him it was his path to a Hollywood job. But after two classes, he realized it was “definitely not what I was promised,” he said.

Gross took a leave of absence. But before he decided whether to return, the U.S. Department of Education forced the school, Video Symphony EnterTraining, to close after an investigation found altered records and thousands of dollars in missing financial aid money.

Five years later, Video Symphony, now transformed into a debt holding company, took aim at Gross. It sued him for $14,000 — the amount covering almost eight months of the program that it says Gross attended, and including federal loan amounts the government refused to give the school after the allegations of misconduct.

More than 500 lawsuits have been filed against the school’s ex-students by Michael Flanagan, the educator-turned-debt collector who owned Video Symphony. He says students signed binding contracts and are obligated to pay.

“This is not money you were getting for free,” Flanagan said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Demonstrate that you don’t owe the money and we will certainly revise and drop or reduce the demand, but essentially every single person here owes the money.”

Students and legal experts say the cases are more complicated. They claim Video Symphony broke its end of the deal by not providing the education it advertised, letting them believe they were receiving federal aid when they weren’t and failing to keep accurate records.

The story of Video Symphony highlights a larger problem with regulation of for-profit colleges and the aftermath when they fail, say legal experts: No level of government, from local prosecutors to federal and state education officials, has enough interest or responsibility to examine these cases.

In California, oversight of for-profit colleges and student loan debt remains convoluted and unreliable, despite years of reforms. Its patchwork nature has left each student to fight their own battle in a limited debt collection court that lacks the jurisdiction to look at the complaints collectively.

The result, said multiple legal experts familiar with the cases, is that Flanagan has won many lawsuits — collecting more than $300,000 — when students attempt to represent themselves or fail to show up at court, a common occurrence for those without legal savvy who don’t understand that not being present means losing.

Robert Muth, managing attorney of the Veterans Legal Clinic at the San Diego School of Law, has successfully represented two veterans sued by Video Symphony. He said the lack of scrutiny by authorities is “surprising.”

Attorneys at Public Counsel, a Los Angeles nonprofit legal firm that has successfully defended several Video Symphony students, have argued in court that there may be issues of fraud if the cases are viewed as a whole. Like multiple attorneys who have defended Video Symphony clients and spoke with The Times, they believe the lawsuits should be examined by state or local prosecutors, who have the ability to file civil actions on behalf of residents.

The Times found that the offices of Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra were contacted about Video Symphony, but so far have taken no action on behalf of the students.

Lacey’s office referred students to Public Counsel. Becerra’s office declined to comment on Video Symphony, issuing a statement that it was “deeply disturbed by the lack of accountability of for-profit colleges” in general and “focused on system-wide fixes.”

Large-scale for-profit failures such as Corinthian Colleges, ITT Tech and L.A.-based Dream Center schools have received such scrutiny from public prosecutors for similar complaints — though the financial stakes were higher.

In 2013, then-Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris filed a civil action against now-defunct Corinthian Colleges on behalf of its 27,000 California students. Investigations found the school used deceptive marketing and unfair debt collection practices. Harris won a default judgment that required Corinthian to pay more than $800 million in restitution to students. Becerra has also weighed in on high-profile failures and the resulting debt, including an ongoing civil suit against Ashford College, an online for-profit owned by a San Diego company.

Prosecutors are meant to be the last line of defense for for-profit students in California, though. Another source of frustration for those familiar with Video Symphony is the track record of a key state regulator, the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, a troubled agency whose future will be debated by legislators in coming months. The agency is charged with investigation and oversight of the state’s 700 for-profit colleges, which cater largely to low-income people, veterans and students of color.

Valerie Strauss, veteran education writer at the Washington Post, interviewed me about my new book SLAYING GOLIATH. 

Her questions get to the heart of the book. I hope you will read the exchange.

Today is “pub day,” as they say in the trade.

I started writing SLAYING GOLIATH in February 2018 as I watched and read news reports about the teachers’ strike in West Virginia.

I watched in awe as every school in the state was closed by every superintendent so that teachers were technically not breaking the law that prevents them from striking.

I watched in amazement as teachers and support staff assembled in the state capitol, decked in red T-shirts, carrying homemade signs, and declaring their allegiance to #55Strong, a reference to the 55 school districts in the state.

I saw them stand together proudly and defiantly, insisting on fair wages and decent working conditions.

I realized as #Red4Ed spread from state to state that something fundamental had changed in the national narrative about education.

The media were no longer talking about “bad teachers” and “failing schools,” but were actually listening to the voices of those who worked in the schools.

In January 2019, I marched in the rain with teachers of the UTLA in Los Angeles.

And I saw the national narrative change.

I read stories about how poorly teachers were paid instead of blaming them for low test scores.

Suddenly the press woke up to the massive neglect and underinvestment in education that was creating a teacher shortage.

Demoralization was replaced by jubilation as teachers realized that they were not merely passive bystanders but could take charge of their destiny.

Many teachers ran for office. Some won and joined their state legislature.

I began to see the world in a different light.

I looked at the latest NAEP scores and read the lamentations about flat scores for a decade (that was before the release of the 2019 scores, which confirmed that the needle had not moved on test scores despite billions spent on testing).

So many changes were happening, and suddenly I realized that the so-called reformers were on the defensive. They knew that none of their promises had come through. They were on a power trip with no expectation anymore of “closing the achievement gap” (which is a built-in feature of standardized tests, which are normed on a bell curve that never closes). No more expectation that charter schools were miraculous. I began checking and realized that the number of new charter schools was almost equaled by the number of charter schools that were closing.

Something new and different was in the air: Hope!

Arne Duncan wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post saying that “some people claim that reform is failing, don’t believe them.” Then I knew it was all over.

I knew that the “reform” project was nothing more than a Disruption movement. It had succeeded at nothing.

Yet it was the Status Quo.

And this behemoth had the nerve to claim it was opposed to the “status quo.”

The behemoth–Goliath– controls all the levers of power. It controls federal policy, it is steered by billionaires, it has the allegiance of hedge fund managers, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and a long list of foundations. One of my sons, a writer, read an early version of the manuscript, and he said there were too many names in the chapter about the Disruption Movement. I explained the importance and necessity of naming names. Every one of them was documented.

Arrayed against this daunting assemblage of the rich and powerful were parents, educators, students, people who wanted to protect what belongs to the public and keep it out of the hands of corporations and entrepreneurs.

I decided to tell the story of the Resistance and to zoom in on some of the heroes. There was Jitu Brown in Chicago, who led a hunger strike of a dozen people on lawn chairs and forced Rahm Emanuel to capitulate. There were Leonie Haimson Rachael Stickland, who organized other parents and defeated Bill Gates and his $100 million project called inBloom, which was all set to gather personally identifiable student data and store it in a cloud managed by Amazon. There were the valiant and creative members of the Providence Student Union, who employed political theater to stop the state from using a standardized test as a graduation requirement. There was Jesse Hagopian and the brave teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, who refused to administer a useless test, risking their jobs. There were the parents, students, and activists in Douglass County, Colorado, who fought year after year until they ousted a far-right board that wanted to be first in the nation to offer vouchers for religious schools. There are individuals, like Ed Johnson in Atlanta, who keeps telling the school board how to approach reform as a system rather than as an opportunity to punish people. There were many more, and many that I did not have space to include.

Goliath is not dead yet. But he is propped up solely by the power of money. Goliath has no ideas, no strategies, no plans that have not already been tried and failed.

I loved writing the book. I wrote it to give hope and encouragement to all the Davids still fighting to preserve and improve public schools and the teaching profession.

Goliath will always have more money. But take heart: Goliath may be standing but he will not be there forever. Every act of resistance adds up. Goliath stumbled. He will fall.

Even billionaires and oligarch tire of pouring millions and millions into failure after failure after failure.

Please give a copy of SLAYING GOLIATH to school board members and legislators. Give a copy to your local editorial writer.

On my book tour, I will be in Charleston, West Virginia, on February 22 to celebrate the second anniversary of the historic West Virginia teachers’ strike.

And I will personally thank them for changing the national narrative!

 

 

In thinking back over the past decade, Peter Greene realized that Michelle Rhee was one of its defining figures.

For a time, she was everywhere. The media loved her stern and angry visage. She graced the cover of TIME and NEWSWEEK. She appeared on the Oprah show, NBC’s Education Nation, “Waiting for Superman.” And then she was gone.

For years, she was the face of the “reform” movement, a crusader set on busting unions, firing teachers and principals, and leading the way to nirvana. At one point, she boldly predicted that she would turn the public schools of D.C. into the best in the nation. After Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his race in 2010, Rhee stepped down as chancellor of the D.C.schools and launched StudentsFirst, which was anti-union, pro-testing, pro-Charter, and pro-voucher. Then it disappeared, never having raised the $1 billion she predicted.

Now the face of that same movement is Betsy DeVos, and the media doesn’t love her the way they loved Rhee, even though their goals are identical.

Like many of the big names in education disruption in the oughts, Rhee skated on sheer chutzpah. There was no good reason for her to believe that she knew what the heck she was doing, but she was by-God certain that her outsider “expertise” was right and that all she needed to create success was the unbridled freedom to exert her will.

And in 2010, it was working. The media loved her and, more significantly, treated her like a go-to authority on all educational issues. They fell all over themselves to grab the privilege of printing the next glowing description of the empress’s newest clothes. She was more than once packaged as the pro-reform counterpart of Diane Ravitch (though one thing that Rhee carefully and consistently avoided was any sort of head to head debate with actual education experts).

For the first part of the decade, it kept working. Students First became a powerhouse lobbying group, pushing hard for the end of teacher job protections. She was in 2011’s reform agitprop film Waiting for Superman. LinkedIN dubbed her an expert influencer. She spoke out in favor of Common Core and related testing. A breathless and loving bio was published about her in 2011; in 2013 she published a book of her own. She had successfully parleyed her DC job into a national platform.

2014 seemed like peak Rhee. I actually decided to stop mentioning her by name; I felt guilty about increasing her already-prodigious footprint. She seemed unstoppable, and yet by 2014 we knew that the TFA miracle classrooms, the DC miracle, the TNTP boondoggle, the StudentsFirst failures (far short of 1 million or $1 billion). Rhee was the Kim Kardashian of ed reform, the popular spokesmodel who did not have one actual success to her name. She was increasingly dogged by her controversies.

And then, in the fall of 2014, Michelle Rhee simply evaporated from the ed scene.

Greene traces the trajectory of her rise and fall in this post. What a spectacular rise it was, what an inglorious fall.

The parade has passed by, and she is no longer its leader. She is not even in it.

When I read Gary Rubinstein’s review of SLAYING GOLIATH: THE PASSIONATE RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZATION AND THE FIGHT TO SAVE AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS, it literally took my breath away.

Gary read the book with care.

I can’t summarize what he said.

Please read what he wrote.

I can only say that I have long admired his candor, his fearless integrity, and his insistence on accuracy.

To get praise from someone with such high standards is indeed an honor for me.

State auditors are questioning whether two charter schools in Broward County had any students at all and are proposing that the schools repay the state $5.5 million.

Two charter schools in Broward County failed to adequately prove students attended during the 2017-18 school year and should repay a combined $5.5 million, the state Auditor General report says.

The report, released in late December, questions the student counts at Innovation Charter School in Pompano Beach and Imagine Charter in Weston. Officials at the two schools say they can verify their enrollments and plan to appeal to the state Department of Education, which will make the final decision.

If the department agrees with the audit, the schools would lose roughly an entire year’s budget: $1.6 million for Innovations and $3.9 million for Imagine. The Broward school district, which is responsible for dispersing state money to the schools, could withhold monthly allocations until the money is repaid. If the schools close, the district could get stuck with the bill.

“The district has met with the governing boards of the charter schools with respect to their plans to appeal these … findings and is prepared to assist them during their discussions” with the education department, said a statement from Chief Communications Officer Kathy Koch’s office.

The auditors reviewed records from October and February of the 2017-18 school year; those are the two months when official counts are taken to see how much money schools should receive.

The report said Imagine could not adequately prove that its 948 students actually attended the school and Innovation couldn’t prove that its 386 kids were actually there.

Auditors can be so darned picky. Who ever heard of schools without students?