Archives for category: Accountability

No surprise: Most students in Rhode Island “failed” the Common Core PARCC tests. As I have explained many times, the tests were designed to fail most students. They are aligned with NAEP Proficient, which most students have never reached, with the sole exception of those in Massachusetts, where slightly more than half have reached that standard.

What is the point of giving a test that is too hard for most students?

Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute wrote to say that the tests were designed to show college readiness, and only 40% (or less) are college ready. But 70% enroll in college. Thus, he writes, a remediation crisis in college.

But really, why should schools test third graders for college readiness?

Colleges set their own admission standards, they can accept or reject whoever they want.

I wonder if Michael Phelps or Simone Boles would have tested “proficient” on PARCC?

I posed these questions to him:

Making the passing mark so high that most kids fail is insane. Does that make them smarter? Will they be denied a high school diploma? Will they be retained in grade? Will the schools become giant holding pens where most kids never get past third grade?

Mike is never at a loss for words so I expect he will answer.

Allie Gross has reported in-depth on education issues in Detroit.

In this article, which appeared in Metro Times, she gives the context and background of the sudden closure of University YES Academy’s high school. High school students were told with only two weeks’ notice that they had to find a new school. One student she interviewed was just starting her senior year and was shocked to learn she had to find a new school at the last minute.

There is a backstory, and it relates to the school’s efforts to keep a union out.

“WHILE THE INSTABILITY FELT by the high schoolers at UYA Monday may seem like an isolated incident, it’s in fact one of several topsy-turvy occurrences that have transpired over the past few months — and really years.

“UYA, which opened its doors to sixth-grade students in the fall of 2010, came into local spotlight in the spring of 2015 when staff made public their desires to unionize. The decision was ill-received by the school’s then-charter management company, New Urban Learning (NUL), and by April NUL announced that it would be leaving UYA.

“We believe that a larger charter management organization with more resources and fresh ideas would better enable UYA to meet its 90-90-90 goals — game changing goals we believe are attainable,” the letter forwarded to the staff by Lesley Ester Redwine, the CEO of NUL, read.

“The news was crushing for staff, as the resignation of NUL meant that should the staff vote in favor of a union (which they did a few weeks later) they would have nobody to bargain with. At charter schools, the management company is the employer not the school board — which means the departure of the management company is also the departure of the employer the staff hoped to bargain with. More dispiriting, the departure of NUL (the employer) meant that everyone on staff was terminated and had to re-apply for their jobs. At the start of the following school year, only 17 of the school’s 68 employees had been there the year prior.

“While these were clear signs of instability there was one consistency. After leaving the school as NUL, Redwine created a new management company — InspirED Education — and submitted an RFP to run the school under the new company. The board decided to go with Redwine’s new company. In other words: the management company more or less stayed the same, but the obligation to bargain was gone. Redwine argued that she did not need to bargain because InspirED was not at the school at the time of the union vote and that the majority of the staff had changed since then.

“What complicates this story — and the instability seen at UYA — is what occurred next. In March the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint, alleging that Redwine created an “alter ego corporation” (InspirED Education) in order to avoid collective bargaining with the UYA staff, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of union representation in the spring of 2015. By May the school’s charter authorizer, Bay Mills Community College (located about 342 miles aways from the school), sent a letter of revocation, saying the school was at risk of losing its charter.

“In June, reports Michigan Radio, the school board struck a deal with the authorizer, which promised to get the school back into “good standings” if it dropped Redwine’s management company and found a new company to run the operations.

“This is where things get particularly tricky.

“At the end of June Redwine signed a settlement with Michigan ACTS promising to bargain with the staff; however, two days before the settlement agreement was signed, the UYA board announced their intentions to sign a contact with New Paradigm, a local charter management company run by self-proclaimed “education entrepreneur” Ralph Bland. While the board essentially had to find a new management company to keep the school open, the move once again shook up the school. For a second year in a row, the entire staff was fired and asked to re-apply for their jobs, and once again the obligation to bargain was voided. The big difference this time around is how it would so directly affect the students.”

While the charter operators were playing their games, the students were an after-thought. They were referred to other charters managed by the same corporation.

It is a shameful story: a business run by people who are indifferent to their students.

Jersey Jazzman reports on what competition does to schools and communities. A new charter school in Bethlehem, PA., is recruiting students from the public schools by sending out mailers claiming that students who enroll in the charter school will be safe from drug dealers in the public school. Really.

A promotional mailer claiming to be from a new Catasauqua charter school paints Liberty High School students as drug users, sparking outrage among many Bethlehem residents.

Innovative Arts Academy Charter School denies it had anything to do with sending out the promotional mailer, which lists the school’s return address.

The postcard references the September 2015 drug arrest of a 17-year-old Liberty student and asks “Why worry about this type of student at school? Come visit Arts Academy Charter School. Now enrolling grades 6-12.”

It shows a stock image of a teenager holding their head in their hands and reprints a Morning Call headline: “Teen busted by Liberty HS officials with more than $3,000 of heroin, cocaine.”

Nothing like using defamation to recruit new students.

The school insisted it was not responsible for the mailer. The CEO of the charter school resigned.

Outsiders were wondering about the role of the real estate developer, who not only owned the building in which the charter was located, but loaned the charter $100,000.

Was it “all about the kids?”

The annals of competition.

Only hours after losing its lawsuit to block teacher tenure in California, the Silicon Valley-funded “Students Matter”filed a lawsuit in Connecticut, claiming that the state’s restrictions on magnet schools and charter schools discriminated against inner-city children.

Curious. Why isn’t this group suing the state for not giving the neediest schools the funds to reduce class sizes and provide social and medical services to the children?

“California-based educational-advocacy group has filed a federal lawsuit charging that Connecticut’s restrictions on magnet and charter schools harm city children and violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Students Matter, a group best known for bringing an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to eliminate teacher tenure in California, filed a 71-page complaint Tuesday charging that “inexcusable educational inequity” in Connecticut was primarily the result of state laws “that prevent inner-city students from accessing even minimally acceptable public-school options.”

“The group is taking aim at laws that have put a moratorium on new magnet schools, limit the expansion of charter schools, and set per-student funding levels for districts participating in the Open Choice program in which city students attend suburban schools.

“A statement from Students Matter said, “Year after year, these parents have tried to avoid sending their children to failing public schools by trying to enroll them in magnet schools, charter public schools or other adequate public school alternatives.”

“However, the group contends that children have been “forced to remain in failing schools” because laws prevent magnets and charters from “scaling and meeting the need for high-quality schools demanded by Connecticut’s population.”

Hmmm. If students have a constitutional right to attend charter schools, do charter schools have the right to refuse admission?

I wonder if TIME Magazine will give the story a cover, as it did for Vergara, claiming that Silicon Valley knows how to fix failing schools. Or the cover it gave to Michelle Rhee, holding a broom, saying that she knew how to fix the public schools of D.C.

I have an idea: since David Welch, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur behind Students Matter, knows how to fix low-scoring schools, why doesn’t he offer to take over a district in California and show us how to do it?

Calling John Oliver! The charter lobbyists have been criticizing Oliver for his expose of charter fraud last Sunday. Unfair, they say. Untrue, they say. Slanders charters, they say. Let’s see how they fit this story into their narrative.

Nicholas Trombetta, founder of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, pleaded guilty to stealing $8 million from the school and diverting it for his personal use. Trombetta’s school was often featured on television as the nation’s first virtual charter. With an enrollment of 10,000 students from across the state, Trometta had receipts of $100 million a year. What to do with all that dough rolling in from taxpayers?

I have written about this scandal on several occasions, from the time Trombetta was charged in 2013. (See hereand here and here. Another cyber charter leader in Pennsylvania, June Brown, who ran the K-12 Agora Charter, was arrested and charged with stealing $6 million.

The Associated Press reports:

“PITTSBURGH (AP) — The founder and former CEO of an online public school that educates thousands of Pennsylvania students pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal tax fraud, acknowledging he siphoned more than $8 million from The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School through for-profit and nonprofit companies he controlled.

“In entering his plea, Nicholas Trombetta, 61, who headed the school, acknowledged using the money to buy, among other things, a Bonita Springs, Florida, condominium for $933,000, pay $180,000 for houses for his mother and girlfriend in Ohio, and spend $990,000 more on groceries and other items.

“He manipulated companies he created and controlled to draw the money from the school, also spending it on a $300,000 plane, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kaufman said.

“Trombetta was making $127,000 to $144,000 annually at PA Cyber when he ran the illegal tax evasion scheme from 2006 to 2012. He faces up to five years in prison when he’s sentenced Dec. 20.

“By running the money through the companies or their straw owners, Trombetta avoided income taxes, though prosecutors haven’t said how much. Most of the siphoned money was squirreled away in Avanti Management Group, which functioned as Trombetta’s retirement savings account, Kaufman said.

“This case reflects the priority we’ve placed on protecting against fraud in education,” U.S. Attorney David Hickton said.

“The school, founded in Midland in 2000, had more than 11,000 students across the state when Trombetta was charged three years ago and still has more than 9,000. As a public institution, it’s funded by federal, state and local taxes. Districts across the state pay the school to educate any students who opt to enroll in PA Cyber instead of a bricks-and-mortar school.

“Trombetta almost didn’t plead guilty Wednesday when his attorney, Adam Hoffinger, began sparring with Kaufman, who had to describe the complicated conspiracy to the judge.

“Kaufman said Trombetta used Avanti, the National Network of Digital Schools and other companies in the scheme. The Network of Digital Schools markets a curriculum developed in conjunction with PA Cyber and sold it back to the school, while Avanti provided unspecified management services, the prosecutor said. Avanti had four owners who pretended to be equal 25 percent partners when, in reality, Trombetta owned 80 percent of the firm, Kaufman said.”

Michael Hynes is a veteran superintendent of schools in New York. His district–Patchogue-Medford– is one of those where about half the students opted out of state testing. He has a better vision for education than that of New York State or the federal government.

He writes:

Public Education and what it stands for has been taking a beating not only in New York but across this great nation for far too long. It is my belief that the people who think they know all the answers (policy makers and corporate reformers who are non-educators) are getting in the way of the leaders who understand what our students truly need and deserve.

There is no better time than right now since there is a four year moratorium in New York related to the development of new standards, teacher/principal evaluations and state assessments. Now is the time for our school leaders to have a collective voice about a number of items we have solutions to.

Nobody likes to live in regret….my biggest fear is ten years from now, history will question why school leaders didn’t push back or voice their concerns against the agenda of changing public education. Now is the time to have our collective voices known. A compendium of our ideas and opinions will be sent to the Board of Regents, Commissioner of Education, the heads of the Senate and Assembly and our Governor. It is my hope to have this information ready for the public by November.

Here is a letter that was sent to every NY Superintendent:

Dear Superintendent Colleague:

It is a privilege and honor serving our school communities as educational leaders. It is a remarkable experience like no other. As superintendents, we are entrusted and responsible for our communities’ most prized possessions, the children. We are responsible for everyone’s safety as well as a child’s academic, social and emotional growth. It is a tightrope walk between the balancing acts of educator and politician twenty-four hours a day… seven days a week.

Like any leadership position, a school leader deals with obstacles on a daily basis. But the impediments we face have grown tremendously because of the mandates our state and federal governments have put in place over the past several years. These mandates are at a point that I believe is interfering with our work to best serve our children and our communities. And while there is much anti-public school sentiment that we read about in the news, there is also a rising awareness of the harm that is happening as well as growing frustration among our parent bodies and community leaders. In light of the harm our schools and children have endured, and to put our schools back on the right track, I write to suggest that now is the time to speak out against:

• The overemphasis and overreliance on assessing our children

• The disproportionate use of state tests to evaluate students and teachers

• The hard push for technology as a substitute for teaching and the lack of professional development

• The demonization of teachers and administrators

• The over emphasis on ranking and sorting students and staff into impractical and unrealistic categories

• The early push to be college and career ready, even in Kindergarten

• The insufficient discussion about alternate paths for students, such as vocational school or military opportunities

• The chronic government underfunding of special education

• The use of un-validated and not-fully-transparent tests that have high stakes attached

• Curriculum that sets unachievable standards for our most vulnerable learners

• Protecting personally identifiable student data

The list can go on and on. I realize we have many educational leaders who are relentless advocates for their school district and students. They are innovators within their domains but are hesitant to voice their apprehensions outside of their schoolhouses. The messages from the state have led many to stay quiet, but I believe that now is the time we can act as a whole. By acknowledging our shared concerns, we can send our own message that the time for change and for putting children first is now.

I would love to see New York State educational leaders push for more recess, play and begin redirecting the important focus toward educating the “whole child.” Together we can concentrate on supporting all our children by addressing their social, emotional and academic needs. Now is the time to promote more project-based learning opportunities for our schools. Together we can push the pendulum toward a thoughtful school that will harvest the talents of our students so they are
educated … and move away from a clinical habitation where students are trained to perform well on standardized tests. Parents, students and educators are looking toward our educational leaders now more than ever.

As a beginning, I am looking to collect the thoughts/opinions of superintendents from across the great state of New York in a qualitative nature that support the bulleted items above as well as other issues you think need attention. My hope is to collate the majority of our sentiments on the above mentioned items listed in this letter and with your permission, send a compendium to our state’s education policy makers, including the Board of Regents, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, the heads of the Senate and Assembly, as well as the head of the Education Committees, and Governor Cuomo. I am happy to include anonymous postings if that is what anyone wants. I am requesting that your statement is limited to 300 words or less. It would be beneficial if your statements were sent via email to me at mhynes@pmschools.org no later than Friday, September 30th. Once completed I will send
you a copy.

Please feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience with any questions you may have. Thank you for your time and continued commitment to all our children.

Respectfully yours,

Michael J. Hynes, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

No big surprise here: Most students in Maryland did not pass the PARCC tests.

A majority of Maryland’s students failed to meet academic benchmarks on state standardized tests linked to the Common Core this year, a disappointing result for educators and state officials who had hoped to see major upticks as teachers and students become familiar with the exams.

New data released this week showed that many grade levels saw overall passing rates of about 40 percent in the second year of testing using PARCC exams, which are intended to measure readiness for college and careers. Maryland students in grades three through eight showed gains in math, but English scores remained flat.

“We’re sure not seeing a heck of a rise on these results,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., a member of the Maryland State Board of Education and president emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “Forty percent is nowhere near good enough, and the gains, where there are some, are small.”

State data showed that most grade levels saw improvement in math, with proficiency inching up nearly three points in seventh grade and almost eight points in third grade. Third-graders did best, with 44 percent meeting or exceeding expectations, and eighth-graders lagged, with just 22 percent meeting or exceeding expectations. There was little change in English scores in third through eighth grades, with 37 to 40 percent of students reaching performance targets.

As I have pointed out many times, both of the federally-funded Common Core tests (PARCC and SBAC) set their passing marks so high that most students were expected to fall short of “proficient.” Long ago, the test developers decided that NAEP proficient was the right benchmark, even though most students consistently fail to reach NAEP proficient. Only in Massachusetts have half the students in the state reached that goal.

Put another way, the Common Core tests were designed to fail most students. That allegedly would inspire them to try harder and every year they would do better and better until everyone reached NAEP proficient.

That was the theory. But it remains to be seen whether the majority who allegedly “fail” will be incentivized to try harder or will give up.

Meanwhile, only seven states and D.C. still administer the PARCC exam, which is developed by Pearson. Originally there were 24. Most have abandoned PARCC.

As readers of this blog know, deregulation of charters leads to fraud, graft, and abuse. On this site, I have documented scores of examples of fraudsters and grifters who take advantage of weak (or no) oversight to enrich themselves and to strand children in bad schools.

A few days ago, John Oliver ran an excellent segment about charter schools and the fraud associated with them. He barely scratched the surface. Charter supporters are furious and are saying that he “hurt” children, he savaged children, etc. (This is a familiar tactic; when I criticized the improbable test scores in New York City almost a decade ago, I was told that I was “hurting children and their teachers” by questioning the validity of the dramatic rise in scores.)

Fraud is a feature of deregulation, not a bug. When no one is looking, some people steal. Not everyone steals, but many do. That is why Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and California are scamming taxpayers. No one is demanding accountability. Politicians get paid off by charter friends, then cripple any effort to oversee them Ohio and Michigan spend $1 billion a year to subsidize charter schools, which are lower-performing than public schools.

The corporate reformers and privatizers are bombarding John Oliver with tweets and messages attacking his show.

Please let him know you support him.

Please take the time to contact John Oliver by writing him at management@avalonuk.com.

And tweet him @iamjohnoliver.

Don’t let the charter industry intimidate him.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went to an open meeting with parents and other concerned citizens where the topic was the impoverished district of Camden, which has been under state control for three years.

In the meeting, education activist and Camden resident Sue Altman debated Governor Christie and didn’t back down. This video is going viral.

All Christie knows about education is that 1) it costs too much, and, 2) charters do a better job for less.

Altman explained that the charters don’t enroll the same demographic as the public schools.

Public ed advocate/Camden resident Sue Altman stood up and held her ground against Gov. Christie for nearly 6 minutes – correcting him on how long the state’s run Camden schools, calling him out on the hypocrisy of planning far less for Camden than his own administration’s report says is needed, reminding him the kids there can’t even drink the schools’ water….At one point, Christie just gives up and throws Altman the microphone.

For context about the event and about Camden, read this post by Professor Steven Danley (who happens to be Sue Altman’s husband).

Sue is a star. The way she handled the Governor, with knowledge, persistence, wit, and a smile is a lesson to all of us.

PS: I corrected this post to show that Sue is not yet a parent. She and Steve were married this summer.

Steven Singer writes here about the corporate reformers’ war against teachers’ unions. In the comfortable, well-heeled world of hedge fund managers, they have every right to lead the fight to reform the public schools, but the unions do not. The unions don’t care about kids; teachers don’t care about kids. Only hedge fund managers really truly care about kids. Why should teachers or their unions have anything to say about their working conditions or their pay? Are they just greedy and selfish. So what if teachers earn less that the hedge funders’ secretaries?

Singer says the battle over the future of public schools has reached a critical juncture. The corporate reformers have lost control of the narrative. They want to hide behind benign names, like “Families for Excellent Schools,” hoping to hoodwink the public into thinking they are the families of children who want charter schools, when in fact, they are billionaires who live in places like Greenwich or Darien, Connecticut, and have never actually seen a public school, other than driving past it.

They don’t want the public to know that they want to divert money from public schools to the privately managed charters, but they can’t admit it so they say that are “improving public schools.” Which they are not.

To understand reform-talk, you have to recognize that words mean the opposite of what they usually mean.

Helping public schools means taking resources away until they collapse.

Improving academic achievement means testing kids until they cry and the test scores have lost any meaning.

Singer writes:


Their story goes like this – yes, there is a battle going on over public education. But the two sides fighting aren’t who you think they are.

The fight for public schools isn’t between grassroots communities and well-funded AstroTurf organizations, they say. Despite the evidence of your eyes, the fight isn’t between charter school sycophants and standardized test companies, on the one hand, and parents, students and teachers on the other.

No. It’s actually between people who really care about children and those nasty, yucky unions.

It’s nonsense, of course. Pure spin….


When corporate education reformers sneeringly deprecate their opponents as mere unions, they’re glossing over an important distinction. Opposition to privatization and standardization policies doesn’t come from the leadership of the NEA and AFT. It comes from the grassroots. This is not a top down initiative. It is bottom up.

This is how it’s always been. There is no political organization directing the fight to save public education. The Democrats certainly aren’t overly concerned with reigning in charter schools. It was grassroots Democrats – some of whom are also union members – who worked to rewrite the party platform to do so. The Clinton campaign is not directing anyone to opt out of standardized testing. However, voters are demanding that Clinton be receptive to their needs – and some of them are union members.

There is no great union conspiracy to fight these policies. It’s called public opinion, and it’s changing.

That’s what scares the standardizers and privatizers. They’ve had free run of the store for almost two decades and now the public is waking up.

They’re desperately trying to paint this as a union movement when it’s not. Unions are involved, but they aren’t alone. And moreover, their involvement is not necessarily an impediment.

The needs of the community and the needs of teachers are the same.

Both want excellent public schools.

Both want the best for our students.

Both want academic policies that will help students learn – not help corporations cash in.

And both groups want good teachers in the classroom – not bad ones!

The biggest lie to have resonated with the public is this notion that teachers unions are only concerned with shielding bad teachers from justice. This is demonstrably untrue.

Unions fight to make sure teachers get due process, but they also fight to make sure bad teachers are shown the door….

Unions stand in direct opposition to the efforts of corporate vultures trying to swoop in and profit off of public education. Teachers provide a valuable service to students. If your goal is to reduce the cost of that service no matter how much that reduces its value to students, you need a weak labor force. You need the ability to reduce salary so you can claim the savings as profit.

THAT’S why corporate education reformers hate teachers and their unions. We make it nearly impossible to swipe school budgets into their own pockets.

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