Archives for category: Accountability

Yohuru Williams is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St.Paul, Minnesota. He is a noted scholar of Black history. And he also serves on the board of the Network for Public Education.

Dean Williams writes here about the activism for social justice in Minneapolis-St.Paul, inspired by the words of the late Congressman and civil rights icon, John Lewis.

Earlier this September, in Minneapolis and St. Paul, a brave collection of principals and assistant principals banded together to take on the issue of equity and justice in education.

Lewis’s letter, though directed at Black Lives Matter activists in particular, encourages all of us to find ways to get into “good trouble, necessary trouble,” in order to advance the goals of justice.
The members of the alliance, now 159 strong, have branded themselves the “good trouble” coalition after the mantra of the late Congressman John Lewis, who, before passing away in July, wrote a final letter that sought to inspire a passion for activism around racial injustice.

In his last months of life, Lewis lamented the dangerous and deadly state of affairs in the United States: persistent unjust police violence against African Americans, the failed governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and continued efforts to erode American democratic practice at the highest levels of government.

And Lewis’s letter, though directed at Black Lives Matter activists in particular, encourages all of us to find ways to get into “good trouble, necessary trouble,” in order to advance the goals of justice—especially in tackling the most urgent issues of racial inequality, climate change, mass incarceration, economic disparities, healthcare gaps, and political division.

He also invited young people to consider how they might transform the future through studying history as a means of understanding our enduring struggles to achieve lasting peace and equality.

It is ironic that Cong. Lewis urged young people to study history as a means to “lasting peace and equality,” even as Trump demands a reactionary revision of U.S. history to glorify its “leaders” (no doubt including the Confederates who rallied to preserve white supremacy) and diminish or remove the role of African Americans in that history.

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.

Frankly, it’s hard to understand why Miami public schools chose for-profit K12 Inc. as it’s provider of remote instruction. Ten minutes or less on google would have turned up multiple articles about its terrible track record: high attrition, poor curriculum, low test scores, low graduation rates. NCAA strips accreditation for 24 schools using K12.

Wired tells the story in Miami, which recently severed its contract with K12.

ON THE MORNING of August 31, the first day of school, the 345,000 students in Miami-Dade County’s public schools fired up their computers expecting to see the faces of their teachers and classmates. Instead a scruffy little dog in banana-print pajamas appeared on their screens, alongside an error message. “Oh bananas!” read one message from the district’s online learning platform. “Too many people are online right now.”

A rudimentary cyberattack had crippled the servers of the nation’s fourth-largest school district, preventing its 392 schools from starting the year online. But even once the district had quelled the distributed denial-of-service attack and a local teen had been arrested for the crime, “Banana Dog” didn’t go away. If anything, the security breach merely obscured for a few days the crippling weaknesses in the district’s plan to move every aspect of its schooling—including a revamped curriculum—onto a platform that had only ever supported half as many students (and never all at once).

The platform was built by virtual charter school company K12, backed by one-time junk bond king Michael Milken and US secretary of education Betsy DeVos. Doug Levin, an education tech consultant, calls the decision to use K12 “atypical.” Another ed tech analyst, Phil Hill, calls it “weird.”

The rapid pivot to, and even faster pivot away from, K12 amounts to a case study in how not to deploy a massive new software project. It also illustrates how, in a few intense weeks of summer decisionmaking, a charter-school curriculum written by a for-profit company was chosen and installed, with little scrutiny, across one of the largest districts in the country.

Alberto Carvalho made the decision on his own, without consulting the board. They trusted him.

It was a disaster from the start.

K12’s software promised to replace all the other apps that schools had been using. “It was billed to teachers as the Rolls-Royce of software,” says Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade. The district and the company rushed to implement it. At the end of August, all of Miami-Dade’s educators sat through six days of K12 training—and that’s when they started to panic.

The teachers received demo logins to try out the platform, but they didn’t work, and even the trainers struggled to access it, West says. From 8 am until 3:30 pm each day, teachers took notes without once trying the software themselves. “The training was make-believe, it was so, so complex,” says one teacher. “Even our techie teachers were lost.” On Facebook, teachers shared GIFs of dumpster fires and steaming poop emojis in response to the experience.

“That’s a very complex, aggressive undertaking. And to do it with 345,000 students and in less than a month? There’s a lot of hubris involved.”

PHIL HILL, EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY ANALYST
Once the school year began in earnest, technical challenges persisted. Some students struggled to log in. Uploads could be excruciatingly slow. A particular sore point was the platform’s unreliable built-in video conferencing tool, called NewRow. It had issues with sound and screen-sharing. After about 15 minutes, the video quality started to degrade. It didn’t work on iPads or iPhones.

And then there was the built-in curriculum. K12 provided content, though teachers could change or supplement it. The lessons had been devised for K12’s virtual charter schools: for-profit schools that are entirely online and receive taxpayer money for every student enrolled. When some Miami-Dade teachers examined K12’s materials, they were horrified by what they found. One teacher came across a quiz for second graders with one question: “Did you enjoy this course?” Clicking “yes” allowed the student to ace the test. Several classes relied on K12’s paper workbooks, which the students didn’t receive. “One thing our educators complained about was, the rigor was not there. It was a very watered-down curriculum,” Hernandez-Mats says.

Dana Milbank is a regular contributor to the Washington Post.

He says we should not be afraid of Trump’s efforts to sabotage the election. Yes, we can vote!


President Trump has done everything in his power — and some things outside his power — to sabotage the election.

He has suggested postponing the election and holding a re-vote, warned baselessly about rampant fraud and pushed his supporters to vote twice. The big-time Trump donor now running the post office has impaired mail delivery and sent misinformation to voters about mail-in ballots.
But here’s the good news: It’s not going to work.

Trump has succeeded in sowing confusion about the ability of the United States to hold a free and fair election. His allies in Congress have abetted the sabotage by refusing to give states the funds they need to hold an election during a pandemic while defending against foreign adversaries’ interference. But despite the attempts to incapacitate elections, the United States is on course to give Americans more ways to cast ballots than ever — and more certainty than ever that their ballots will be accurately counted.

“While it’s critical we be clear-eyed about the problems and keep up the pressure to do better, there’s been too much alarmism,” Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice. “People have the impression that the election is not going to work and they’re going to have problems, which is absolutely not the case for the vast majority of Americans.”

The Brennan Center exists in part to sound the alarm about flaws in the voting system, so it’s worth noting that Weiser says “we’ve watched the election system improve before our eyes” — especially after a pandemic primary season characterized by closed polling places, long lines and chaos.

Among the encouraging signs:

Somewhere between 96 percent and 97 percent of votes cast in this election will have paper backup — assurance against fraud and interference — compared with only about 80 percent in 2016. If there’s a challenge to election results, there will be a paper trail to verify the outcome.

Trump’s attempt to cause chaos by telling his supporters to vote twice? All states have protections against that, and all battleground states (including North Carolina, where Trump has focused his vote-twice effort) have ballot-tracking bar codes on their mail ballots — so voters and election officials will know whether someone has already voted. Their attempts to vote twice may cause delays (particularly in Republican precincts) as people submit provisional ballots, and slow the counting, but there’s a near-zero chance they will succeed in voting twice, Weiser says.

Trump’s attempt to sabotage the post office to prevent mail-in balloting? Almost all states that have vote-by-mail also have multiple options for returning ballots. With a couple of exceptions, battleground states have some combination of drop boxes, early voting locations and election offices that will accept dropped-off ballots.

As for mail-in voting in general, elections officials and lawmakers in Democratic and Republican states alike have vastly expanded the availability, despite Trump’s attempts to discredit this long-standing and reliable method. Thanks to recent changes, all but six states — Indiana, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee — now either send ballots automatically or allow voters to request them without needing a special excuse for doing so.

Likewise, all but six states (Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire and parts of North Dakota) now offer some form of early voting (many with expanded locations and hours) so voters can avoid Election Day crowds.

Finally, after primaries plagued by precinct closures and a shortage of poll workers, the Brennan Center now expects the number of Election Day polling places to be close to 2016’s level, even if there’s a resurgence of the coronavirus.

Election officials, nonprofits, corporations and civic-minded volunteers are offsetting the shortage of poll workers and polling places caused by the pandemic. These range from LeBron James’s “More Than a Vote” movement to recruit poll workers to professional sports teams’ contributions of arenas as polling locations to hand-sanitizer donations from Anheuser-Busch.
Want to help? Sign up to be a poll worker at powerthepolls.org, or contact your local election office.

Certainly, there are still hurdles. The biggest problem may be voting misinformation, much of it amplified by the Trump administration. On Saturday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the U.S. Postal Service from sending out a mailer that gave incorrect voting information. There’s still some hope Congress will provide states with funds to send out correct information to voters — but Senate Republicans may block even that.

The best thing the rest of us can do is counter misinformation with accurate information, such as The Post’s interactive guide to voting in each state.

Above all, don’t inadvertently reinforce Trump’s vandalism with hand-wringing about voting problems. Yes, Trump is trying to sabotage voting. But the world’s greatest democracy knows how to hold an election.

Nancy Shively is a special education teacher in Oklahoma. She is a lifelong Republican. She voted for Trump in 2016. She now knows this was a huge mistake that has put her life and the lives of her colleagues at risk. She has switched her registration to independent and will vote for Joe Biden this time.

Her vote for Trump, she fears, may have been tantamount to signing her death warrant.

She writes:

I live and teach in a small Oklahoma town. It’s not far from the site of President Trump’s Tulsa campaign rally on June 20 that appears, as common sense would have predicted, to be a super-spreader event. About two weeks after the rally, Tulsa County reported a record high number of cases…

I am over 60, with two autoimmune diseases. This outbreak has me worried as it is. Now, with the prospect of schools reopening in a few short weeks, I am terrified.

And I am not the only one. One young teacher I know has chronic kidney problems and is at high risk for complications if she contracts COVID-19. She can’t quit her only source of income. Taking its cue from our governor, who hosted Trump’s rally and has now tested positive for COVID-19 himself, her school district has announced that wearing a mask will be optional, though the state is considering requiring it…

Our country has long devalued and underpaid teachers, refusing to adequately fund the public schools that support our democracy. At the same time, teachers routinely have to use their own money to buy classroom supplies. Now the government is turning to us to risk our health or possibly our lives during a pandemic. My school district has no mask mandate and two nurses for more than 2,400 students in 5 school buildings. How is that going to work?…

Teaching is a calling and Oklahoma teachers are as tough as they come. Some have sheltered their students as a tornado ripped the school building from over their heads. Most of us would do anything to help our students succeed.

So now the man I gambled on to be president is asking us to risk our health and our very lives. The odds are most definitely not in our favor.

Michael Kohlhaas, a super investigator of public records in California, discovered that 22 charter schools in Los Angeles were rated “low performing” this year. If they get the same rating for a second year in a row, they must close, under the terms of the recently passed charter accountability law, AB 1505.

Among the low-performing schools are a couple of KIPPS, some Ref Rodriguez charters, and other highly touted but low performing schools.

Thomas Sowell at the Stanford’s Hoover Institution pointed to NYC’s high-scoring, high-attrition Success Avademy as his evidence for the miracle of charter schools. Los Angeles is not far from Palo Alto. Why didn’t he look there?

The Green Party will not be on the ballot in Pennsylvania. The state’s Supreme Court removed the party because of deficiencies in its application. This follows a similar decision a few days ago in Wisconsin. This is good news for Democrats, bad news for Republicans. In 2016, Jill Stein received over one million votes, which tipped key states to Trump.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Green Party presidential ticket from state ballots, allowing state and local election officials to resume preparations for Nov. 3 and begin mailing ballots to voters.
The court ruled that presidential contender Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, did not qualify for the ballot because the party did not submit signed filing papers in person, as required by state rules.


It’s the second such ruling in a week. On Monday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found deficiencies in the Green Party’s ballot petition in that state, excluding the party from the ballot.
The decision is a blow to the third-party ticket and a win for Democrats, who worried that the Green Party could siphon votes from presidential nominee Joe Biden in the key battleground state.


In Wisconsin, the Green Party effort to get on the ballot was boosted by help from some Republicans and a prominent law firm that does work for the GOP.


In 2016, President Trump won both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by fewer votes than the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, collected in each state.

South Carolina’s public schools need adequate funding but big corporate tax breaks are making that funding impossible. Big profits for the shareholders, low-wage jobs for working people.

For Immediate Release ~ September 15, 2020

Contacts:

Arlene Martínez | 202-302-4301 | arlene@goodjobsfirst.org

Sherry East | 803-448-6714 | seast@thescea.org

Losses Surge 31 Percent in Two Years

South Carolina’s Public Schools Lose Big to Corporate Tax-Break Giveaways

Public school districts in South Carolina lost $423 million in property tax revenues during the 2019 fiscal year, due to tax abatements county governments granted to corporations.

That’s an increase of $99 million – or 31 percent – compared to just two years earlier, according to a new Good Jobs First report released today: “The Revenue Impact of Corporate Tax Incentives on South Carolina Public Schools.”

The property tax losses hit already-struggling districts hard: Six school districts with some of the highest poverty rates in the state, as measured by the share of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, each lost more than $2,000 per student. Four of those have majority Black plus Latino student populations.

The school districts are located in the counties of Dorchester, Greenwood, Chester, Orangeburg, Barnwell, and Calhoun.

“Our new findings confirm what we have long suspected: that the poor pay more, that corporate tax breaks often disproportionately harm historically disadvantaged communities,” said Good Jobs First Executive Director Greg LeRoy. “Thanks to recent improvements in government reporting standards, we have clear evidence of those inequities, district by district.”

Out of the 81 public school districts in South Carolina, at least 72 suffered some negative revenue impact. By dollar amount, the biggest losses were reported by Berkeley County School District and Greenville County School District—$54 million and $41 million, respectively. Eleven others lost more than $10 million each: They are located in the counties of Greenville, Charleston, Anderson, Aiken, Lexington, Spartanburg, Chester, Florence, Richland, Lancaster, and York (see the study for an Appendix with revenue losses by county).

A new study of the federal CARES act funding found that private and charter schools received SIX TIMES the amount of funding as public schools from the federal coronavirus program. This may actually, as the report states, be an underestimate.

Mellissa Chang wrote:

A new analysis of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans by Good Jobs First points to an imbalance in CARES Act funding between public schools on the one hand and private and charter schools on the other.

GJF’s Covid Stimulus Watch has identified at least 6,600 charter and private schools that received an estimated $5.7 billion in PPP loans, which have been made available to private companies and non-profit organizations but not public entities. This data is now available on Covid Stimulus Watch through the facility ownership search category.

PPP loan disclosures from the Small Business Administration (SBA) were reported in dollar ranges, not exact values. Covid Stimulus Watch uses the midpoint of each range to estimate loan amounts. Data released by the SBA includes NAICS industry codes for each entity; however, early childhood, charter, and private schools all share the same NAICS code. To identify charter and private schools, we compared PPP loan data to school directories from the National Center on Education Statistics.

Our review revealed that approximately 1,200 charter schools and 5,400 private schools received an estimated $1.3 billion and $4.5 billion in PPP loans, respectively—averaging $855,000 per school. In contrast, other parts of the CARES Act allocate only $13.2 billion for all of the 98,158 public schools in the country, or $134,500 per school. In other words, private and charter schools are getting six times more per facility than public schools.

This gap will likely widen, as charter and private schools are also entitled to a portion of federal funding for public education. Additional analysis will be needed to determine the exact size of this gap, but there is clearly a significant disparity in CARES Act funding for different kinds of schools.

Additional Findings

Of the 5,400 private schools identified, 1,764 are nonsectarian and 3,426 have a religious affiliation. Of schools with religious affiliations, Catholic schools received the most money, with 1,715 schools taking home $1.3 billion—only $400 million less than the $1.7 billion given to nonsectarian schools.

Enrollment data for approximately 5,000 of the 6,600 schools was available from the National Center for Education Statistics. We estimate that a total of 2 million students—417,000 in charter and 1.6 million in private—are enrolled in these schools. The average number of students at each school is 387 and the average award amount per student is $3,520. According to the NCES, the average public school size is 528.

In other words, private and charter schools are getting more per facility even though their schools are smaller on average.

Additionally, the Paycheck Protection Program was not the only loan assistance program available to private and charter schools. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which provides loans to cover operating expenses and revenue losses to business affected by the pandemic, was open to private and charter schools. So far, we have identified almost 300 charter and private schools which have “double-dipped” and received both PPP and EIDL loans. EIDL loans received by these schools amount to $46 million.

The $13.2 billion pot of money for public schools mentioned above comes from the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER).

So far, 36 states have disclosed their ESSER allocations. At this time, we are still processing this data and are unable to determine how much funding charter and private schools received through this ESSER program.

Whatever the final amount, it will further exacerbate funding inequities in the education system.

A Florida teacher posted this comment. It raises the question of whether it is fair to attract people to become teachers with promises that are later canceled by a nasty, brutish legislature. The legislature passed a law called “the Best and Brightest” that awarded bonuses to new teachers based on the SAT scores they recorded years earlier. It constantly thinks about how to attract new teachers but does nothing to retain the experienced teachers it has. What this teacher describes is the perfidious work of Jeb Bush and his cronies:

I was never a money person. If I was I would never have become a teacher. I honestly believed that we were paid what they could afford to pay us. Seems stupid now but I was a kid. I was a fool. Twenty years ago I signed up to be a teacher. I wanted to be a teacher. I went to college for it. I knew I would never be able to support a family. It was ok, I wasn’t interested in having one. When I first became a teacher, I was shown a “step” system of pay. I saw that every year you’d make a little more. When you finally reached 20 or 25 years in the system the pay took huge leaps higher. Some years as much as a $10,000 increase if you can believe it. I thought I’d be rewarded for loyalty.

That “step” system has long been abandoned. Now we receive increases of around 1.3% a year. I thought the worst indignity came when I actually made less money than the year prior. The state of Florida forced us to contribute 3% to our retirement. Our yearly salary increase wasn’t even that much. This latest indignity is worse. Florida passed a new law raising the minimum teacher salary. Wonderful for new hires and attracting talent. Not so wonderful for those of us that have put the years in. Now, after 20 years of dutiful service I make $5,000 dollars more than a 21 year old, fresh out of college.

I am absolutely and totally morally devastated. The system seems to now be designed to have a perpetual series of inexperienced teachers. I need help. I need for my story to be heard. What do I do? What can I do? They don’t care about me. Now I don’t care about my job. When they showed me that “step” schedule 20 years ago, I believed it to be a nonverbal agreement about how much I would make, roughly, in the future. I was a fool. If I knew then I would never have become a teacher. I feel conned, duped, and lied to and I just can’t take it anymore.