Archives for category: Accountability

Compared to Donald Trump, Mike Pence seems like a stable, moderate guy. He will be the steadying hand who keeps Trump from going off the tracks and doing crazy things. But you need to know more about Mike Pence, as seen by a constituent, Sheila Kennedy.

RFRA, Pence and Holcomb

“What has been interesting about having Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence on the national ticket has been the research on Indiana’s Governor being done by national media outlets.

“Here in Hoosierland, we know Pence as an avid culture warrior uninterested in the day-to-day administration of state agencies. We know him as an opponent of Planned Parenthood whose disinclination to authorize needle exchanges led to an HIV crisis in southern Indiana, as an adversary of public education responsible for diverting millions of dollars from the state’s public schools in order to provide vouchers for religious schools, and of course as the anti-gay warrior who cost the state economy millions of dollars by championing and signing RFRA.

“The national press has investigated Pence’s previous activities, both in Congress and as editor of the Indiana Policy Review, a (very) conservative publication. What they’ve found won’t surprise anyone who has followed Pence, but the research has confirmed that the Governor has certainly been consistent….

“For example–and despite his disclaimers of discrimination to George Stephanopolous and others–Out Magazine unearthed an earlier article advising employers not to hire LGBTQ folks, and describing homosexuality as a “pathological” condition:

““Homosexuals are not as a group able-bodied. They are known to carry extremely high rates of disease brought on because of the nature of their sexual practices and the promiscuity which is a hallmark of their lifestyle.”

“Another article, from December of 1993, was entitled “The Pink Newsroom” and argued that LGBTQ folks shouldn’t be allowed to work as journalists without being forced to identify themselves as gay publicly, since their LGBTQ status would surely create a conflict of interest when writing about politics.

“Other outlets have reported his efforts while in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, his speeches warning against the use of condoms, his insistence that climate change is a “hoax,” and his longstanding support of creationism and denial of evolution.

“It’s highly likely that the Trump-Pence ticket will lose nationally in November, relieving Indiana voters of the task of defeating Pence at the polls. In his place, the GOP is running Eric Holcomb for Governor. Holcomb, it turns out, is pretty much a Pence clone. (The link has video from his meeting with the editorial board of the Indianapolis Star.)

“Eric Holcomb had his chance to distance himself from the economic disaster of Mike Pence’s RFRA legacy in Indiana.

“Instead, in a painful 4 minute answer to the Indianapolis Star editorial board, Holcomb doubled down on the same discrimination law that risked $250 million for state’s economy, and threw his weight behind Pence’s failed agenda.

“Holcomb has previously embraced all of Pence’s agenda.

“In November, we’ll see whether Hoosier voters have had enough of incompetence and theocracy, or whether we will vote to endure more of the same.

“This is a very strange political year.”

Kevin Ohlandt, a parent blogger in Delaware, says that Bill Gates no longer even pretends to hide his ultimate goal: to digitize education and put all children online.

He writes:

Bill Gates wants a Federal Student Data Tracking System. That’s right. He also wants competency-based education, more career pathways programs, and personalized learning to take over public education. This is the same guy who funded Common Core. Remember that when you read the document released by the Gates Foundation today. If I had to guess, now that many education bloggers have exposed all the agendas which will lead to the Bit-Coin inspired Blockchain Initiative, the corporate education reformers (clearly led by Bill Gates) have nothing to lose by getting it all out there now. Now I know why U.S. Senator Chris Coons (Delaware) is chomping at the bit for his post-secondary legislation to get passed by Congress.

Read this. Every single word. Read between the lines. This is the endgame they have been pushing for, the complete and utter destruction of public education in anticipation of online education for all. Where you will be tracked from cradle to grave, with data allowed to be looked at through a federal database, which will track everything about you. The sad part is they play to civil rights groups by assuring more success for minorities. They screw over students with disabilities every chance they get. But their manipulation of under-served communities is at an all-time high in this document. Words like “outcome-based funding” scare the crap out of me, and it should for every single American. Look at all the footnotes in the below document. Look at the companies and think-tanks that are reaping immense profits for every bogus report they come out with. Look how embedded this already is in every single state and our national government.

This is all about the workforce of tomorrow. It has nothing to do with education, or liberal education, or liberating education.

Peter Greene delves into 16 policy ideas for education, proffered by Bellwether Education Partners, a consulting group populated by and for reformers.

You will not be surprised that at the top of the list is school choice. Despite any evidence that charter schools are intrinsically superior to public schools, they are the solution put forward, as well as increasing the federal tax breaks to incentivize more investments in charters.

Peter reviews the 16 policies and finds not much new.

He concludes:

Some points worth thinking about, and a whole lot of swift repackagings of the same old reformster profiteering sales pitches. As I said at the top– Clinton already knows all of this and all Trump really wants is a tub of gasoline and a blowtorch, so I’m not sure to whom this pitch is aimed. But it’s on the reformster radar, so it should be on our as well.

In this blog post, Sharon Murchie, a mom-and-teacher in Michigan describes what happened after her daughter’s M-STEP scores arrived. Right into the trashcan! (A hat tip to Nancy Flanagan for sending this post to me on Twitter.)

She writes:

I had not seen the results report before; two years ago, I opted her out. But last year, in a co-parenting compromise with my ex-husband, I allowed my daughter to take the test.

You will be happy to know that my daughter is 100% adequate. Or, to be specific, she is making “adequate progress.” I was surprised at the naming of this progress indicator, since her scores are in the “Advanced” range in Math and English Language Arts, and at the very top edge of the “Proficient” range in Science. But, for a 4th grader approximately 1/3 of the way through her K-12 education, her progress is deemed as adequate. One must suppose then, that her teachers have also been adequate and her school is pretty adequate.

I question the use of this terminology; does “adequate” seem “proficient” or “advanced” to you? I realize that this word, according to google, means “satisfactory or acceptable.” But I challenge you to use this word in conversation and see how it is perceived. In fact, next time you are eating a dinner that your significant other prepared, I dare you to announce that it is “adequate.” And next time you and your significant other are in the midst of…ahem…a romantic physical encounter, I challenge you to announce that he or she is “making adequate progress.” I look forward to hearing about the ensuing conversations. Go ahead and get back to me with the results.

While she waits to hear from us about those conversations, she tells us more about the “inadequacy” of student reports based on the state tests.

The report itself is so…ahem…inadequate. For example, the color-coded Performance Bands at the top of each section read from left to right. The left indicator is Not Proficient, and the right side is Advanced. However, the Performance Level Descriptors at the bottom of the page begin with “Advanced” on the left and move to “Not Proficient” at the right. Who created this graphic? Why would a performance band read from left to right in the visual section of the graphic and then from right to left in the explanations? And then, for the sake of clarity, the Science section is broken into disciplines with points earned/possible points reported. No pointy-up or pointy-down triangles in science. Science gets Numbers! And science is apparently so unscientific, that the margin of error spans 3 performance levels. Luckily, my daughter may possibly be partially proficient, proficient, or advanced, but she is not to be deemed adequate in science.

I dare you to ask a 4th grader what is wrong with this report. Have them analyze the modeling and the data analysis. Have them explain to you what this report means. I look forward to hearing about those conversations.

Everyone is unhappy with the state tests, even the state of Michigan, as well it should be.

The State of Michigan, to its credit, is very concerned about the M-Step scores. Students are scoring very poorly on this test that has been redesigned two times in the two years it has been administered. And so, the State, based on M-Step scores, is threatening to take aggressive action and “rid the state of failing schools.” Instead of spending time and resources making sure that schools have the resources they need, the State will close those failing schools. They might also create a new test, administered 3 times a year, to replace the current test that replaced the old test that replaced the test before that one. Because clearly, the answer to poor test scores is more testing.

I would instead challenge the State to do something truly revolutionary. I would challenge them to go into those failing schools and make sure that there are enough teachers there to teach the students. I would challenge them to make sure that the schools had enough funding to buy chairs. I would challenge them to make sure that students have access to community supports and a standard of living that allows for walls full of books and access to museums and to higher education and to apples.

I challenge the State to actually do something about it, instead of forcing students to sit on milk crates to take more meaningless tests that result in poorly designed nonsensical reports. I challenge the State to make adequate progress.

This post was written in 2014, but it remains relevant today. DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) raises large sums of money from hedge fund managers to promote charter schools. The free market has been very good to hedge fund managers, and they think that public schools should compete in a free market too. They are not in the game to make money, but to promote their ideology of free-market competition. DFER and its related organizations, like Education Reform Now, and Families for Excellent Schools, are spending millions of dollars in places as far-flung as Denver and Massachusetts. It may be confusing to the public to see “Democrats” promoting school choice and accountability, since these have always been Republican ideas for school reform. But, it made no sense to create a group called Republicans for Education Reform because Republicans don’t need to be convinced to private public schools.

Leonie Haimson, parent advocate (and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education), asks:

How did this happen? How did our electeds of both parties enable corporate interests to hijack our public schools?

Her answer:

A small band of Wall St. billionaires decided to convert the Democratic party to the Republican party, at least on education — and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams – or our worst nightmares. And now we have electeds of both parties who are intent on helping them engineer a hostile takeover of our public schools, which has nothing to do with parent choice but the choice of these plutocrats.

What can you do about it?

Contact the Network for Public Education and find out how you can become active in your local or state organization that supports public schools and opposes privatization.

If you live in Massachusetts, join parents and educators who are fighting Question 2, which would allow unlimited expansion of charters to replace public schools.

Get involved.

The Bond Buyer reports that charter schools in California are seeking access to bonds for school construction, putting them into direct competition with public schools for the same money. Public schools have the advantage of stability and longevity; charter schools come and go with frequency. Public schools have higher bond rating than charter schools. Caprice Young, quoted in the article below, is a former president of the California Charter School Association, a powerful and wealthy lobby, and she now is CEO of Magnolia charters, which is part of the Gulen (Turkish) school chain.

The Bond Buyer reports (behind a pay wall):

LOS ANGELES — As California charter school enrollment has increased, so have conflicts over their access to school construction bond funds.

Enrollment at charter schools increased from 3.4% of the state’s K-12 population in 2005-06 to 9.2% in 2015-16, according to an Aug. 2 report from the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. The number of schools has grown from 560 to 1,207 over the past 10 years, according to the LAO report.

Some of these conflicts over state and local bond funds have come to the fore in Southern California, home to a large share of the state’s charters.

Rather than being subject to a state-oriented compliance-based accountability model, charter schools develop local charters, which are legal agreements between schools and their authorizers, and must comply with the terms of their charters, according to the LAO report.

The schools are exempt from most state regulations, but must meet three basic state requirements: provide nonsectarian instruction, charge no tuition and admit all interested California students up to school capacity.

Increases in charter school enrollment and declines in birth rates have caused Los Angeles Unified School District’s student enrollment to fall to 542,000, a 100,000 drop in a six-year period, according to school district figures released last year following an independent audit.

Charter schools were designed to offer parents an alternative, but in California, they fall under the jurisdiction of the school district in which they are located, which loses state per-student funding for each student that enrolls in a charter.

There has been friction between the district and charter schools over bond funding.

Los Angeles Unified officials say there is a level playing field, but charter school advocates disagree.

A district spokeswoman pointed to three school buildings occupied by Aspire charter schools. The buildings are brand new construction among the 130 new school buildings that have risen on school district property.

The school that Aspire Juanita Tate Academy occupies was built using $33.8 million of the district’s Measure R and Measure Y bond money, from voter approved measures that authorized a combined $7.855 billion of general obligation bonds.

The remaining $30.3 million came from grants funded by state general obligation bonds.

Aspire Firestone Academy and Aspire Gateway Charter Academy’s school buildings — both located on the same campus — were built using $59.5 million of the district’s Measure R, K, and Y money, local bond measures that together authorized $11.2 billion of debt. They also used $25.9 million from state bond funds.

None of the above Aspire schools were built using what the district calls the Charter School Bond Allocation, according to Los Angeles school officials.

The California Charter Schools Association filed a lawsuit against LAUSD on January 11 claiming that the school district has reduced an agreed upon allocation amount from 2008’s $7 billion Measure Q. The petition for writ of mandate asked Los Angeles Superior Court to compel LAUSD’s compliance with the California Public Records Act and void the school board’s decision to cut $88 million dollars from the charter school facility allocation under Measure Q.

The actual 2008 bond measure did not include a dollar amount for the charter school allocation, according to Emily Bertelli, a CCSA spokeswoman. But a separate document adopted by LAUSD’s board at the same time said that it would allocate $450 million to charter school projects – and they have since reduced that funding allocation more than once, she said.

In November 2015, CCSA sent a letter to the LAUSD board objecting to another reduction and requesting records justifying the reduction and showing how bond proceeds have been spent for charter schools. That day, LAUSD cut $88 million dollars from Measure Q for charter facilities, reducing the funds allocated for charters to $225 million and breaking its commitment to voters, according to a case summary on CCSA’s website.

“We have only just started to issue Measure Q bonds,” said John Walsh, LA Unified’s deputy chief financial officer. “We have issued just south of $650 million – and it is a $7 billion program. We don’t just earmark the first $450 million to go to charter schools.”

The language of Measure Q does say money will be allocated for charter schools, Walsh said, though not a specific amount.

Under the state’s 2000 Proposition 39, which allowed the state’s school districts to pass bonds with a 55% voter approval rate instead of the previous two-thirds threshold, districts were mandated to offer unused space at schools to charter schools.

“There are ways that we have used bond funds through the district’s facilities program to the advantage of charter schools,” Walsh said.

Allowing Aspire Schools to occupy the new buildings is one example of that, according to district officials.

L.A. Unified doesn’t approve a pot of money for charter schools, but handles funding on a project-by-project basis, Walsh said.

The danger for charter schools is that its relationship with a school district depends on the make-up of the school board.

There is an issue around competition for students, said Caprice Young, chief executive officer of Magnolia Public Schools, which operates ten independent charters.

“We have been thankful in California that we have a great partnership with the state treasurer’s office, which allows us to issue bonds that are tax-exempt,” said Young, who served on the Los Angeles Unified school board from 1999 to 2003 before founding the California Charter School Association in 2003.

Charter schools can issue revenue bonds through the California School Finance Authority, a conduit issuer that falls under the umbrella of the state treasurer’s office. School districts can also share the proceeds of general obligation bonds issued for school construction.

“With CSFA we pay for the bonds out of operating funds and that can be a lot more expensive,” Young said. “If we are given access to San Diego or Los Angeles GO bonds, there is a revenue stream from property taxes that we don’t have availability to. It cuts out a huge portion of public schools when we are not included.”

When school districts tax the public to create school facilities, charter schools should be included, Young said.

“And the way dollars are allocated needs to be fair and reasonable,” she said.

The difference in interest rates from issuing charter school bonds, which are typically rated BBB at the highest, and more often below investment grade, tend to be more in the 7% to 9% range versus the low 1% to 3% interest rates that LAUSD and SDUSD GOs are pricing at in today’s low interest rate environment, she said.

More than 60% of charter schools and charter school enrollment is in Los Angeles County, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Diego County, the LAO report said.

In the San Diego Unified School District, enrollment has stabilized at around 132,000 since 2007-08, but that is down from its peak of 142,260 in 2001-2001, according to district documents.

San Diego Unified has been largely a benevolent partner to its charter schools, charter school advocates said, though CSMA filed a lawsuit against that district too, at one point.

San Diego schools designated $350 million from its $2.8 billion Proposition Z of 2012 for charter school construction. “Facilities are a major challenge for all schools, but they are a particular challenge for charter schools,” said Miles Durfee, Southern California regional director for the California Charter Schools Association.

The law states that charter schools should get an equitable share of all bond issuances, Durfee said.

When Proposition Z passed, charter schools made up 12.5% of San Diego’s enrollment, but enrollment has grown to 15%, Durfee said. He thinks charter school’s share of the Proposition Z money should also grow. The percentage change would give charter schools an additional $20 million.

The language of Proposition Z says the percentage dedicated to charter schools could be reevaluated , but the language of the bond measure does not indicate a time frame, according to San Diego school officials.

Durfee said $40 million of the charter school allocation of Proposition Z has been spent on projects that are underway or almost complete and $304 million has been allocated to charter schools, but not spent. That leaves $6 million of the charter school pot not dedicated to a project.

That leaves San Diego charter schools that want to expand without many options.

The district established a Charter Schools Facilities Committee to advise on projects proposed by individual charter schools prior to consideration by the Board of Education.

Local charter school leaders help determine the best use of capital resources to address the facilities needs of local charter schools, according to San Diego school officials. Additionally, a representative of the charter schools is a member of the Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee for the bond program.

Unlike traditional schools, if a charter school faces a financial crisis it doesn’t get bailed out by the state; it just closes, Young said.

“Charter schools have to be nimble and they have to have balanced budgets, which isn’t the case for traditional school district schools,” Young said.

A charter school has to purchase a property immediately after it identifies it as a good location, and build right away, Young said.

“If we don’t buy the land, someone else will,” Young said. “If we don’t build right way, we have an operating expense that is not being offset by revenues from students.”

A charter school does not have the luxury that a district has to take its time acquiring a property and then take years to build a school, Young said. If it operated in that manner, she said, a charter school would close.

In New Jersey, David M. Aderhold, the superintendent of schools of West Windsor-Plainsboro, called out Governor Christie’s “reforms” for the frauds they are. He says it is time to fight back. I add him to the honor roll for his independence and support for children and public education.

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/16/09/22/op-ed-what-the-public-doesn-t-know-can-hurt-our-students-our-schools/

He writes:

“The unspoken message is that the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey State Board of Education believe they can change educational outcomes by implementing a system of standardized tests, data points, and accountability measures. They believe that if you create “valid” and “reliable” assessment instruments, that all students will magically succeed. Through a blind allegiance to standardized assessments, the NJDOE and NJSBOE have failed to provide the support, programs, and professional development that would work to ensure that all students succeed….

“As a community of parents and educators, we must come together to rebuff the politicization of public education and insist that these changes are met with opposition and disapproval. We cannot remain on the sidelines as upheaval from the politics of education clouds what is best for our children. We must remain vigilant and centered on the essence of our work, which is to ensure the highest-quality educational experience for all students.”

In a shocking story in Reuters, we learn that the newly redesigned SAT will have negative effects on many students–especially those who are neediest–because of the mathematics portion of the exam.

The story is part of a series.

Renee Dudley writes for Reuters:

In the days after the redesigned SAT college entrance exam was given for the first time in March, some test-takers headed to the popular website reddit to share a frustration.

They had trouble getting through the exam’s new mathematics sections. “I didn’t have nearly enough time to finish,” wrote a commenter who goes by MathM. “Other people I asked had similar impressions.”

The math itself wasn’t the problem, said Vicki Wood, who develops courses for PowerScore, a South Carolina-based test preparation company. The issue was the wordy setups that precede many of the questions.

“The math section is text heavy,” said Wood, a tutor, who took the SAT in May. “And I ran out of time.”

The College Board, the maker of the exam, had reason to expect just such an outcome for many test-takers.

When it decided to redesign the SAT, the New York-based not-for-profit sought to build an exam with what it describes as more “real world” applications than past incarnations of the test. Students wouldn’t simply need to be good at algebra, for instance. The new SAT would require them to “solve problems in rich and varied contexts.”

But in evaluating that approach, the College Board’s own research turned up problems that troubled even the exam makers.

About half the test-takers were unable to finish the math sections on a prototype exam given in 2014, internal documents reviewed by Reuters show.

The problem was especially pronounced among students that the College Board classified as low scorers on the old SAT.

A difference in completion rates between low scorers and high scorers is to be expected, but the gap on the math sections was much larger than the disparities in the reading and writing sections.

The study Reuters reviewed didn’t address the demographics of that performance gap, but poor, black and Latino students have tended to score lower on the SAT than wealthy, white and Asian students.

In light of the results, officials concluded that the math sections should have far fewer long questions, documents show. But the College Board never made that adjustment and instead launched the new SAT with a large proportion of wordy questions, a Reuters analysis of new versions of the test shows.

The redesigned SAT is described in the College Board’s own test specifications as an “appropriate and fair assessment” to promote “equity and opportunity.” But some education and testing specialists say the text-heavy new math sections may be creating greater challenges for kids who perform well in math but poorly in reading, reinforcing race and income disparities.

Among those especially disadvantaged by the number of long word problems, they say, are recent immigrants and American citizens who aren’t native English speakers; international students; and test-takers whose dyslexia or other learning disabilities have gone undiagnosed.

“It’s outrageous. Just outrageous,” said Anita Bright, a professor in the Graduate School of Education at Portland State University in Oregon. “The students that are in the most academically vulnerable position when it comes to high-stakes testing are being particularly marginalized,” she said.

College Board CEO David Coleman, the chief architect of the redesign, declined to be interviewed, as did other College Board officials named in this article.

Read the rest of the article, which contains more detail.

Some states plan to use the SAT as a graduation exam, which should not happen because the test was not designed as an exit exam but as a measure of college readiness. In the past, testmakers would warn states against misusing their test, but this is apparently not happening now. The College Board is supposed to be a nonprofit, but the SAT is its biggest money maker. Now that nearly 900 colleges and universities are test-optional, meaning that students seeking admission to not need to supply either SAT or ACT scores, the College Board has to maintain its revenues and does not warn about the misuse of the SAT.

What will those states that use the SAT as a high school graduation test do when half the seniors can’t “pass” it? What will the young people who can’t get a high school diploma do?

Mitchell Chester, the state commissioner of education in Massachusetts, is a huge supporter of charter schools, Common Core, and PARCC testing (he was chair of the PARCC group). He approved a charter school for Brockton, despite loud community opposition. He recently met with parents at the Brockton High School, and when he mentioned the new charter for Brockton, he was met with boos and hissing. The Brockton charter was not ready on time, but received state permission to open in Norwood, 22 miles away. Chester defended the charter on grounds that it was able to recruit nearly 300 students from the Brockton public schools. Parents were unhappy because the Brockton public schools have seen budget cuts, which they attribute to the charter school.

Brockton High School, which has been repeatedly honored (including a front-page story in the NY Times) for excellence, enrolls more than 4,000 students. The charter school, New Heights, will enroll 315 (not there yet). The thousands of students at the public high school will lose programs so that the state can open a charter school to serve the same community.

If New Heights reaches an enrollment of 315 students by October, it will receive $3.96 million in state and local funds, based on early projections, Reis said.

Brockton parents like Dominique Cassamajor said that money would be better spent on Brockton Public Schools, including the elementary school attended by her 9-year-old daughter, especially when the district is already dealing with a difficult budget.

“I don’t like it at all,” Cassamajor said. “I know people who have kids in the new school, but it’s just taking away funds from Brockton Public Schools. Everybody has their choices. But to me, it’s taking away money from most of the kids. The classroom already has a deficit. That’s why we are doing the Brockton Kids Count campaign.”

So what is the logic in Brockton? Open a charter for 315 kids and take resources from the high school that serves 4,000+ kids?

Yesterday, I posted the first part of Michael Massing’s excellent two-part essay on covering the world of power and influence in which the 1% live.

Today, I conclude the essay with part 2, where Massing offers numerous examples of untold stories and a few examples of excellent investigative reporting, such as the time that David Sirota broke the story that hedge fund manager John Arnold’s foundation was underwriting a PBS series on “the pension crisis,” without noting that he was a funder or that he has led an attack on public sector pensions. Sirota’s investigation compelled PBS to return Arnold’s money and to cancel the series.

He suggests several sectors that are not adequately covered by journalists: first, the philanthropies, which these days use their largesse to press their own political or ideological agenda; second, the world of higher education, which have come to rely on very wealthy donors who make gifts with strings attached; third, the world of think tanks, which have become increasingly dependent on donors who push their private agendas; fourth, the world of private equity operates beneath the surface, a world where vast sums are accumulated, along with vast political power; and for good measure, Wall Street, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and corporate America.

We learn from Massing that the media occasionally pull back the curtain, but all too often are willing to rewrite press releases and respond to marketing and branding campaigns. Investigative reporting requires energy, effort, and resources.

Massing himself, in a recent private communication, told me he is trying to set up a website to do what he calls for.

Let’s hope.

Information sustains democracy. Without it, we are all in the dark, not knowing who is pulling the levers of power. Those of us in education have seen the immense power of the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation, and hedge fund managers, yet the media usually is blissfully aware of who is manipulating public opinion and what their goals are.