Archives for category: Charter Schools

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.

 

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!

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?

 

This post by Peter Greene appeared in Forbes, where he is now a regular contributor, explaining the real world of education to non-educators.

It is Greene’s perceptive review of SLAYING GOLIATH, which will be officially published on January 21.

To my delight, he describes this blog as “the Rick’s Cafe” of the Resistance to what is wrongly termed “reform,” but which I have renamed Disruption. Call it what it is.

He goes straight to the heart of the book:

This is the story of the last decade of public education in this country. It’s a far-ranging story that covers every corner of the nation and dozens of different issues. It’s the story of people with great power and people who would seem at first glance to have no power at all. Ravitch is telling a saga here that is broad in scope and rich in detail. Up until now, nobody has managed to capture the full breadth and depth of the battle over the next direction for U.S. public education, but Ravitch renders the complex and multi-character clear and comprehensible without sacrificing the full scope of what’s been happening.

Ravitch details how the folks she dubs the Disruptors first codified their ideas into law with No Child Left Behind and went on to push a vision of a test-and-punish regime, privately owned and operated schools, and circumventing democratic processes. The disruption movement has given us charter schools, high stakes testing, and the de-professionalization of teaching. It has used the real problems of inequity and underserved communities to justify false solutions….

Fans of education reform will undoubtedly disagree with some of Ravitch’s conclusions and analysis. That’s fine. What’s history without some debate. This book still provides the most complete, compact, detail-filled narrative of what has been happening to U.S. education since the Reagan administration release A Nation At Risk.

 

 

Two of the best education bloggers in the nation weighed in on the nature and purpose of the new “National Parents Union,” which proudly announced that it would give parents’ “voice” in opposition to the teachers’ unions.

Peter Greene asks, “Do You Smell Astroturf?” 

He provides a detailed history of the well-established “ed reform” credentials of its founders, as well as a scathing letter by a parent who previously founded the New York City Parents Union, and found that she was pushed aside by the Walton-funded newcomers. He notes: I have heard the argument over and over and over again that philanthropist money and Walton and Gates and Broad and Jobs money is necessary to counterbalance the vast financial resources of the unions, but the union is a bb gun in a field of howitzers.

And quite by coincidence, Steven Singer wrote about the “National Parent Union” and issued an “Astroturf Alert: National Parents Union is Thinly Veiled Union Busting Backed by Billionaire Cash.” 

Actual classroom teachers, like Greene and Singer, upon whom actual schools depend for their survival, do not have a low opinion of teachers’ unions.

Singer begins:

How do you do something disgusting without hurting your image?

If you’re the Walton Family, you hide behind a mask.

That’s what their latest AstroTurf front group is – the so-called National Parents Union (NPU).

It’s a way to bust teachers unions, destroy public schools and profit off of students behind the guise of a friendly parents organization.

Oh, it’s all funded with oodles of cash from the Walton family and other billionairesbut they get to pretend to be nothing but supporters on the sidelines.

The people who bust unions before most of us have even had breakfast yet claim they have nothing to do with this anti-union movement. It is all the parents doing. The Walmart heirs just put up the money to let these parents live their dream of union free schools – as if schools where educators have no rights or intellectual freedom were somehow in the best interests of students.

In the world of ed reform (ed deform), billionaires must always wear masks, because parents and teachers don’t trust their motives. What are they after? What are they trying to do? What gives them the right to rearrange my local public school? Who elected them? Best to find a front group to carry their water for them. Or their spear.

 

 

 

 

Gary Rubinstein has been following the Tennessee Achievement School District since its inception and reporting annually on its failure. The ASD was funded by $100 million from the Obama-Duncan “Race to the Top.” The theory behind the ASD was that students had low test scores because they attended public schools with bad teachers. Take the same students in the same schools, turn them over to charter operators, and their test scores would soar. The theory was wrong.

Gary writes about it here. 

Since 2011 I have been following the biggest, and most predictable, disasters of the education reform movement — the Tennessee Achievement School District (ASD).  It was formed in a perfect storm of reform theory.  First, Tennessee won Race To The Top money.  Then they hired a TFA-alum and the ex-husband of Michelle Rhee, Kevin Huffman to be their state commissioner.  Then he hired TFA-alum and charter school founder Chris Barbic to design and run the ASD.  The initial promise of the ASD was that they would take schools in the bottom 5% and convert them into charter schools in order to ‘catapult’ them into the top 25% in five years.  They started with 6 schools in 2012 and grew to over 30 schools within a few years.

They completely failed at this mission.  Chris Barbic resigned, Kevin Huffman resigned, Barbic’s replacement resigned, Barbic’s replacement’s replacement resigned.  Of the 30 schools they nearly all stayed in the bottom 5% except a few that catapulted into the bottom 10%.

The new education commissioner of Tennessee is also a TFA alum with ideas similar to Huffman.  She promised, however, to get a handle on the ASD and what to do about its failure.  After a listening tour around the state she made, it seemed at first, a decision that was long overdue.

Chalkbeat TN recently had a post with the enticing title ‘All 30 schools in Tennessee’s turnaround district would exit by 2022 in a massive restructuring proposal.’  It would seem like this is good news.  The ASD was such a costly failure, costing about $100 million over the years I think, the only thing to do was to put it out of its misery and dissolve it completely.

But I’ve been studying reformers enough over the years not to get too excited about this.  The headline would make the most optimistic readers think that the 30 schools going back to the district would again become public schools.  The charter schools supposedly traded flexibility for accountability so their failure to deliver on their promises should result in them being sent packing.

But according to the article, it is not clear yet if being returned to the district means that they will become public schools again.  Also they say that there still will be an ASD after this.  Now there can’t be a school district with zero schools, so what’s going on?

I think, and I hope I’m wrong about this, that with the failure of the ASD there was no way that they could justify adding more schools to it.  But by ‘returning’ the 30 schools back to their districts, and probably keeping them as charters, there will now be room to add more schools in the bottom 5% to the re-booted ASD.  If this is what happens, the ASD won’t be disappearing or even shrinking, it will be expanding.  There will be the 30 schools that are still charters, but just operating as part of the district they have been returned to.  And then there will be another 20 schools, maybe, that are in the new ASD.  (They actually call it the ASD 2.0 in the state slide show)

Gary suspects a bait-and-switch, like a businessman declaring bankruptcy, then reappearing with a new name and more money.

He will keep watch for us.