Archives for category: Chiefs for Change

Jan Resseger is puzzled that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot selected San Antonio Superintendent Pedro Martinez to lead Chicago’s public schools. His experience and views overlap with those of Arne Duncan, for whom he served as Chief Financial Officer. Parents and teachers wanted the next superintendent to be an instructional leader. Martinez has no experience as a teacher or a principal. He represents the failed ideas of corporate reform. Twenty years of test score driven decisions—closing schools and replacing them with charter schools— should be enough.

She writes:

For WBEZ, Chicago’s best education reporter, Sarah Karp introduces Pedro Martinez: “Turning to a non-educator with deep Chicago ties, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot named former Chicago schools official and a current San Antonio schools superintendent Pedro Martinez as the next CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Martinez, who was born in Mexico and raised in Chicago, will be the first permanent Latino leader in the school district’s history… Martinez worked as CPS’ chief financial officer under former CEO Arne Duncan… Martinez is an accountant who has been called ‘analytics heavy.’ And in San Antonio, he has expanded charter schools as well as partnered with private organizations to take over failing schools. These ideas have been popular in Chicago, but they have fallen out of favor in recent years… Martinez has never taught or run a school as principal. And, thus, in choosing him, Lightfoot is rejecting the input of parents and others who said they wanted someone with a strong instructional background with ‘boots on the ground’ experience… Martinez is a graduate of the Broad Superintendent Academy training program. Critics say the Broad Academy promotes school leaders who use corporate-management techniques and that they work to limit teachers’ job protections and the involvement of parents in decision-making.”

This post is Mercedes Schneider at her best, pulling together the strings of a tangled web involving money, power, TFA, Chiefs for Change, John White, the Rhode Island $5 million contract, and Julia Rafael-Baer.

Read it to the end. It’s rich with details that show how an ambitious young person can monetize her TFA experience and her network.

There is big money to be made in the education industry. Unfortunately, not for classroom teachers who devote their lives to their students.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot selected Pedro Martinez, Superintendent of the San Antonio School District, as the Windy City’s public schools.

Martinez is a “reformer.” In San Antonio, he was known for his obsession with data and commitment to opening charter schools. He is a graduate of the tattered Broad Superintendents Academy. He is chairman of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. Chiefs for Change brings together superintendents who share the test-and-punish ideas of the failed corporate reform movement (closing low-scoring schools, opening charter schools, relying on high-stakes testing, evaluating teachers by test scores, collecting data about everything, distrust of unions, etc.).

Martinez is a graduate of the Chicago Public Schools. He holds an M.B.A. from DePaul University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And, of course, he is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy. He worked for Arne Duncan as Chief Financial Officer when Arne was Superintendent in Chicago. He was “Superintendent-in-Residence” for the Nevada Department of Education. Prior to that, he was superintendent for the 64,000-student Washoe County School District, covering the Reno, Nevada area.

Like Arne, Martinez was never a teacher or principal.

Rhode Island is a mess. Two years ago, the state took control of the Providence public schools. The Governor, Gina Raymond, is a former hedge funder and not a friend of public schools. She loves charter schools and welcomed them to her state. She is now Biden’s Commerce Secretary and has been succeeded by her Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, who is also a privatizer. The relatively new State Commissioner is Angelica Infante Green, who comes from Teach for America and had a desk job in the New York State Education Department. She is a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. The Providence Teachers Union originally supported the state takeover, hoping that it would bring new resources to the schools. Instead, the takeover has meant disruption, turmoil, threats to teachers, and bitterness between the hard-charging, inexperienced State Commissioner and the teachers.

Mary Beth Calabro, the president of the Providence Teachers Union, has been a teacher for 24 years and president of the union for five years.

Less than two years later, and with the COVID-19 pandemic overshadowing nearly all of the takeover, Calabro now says that the relationship between the union and Infante-Green has deteriorated beyond repair, and she is asking state lawmakers to give control of the school district back to the city of Providence. She is also calling for Infante-Green and Superintendent Harrison Peters to be removed from their positions.

The union voted “no confidence” in both the state commissioner and the city superintendent. Calabro warned that the district was forcing teachers out with its hard-nosed tactics.

“We had hope that our state takeover here would provide the much-needed support, resources, and changes to help our students move forward,” Calabro said during a Monday press conference. “And we had hope that our educators’ collective skills, experience, and expertise would be seen as a welcome part of transforming out schools. Sadly, our hopes have died.”

The state commissioner made clear from the beginning that she wanted to control the union and its contract:

The most recent sticking point between the union and management has revolved around a provision in the current union contract that gives veteran teachers preference over newer teachers when it comes to hiring. Seniority tends to be a sacred cow for public employee unions, and the teachers have resisted changes that would give Infante-Green and Peters more control over the hiring process.

Both Infante-Green and Peters say they believe the Crowley Act, the state law that gave them the power to take control of the school district, allows them to make unilateral changes to the contract. But they fear that such a tactic would send the two sides to court, prolonging a series of negotiations that has already resulted in the city paying more than $1 million to lawyers advising management.

The Boston Globe turned to Brown University professor Kenneth Wong, who was previously known for praising mayoral control as the answer to urban school problems.

Kenneth Wong, an education policy expert and professor at Brown University who has advised city and state leaders on a wide range of school funding and reform initiatives over the past decade, said he sees the next few weeks as crucial to finding common ground.

Wong said the state deserves some credit for some initial progress during the takeover. The state has issued a clear set of goals for Providence schools, like raising the graduation rate from 73.6 percent in the 2018-19 school year to 89 percent by the 2024-25 school year, and slashing chronic absenteeism from 37 percent to 10 percent during the same period.

Frankly, it is hard to see why the state deserves any credit for setting ambitious goals when it has not supplied the means to reach them and is driving away experienced teachers. The one thing that we supposedly learned from the ambitious “national goals” of 1989 was that setting goals is easy, reaching them is hard.

Here is a piece of advice for Commissioner Infante-Green: No teachers, no education. A good leader provides encouragement to the troops; a bad leader puts them in the line of fire.

Meanwhile, the new Governor Dan McKee, aligned himself solidly with the Walton-funded parent group that wants more charter schools. Democrats in the legislature have lined up behind a three-year moratorium on charters, but McKee made clear that if the bill passes, he will veto it.

The article in the Providence Journal accepted at face value that the pro-charter lobby was led by ordinary parents, but Maurice Cunningham of the University of Massachusetts has demonstrated that the group called “Stop the Wait, Rhode Island” is funded by the Waltons and other Dark Money billionaires. And see here as well.

Governor McKee is doing the bidding of the Waltons of Arkansas.

A few days ago, I posted Nancy Bailey’s critique of McKinsey & Company’s report claiming that it’s time for schools to get tough on students. As Bailey points out, when I worked in the Department of Education, the White House was crawling with McKinsey consultants, smart young things who knew everything about education but were seldom old enough to have been in the classroom for long.

Our faithful reader and meticulous researcher Laura Chapman (a retired arts educator) responded to Nancy’s post as follows, describing the mastermind of the McKinsey report:

Nancy Bailey probably knows that the author of the McKinsey report, Jimmy Sarakatsannis jumped straight to McKinsey as an expert in everything about K-12 and teacher education from his job as a science teacher for three years at Sousa Middle School, a charter school with “scholars” in DC.

Sarakatsannis has held exactly one job in education and there is every reason to believe that he left Sousa Middle School in 2008, in the midst of a major meltdown at that charter school. A tyrannical principal created chaos there. http://thewashingtonteacher.blogspot.com/2010/07/tyranny-of-dcs-sousa-middle-school.html

ABOUT JIMMY FROM THE REPORT’S WEBSITE: “Jimmy is a partner in McKinsey’s Washington, DC office and a leader in our Education and Private Equity Practices.
Jimmy’s work in education straddles the public, private, and non-profit sectors, and spans every stage from pre-K-12 education to higher education and workforce development. He serves school systems, educational services providers, technology companies, and educational non-profits, as well as private-equity firms and philanthropic foundations that invest in education.

Much of Jimmy’s work focuses on how technology can be used to transform teaching and learning both within and beyond formal education. He also has deep expertise in the improvement of human capital within education systems, investment in education, and the development of successful organizational and business models for companies working across the public and private sectors.
Among his recent client projects, Jimmy has:
• advised an online learning company on developing a strategy to raise its student success rates
• supported professional development for teachers in some 20 US school districts
• helped a major technology company define a strategy to enter education, including product development, team building, and a go-to-market strategy for the new business
• led our support of a new non-profit in K-12 education, helping to design and set up the organization with an independent sales force and operations team
• worked with a national system of technical and vocational colleges to create online and hybrid programs to expand access and provide better educational experiences, reaching more than 50,000 students to date

Before joining McKinsey, Jimmy taught middle school science in the District of Columbia Public Schools. He is the author of a number of papers on educational topics and a regular contributor to our knowledge building in this field.”

That is a perfect example of corporate gibberish too easily sold to school districts.

I looked up Jimmy’s publications in Google Scholar. In those five entries he is never a solo author. All publications are from McKinsey, including COVID-19 and Student Learning in the United States – The hurt could last a lifetime.

Do not believe hype about the wisdom of McKinsey, least of all in education. Arne Duncan was a friend of McKinsey and by 2008 had engaged USDE with an “uplift” education campaign conjured by McKinsey. The project, was called R.E.S.P.E.C.T. an the acronym for “Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching.”

The project was nothing more than another scheme to make pay-for-performance the norm, get rid of collective bargaining, set up tiers of qualifications for teachers. Each teaching tier was offered an initial contract. In order to get a continuing contract you had produce more than a year’s worth of gains in test scores year-to-year for multiple years.

There are still records about this scheme. It was reportedly inspired by a 2010 McKinsey report: Closing the Talent Gap: Attracting and Retaining Top-Third Graduates to Careers in Teaching: An International and Market Research-Based Perspective. That report called for recruiting the “best and brightest talent” into teaching because they could produce the highest test scores and those high tests scores could predict economic outcomes (with Chetty and others treated as experts). I wrote about some of these schemes on Diane’s blog back, in May of 2016. Diane has also devoted some blogs to the McKinsey’s corporate follies.

Carol Burris wrote the following post. Marla Kilfoyle provided assistance. They asked me to add that there are dozens more exceptionally well qualified people who should be considered for this important post: they are career educators who believe in public education, not closing schools or privatization.

The media has been filled with speculation regarding Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of Education. Given the attention that position received with Betsy De Vos at the helm, that is not a surprise. 

In 2008, Linda Darling Hammond was pushed aside by DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) for Arne Duncan, with disastrous consequences for our public schools. Race to the Top was a disaster. New Orleans’ parents now have no choice but unstable charter schools. Too many of Chicago’s children no longer have a neighborhood school from the Race to the Top era when it was believed that you improved a school by closing it.

But the troubling, ineffective policies of the past have not gone away. Their banner is still being carried by deep-pocketed ed reformers who believe the best way to improve a school is to close it or turn it over to a private charter board. 

Recently, DFER named its three preferred candidates for the U.S. Secretary of Education. DFER is a political action committee (PAC) associated with Education Reform Now, which, as Mercedes Schneider has shown, has ties to Betsy De Vos. DFER congratulated Betsy DeVos and her commitment to charter schools when Donald Trump appointed her.  They are pro-testing and anti-union. DFER is no friend to public schools.

The DFER candidates belong to Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, an organization that promotes Bush/Duncan education reform, as Jan Resseger describes here. “Chiefs for Change,” you support school choice, even if it drains resources from the public schools in your district, of which you are the steward. In their recent letter to President BidenChiefs for Change specifically asked for a continuance of the Federal Charter School Program, which has wasted approximately one billion dollars on charters that either never open or open and close. They also asked for the continuance of accountability systems (translate close schools based on test results) even as the pandemic rages.

We must chart a new course. We cannot afford to take a chance on another Secretary of Education who believes in the DFER/Chiefs for Change playbook. 

We don’t have to settle. The bench of pro-public education talent is deep. Here are just a few of the outstanding leaders that come to mind who could lead the U.S. Department of Education. Marla Kilfoyle and I came up with the following list. There are many more. 

Tony Thurmond is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California. Tony deeply believes in public schools. Prior to becoming his state’s education leader, he was a public school educator, social worker, and a public school parent. His personal story is both moving and compelling. 

Betty Rosa dedicated most of her adult life to the students of New York City.  She began her career as a bi-lingual paraprofessional in NYC schools, became a teacher, assistant principal, principal, superintendent, state chancellor, and now New York State’s interim commissioner. 

Other outstanding superintendents include Joylynn Pruitt -Adams, the Superintendent of Oak Park and River Forest in Illinois, who is relentlessly determined to provide an excellent education to the district’s Black and Latinx high school students by eliminating low track classes, Mike Matsuda, Superintendent of Anaheim High School District and Cindy Marten, the superintendent of San Diego.  

Two remarkable teachers with legislative experience who are strong advocates for public schools and public school students are former Teacher of the Year Congresswoman Jahana Hayes and former Arkansas state senator Joyce Elliot

There is also outstanding talent in our public colleges. There are teachers and leaders like University of Kentucky College of Education Dean, Julian Vasquez Heilig, who would use research to inform policy decisions.  

These are but a few of the dedicated public school advocates who would lead the Department in a new direction away from test and punish policies and school privatization. They are talented and experienced leaders who are dedicated to improving and keeping our public schools public and who realize that you don’t improve schools by shutting them down. Any DFER endorsed member of Chiefs for Change is steeped in the failed school reform movement and will further public school privatization through choice. They had their chance. That time has passed. 

 

 

The Tulsa school board went into executive session and talked until 1 am, then voted to extend Deborah Gist’s contract for two years. Two board members voted no.

The vote occurred one week before an election runoff for two board seats.

Gist is a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, which supports charters, vouchers, and high-stakes testing. As State Superintendent in Rhode Island a decade ago, she achieved fame and notoriety for firing the entire staff of Central Falls High School due to low test scores. Central Falls is the poorest district in the state. It still has the lowest scores in the state.

Angelica Infante-Green, the Commissioner of Education in Rhode Island, selected Harrison Peters as the takeover superintendent of Providence.

Peters announced his initial plans, which sound sensible, like implementing restorative justice in schools and assessing which schools need emergency repairs.

However, the article suggests that the big reform plan will be rolled out in April.

Keep an eye on this because Peters is already a member of Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change,” where he has been designated a “future” chief. Chiefs for Change is an organization that adheres to Bush’s harsh ideas about testing, school closings, school report cards, and charter schools. And, of course, Jeb is one of the nation’s foremost advocates for vouchers.

Randi Weingarten will be in Providence on Saturday to discuss the role of teachers in the state takeover engineered by neoliberal Governor Gina Raimondo. The governor is openly hostile to teachers and unions and a major supporter of privately managed charter schools. She hired Angelica Infante-Green as State Commissioner, although Green (ex-TFA) was never a principal or superintendent. She is a member of Jeb Bush’s rightwing Chiefs for Change.

Randi said:

Unfortunately, the current Commissioner just continues to do the same things that Joe Klein or Michelle Rhee would do. Rather than work with teachers, they’ve set up other ‘process’ committees that will come out and say all the things are wrong, and what teachers should do in collective bargaining to fix it,” said Weingarten. “It’s not as though we haven’t seen this movie before — you have to roll up your sleeves and work together and you have to lift the morale. You don’t create a situation were every utterance the boss says divides people more and more…”

Weingarten said that she believed Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza had allowed the schools to fall into disrepair — but that takeover by Rhode Island education commissioner Angélica Infante-Green was not necessarily the answer.

“Here you had a situation where you had city control and the mayor was not giving the school the resources they need — just look at the shape they were in. He was not going to play that role, so this was viewed as no worse than already divesting democratic control,” said Weingarten. “Raimondo made a case that she wanted to make things better, but what you’re seeing already, and this is why I’m so proud of my local union, is that you have to change the normal typical tired conversation when a school system is not as good as you wish it would be…”

There are are a couple of other people who were really good who they were considering for superintendent and they didn’t pick them,” said Weingarten of Providence. “The Hopkins report said we have a problem where people feel alienated and discouraged — Hopkins also didn’t spend a lot of time in schools that were working. Since that time our union has come up with recommendations of what to do and meet people halfway.”

“We put out the recommendations that were never taken up. We did some of them ourselves. If this is urgent, and things must be solved right now — and we came up with recommendations in September, and then they do none of them — it gives pause to the urgency,” she said. “We tried to do a bunch of different things to respond to the Hopkins report and we’ve had a couple of big professional development seminars and what we’re hearing from the other side is just give up your contract.”

“So what is all of this, I’ve been through this with Rhee and Klein, and it seems like the same playbook — say things are as bad as you can instead of trying,” said Weingarten. “And in vilifying people you create demoralization — you create a vehicle by which parents say, why am I even here?”

“If you think a change agent is someone who thinks they can do things to teachers not with them, they might be a disruptor, but that’s not a change agent,” said Weingarten. “Schooling is about what happens [with] the connective tissue between teachers, school staff and kids. Kids have to trust teachers — and the community has to as well — and when you have someone who tries to come in from on high and chooses to vilify and not deal with issues, that’s not going to help make things better in schools.”

“How do you create a school where community and parents trust their teachers when the superintendent says they’re not to be trusted? It may get someone headlines — but it’s not the way,” she said.

To my knowledge, there has never been a successful state takeover. Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority collapsed. Tennessee’s Educational Achievement Authority was a $100 million disaster.

The only districts that are targets for state takeovers are those with a black and brown majority. State officials think that eliminating democracy will fix the schools but it doesn’t and never has. It is a civics lesson to citizens and students of color that they are not capable of self-government.

Domingo Morel wrote a book called “Takeover” where he compntended that takeovers were about race and power, not education. Black and brown parents lose their political power and are subject to a colonial regime.

Feeling the backlash in a big way, Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change” issued a call to end the “Toxic Rhetoric” about school choice, especially charters. 

Chiefs for Change are strong proponents of privatization. Here are the current members. Is your superintendent a “Chief for Change” who wants to divert money from public schools to the Betsy DeVos agenda of school choice?

They say:

Recent attempts to halt or severely limit school choice—including legislative debates over caps or moratoriums for charter schools—are misguided at best. Effective mechanisms of school choice—those that ensure quality, accountability, equitable access, and equitable funding—provide opportunities that our students need and deserve. 

Families with financial means in America have always been able to choose the school that is best for their child, by moving to a certain part of town or by sending their children to private schools. But most American families do not have that opportunity. The school in their neighborhood may fall short in meeting their child’s needs in any number of ways—but they’re stuck. 

Our nation’s history of redlining to separate both housing and schooling based on race and income, along with local zoning ordinances that restrict and confine affordable housing, alongside the recent wave of “school district secessions” by higher-income neighborhoods, have compounded the problem. Our nation’s children often live in neighborhoods just a short distance from each other but worlds apart in terms of school quality. This is unacceptable. Every child deserves school options where they will learn and thrive. 

That is why today we are calling on policymakers across the nation to end the destructive debates over public charter schools. Proposed caps and moratoriums allow policymakers to abdicate their responsibility to thoughtfully regulate new and innovative public school options: like banning cars rather than mandating seatbelts. They are a false solution to a solvable problem. 

The backlash against school choice, the demand to halt charter expansion, comes from an outraged public that supports their community public schools.

Only 6% of the students in the U.S. attend charter schools, most of which perform no better than or much worse than public schools. An even smaller number of students use vouchers, even when they are easily available, and the research increasingly converges on the conclusion that students who use vouchers are harmed by attending voucher schools.

The claim that poor kids should get “the same” access to elite private schools as rich kids is absurd. Rich parents pay $40,000-50,000 or more for schools like Lakeside in Seattle or Sidwell Friends in D.C. The typical voucher is worth about $5,000, maybe as much as $7,000, which gets poor kids into religious schools that lack certified teachers, not into Lakeside or Sidwell or their equivalent.

Perhaps Chiefs for Change should advocate for for housing vouchers worth $1 million or more so that poor families can afford to live in the best suburban neighborhoods where “families with financial means” live.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

What this press release really means is that the advocates of privatization know that the public is turning against them.

That’s good news.

The public wants to invest its tax dollars in strong, equitable public schools that meet the needs of all students, not in ineffective charters or vouchers that divert money from community public schools.