Archives for category: Chiefs for Change

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.

 

Jan Resseger writes here about the difference between Superintendents who understand the importance of collaborating with and respecting the community they serve, and the Superintendents connected to Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, who believe in state takeovers and imposing their views on their communities. She might have added the Brodie’s to the latter category, those who are “graduates” of the Broad Superintendents Academy. The BS Academy teaches Eli Broad’s corporate-style of Top-Down management.

She writes:

There is an ongoing battle of values and language that shapes the way we think about and talk about education.  The current threats across several states of state takeover of school districts are perhaps the best example of this conflict.  According to the Chiefs for Change model, the school district in Providence has recently been taken over by the state of Rhode Island.  Texas now threatens to take over the public schools in Houston. In Ohio, four years of state takeover has created chaos in Lorain and dissatisfaction in Youngstown.  East Cleveland is now in the process of being taken over, and the Legislature has instituted a one-year moratorium while lawmakers figure out whether to proceed with threatened takeovers of the public school districts in Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Canton, Ashtabula, Lima, Mansfield, Painesville, Euclid, and North College Hill.

Among the most painful situations this summer is the threatened closure of the high school or the state takeover of the school district in Benton Harbor, Michigan, a segregated African American community and one of the poorest in the state.  Michigan has actively expanded school choice with charter schools and an inter-district open enrollment program in which students carry away their school funding. The statewide expansion of charters and inter-district school choice has undermined the most vulnerable school districts and triggered a number of state takeover actions.  Michigan State University’s David Arnsen explains: “In Michigan, all the money moves with the students. So it doesn’t take account of the impact on the districts and students who are not active choosers… When the child leaves, all the state and local funding moves with that student. The revenue moves immediately and that drops faster than the costs… In every case they (districts losing students to Schools of Choice) are districts that are predominantly African American and poor children and they suffered terrific losses of enrollment and revenue….”

Benton Harbor—heavily in debt and struggling academically—has been threatened with state intervention like Inkster, Buena Vista, Highland Park, and Muskegon Heights—whole school districts which were closed, charterized, or put under emergency manager control by former governor Rick Snyder.  Now the new Governor Gretchen Whitmer has threatened to close the high school in Benton Harbor or eventually close the district.

If your superintendent supports state takeovers, mass firings, replacing public schools with charter schools, or other corporate management strategies, he is not on the side of your community.

 

 

Governor Gina Raimondo is a bona fide neoliberal  who is part of the DFER clique, having been a hedge fund manager herself.

She recently selected Angelina Infante-Green as State Commissioner of Education. Infante-Green is a member of Jeb Bush’s cohort of Future Chiefs for Change. Now that she is a State Commissioner, she will qualify to join the big boys and girls as a full-fledged member of Jeb’s Club.

Chiefs for Change support privatization and high-stakes testing. It is Jeb’s vehicle to spread Florida’s failed model, whose ultimate goal is the elimination of public schools, unions, and professional teachers.

This article by Tom Ultican tells the sordid story of rich elites who have cynically decided to destroy public education in San Antonio.

They have cumulatively raised at least $200 million to attract charter operators to San Antonio, a figure which includes funding by the U.S. Department of Education and local plutocrats. The lead figure is a very wealthy woman named Victoria Rico, who sits on the boards of multiple charter chains. Rico and her friends have decided to re-engineer and privatize public education in San Antonio. Rico is working closely with Dan Patrick, the State’s lieutenant governor, who loves vouchers, hates public schools, and was the Rush Limbaugh of Texas before winning election to the State Senate.

Was there a vote taken in San Antonio? No. Was the public asked whether they wanted to abandon public education? Of course not. The titans don’t believe in democracy. They know what’s best for other people’s children.

They have hired a superintendent, Pedro Martinez, who was “trained” by the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy, which encourages school closures, privatization, and top-down management. Martinez has worked in school districts but was never a teacher or a principal and apparently knows nothing about pedagogy. Martinez is a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, which promotes privatization and technology in the classroom. He is also a big fan of the faux Relay “Graduate School of Education,” which specializes in charter teachers training new teachers for charter schools and has no professors or research programs.

As a native Texan, this whole deal made me physically ill. It stinks to high heaven. Everyone facilitating this private takeover of public schools should be ashamed of themselves.

They are not “doing it for the children.” They are doing it for their own egos. There are more failing charter schools than failing public schools. What right do they have to destroy the public schools of San Antonio? Who elected them? They have won plaudits from Betsy DeVos, the Koch brothers, and ALEC. They should be held accountable for their assault on democracy. I noticed that the Texas philanthropist Charles Butt refused to participate in this unholy cabal; he prefers to invest his fortune in supporting public schools.

I take this opportunity to name Victoria Rico, Pedro Martinez, and all their rightwing enablers to the Wall of Shame.

 

John Thompson, teacher and historian in Oklahoma, writes here about Deborah Gist, now superintendent in Tulsa, formerly State Superintendent in Rhode Island during the infamous mass firing of the staff at Central Falls High School in 2010.

He writes:


What’s the Matter with Deborah Gist’s Tulsa?

As explained previously, teacher walkouts started in Oklahoma and other “red” states are primarily caused by the rightwing agenda described in Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? And so far, the teachers’ rebellions are mostly coming from places where corporate school reform was imposed. But as Jeff Bryant notes, teacher resistance is growing in the “purple” state of Colorado and other regions. Bryant explains:

“The sad truth is financial austerity that has driven governments at all levels to skimp on education has had plenty of compliance, if not downright support, from centrist Democrats who’ve spent most of their political capital on pressing an agenda of “school reform” and “choice” rather than pressing for increased funding and support that schools and teachers need.”

https://dianeravitch.net/2018/04/18/john-thompson-the-oklahoma-teachers-walkout-what-we-learned/

http://nepc.colorado.edu/blog/why-teacher-uprisings

Data-driven, charter-driven reforms incentivized by the Race to the Top and edu-philanthropy likely contributed to recent walkouts by weakening unions and the professional autonomy of educators. This undermined both the political power required to fight budget cuts, and the joy of teaching and learning.

And that brings us to the question of What’s the Matter with the Tulsa Public Schools?

Whether its Dana Goldstein writing in the New York Times, Mike Elk writing for the Guardian, or Oklahoma reporters, the coverage cites disproportionate numbers of Tulsa teachers. Their complaints start with budget cuts but often mention the ways that the TPS is robbing teachers and principals of their professional autonomy.

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/my-idea-was-to-start-the-conversation-rank-and-file/article_5972c78f-30a2-52fc-9ef8-a03c961c1878.html

Goldstein notes that Deborah Gist is now allied with the Oklahoma Education Association in advocating for increased teacher salaries, even though she was “the hard-charging education commissioner in Rhode Island [who] tried to weaken teachers’ seniority protections and often clashed with their union.” I wonder, however, whether Gist’s policies have contributed to the anger and exhaustion that prompted the walkout. After all, Gist is a member of the corporate reform “Chiefs for Change,” and a Broad Academy graduate in a system with nine other Broadies, and who is now expanding charter and “partnership schools.”

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/my-idea-was-to-start-the-conversation-rank-and-file/article_5972c78f-30a2-52fc-9ef8-a03c961c1878.html

Tulsa started down a dubious policy path of “exiting” teachers around the time when Gist was attacking Rhode Island teachers. It accepted a Gates Foundation “teacher quality” grant. A Tulsa World analysis of turnover data showed that the Gates effort was followed by “a significant uptick … when it suddenly went from about 200-250 exits in any given year and jumped in 2011 to about 360-400 per year. That’s when the district began using its then-new teacher evaluation for ‘forced exits’ of teachers for performance reasons.”

From 2012 through 2014, “some 260 ‘forced exits’ were reported by TPS leaders.”

The World reports that teacher turnover grew even more after Gist arrived. Over the last two years, there has been an “exodus of 1,057, or 35 percent, of all 3,000 school-based certified staff.” The district’s average turnover rate was 21% in 2016-17, with turnover reaching 47% in one school.

And what happened to student performance? Tulsa’s test score gains are now among the lowest in the nation, with 3rd graders growing only 3.8 years during their next 5 years of schooling.

The World’s data shows that the exodus is not merely due to low salaries. About 28% of former teachers “are not in higher-paying states but in other Oklahoma school districts with comparable pay.”

The World quotes a former Tulsa teacher criticizing the implementation of “personalized learning.” He could understand how standardized laptop technology “could help bad or inexperienced teachers, but for him, it made him feel like little more than a computer lab attendant.” The teacher said the TPS “standardized it so we’re all at the low-rung of the totem pole. … That’s like a huge slap in the face for a teacher. That’s the best part of teaching for most people is to be able to design and use your creativity.”

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/tulsa-public-schools-loses-percent-of-its-teachers-in-two/article_c714f36d-f8cb-5447-9dfa-2b2c0cfc0dd9.html

Earlier this year, Tulsa teacher resistance began in Edison Preparatory School, a high-performing school with a five-year teacher turnover rate of 62%. An Advanced Placement teacher, Larry Cagle, has been quoted extensively by the national press. Cagle recounted how “year after year, high-quality teachers retire early.” So, he and fellow teachers started to address both the deterioration of school climate and the increase in turnover.

Even though Cagle has sympathy for the administration which has to face serious budget challenges, he challenges its Broad-style, top-down policies. Despite the teacher shortage, the administration is incentivizing the retirements of older teachers. It is also using philanthropic donations to fund the Education Service Center (ESC), which sounds to me like a misnomer. Its highly-paid administrators have disempowered rather than served administrators and teachers.

Cagle says, “We would like the ESC to stop lobbying philanthropists,” and start lobbying legislators.

http://www.tulsakids.com/Editors-Blog/Web-2018/Edison-Teacher-Talks-Money/

A detailed analysis by Tulsa Kids shows that the Tulsa micromanaging is consistent with that of other failed Broad-run districts. And its comments by TPS teachers is especially revealing. A teacher who worked with the Broad-laden administrative team wrote that they identified themselves as the “Super Team.”

http://www.tulsakids.com/Editors-Blog/Web-2018/Its-Not-Just-Edison/

And that helps explain why so many Tulsa teachers walked out of their classrooms before the statewide walkout. If the reign of Gist is not stopped, even the $6,100 pay increase will not be enough to start rebuilding its schools. What happens, however, if Oklahoma’s reenergized teachers fight back against the Billionaires Boys Club’s mandates? Maybe Colorado teachers will do the same with its corporate reforms that were choreographed by the Democrats for Education Reform, as Arizona teachers resist their state’s mass privatization, and Kentucky teachers challenge last year’s attacks on their state’s profession.

This is not a new article but it remains timely and worthy of your attention.

Jeb Bush runs an organization called the Foundation for Educational Excellence. Betsy DeVos was a member of his board. FEE receives corporate contributions. It works closely with ALEC, the rightwing corporate-sponsored organization that lobbies for charters, vouchers, and against teachers’ unions and tenure.

In the Public Interest was able to obtain a trove of emails that revealed the influence of FEE in several states, including Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Rhode Island.

The e-mails are between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and a group Bush set up called Chiefs for Change, whose members are current and former state education commissioners who support Bush’s agenda of school reform, which includes school choice, online education, retention of third-graders who can’t read and school accountability systems based on standardized tests. That includes evaluating teachers based on student test scores and grading schools A-F based on test scores. John White of Louisiana is a current member, as is Tony Bennett, the new commissioner of Florida who got the job after Indiana voters rejected his Bush-style reforms last November and tossed him out of office.

Donald Cohen, chair of the nonprofit In the Public Interest, a resource center on privatization and responsible for contracting in the public sector, said the e-mails show how education companies that have been known to contribute to the foundation are using the organization “to move an education agenda that may or not be in our interests but are in theirs.”

He said companies ask the foundation to help state officials pass laws and regulations that make it easier to expand charter schools, require students to take online education courses, and do other things that could result in business and profits for them. The e-mails show, Cohen said, that Bush’s foundation would often do this with the help of Chiefs for Change and other affiliated groups.