Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Thomas Ultican has analyzed the billionaire funders behind the pro-Disruption, anti-democracy website “Education Post.”

The major funders are the usual members of the Billionaire Boys and Girls Club: Bloomberg, Waltons, Chan Zuckerberg, and Mrs. Jobs.

Please open and read his post.

If you thought the Disrupters might have softened their tone during the pandemic, like, as a show of decency, you will be disappointed. They are still attacking, vilifying, and mocking anyone daring to defend public education, which is a cornerstone of our democracy. It must really upset them that after all these years and billions spent on privatization, only 6% of American students enroll in charter schools.

For some reason, I am one of their prime targets. I suppose I should take it as a compliment.

I will never answer in kind.

They are swimming in cash, but what they cannot buy is civility, kindness, compassion, or dignity.

Washington State has experienced a long history of turmoil over charter schools.

It has held four state referenda over whether they should be allowed in the state. They are opposed by school boards, teachers’ unions, PTAs, and civil rights groups.

Bill Gates and his billionaire clique really wanted the state to have charter schools. So in 2012, they amassed a war chest and outspent the parents, teacher’s, and civil rights groups by a ratio of 17-1. The referendum passed by 1%.

Then the state’s highest court declared that charter schools are not public schools and can’t draw from the public school fund, because they don’t have elected school boards.

Next step, Gates and his friends spend big money to defeat the state court judges that opposed charter schools, but the justices won anyway.

So Gates’ surrogates go to the legislature and seek to get lottery money to support the charters that Bill wants so badly. Eager to please one of the state’s richest people (Bezos is the richest), the legislature dedicates the lottery to Bill’s charters.

After a few years, Gates commissions a CREDO evaluation of his charters, and CREDO says they don’t get different results than the state’s public schools.

Meanwhile, some of the charters close because of low enrollment.

But undaunted, Bill Gates presses forward.

Last week, Governor Jay Inslee signed bipartisan legislation to make sure that the Washington State Charter School Association could hire an e ecutive director and other staff.

Questions: since the charter schools serve no public purpose, why should the state pay for the employees of their lobby? Since the charters don’t get better results than public schools, why are they needed? Since the whole charter sector is tiny and ineffective, why doesn’t Gates pay for it himself?

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Wednesday that Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, sponsored to enhance administration capabilities at state charter schools.

House Bill 2853 will allow the Washington State Charter School Commission to hire an executive director and other employees.

The House and Senate approved the bill by large bipartisan majorities.

Harris did not attend Wednesday’s bill signing due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, but he put out a statement applauding the action.

“I’m very happy for our charter schools,” he said. “I believe every school in Washington, whether it’s public, private or chartered, deserves the opportunity to be successful. When our schools are successful, our kids are successful.”

Makes sense. The public must fund the charter lobbyists so that charter schools get more money. Don’t expect Gates to pay for his hobby, even though his net worth is more than $100 billion.

In this recent article, Jeff Bryant examines Florida’s shameful response to the pandemic. As usual, legislators and Governor DeSanris took advantage of the crisis to add another voucher program, which will drain another $200 million from public schools to support for woefully inadequate voucher schools.

He writes:


“The COVID-19 crisis reveals the true intentions of people,” Kathleen Oropeza told me during a phone call. Oropeza is a public school mom in Orlando and founder of Fund Education Now, a non-partisan grassroots effort to advocate for public education in Florida.

Her remark was in the context of concerns about how state officials were governing schools as the coronavirus was spreading across the state and generating fears of how the disease would affect schools and families.

Days after the first victims tested positive in the state and the first deaths were reported, Florida lawmakers in the House seemed oblivious to the impending crisis and instead passed new legislation to expand the state’s voucher program, thus diverting an additional $200 million from the state’s public schools.

The bill passed despite evidence that many of the private schools that would receive the voucher money openly discriminate against LGBTQ children and families, are not required to hire certified teachers, and generally provide a subpar education.

But there is a bright side to the current crisis:

The rash of canceled tests across the country caused some knowledgeable observers to speculate on Twitter that the testing industry would not be able to withstand the financial difficulties of a nationwide cancelation. But what is also in danger is the whole policy imperative of the market-based education agenda.

Much in the same way that widespread teacher walkouts and the Red for Ed movement over the past two years revealed the overwhelming need for government officials to increase funding and support for frontline teachers, the mounting fallout of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing politicians and policymakers to acknowledge the importance of schools as vital community institutions that need resources and support rather than fiscal austerity, privatization, and punitive accountability—the pillars of the market-based education movement.

Even amidst the avalanche of reported school closings, advocates of the market-based approach were lamenting the failure of their decades-long efforts.

“Neither standards and accountability nor charter schools have lived up to their promoters’ lofty aspirations. And there is much public unhappiness with school reform,” wrote Kevin Carey in an analysis for the Washington Post. Carey, a policy analyst for a Washington, D.C., think tank that favored the education reform agenda, worked for years in policy shops that pushed market-based agendas.

Carey noted a rising political opposition to market-based education advocates from the right and the left, including Tea Party Republicans who object to Common Core Standards and federal overreach in local decision-making and among progressive Democrats who are angered by the unfairness and inequities caused by market-based solutions.

But while he asserted that “School reform began with the civil rights movement,” he completely ignored the econometric principles that ended up driving privatization policies rather than the moral values of human rights and justice that powered the civil rights movement. Market-based education advocates have long obsessed over rigid standards, outcome measures, and competition from charter schools rather than providing schools and students with what they really needed, especially in communities that rely heavily on schools as anchor institutions.

Will elected officials and think tank analysts recognize the failure of standards, testing,
accountability, competition, and market-based policies to close achievement gaps, to reduce poverty, to lift up the neediest students, and to achieve any of their alleged goals?

Please: would the “reformers” acknowledge the failure of their prescriptions and stop claiming, without a shred of evidence, that annual standardized testing is a “civil right,” when it is actually stigmatizing children who are repeatedly labeled as “failures” by the testing indistry?

Kevin Kumashiro, leader of a Deans for Justice and Equity, has written an appeal addressed to Educators and Scholars of Color. It invites their endorsement of a statement opposing failed “reforms” that have stigmatized and harmed children of color and other vulnerable students. Please share this statement with your friends and colleagues. Invite them to sign to demonstrate that they do not believe that failed “reforms” should be foisted on students who need experienced teachers and well-funded classrooms.

Dear Friends and Colleagues: All educators of color and educational scholars of color in the United States are invited to sign onto a statement (“This Must End Now: Educators and Scholars of Color Against Failed Educational “Reforms”) that calls for an end to billionaire-backed, so-called “reforms” that are devastating schools, particularly for students of color and low-income students.

If you are eligible, please review the statement and consider joining this nationwide collective; and whether or not you are eligible, please help to spread the word to other educators/scholars of color (including academics, K-12 educators and leaders, etc.) to join us as we build and leverage our collective voices in reframing the public narrative, speaking out against failed initiatives, and putting forth a more just vision for our schools and communities.

The deadline to sign is March 31st, and the statement will be released publicly soon after. Here’s the statement and the form to sign on:

https://forms.gle/dLdE5raLnx2Z7SJz7

We are particularly eager to move this forward in the midst of a public health crisis, which is significantly impacting schools, and which we cannot imagine will not lead to more devastating reforms being foisted upon us in the name of managing crisis.

Thank you, and in solidarity,
Kevin Kumashiro

***
Kevin Kumashiro, Ph.D.
https://www.kevinkumashiro.com
Movement building for equity and justice in education

Here is the statement, which has been signed by 301 educators and scholars of color as of March 22.

THIS MUST END NOW:

Educators & Scholars of Color Against Failed Educational “Reforms”

The public is being misled. Billionaire philanthropists are increasingly foisting so-called “reform” initiatives upon the schools that serve predominantly students of color and low-income students, and are using black and brown voices to echo claims of improving schools or advancing civil rights in order to rally community support. However, the evidence to the contrary is clear: these initiatives have not systematically improved student success, are faulty by design, and have already proven to widen racial and economic disparities. Therefore, we must heed the growing body of research and support communities and civil-rights organizations in their calls for a more accurate and nuanced understanding of the problems facing our schools, for a retreat from failed “reforms,” and for better solutions:

• Our school systems need more public investment, not philanthropic experimentation; more democratic governance, not disenfranchisement; more guidance from the profession, the community, and researchers, not from those looking to privatize and profiteer; and more attention to legacies of systemic injustice, racism, and poverty, not neoliberal, market-based initiatives that function merely to incentivize, blame, and punish.

• Our teachers and leaders need more, better, and ongoing preparation and support, more professional experience and community connections, and more involvement in shared governance and collective bargaining for the common good, not less.

• Our vision should be that every student receives the very best that our country has to offer as a fundamental right and a public good; not be forced to compete in a marketplace where some have and some have not, and where some win and many others lose.

The offer for “help” is alluring, and is reinforced by Hollywood’s long history of deficit-oriented films about white teachers saving poorer black and brown students from suffering, as if the solution consisted merely of uplifting and inspiring individuals, rather than of tackling the broader system of stratification that functions to fail them in the first place. Today, more than ever before, the “help” comes in the form of contingent financing for education, and the pressure to accept is intense: shrinking public resources, resounding claims of scarcity, and urgent calls for austerity make it seem negligent to turn down sizable financial incentives, even when such aid is tied to problematic reforms.

The growing number of funders includes high-profile foundations and obscure new funders (including but not limited to the Arnold Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bradley Foundation, Broad Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, City Fund, DeVos family foundations, Gates Foundation, Koch family foundations, and Walton Family Foundation), and for the most part, have converged on what counts as worthwhile and fundable, whether leaning conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat (see, for example, the platform of Democrats for Education Reform). Such funders may be supporting some grassroots initiatives, but overall, mega-philanthropy in public education exemplifies the 21st-century shift from traditional donating that supported others’ initiatives with relatively smaller grants, to venture financing that offers funding pools of unprecedented size and scale but only to those who agree to implement the funders’ experiments. Belying the rhetoric of improving schools is the reality that such experiments are making struggling schools look less and less like the top performing schools for the elite, and do so by design, as with the following:

• The Portfolio Model. 



Exemplified in the early 2000s by the turnaround-school reforms in Chicago Public Schools and Race to the Top, and increasingly shaping urban districts across the country today, the “portfolio model” decentralizes decision making, expands school choice, holds schools accountable through performance measures like student testing, and sanctions failing schools with restructuring or closure, incentivizing their replacements in the form of charter schools. This model purports that marketizing school systems will lead to system improvement, and that student testing carries both validity and reliability for high-stakes decisions, neither of which is true.



Instead of improving struggling schools, what results are growing racial disparities that fuel gentrification for the richer alongside disinvestment from the poorer. The racially disparate outcomes should not be surprising, given the historical ties between mass standardized testing and eugenics, and even today, given the ways that “norm referencing” in test construction guarantees the perpetuation of a racialized achievement curve. Yet, the hallmarks of the portfolio model are taught in the Broad Superintendents Academy that prepares an increasingly steady flow of new leaders for urban districts, and not surprisingly, that has produced the leaders that have been ousted in some of the highest profile protests by parents and teachers in recent years. This is the model that propels the funding and incubation of school-choice expansion, particularly via charter schools, through such organizations as the NewSchools Venture Fund and various charter networks whose leaders are among the trainers in the Broad Academy. Imposing this model on poorer communities of color is nefarious, disingenuous, and must end.


• Choice, Vouchers, Charters. 



The expansion of school choice, including vouchers (and neo-voucher initiatives, like tax credits) and charter schools, purports to give children and parents the freedom to leave a “failing” school. However, the research on decades of such programs does not give any compelling evidence that such reforms lead to system improvement, instead showing increased racial segregation, diversion of public funding from the neediest of communities, neglect of students with disabilities and English-language learners, and more racial disparities in educational opportunity. This should not be surprising: choice emerged during the Civil Rights Movement as a way to resist desegregation; vouchers also emerged during this time, when the federal government was growing its investment into public education, as a way to privatize public school systems and divert funding to private schools for the elite; and charter schools emerged in the 1990s as laboratories for communities to shape their own schools, but have become the primary tool to privatize school systems.



Yes, choice and vouchers give some students a better education, but in many areas, students of color and low-income students are in the minority of those using vouchers. Yes, some charters are high performing, but overall, the under-regulation of and disproportionate funding for charter schools has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in waste (and even more in corporate profits) that could otherwise have gone to traditional public schools. The NAACP was right when it resolved that privatization is a threat to public education, and in particular, called for a moratorium on charter-school expansion; and the NAACP, MALDEF, ACLU, and other national civil-rights organizations have opposed voucher expansion. Diverting funds towards vouchers, neo-vouchers, and charters must end.


• Teacher Deprofessionalization. 



The deprofessionalization of teaching—including the undermining of collective bargaining and shared governance, and the preferential hiring of underprepared teachers—is foregrounded in charter schools (which often prohibit unionization and hire a disproportionate number of Teach for America teachers), but affects the teaching force in public schools, writ large. The mega-philanthropies are not only anti-union, having supported (sometimes rhetorically, sometimes resourcefully) the recent wave of anti-union bills across the states; but more broadly, are anti-shared governance, supporting the shift toward top-down management forms (including by for-profit management at the school level, and unelected, mayor-appointed boards at the district level). 



The weakening of the profession is also apparent in the philanthropies’ funding of fast-track routes to certification, not only for leaders (like with New Leaders for New Schools), but also for classroom teachers, like with the American Board for Certification of Teaching Excellence, and more notably, Teach for America (TFA). TFA accelerates the revolving door of teachers by turning teaching into a brief service obligation, justified by a redefining of quality teacher away from preparedness, experience, and community connectedness to merely being knowledgeable of subject matter (and notably, after the courts found that TFA teachers did not meet the definition of “highly qualified,” Congress would remove the requirement that every student have a “highly qualified” teacher in its 2015 reauthorization of ESEA, thus authorizing the placement of underprepared teachers in the neediest of schools). 



Parents are being lied to when told that these “reforms” of weakening unions and lessening professional preparation will raise the quality of teachers for their children. Yes, some teachers and leaders from alternative routes are effective and well-intended, but outliers should not drive policy. Students are being lied to when told that choosing such pathways is akin to joining the legacy of civil-rights struggles for poorer communities of color. Not surprisingly, the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives have called out how initiatives like TFA appeal to our desire to serve and help, but shortchange the students who need and deserve more.

We, as a nationwide collective of educators of color and educational scholars of color, oppose the failed reforms that are being forced by wealthy philanthropists onto our communities with problematic and often devastating results. These must end now. We support reforms that better serve our students, particularly in poorer communities of color, and we stand ready to work with lawmakers, leaders, school systems, and the public to make such goals a reality.

If you have an hour to spare, you might enjoy this no-holds-barred interview by Leonard Lopate, asking questions of me about SLAYING GOLIATH.

When I was in San Francisco, I talked about SLAYING GOLIATH with Susan Solomon, president of United Educators of San Francisco. It was videotaped by CSPAN Book TV and has been broadcast.

Here is the full interview:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?468918-1/slaying-goliath

Now that most public gatherings have been canceled, I am happy to share this conversation with you.

Please let me know what you think about the discussion. I appreciate your feedback.

If you read the book and like it, please do me the great favor of giving a copy to a local school board member and/or your state legislator.

The way to improve public education is to educate the public.

Two important chapters in SLAYING GOLIATH that you should pay attention to: Why standardized testing preserves the achievement gap (it is built into the design); and what cognitive scientists in the 21st century have learned about the sources of motivation.

Standardized tests are normed on a bell curve. The bell curve never closes. Advantaged kids dominate the top half. That’s true of every standardized test.

Rev./Dr. Anika Whitfield of Grassroots Arkansas issued this stern complaint against school board member Chad Pekron:

In case any of you reading this post for one minute thinks/thought that Gov. @AsaHutchinson is not working the plan of the billionaire Walton family, the Stephens, Hussman and other millionaires to profit off the backs of African American/Black and Latinx American children and families by destroying the LRSD and public schools in Arkansas, think again.

Atty @ChadPekron was appointed to the AR State Board of Education in July 2019, the same time the State Board of Education should have been preparing the LRSD community for a November 2019 school board election.

***We still don’t have an elected school board five years after the state stole the LRSD from our community.***

What unfolded in his short time as a State Board of Education director/member was a planned distraction. Pekron appeared to be one of the few board members who realized that the LRSD community was being attacked unfairly. But, just when you thought he might have a heart for justice (considering he is an attorney), he was the one, in the end, who pulled out the dagger and bludgeoned the hope for local control to be restored to the LRSD and justice to be realized civilly.

Not sure how this parent of five children can rest any night knowing he has caused so much trauma and destruction in the lives of tens of thousands of children, their families, their educators, and their neighborhoods?

Atty #ChadPekron, would you ever stand for any attorney, Governor or billionaires denying your children, family and community their human rights, Democracy and justice as you participated in so ruthlessly doing to innocent children and families in Little Rock?

Shame on you. SHAME on you!

Local activists who fight to return democratic control refuse to bow to the powerful Walton family, who own the governor and the legislature.

Jeanne Kaplan served two terms on the elected board of education in Denver. She has been an outspoken critic of the Disruption policies of the Michael Bennet-Tom Boasberg era, and she worked with other parents and activists in Denver against the monied interests that promoted Disruption, high-stakes testing, and charters in that city.

Miraculously, a new board was elected last fall which had a majority of advocates for public education. But they have implemented none of the changes they promised.

In this post, she wonders why the new, supposedly pro-public education board has been so passive.

Her post begins:

On November 5, 2019 Denver voters gave education reform an “F” which was reflected by the election of three new board members, none of whom was supported by the usual suspects in Denver’s education reform landscape: DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), SFER (Students for Education Reform), Stand for Children or as I recently heard referred to as STOMP ON CHILDREN. The three winners – Tay Anderson, Scott Baldermann, and Brad Laurvick, joined two other non-reform members to make what should have been an easy 5-2 majority. Taking action to undo the District’s business model of education reform should have been a gimme. It is now four months later, and while there are members who want to see the District go in a new direction, the sense of urgency is definitely not there. The new majority appears to be unwilling or stymied as how best to make essential change and how best to honor the voters’ desires. I have attended various DPS events these past few weeks, and I was struck by how easily it could have been 2009 or 2013 or 2017. Many of the same people are in charge, most of the same policies are being pursued, the same policy governance baloney is being pushed. Education reform continues to dominate the conversation and decision making. The window of opportunity for this board to act is closing rapidly and before we know it, a new election cycle will be upon us. Denver Board of Education – it is incumbent upon you to act now. If you continue to drag your feet, we will lose another generation to education reform and its portfolio model. Some possibilities as how to proceed and achieve change quickly follow:

The Board must begin a search for a new superintendent. Superintendent Susana Cordova and all of her senior team must be replaced. For a short while I believed Ms. Cordova could stay without her current senior staff, but it has become apparent that that would be an unworkable situation. All who are so deeply vested in the education reform direction the District has followed need to be replaced by qualified leaders who are not afraid to admit the failures of the last 15 years and who are willing to develop a bold, new direction for the District. The current leadership in DPS is wedded too heavily to the past (some might call it the status quo). Denverites want change and have said so clearly in the past two elections. The only way for that to happen is for a complete change in top leadership. In a recent post written specifically for Loving Community Schools Newsletter, The CURE, education historian and hero of the transformers’ movement Diane Ravitch said this:

“The new Denver school board should use this unique opportunity to repudiate the failed “reforms” of the past decade. They have not closed achievement gaps; they have not improved the opportunities of all children. They have failed.

“It is time for the school board to find new leadership willing to strike out in a new direction. That means leaders who do not define schooling by deeply flawed standardized tests and who understand that a great public education system benefits all children, not just a few.”

The Board must take back power it has ceded to the superintendent.

It must:

*decide what board meeting agendas should look like.
*direct the superintendent to direct the staff to follow up on Board Directors’ subjects of interest.
*consider returning to two public board meetings per month. That used to be the norm until the Bennet/Boasberg regimes. The reduction in meetings has resulted in less transparency and fewer meaningful public discussions.
*revise policies DJA and DJA-R so the threshold for Board approved purchases is lowered from the current $1 million.
*reduce the number and length of PowerPoint presentations. One thing DPS has improved over the past 15 years is its PowerPoint presentations. They are now very colorful, very long, and very, very obtuse. No more “Death by PowerPoint.”

The Board must change the budget and educational priorities from one based on reform-oriented tenets and expenditures to one that reflects priorities voted for in the elections of 2017 and 2019.
SPF – Accountability based on data, data, data which is based on testing, testing, testing. Why is the District continuing to pursue and spend taxpayer money on a flawed, racist, punitive, inequitable accountability system upon which most of its other educational decisions are based? While the SPF is being “re-imagined” and the possibility of using the state system is being considered, few board members seem willing to tackle real change which could result in a wholly different accountability system. Why is the Board not directing the staff to develop an entirely new accountability system focused on “school stories,” for example, based on things other than test scores? Why is the Board unwilling to make real change but instead seems satisfied to just nibble at the edges?

Choice – A complicated, expensive to operate, stressful system where the number of “choices” has increased from five schools to twelve schools per student. Who could really be satisfied with a number past even five? Is this just another way for DPS to pretend a reform is working by saying “XX% got one of their top choices. Look. It’s working!” And why is the Board majority allowing the District to continue to ignore focusing on most family’s first Choice, their neighborhood schools? What are the costs of Choice from implementation to transportation and everything in between? And how could that money not be better spent in the classroom?
Charter Schools – these “publicly funded, privately managed ‘public’ schools” seem to have it both ways; they are funded with taxpayer dollars, yet they are not overseen by our duly elected officials. The Board must work with the legislature to bring more transparency, oversight and accountability to charter schools in general. (See next section). Just last week in a 2 hour, 27 page PowerPoint presentation, DPS had a Focus on Achievement study session devoted to “Positive Culture Change for Educators of Color.” None of the data reflected Charter School recruitment, hiring, demographics, retention, turnover. Nothing. The head of Human Resources actually said, “We do not include charters in this data. Charters are not required to provide their employee data or demographic data to the District.” (minute 39) WHAAAT?? Sixty out of 200 schools are charters. 20%. No accountability to the Board. As for bond and mill levy monies? Same thing. DPS is touted for sharing these funds with its charters, yet once again there is no oversight and accountability for the charters.

Bonuses – Awarding bonuses is one of those business practices that works better in the private sector than the public sector. As DPS has plowed forward with all things reform, bonuses have become a huge part of its model. Teachers earn bonuses based on criteria established in the 2019 strike settlement. The dollar amount per year starts at $750 and can go as high $6000 a year. Administrators earn bonuses based on criteria established by, one assumes, by the superintendent. Denver’s Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC) has engaged a financial analytics consultant to analyze salary and expenditure trends within the DPS budget. Detailed compensation data for the fiscal years ending 2014 – 2019 was provided by DPS to INC through a Colorado Open Records Act request.

From this data, DPS is showing that the largest beneficiaries of Bonus Compensation were those in the “Administrator” job classification. For the six-year period, Administrators received 82% ($3.8 million) of the total bonuses paid ($4.6 million). What’s more, the 20 highest bonused Administrators received 33%, or $1.4 million of the overall $4.6 million. Let that sink in – $1.4 million paid from 2014-2019 went to 20 Administrators. In a District strapped for cash. In a District that is asking teachers to make up a budgetary shortfall by increasing their pension contributions.

Please read the rest of the post. It is all sensible and reasonable. It is time for the board to represent the constituents who asked for a change in the status quo.

I confess that I was very disappointed by the review of my new book in the New York Times. The reviewer thought that I should have presented “both sides,” not argued on behalf of public schools, which enroll 85-90% of American children. If we starve the public schools that enroll most children, we harm them and the future of our society. I debated whether to respond on this blog but then decided against it. Sometimes it is best to remain silent.

Happily, Neil Kulick, a teacher, critiqued the review. He posted his comment here.

Thank you, Neil!

He writes:

Your new book gives public school teachers (like me) hope. You are truly our champion. Thank you.

A while back, I read the review of “Slaying Goliath” in the NY Times. I did not quite like the review. Here is my reply to it:

Readers of Annie Murphy Paul’s review of Diane Ravitch’s “Slaying Goliath” (in the February 2 NYT Book Review) can be forgiven for thinking that Professor Ravitch has lost her way and written a book in which she exults in the failures of all who are interested in strengthening our public schools.

In fact, “Slaying Goliath” is a work of meticulous scholarship that chronicles the failure of every single “reform” in recent decades, most of them market-based (as if children or their teachers were commodities, or schools factories) and virtually all funded by billionaires who know little about teaching and learning but are glad to call the shots when it comes to our schools. Professor Ravitch is not against reform but rather the particular set of “reforms” that have been foisted on our public schools and our teachers and students, including so-called merit pay and the oddity of evaluating teachers based on their students’ test scores. Her book ends with a call for genuine reform, which would require adequately funding our public schools so that they have a fair chance of educating a population that includes so many children born into poverty and who come to school already behind and lacking the supports at home of their more affluent peers. It would also require funding programs to support impoverished families. Our public schools are not broken; our society is.

Professor Ravitch accurately terms those who push (and, astonishingly, continue to push) for these failed reforms “disrupters,” because the purpose or effect of their actions is to undermine the very institution of the public school. And yes, Professor Ravitch does name names. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, for one, is not an advocate of public schools. Rather she favors “choice,” as if that were an end in itself. But that choice does not include a well-funded public school for every child, though if Secretary DeVos had her way it would include a charter school. Charter schools, unfortunately, are generally no better than public schools, and some are militaristic, so that students learn not to question but to obey. Nor are charters known for serving the needs of children with learning disabilities or who have emotional or behavioral problems or for whom English is not their first language. They do, however, succeed in draining money from public schools.

Ultimately, Professor Ravitch is optimistic, believing that today’s “reformers” will inevitably lose, despite their vast wealth, because the “resisters” — parents and grandparents, schoolchildren, and their teachers — are multitudinous and motivated by passion. And they cannot be bought. As a public school teacher, I hope Professor Ravitch is right.

Some might wonder why public schools matter. Apart from the fact that the vast majority of American schoolchildren attend them, public schools are our best hope for a flourishing democracy. In public schools, children from diverse backgrounds come together as one community. They learn together, and they learn from each other. John Dewey understood how essential public schools are to our way of life: “A democracy,” he wrote, “is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience.”* It is just this “conjoint communicated experience” that public schools afford.

Mike Deshotels reviews the past several years of “reform,” funded by the Walton Family and Michael Bloomberg, and declares that every part of it has failed.

Deshotels writes that the suspension of recess so that students could have more time for test prep led to lower test scores!

He writes:

Why isn’t constant drilling on test taking skills at the expense of recess, PE, art, music, vocational education, and other “less important” instruction producing higher test scores? Maybe because the current trend to ignore fundamental child development principle’s is harmful in every way, including killing the joy of schooling for both children and teachers! Teachers in Finland, whose students perform at the top of the rankings on international achievement tests, routinely take young children outdoors where they can play, investigate nature and develop normally as they are programmed by their genes to do. Why do American reformers insist on counteracting nature and instead have transformed our education system to motivation killing test drudgery?

It was equally stupid to remove teachers from the decision-making process and leave it to legislators and the state education department. What a bad idea!

This outrageous trampling on the rights and critical input of the teaching profession in education decisions has actually resulted in the opposite of what our non-educator reformers said they wanted to do. Do you think our government can stop the Corona virus by ignoring the recommendations of the highly trained experts in disease prevention? The same is true of refusing to listen to real teachers about education reform. Do you believe, as the reformers would have you believe, that education reform in Louisiana is really working in preparing students for college and careers? Are you willing to ignore the most recent devastating revelation by our own Board of Regents that after all the reforms imposed on K-12 education in Louisiana, only 18 out of one hundred of our students will attain a college degree of any kind. Not even a two year associate’s degree! These are the worst results I have ever seen! Don’t blame the teachers. Teacher attended the legislative committee proposing these changes by the thousands to protest these untested ideas, only to be scolded for having the nerve to come to Baton Rouge on a school day (but that was the only time the Education committee was meeting!). Now the chickens are coming home to roost and thousands of our most dedicated teachers have left the profession.

Who has been making decisions? The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, exactly the worst people to decide how to educate the state’s children.

The stranglehold over control of public education by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry promises even more failure with the upcoming appointment of John White’s replacement.
Make no mistake about it, LABI has had almost total control over K-12 education for over 4 years since they used Michael Bloomburg’s and Walton family contributions to totally purchase all the BESE elected positions. They have made nothing but bad decisions with all this power. The school privatization they pushed has been almost a total failure with data showing that students who stay in their public schools do significantly better than they do when they move to a voucher or charter school.

Now LABI is preparing to pick the state’s next superintendent to succeed the failed John White, who mastered the art of spinning data to make it look good when it wasn’t. Of course, they are pushing White’s loyal assistant.

Let’s look at some of the real results of LABI supported reforms. On their web site, LABI claims that Louisiana is closing the achievement gap between privileged and underprivileged students. Data demonstrates instead that the exact opposite is true. They are also dead wrong claiming that ACT scores are improving. LABI is now down to apparently basing its education policies on wishful thinking rather than evidence.

The same is true of teacher evaluations based on student test scores using our defective state tests. LABI has insisted that Louisiana evaluate its teachers partially on student test scores. But all the data proves that the VAM system used is unstable and inaccurate. So a couple of years ago I got thrown off of a state committee studying changes to VAM because I had the nerve to state on my blog that LABI was like the dog that caught the truck with this whole VAM fiasco. They don’t have any idea what to do with VAM but they will never admit they were wrong. Meanwhile some very competent and dedicated teachers have had their careers ruined by VAM and thousands of great teachers have left the profession.

Louisiana has been fully in the grips of the Disruption Machine. It has fallen to the bottom of NAEP, which John White hailed as “proof” that the state had enacted higher standards. More failure like that and Louisiana will fall below Alabama and New Mexico, the lowest performing states.

Louisiana has bought into all the favorite remedies of “reform” (aka disruption), and there is nothing to show for it but failure, propaganda, and lies.