Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Last year, Nancy Bailey and I co-authored a glossary of words, terms, and the names of organizations in education today. It is called Edspeak and Doubletalk: A Glossary to Decipher Hypocrisy and Save Public Schooling. Truly, folks, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard, and this book is the scorecard for education policy today.

Nancy has a great eye for how language is used to deceive, and in this post, she warns educators to beware of the infiltration of business language into education. When those terms are used, she says, there is an effort underway to turn parents into customers and promote privatization.

Beware when your superintendent is called a “CEO” instead of a school superintendent. In some districts, the switch covers up the superintendent’s lack of proper education credentials.

Beware “alignment,” which is an effort to standardize curriculum, instruction and testing, and to squelch teacher creativity and autonomy.

Beware “benchmarks” and “data-driven” anything, which fit widgets but not students.

Beware the use of “customers” instead of “parents”:

With privatization, parents are customers who choose the school they want because the school is a business.

When communities are devoted to their public schools, they follow and attend Friday night football games. They attend class plays and cheer for student accomplishments. They visit student art fairs and help with school fundraisers. Public schools can be a source of pride for the community.

Parents and those in the community never used to be called customers because they had ownership of the schools. The schools belonged to them.

Open the link and see many other examples of business language that does not belong in the lexicon of educators.

Laura Chapman, intrepid researcher, writes here about the billionaire and corporate money supporting the rating system for schools called GreatSchools. It clearly exists to promote school choice, not community cohesion or civic responsibility. GreatSchools recently announced that it would use “growth scores” to measure school quality, not just test scores, but the difference is miniscule, and the outcome is the same: to promote segregation and school choice by linking “school quality” and test scores.

Laura Chapman writes:

Great Schools is supported by income from Scholastic, Zillow and other advertisers, who pay for packages that can push up their page views or allow them to license the school ratings. The whole website functions as a tool to perpetuate redlining, charter schools, and advocates forf school choice.

Here are the largest financial pushers of the dubious ratings:

Walton Family Foundation, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Trust, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

These big funders are offered a display of their logos. Other supporters are: America Achieves, The Charles Hayden Foundation, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, EdChoice, Heising-Simons Foundation, Innovate Public Schools, The Joyce Foundation, Excellent Schools Detroit, The Kern Family Foundation, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, and Startup: Education. These are not supporters of public schools.

This website is designed to market an ideology and a rating scheme. The Terms of use policy says: “Some information contained on the website may represent opinion or judgment… GreatSchools does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information on the website. As such, GreatSchools will not be responsible for any errors, inaccuracies, omissions or deficiencies in the information provided on the website. This information is provided “as is,” with no guarantees of completeness, non-infringement, accuracy or timeliness, and without warranties of any kind, express or implied.”

Great Schools also lists “Partners.” Sad to say, the Great Schools website, designed to steer parents away from most public schools has a partnership with the US Department of Education and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Community Action Partners” are: Choice Matters Oklahoma, Colorado Succeeds, Community Foundation of Atlanta, Delaware Department of Education, Families Empowered, Innovate Public Schools, The Indianapolis Mayor’s Office, and United Way of Central Indiana.

“Partners for Content” include the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence featuring Yale’s RULER program, a system of direct instruction in: (a) managing emotions by naming them and (b) thinking out loud about degrees of emotional intensity (energy) and pleasantness. Students learn to Recognize, Understand, Label, and Regulate their emotions at about $7,500 per school team.

The second “Content Partner” (believe it or not) is PARCC Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career. As of the 2019-2020 school year, these tests were only used in Washington DC, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. New Jersey will stop using these tests in 2020-2021.

“Other Partners” are:
–Be a Learning Hero, offers parents a “roadmap” for school readiness and test prep. Key leaders worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

–Common Sense Media is a marketing website offering parents reviews and lists of kid-suitable videos, books, other media.

–Education Cities is a network promoting school choice in 24 cities in cooperation with 31 city based organizations. The network is funded by the Broad Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Walton Family foundation.

–National PTA which claims not “to endorse any commercial product or service.” But also says “Companies making a financial contribution to PTA may be entitled to promotional consideration and, in some cases, may have limited use of PTA’s marks and assets.” Deals for members are offered by PTA’s 18 Corporate Alliances.” The National PTA also markets Common Core resources with outdated claims about these “being fully implemented.”

–Understood is devoted to serving families and children with disabilities. It is funded by15 non-profits, not counting these recent supporters: The New Teacher Center, Relay Graduate School of Education, the Achievement Network, and New Visions for Public schools,.

Great Schools also lists Bellwether Education Partners, the Center for Reinventing Public Education, Thomas B Fordham Institute, and Public Impact as “Partners. All promote charter schools as if these are “public.”

Great Schools generates and leases data to “leading real estate, technology and media websites.” Great Schools claims to be “the nation’s leading source of school performance information…. with “more than 55 million unique visitors” last year and “over half of American families with school-age children.”

Great Schools is designed to forward three real estate practices associated with parents seeking a school. The first is block busting—a process designed to promote fear among white home owners or prospective buyers that a neighborhood school brings too many low income racial minorities to the community and devalues its real estate. The second is redlining, illegal, but the practice of denying loans or property insurance to applicants based on the racial makeup of a neighborhood, including school demographics. The third and most common is steering, the real estate practice of directing homebuyers to or away from specific neighborhoods and schools based on the prospective homebuyer’s race color, religion, gender (sex), sexual orientation, disability (handicap), familial status, or national origin.

Great Schools rating schemes for “school quality” are a case study in what Cathy O’Neal has called mathematical intimidation. If you are mathematically inclined, see if you can make sense of the rating schemes available here. https://www.greatschools.org/gk/ratings-methodology/

A new reader to the blog posted her own recipe to describe “reform,” which has an unfortunate habit of failing again and again but being revived by Betsy DeVos and/or Bill Gates and the Walton Family:

Sandy Dixon Forrest Recipe for sucking in public tax money and making obscene profits on the backs of public school teachers and students: FINANCE inappropriate “standards” to be implemented by all teachers, REQUIRE the use of products which financially benefit the creator of the “goals,” SMILE as hired “cheerleaders” tout the benefits of the mandated program, BEAM proudly as profits roll into the companies producing the “magic” solution, CRINGE privately at dismal results, REWRITE the “cheerleader” script, AND THEN…drum roll, please.. BLAME the teachers for disappointing results of the non-educators’ (but obscenely wealthy) magic elixir to cure the problems of all public school students. RESULTS?! The sponsors of this hoax made buckets of money! Wave goodbye to the career teachers; TFA folks are cheaper and more (desperate) cooperative anyway. Don’t worry about the kiddos; just give them a double dose of grit. It’s all good…right?

 

David R. Taylor is a veteran teacher and blogger. He asks the important question of what to expect the consequences to be for public education if Trump is re-elected.

Very likely, it means four more years of Betsy DeVos and her crusade to destroy public education and shower federal money on charter schools, private schools, and religious schools.

Taylor reviews some of her worst actions, such as favoring predatory lenders and favoring for-profit colleges that rip off students. Such as, abandoning the kids who need her most by downplaying civil rights complaints and stripping transgender students of any protections. Such as, trying to starve her own department of funding.

Between the return of DeVos and a voucher-loving majority on the Supreme Court, public schools are in for a rough ride. We can’t change the composition of the Supreme Court (unless there is a genuine effort to expand it and add balance), but we can vote to make sure Betsy goes back to Michigan and her ten yachts.

Jan Resseger describes a grassroots effort to stave off the persistent assaults on public schools by the Republican-controlled legislature and state officials. Ohio has a large and low-performing charter sector, as well as a well-funded voucher sector that has produced no gains for students.

The privatization movement has harmed the public schools that most students attend without providing better schools. While the nation has struggled to survive the pandemic, Ohio’s legislators have remained focused on expanding their failed choice plans.

Resseger describes the work of the Northeast Ohio Friends of PublicEducation and their decision to create a website to educate the public.

Resseger writes:

In this leaderless situation with schools struggling everywhere, no matter their efforts to prepare, questions of policy have just sort of faded away—except that the privatizers are doggedly trying to co-opt the chaos in every way they can. In Ohio, the Legislature has taken advantage of the time while the public is distracted by COVID-19 to explode the number of EdChoice vouchers for private schools at the expense of public school district budgets, to neglect to address the injustices of our state’s punitive, autocratic state takeovers of the public schools in Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland, and to put off for over a year discussion of a proposed plan to fix a state school funding formula so broken that 503 of the state’s 610 school districts (80 percent) have fallen off a grossly under-funded old formula.

In recent years, most Ohio school districts have been getting exactly as much state funding as they got last year and the year before that and the year before that even if their overall enrollment has increased, the number poor children has risen, or the number of special education students has grown. And all this got even worse under the current two-year state budget, in which school funding was simply frozen for every school district at the amount allocated in fiscal year 2019. That is until this past June, when, due to the revenue shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Governor cut an additional $330 million from the money already budgeted for public schools in the fiscal year that ended June 30, thus forcing school districts to reduce their own budgets below what they had been promised. With much hoopla in the spring of 2019, the new Cupp-Patterson school funding plan was proposed. A year ago, however, research indicated (see here and here) that—partly thanks to the past decade of tax cuts in Ohio and partly due to problems in the new distribution formula itself—the new school funding proposal failed to help the state’s poorest schools districts. The analysis said that a lot of work would be required to make the plan equitable. New hearings are planned this fall, but nobody has yet reported on whether or how the Cupp-Patterson Plan has been readjusted.

In this context, discussions in the Northeast Ohio Friends of Public Education focused on our need to help ourselves and the citizens in our school districts find our way. What are the big issues? What information will help us explore and advocate effectively for policies that will ensure our schools are funded adequately and that funding is distributed equitably? In Ohio, how can we effectively push the Legislature to collect enough revenue to be able to fund the state’s 610 school districts without dumping the entire burden onto local school districts passing voted property tax levies? How can we help stop what feels like a privatization juggernaut in the Ohio Legislature? And how can federal policy be made to invest in and help the nation’s most vulnerable public schools?

The idea of a website emerged, with the idea of highlighting four core principles—with a cache of information in each section: Why Public Schools? Why More School Funding? Why Not Privatization? and Why Educational Equity? Although we have noticed that much public school advocacy these days emphasizes what public school supporters are against, we decided to frame our website instead about what we stand for as “friends of public education” even though our opposition to charter schools and private school tuition vouchers is evident in our website.

Educating the public is a crucial step in reclaiming the narrative from entrepreneurs, libertarians, and cultural vandals.

A decade ago, Richard Phelps was assessment director of the District of Columbia Public Schools. His time in that position coincided with the last ten months of Michelle Rhee’s tenure in office. When her patron Adrian Fenty lost the election for Mayor, Rhee left and so did Phelps.

Phelps writes here about what he learned while trying to improve the assessment practices of the DC Public Schools. He posts his overview in two parts, and this is part 1. The second part will appear in the next post.

Rhee asked Phelps to expand the VAM program–the use of test scores to evaluate teachers and to terminate or reward them based on student scores.

Phelps described his visits to schools to meet with teachers. He gathered useful ideas about how to make the assessments more useful to teachers and students.

Soon enough, he learned that the Central Office staff, including Rhee, rejected all the ideas he collected from teachers and imposed their own ideas instead.

He writes:

In all, I had polled over 500 DCPS school staff. Not only were all of their suggestions reasonable, some were essential in order to comply with professional assessment standards and ethics.

Nonetheless, back at DCPS’ Central Office, each suggestion was rejected without, to my observation, any serious consideration. The rejecters included Chancellor Rhee, the head of the office of Data and Accountability—the self-titled “Data Lady,” Erin McGoldrick—and the head of the curriculum and instruction division, Carey Wright, and her chief deputy, Dan Gordon.

Four central office staff outvoted several-hundred school staff (and my recommendations as assessment director). In each case, the changes recommended would have meant some additional work on their parts, but in return for substantial improvements in the testing program. Their rhetoric was all about helping teachers and students; but the facts were that the testing program wasn’t structured to help them.

What was the purpose of my several weeks of school visits and staff polling? To solicit “buy in” from school level staff, not feedback.

Ultimately, the new testing program proposal would incorporate all the new features requested by senior Central Office staff, no matter how burdensome, and not a single feature requested by several hundred supportive school-level staff, no matter how helpful. Like many others, I had hoped that the education reform intention of the Rhee-Henderson years was genuine. DCPS could certainly have benefitted from some genuine reform.

Alas, much of the activity labelled “reform” was just for show, and for padding resumes. Numerous central office managers would later work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Numerous others would work for entities supported by the Gates or aligned foundations, or in jurisdictions such as Louisiana, where ed reformers held political power. Most would be well paid.

Their genuine accomplishments, or lack thereof, while at DCPS seemed to matter little. What mattered was the appearance of accomplishment and, above all, loyalty to the group. That loyalty required going along to get along: complicity in maintaining the façade of success while withholding any public criticism of or disagreement with other in-group members.

The Central Office “reformers” boasted of their accomplishments and went on to lucrative careers.

It was all for show, financed by Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Waltons, and other philanthropists who believed in the empty promises of “reform.” It was a giant hoax.

In my daily reading, I have often come across references to “high quality seats.” [HQS]

See here. 

See here.

While googling, I saw pictures of “high quality seats,” but they looked mostly like lounge chairs, and I could not imagine a classroom filled with them unless the teacher-student ratio was 8:1, which would be a very effective classroom.

I confess that I don’t know what an HQS is.

in my naïveté, I assumed that learning requires teachers teaching and students exerting effort.

Now I see that the “high quality” learning is in the chair.

it seems to be reformer-speak for a seat in a school that is not a public school.

But since there are so many failed and closed charter schools, an HQS can’t be synonymous with a seat in a charter school. Many children in charters are in LQS (low-quality seats).

Where does one go to find a HQS? is there a store?

Do they sell them in Walmart? Not likely.

Do you know where to find the HQS that districts are searching for?

is that the simple answer to every problem?

When I googled, I inadvertently found the answer to my question. Jan Resseger wrote it in 2016. She said that the blather about HQS was a way of dodging the crucial question of paying for a good education for all children.

Maurice Cunningham, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, specializes in exposing the role of Dark Money in education. If you read my book, Slaying Goliath, you know that Cunningham’s research and blog posts helped to turn the tide against a state referendum in 2016 to expand the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. Cunningham showed that “Yes on Two” Organization was funded by billionaires and that the billionaires were hiding their identities. Despite being outspent, the parent-teacher-local school committee won handily.

In this post, originally from February, Cunningham explains why the Waltons and Charles Koch are so devoted to privatizing public school governance. He’s right that they want to lower their taxes. They also want to smash teachers’ unions; more than 90% of charters are non-union. The corporate sector doesn’t like unions, and most private unions have been eliminated. The teachers’ unions are still standing, which annoys the billionaires.

Peter Greene reviews a new charter school study from the Brookings Institution that exhibits near total ignorance of the perils of privatization. Any time that a study rests its case on DFER data, its a clue that it should not be taken seriously. DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) is an organization created by hedge fund managers to lobby for charter schools. Their “studies” and polling data supply talking points to advance their cause. Similarly, when a study cites Albert Shanker’s initial advocacy for charter schools but fails to acknowledge that he abandoned charters and concluded they were indistinguishable from vouchers, the author has done a slipshod job.

Charter schools began thirty years ago. The research on them has repeatedly demonstrated that some get higher test scores, some get lower test scores, but on average they have produced no amazing innovations, no secret sauce. The Brookings author doesn’t know that. She seems to think that charters have discovered remarkable innovations and those innovations should be replicated by public schools.

Her grand notion that charters will teach public schools how to succeed, he argues, is absurd.

He writes:

Since the [charter] movement is largely premised on the notion of unleashing free market forces–well, in that context, this proposal makes as much sense as telling MacDonald’s that they have to show Wendy’s how to make fries.

And:

There is zero reason to think that the charter world, populated primarily by education amateurs, knows anything that public school systems don’t already know. Charter success rests primarily on creaming student population (and the families thereof), pushing out students who won’t comply or are too hard to educate, extending school hours, drilling tests like crazy, having teachers work 80 hour weeks, and generally finding ways to keep out students with special needs that they don’t want to deal with. None of these ideas represent new approaches that folks in public education haven’t thought of.

And:

If charters were pioneering super-effective new strategies, we would already know. There is a well-developed grapevine in the public education world. If there were a charter that was accomplishing edu-miracles, teachers all over would be talking about it. Teachers who left that charter would take the secret sauce recipe with them, and pretty soon it would be being shared across the country. After decades of existence, charters do not have a reputation in the education world for being awesome–and there’s a reason for that. Puff pieces and PR pushes may work on the general public and provide fine marketing, but that’s not what sells other teachers.

Short answer– if charters knew something really awesome and impressive, public school teachers would already know and already be copying it.

Maybe the author of this paper should meet with Andre Perry, who led charters in New Orleans and left disillusioned. He is also at Brookings.

The IDEA charter chain hopes to double its enrollment in Texas. This is the free-spending chain that planned to lease a private jet for $2 million a year but backed off after bad publicity; that flies its executives and their families in first-class; that bought premium box seats for professional basketball games; that pays its executives exorbitant salaries; that has received more than $200 million in federal funding from Betsy DeVos.

If the expansion plan goes forward, the IDEA enrollment will grow from 50,000 to nearly 100,000; its annual budget will grow from half a billion to one billion. This is larger than the budget of the University of Texas at Austin. Just in the past five years, IDEA’s budget has tripled.

One state representative called for an audit, but was careful to praise the organization that is gobbling up public dollars and sucking the life out of community public schools.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE TERRY CANALES CALLS FOR COMPREHENSIVE STATE AUDIT OF IDEA PUBLIC SCHOOLS

For Immediate Release
August 18, 2020
Contact: Curtis Smith
(512) 463-0426 office

AUSTIN, TX – In a letter addressed to Commissioner Mike Morath of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Texas First Assistant State Auditor Lisa Collier, State Representative Terry Canales calls for a comprehensive and multi-agency audit of the IDEA Public Schools (IDEA) after recent disclosures of lavish expenditures for its executives. These disclosures included leasing of a private jet solely for the use of top IDEA officials and their families, chauffeured limousines, advertisements during the Super Bowl and World Series, travel expenses of over $14 million, and many more similar expenditures.

IDEA receives approximately half a billion dollars a year from the State of Texas to educate students. It has plans to almost double its enrollment to 97,000 students and add 27 new campuses by the end of 2021. If approved, state funding could double to approximately $1 billion annually. Additional state oversight is needed to ensure that state dollars are spent for their intended purpose and to prevent questionable use of state funds in the future.

“As public servants, the State has an obligation to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used for their intended purposes, and the recent disclosures of the expenditures at IDEA are alarming—to say the least,” said Rep. Canales. “Texas must ensure that our tax dollars are not being used for purchases like private jets and Super Bowl advertisements. I believe IDEA’s recent actions have raised clear and pressing concerns surrounding IDEA’s financial decisions. Other contracts, state agencies, and even universities that receive far fewer state dollars than IDEA receive more state oversight. So, given IDEA’s questionable expenditures, a financial audit of IDEA only makes sense,” continued Canales. “Let me be clear, I do not believe any of our neighborhood schools are at issue here. I salute the hardworking teachers and students of IDEA, and I wholeheartedly support the work that they are doing. I believe this issue is solely at the executive level of the school district.” said Rep. Canales.

A state audit conducted jointly by the Office of the State Auditor and TEA may ensure that public funds are used efficiently for their intended purpose and may improve public trust. An audit also may reveal the need for possible legislative changes to increase oversight and reduce risk to the State of Texas. For more information, contact the Office of State Representative Terry Canales.

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, is the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and a member of the Sunset Advisory Commission. Rep. Canales represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County, which includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.

Is Commissioner Mike Morath in IDEA’s pocket? Stay tuned.