Archives for category: Education Industry

Anemona reports in the New York Times that the College Board has abandoned its plans to deliver ((sell) an online SAT. More than 1200 colleges and universities are now test-optional. The University of California’s decision a few weeks ago to forego thevSAT as an admission requirement was a huge blow to the College Board’s business plans.

The College Board said on Tuesday that it would postpone plans to offer an online version of the SAT for high school students to take at home this year, further muddying a ritual of the college application process that had already been thrown into chaos by the coronavirus.

After canceling test dates this spring, the board announced in mid-April that it was developing a digital version of the SAT to be introduced if the pandemic continued to require social distancing in the fall, which would make it hard for the nonprofit organization to provide enough testing dates and centers.

But in its latest statement, the board said the technological challenges of developing an online test that all students could take had led to the decision to drop it. Some 2.2 million students took the SAT last year, the College Board said.

“Taking it would require three hours of uninterrupted, video-quality internet for each student, which can’t be guaranteed for all,” the board said, acknowledging the technology gap facing lower-income students, which could further exacerbate inequities in access to higher education.

The organization added that it would continue to deliver an online version of the SAT at some schools, but would not “introduce the stress that could result from extended at-home testing in an already disrupted admissions season.”

Bob Schaeffer, the head of FairTest, which is opposed to the use of standardized tests in college admissions, said the College Board was “simply conceding the inevitable.”

Its decision came after the organization had a rocky experience last month introducing a digital version of the Advanced Placement exams, which it also oversees. Many students complained that they were not able to submit their answer sheets electronically, and their tests were disqualified.

Mr. Schaeffer’s group and several students and parents have filed a class-action lawsuit seeking to force the College Board to score the rejected answer sheets. The College Board said less than 1 percent of students who had taken the test were affected.

The College Board asked colleges and universities on Tuesday to “show flexibility” to the millions of students who were not able to take the SAT this spring because of cancellations. It asked colleges to extend deadlines for receiving test scores, and to give equal consideration to students who were unable to take the test because of the pandemic.

The SAT’s rival exam, the ACT, said on Tuesday that it still planned to offer a remote option in the fall.

The advocacy group called Public Funds a Public Schools gathered a useful archive of research studies of vouchers.

The studies were conducted by nonpartisan academic and federal researchers.

The findings are broadly congruent.

Voucher schools are academically inferior to public schools.

Voucher schools divert funding from public schools, which enroll most children.

Voucher programs lack accountability.

The absence of oversight promotes fraud and corruption.

Voucher programs do not help students with disabilities.

Voucher schools are allowed to discriminate against certain groups of students and families.

Voucher programs exacerbate segregation.

Voucher programs don’t work, don’t improve education, and have multiple negative effects.

Community organizer Jitu Brown and I will be in conversation on Wednesday June 3 at 7:30 pm EST.

Please sign up and join us.

Jitu Brown is the leader of Journey for Justice, a civil rights organization with chapters in 25 cities.

We will talk about the murder of George Floyd, about racism in America today, about the legacy of Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, about Jitu’s fight to prevent the closing of the Walter H. Dyett High School in Chicago, and much more.

Thomas Ultican, retired teacher of advanced math and physics, has been analyzing the depredations of the privatization movement, which dares to call itself a “reform” movement, thus debasing the plain meaning of reform.

In this post, he digs into the machinations of the billionaire privatizers and their plans to buy and privatize the public schools of Oakland, California. Their tentacles reach far, and they have paid for seats on the school board as well as a panoply of organizations, who have a common purpose.

They don’t care that they have failed and failed and failed to improve the education of the children of Oakland. Their goal is power, and they have always been able to pay people to do their bidding.

Ultican writes:

Community based schools run under the authority of an elected school board have served as the foundation for American democracy for two centuries. Feckless billionaires operating from hubris or theological commitment or a desire to avoid taxes or a pursuit of more wealth are sundering those foundations.

Will activists of good will be able to throw off the yoke of billionaire financed tyranny and defend their public schools in Oakland?

The Network for Public Education is gathering data on charter schools that applied for and received federal funding as small businesses. Most prefer not to admit what they have done, but diligent citizens can request copies of the minutes of their board meetings.

NPE’s Marla Kilfoyle has been diligently collecting the names and the amounts that charter schools have received from the SBA PPP loans. It has not been easy because charters do not want to admit they are taking these funds.

Will you lend Marla a hand? Check the board minutes of your local charter schools during April and May and see if the charter Board approved applying for and accepting PPP funds. If you find any, send the name of the school, amount and a link to the board minutes.

Just click on her email address to generate an email:
marlakilfoyle@networkforpubliceducation.org.

Under its CEO Tom Torkelsen, the charter chain IDEA experienced explosive growth, dramatic success in winning nearly $200 million in federal funds from Betsy DeVos and the federal Charter Schools Program, but multiple scandals involving lavish spending on personal perks, like a lease on a private jet, first-class travel, and box seats at sporting events.

Torkelsen announced his resignation in April, and the board has agreed to give him severance pay of $900,000. Just like a public school superintendent, right?

A few days ago, Carol Burris and Marla Kilfoyle of the Network for Public Education wrote an article in Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” about the charter schools that are claiming federal funds designated for small businesses, thwarting the intention of the legislators. Public schools are not eligible for the PPP relief funds, but—presto chango—the money-hungry charters decided they are not public schools after all, they are really small businesses. Next week, they will again claim to be public schools, not small businesses.

Congress created the Payroll Protection Plan to aid small businesses that were at risk of bankruptcy because of losing all their revenue. For many of these small businesses, a federal grant of $25,000-$50,000 would enable them to survive the shutdown. Think of the restaurants, toy stores, stationery shops, barber shops, hair dressers, shoe stores, florists, that will never open again. They did not get federal aid. But some greedy charter schools have taken advantage of PPP, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars even though they have not lost a penny of revenue.

It’s not easy to identify the charter schools that took money that was supposed to go to endangered small businesses. They must know it’s wrong, because they try to hide their windfall.

For taking money that should have gone to small businesses, for pretending to be small businesses, for hypocritically claiming to be public schools while applying for funding as small businesses, I place these charter operators on the blog’s Wall of Shame.

Carol Burris continues to learn about charter schools that applied for and received federal PPP funding, despite their lack of need. She writes about them here:

Americans were outraged when big companies with more than 500 employees cashed in on PPP loans intended to help small businesses. For example, the Washington Post reported that various hotel companies all chaired by Republican donor Monty Bennett submitted more than 100 filings to seek $126 million. By creating individual filings, they were able to get around the 500 employee cap. The hotel chain got $76 million in the end.

Now it appears that the Mastery Charter chain is using the same tactic to cash in on payment protection plan loans (PPP) loans.

Each school in the chain has its own board; however all are under the direction of one CEO, Scott Gordon, who received a 2017 salary in excess of $300,000.

According to the Mastery website, the chain has over 1700 employees. What, then, does the Mastery charter chain do? It has each of its individual schools apply for a PPP loan.

See for yourself by reading their board minutes here and here. Notice each charter school in the chain, with the exception of the Camden school, is having its own board meeting at the same group meeting at the same time. And every one of the schools in the chain is applying for the SBA PPP funding.

Meanwhile, the unemployment system of the state of Pennsylvania is crashing from the flood of claims. And Mastery Charter Schools are still amply funded by federal, state and local tax dollars, as well as receiving public school funding in the CARES Act.

Mastery likes to call itself a public school district. So why is it seeking advantage with PPP loans at the expense of Philadelphia’s small businesses that have no revenue stream at all?

The National Superintendents Roundtable published a report calling on tech vendors to get out of the way during the pandemic and “Just Stop It.”

COVID-19 has unleashed a tsunami of work for school superintendents as they distribute food to students, implement distance learning, and prepare for a different fall school environment. What’s not helping, they say, is a flood of sales calls from technology vendors offering to help.

The Roundtable surveyed its members on this issue and the responses, in a report entitled Just Stop It!, reveal a deep vein of irritation with marketing campaigns aimed at schools during the pandemic.

A press release detailing the study’s findings was published in 142 outlets in a matter of hours, ranging from Dow newsletters and Yahoo Finance to publications from Nevada to Pennsylvania. These outlets hold a potential audience in the millions. Very detailed accounts of the study were also published by Brian Bradley in Education Week and Dian Schaffhauser in The Journal.

The complete report on the study’s findings can be found here.

Amy Frogge is one of the heroes of my book SLAYING GOLIATH. A lawyer, she ran for the Metro Nashville school board with no foreknowledge of the privatization movement. She ran as a concerned citizen and a mother of children in the public schools of Nashville. The privatizers outspent her 5-1, but she won. When she got on the board, she realized that there was a sustained and well-funded campaign to replace public schools with charters. She became a truth-teller, motivated by her deep concern for the common good.

When she ran for re-election, she again faced a well-financed opponent, backed by Gates-funded Stand for Children and DFER. Frogge scored an overwhelming victory.

Amy Frogge is still fighting the fake reformers.

Every school board needs an Amy Frogge, who sees clearly and is not afraid to speak truth to power.

She recently wrote an open letter denouncing Eli Broad and his Broadies.

She wrote:

Dear Nashville (and others),

Please pay attention to those with whom you choose to align yourself on education issues. If you are supporting anyone funded or trained by California billionaire Eli Broad, you can bet you’ll end up on the wrong side of history.

Eli Broad created and funds a blog called Education Post. The folks who run it would like for you to believe they are just activists for low-income families and minority children- but in reality, they are dripping with dirty money. Education Post’s first CEO, Peter Cunningham, was paid $1 million for 2 1/2 years of blogging. Board member Chris Stewart, known online as “Citizen Stewart,” was paid $422,925 for 40 hours a week across 30 months as “outreach and external affairs director.” As author/blogger Mercedes Schneider concludes, “In ed reform, blogging pays juicy salaries.” (For the record, I have never earned a penny for any of my social media posts, of course.)

Paid Education Post leaders regularly try to infiltrate online Nashville education discussions (Nashville is a national target for charter expansion), and Education Post also pays local bloggers to write posts. Local bloggers Zack Barnes and Vesia Hawkins are both listed as network members on the Education Post blog.

Many of the big players in Tennessee were “trained” by Eli Broad through his Broad Superintendents Academy, which recruits business leaders with no background in education to be superintendents- with the purpose of privatizing schools (closing existing schools and opening more charter schools). The current Tennessee Commissioner of Education, Penny Schwinn, is a “Broadie.” Two former heads of Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District (a ploy to expand charter schools without local approval) were Broadies: Chris Barbic and Malika Anderson. Former superintendents Jim McIntyre (of Knoxville) and Shawn Joseph (of Nashville) were also affiliated with the Broad network. Shawn Joseph claimed both McIntyre and former Baltimore superintendent Dallas Dance, a member of Education Post’s network, as his mentors.

The school “reforms” pushed by Broadies all center around profit-making through public education: standardized testing (money for private test companies), computer learning (money for IT companies and cost-savings on hiring teachers), charter schools, vouchers, scripted curriculum that can be monetized, etc. Broadies typically see teachers as expendable and believe teaching can be mechanized.

Since charters and vouchers have become an increasingly unpopular cause, the latest angle is for Broadies to increase the number of (sometimes rigged) vendor contracts for programs and services, as well as consultants, with school districts. Former Baltimore superintendent Dallas Dance went to federal prison for rigging no-bid contracts in a kick-back scheme. In a similar scheme, his mentee (Nashville superintendent) Shawn Joseph was caught inflating no-bid contract prices (in violation of state law) for vendors connected with the recruiter and Broadies who placed him in Nashville through a rigged superintendent search. (See comments for further information.)

Billionaires like Eli Broad who fund school profiteering efforts like to hire/fund people of color to act as front-men for their efforts. This provides the appearance that the push for “school choice” (i.e., charters and vouchers) is grassroots. When these folks are questioned or caught in the midst of wrong-doing, they are able to cry racism. Meanwhile, everyone has their hands in the cookie jar of funding meant to serve children.

The ploys used in school profiteering are particularly nasty- the worst of dirty politics. The goal is usually to smear, humiliate, shame and discredit anyone who is an effective critic of the school privatization agenda. Lots of money is spent on PR for this purpose. (I’ve even been attacked on this Facebook page by a paid “social media specialist” for my opposition to charter schools.)

You’ll notice that the atmosphere tends to become particularly dysfunctional and circus-like when Broadies are in charge or involved. You’ll also notice that Broadies like to push the narrative that locally-elected school boards are too dysfunctional to lead (even when the Broadie in charge is causing all the dysfunction!). This is because Eli Broad and those affiliated with him want no public oversight of public education spending.

So- when you witness education conversations on social media, be sure to figure out who is funding those claiming to promote “school choice” or to advocate for children in poverty. Follow the money, y’all. Always!

I am late with this news. I missed the email informing me. Too many emails. It happened at the end of April. But it’s important because the Disrupters have targeted Nashville as one of their prime targets for privatization.

So it’s big news that the Metro Nashville school board turned down five applications for new charter schools.

At a time of fiscal austerity, the board recognized that it can’t afford to maintain two separate school systems.

The Metro Nashville Public Schools board denied five charter school applications Tuesday as the school district braces for the possibility of deep budget cuts and little new money for next year.

In addition to pointing to the need for fiscal belt-tightening, board members raised concerns that none of the applications before them fully met the district’s expectations for charter schools.

“Our budgetary future is uncertain,” said Amy Frogge, the board’s vice chair and a longtime charter school critic. “We have to prioritize where those funds go. We can chose to open charter seats or we can chose to pay our teachers and our staff members and really that’s what it comes down to.”

The mayor of Nashville has asked the board to find $100 million in budget cuts.

Critics say charter schools, which receive public money but are operated independently, pull students, money and resources away from zoned schools. Proponents have said they allow choices for parents and alleviate needs at some schools.

Nashville now is projected to spend $139 million on the city’s 28 charter schools, which enroll nearly 13,000 students.

Bill Lee, the governor of Tennessee, is a DeVos acolyte. He plans to create a new charter commission with the power to overturn local decisions. You can bet that every member he appoints will be a charter zealot.

Nashville doesn’t need any new charter schools.