Archives for category: Education Industry

Michael Kohlhaas, a super investigator of public records in California, discovered that 22 charter schools in Los Angeles were rated “low performing” this year. If they get the same rating for a second year in a row, they must close, under the terms of the recently passed charter accountability law, AB 1505.

Among the low-performing schools are a couple of KIPPS, some Ref Rodriguez charters, and other highly touted but low performing schools.

Thomas Sowell at the Stanford’s Hoover Institution pointed to NYC’s high-scoring, high-attrition Success Avademy as his evidence for the miracle of charter schools. Los Angeles is not far from Palo Alto. Why didn’t he look there?

Carl J. Petersen is a parent in Los Angeles. He is supporting Scott Schmerelson for re-election to the LAUSD school board because of his experience with Scott’s opponent, who works for a charter school.

Bill Phillis, founder of the Ohio Coalition for Adequacy and Equity, reports on the cost of school choice, relying on the data compiled by former legislator Steve Dyer. This is interesting because polls regularly show that the public is fine with choice if the money does not get subtracted from local public schools. It does. It always comes right out of the budget of local public schools. School choice always means budget cuts for public schools. There is no separate pot of money for charters and vouchers.

Bill Phillis writes:

Charters and vouchers took away over one-half billion in local revenue from school districts in school year 2019-2020

$525,187,286* in local revenue was deducted from school districts for privately-operated alternatives to the public common system. Columbus property taxpayers subsidized charter and voucher students to the tune of $76, 548,933* during the 2019-2020 school year.

Article VI §2 of the Ohio Constitution requires the state to secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled four times that the system is unconstitutional. Yet the state removes hundreds of millions of dollars from school districts to fund the state’s pet projects. Incredible!

*Steve Dyer’s analysis

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.

Please sign up and join the discussion between Steve Suitts and me on Zoom on Wednesday September 16. We will be talking about Steve’s new book Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement. You will be amazed to learn of the true history of school choice. It is definitely not the “civil rights issue of our time,” as Trump and DeVos claim.

Steve has been involved in civil rights work throughout his career. He was founding director of the Alabama Civil Liberties Union; executive director of the Southern Regional Council; and vice president of the Southern Education Foundation. He is also the author of a biography of Hugo Black, a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice who played a large role in history.

You can sign up here.

Steve and I will talk for an hour, and then we will open the floor for your questions.

Veteran educator Nancy Bailey has some very clear ideas about the next Secretary of Education. All her proposals are premised on Trump’s defeat, since billionaire Betsy DeVos would want to hang on and finish the job of destroying public schools and enriching religious and private schools.

Let’s hope that the next Secretary of Education has the wisdom and vision to liberate children and teachers from the iron grip of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Every Student Succeeds Act, High-stakes testing, privatization, and a generation of failed federal policies.

Bailey begins:

During this critical time in American history, that individual should be a black or brown woman, who has been a teacher of young children, and who understands child development. She should hold an education degree and have an additional leadership degree and experience that will help her run the U.S. Department of Education.

Children deserve to see more teachers who look like they do, who will inspire them to go on and become teachers themselves. A black female education secretary will bring more diverse individuals to the field and set an example. This will benefit all students.

Many individuals, including accomplished black men, have brilliant minds, and understand what we need in the way of democratic public education. Leadership roles should await them in the U.S. Department of Education, in schools, universities, or states and local education departments.

But with the fight for Black Lives to Matter and for an end to gender inequality, a knowledgeable black woman with a large heart to embrace these times should take this spot. The majority of teachers have always been women, and while men are critical to being role models for children and teens, it is time for a black woman to lead.

We have had eleven education secretaries, and only three of them have been women, including Shirley Hufstedler, Margaret Spellings, and Betsy DeVos. None of these women were educators or had experience in the classroom. Only two African American men have been in this role, and neither of them could be considered authentic teachers and educators. Both had the goal to undermine public schools.

The time is now for a black female education secretary who will set a positive example and be the face of the future for children from all gender and cultural backgrounds.

Tom Torkelson, former leader of the free-spending IDEA Network, has landed in San Antonio, where he hopes to flood the city and its surrounding districts with charter schools and obliterate public schools that belong to the community. Torkelson hopes to place 150,000 students in charters, draining funding from public schools.

Not long ago, the IDEA corporate chain bought out Torkelson’s contract for $900,000. Torkrlson will be the new CEO of a local group called Choose to Succeed. “Choose to Succeed backs a portfolio of charter operators they deem high-performing including IDEA, KIPP Texas, Great Hearts Academies, and BASIS Schools.”

Torkelson will grow the charter sector and crush the local public schools, which will be nothing more than dumping grounds for the kids who can’t meet the demands of the “high-performing” charter schools that have such requirements as passing AP exams.

IDEA, you may recall, wanted to lease a private jet for its executives (but backed off because of bad publicity), treated them to firs-class air travel, spent $400,000 a year for premium seats at professional basketball games, was gifted with nearly $250 million by Betsy DeVos from the federal Charter Schools Program. IDEA picked up nearly $5 million from the Walton Family Foundation. Money, money, money!

As the largest charter school network in Texas fights to keep its momentum to open new campuses amid backlash caused by its controversial spending decisions, its ex-CEO has landed in San Antonio.

Tom Torkelson, who co-founded IDEA Public Schools and led the network for two decades before stepping down in April, is now CEO of Choose to Succeed, a nonprofit organization that since 2011 has been a driving force and relentless cheerleader for charter expansion here.

The group has helped raise more than $100 million to recruit high-performing charter networks to plant schools in San Antonio. Its initial focus — creating educational alternatives in the city’s low-income areas — soon widened to include every part of the city. Leaders of traditional public school districts have pushed back with increasing vigor in recent years, arguing against the need for new charters but unable to slow their growth.

Will public education survive in San Antonio? It’s doubtful.

New York City’s vaunted Success Academy, which boasts the highest test scores in the state, the highest teacher turnover rate, and very likely the highest student attrition rate (unsure because unreleased by city authorities), has announced that it will be all-remote until at least January.

Success Academy is famed for its strict no-excuses policy and its readiness to eject any student who does not comply.

Problems, as the New York Daily News reports.

Under the plan, kids as young as 5 have to log on by 8:50 a.m. wearing their checkered orange and blue uniforms, and sit still with their hands clasped for nearly seven hours of live video instruction.

They also have to ask permission to use the bathroom — and can get a virtual boot and be suspended if they act up, which would turn off their cameras and microphones for a day or more.

“I don’t think it’s right for a 6-year-old … they have to sit there like a robot with their hands folded,” said one mom of a Success first-grader in Far Rockaway, Queens, who asked to remain anonymous because she fears retaliation from the school.

“Every day she cries and says she doesn’t want to go to school,” the frustrated mom told The News.

The article includes the news that Fabiola St. Hilaire, a teacher at Success Academy who sparked a controversy over racism at Success Academy last year, has resigned, saying she could no longer be complicit.

“Working for this organization has truly showed me that as long as I stand with the inaction and blatant disregard for child morality and healthy development it in turn will make me complicit, which I will never be,” she wrote in her resignation letter, a copy of which was reviewed by The News.

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.