Archives for category: Education Industry

Peter Greene tells the story of the Pacific Charter School, located in the Los Angeles District. When PCS got news that they were eligible to get millions of dollars from the federal Paycheck Protection Program—whose purpose was to save small businesses at risk of closing forever—they saw an opportunity, and they took it.

PCHS is a charter school, and like many other such outfits, they have heard the siren song of the Paycheck Protection Program, the loan program designed to help small businesses stay afloat during the current pandemic mess (the second one, meant to clean up after the first one that ran out of money almost instantly). They are not alone–many charter schools are deciding that, for purposes of grabbing some money, they will go ahead and admit they are small private businesses and not public schools. Two thirds of the charter school businesses in New Orleans have put in for the loans.

What makes Palisades special is that we have video of their board discussing the issues of accepting the loan. (A hat tip to Carl Peterson, who has been watching these folks for a while.)

The discussion of the loan starts in the video about six minutes into the May 12 meeting. Chief Business Officer Greg Wood brings the news to the board that they’ve found a bank (in Utah) and landed approval for a $4.6 million loan.

If you’re wondering if they agonized over issues like tying up four and a half million dollars that might otherwise have been used by an actual small bus9iness that is currently struggling to stay afloat, the answer is, not so much. Wood acknowledges that there could be some rough press with such a move; nobody much cares. A member also mentions that he has friends with small businesses who were not able to be approved. The group gets a little confused about whether or not they’re eligible for the loan, and one member says “Well, the answer is, let’s get it anyway.” Wood says that they could be seen as “double dipping.”

They are eligible, and Wood has already applied and been approved pending board approval. Wood doesn’t know if the loan will be forgivable. In particular he dances around the idea that in order for the loan to be forgivable, they might lose the freedom to fire staff as they wish.

Payback is steep– they get two years, with six months before repayment has to start and a big balloon payment at the end. This does not seem to bother the board because they are mostly considering to grab this money in the off chance that they might need it, and if they don’t need it, they can just give it back in two years– basically a line of credit just in case, which I’m sure would be a big comfort to a business that goes under because there is no money for them in the PPP. But this meeting is marked by phrases like “get the money while the getting’s good” and “get the loan first…worry about that part later.” No payback plan was raised.

A bitter coda to all this. There is just one public comment submitted to the meeting, from a woman who is a Pali High grad and who taught there for thirty years and who is retiring. She’s speaking up because the rest of the staff is afraid of retribution. The teachers worked 2019-2020 without a contract, and while the praise and attaboy’s they’ve gotten for making the pandemic-pushed jump to distance crisis schooling are swell, the board could put their money where their mouths are by offering the teachers a decent raise– particularly since it looks like PCHS is finishing the year with a $2 million surplus. Her comments are read into the record, and then the board just moves on to authorizing the bank that will manage the loan.

David Pettiette is a CPA who volunteered at a KIPP elementary school in Memphis. He was shocked when two KIPP schools suddenly closed their doors and left their families scrambling for a new school.

He wrote:

In April, it was announced that KIPP Memphis Preparatory Elementary and KIPP Memphis Preparatory Middle on Corry Road would be permanently closing without notice. Between the two schools, over 650 students have been displaced without so much as a plan or opportunity to rebut the decision.

The decision to close a school in an underserved community is not uncommon. It is however a decision that is typically given six months to a year’s notice, not April of the current school year. The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) is the largest network of public charter schools in the nation, with several schools in Memphis. With that size apparently comes unprecedented autonomy considering the schools’ primary funding is local and state money.

In an effort to limit bad press, KIPP offered a Q&A conference call to address the school closures so that the community’s voices could be heard. However, this session, which did not provide any A’s or responses from KIPP, was yet another unthoughtful decision made by the organization and proved to be an unsuitable forum.

Many families had trouble accessing the call due to technical difficulties generated from the third-party conferencing system used. The call itself went just about as you’d expect. It opened with two pre-recorded statements from KIPP’s board of directors and regional team, which were both vague and painfully insincere.

The comments from parents and staff were anxious, frustrated and morose –a wide variety of emotions. While listening to the call, I couldn’t help but think that the occasion warranted a more personal approach.

In reality, KIPP gave up. They gave up on their students, families, faculty and staff after only a few years of operation. Make no mistake, this was a financial decision that is inequitable to the historic Alcy Ball community in South Memphis.

KIPP cited a “failure to fulfill academic promise” which resulted in the closures, and the only excuse provided for the late notice was that they did not want to mislead the schools’ key stakeholders regarding their future.

This was a cheap and inaccurate shot at the integrity of the teachers and faculty, who spent money out of their own pockets to make sure that their students were adequately clothed, fed and supplied.

At the end of the day this decision is not what is best for the kids, who should have been KIPP’s only focus throughout this whole process. The situation is awful, but the approach was worse. If there is anyone looking for a textbook example of institutional racism, look no further.

Mayor De Blasio—or someone in his Department of Education—invited the foul-mouthed, misogynistic rapper Pitbull to join luminaries who will speak to the graduating class of 2020.

Here is the city’s announcement:

Dear Students and Families,

To celebrate the end of a school year like none before, please join us for a graduation celebration like none before the evening of Tuesday, June 30! We will be honoring the resilient, inspiring Class of 2020 with festivities that will be livestreamed across social media and broadcast on PIX 11 beginning at 7:00 p.m.

The event will feature the accomplishments of our graduating seniors, family messages, and congratulations from celebrities like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Kenan Thompson, Nick Kroll, Nia Long, Pitbull, Angela Yee, and more. Mayor de Blasio and the First Lady, Chancellor Carranza, and other public officials and educators will also convey their words of appreciation to the largest graduating class in the nation who will be the changemakers in our nation’s future.

We hope you all will join us for a joyful occasion to conclude a difficult year on June 30. Please save the date and learn more at https://www.nycclassof2020.com.

Pitbull founded a mediocre charter school in Miami called Slam Academy. It operates as part of a for-profit chain. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos joined him there to show her delight that the rapper joined her crusade for school choice.

Jersey Jazzman wrote about the origins of Pitbull’s charter school in 2013.

Darcie Cimarusti wrote about a signal event when Pitbull was honored by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools in 2013, which was thrilled to have a celebrity on its dais.

Della Hasselle of the New Orleans Times-Picayune describes how charter schools in New Orleans have collected coronavirus relief funds from money meant for public schools as well as federal funds meant for small private businesses. Most received money from the Payroll Protection Program, up to $5.1 million for a single school, even though they have suffered no loss of revenues.


More than two-thirds of New Orleans’ charter school organizations have applied for federal loans through the congressional act to help keep businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, garnering criticism from some groups for tapping into a program that hasn’t been available to traditional public schools.

Dozens of New Orleans schools have applied for Payroll Protection Program loans, aimed at shielding small businesses from closure due to COVID-19, according to interviews and a review of documents from over 40 boards operating schools in New Orleans.

At least a third of the charters had received loans, with officials from those organizations saying they got anywhere from about $97,000 to more than $5.1 million in funds, based on their payroll.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the city of New Orleans and created great economic uncertainty for our schools about how we can continue to operate, employ all of our employees, and not dramatically cut services for students, many of whom will return to school with learning gaps and needing additional social and emotional supports,” said Kate Mehok, CEO of Crescent City Schools, which received $3 million.

The money, which comes from a $349 billion stimulus established by the $2 trillion federal CARES Act, can be forgiven if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and if the money is used for salary, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, which along with the Treasury Department is implementing the program.

Critics had already lambasted charter schools around the country for the applications, accusing the non-profits of abusing their status and double-dipping, and were miffed to learn about the dozens of applications to come out of New Orleans, which this year became the first major American city to have no traditional schools.

Like traditional schools, local charters have already received some CARES Act funding through the Louisiana Department of Education. But unlike the charters, district-run schools weren’t eligible for the extra payroll loans.

The charter organizations each got hundreds of thousands of dollars from the $260 million doled out to districts and charters in late April as part of the Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund, another part of the CARES Act, mostly for technology and distance learning.

This is an interview with Russ Roberts of the Hoover Institution about SLAYING GOLIATH.

The Hoover Institution has a huge endowment, and it is committed to free markets. Its funders do not like public schools. They disparage them as “government schools.” They like vouchers and charters.

Russ is a nice guy, and he believes in choice and charter schools. We disagreed. You might enjoy this podcast.

I was a Senior Fellow at Hoover from 1999-2009. Then when I realized that testing and choice were failing and were doing damage to schools and students, I left and began a campaign to stop what I once supported. At Hoover, testing and choice are dogma, and I no longer was a true believer. Hoover is situated on the Stanford University campus but has touchy relations with the university. While I was attached to Hoover, I donated my papers to the Hoover archives, which has a fabulous collection of personal papers of all sorts of people, including educators.

Over 600 educators of color and education scholars of color have signed a statement opposing failed billionaire-backed “reforms” intended to privatize public schools and deprofessionalize teaching.

The statement was drafted by Kevin Kumashiro and can be found on his website, along with the list of those who signed it. People continue to sign on to demonstrate to the public that their rightwing campaign is not fooling educators and scholars of color.

All Educators of Color and Educational Scholars of Color in the U.S. are invited to sign on (please scroll down to sign)

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 will continue to work with lawmakers, leaders, school systems, and the public to make such goals a reality.

VOX reports on billionaire Reed Hastings’ grandiose plans to build a fabulous resort in Colorado for teachers, where they will learn to love charter schools, high-stakes testing, test-based accountability for teachers, and other failed reform strategies.

Hastings has $5 billion and he doesn’t seem to know what to do with it, even though California has many people who are homeless and many hotbeds of racism and injustice. So, he decided to keep spending on privatization, no doubt gladdening the heart of Betsy DeVos, and high-stakes testing.

Every one of Hastings’s favorite ideas has failed but he plans to convert teachers to follow his path by immersing them in luxurious surroundings.

If only he would read SLAYING GOLIATH, he would realize that he is wasting his money and undermining an essential democratic institution, the American public school, which nearly 90% of American families choose.

Theodore Schleifer writes in VOX:

Reed Hastings, the billionaire founder of Netflix, is quietly building a mysterious 2,100-acre luxury retreat ranch nestled in the elk-filled foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Recode has learned.

Hastings has been one of the country’s biggest donors to the education reform movement that’s trying to reshape America’s struggling school system. And now public records reveal that Hastings is personally financing a new foundation that will operate this training ground for American public school teachers, a passion project shrouded in secrecy that will expand the billionaire’s political influence.

Hastings is one of many Silicon Valley billionaires who have deployed their fortunes in the education reform movement, which calls for a greater focus on testing, tougher accountability for teachers, and the expansion of alternative schools like charters to close America’s achievement gaps and better train its future workforce. Those tech leaders, though, have had uncertain results, with the very biggest of them — Microsoft founder Bill Gates — having admitted earlier this year that he was “not yet seeing the kind of bottom-line impact we expected.” Opponents, including teachers’ unions, charge that these reformers are blaming educators for factors beyond their control, such as poverty.

The new training center, called the Retreat Land at Lone Rock, seems to be a priority for the Netflix CEO, at least based on Hastings’s level of personal involvement: He and his wife have been visiting the area since at least 2017, when they went so far as to request a face-to-face meeting with a local fire chief at his Colorado firehouse to try and smooth over any looming permitting concerns.

Hastings, whose involvement hasn’t previously been reported, declined to comment on his plans through a spokesperson.

But public records filed with the government of Park County, Colorado, and reviewed by Recode offer a glimpse at the ambitious plans for the center, which local officials expect to open as early as March 2021.

“The proposed Conference and Retreat Facility will be run as a nonprofit institute serving the public education community’s development of teachers and leadership,” a Hastings aide says in one prospectus.

One group that is expected to use the “state-of-the-art” facility is the Pahara Institute, which operates a well-known networking group and training program for activists and teachers aligned with the education-reform movement. Hastings heavily funds and serves on the board of the Pahara Institute, which currently hosts its retreats at different locations around the country rather than at a single place.

It was Pahara that initially contacted local landowners to buy the acreage before Hastings personally stepped in and decided to do it himself, said Dave Crane, a real estate broker who did the deal and gave a tour of the property to Hastings before the firehouse meeting in 2017. Pahara’s founder serves on the board of Hastings’s new foundation as well.

Retreat Land at Lone Rock will effectively function as the grounds for leadership retreats like these for teachers, principals, and nonprofit heads, according to a person close to Hastings. It will be open to both educators at traditional district public schools and those at charter schools, a favorite cause of the Netflix founder, the person said.

The center will nevertheless extend Hastings’s influence in the American education system. Although it remains unknown whether the leaders that are brought to Lone Rock will be the key people to fix America’s schools, Hastings, a private citizen, will now have the ability to choose a few leaders who agree with him and support them with his bank account and his center, giving him an outsized voice in one of America’s most fraught public policy debates.

Overlapping groups of about 30 educators at a time from across the United States are expected to enjoy the 270-room retreat center at once, staying for four days each and playing team sports, using its classrooms, and enjoying its pristine hiking trails — “maybe with pack llamas,” says another document.

Yes, poverty is the essential problem that afflicts the lives of large numbers of children. Ignore it at your peril, Mr. Hastings. Keep pursuing your vanity projects while teachers and students cry out for smaller classes, bemoan the lack of resources, weep for the loss of the arts and play, and plead for social workers, psychologists, librarians and nurses.

Mr. Hastings, you have made a lot of money–billions–but you are a foolish man.

Just think what you might do instead: fund medical centers in schools across California; fund the arts in schools; fund libraries and librarians. There are so many ways you could bring joy to children and their families. Why don’t you do something to spread goodness instead of disruption?

The IDEA charter chain has ambitious plans to expand, with the help of more than $200 million from Betsy DeVos’s charter slush fund (also known as the federal Charter Schools Program, which was created to help start-ups, not to expand corporate empires).

The IDEA profile is a business model, not a public school model. It pushes into new markets aggressively and spends lavishly on executive perks, like leasing a private jet, first class travel, self-dealing, and season tickets for sports events. And paying huge salaries to leaders. Betsy DeVos loves the model, but it didn’t play well to the public.

When the news broke about its free-spending ways, public reaction was swift and negative.

The chain, which currently operates 92 charters and is set to expand in Houston and elsewhere, funded by taxpayers with a mission of “disrupting” and replacing public schools, was co-founded by Tom Torkelsen and JoAnn Gama.

The board rewarded them handsomely. In 2018-19: Torkelsen was paid $817,395, CFO Wyatt Truscheit received $507,887, Gama collected $482,930 for Gama, and six others earned at least $250,000. When Torkelsen recently stepped down as CEO, he was promised severance pay of $900,000. Not exactly the kinds of salaries paid in the public sector. IDEA gets high test scores the usual charter way: by recruiting the students it wants and setting standards high enough to push out those it doesn’t want.

The Houston Chronicle wrote:
When the leaders of IDEA Public Schools gathered last December to vote on an eight-year lease for a private jet, the charter network’s then-board chair, David Guerra, thought of the nearly $15-million deal in business terms.

As president and CEO of International Bank of Commerce, Guerra and his team had used six corporate jets to grow the multibillion-dollar company’s business beyond its Laredo-area headquarters. The same premise would hold true for IDEA, he reasoned, as the charter school network based in the Rio Grande Valley rapidly expanded across Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

“We cannot fulfill our commitment to such a large geographic area without having this type of transportation,” the retired banking chief told IDEA’s governing board in December.

IDEA board members unanimously approved the lease, but reversed the decision two weeks later after charter school opponents and some of the network’s supporters denounced the aircraft as an irresponsible extravagance.

The episode triggered a wave of headlines, oversight changes and soul-searching at the state’s largest charter school, which now is grappling with how to maintain its corporate-like culture while abiding by some more-traditional expectations about how public school districts should be run, IDEA leaders said last week…

Beyond the charter jet lease, IDEA has drawn scrutiny in the past several months for multiple financial practices: spending hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on tickets and luxury boxes at San Antonio’s AT&T Center; making business deals with members of IDEA’s leadership and their relatives; and reaching a separation agreement with co-founder and CEO Tom Torkelson that will net him $900,000 following his resignation in May.

IDEA officials do not appear to have violated any laws, and the charter’s leaders have defended each practice at various points.

Still, IDEA’s governing board announced several reforms last month. They include banning private air travel, curbing executive benefits, ending business deals with leaders and family members, and requiring additional spending approvals from the governing board and chief financial officer.

“We don’t want to have execution that’s just like a traditional school district, because we want to have innovation and take some risks and be more aggressive,” IDEA Board Chair Al Lopez said. “But after 20 years of policies and practices helped us get to the point we’re at, we felt like we were at an inflection point.”

The stakes are high not just for IDEA, but the entire charter school movement.

Advocates for traditional public schools have seized on IDEA’s spending as an example of lax oversight of charters, which largely are funded by taxpayers. Texas American Federation of Teachers leaders blasted IDEA officials for the jet lease, accusing them of “flying adults around the state” instead of directly funding classroom programs. State Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, deemed IDEA’s practices “nonsense” that “absolutely underscores the problem…”

“IDEA has operated outside the public eye with little transparency while still receiving taxpayer dollars — and it shows,” said Patti Everitt, an education policy and research consultant who monitors Texas charter school operations. “IDEA can’t have it both ways…”

The charter’s leaders credit IDEA’s success, in part, to a culture that borrows from the business, nonprofit and higher education worlds. The organization employs a regimented, highly centralized model that emphasizes student and employee performance data.

Critics, however, argue the network indirectly screens out children with greater academic and behavioral needs by emphasizing advanced-level courses, inflating the organization’s results. As an example, they note IDEA’s enrollment of students with disabilities totaled 5.4 percent in 2018-19, compared to 9.6 percent in other Texas public schools.

Still, IDEA schools remain in high demand, helping fuel the network’s ambitious approach to expansion. IDEA added more more students in the past five years than any other Texas charter operators, and it plans to hit 100,000 students across the southern United States by 2022-23.

FairTest has been battling the abuse, misuse, and overuse of standardized testing since the early 1970s. It took a global pandemic to demonstrate that students applying to college need not take a standardized test for admission. How will colleges decide whom to admit? They will figure it out. Just watch. Many colleges and universities went test-optional years ago and managed to choose their first-year class.

MORE THAN HALF OF ALL U.S. FOUR-YEARS COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES WILL BE TEST-OPTIONAL FOR FALL 2021 ADMISSION;

SHARP INCREASE IN SCHOOLS DROPPING ACT/SAT DRIVES TOTAL TO 1,240

A new tally of higher education testing policies shows that more than half of all 4-year colleges and universities will not require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores for fall 2021 admission. The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), which maintains a master list, reports that 1,240 institutions are now test-optional. The National Center for Educational Statistics counted 2,330 U.S. bachelor-degree granting schools during the 2018-2019 academic year.

Fully 85% of the U.S. News “Top 100” national liberal arts colleges now have ACT/SAT-optional policies in place, according to a FairTest data table. So do 60 of the “Top 100” national universities, including such recent additions as Brown, CalTech, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, UPenn, Virginia, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale.

Bob Schaeffer, FairTest’s interim Executive Director, explained, “The test-optional admissions was growing rapidly before the COVID-19 pandemic. 2019 was the best year ever with 51 more schools dropping ACT/SAT requirements, driving the total to 1,040. Another 21 colleges and universities followed suit in the first 10 weeks of this year. Since mid-March, however, the strong ACT/SAT-optional wave became a tsunami.” FairTest has led the test-optional movement since the late-1980s when standardized exams were required by all but a handful of schools.

A FairTest chronology shows that nearly 200 additional colleges and universities have gone test-optional so far this spring. All told, U.S. News now lists more than 540 test-optional schools in the first tier of their respective classifications, including public university systems in California, Delaware, Indiana, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Washington State.

“We are especially pleased to see many public universities and access-oriented private colleges deciding that test scores are not needed to make sound admissions decisions,” Schaeffer continued. “By going test-optional, all types of schools can increase diversity without any loss of academic quality. Eliminating ACT/SAT requirements is a ‘win-win’ for students and schools.”

New Tally – Majority of Colleges Are ACT/SAT-Optional for 2021

Schaeffer also noted that interest in FairTest’s web directory has spiked over the past three months, “Daily visitor levels have nearly tripled, demonstrating the appeal of test-optional admissions to teenagers, who know that these schools will treat them as more than a score.”
– – 3 0 – –
– FairTest’s frequently updated directory of test-optional, 4-year schools is available free online at https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional — sort geographically by clicking on “State”

– A current chronology of schools dropping ACT/SAT requirements is at http://www.fairtest.org/sites/default/files/Optional-Growth-Chronology.pdf

– The list of test-optional schools ranked in the top tiers by U.S. News & World Report is posted at http://www.fairtest.org/sites/default/files/Optional-Schools-in-U.S.News-Top-Tiers.pdf

For many years, the Walton family has owned the state of Arkansas. Their collective wealth exceeds $150 billion, yet Arkansas is one of the poorest states in the nation. All that money, and very little has trickled down. Perhaps you have seen the ads on national television about how much Walmart cares about its neighbors. The people of Little Rock know better.

Veteran journalist Cathy Frye reports on a dramatic series of events that occurred yesterday. Peaceful protestors closed down four Walmart stores in Little Rock.

Frye writes:

But why? Why close Walmarts?

To these anguished pleas, I offer this by way of explanation.

Because the Waltons need to understand that it’s time to relinquish their iron-clad grip on the state of Arkansas, on its economy, and on its public schools.

I worked for three years for a Walton-funded “nonprofit” organization called the Arkansas “Public” School Resource Center. If you scroll down this blog, you will find numerous posts about how APSRC operates. Its mission is to destabilize, deconstruct and resegregate public schools. It also is working with other Walton nonprofits to create a private-school voucher system in Arkansas.

The Waltons have put themselves, their politics, and their wealth above what is good for all Arkansans.

So here we are, in the midst of a pandemic and the Waltons are using this public-health crisis and the resulting school closures to retain and even strengthen their control over the Little Rock School District…Protesters shut down Walmarts because those stores symbolize everything that is wrong in Arkansas for those who are marginalized and oppressed.

You can’t put lipstick on a pig. The Waltons are the avaricious family that destroys communities and Main Street across America. Good on Little Rock for calling them out.