Archives for category: Education Industry

T.C. Weber is the parent of children in the Metro Nashville public schools. He is a strong supporter of public schools and a strong opponent of privatization. He reported on the battle against charter schools on his blog “Dad Gone Wild,” which ended in a sharp electoral rebuke to the privatization groups like Stand for Children.

But now he turns his attention back to his children’s public schools, and he worries because their schools are underfunded. His children’s elementary school does not have a playground.

The Nashville public schools have a new leader, Dr. Shawn Joseph. Weber filed a FOIA request and learned that Dr. Joseph has added new top administrative posts and has raised the salaries for the top layer of administrators. His pick for his chief of staff was an administrator who has worked to promote charter schools in other states. The board room of the schools was remodeled. Each of the administrators gets an expensive staff car. What’s going on? Was the school board the victim of a clever trick? Is it turning its electoral victory into a real-world loss?

Weber writes:

We recently hired a brand new director of schools, Dr. Shawn Joseph, from Prince George’s County in Maryland, at a salary of $285k per year. A significant raise from the previous director’s salary. We all clapped ourselves on the back because he didn’t seem to be a reformer. But everything is not that simple. I recently put in a FOIA request for what has been spent since Dr. Joseph came to Nashville, and I found some pretty appalling things happening. Maybe the public and the school board have been too busy with other things to notice. But we ought to be asking questions, even if it’s unpleasant. Just because someone does some things that are okay, it doesn’t mean everything is okay.

Once Joseph began his tenure here, he proceeded to hire 4 “Chiefs,” 3 from out of state, at an annual salary of $185k each along with the use of a car. In order to attract a few other desirable hires, the pay schedule for Executive Officers was raised to $155k and there are 8 at that designation. If I’m reading the previous salary schedule correctly, EO’s should max out at $110k per year. To put things in context, the previous Number 2 person in the district, responsible for creating an academy model that has won national accolades, earned only $154k a year until he left the district in April. Just 5 months later and there are now 12 people making over that amount. Perhaps the district pay schedule was way out of line, but that is a significant difference, and if so, I’m not sure that it’s one that should be rectified in one year. Especially when teachers have been asked to be patient for so long.

After he reviews the new salary schedule for administrators and the fact that each of them gets a Chevy Tahoe (which cost about the same as a teacher’s salary for the year), he adds:

Much has been written about the outside money that tried to buy this year’s school board race. In fact, last week the Election Commission announced that there was enough evidence to warrant an investigation into Stand For Children and the candidates they supported in the election. Dr. Joseph’s response was to hire Jana Carlisle as the new Chief of Staff. She is from New York City and knows virtually nothing about Metro Schools. She worked to enact the charter school laws that were recently ruled unconstitutional in Washington by utilizing a flood of outside money – the very same tactics that were employed in Nashville. Despite voters and parents clearly saying they were against the policies that organizations like Stand for Children support, Dr. Joseph ignored those voices and offered Carlisle $185k per year, a car, and money to relocate from NYC to Nashville. Dr. Joseph argues that she is extremely smart. I’d argue that there are a lot of smart people in Nashville who don’t have ties to dark money.

Now I ask: what’s the difference between a charter school’s board of directors that ignores the community and a Director of Schools who does the same? We argue often about the manner that charter schools lock out the voices of those who they serve. How many times have we heard it argued that with an elected board, a parent who has concerns has a venue to voice those concerns? But if a community makes its opinion known and a school board director chooses to ignore it, what’s the difference? I don’t know that there is a bigger expression of a community’s voice than the results of an election. So if nobody’s listening to our voices, we’ve got a problem.

Nashville, you have a problem.

New York State just released a draft of its revision of the Common Core standards.

There are different interpretations of how much has changed. Some say more than half of the standards were tweaked. Defenders of the standards insist they were barely changed at all.

We will have to wait until teachers have seen the revisions and offered their comments.

In New York, the Common Core standards have also became part of a larger discussion about other policy reforms, such as the use of state standardized test scores in teacher evaluations. Replacing the standards is the first step in redefining what it means to get an education in New York state, which will include revising assessments, teacher evaluations and how the state rates schools.

The standards will now go out for public comment, which will be open until Nov. 4. The Board of Regents are expected to consider the standards in early 2017 and roll out new assessments based on the standards by the 2018-19 school year.

The standards were revised in response to the success of the Opt Out movement; 20% of children eligible to take the tests–about 200,000–did not take them in 2015. The number rose slightly this past year. Governor Cuomo formed a commission that recommended a thorough review of the standards and the tests.

Here are the draft standards:

http://www.nysed.gov/draft-standards-english-language-arts

and here:

http://www.nysed.gov/draft-standards-mathematics

The crucial question will be whether the standards are age-appropriate, especially in the early grades, where complaints have been most intense. Early reviews from teachers suggest that very little if anything has changed in the K-2 grades, where the standards are the worst.

Jonathan Pelto reports on the big money that will flow into the Massachusetts referendum on expanding charters. Most of it will flow from the coffers of hedge fund managers, who never showed any prior interest in improving public schools but get excited by the opportunity to privatize them.

He writes:

A group of billionaires and corporate executives are using a front group called Great Schools Massachusetts and the New York based charter school advocacy group, Families for Excellent Schools, to pour an unprecedented amount of money into a campaign to expand the number of charter schools in Massachusetts.

According to published reports, the charter school industry is on track to dump up to $18 million into a record-breaking campaign in support of Massachusetts Question 2, a referendum question on this year’s ballot that would effectively lift the legislatively mandated cap on the number of charter schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter school, pro-Governor Andrew Cuomo, anti-teacher group has led a series of expensive advocacy campaigns in New York State and Connecticut on behalf of the charter school industry.

Expanding first to Connecticut and then to Massachusetts, Families for Excellent Schools has become the preferred money pipeline of choice for a group of corporate elites who seek to anonymously fund the effort to privatize public education in the United States.

Thanks to the demise of campaign finance laws at the federal and state level, Families for Excellent Schools can accept unlimited donations from those who profit from or support the rise of charter school, the Common Core and the Common Core testing scheme.

While most of the money flowing into the Massachusetts Question 2 campaign can’t be traced, public documents reveal that a handful of hedge fund managers and corporate executives donated $40,000 each to kick start the campaign aimed at diverting even more scarce public funds from public schools to charter schools.

Most of the key players in the Question 2 operation are directly or indirectly associated with a handful of hedge fund companies including, Bain Capital, the Baupost Group and Highfields Capital Management.

Leading the effort from Bain Capital is Josh Bekenstein, the managing partner at the infamous company. Bekenstein is a long-time charter supporter having donated massive amounts of money to pro-voucher, anti-teacher, pro-charter school groups including Stand for Children, Teach for America, and the KIPP and Citizen charter school chains.

In addition, Bekenstein has played an instrumental role for both New Profit, Inc. and the NewSchools Venture Fund, two of the major funders behind the charter school movement in Massachusetts and across the nation.

New Profit, Inc.’s “investments” include major donations to underwrite the faux teacher advocacy group called Educators 4 Excellence, which is actually another New York based, anti-union front group. New Profit, Inc. also funds Achievement First, Inc., a charter school chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and the Achievement Network and Turnaround for Children, two more pro-charter school lobby and public relations organizations.

Through Bain Capital, and on his own, Bekenstein’s has also helped fund and lead Bright Horizons, yet another charter school chain with operations in multiple states.

There are many more financiers and bigwigs piling on to advance privatization. Read Jon’s post to see the cast of characters.

Jon’s post was written before we learned of the $1.8 million donated by two members of the Walton family of Arkansas. I wonder why they don’t fix the low-performing schools of Arkansas instead of telling the nation’s top state how to “reform” its successful public schools by opening up a dual school system.

Denis Smith used to work in the Ohio Department of Education charter office, and he knows lots about where various skeletons are hidden.

Did you know that charter authorizers are paid 3% of the proceeds for every charter school they authorize to open? That can amount to quite a lot of money, and it also creates an incentive for the authorizer to overlook problems. Why would he want to disturb the goose that is laying golden eggs for his company?

Denis describes a recent legislative hearing where these issues were discussed. Charter allies in the legislature made it clear that they don’t want to micromanage their friends, or for that matter, give them any responsibility, like dotting i’s and crossing t’s.

Legislators want charters to collect public money without oversight. Charter authorizers don’t want oversight. Charters don’t want oversight.

You can call that close to a consensus that public money should be handed over to the charters without any further delay or questions.

Peter Greene read a new publication from the U.S. Department of Education that is chock-full of useless and redundant information.

He sums it up:

Okay, listen carefully boys and girls, because this is some pretty heavy-duty stuff. Here’s the process for implementing evidence-based interventions:

1) Figure out what problem needs to be solved
2) Pick a solution that looks like it would work
3) Get ready to implement the solution
4) Implement the solution
5) Check to see if it worked

Oh, and there’s a graphic– five balls in a circle with arrows pointing from one to the next. I think I speak for Americans everywhere when I say thank God there are federal bureaucrats out there willing to provide us with this kind of hard-hitting guidance, because God knows, we would all be out here spinning our wheel randomly. Granted, I’ve translated the Department’s guidance into what I like to call “Plain English,” but I am absolutely stumped as I try to imagine who was sitting in DC thinking that this needed to be published. Was someone sitting in the Department saying, “You know, I bet people don’t understand that they should pick out solutions that will fit the problem. They’re probably picking some other solution. Probably a bunch of school districts out there thinking they need a new math series to get their reading scores up. We’d better address this. Oh, and add a graphic.” , listen carefully boys and girls, because this is some pretty heavy-duty stuff. Here’s the process for implementing evidence-based interventions:

1) Figure out what problem needs to be solved
2) Pick a solution that looks like it would work
3) Get ready to implement the solution
4) Implement the solution
5) Check to see if it worked

Oh, and there’s a graphic– five balls in a circle with arrows pointing from one to the next. I think I speak for Americans everywhere when I say thank God there are federal bureaucrats out there willing to provide us with this kind of hard-hitting guidance, because God knows, we would all be out here spinning our wheel randomly. Granted, I’ve translated the Department’s guidance into what I like to call “Plain English,” but I am absolutely stumped as I try to imagine who was sitting in DC thinking that this needed to be published. Was someone sitting in the Department saying, “You know, I bet people don’t understand that they should pick out solutions that will fit the problem. They’re probably picking some other solution. Probably a bunch of school districts out there thinking they need a new math series to get their reading scores up. We’d better address this. Oh, and add a graphic.”

Someone was paid to write this. Really.

Considering that this came from a federal agency that has been trumpeting the success of Race to the Top, you may rightly assume that the department has no idea what evidence based interventions are. What was the evidence for closing schools as a “reform”? What was the evidence that firing entire staffs and calling it a “turnaround” was evidence-based (it hasn’t worked in Chicago)? What was the evidence for evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students (answer: none)?

The ED needs to find out more about what constitutes “evidence.” It is not what you feel like doing, or a hunch, or a whim, or something Bill Gates told you to do.

It means that the approach was tried out and the results were reviewed to see what effects were produced. And then this was repeated again and again, to be sure that the relationship between cause and effect are genuine.

Jake Guth is a New Orleans native who graduated from public schools in that city and wanted to “give back.” So he signed up to teach in a charter school. It happened to be one of New Orleans’ super-star schools. Jake worked there four years. He has since moved on. He concluded that the school was setting students up to fail.

Guth writes:

There’s an old adage that if something seems too good to be true, than it likely is. Sci Academy, one of New Orleans’ top-rated charter schools, exemplifies that adage. As a success story/victim of New Orleans Public Schools, depending on which way you want to view it, I approached my job interview at Sci Academy with a big grain of salt. The Craigslist ad for a coach described an academically-driven school that was attempting to start an athletics program.

I still remember how blown away I was by my first visit to the school—how it was unlike any *public* school I’d ever seen: the polite kids I interacted with, the noticeable absence of discipline problems. The red flags should have gone up right away. Like the fact that I had no experience coaching. Or that I was given the keys to a room that was used as the school storage closet and told to clear it for a weight room. Or that there was no budget and the equipment was all donated, meaning that the helmets were well past the three-year certification usage limit and many of the pads were moldy. None of it mattered. I was 24 years old, a minority from New Orleans, and I’d landed what seemed like a dream job.

I am ashamed to admit it, but I drank the Kool-Aid and asked for refills. Being surrounded by mostly young, many non-certified educators, all of whom have really big dreams and aspirations of making a difference in the lives of kids, while being force-fed a steady diet of talk about perseverance and the *Stockholm Paradox* will do that to you.

I could see for myself that Sci was doing all the wrong things, yet claiming phenomenal graduation rates and supposedly putting kids in college *to succeed.* The Kool-Aid was losing its flavor. But I didn’t quit. I’d started advising students my first full year at Sci and I quickly built powerful relationships with them. I worried that, if I left, they might completely shut down towards an adviser who wasn’t able to reach them like I could, and who would then respond by punishing them for their failure to cooperate. I made a commitment to the 12 kids I was advising that I’d stay for a full four years in order to see them graduate….

The year after I signed on to start Sci Academy’s athletics program I joined the school’s mental health staff. I was picked to run an intervention group for behaviorally-troubled kids with IEPs, despite the fact that my only experience consisted of the six months I’d worked at the school.

The year after I signed on to start Sci Academy’s athletics program I joined the school’s mental health staff. I was picked to run an intervention group for behaviorally-troubled kids with IEPs, despite the fact that my only experience consisted of the six months I’d worked at the school. My Sci story isn’t unusual. The staff has a multitude of first-year teachers and teachers without completed certification, including the teacher of a SPED program for students with mild-to-moderate learning abilities. Burnout and frustration mean that *veteran teachers*—those with at least two years of experience at the school—end up leaving at an alarming rate. This past year alone saw nine staff members quit, eight of whom were *veterans,* in addition to four staff members who left mid-year. The result is that new staff members, including non-certified teachers, end up holding positions they aren’t qualified for, doing a further disservice to Sci Academy’s students.

While staff turnover has always been a problem at Sci, it got measurably worse two years ago as the school responded to a lawsuit alleging that by suspending students for trivial matters, Collegiate Academies, the network that Sci is part of, was violating their civil rights. The lawsuit resulted in a *drastic sweep* to install an In-School Suspension System as part of a concerted effort to keep more students within the school. Now, instead of suspending kids for disciplinary infractions, these students would be sent to a Positive Redirection Center (PRC). In theory the new system was intended for kids whose egregious misbehaviors were *disrupting the learning environment,* and included proper documentation, calls to parents, a *reflection guide* and mediation if necessary. In reality, however, teachers now had free license to send kids out of classes for trivial matters such as sucking their teeth, rolling their eyes, or my personal favorite, not working hard enough, a subjective judgment that was left up to the teacher.

Before long, the in-school detention center was overcrowded. The interventionists who ran the PRC quickly grew alarmed, then frustrated and finally exhausted by the sheer number of kids being sent out of class. It isn’t hard to imagine what happened next: kids started working the system and choosing to opt out of class when they didn’t want to be there. Once the school day was half over, kids would be sent home for disciplinary reasons without being counted against Sci’s suspension numbers. Other kids would simply walk off of campus. A divide formed between teachers and discipline staff, with both sides losing trust that the right decisions were being made. Meanwhile, significant numbers of kids, while technically *in school,* still weren’t in class. The system soon devolved into a mess that ended up burning out the very staff who’d been tasked with implementing the new system….

The school’s numbers games have added up to college persistence rate that’s far lower than Sci’s marketing materials would have you believe. I spoke recently to a member of Sci’s class of 2015, now at the University of Louisiana. I could hear the sadness in his voice when talking about what his classmates are up to and how so few of them are succeeding in college: *It is real sad how poorly my classmates are doing when they were told they were doing so great a year ago,* he told me. *It’s clear as day that we aren’t ready to be in a world that negates what Sci taught us about multiple chances and being able to extend deadlines. *

Of the 12 students I advised at Sci Academy, I saw seven of them finish with a diploma. As an adviser, I often went *off script* with my students. I didn’t force on them meaningless lessons about the Stockdale Paradox or insist that they believe in an ideal if they weren’t invested in it. I spent my time and energy building them up for whatever their futures might actually hold: teaching them how to write resumes, finding jobs and holding real conversations about life if college wasn’t an option. Some are studying, some are working on job training, some are working on independence—and that’s okay. I only wish that Sci Academy would have better prepared them for a realistic future.

In a warning to the people of Massachusetts and Georgia, this parent in Red Bank, New Jersey, explains her community’s fight against a charter school that has drained resources from the town’s public school and increased segregation by luring mostly white students.

She writes:

Many years ago, a small group of Red Bank parents started talking about how upset they were that the Red Bank Borough schools were terribly underfunded and terribly segregated, mostly due to the charter school in our small town.

For years, a group of us did our best to ignore the negative effects the Red Bank Charter School was having on our schools and community. We hoped these effects would go away, and magically we would be properly funded and less segregated. We worked tirelessly on fundraising, asking for community support (for arts, music, etc.) and doing our own recruiting of parents to help even out the segregation issue.

But as time went on, evidence of the negative effects caused by the charter school continued to present themselves — whether it was in annual cuts to our school programs, broken friendships and neighborhoods, or simply being exposed to class pictures from the mostly white charter school.

I tried to turn the other cheek and focus on our schools and making them better. I became highly involved in the Parent Teacher Organization and worked with state politicians on our arts programs and underfunding.

Success was achieved. We restored our string instruments program with the help of our superintendent and many community partners. We also maintained our valuable elective classes such as Chinese, AVID (college-prep) and Project Lead the Way (engineering). We were making great strides through the leadership of our very smart administration, involved parents and community.

Then everything came to a head last year when the charter school asked to expand. We were faced with the already existing negative effects multiplying — less funding, deeper segregation. Our community was floored. But we pulled together to block the expansion. As we did, we had a chance to educate our larger community even more about the negative effects the charter school has on our district.

It was like unpeeling an onion, one layer at a time, and examining the funding model, segregation, student academic achievement, programming, budgeting, school communications, and more. And with each layer, we became more and more astounded and shocked. The data supported our deepest fears: We were indeed living in the most segregated neighborhood in New Jersey — yes, our “hip town,” our cool little town of Red Bank, the same Red Bank that Smithsonian magazine, The New York Times and many others have written about as one of the best small towns in America. The data and information we uncovered was the dirty little secret that creeped below the headlines.

Mike Klonsky comments this evening on an especially meretricious list of “children’s rights.”

http://michaelklonsky.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-tribunes-so-called-schoolchildrens.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+mikeklonsky+(SmallTalk)&m=1

A reformer’s dream. School choice (vouchers and charters).

No collective bargaining for teachers.

Merit pay.

School closings.

Here is Mike’s bill of rights for kids:

“A real student Bill of Rights might include items like:

The right to learn in a safe environment in a safe community.

The right to be well-fed, rested and clothed.

The right to opt-out of high-stakes, standardized testing.

The right to attend a racially desegregated public school.

The right to gender equality including freedom from LGBT discrimination.

The right to vote and have voice on important matters concerning school policy.

The right to think critically, free from censorship, locker searches and book banning.

The right to have a qualified, certified teacher in every classroom.

The right to the same level of funding and resources as students in the wealthy suburbs.

The list of student rights could and would be a lot longer, if students had any voice in compiling it. I’m quite sure that didn’t happen over at the Tribune.”

Charles Pierce blogs for Esquire, where he turns out spot-on posts about many issues. He lives in Boston, so he is well aware of the millions of dollars being spent to deceive the public into thinking that more charter schools means more money for public schools.

In this post, he explains that the issue is about siphoning money from public schools and sending it to privatized schools.

He writes:

The people seeking to blow up the cap on the number of charter schools here in the Commonwealth (God save it!) have turned on the afterburners in recent weeks, as we get closer to balloting in which a referendum on lifting the cap will be placed before the voters. The airwaves are thick with commercials about how lifting the cap on charter schools will provide more money to public schools, which is a dodge, because charter schools are not in any important sense public schools.

There is no public oversight. There is little public input. They are privately run and funded with public money. This is the same principle that has worked out so well with prison food.

In New York on Monday, Jonathan Chait jumps into the issue with both feet. (To his credit, Chait is quite clear that his wife works for a charter company.) He argues no less a case than that the referendum is “one of the most important tests of social justice and economic mobility of any election in America this fall.” Glorioski! And, of course, he characterizes the opposition to lifting the charter cap as wholly influenced by the all-powerful teachers union, which he casts as a thoroughgoing villain, and which he comes dangerously close to accusing of enabling racism—or, at the very least, as heedless to the concerns of the poor and disadvantaged.

This is noxious garbage; the great majority of the people represented by the teachers union work in classrooms that most of us wouldn’t walk into on a bet. And, anyway, as the very excellent Diane Ravitch points out, a huge number of local school boards have lined up against lifting the cap. These are not all puppets of the evil teachers union. Many of them are composed of people who have looked around the country and seen that an untrammeled charter system is an amazing entry vehicle for waste and fraud. Chait dismisses these people as the heirs to Louise Day Hicks or something.

Pierce reviews the millions pouring into the state from billionaires who live elsewhere, and he writes:

Call me crazy, but I don’t think Michael Bloomberg and the Walton family give a rat’s ass about educating children in Roxbury or Mattapan. I think they are running for-profit businesses that want to increase their profits and, in Massachusetts, they see a chance to make themselves more money, the way they have in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Arizona, and all those other places where education is considered an industry and children, essentially products. (Especially Sacramento, where Michelle Rhee, Queen of the Grifters, is married to Kevin Johnson, a truly horrible person.)

They are not campaigning for freedom of choice for Massachusetts children. They are campaigning for their own freedom to gobble more and more from the public trough. See also: Privatization, all forms of.

In fairness, I don’t think Bloomberg or the Waltons expect to make a profit. They don’t need the money. I think they have a dedication to the free market (it works for them), and you can be sure that the opening of more charters will attract profiteers and entrepreneurs. It has happened everywhere else. Why would Massachusetts be immune? Deregulation and privatization will undermine Massachusetts’ excellent school system. School board members understand the threat, which is why more than 100 school boards have passed resolutions against Question 2, and not even one school board supports it.

EduShyster interviews two scholars (that is, grown-ups with doctorates at universities, not children in no-excuses charter schools) about their new study of the marketing and branding of schools. In the brand new world of school choice, schools have to find ways to attract both students and teachers.

Sarah Butler Jessen and Catherine DiMartino wrote a study called “Privatization, Choice, and Online Marketing” for the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Jessen and DiMartino explain to EduShyster that aggressive charter schools flood their target zones with mailings in order to produce more applicants than there are openings. This helps to brand them as “popular.”