Archives for category: Education Reform

Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that the city would eliminate the entry test for the city’s “gifted and talented” programs, administered to four-year-olds. The children who make the cut are disproportionately white and Asian. He wants all children to have accelerated programs.

However, the Mayor has only a few months left in office, and his decision may be reversed by the new mayor, who will likely be Eric Adams, the Democratic candidate, a former police officer who has shown little interest in education, and who was funded by charter billionaires..

Instead of having a specific gifted program sorting a small number of children, all kindergarten students attending the city’s 800 elementary schools next September will receive “accelerated” instruction, city officials said Friday. Starting in third grade, all students will be screened to determine if they should continue to receive accelerated instruction in specific subjects.

“The era of judging 4-year-olds based on a single test is over,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “Every New York City child deserves to reach their full potential, and this new, equitable model gives them that chance.”

At least, that’s the mayor’s plan. It is an open question whether the changes will ultimately get implemented.

De Blasio has about three months left in his term and Democratic candidate Eric Adams is widely expected to replace him. Adams has offered a much different vision for the coveted gifted programs, proposing instead to keep the admissions test and add more gifted classrooms in communities across the city…

Currently, about 2,500 kindergartners a year score seats in 80 schools to the highly selective program, with many families — with and without means — spending time and money to prep their preschoolers for the exam. Many advocates and parents have blasted the test, which is administered one-on-one to children when they’re about 4, for resulting in a system that largely excludes Black and Latino students. They fill only 14% of gifted seats, but make up nearly 60% of kindergartners citywide.

Be sure to open the linked article by a teacher who has administered the test to four-year-olds.

Jeannie Kaplan, a former member of Denver’s elected school board, has warned for years about the subversion of Denver’s school election by well-funded, out-of-state “reformers.” Their money makes it difficult for ordinary citizens to run for the school board.

In this post, Jeannie reports that Dark Money is back and is prepared to fund candidates who support charter schools and other elements of the failed “reform” agenda. She has identified the groups that act as pass-throughs for Dark Money, she has tallied the total (to date) of $360,000, but it’s usually impossible to identify the original source of the money.

Republican-controlled states have been expanding voucher programs in recent years, following the lead of former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, ALEC, and the Koch network of funders.

But Kentucky just hit a roadblock. A Franklin County judge ruled last week that the state’s voucher program violates the state constitution.

The Republican-led legislature narrowly passed the Education Opportunity Account Program earlier this year. It would allow individuals and corporations to donate to a scholarship fund run by a nonprofit “account granting organization,” or AGO. The donor would receive a state tax credit of up to 97% in return. Low- and middle-income families in the state’s nine most populous counties would be able to apply to the AGO to use those funds for private school tuition.

The nonprofit public education advocacy group Council for Better Education sued to challenge the program in court in June, representing two Kentucky school districts and a group of parents.

Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd agreed with the plaintiffs that the Educational Opportunity Account Program violates provisions in the Kentucky Constitution that prevent tax dollars from going to private schools.

Shepherd cited a constitutional provision that states, “No sum shall be raised or collected for education other than in common schools until the question of taxation is submitted to the legal voters.”

Attorneys with the national libertarian think tank Institute for Justice, which intervened to defend the program, argued that because the would-be tax dollars never enter the state’s coffers, the funds should be considered private, charitable donations.

Shepherd disagreed.

“Here, applying the plain language of the Kentucky Constitution, the income tax credit at issue raises a sum of money for private education outside the system of common schools. That it does so through a tax credit rather than a direct appropriation is not relevant, applying the plain language of §184,” he wrote.

The judge also echoed the plaintiffs’ concerns that the program could send funds to private schools that discriminate against certain students. The law prevents the state from forcing participating private schools to change their “creed, practices, admissions policy, or curriculum.”

“Accordingly, the funds can be paid to schools that exclude children with learning disabilities, and educational providers can discriminate on any basis they choose, and still receive EOA funds. It appears education providers are exempt from all of the safeguards and accountability measures that the legislature has enacted that apply to public schools,” Shepherd wrote.

Meanwhile, proponents of private schools were swift to attack Shepherd’s decision.

Andrew Vandiver, president of EdChoice Kentucky, said the group was “disappointed” with the decision. EdChoice is an advocacy group that promotes charter schools and public funding of private schools.

How refreshing to read a court decision that refers to the spirit and the meaning of the law, not a tortured interpretation that turns the law on its head. That has happened in many other states, where conservative judges have ruled that the state constitution–which specifically forbids public funding of private and religious schools–does not actually stand in the way of funding private and religious schools.

Steven Singer is a veteran teacher in Pennsylvania. In this post, he offers five ways to slow the teacher exodus.

He begins:

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, schools across the United States are on the brink of collapse.

There is a classroom teacher shortage.

There is a substitute teacher shortage.

There is a bus driver shortage.

There is a special education aide shortage.

The people we depend on to staff our public schools are running away in droves.

It’s a clear supply and demand issue that calls for deep structural changes.

However, it’s not really new. We’ve needed better compensation and treatment of school employees for decades, but our policymakers have been extremely resistant to do anything about it.

Instead, they’ve given away our tax dollars to corporations through charter and voucher school initiatives. They’ve siphoned funding to pay for more standardized testing, teaching to the test, and ed tech software.

But the people who actually do the work of educating our youth. We’ve left them out in the cold.

Now with the smoldering pandemic and increased impacts on the health, safety and well-being of teachers and other staff, the exodus has merely intensified.

Frankly, I’m not holding my breath for lawmakers to finally get off their collective asses.

We need a popular, national movement demanding action from our state and federal governments. However, in the meantime, there are several things our local school districts can do to stem the tide of educators fleeing the profession.

These are simple, cheap and common sense methods to encourage teachers to stay in the classroom and weather the storm.

However, let me be clear. None of these can solve the problem, alone. And even ALL of these will not stop the long-term flight of educators from our schools without better salaries and treatment.

To read his five proposals, open the link.

Becky Peterson writes in Business Insider about the philanthropic ventures of Apple founder Steve Jobs’s widow, Laurene Powell Jobs. While Powell is apparently trying to brand the Emerson Collective as a progressive foundation, its education ideas are firmly rooted in the failed ideas of the NCLB-Race to the Top paradigm. We learn in the article that Ms. Jobs relies on Arne Duncan and his former aide Russlyn Ali for her education advice.

The Emerson Collective’s big idea was the XQ Project, which awarded $10 million to ten schools to reinvent the high school. in addition to the seed money of $100 million, Emerson spent another $200 million on XQ, part of which was a mega program on all three networks to declare the failure of the traditional high school and the debut of the XQ Project.

Unfortunately for Chalkbeat, it had the temerity to report honestly about the failures of the XQ Project. The Emerson Collective was a major donor to Chalkbeat. And then the funding stoppped.

For the first few years, Chalkbeat and Laurene Powell Jobs looked like the perfect match. 

The billionaire philanthropist and widow of Steve Jobs was known for her interest in education and school reform, and the Chalkbeat nonprofit newsroom had a compelling mission to report deeply on education policy and practice.

So in 2015, Emerson Collective, Powell Jobs’ personal office, issued a two-year grant to Chalkbeat. It was the first in a total of $1.6 million in checks written to the publication and one of the earliest media grants from Powell Jobs as she steadily transformed Emerson Collective from a small social-change organization into one of the most well-funded and ambitious philanthropy and investment firms in the country.

Chalkbeat might have remained just another example of Powell Jobs’ incalculable generosity— one of thousands — if it weren’t for some of its coverage. 

In May, Emerson Collective stopped funding the publication altogether. The decision, a former employee told Insider, was at least in part a response to Chalkbeat’s critical coverage of an education organization that is one of Emerson Collective’s marquee projects. 

(Emerson Collective denies the characterization.)

It was a surprising display of institutional pettiness at the mission-driven Emerson Collective, and it did not go unnoticed among the staff, most of whom had signed on in large part because of its founder’s “sincere connection” to a variety of progressive causes

Ali first joined Emerson Collective to lead its education investments in 2012; then in 2015 she and Powell Jobs cofounded XQ Institute, an independent nonprofit backed by Emerson Collective. 

“I think we share a common belief that this is among the most, if not the most, important civil-rights and social-justice issues of our generation,” Ali said of Powell Jobs. “Education was the path out for both of us.”

Behind XQ is a controversial thesis that technology will fundamentally transform the future of work and require a brand-new approach to education. The US education system, Ali wrote in a 2019 essay in The Atlantic, is “faltering.” The best way out, Ali argues, is to “rethink and reinvigorate” the way schools teach.

To address this, Ali and Powell Jobs launched XQ: The Super School Project, and issued $10 million grants to 10 winners of a competition to rethink American high schools in 2016. They followed up a year later with an hourlong star-studded network TV special that included a live performance by Kelly Clarkson, a school-bus sing-along with Tom Hanks and James Corden, and a key question: “What if schools unlocked the power of technology to transform education?” 

All told, Emerson Collective has put about $300 million toward XQ Institute, making it one of its most well-funded projects, according to people familiar with its finances. 

As might be expected with that amount of spending, the effort has drawn some scrutiny. 

In the fall of 2019, Chalkbeat reported that XQ had occasionally leaned on wrong or misleading data to support its thesis in promotional messages. Another Chalkbeat article asked a more pointed question: three years after XQ first issued its grants, “is it working?”

Later that year, Emerson Collective decided to wind down its support for Chalkbeat and give the publication a final $200,000 “exit” grant. 

Ali had indicated in conversation that Chalkbeat’s negative coverage would no longer be a problem once its grant ran out, a former employee said. And according to an email from 2021 viewed by Insider, Ali considered Chalkbeat’s critical coverage to be too opinionated….

Chalkbeat CEO Elizabeth Green told Insider in a statement: “I’m a strong believer that philanthropically supported journalism can and must be rigorously independent. Emerson Collective made a big bet on Chalkbeat’s model early on, and during the many years they supported our education reporting, they were a generous donor. In addition to financial resources, Emerson provided us with fundraising training that enabled us to mobilize a strong and stable slate of supporters who make our fearless independent reporting possible.”

In August 2021, the question about Emerson’s coverage of education resurfaced. For years, Ali had been pushing to fund a different education website called The 74, which was more aligned with Ali and Powell Jobs’ politics. 

The media team wouldn’t fund it after deeming the website too political, so Ali asked Powell Jobs’ second-in-command, Stacey Rubin, to fund it using money earmarked for political organizations, according to an email viewed by Insider. 

So far, the funding hasn’t happened.

Ms. Jobs and Russlyn Ali preferred to support the pro-privatization website “The 74,” not independent journalism. “The 74” was founded by Campbell Brown, who is anti-public school and anti-union, a close friend of Betsy DeVos.

Good for Chalkbeat and Elizabeth Green!

A new international organization has released five case studies of low- and middle-income nations, demonstrating that PUBLIC EDUCATION WORKS.

I received this mailing:

We are delighted to launch a new important piece of research on public education, titled Public education works: lessons from five case-studies in low- and middle- income countries”. The study shows that well-organised public education systems are possible and working everywhere, with political will and use of locally relevant practices.

It showcases positive examples of public education in different contexts and settings. The cases – from Bolivia to Namibia, including Vietnam – challenge the disseminated idea that public education needs privatisation for quality and point to a rights-aligned and socially committed definition of quality – including the aim for social inclusion and equity, the engagement of community and local actors, valuing teachers and respecting local culture.  It concludes that public education must be the way forward for building more equal, just and sustainable societies.

The research was produced collaboratively by 12 organizations and is part of GI-ESCR’s continuous efforts to reverse the adverse impact of the commercialisation of education in the context of the unprecedented expansion of private-sector involvement in education.

The launch of this study is a follow-up to the publication of a policy brief released ahead of the Global Partnership for Education summit in July 2021. Its release during the virtual session of the World Bank’s Civil Society Policy Forum adds to the call on the World Bank and other investors to prioritize their support for public education in their efforts to build back more resilient and equitable education systems for all.

The research is available in three formats: a Working paper, Research brief and Policy brief.

To support the publicity of this new, exciting research, please share widely.

#PublicEducationWorks

READ the Working paper or Research brief here

GI-ESCR is a non-governmental organisation that believes transformative change to end endemic problems of social and economic injustice is possible only through a human rights lens.

Please read the report of NPE’s Grassroots Network.

There are now more than 175 local organizations working for their public schools against privatization. If your group hasn’t joined yet, consider doing so.

Here is a small part of the monthly report:

Giving Voice to Friends of Public Education: NPE Action’s New Project 

The Network for Public Education is proud to announce a new project from NPE Action called Public Voices for Public Schools. Public Voices for Public Schools will give voice to former voucher and charter parents, educators, and community members who work tirelessly in their communities every day to improve our public schools, even as they fight well-funded efforts to privatize their schools. Public Voices for Public Schools will publish a story each Monday.  Go here to subscribe to the website and get each story as it is launched.  Please like them on Facebook and give them a follow on Twitter.

National Organizing

Defending the Early Years Advisory Board Member, Marcy Guddemi, will be talking about childhood trauma and the healing powers of play on October 23rd. For more information, go here. In their Cashing in on Kids series In the Public Interest shared that California’s online charter schools are performing poorly, even as enrollment soars. The Journey for Justice Alliancedeployed an emergency response team to New Orleans to assist communities impacted by Hurricane Ida. Go here to listen to Jitu Brown, National Director of J4J, discuss their work. The Schott Foundation posted on their blog this month that the eviction crisis is also an education crisis. Be sure to keep up with the latest on testing by reading the Fairtest newsletter. Rethinking Schools staff and editors are saddened by the death of their friend Jim Loewen, whose work did so much to help students and teachers to rethink U.S. history. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy posted a reportwith new information from the NYC Department of Education student data breach — with some critical unanswered questions, including lack of encryption and timely notification, both of which are required by NYS law. Parents for Public Schools publishedSeptember’s Kindergarten Readiness Calendar, from their friends at Excel By 5, Inc. The calendar this month is all about community helpers. PPS also advocated for competitive pay for Mississippi teachers this month in a statement to the Mississippi Senate Education Committee: Parents Across America has a public Facebook page that is great for interacting with others from across the nation about public education issues. Go here to join in the conversation.

I had the pleasure of reading the galleys of Audrey Watter’s fascinating new book—Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning—about the origins of education technology, which began with the search for a machine that could replace teachers: a teaching machine. She goes into detail about the pioneers of this innovation, notably B.F. Skinner, who tried relentlessly to find a publisher to produce and monetize his invention.

Watter’s’ book was published by MIT Press. You will enjoy it.

The search for the best “teaching machine” seems akin to the search for the Fountain of Youth or Shangri-La, but with a big profit when on the market.

You can listen to Audrey talk about her new book with Leonie Haimson on Leonie’s radio show.

Jan Resseger describes the crisis of early childhood education in this post.

The importance of early childhood education for healthy development has been repeatedly documented, most recently by the Learning Policy Institute. Yet the sector continues to be underfunded, teachers are underpaid, and they are in short supply.

She writes:

The kind of enriched child care envisioned by experts at the Learning Policy Institute does not exist, however, for most American families, particularly as problems have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week the Washington Post‘s Heather Long reported: “The numbers are staggering: The child-care services industry is still down 126,700 workers—more than a 10 percent decline from pre-pandemic levels, Labor Department data shows. While many industries complain they can’t find enough workers, the hiring situation is more dire in child-care than in restaurants right now. Young women in their late teens and 20s who are typically drawn to work at the day care centers are opting instead to take jobs as administrative assistants, retail clerks, and bank tellers… Veteran child-care workers are quitting… More than 10,000 workers have left the industry since June…. “

And for the NY Times, last week Claire Cain Miller provided examples from across the country: “At a Y.M.C.A. in San Antonio, 200 children are on wait lists for child care because of hiring problems. It raised average hourly pay for full-time workers to $12.50 from $10, but still can’t recruit enough teachers to meet the demand. In Ann Arbor, Mich., the school district had announced it was shutting down its after-school program. It managed to hire people to open at five of 20 elementary schools, those most in need, but that left out at least 1,000 children. And in Portland, Ore., preschool spots are few and far between, and elementary schools are running after-school care at limited capacity or have canceled programs altogether… Child care providers face challenges like those in many other service industries that are unable to find enough workers—low pay and little job stability. The median hourly pay is $12, and 98 percent of occupations pay more… Turnover is high in early childhood education, and jobs caring for school-aged children are only a few hours a day and often end in the summer… Some people are hesitant to work with unvaccinated children.”

Actually it is surprising to see major coverage of child care problems in the nation’s two biggest newspapers. The coverage last week was most likely a response to a new report released from the Department of the Treasury, published to push the child care investments—which President Biden has proposed and which Congress is currently debating—as part of the federal budget reconciliation package. The Treasury Department’s new report describes the problem clearly and concisely: “The child care sector is a crucial and underfunded part of the American economy. One in every 110 U.S. workers—and one in every 55 working women—makes a living in early childhood education and care. Parents of young children devote a sizeable share of their total income to child care. Children benefit enormously from high quality early childhood settings that nurture and support healthy development, all the while laying the foundation for future success by supporting early learning skills. An extensive body of research describes large potential economic returns to investments in early childhood education and care for preschool children, especially for children from less advantaged families… This report describes the existing child care system in the United States, which relies on private financing to provide care for most children, and documents how this system fails to adequately serve many families.”

Most childcare facilities are run by private agencies. Most American families cannot afford them. President Biden included a major boost for early childhood education, but the fate of his funding program hangs in the balance.

Aaron Regunburg began his career as a leader of the Providence Student Union. He subsequently served in the legislature and ran in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, capturing 49% of the vote. He lost to Dan McKee, who is now Governor, after succeeding Gina Raimondo when Biden appointed her to his cabinet.

Regunberg wrote in the Providence Journal that McKee seems to be engaging in pay-for-play with his financial backers at Chiefs for Change (started by Jeb Bush).

He wrote:

Governor McKee’s string of recent scandals raises the question of whether he may be dragging our state back to the bad old days of pay-to-play governance.

Take the recent story of a $5-million “school reopening” contract given to Governor McKee’s longtime financial backers at the corporate education reform group Chiefs for Change (CFC). The head of CFC, Mike Magee, has directly contributed thousands of dollars to the governor, and his brother leads the Super PAC that spent hundreds of thousands supporting McKee during my primary challenge to him in 2018. As has been reported extensively by WPRI, just two days after Mr. McKee took office, the chief operating officer and director of operations of CFC incorporated a brand-new company, ILO Group, which almost immediately received a state contract to the tune of $5.2 million — an amount many millions of dollars more than the next-highest bid.

Disgustingly, it appears ILO felt comfortable enough with this scheme that they barely pretended to provide useful services to our schools. As WPRI reported, almost no districts in the state received school reopening assistance from the company. In fact, the day after Governor McKee pointed to ILO’s work with Westerly to justify the millions they received, the chair of the Westerly School Committee wrote, “ILO is not doing any work in Westerly. At all.” She went on to stress she was “still unclear on exactly how this company can support RI school districts.”