Archives for category: Failure

This is an extraordinary story, which I hope you will read to the end. It was published by Chalkbeat.

A group of concerned leaders in Detroit, including some retired educators, decided to open a charter school.  They won the endorsement of the city’s leading philanthropies. They won a federal grant from the Charter Schools Program.

The school struggled from the beginning. It struggled initially to attract students, because it was competing with so many other charters for the same students. It took in students from a closing charter, who were far behind. It searched for an educational management company, which drew off a large share of its income.

It housed its students in a closed elementary school, where there was far more space than the charter could use.

There was no shortage of potential authorizers. The sponsors were turned down by one, then found another.

Efforts to regulate charter schools in Michigan have run into fierce political headwinds, in large part because of DeVos and her family, who have used their considerable fortune to support a free market education system that allows charter schools to open wherever they believe they’ll succeed.

DeVos and her allies have been so successful in blocking efforts to regulate charter schools in Michigan that when the founders of Delta Prep began looking for permission to open back in 2012, they had no shortage of options. They could pick from roughly eight colleges and school districts that were empowered to authorize charter schools, some of which would provide more oversight than others. When it finally opened in 2014, Delta Prep was one of more than a dozen schools that opened in Detroit and began competing for the same students.

The problems multiplied. Low enrollment. Discipline problems. A rotating cast of principals, year after year.

Delta officials had promised that “90 percent of students will attend every class, on time, every day.” But in the school’s third year, just 20 percent of students came to class with any regularity.

Officials said they would boost student achievement by borrowing from the playbook of a New York-based education nonprofit. Their goal: “85% of students will demonstrate competency in all core subjects via exit tests.”

But within three years, not a single Delta Prep 11th-grader was deemed proficient in math, compared with 13.2 percent in Detroit’s troubled main district. Just 10 percent of 11th-graders posted passing scores in SAT English, compared with 37 percent in the district.

Delta Prep had promised that “100% of graduates will be accepted to college.” But in 2016, the only year the state recorded graduate data for Delta Prep, just over half of the school’s graduates enrolled in college. Just six students — 10 percent of that first graduating class — went on to complete a year’s worth of college credits within a year of graduating.

If the data was concerning, the situation inside the school was even more dire. When Brandi North was hired as principal in 2017, the first thing she did was hire security. The sprawling school was built during an era when Detroit couldn’t find enough classroom space for all of its students, but now it sat mostly unused, and students tended to disappear into vacant classrooms. Teacher-student relations were antagonistic. North said her assistant principal’s hand was broken during an encounter with a student, and that she regularly contacted the police about student behavior.

The year before she arrived — and the year after the influx of students from recently closed schools — Delta Prep had slapped more than half of its students with out-of-school suspensions, resulting in nearly 1,000 missed days of school.

“In 15 years of education, it was the most stressful position I’ve ever had,” North said. “I worked in south central Los Angeles, and Delta was still my most stressful situation.”

North started at the school in March 2017, after the previous principal resigned and an interim principal decided not to take the job. She says she found tutors for students, brought consistency to a patchwork curriculum, even drove to students’ houses on test day to make sure they took Michigan’s standardized exam. But she left that June following disagreement with the management company that she declined to discuss.

She was not the only administrator unable to cut it at the school. Within a few years of its hopeful start, Delta Prep had become another Detroit school desperate to find the rare principal capable of quarterbacking a long-shot school turnaround. It had five principals in less than five years of operation…

In Detroit’s crowded education landscape, Delta Prep kept falling short of its 400-student target, creating a financial situation so bleak that students lacked textbooks and other basic supplies.

When officials from Ferris State came to check in on the school, they noted that only one-third of its budget was spent on instruction, while far too much went to the management company and other operating costs. Delta Prep’s reserve fund, set aside to protect the school against unforeseen problems, dipped to $217 in 2017-18.

Twenty-two days after the start of school in the fall of 2018, Delta Prep closed its doors, to the shock of students and parents, who suddenly had to find a new school.

In the business world, closings are not uncommon. In the charter world, school closings are not uncommon. Anyone who thinks it is easy to run and manage a school should read this story and think again.

Customers can find another place to shop when a store goes out of business. When a school closes, children, parents, teachers, and families are disrupted.

 

Mercedes Schneider listened to Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos deride what they call “America’s failing government schools.”

She writes that these two deep thinkers put the hyphen in the wrong place. To understand what has happened over the past two decades, you must realize that the schools have been victimized by failing-government policies, by policies based on flawed theories and uninformed hunches, starting with a “Texas miracle” that never happened and followed by federal mandates that were unrealistic and just plain dumb.

Who failed? Not the schools. The politicians.

This article just appeared in TIME magazine, explaining how the “education reform” movement has failed America. 

This short article encapsulates the themes of my book SLAYING GOLIATH. Piling on tests and punishments for students and teachers and closing schools doesn’t solve any problems, and it certainly doesn’t improve education.

The article gives a much abbreviated history of “reform” from George W. Bush to Barack Obama to Betsy DeVos. Testing and choice, they assumed, would fix all the problems.

Not true.

For almost twenty years, the Bush-Obama-Trump program of standardized testing, punitive accountability, and school choice has been the reform strategy. It has utterly failed.

So the question remains: How do we improve our schools? We begin by recognizing that poverty and affluence are the most important determinants of test scores. This strong correlation shows up on every standardized test. Every standardized test is normed on a bell curve that reflects family income and education; affluent kids always dominate the top, and poor kids dominate the bottom. Nearly half the students in this country now qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, which is the federal measure of poverty. We can ameliorate the impact of poverty on children and families by making sure that they have access to nutrition, medical care, and decent housing. Pregnant women need medical care to ensure that their children are born healthy.

If the billionaires supporting charter schools and vouchers are serious about improving education, they would insist that the federal government fully fund the education of students with disabilities and triple the funding for schools in low-income districts. Teachers should be paid as the professionals that they are, instead of having to work at second or third jobs to make ends meet. Teachers should write their own tests, as they did for generations. States and districts should save the billions now wasted on standardized testing and spend it instead to reduce class sizes so children can get individualized help from their teacher.

Children and schools need stability, not disruption. They need experienced teachers and well-maintained schools. All children need schools that have a nurse, counselors, and a library with a librarian. Children need time to play every day. They need nutrition and regular medical check-ups.

All of this is common sense. These are reforms that work.

There comes a time for Bill Gates and other billionaires to acknowledge that what they have done has failed. That time is now.

 

Melanie McCabe, an English teacher at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia, and an author, wrote this terrific and accurate review of SLAYING GOLIATH.

Unlike the reviewer for the New York Times, who is not a teacher and gives no hint of ever having set foot in a classroom since she finished school and college, Melanie McCabe knows full well about the billionaire-funded attacks on public schools and their teachers, which continue to seek their privatization of our public schools and to impose business ideas about closing schools based on spurious data.

Teachers get it. Teachers know that their students are being strangled by high-stakes testing and their schools are deprived of resources when forced to compete with charters and vouchers, which do not offer better education than the public schools they harm.

McCabe writes:

[Ravitch] has written a thought-provoking, painstakingly researched account of those who have sought to privatize and monetize America’s schools. She calls them the “Disrupters,” and they are indeed a foe with all the intimidating strength of Goliath. Confronting this opponent is the “Resistance”: the ordinary teachers, parents and citizens who are fighting back and winning.

Ravitch exposes the self-serving motivations of the Disrupters — many of them among the richest people in America, such as the Walton family, Bill Gates, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Koch brothers and Mark Zuckerberg. Their belief that schools should be operated as businesses, with private ownership and data-driven decision-making, has resulted in dismal standardized test scores, the closure of public schools and the demonizing of teachers. The charter schools they have championed and have been enriched by have not resulted in promised improvements, but instead have drained much-needed funds from struggling public schools. The Disrupters are not supporters of education, Ravitch argues; rather, they are in pursuit of the money to be made not only by running charter schools but also through involvement in such lucrative industries as student testing, educational hardware and software, curriculum development, and consulting services…

Though the history of the school reform movement and its impact on schools and students are alarming, the story Ravitch sets out to tell is not one of hand-wringing despair; rather, it is a heartening account of how teachers, parents and union leaders across the nation have been fighting against the damage caused by the Disrupters. The Resistance opposes privatization and misuse or overuse of standardized testing, and seeks adequate compensation for teachers and funding for public schools that has too long been diverted to charter schools….

Ravitch’s message is not one of gloom and doom, but rather she offers a rallying cry that shows how people everywhere are wising up and fighting back. “The great lesson of this story is that billionaires should not be allowed to buy democracy, although they are certainly trying to do so,” Ravitch writes. “The power of their money can be defeated by the power of voters.”

There is much to learn from this book, and much inspiration to be found. The book is not written as a how-to guide for the Resistance. It is a scrupulously thorough study of a tumultuous period in American education. However, the conscientious reader who seeks strategies to combat the pervasive damage done by the Disrupters will find useful information here, along with affirmation that fighting back is possible. To paraphrase one of the chapter titles, Goliath has stumbled. The reign of terror is not yet over, but it has been brought to its knees.

Peter Greene writes here about the possibility that legislators might attempt to limit the damage done by the cyber charter industry, which is protected by armor of cash and campaign contributions.

Numerous studies, including one by the charter-friendly CREDO of Stanford, have found that students in cyber charters don’t learn much. Some studies have shown that cyber charters don’t learn anything.

But the industry is immensely profitable, because the cyber charters get paid full state tuition and provide almost nothing, unlike a brick and mortar school that must provide heat, electricity, a custodian, a library, transportation, etc. Cyber charters make all those things unnecessary, but at the same time that provide as meager an education as is possible.

Greene writes:

Rep. Curt Sonney is a GOP top dog in the Pennsylvania Education Committee, and he’s never been known as a close friend of public schools. But he represents Erie, a district that has been absolutely gutted by school choice, so maybe that’s why he has spent the last couple of years nipping at the heels of Pennsylvania’s thriving cyber charter industry.

Harrisburg just had hearings on his latest proposal, a bill that he first announced last October and which has something for virtually everyone to hate.

Pennsylvania cyber schools are an absolute mess, barely covered by laws that never anticipated such a thing and protected by a massive pile of money thrown both at lobbying and campaign contributions.

The cybers do offer a service that is useful for some students (I personally know of one such case). But they also provide a quick exit for parents who don’t want to deal with truancy issues or other disciplinary problems. Their results are generally very poor (none have ever been ranked proficient on the Big Standardized Test), and state oversight is so lousy that many were allowed to continue operating for years without ever having renewed their charters.

But what really has drawn the wrath of even people who don’t pay much attention to education policy is that they are expensive as hell. Because the charter laws didn’t really anticipate this cyber-development, cyber-charters are paid at the same rate as a brick-and-mortar charter. So an individual student may bring in $10-$20K, but costs the cyber charter the price of one computer, one printer, and 1/250th of an on-line teacher. The profit margin is huge, but so is the cost to local districts, with poorer districts in the state being hit the worst.

A year ago, there was a bill floating around Harrisburg to change the game– if a local district opened a cyber-school, then any families that wanted to send their kid to an out-of-district cyberwould have to foot the bill themselves.

The bill (HB 1897) is a bit involved, and we’ll go digging in a moment, but the two headline items are this: all cyber-charters will be shut down, and all school districts will offer cyber education. Now, to look for some of those devilish details.

Betsy DeVos is a huge fan of cyber charters and has even invested in them.

Be that as it may, they are a financial success and an education failure.

 

 

Wendy Lecker is a civil rights lawyer who writes frequently for the Stamford (Connecticut) Advocate and is a regular contributor to the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

Recently she wrote about Yale’s agreement to adopt Eli Broad’s school-wrecking “Broad Institute” in return for a donation of $100 million. The Broad Institute is a vanity project by a billionaire who readily admits he knows nothing about education but enjoys disrupting school districts because he can.

Lecker writes:

Wendy Lecker: Putting a price tag on public schools

When it comes to using one’s fortune to influence American policy, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch stand out.
The Kochs have spent a fortune pushing American politics and policy to the right. Their secretive organization, Americans for Prosperity, is a major player in anti-labor activities, such as Wisconsin’s slashing of union rights, and fighting minimum wage increases nationwide. The Kochs poured money into the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”) a stealth lobby organization that writes bills that advance Koch industries’ interests specifically and the Koch’s extreme free market ideology in general, and then gets legislators all over the country to introduce them.
They have also donated millions of dollars to establish research centers at universities to push their brand of unregulated capitalism. They impose conditions and performance obligations on the donations, interfere in hiring decisions, and make curriculum and programming decisions. The Kochs often demand pre-approval of any public statements and include anti-transparency provisions in donor agreements. This research is then cited as the scholarly basis for Congressional decisions favoring the Kochs’ interests. The Kochs are proud of their integrated strategy to build a pipeline of influence. The president of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation boasted that “(n)o one else has this infrastructure.”
Eli Broad, a billionaire who made his fortune through real estate and insurance, seeks to build a Koch-style infrastructure to push his education reform ideology. Broad recently announced that, with a $100 million donation, he is bringing his Broad Center to Yale’s School of Management (“SOM”).
The Broad Center trains school district leaders and those who seek to influence education policy. The center emphasizes applying business principles to running school districts and de-emphasizes education. In seeking candidates, the Broad Center prioritizes “a strong and direct alignment with specific (Broad Center) reform priorities” — which include school privatization and weakening labor protections. The Center openly aims to reshape American public education according to Broad’s ideology.
Eli Broad is a major player in some of the most aggressive — and controversial- education reform policies in America. Like the Kochs, Broad employs an integrated strategy of influence. For example, he bankrolled the education reform slate in the Los Angeles 2018 school board election. His star beneficiary, charter operator Ref Rodriguez, later resigned from the board and pled guilty to felony election fraud conspiracy. Broad also poured millions into Broad alumnus and charter operator Marshall Tuck’s 2018 unsuccessful campaign for California State Superintendent.
Broad used his money and influence to push the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) to run Detroit’s public schools. He provided significant funding and even summoned Broad alumnus and then Kansas City superintendent, John Covington, to be its first chancellor. Covington had wreaked havoc on Kansas City, firing hundreds of teachers and replacing them with inexperienced Teach for America members, and imposing other disruptive reforms. After his chaotic departure, Kansas City’s school district lost its accreditation. It then abandoned Covington’s reforms to regain its footing.
Covington left the EAA abruptly after charges of questionable spending, and the Broad Center hired him. The EAA was a devastating failure, plagued by financial mismanagement and abysmal academic failures.
A succession of Broad alumni ran Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District, which was also plagued by financial mismanagement and poor student achievement — worse than in schools under local district control.
Broad alumni were forced out of Seattle and Los Angeles amid financial impropriety, and Barbara Byrd Bennett, a Broad executive coach, is in federal prison after pleading guilty to a bribery scandal in which she engaged while head of Chicago Public Schools.
These scandals reflect poorly on Broad’s emphasis on applying business practices to school districts.
Much like the Koch’s foray into higher education, Broad’s move to SOM seems like an effort to profit from Yale’s name and perhaps sanitize the questionable track record of Broad alumni. Since Yale has no school of education — unlike other universities in New Haven — Broad’s interest is not to bolster any knowledge of how children can learn successfully.
In an effort to discern how much of the Koch playbook Broad is employing at Yale, I asked SOM about Broad’s involvement in the governance, curriculum, programming and hiring at SOM’s new center. After first indicating they would run these questions by SOM’s dean, SOM now fails to respond, despite my request for follow-up. Apparently, SOM’s Broad Center is adopting the Koch’s lack of transparency.
It is disturbing that a major university is helping enlarge the Broad pipeline, which has funneled scandal and upheaval across American public schools.
Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.

Gary Rubinstein has been following the Tennessee Achievement School District since its inception and reporting annually on its failure. The ASD was funded by $100 million from the Obama-Duncan “Race to the Top.” The theory behind the ASD was that students had low test scores because they attended public schools with bad teachers. Take the same students in the same schools, turn them over to charter operators, and their test scores would soar. The theory was wrong.

Gary writes about it here. 

Since 2011 I have been following the biggest, and most predictable, disasters of the education reform movement — the Tennessee Achievement School District (ASD).  It was formed in a perfect storm of reform theory.  First, Tennessee won Race To The Top money.  Then they hired a TFA-alum and the ex-husband of Michelle Rhee, Kevin Huffman to be their state commissioner.  Then he hired TFA-alum and charter school founder Chris Barbic to design and run the ASD.  The initial promise of the ASD was that they would take schools in the bottom 5% and convert them into charter schools in order to ‘catapult’ them into the top 25% in five years.  They started with 6 schools in 2012 and grew to over 30 schools within a few years.

They completely failed at this mission.  Chris Barbic resigned, Kevin Huffman resigned, Barbic’s replacement resigned, Barbic’s replacement’s replacement resigned.  Of the 30 schools they nearly all stayed in the bottom 5% except a few that catapulted into the bottom 10%.

The new education commissioner of Tennessee is also a TFA alum with ideas similar to Huffman.  She promised, however, to get a handle on the ASD and what to do about its failure.  After a listening tour around the state she made, it seemed at first, a decision that was long overdue.

Chalkbeat TN recently had a post with the enticing title ‘All 30 schools in Tennessee’s turnaround district would exit by 2022 in a massive restructuring proposal.’  It would seem like this is good news.  The ASD was such a costly failure, costing about $100 million over the years I think, the only thing to do was to put it out of its misery and dissolve it completely.

But I’ve been studying reformers enough over the years not to get too excited about this.  The headline would make the most optimistic readers think that the 30 schools going back to the district would again become public schools.  The charter schools supposedly traded flexibility for accountability so their failure to deliver on their promises should result in them being sent packing.

But according to the article, it is not clear yet if being returned to the district means that they will become public schools again.  Also they say that there still will be an ASD after this.  Now there can’t be a school district with zero schools, so what’s going on?

I think, and I hope I’m wrong about this, that with the failure of the ASD there was no way that they could justify adding more schools to it.  But by ‘returning’ the 30 schools back to their districts, and probably keeping them as charters, there will now be room to add more schools in the bottom 5% to the re-booted ASD.  If this is what happens, the ASD won’t be disappearing or even shrinking, it will be expanding.  There will be the 30 schools that are still charters, but just operating as part of the district they have been returned to.  And then there will be another 20 schools, maybe, that are in the new ASD.  (They actually call it the ASD 2.0 in the state slide show)

Gary suspects a bait-and-switch, like a businessman declaring bankruptcy, then reappearing with a new name and more money.

He will keep watch for us.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was one of the few members of the U.S. Senate to vote against No Child Left Behind when it was approved by Congress in 2001.

Today is the anniversary of the signing of that law.

Sanders writes that the federal mandate for annual testing in grades 3-8 has been an expensive failure.

In this article in USA Today, Sanders calls for an end to the NCLB mandate, which remained in place through Race to the Top and the Every Students Succeeds Act of 2015 (Every student succeeds is another way of saying “no child left behind.”)

He writes:

Wednesday marks 18 years since the signing into law of No Child Left Behind, one of the worst pieces of legislation in our nation’s history. In December 2001, I voted against NCLB because it was as clear to me then, as it is now, that so-called school choice and high-stakes standardized testing would not improve our schools or enhance our children’s ability to learn. We do not need an education system in which kids are simply taught to take tests. We need a system in which kids learn and grow in a holistic manner. 

Under NCLB, standardized tests were utilized to hold public schools and teachers “accountable” for student outcomes. As a result, some schools that underperformed were closed and their teachers and unions blamed. 

The long-term effects of this approach have been disastrous. NCLB perpetuated the myth of public schools and teachers as failing, which opened the door for the spread of school voucher programs and charter schools that we have today. Some of these charter schools are operated by for-profits; many of them are nonunion and are not publicly accountable.

One error here: 90% of charters are non-union, not “many.” That is why charters have the enthusiastic support of right-wingers like the Waltons, DeVos, Koch, and other billionaires (see Slaying Goliath for a comprehensive list of the billionaires, foundations, and corporations that support testing and charters)

The Legacy Prep School in Charlotte, North Carolina, closed its doors at the end of the holidays, leaving parents and students on their own to find a school.

Legacy Prep was a private school that relied on vouchers from the state.

Parents were stunned.

Yes, 100% caught off-guard,” said Jackie Davis, whose son attends Legacy Prep. 

On Friday, she and other parents whose children were enjoying holiday break, received an email from Stacey Rose, the school’s principal, that told them the school would not re-open on January 7th due to funding issues. 

It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that Legacy Preparatory will have to close its doors and cease all operations immediately.  As such, we will not reopen for classes on January 7th (or any time thereafter) as originally planned,” Rose wrote in-part.

“It’s a burden,” Davis said. “I’m thinking I’m in a nightmare, in a dream, and I haven’t woke up from it.”

She now has just days to go through the headache of finding her son a new school to attend so he can stay on track. 

“It’s a shock,” she said. “First thing that crossed my mind was what about I going to do with my son.”

The letter that was sent to parents noted that the school could not stay open due to a lack of funding. 

Our main school investor did not deliver on his promise to provide the additional finances needed to accompany the scholarship funds that are required to run the school through June,” Rose wrote in-part. 

Davis said the private school charges $4,200 per student for the year, the cheapest she could find in the Charlotte-area when she looked for schools to send her son. 

She said she doesn’t want to send her son to CMS because she wants to ensure her son gets the one-on-one attention he needs to succeed. 

The principal offered to place them in an online cybercharter, which provides no personal contact at all.

Keung Hui, a reporter for the “News Observer’ tweeted:

Legacy Prep, which abruptly closed Friday, got $283,500 this year from NC for 135 voucher students. The private school is in same building & led by same principal when Charlotte Learning Academy was there before charter was not renewed in spring. #nced

The school was a charter that was not renewed, then a voucher school that failed.

Thats the market: Instability is a feature, not a bug.

 

Jan Resseger reviews the story of Eli Broad and his leadership program, whose graduates have brought top-down management ideas and disruption wherever they go.

To keep the program alive, despite its long history of failure, Broad gave Yale University $100 million.

The Broad Leadership Institute is accredited (I have repeatedly called in unaccredited, but a reader pointed out to me that it was accredited in 2015). The fact that it is accredited is surprising, since I can’t find any evidence on the website of a faculty, a library, or any of the regular trappings of a genuine postgraduate program. Its accreditation is as bizarre as that of Relay “Graduate School of Education,” which has no one on its “faculty” with an earned doctorate (not yet, anyway), no library, no courses in the history or sociology or economics of education, no studies in child or adolescent psychology, no scholars or researchers.

Resseger writes:

The editors of PR Watch at the Center for Media and Democracy explain the curriculum of Broad’s Superintendent’s Academy and Urban Residency Program: “The Broad training curriculum for education minimizes subject areas like core education (10% of curriculum time). Instead it emphasizes ‘reform priorities’ (40%), ‘reform accelerators’ (30%), and systems-level management (nearly 20%). Training includes time with think tanks, businesses, and charter network administrators. Training does not prioritize classroom teachers, public school principals, or people knowledgeable about delivery of public education.”

LA Times education reporter, Howard Blume covered Eli Broad’s recent $100 million gift to Yale and the pending move of the Broad Center from California to New Haven: “The Broad Center, which has attracted praise and suspicion for its training of school district leaders, will move from Los Angeles to Yale University, along with a $100-million gift provided by founder Eli Broad… The donation is the largest ever for the Yale School of Management (SOM) and will help fund a master’s program for public education leaders and advanced leadership training for top school system executives—efforts that had been undertaken by the center in Los Angeles…. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has been the primary funder of the Broad Center, and in most years is the only one according to the center. The foundation has contributed $143.5 million to the center since 2001. The Broad Center’s budget for 2019 is $15 million.”

The Broad Center is a vanity projects, in most years wholly funded by one man. Now his vanity project will come with a Yale diploma.

Resseger reviews her clippings. It is one story after another of failure.

The song in “Fiddler on the Roof” says “When You’re Rich, They Think You Really Know.” Broad has demonstrated that he knows nothing about how to reform or fix schools. But because he is really rich, a billionaire, he can buy respectability for his failed management training program.