Archives for category: Failure

John Thompson is a historian and a retired teacher. He follows politics in Oklahoma closely. This article appeared first in the OkObserver.

The arc of the history of corporate school reform has been tragic; the survival of public education in a meaningful and equitable manner is in doubt in Oklahoma and much of the rest of the nation. To understand how and why this catastrophe happened, Tennessee provides perhaps the best case study.

This multi-generational assault on schools took off during the Reagan administration with its spin on A Nation at Risk, which misrepresented the report’s research. Back then, these attacks were largely propelled by two theologies: evangelical Christianity and a worship of the “Free Market.” Two decades later, corporate school reform was driven by Neoliberal ideology, and President Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which was pushed by both Republicans and Democrats and resisted by bipartisan grassroots movements of educators, parents, and students. I will always love President Obama, but during his administration the Race to the Top (RttT) undermined teachers unions, increased segregation, and drove holistic instruction and teachers (who resisted “drill and kill” teach-to-the-test malpractice) out of so many schools.

The damage was made much worse when the Trump administration further ramped up the campaign to use charter schools and vouchers to undermine public education. Now, Tennessee is again at the front of the rightwing’s “nationwide war on public schools.”

The Progressive Magazine’s Andy Spears explains that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s “point person on education policy is Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College, a private, Christian evangelical school located in Michigan.” Arnn “compared public school systems to ‘enslavement’ and ‘the plague,’” and “accused teachers of ‘messing with people’s children,’ saying they are ‘trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country,’”

Spears reported, “Lee announced in his State of the State address that he’d reached an agreement with Arnn for Hillsdale to operate up to 100 charter schools in Tennessee.” Gov. Lee defended Arnn’s rhetoric, saying, “I’m not going to rebut someone who was speaking about left-wing problems in public education in this country.”

Clearly, Tennessee schools, like those in Oklahoma and many other states, are facing a new set of dangerous threats, and they do so after being weakened by the RttT, just as the RttT’s failure was made more predictable due to the damage done by the doomed-to-fail NCLB, which was a legacy of coordinated attacks on public education initiated by the Reagan administration.

In order to resist the latest ideology-driven falsehoods, lessons must be learned from Tennessee’s rushed corporate school reforms. Race to the Bottom, by former Nashville Board member Will Pinkston is a great example of what we need to learn about the last two decades of assaults that have left public education so vulnerable. Pinkston begins with an apology:

I helped sell the public on the Obama administration’s multi-billion-dollar Race to the Top competition. In my home state of Tennessee, Race to the Top delivered $501 million to benefit public schools — and along the way spawned some of the most-damaging education policies in modern American history.

Pinkston explained that the RttT was driven by the same “irrational exuberance” that the true believers in the “Free Market” expressed. Briefly and predictably, the half billion dollar gamble produced quick, temporary gains in the reliable NAEP test scores. Soon afterwards, scores stagnated and/or declined; after ten years they dropped to the pre-RttT levels.

Worse, Tennessee’s early education program did something that would previously have been thought to be virtually impossible. High-quality early education has a record of producing significant, often incomparable benefits, for the dollars invested. However, graduates from Tennessee’s pre-k programs were found to have “lower academic scores, more behavioral problems and more special education referrals than their peers who did not attend.” The author of the report on the longterm outcomes, Dale Farran, worried that the state’s “pre-K overall has become too academic, especially when it is enveloped by the school system, and children don’t get enough time to play, share their thoughts and observations, and engage in meaningful, responsive interactions with caregivers.”

From the beginning, the Tennessee teachers union (as would also prove true in Oklahoma) knew that data-driven, corporate reformers were ignoring the overwhelming body of social science as to why their quick fixes would backfire. But, states received “up to $250,000 each to hire consultants (McKinsey & Co. and The Bridgespan Group) to help them fill out their applications,” and establish “reward and punish” systems. I must add that in conversation after conversation with these smart Big Data experts, who “didn’t know what they didn’t know” about schools, they refused to listen to educators like me and social scientists explaining why their hurried, punitive corporate approach would backfire.

And as it became obvious that their mandates were failing, the blame game was ramped up and outsiders like the “American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative think tank with ties to the Koch brothers,” successfully pushed for “stripping teachers of collective bargaining rights.”

Perhaps the biggest fiasco was teacher evaluations where 35 percent of the evaluation would be based on invalid, unreliable student-growth data and algorithms that were biased against teachers in high-poverty schools. The most absurd model for firing teachers used data from students who they had not taught!

Secondly, the rush to expand charter schools led to a dramatic over-expansion of schools run by Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) (as opposed to locally-led charters that might have been good partners.) CMOs were notorious for increasing economic segregation by not welcoming and/or “exiting” high-challenge students. Fortunately, Tennessee did a better job than Oklahoma of using the courts to push back on the worst of teacher evaluations and charters that would not retain higher-challenge students.

(On the other hand, pushback led by State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister saved Oklahoma schools from a disaster which would have occurred if almost every student and teacher was held accountable for inappropriate Common Core test scores, as she pushed for more charter school accountability, and promoted high-quality early education.)

Based on his personal experience and scholarly research, Pinkston concluded, “intentionally or not, Race to the Top laid the groundwork for the attempted destruction of America’s most important democratic institution — public education.” And now, a huge increase in charter schools will advance a conservative curriculum which “relies on approaches developed by Arnn and other members of the 1776 Commission appointed by Trump to develop a ‘patriotic education’ for the nation’s schools.”

In response to the latest rightwing push described by The Progressive, Pinkston tweeted:

Fellow veterans of TN’s charter wars, just a friendly reminder: Long before Hillsdale, there was Great Hearts — which actually was pushed by Hillsdale. In the words of Nashville’s former top charter zealot Karl Dean: “It’s all connected.”

And that is why Oklahomans who are upset by Gov. Stitt’s attempts to expand charters and vouchers, ban Critical Race Theory, bully transgender students, and coerce educators into complying with these mandates should remember Tennessee’s history. Alone, those attacks would have been harmful. But today’s politics of destruction are on steroids. These assaults are more frightening because they are just the latest of destructive mandates, such as NCLB and the RttT, that have dramatically weakened public schools and undermined holistic and meaningful instruction.

During the last two decades, too many Neoliberal corporate reformers were able to “kneecap” public schools. Now we’re facing extremists who now want to go for the throat, and wipe out public education while it’s down.

David Lapp, director of policy research for Research for Action in Philadelphia, recently wrote about the money wasted on Cybercharters in Pennsylvania. Apparently, the industry has a strong hold on the Pennsylvania legislature. There is no other reason that it continues to thrive.

During the worst of the pandemic, schools closed for reasons of safety and caution. Cybercharters boomed to fill the gap. But with physical schools open, the truth must be told about Cybercharters: they are a poor substitute for real schools.

Lapp writes:

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools into remote learning instruction many Pennsylvania policymakers expressed deep concerns. Many lamented the impact on mental health when students stopped receiving in-person learning and the important social skills that develops. Many were upset by the evidence of significant learning loss that accompanied the switch to virtual instruction.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly even enacted a new law allowing students to voluntarily repeat a grade to make up for lost educational opportunities.

This year policymakers should consider bringing that same energy to a similarly harmful and even more wasteful form of remote learning. One that’s been growing for more than two decades and reached a boiling point during the pandemic. I’m talking about the soaring enrollment growth and accompanying financial cost of Pennsylvania’s cyber-charter school expansion.

There’s solid research both nationally and in Pennsylvania that cyber-charter schools have an “overwhelmingly negative” impact on student learning. The learning loss students experience from virtual instruction in cyber-charter schools appears similar to the learning loss students experienced from virtual instruction during the pandemic.

For each year a student is enrolled in cyber-charter school they are also more likely to experience chronic absenteeism and less like to enroll in post-secondary education.

There’s also clear evidence that spending on cyber-charter school expansion comes at the expense of students receiving in-person learning in school districts and brick & mortar charter schools, where more effective instruction is provided. In fact school districts—which pay for cyber-charter tuition from their own school budgets—have indicated that charter tuition is now their top budget pressure.

It’s easy to understand why. Pennsylvania already had the highest cyber-charter school enrollment in the country and then enrollment grew by 22,618 additional students during the pandemic. Districts are now spending over $1 billion dollars a year on cyber-charter tuition, reflecting an increase of $335 million from before the pandemic. These surging expenses impacted the vast majority of school districts in the state.

Cyber-charter tuition likely represents the most inefficient spending in Pennsylvania school finance. For one, the cyber-charter system is redundant. Both before and since the pandemic, most school districts continue to offer their own virtual schools. Secondly, the tuition rates mandated under current PA law require districts to pay cyber-charters more than it actually costs to operate virtual schools. And finally, when students leave for cyber-charter schools, districts must of course still operate their own brick & mortar schools for remaining students, only now with fewer resources….

In Research for Action’s recent report, The Negative Fiscal Impact of Cyber Charter Enrollment Due to COVID-19, we estimated that the tuition increase in just one year of the pandemic, from the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, led to between $290 to $308 million of additional stranded costs borne by school districts. Nearly the entire amount of increases in school district total expenditures statewide in 2020-21 were accounted for by increases in school district tuition payments to charter schools, most of which were for cyber-charters specifically.

Meanwhile, this tuition spike has left cyber-charters in Pennsylvania flush with surplus resources. More than half of the additional funding cyber-charters received from districts in 2020-21 was not even used for student expenses. Rather, cyber- charters funneled over $170 million into their general fund balances that, unlike school districts, have no statutory limits.

Josh Cowan of Michigan State University has been studying vouchers for two decades. He started his studies believing that vouchers might help kids. He now believes they are a terrible mistake. He has not yet given up on charter schools, but that’s probably a matter of time. Michigan charters have a very poor track record. A very large proportion are run by for-profit organizations. Their results are poor. Michigan should rebuild its public schools and make them excellent for all students instead of funding escape hatches that lead nowhere.

He writes:

In recent years, nearly half of all states have created publicly funded private K-12 tuition plans, collectively known as school vouchers.

This summer, advocates of these plans are pushing to expand their reach, boosted by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carson v. Makinthat states permitting vouchers may not exclude religious schools.

Arizona just expanded its already large voucher program; in Michigan, former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and allies have proposed a voucher scheme modeled on plans elsewhere. In June, GOP supporters in Congress reintroduced legislation to create federal funding for voucher programs.

Vouchers are dangerous to American education. They promise an all-too-simple solution to tough problems like unequal access to high-quality schools, segregation and even school safety. In small doses, years ago, vouchers seemed like they might work, but as more states have created more and larger voucher programs, experts like me have learned enough to say that these programs on balance can severely hinder academic growth — especially for vulnerable kids.

I am an education policy professor who has spent almost two decades studying programs like these, and trying to follow the data where it leads. I started this research cautiously optimistic that vouchers could help.

But in 2022 the evidence is just too stark to justify the use of public money to fund private tuition. Particularly when other choice options like charter schools and inter-district enrollment are available to families and have a better track record.

There’s also a moral case to be made against voucher programs. They promise low-income families solutions to academic inequality, but what they deliver is often little more than religious indoctrination to go alongside academic outcomes that are worse than before…

Vouchers fail to deliver for the kids who are often most in need.

The end of the Milwaukee evaluation coincided almost exactly with the circulation of a report showing shockingly bad early test score results for students in the Louisiana voucher program in the years following Hurricane Katrina.

Over time, those poor test score results for vouchers held up, and were replicated by other studies.

Too coincidently, a group of advocatesknown previously for supporting test scores in standards and accountability started pushing parental satisfaction, school safety, character and “grit” — seemingly anything to move the goalposts away from academic outcomes, which had had been disastrous under the voucher program in Louisiana.

Now, it’s true that as parents we want more for our kids than the reading, math and science skills we can measure on tests. And those of us who teach for a living want to give our students more, too. But not at a cost of catastrophic academic results. Especially not for kids struggling in school to begin with.

Today we know that those bad Louisiana academic outcomes were no fluke, and indeed were beginning to appear in places like Indiana and Ohio.

All of these results have a straightforward explanation: vouchers do not work on the large scale pushed for by advocates today. While small, early pilot voucher programsshowed at least modest positive results, expansions statewide have been awful for students. That’s because there aren’t enough decent private schools to serve at-risk kids.

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Andrea Gabor is the Bloomberg Professor of Bisiness Journalism at Baruch College of the Coty University of New York.

Nearly all of the 20 largest US school districts will offer online schooling options this fall. Over half of them will be offering more full-time virtual school programs than they did before the pandemic. The trend seems likely to continue or accelerate, according to an analysis by Chalkbeat.

That’s a problem. School closings over the last two years have inflicted severe educational and emotional damage on American students. Schools should now be focusing on creative ways to fill classrooms, socialize kids and convey the joy of collaborative learning — not on providing opportunities to stay home.

Historically, various forces have pushed for online education — not all of them focused on improving education. These include: the quest for cheaper, more efficient modes of schooling; the push to limit the influence of teachers unions by concentrating virtual teachers in non-union states; and a variety of medical and social factors that lead some students and families to prefer online learning.

Since the pandemic, some virtual programs have reasonably stressed medically fragile students. But others are seizing on online education in a rushed effort to shore up public-school enrollments, which plummeted in some cities. The prevalence of these programs in Los AngelesPhiladelphiaDallas and New York is particularly worrying, as they target poor and minority students who are likely to be particularly ill-served by online school options.

A new study shows that while young children, especially, are bouncing back from the pandemic-era academic doldrums, the gap between high-poverty and low-poverty schools remains greater than it was pre-pandemic.

Research, where it exists, shows consistently worse educational outcomes for online schools than for traditional public schools.

Students in cyber schools do their coursework mostly from home and over the internet, with teachers often located in different states and time zones. There is little comprehensive information about the curricula, student-teacher ratios, how much actual teaching occurs, or what if any academic supports are provided by the schools.The adverse impact of the pandemic on the emotional well-being and social skills of children — one-third of school leaders reported a surge in disruptive student behavior during the past school year — is a cautionary lesson for online learning.

Graham Browne, the founder of Forte Preparatory Academy, an independent charter school in Queens, New York, said recently that he saw a sharp increase in “aggressive or threatening” behavior, especially among 6th graders who spent much of the previous two years online.

During a recent multi-day field trip to a camp run by the Fresh Air Fund, Browne said he noticed that during team-building exercises, such as figuring out how to carry a large object over a low bridge, students resorted to screaming at each other. Previously, he said, they would have worked out a strategy for maneuvering the object together.

Equally concerning, when the school offered an online option during the 2020-2021 school year, Browne found that close to half of his highest achieving 8th graders — those taking algebra rather than pre-algebra — selected the option because it gave them the flexibility to pursue academics at their own pace.

“Our school is small, so having such a large portion of high-performing students out of the building has an impact on peer tutoring, student morale, and a culture of team building that we emphasize at school,” Browne said.

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The most immediate threat, however, comes from the private sector and especially from for-profit virtual charter schools, which are of notoriously poor quality; just 30% met state school-performance standards, compared with 53% for district-run virtual schools before the pandemic. These schools, which spend heavily on advertising, boomed during school lockdowns, when traditional schools were struggling to offer online instruction. At the nation’s largest for-profit network, enrollment grew 45% to 157,000 students during the past year.

What kids need most are robust in-person learning opportunities and the chance to experiment. Schools also need to maintain reassuring safety protocols as Covid-19 variants continue to spread.

This is the time for schools to adopt engaging learning approaches, such those of a high-poverty school in the Bronx that uses the Bronx River as a science laboratory, and of the Leander, Texas school district that turned over the development of an anti-bullying strategy to high school students, in the process building young leaders.

Some of these projects could be adapted to a hybrid format by giving students the option to do some work remotely, while also emphasizing in-person collaboration.

What makes no educational sense is the rush to embrace online schooling. Experience has demonstrated its severe disadvantages. State oversight isn’t strong enough to mitigate them. Before barreling ahead, research should be financed and conducted by independent scholars to pinpoint the potential benefits. Until that happens, schools should do everything they can to keep kids in classrooms.

Governor Kevin Stitt played fast and loose with federal COVID relief funds. He tried to convert them to vouchers, which was not their purpose. Although the federal government was slipshod in handing out Payroll Protection Program (PPP) billions, it paid attention to misuse of state relief funds.

U.S. Department of Education auditors recommended clawing back more than $650,000 in misspent federal coronavirus relief funds from Gov. Kevin Stitt and reviewing an additional $5.5 million in purchases, according to a federal audit released Tuesday.

The questioned spending came from Stitt’s Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet program, which gave $1,500 grants to low-income families for educational purchases like computers and school supplies during the pandemic.

Auditors pinpointed questionable expenditures like arcade games, Christmas trees, smart watches, sofas, televisions and refrigerators totaling $652,720. The extraneous items made up more than 10% of all purchases. The $5.5 million is the total of purchases the auditors did not analyze and could contain unauthorized items.

The tally of noneducational items families purchased with program funds was higher than previously reported in a joint investigation The Frontier and Oklahoma Watch published in May.

The auditors also found poor record keeping for another relief program managed by ClassWallet called Stay in School. The program distributed tuition grants for up to $6,500 to students already attending private schools during the pandemic.

Auditors also found Oklahoma failed to follow federal guidelines for four of Stitt’s five educational relief programs, the report shows.

State officials gave the Florida-based company ClassWallet a no-bid contract to administer the Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet program and distribute grants to families.

Oklahoma could not provide supporting documentation that students who received grants were actually enrolled and registered at private schools, according to the audit.

Keep reading for more details.

Robert Hubbell is a blogger who always has interesting things to say. In this post, he excoriates Joe Manchin for destroying Biden’s ambitious domestic agenda. And he urges Biden to fire Merrick Garland for his unwillingness to open a case against Trump for attempting a coup.

A reader who calls him/herself Quickwrit explains why the Supreme Court’s recent decision on abortion is wrong.

The Bible is silent on abortion:

The 9th Amendment gives Clarence Thomas the constitutional right to live in an interracial marriage and gives women the constitutional right to abortion: The 9th Amendment says that rights do not have to be stated in the Constitution in order to be rights: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Americans have long claimed to right to and the practice of abortion. Benjamin Franklin, key Founding Father of America, shaper and signer of our Constitution, published a handbook titled “The American Instructor” that featured a long, detailed section on do-it-yourself abortion and conception prevention. The book was very popular throughout America and the prevention of and termination of pregnancies was widely practiced throughout America, especially in rural areas where an unwanted pregnancy could mean financial ruin in those days.

The current Supreme Court ruling on abortion not only violates the 9th Amendment, it violates the religious rights of many citizens: The Bible gives commandments on a very, very long list of more than 600 laws on everything from divorce to gluttony — yet the Bible says nothing about abortion. Why is that? If abortion was even as important as gluttony, it would have been mentioned in the Bible.

But,the Bible is silent on abortion: Out of more than 600 laws of Moses, which includes the 10 Commandments, NONE — not one — comments on abortion. In fact, the Mosaic law in Exodus 21:22-25 clearly shows that causing the abortion of a fetus is NOT MURDER. Exodus 21:22-25 says that if a woman has a miscarriage as the result of an altercation with a man, the man who caused miscarriage should only pay a fine that is to be determined by the woman’s husband, but if the woman dies, the man is to be executed: “If a man strives with a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet there is no harm to the woman, he shall be punished according to what the woman’s husband determines and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if the woman dies, then it shall be life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” Ex. 21:22-25. So, the Bible orders the death penalty for murder of a human being — the mother — but not for the death of a fetus, indicating that the fetus is not yet a human being.

There are Christian denominations that allow abortion in most instances; these denominations include the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church USA. The United Methodist Church and Episcopal churches allow abortion in cases of medical necessity, and the United Universalist Association also allows abortion.

Most of the opposition to abortion comes from fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who believe that a full-fledged human being is created at the instant of conception. In short — it is a religious BELIEF and religious beliefs cannot be recognized by the government under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of our Constitution. Moreover, the belief that a fetus is a human person, complete with a soul, is a Christian interpretation of the Jewish Bible — the Old Testament. But, Jewish scholars whose ancestors wrote the Old Testament and who know best what the words mean say that is a wrong interpretation of their writings.

Christians largely base their view that a fetus is a complete human being and that abortion is murder on the Jewish Bible’s Psalm 139: “You knit me together in my mother’s womb…You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born.”

Who better to translate the meaning of Psalm 139 than the Jews who wrote it? And Jewish scholars point out that Psalm 139 merely describes the development of a fetus and does not mean that the fetus has a soul and is a person. In fact, the Jewish Talmud explains that for the first 40 days of a woman’s pregnancy, the fetus is considered “mere fluid” and is just part of the mother’s body, like an appendix or liver. Only after the fetus’s head emerges from the womb at birth is the baby considered a “nefesh” – Hebrew for “soul” or “spirit” – a human person.

I am not pro-abortion — I am PRO-CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, and until a fetus is in its 24th week of development the mother has the unquestionable constitutional right to decide what happens to the fetus. After the 24th week, society may have a legitimate legal interest in the fetus. What that interest is, to what extent it reaches, and how to encode that interest into law isn’t easy and will require a great deal of debate in society in general and in Congress, not the states, because it is a national constitutional right that is being dealt with.

THE COURT BENDS THE FACTS: The University of London scientist whose research is cited by the Supreme Court in its ruling to take away abortion rights says that his research has been misinterpreted by Justice Alito and the Supreme Court’s activist conservative majority. Neuroscientist Dr. Giandomenico Iannetti says that the Court is ABSOLUTELY WRONG to say that his research shows that a fetus can feel pain when it is less than 24 weeks of development. “My results by no means imply that,” Dr. Iannetti declares. “I feel they were used in a clever way to make a point.” And Dr. John Wood, molecular neurobiologist at the University, points out that all serious scientists agree that a fetus can NOT feel pain until at least 24 weeks “and perhaps not even then.” Dr. Vania Apkarian, head of the Center for Transitional Pain Research at Chicago’s Feinberg School of Medicine, says that the medical evidence on a fetus not feeling pain before 24 weeks or longer has not changed in 50 years and remains “irrefutable”.

LIFE OF WOE: In its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling upholding abortion rights, the Supreme Court set “viability” — the point at which a fetus can survive outside of the womb — as the dividing line after which some restrictions can be imposed on abortion rights. The pending ruling by current activist conservative majority on the Court will do away with the concept of viability, yet even with all of today’s medical miracles to keep a prematurely born or aborted fetus alive, of all the tens of thousands of cases, 90% OF FETUSES BORN AT 22 WEEKS DO NOT SURVIVE, and data shows that the majority of those that manage to be kept alive live the rest of their lives with a combination of BIRTH DEFECTS that include mental impairment, cerebral palsy, breathing problems, blindness, deafness, and other disorders that often require frequent hospitalizations during their lifetimes.

Kathryn Joyce is an investigative reporter for Salon. In this article, she shows how the Republican leaders of Arizona have decided to end the teacher shortage by reducing standards for teachers. They have decided that teaching is not a profession. Anyone, they think, can do it.

She writes:

Last week, just days after the Arizona legislature passed the most expansive school voucher law anywhere in the nation, Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law another education measure decreeing that public school teachers are no longer required to have a college degree of any kind before being hired. Instead of requiring a masters degree — which has long been the norm in the profession — Arizona teachers will only have to be enrolled in college in order to begin teaching the state’s public school students.

The law, SB 1159, was pushed by conservatives on the grounds that Arizona has faced a severe teacher shortage for the last six years, which, by this winter, left 26% of teacher vacancies unfilled and nearly 2,000 classrooms without an official teacher of record. That shortage has led supporters of the bill, including business interests such as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, to claim that loosening teacher credential requirements will help fill those staffing gaps. Opponents of the bill, however, point to the fact that Arizona has the lowest teacher salaries in the country, even while boasting a budget surplus of more than $5 billion.

“Arizona’s teacher shortage is beyond crisis levels,” tweeted Democratic state Rep. Kelli Butler this March. “Instead of offering real solutions (like increasing pay & reducing class sizes) the House Education Committee passed a bill to reduce the requirements to teach.”

“With Arizona trying to get education monies to parents directly to pay for schooling — including homeschooling — you see more evidence that the state doesn’t care who teaches its kids,” said David Berliner, an education psychologist at Arizona State University and former president of the American Educational Research Association. “Charters and private schools for years have not needed certified folks running schools or teaching kids — as long as the voucher for the kids shows up.” Combined with its new law creating a universal voucher system, Berliner added, “Arizona may now be the most radical state in terms of education policy.”

Please open the link and read the article in full.

Arizona doesn’t care about its children.

Amy Frogge was president of the Nashville Board of Education. She is a public school parent and a lawyer. She heard that Philadelphia had hired a new superintendent and was paying $450,000 to a consulting firm to train the new superintendent. When she learned that the consulting firm was led by the former superintendent in Nashville, she wrote a letter of warning to the Philadelphia board. They ignored it. She decided to write one more letter, to be sure the Philadelphia board was fully informed. Now, it’s their problem.

From: Amy Frogge <amymfrogge@yahoo.com>

To: jwilkerson@philasd.org <jwilkerson@philasd.org>; lehinton@philasd.org <lehinton@philasd.org>; jdanzy@philasd.org <jdanzy@philasd.org>; mfixlopez@philasd.org <mfixlopez@philasd.org>; lsalley@philasd.org <lsalley@philasd.org>; cethompson@philasd.org <cethompson@philasd.org>; schoolboard@philasd.org <schoolboard@philasd.org>

Sent: Friday, July 1, 2022, 10:56:51 AM CDT

Subject: Joseph and Associates: A concise summary of what you are paying for in Philadelphia (with documentation).

Hi, everyone-

I hope this will be my last email to your board.

I’ve been sharing a lot of information on Twitter about the disaster that hit Nashville under Shawn Joseph’s leadership, but it appears that at least some of you are not active on Twitter. I want to make sure that you are fully apprised of what happened in Nashville as you move forward.

Here’s what happened in Nashville under Shawn Joseph’s leadership (with articles for your review as proof of my allegations):

1. The number of priority (low performing) schools nearly doubled. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/metro-schools/number-of-troubled-nashville-schools-shows-dramatic-increase

2. We paid out millions upon millions in sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuits. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/new-settlements-put-mnps-sexual-harassment-bills-near-2-million (The $2 million mentioned in this article was not the final tally; the cost continued to increase.)

3. We had major and ongoing problems with no-bid contracts for preferred vendors (costing millions), sometimes even for services that went unused. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/what-did-mnps-get-for-1-million-potentially-not-much

4. Joseph and his team broke the law and misled the school board to put these contracts in place. https://www.kshb.com/news/national/nashville-schools-investigation-by-wtvf-contracts-law

5. We had an independent HR report done that identified an employee morale crisis, cronyism and “unconscionable” practices. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/mnps-faces-morale-crisis-confidential-report-warns

6. Here’s what an award-winning HR executive had to say: https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/metro-schools/former-mnps-administrator-its-almost-as-if-isis-took-over-hr

7. Another respected Metro Nashville Schools employee on the HR problems:https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/metro-schools/administrator-accuses-mnps-of-pay-discrimination-retaliation

8. Dr. Joseph brought former Baltimore superintendent Dallas Dance, whom he claimed as a mentor, to Nashville to serve as a member of his Transition Team. Months later Dance was indicted on charges related to kickbacks on no-bid contracts. He went to prison. https://www.edweek.org/leadership/former-baltimore-county-superintendent-pleads-guilty-to-perjury-tied-to-kickback-scheme/2018/03

9. Around the time Joseph left Nashville, the state of TN recommended suspending Joseph’s professional educator’s license, which was required in his position as superintendent. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2019/03/26/state-education-board-seeks-disciplinary-action-against-nashville-schools-chief-shawn-joseph/3279612002/

10. Joseph’s license to work in Tennessee was later suspended. (Per the General Counsel for the Tennessee State Board of Education (via email): “Mr. Joseph’s license was previously suspended.”)

11. There was a lot more, too much to include in this thread, but this gives you a flavor: https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/what-you-need-to-know-about-shawn-josephs-controversies

12. Here’s some information on the national angle (that mentions Joseph): https://www.alternet.org/2019/09/another-school-leadership-disaster-private-companies-work-an-insider-game-to-reap-lucrative-contracts/

13. And this (also mentions Joseph): https://www.salon.com/2019/10/20/how-billionaire-charter-school-funders-corrupted-the-school-leadership-pipeline_partner/

After reading all of this, do you still think Tony Watlington needs advice from Shawn Joseph? I hope this dispels any questions about whether what you are hearing is misinformation.

As you can see, if you continue to move forward with Joseph and Associates, the $450,000 will be just the tip of the iceberg on spending.

Three Nashville school board members have now spoken with the media to warn Philadelphia against the use of Joseph and Associates. Any of us — and many more from Nashville — would be happy to share more about our experiences with you.

Philadelphia’s children are counting on you, and they deserve so much better. I wish you all the best of luck.

Amy Frogge, former Chair of the Nashville school board

Chris Whittle is relentless in his determination to prove that education can be a profitable business. More than 30 years ago, he launched the Edison Project. He spent millions on a design phase, hiring a team of experts to write a new curriculum. He even persuaded the President of Yale University, Benno Schmidt, to resign and lead his new company. Whittle assumed that George H.W. Bush would be re-elected in 1992 and would get Congress to pass a voucher program.

No vouchers in hand, the Edison Project contracted with districts to take over troubled schools and manage them. For a time, business was booming. Edison’s stock price soared to nearly $40 a share. But when results came in, and when districts cancelled contracts, the stock price collapsed to $0.14. Eventually, the Edison Project turned into EdisonLearning. Samuel Abrams wrote a book about the rise and fall of the Edison Project called Education and the Commercial Mindset.

Undaunted, Whittle started an international chain of for-profit private schools, called Avenues, in gorgeous new buildings with illustrious leaders. Tuition ($40,000-50,000) compared favorably to elite private schools. Although he lived grandly, he lost money. Before long, the board and the investors pushed him out.

Time for a new venture. Whittle has an apparently bottomless pool of rich investors, and they backed him again in creating the Whittle School & Studios. His ambitions were huge, planning a large chain in China.

But now the D.C. flagship of his latest venture just announced it is closing.

The Whittle School & Studios is shutting down its full-time campus in Washington this fall, suspending operations at the U.S. branch of what had been envisioned as a global private school on multiple continents.

The announcement to Whittle families Friday evening came after many months of financial turmoil at the ambitious for-profit enterprise launched by veteran education entrepreneur Chris Whittle.

He said they made the decision late Thursday after learning that a critical financing deal had been delayed.

The decision leaves students, teachers and staff in Washington scrambling just weeks before the next school year….

The Whittle School launched with a September 2019 opening in the Chinese coastal city of Shenzhen, followed days later by the debut of a Northwest Washington campus in a neighborhood full of embassies and private schools. The school on Connecticut Avenue hoped to one day serve 2,000 day and boarding students, ranging in age from prekindergarten through high school, with a tuition of more than $40,000 a year. It ended this school year with fewer than 130 students and 14 graduating seniors.


Whittle said the endeavor was upended by the coronavirus pandemic, as travel, in-person learning and cultural exchanges were suspended and financing faltered.

What’s next for Chris Whittle? Never count him out.