Archives for category: Failure

Frankly, it’s hard to understand why Miami public schools chose for-profit K12 Inc. as it’s provider of remote instruction. Ten minutes or less on google would have turned up multiple articles about its terrible track record: high attrition, poor curriculum, low test scores, low graduation rates. NCAA strips accreditation for 24 schools using K12.

Wired tells the story in Miami, which recently severed its contract with K12.

ON THE MORNING of August 31, the first day of school, the 345,000 students in Miami-Dade County’s public schools fired up their computers expecting to see the faces of their teachers and classmates. Instead a scruffy little dog in banana-print pajamas appeared on their screens, alongside an error message. “Oh bananas!” read one message from the district’s online learning platform. “Too many people are online right now.”

A rudimentary cyberattack had crippled the servers of the nation’s fourth-largest school district, preventing its 392 schools from starting the year online. But even once the district had quelled the distributed denial-of-service attack and a local teen had been arrested for the crime, “Banana Dog” didn’t go away. If anything, the security breach merely obscured for a few days the crippling weaknesses in the district’s plan to move every aspect of its schooling—including a revamped curriculum—onto a platform that had only ever supported half as many students (and never all at once).

The platform was built by virtual charter school company K12, backed by one-time junk bond king Michael Milken and US secretary of education Betsy DeVos. Doug Levin, an education tech consultant, calls the decision to use K12 “atypical.” Another ed tech analyst, Phil Hill, calls it “weird.”

The rapid pivot to, and even faster pivot away from, K12 amounts to a case study in how not to deploy a massive new software project. It also illustrates how, in a few intense weeks of summer decisionmaking, a charter-school curriculum written by a for-profit company was chosen and installed, with little scrutiny, across one of the largest districts in the country.

Alberto Carvalho made the decision on his own, without consulting the board. They trusted him.

It was a disaster from the start.

K12’s software promised to replace all the other apps that schools had been using. “It was billed to teachers as the Rolls-Royce of software,” says Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade. The district and the company rushed to implement it. At the end of August, all of Miami-Dade’s educators sat through six days of K12 training—and that’s when they started to panic.

The teachers received demo logins to try out the platform, but they didn’t work, and even the trainers struggled to access it, West says. From 8 am until 3:30 pm each day, teachers took notes without once trying the software themselves. “The training was make-believe, it was so, so complex,” says one teacher. “Even our techie teachers were lost.” On Facebook, teachers shared GIFs of dumpster fires and steaming poop emojis in response to the experience.

“That’s a very complex, aggressive undertaking. And to do it with 345,000 students and in less than a month? There’s a lot of hubris involved.”

PHIL HILL, EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY ANALYST
Once the school year began in earnest, technical challenges persisted. Some students struggled to log in. Uploads could be excruciatingly slow. A particular sore point was the platform’s unreliable built-in video conferencing tool, called NewRow. It had issues with sound and screen-sharing. After about 15 minutes, the video quality started to degrade. It didn’t work on iPads or iPhones.

And then there was the built-in curriculum. K12 provided content, though teachers could change or supplement it. The lessons had been devised for K12’s virtual charter schools: for-profit schools that are entirely online and receive taxpayer money for every student enrolled. When some Miami-Dade teachers examined K12’s materials, they were horrified by what they found. One teacher came across a quiz for second graders with one question: “Did you enjoy this course?” Clicking “yes” allowed the student to ace the test. Several classes relied on K12’s paper workbooks, which the students didn’t receive. “One thing our educators complained about was, the rigor was not there. It was a very watered-down curriculum,” Hernandez-Mats says.

Michael Kohlhaas, a super investigator of public records in California, discovered that 22 charter schools in Los Angeles were rated “low performing” this year. If they get the same rating for a second year in a row, they must close, under the terms of the recently passed charter accountability law, AB 1505.

Among the low-performing schools are a couple of KIPPS, some Ref Rodriguez charters, and other highly touted but low performing schools.

Thomas Sowell at the Stanford’s Hoover Institution pointed to NYC’s high-scoring, high-attrition Success Avademy as his evidence for the miracle of charter schools. Los Angeles is not far from Palo Alto. Why didn’t he look there?

Gary Rubinstein explores a curious phenomenon at Success Academy. Fully one-seventh of its senior class fail to graduate.

How can this be? They have persisted through 11 years of the school’s harsh discipline, yet are told midway through their senior year that they must repeat the grade or leave.

Public data shows that very few students who begin at Success Academy actually graduate from Success Academy. The class of 2018 started with 72 students and only 16 graduated. The class of 2019 started with 80 students and only 27 graduated. The class of 2020 started with 350 students and only 98 graduated. Success Academy argues that this is normal attrition over 12 years, but one of the most jarring statistics I have ever seen about Success Academy is the attrition rate from students who are in the school at the beginning of their senior year but who do not graduate with their class 10 months later.

For the recent class of 2020 there were 114 seniors in the school in November 2019. But by graduation time in June there were only 98 graduating seniors.

Why?


PUBLIC SCHOOL ADVOCATES URGE ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE TO END BROKEN VOUCHER PROGRAM

In a letter sent to Arkansas legislative leaders last week, Public Funds Public Schools, along with other state and national organizations, urged the Arkansas General Assembly to end the state’s harmful and inequitable private school voucher program. The letter highlights alarming information revealed in the recently released biennial report on the “Succeed Scholarship Program,” Arkansas’ voucher program for students with disabilities and students in the foster care system.

The letter was signed by leading advocates for Arkansas students and families, including Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, Arkansas Citizens First Congress, the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, and Arkansas-based philanthropic and education leader Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton. In addition to PFPS, several regional and national education advocacy groups also signed on, including Education Law Center and SPLC Action Fund (which collaborate on PFPS), and the Southern Education Foundation.

“The 2020 Report illustrates in detail the glaring deficiencies in Succeed Vouchers’ ability to improve academic outcomes and promote equity and access for historically – and currently – marginalized students. It also illustrates the profound difficulties in ensuring appropriate oversight of this publicly-funded program,” the letter notes.

The State’s 2020 Report, which was mandated by bipartisan legislation passed in 2019, also underscores the lack of data necessary to evaluate the academic effects of the Succeed Vouchers, noting that “meaningful comparative data regarding student performance based on the assessment scores private schools provide is hindered by several factors.” The academic outcome information that was collected, however, shows low test scores for the majority of voucher recipients. This failing is consistent with research demonstrating the ineffectiveness of private school voucher programs across the country in improving students’ academic outcomes.

The 2020 Report also exposes inequitable enrollment statistics, troubling data inconsistencies, and little accountability for the public funds spent on the voucher program.

Key findings include:

* There are significant gaps in data on the racial demographics of voucher students. Of those for whom data was available, there are significant racial disparities: 5% of voucher students were Latinx, 12% were Black, and 78% were White. Students with disabilities in Arkansas public schools, on the other hand, are 11% Latinx, 23% Black, and 61% White.

*Due to participating private schools’ inconsistent reporting and data collection standards, the Free or Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) status of 44% of participating students is unreported. Of available data, just 30% of voucher students were eligible for FRPL, while 60% of Arkansas public school students are eligible.

*Only three-quarters of participating private schools are accredited, while a quarter are on some type of path to accreditation. Thus, schools participating in the voucher program are receiving taxpayer dollars without completing a rigorous accreditation process, let alone being held to the same accountability and reporting standards as public schools.

*Nearly 20% of voucher students have left their private schools, for reasons including dismissal, inability to pay tuition amounts not covered by their voucher, and lack of access to transportation.

The letter to Arkansas lawmakers notes that, as more resources are needed to meet students’ needs due to COVID-19, the impact of the pandemic on Arkansas’ education budget will be over $2 billion for the next fiscal year, making it more urgent than ever to focus limited public funds on effective, research-based programs that meet the needs of Arkansas’ public school students, who are the vast majority of Arkansas schoolchildren. Instead of diverting millions to an ineffective and inequitable voucher program, the letter urges legislators to “redirect those public funds to the public school system in order to improve educational opportunity for students with disabilities, foster care students, and students from low-income families.”

Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
Education Law Center
60 Park Place, Suite 300
Newark, NJ 07102
973-624-1815, ext. 24
skrengel@edlawcenter.org

This valuable report analyzes how money could be better spent to protect students at school. It’s findings are stunning. We as a nation are spending vast sums on police in schools but insignificant amounts on mental health services and counselors who interact directly with students.

KEY FINDINGS & OBSERVATIONS

*Since 2018, states have allocated an additional $965 million to law enforcement in schools.

*According to a 2019 ACLU study, 1.7 million students have cops in their schools, but no counselors; 3 million have cops, but no nurses; 6 million have cops, but no school psychologists; and 10 million have cops, but no social workers.

*As of 2020, nearly 60 percent of all schools and 90 percent of high schools now have a law enforcement officer at least part time.

*The $33.2 million “school security” budget allocated for 2021 in Washington, D.C., could instead fund up to 222 psychologists, 345 guidance counselors, or 332 social workers.

*The $15 million “school security” budget approved for 2021 in Chicago could instead fund up to 140 psychologists, 182 guidance counselors, or 192 social workers.

*The $32.5 million “school security” budget allocated for 2021 in Philadelphia could instead fund up to 278 psychologists, 355 guidance counselors, or 467 social workers.

The report describes “militarized schools”:

As of 2019, there were nearly 50,000 school resource officers patrolling the hallways of America’s schools.

In schools that serve predominantly Black student populations, it is often much more than hallways that are patrolled.

For example, D.C. police are deployed to nearly all high schools to monitor cafeterias, auditoriums, hallways, stairwells, restrooms, entrances, and exits, as well as provide security for school-sponsored events. Such schools promote a learning environment that is more akin to that of a correctional institution than an educational one

More than 190,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus. The United States leads the world in infections, and the virus is still claiming lives. Soon, it will exceed 200,000.

Today is the premiere of, American Pathogen, a 30-minute documentary puts on record Trump’s historic mishandling of the Coronavirus pandemic. The message is clear: this tragedy was avoidable.

Watch it here (and share!) – AmericanPathogen.com.

Send it to your friends and spread the message: Vote 2020!

Mercedes Schneider has written an indispensable post about standardized testing: She noticed that the annual testing mandated by the federal government is beloved by those who are farthest from the classroom and have nothing to do with teaching and learning.

Perhaps she is responding to the recent report that Betsy DeVos will not allow waivers from the mandated testing next year, since the tests are so vital, and her announcement was cheered by the Center for American Progress (a neoliberal think tank), Education Trust (led by former Secretary of Education John King), the Council of Chief State School Officers, Senator Patty Murray (ranking Democrat on the Senate HELP Committee), and Rep. Bobby Scott (chair of the House Education Committee).

Schneider writes:

This is what standardized testing has been in public schools across America ever since No Child Left Behind (NCLB):

It’s like some president-backed, bipartisan Congress decided that we need to measure student physical health based on student weight. Of course, student physical health is by far too complex a concept to be captured by student weight, but let’s just put that reality aside in favor of the appearance of being able to pack a huge, complex package into a matchbox by getting those kids on the scale and putting the onus on teachers and schools to make students weight what the state (answering to the federal government in exchange for funding) decides those students should weigh.

Now, it is ridiculous on its face to hold teachers and schools responsible for student weight– which is why no bathroom scale company will guarantee that their scales are meant to be used to determine anything beyond the weight of the person standing on the scale. However, that president-backed, bipartisan Congress has decided that schools and teachers must ensure that their students achieve some predetermined optimal weight.

So. Weight-prep programs are instituted for students at risk of not achieving their state-determined optimal weights, the point of which is to drill students in scale-optimizing strategies (i.e., where to stand on the scale in order to make the weight appear higher or lower; how to push down on the scale to “weigh more”). In order to make time in the school day for these at-risk weighers to be drilled and redrilled, they must miss lunch, group sports, and playtime, but what is important to the school and to the teacher is achieving the optimal weight number so that we can tout that number, tag the student as physically healthy, keep our jobs, and collect federal dollars.

Surely we also congratulate the hungry and lethargic student for achieving that state-determined weight number. And if anyone points out that the student is hungry and lethargic, supporters of the process ignore the child and tout the number.

Be it noted that the annual standardized testing mandated by NCLB has led to cheating scandals, narrowing of the curriculum, and teaching to the test. For the past decade, there has been no change in NAEP scores.

NCLB failed. Why not admit it and move forward? Why continue to inhale the stale fumes of past policies that failed?

Why won’t prominent Democrats stop embracing NCLB and develop a vision of their own that actually helps students and teachers?

One lesson learned since March is that remote learning is a very inferior way to conduct school. Students are bored, and teachers are frustrated. Distance learning may be necessary but it’s a poor substitute for in-person learning.

Gayle Greene writes in The American Prospect about the bonanza struck by EdTech due to the pandemic.

As she shows, EdTech has a shabby history in the classroom but now we are in a period that it’s needed, no matter how shabby it may be. She reviews recent EdTech disasters and notes that none of them have sunk the hope that EdTech is “innovative” and “cutting edge,” rather than a disaster that undercuts the vital human-to-human interaction that makes dc learning come to life.

She writes:

The transition to online teaching made everyone aware of the value of person-to-person communication. The human signals that tell a teacher how a class is reacting—the sighs, groans, snorts, giggles, eye rolls, glances, body language—are stripped away online. The teacher can’t even tell if she’s being heard. Warmth is difficult to express; rapport, trust, bonding almost impossible to build. “Kids can be hard to motivate under the best of circumstances,” says teacher blogger Steven Singer, “but try doing it through a screen.” Students say so, too: “I can’t get myself to care … I just feel really disconnected from everything.”

Ed tech companies lost no time moving in. “When the pandemic hit, right away we got a list of all these technology companies that make education software that were offering free access to their products for the duration of the coronavirus crisis,” said Gordon Lafer, political economist at the University of Oregon and a member of his local school board. “They pitch these offerings as stepping up to help out the country in a moment of crisis. But it’s also like coke dealers handing out free samples.” Marketing has become so aggressive that a school superintendent near Seattle tweeted a heartfelt appeal to vendors: “Please stop. Just stop … my superintendent colleagues and I … need to focus on our communities. Let us do our jobs.” Her plea hit a nerve, prompting a survey by the National Superintendents Roundtable that revealed “a deep vein of irritation and discontent” at the barrage of texts, emails, and phone calls, “a distraction and nuisance” when they’re trying to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Comments on this survey ranged from “negative in the extreme” to “scathing,” and expressed concerns that these products “have not been validated” and that “free” offers conceal contracts for long-term pay.

For the past two decades, ed tech has been pushing into public schools, convincing districts to invest in tablets, software, online programs, assessment tools. Many superintendents have allowed these incursions, directing funding to technology that might have been better spent on human resources, teachers, counselors, nurses, librarians (up to $5.6 billion of school technology purchased sits unused, according to a 2019 analysis in EdWeek Market Brief). Now the pandemic has provided ed tech a “golden opportunity,” a “tailwind” (these are the terms we hear): Michael Moe, head of the venture capitalist group Global Silicon Valley, says: “We see the education industry today as the health care industry of 30 years ago.” Not a happy thought.

Read the whole article. You will be glad you did.

John Merrow and I cling to a belief that once upon a time there was a Republican party that was reasonable and genuinely concerned about the future of the nation. We think of people like Eisenhower and McCain.

But Merrow identifies a day when he says the GOP as we once knew it actually died: The day that Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education. Actually, it was two days. The first was when the Senate Committee approved her nomination, with the assent of Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, despite her inability to answer the most basic questions about education law or practice. The second was when the Senate confirmed her.

The Republican Party fell in line behind the most unqualified person in the nation because Trump wanted her. That was reason enough, which mattered more than the fact that she had spent her entire life attacking public schools. Perhaps no less important was that most of the senators who voted to approve her, as Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out at the time, had received large campaign contributions from her. No principle was involved. Just votes for cash.

All the Senators on the committee fell into line and gave Trump the completely unqualified nominee he proposed.

Only one Republican vote on the Senate committee would have doomed DeVos’s nomination. Neither Susan Collins nor Lisa Murkowski was willing to vote no and kill the DeVos nomination. They voted yes in committee, then “No” on the Senate floor, when their votes could not stop her. Vice President Pence, as choreographed, broken the tie to approve this unqualified person.

Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Lamar Alexander were profiles in cowardice. They voted to approve clueless, incompetent Betsy DeVos, who was unleashed to wreak havoc on the nation’s public schools.

Merrow adds:

Fun fact: Trump’s first choice for Secretary of Education was the now-infamous Jerry Falwell, Jr, who told CBS he turned down the job because Trump wanted at least a 4-year commitment that Falwell said he couldn’t make because Liberty University needed him.

Trump also interviewed Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz. Any of them would have demonstrated his hostility to public schools and his determination to undermine them. Too bad Falwell said no. His exposure at this moment would have added to the circus atmosphere of the campaign.

The founder and headmaster of a charter school in St. Louis admitted to skimming $2.4 million in public funding by inflating enrollment.

This is to be expected when private companies obtain public money without accountability or transparency.

The former head of a failed charter school has pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges in a scheme that cost taxpayers $2.4 million.

Michael Malone, who founded St. Louis College Prep, inflated attendance numbers for years as a way to collect more government funding for the struggling school.

“What the former headmaster did through his deception, repeatedly over many years, was take advantage of the Missouri taxpayers, while obtaining an unfair advantage over the St. Louis Public Schools and other area charter schools,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri Jeff Jensen said in a news release. “This was not a mistake. Evidence proved Michael Malone’s actions were intentional and, unfortunately he got away with it for years.”

Malone, 44, opened the school in 2011 and served as headmaster until November 2018, when he resigned after an internal review and an investigation by Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway showed he was cooking the books. The school closed in 2019.

As a charter school, St. Louis College Prep was funded through the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The funding is calculated through daily attendance records, and Malone routinely jacked up those numbers to increase funding. At times, those numbers exceeded even the total enrollment by as much as 124 percent…

The fraud meant money that rightfully would have gone to St. Louis Public Schools went to the charter school to educate phantom students, authorities say.