Archives for category: Failure

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.

Bill Phillis, founder of the Ohio Coalition for Adequacy and Equity and a vocal supporter of public schools, writes here about an investigation of vouchers by the Cincinnati Enquirer. The report echoed the findings of academic research: students in public schools get higher test scores than those in voucher schools. Vouchers don’t “save” children. They don’t “save” black children. Ohio officials shifted hundreds of millions of dollars away from public schools to support vouchers. Even with the loss of funding, the public schools were superior to the voucher schools. Why don’t Republican politicians in Ohio care about effectiveness and prudence? Why do they continue to fund failure?

Phillis writes:

Cincinnati Enquirer investigation confirms that vouchers do not enhance academic success

The voucher campaigners will have to change their pitch to entice students to their private school classrooms. Confirming what other studies have revealed, the Enquirer research indicates there is a definite public school advantage. “Yet five of the largest districts—Cincinnati, Toledo, Cleveland, Akron and Canton—fared better academically than their local private school rivals, by margins ranging from slight to decisive, according to the Enquirer analysis”, the report states.

The Enquirer research indicates that the voucher system has been least successful in educating black students.

An excerpt from the report regarding city districts other than the urban shows a definite public school advantage that is widespread:

Other areas
Forty cities were included in this category, and a public school district in all but two of the cities outperformed its surrounding private schools.

Zanesville scored about six points higher on state tests than area private schools but had about $675,000 deducted for EdChoice.

Coshocton City Schools saw $115,000 deducted. The district had a 61% proficiency rate, more than 20 points higher than local private schools.

Portsmouth City Schools earned a proficiency rate of 51.9%, 10 points higher than the private schools in its community. Yet Portsmouth City had about $725,000 deducted since 2018.

Sandusky City Schools outperformed its neighboring private schools by 17 percentage points, achieving a proficiency rate of 49%. The district saw $660,000 deducted since 2018.

Van Wert City Schools and Wilmington City Schools were the only two districts in this category that fared worse on state testing than private schools.

In all, public school districts in this category had $3.75 million deducted for EdChoice in the past three years.

A longstanding perception in the past is that there is a private school advantage. Recent research has debunked that perception. The demographic of private schools is typically different from the public system. When the demographics of public schools and private schools are considered, there is a definite public school advantage.

The Cincinnati Enquirer is behind a paywall. The results are posted in the Akron Beacon Journal, not behind a paywall.

Thomas Ultican, who retired last year as a teacher of advanced math and physics in California, has studied school reform in many districts. He concludes that charter schools, created supposedly to improve education, especially for the neediest children, is a failed experiment.

He reviews the origins of the charter school idea and shows how AFT leader Albert Shanker became disillusioned. The premise of charters, he writes, was based on an illusion. Reagan’s “Nation at Risk” report unleashed a long era of handwringing about public school failure, but as he points out, NPR reporter Anya Kamenetz documented that the conclusions of that report were predetermined.

He writes:

Some powerful evidence points in the opposite direction and indicates that the results from US public schools in the 60s and 70s were actually a great success story.

One measuring stick demonstrating that success is Nobel Prize winners. Since 1949, America has had 383 laureates; the second place country, Great Britain, had 132. In the same period, India had 12 laureates and China 8.

Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis report on education achievement gaps states, “The gaps narrowed sharply in the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, but then progress stalled.”

The digital revolution and the booming biotech industry were both created by students mostly from the supposedly “soft public schools” of the 60s and 70s.

Ultican then reviews the study by the Network for Public Education of charter school instability and closings.

Broken Promises” looked at cohorts of newly opened charter schools between 1998 and 2017. Ryan Pfleger, Ph.D. led the analysis of charter schools closures utilizing the Department of Education’s Common Core of Data (CCD).

Before 1998, the massive government data base did not uniquely identify charter schools and the last complete data set available for all schools in American was 2017.

Startup charter school cohorts were identified by year and the cohort closure rates were tracked at 3, 5, 10 and 15 years after opening. The overall failure rates discovered were 18% by year-3, 25% by year-5, 40% by year-10 and 50% by year-15.

The NPE team discovered that half of all charter schools in America close their doors within fifteen years.

Many new charters do not survive their first year of operation.

It makes no sense to continue to expand a 30-year “experiment” whose results are so meager.

Anette Carlisle, public education advocate in Texas, describes how State Commissioner Mike Morath, a non-educator, bought into the anti-democratic strategy of killing local school boards and privatizing public schools. He swallowed whole the disruption program of the Center for Reinventing Public Education, one of the Gates-funded think tanks that call for the abandonment of public schools.

Despite a full decade of failure, phony “reformers” claim that education will improve if private corporations and entrepreneurs take over from elected school boards. It hasn’t worked anywhere, and it won’t work in Texas.

Carlisle writes:

Texas has chosen to abandon our local public schools, locally elected school boards, superintendents and our 5.4 million schoolchildren in favor of a “my way or the highway” single system directive by Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath. That’s why I’m standing up to say, “Whoa! Hold your horses, please, Mr. Commissioner.”

It’s an effort that’s been building for years, right under our noses. People said, “Surely not,” but here we are.

Look back to 2019 and the Center for Reinventing Public Education’s (CRPE) report centered around the System of Great Schools (SGS) concept. The System of Great Schools “starts from the premise that local school districts are ill-positioned to improve schools directly,” and local districts should “get out of the business of managing instruction in schools.”

Morath, according to the CRPE, “prioritized the SGS initiative as a signature project” and even “smoothed the path for the SGS team to work inside the agency” when other TEA staff disapproved.

It’s just one example of the state telling school district leaders to take a hike and locally elected boards to get out of the way.

Earlier this year, The Texas Tribune interviewed Commissioner Morath, and his thoughts on local control came more clearly into focus. Asked about the state’s takeover of Houston ISD, Morath said, “This is basically a grand, philosophical question that is a right for state legislatures around the country to try to answer. Why do we have schools? Do we have schools to teach children, or do we have schools to have elected school boards?”

The takeaway? Local communities don’t know what’s best for kids. The state does.

Who knew that a conservative Republican Governor and his ignorant State Commissioner would launch a state takeover of public schools?

The latest video from the Lincoln Project documents Trump’s pronouncements about the pandemic. It is brilliant.

ProPublica wrote about a private contractor who wanted to help “build the Wall.” He won a federal contract for $1.7 billion and quickly erected three miles of Trump’s Wall. Problem is that it’s now at risk of falling into the Rio Grande River.

Working in collaboration with the Texas Tribune, ProPublica wrote:

Tommy Fisher billed his new privately funded border wall as the future of deterrence, a quick-to-build steel fortress that spans 3 miles in one of the busiest Border Patrol sectors.

Unlike a generation of wall builders before him, he said he figured out how to build a structure directly on the banks of the Rio Grande, a risky but potentially game-changing step when it came to the nation’s border wall system.

Fisher has leveraged his self-described “Lamborghini” of walls to win more than $1.7 billion worth of federal contracts in Arizona.

But his showcase piece is showing signs of runoff erosion and, if it’s not fixed, could be in danger of falling into the Rio Grande, according to engineers and hydrologists who reviewed photos of the wall for ProPublica and The Texas Tribune. It never should have been built so close to the river, they say

VOX reports on billionaire Reed Hastings’ grandiose plans to build a fabulous resort in Colorado for teachers, where they will learn to love charter schools, high-stakes testing, test-based accountability for teachers, and other failed reform strategies.

Hastings has $5 billion and he doesn’t seem to know what to do with it, even though California has many people who are homeless and many hotbeds of racism and injustice. So, he decided to keep spending on privatization, no doubt gladdening the heart of Betsy DeVos, and high-stakes testing.

Every one of Hastings’s favorite ideas has failed but he plans to convert teachers to follow his path by immersing them in luxurious surroundings.

If only he would read SLAYING GOLIATH, he would realize that he is wasting his money and undermining an essential democratic institution, the American public school, which nearly 90% of American families choose.

Theodore Schleifer writes in VOX:

Reed Hastings, the billionaire founder of Netflix, is quietly building a mysterious 2,100-acre luxury retreat ranch nestled in the elk-filled foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Recode has learned.

Hastings has been one of the country’s biggest donors to the education reform movement that’s trying to reshape America’s struggling school system. And now public records reveal that Hastings is personally financing a new foundation that will operate this training ground for American public school teachers, a passion project shrouded in secrecy that will expand the billionaire’s political influence.

Hastings is one of many Silicon Valley billionaires who have deployed their fortunes in the education reform movement, which calls for a greater focus on testing, tougher accountability for teachers, and the expansion of alternative schools like charters to close America’s achievement gaps and better train its future workforce. Those tech leaders, though, have had uncertain results, with the very biggest of them — Microsoft founder Bill Gates — having admitted earlier this year that he was “not yet seeing the kind of bottom-line impact we expected.” Opponents, including teachers’ unions, charge that these reformers are blaming educators for factors beyond their control, such as poverty.

The new training center, called the Retreat Land at Lone Rock, seems to be a priority for the Netflix CEO, at least based on Hastings’s level of personal involvement: He and his wife have been visiting the area since at least 2017, when they went so far as to request a face-to-face meeting with a local fire chief at his Colorado firehouse to try and smooth over any looming permitting concerns.

Hastings, whose involvement hasn’t previously been reported, declined to comment on his plans through a spokesperson.

But public records filed with the government of Park County, Colorado, and reviewed by Recode offer a glimpse at the ambitious plans for the center, which local officials expect to open as early as March 2021.

“The proposed Conference and Retreat Facility will be run as a nonprofit institute serving the public education community’s development of teachers and leadership,” a Hastings aide says in one prospectus.

One group that is expected to use the “state-of-the-art” facility is the Pahara Institute, which operates a well-known networking group and training program for activists and teachers aligned with the education-reform movement. Hastings heavily funds and serves on the board of the Pahara Institute, which currently hosts its retreats at different locations around the country rather than at a single place.

It was Pahara that initially contacted local landowners to buy the acreage before Hastings personally stepped in and decided to do it himself, said Dave Crane, a real estate broker who did the deal and gave a tour of the property to Hastings before the firehouse meeting in 2017. Pahara’s founder serves on the board of Hastings’s new foundation as well.

Retreat Land at Lone Rock will effectively function as the grounds for leadership retreats like these for teachers, principals, and nonprofit heads, according to a person close to Hastings. It will be open to both educators at traditional district public schools and those at charter schools, a favorite cause of the Netflix founder, the person said.

The center will nevertheless extend Hastings’s influence in the American education system. Although it remains unknown whether the leaders that are brought to Lone Rock will be the key people to fix America’s schools, Hastings, a private citizen, will now have the ability to choose a few leaders who agree with him and support them with his bank account and his center, giving him an outsized voice in one of America’s most fraught public policy debates.

Overlapping groups of about 30 educators at a time from across the United States are expected to enjoy the 270-room retreat center at once, staying for four days each and playing team sports, using its classrooms, and enjoying its pristine hiking trails — “maybe with pack llamas,” says another document.

Yes, poverty is the essential problem that afflicts the lives of large numbers of children. Ignore it at your peril, Mr. Hastings. Keep pursuing your vanity projects while teachers and students cry out for smaller classes, bemoan the lack of resources, weep for the loss of the arts and play, and plead for social workers, psychologists, librarians and nurses.

Mr. Hastings, you have made a lot of money–billions–but you are a foolish man.

Just think what you might do instead: fund medical centers in schools across California; fund the arts in schools; fund libraries and librarians. There are so many ways you could bring joy to children and their families. Why don’t you do something to spread goodness instead of disruption?

In this post, Mercedes Schneider interviews Annie Tan, who joined Teach for America in 2011, and, with inadequate training, was assigned be a teacher of special education in Chicago. Her experience was, she says, a disaster.

One of Tan’s responses:

Tan: I will never forget the first day when we had our celebration, and the CEO of Chicago Public Schools came and made a speech to us. It felt very strange for him to be there for some reason. Yes, we were going to be 250 new teachers in Chicago, so logically it may have made sense to introduce us and do a welcome, but I also couldn’t imagine him doing that at a regular university that had education majors graduating. I couldn’t imagine him going to one of those graduations and making a speech.

There were a few moments that I still remember that were odd, as well. I remember the first day of professional development through Teach for America, when we got no talk around how segregated Chicago was, just people alluding to it, like Teach for America was not even going to approach that schools were unequal because of race and income, especially in Chicago, which really stands out since I worked in Chicago Public Schools for five years and taught there for four.

And then, the speech from some Teach for America staff members, that we might be the first teachers in some of these kids’ lives that had high expectations for them. I first thought to myself, “How can I have high expectations for my students when I don’t even know them yet? All I’ve done was graduate from a fancy college, so how am I better than someone else?” That really rubbed me the wrong way.

Schneider called this attitude “the savior complex.”

Who thought it was good to place an unprepared young teacher in a classroom of children with special needs?

It is a revealing interview.

The Alabama Charter School
Commission decided to revoke the charter of Woodland Prep, which had not yet opened.

Blogger Larry Lee has the inside scoop.

He wrote:

In the end, it was as much a story about a very rural community that simply refused to quit fighting and standing up for what it believed in strongly. It was about a community that takes pride in its public schools and refused to be bulldozed by a group of education “experts” from out-of-state who were far more intent on making money than helping children.

It was widely believed that the charter was part of the Fetullah Gulen charter chain, one of the nation’s largest. For unexplained reasons, the charter decided to open in a small rural community where sentiment ran against it, commitment to the local public schools is strong, and local people look askance at Muslims (and possibly other religions).

Larry Lee wrote many posts about Woodland Prep. See here and here.

It is really dumb and insensitive for out-of-state people to plant themselves in a rural community, announce that they intend to open a school to compete with the local school and expect to be welcomed.