Archives for category: For-Profit

Mitchell Robinson is a professor of music education at Michigan State University. He writes here about the Betsy DeVos that the people of Michigan know, the one who wants to monetize education spending and voucherize the schools so that families can spend their education dollars wherever they want.


Robinson writes:


The news that Donald Trump has named Betsy DeVos as his choice for Secretary of Education is just another brick in the wall for Mr. Trump’s plan to turn the US into a giant flea market, selling off the bits and pieces of a once great nation for parts to the highest bidders.


I had to laugh in recent weeks as folks set off alarms at the rumors of Michelle Rhee or Eva Moskowitz being appointed to this position. The truth is Rhee and Moskowitz are mere amateurs at this school privatization scheme. For Pete’s sake, Ms. Moskowitz still spends her days actually stepping foot in to schools in NYC, terrorizing students and teachers. And Rhee, a former Teach for America recruit, whose “go to” classroom management technique was taping the mouths of her reluctant “scholars”, has been in hiding after a disastrous run as Superintendent of DC’s schools, an experiment that ended in failure for all concerned, and threatened to dim the rising star of the corporate reform movement–until recently, when she and her icky hubby reemerged for a photo op at Trump Tower.


Betsy DeVos, on the other hand, is a pro at this game. And unlike Rhee and Moskowitz, who depend on the kindness–and financial backing–of others, Betsy has the financial wherewithall to bankroll her own plans. Like her new boss, Ms. DeVos–allegedly–won’t be beholden to any “special interests” in her efforts to turn our public education system into a Sotheby’s auction.


Rest assured, also, that unlike Ms. Moskowitz, Betsy DeVos hasn’t been spending any of her valuable time in…”schools” lately, and certainly hasn’t been close enough to a real, live student to tape them up–even though I’m sure she approves of Ms. Rhee’s approach to building a safe and welcoming classroom learning environment. No, Ms. DeVos has been busy dreaming up new ways to capitalize on the billions of taxpayer dollars currently being wasted on children, teachers, and schools, and helping her puppet in the Michigan governor’s residence with his plan to destroy the state’s schools.


Remember, Michigan is the state where the Governor poisoned the water in one of the city’s largest cities, and more than 400 days later has still refused to replace a single water pipe. And the state whose lawyers recently claimed–and I swear I’m not making this up–that the state’s children had no “fundamental right to literacy.”


This is Betsy DeVos’ and Rick Snyder’s dream for how a state should govern–that a state and its elected officials have no responsibility to provide clean drinking water or a quality education for its children. It’s a dystopian vision of the future that absolves a state’s leaders and institutions from providing, maintaining, repairing, and supporting its schools, roads, water systems, and infrastructure, or protecting its most vulnerable citizens from the permanent damage caused by a poisoned water supply.


So, if you want to know what our new federal education policy is going to look like under Secretary DeVos, what has happened in Michigan under Gov. Snyder–and bankrolled and supported by the DeVos family–provides perhaps the best example of what to expect…


Robinson tells the story of the “skunk works,” which was a secret gathering of Snyder allies intent on turning public schools into “a virtual bonanza for profiteers.”


The idea behind the “skunk works” plan was to radically increase the use of technology (i.e., virtual charters, online classes) to dramatically reduce the number of teachers needed, and to decouple tax dollars from schools by providing every student in the state with an “education debit card” that could be used for a wide range of educational experiences (i.e., music lessons, art classes, sports teams).


The ultimate goal here was to create a new “value school” model in the state, delivering schooling at a per-student cost of roughly $5000, over $2000 less than the average reimbursement provided by the state for each child enrolled in a district’s schools–with “edupreneurs” pocketing the balance. For Snyder and DeVos, the purpose of education is not to help develop a more informed and educated citizenry, or to help children to become more fully human by providing a comprehensive, high quality curriculum, including music, art, and physical education in addition to the rest of the disciplines. The purpose of education under Snyder and DeVos is to turn the state’s once excellent system of public schools into an educational WalMart, boasting “low, low prices” in place of quality instruction….


Ms. DeVos is the perfect ideological mate for Mr. Trump: neither seems concerned with allowing petty little things like rules, regulations, or ethics get in the way of them pursuing their agendas. The Constitution only applies to the “little people,” not the billionaire “deciders” who will make the rules in the Trump administration.


Betsy DeVos was the absolute worst possible choice for Secretary of Education, so it’s no surprise that Trump chose her for this cabinet post. Her appointment is much closer to Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist than it is to his choice of Reince Preibus as Chief of Staff. One is a party insider who will make the “trains run on time”: the other is an arsonist who would happily burn the train station to the ground.


Betsy DeVos’ mission is no less than the total destruction of public education. Her apparent support for charters is merely a head fake to the right to distract us from for her ultimate goal of “decoupling” state and federal dollars from supporting schools of any type.


Under Secretary of Education DeVos we will see the emergence of a two-tiered educational system:


One, a system of elite private and religious schools for well-to-do, mostly White parents with the means to afford expensive tuition payments, staffed by qualified, certified teachers, with a rich curriculum based on face-to-face instruction in clean, safe, well-maintained schools…


The other, a parallel system of “fly by night” virtual and online “schools” that open and close seemingly at random, and for-profit charters operated by scam artists like Northern Michigan’s Dr. Steve Ingersoll, with little to no state or federal regulation or oversight, and a bare bones, “back to the basics” curriculum delivered by unqualified and uncertified “teachers”.


I’m guessing that the leadership at Teach for America is practically salivating today.


For the rest of us, welcome to the Hunger Games of public education….


Betsy DeVos needs to hear, loudly and clearly, that her cynical, selfish, profit-focused vision of public education isn’t constitutional; it’s predatory.


Her approach is not that of an educational leader; it’s that of a vandal.


Tell her that these are OUR public schools, and we value them and need them. And that we won’t let her, and her new Boss, destroy them.


North Carolina has two virtual charter schools, one operated by Pearson, the other by Michael Milken’s K12 Inc. Both have high attrition rates and poor student performance, as reported in state data.

“Students at one of the state’s two brand new virtual charter schools are dropping out at a rate that exceeds the maximum allowed by state law, according to a report authored by the North Carolina Office of Charter Schools.

“North Carolina Connections Academy, a virtual charter school backed by education technology giant Pearson, reported a student dropout rate of 31.3 percent for the 2015-16 academic year. State law says virtual charters can’t exceed dropout rates of 25 percent.

“Both of the two virtual charter schools’ dropout rates exceeded the statutory maximum when not considering “finite enrollees” in their calculations. It’s up to the virtual charters to select who they believe those enrollees are in accordance with state law, which says finite enrollees are students who indicate in advance that they wish to enroll for just a portion of the school year.
When K12, Inc.-backed NC Virtual Academy excluded finite enrollees from their calculations as the law allows, they then met the statutory maximum dropout rate at exactly 25 percent.

“Both schools demonstrated poor academic outcomes for their students this past academic year, each receiving F school performance grades in math and Cs in reading. They were also categorized as low performing schools, a designation that requires them to submit a strategic improvement plan. Both schools also received the lowest possible score for student academic growth, a 50 on a scale of 50-100….

“Virtual charter schools have not performed well on the whole. A recent study conducted by Stanford’s CREDO found that students attending virtual schools didn’t learn anything in math for the entire academic year, and poor performance by these schools even prompted the NCAA to announce it will no longer accept coursework in its initial eligibility certification process from 24 virtual schools that are affiliated with K12, Inc. Tennessee has sought to close the K12, Inc.-backed virtual charter school there.”

Despite the dismal performance of the virtual charters, which drain money away from public schools, lawmakers have rigged the formula to protect them from sanctions for dropouts in the future.

“Beginning with this academic school year, 2016-17, lawmakers enacted four additional exclusions to the withdrawal rate calculations. They are the following, as outlined in statute and in the charter report:

(1) Students who regularly failed to participate in courses who are withdrawn under the procedures adopted by the school.

(2) Students no longer qualified under State law to attend a North Carolina public school, including relocation to another state.

(3) Students who: (i) withdraw from school because of a family, personal, or medical reason, and (ii) notify the school of the reason for withdrawal.

(4) Students who withdraw from school within the first 30 days following the date of enrollment.
These new exclusions provide the virtual charter schools exceptional latitude in allowing them to exclude nearly anyone who drops out of the online schools from actually being counted in the withdrawal rates going forward. That means it’s possible that the virtual charters will demonstrate a significant drop in withdrawal rates after this first year—even though those figures may not be truly capturing the full scope of who is leaving the programs.”

Bottom line, legislators don’t want to hold virtual charter schools accountable for attendees, attrition, or performance. Someone should check the state records and review campaign contributions from employees and associates of these companies.

Reading’s daily education brief today is like being trapped in a nightmare and wishing you could wake up. In this case, it is not a bad dream, it is an ugly reality with familiar faces intent on giving public dollars to private and for-profit schools. Add to that the reports of students fearful for their future, and the outlines of an frightening new world emerge.

Politico reports that Indiana’s approach to school reform–based on privatization–will guide the Trump education reformers. The key to Trump reform is diverting public dollars to charters–including for-profit charters and virtual charters–and vouchers for religious schools.

HOOSIER POLICIES HEAD TO WASHINGTON: The same players who sparked intense education battles in Indiana – and transformed schools in the Hoosier State – are poised to enact those policies on a national stage. Just as George W. Bush brought Texas-style accountability to the Education Department and President Barack Obama tapped Chicago basketball buddy Arne Duncan, Donald Trump’s education policies are expected to reflect the Indiana imprint of Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Already, three Hoosiers key in shaping Indiana’s school choice landscape are considered contenders to serve as Trump’s education secretary: Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University; former Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett; and Rep. Luke Messer, a former state representative who served as executive director for School Choice Indiana when the state’s 2011 school choice law was passed under Daniels’ watch. Indiana ties also played a role in Trump’s selection of the campaign staffer who helped him craft his $20 billion school choice plan that encourages vouchers and charter schools: Robert Goad, an aide on loan from Messer.

– Pence used his platform as Indiana governor to aggressively expand a voucher program that allows taxpayer money to flow to religious private schools. Pence also pushed for more charter schools, and choice has now become a defining element of Trump’s vision for education. Indiana’s voucher program allows nearly 33,000 students to go to private school on the public’s dime – making it the single largest voucher program of any state in the country. John Jacobson, dean of Teachers College at Ball State University, said the state’s voucher program hasn’t been around long enough to fully understand the long-term impact. Because of that, Jacobson said, “I would hope they are cautious at the national level.” Has Indiana’s voucher program been a positive change for families? “If you were to ask a parent who received a voucher to a school of their choice, they would say yes,”Jacobson said. “For the general public, I think it’s been difficult for the public to accept, taking public dollars and allocating that to private entities.”

Bennett, you may recall, was at the center off a grade-fixing scandal. The grades of a charter school founded by a major campaign contributor were mysteriously increased by adjusting the formula for calculating grades. Bennett was defeated in his bid for re-election as state chief in Indiana, but quickly hired by Florida as chief (he is a protege of Jeb Bush). He resigned as chief in Florida after the grade-fixing scandal broke.

Tom Ultican, a high school teacher in San Diego reviews Samuel Abrams’ new book, “Education and the Commercial Mindset.”

He writes:

“Samuel E. Abrams has created a masterpiece of research and reason illuminating the successes and failures of the forces favoring privatization of public education. His new book published by Harvard University Press is Education and the Commercial Mindset.

“Starting with Chris Whittle and his infamous Channel One on TV and the ill-fated Edison Education, Abrams documents the triumphs and failures of profit based education. He shares the thinking and biographies of key characters working to privatize education and includes voices warning about the unsavory consequences of this agenda; not only in America, but worldwide.

“My big take-away from this book was solidified in the last two chapters that discussed privatization efforts in Europe and South America. It explains why both Chile and Sweden have begun undoing their privatized systems. Abrams wrote:

“Much as many Chileans at the same time were protesting their nation’s long-standing system of for-profit school management, initiated in 1981, Swedish critics started to raise their voices in opposition. The Chilean adversaries would soon prevail, with President Michele Bachelet declaring in January 2015 that her government would phase out for-profit school management.

“Basic to the UR [the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company] series was a crisis of faith in Swedish education known as ‘PISA shock.’ Of all OECD nations, only Sweden had seen scores on the triennial Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) successively drop with each administration of the exam since its introduction in 2000.” (Page 275)

Ultican sees three take-aways:

“1) Put highly trained well paid teachers in every classroom.

“2) Respect the professional judgment of educators and have them lead education.

“3) Significantly reduce class sizes.”

Ultican concludes:

“Abrams presents convincing arguments that KIPP and other no-excuses charter systems cannot possibly be scaled up to educate all American children. These systems have a history of burning out teachers and they rely on public schools to take in the children they expel or council out.

“For people interested in public education, ‘Education and the Commercial Mindset’ is an important asset. The privatization movement has been fueled by a misunderstanding of effect and cause. Public schools were struggling, not due to misguided pedagogy or “bad teachers”, but from bad policy and an unwillingness to adequately fund education in poor communities. The top down and misguided federally driven remedies and for profit cannibalism have only made the problem worse.”

Wasting no time to cash in, Ivanka Trump is offering the bracelet (copies) she wore on “60 Minutes” for $10,000.

But all is not well with the Trump brand. The name “Trump” will be removed from threee residential buildings in Manhattan, in response to a petition signed by many tenants. The owner of the building says he did not respond to the petition, but you can bet your bottom dollar that he realized that the Trump name does not add value to his properties in a neighborhood that voted heavily against him.

I am pleased to see that the petition was started by my college classmate and dear friend, Linda Gottlieb, who gathered 600 signatures demanding the removal of the Trump name from the building she and her husband live in. Linda was also the producer of “Dirty Dancing,” clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Please watch the 10-second video at the end of this post. You will love it!

Emily Talmadge, a teacher-blogger in Maine, used to worry about the dangers inherent in a Clinton administration. Now she warns that the threat of competency based education–delivered online, all the time, profiting a few, bad for humans–will thrive in a Trump Administration.

“The real agenda – the ongoing march toward a cradle-to-grave system of human capital development that relies on the most sophisticated data collection and tracking technologies to serve its unthinkably profitable end – is fueled and directed by a multi-billion dollar education-industrial-complex that has been built over the course of decades.

“It’s an absolute beast, an army of epic scale, and it’s a system that has the same uncanny ability to blend in with its surroundings as a chameleon.

“Take, for example, the new “innovative assessment systems” that are being thrust on us every which way in the wake of ESSA. Under the banner of free market ideology, the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is promoting the very same assessment policies that far-left groups like the national unions and the National Center for Fair and Open Testing are now pushing. And though some claim that one ideology is merely “co-opting” the ideas of the other, the reality is that they lead to the same data-mining, cradle-to-career tracking end.

“Consider, too, the massive push for blended, competency-based, and digital learning – all unproven methods of educating children, but highly favored by ed-tech providers and data-miners.

“Most of these corporate-backed policies were cooked up in Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, and then made their way not only to the far-right ALEC, but also to left-leaning groups like the Center for Collaborative Education, the Coalition for Essential Schools, and the Great Schools Partnership. Depending on what sort of population each group is targeting, these wolves will dress themselves up in sheep’s clothing and make appeals to different values. For the right, they will package their policies in the language of the free market and choice; for the left, they will wrap them in a blanket of social-justice terminology.

“Pull back the curtain far enough, however, and you will see they are selling the same thing.”

Emily lives in Maine, whose Tea Party Governor Paul LePage was one of the first to jump on the Jeb Bush “Digital Learning Now!” bandwagon.

It was exposed in a wonderful, prize-winning “follow the money” investigative report.

Mercedes Schneider here assembles the themes and details of President-elect Trump’s plans for education, or at least the federal role in education.

It is a nightmare vision, a dystopian vision. It is a vision of privatization, a concept I have been highlighting and exposing day after day as a source of inequity, fraud, graft, and bad education.

Please someone tell Mr. Trump that no high-performing nation in the world has charters and vouchers and for-profit schools and public tuition for home-schooling. Tell him that the two nations that embraced privatization–Sweden and Chile–now regret it. They saw increased segregation, not better education.

In Trump world, school choice is the answer to every education issue.

Too bad there is no evidence for his vision. Too bad for our public schools. Too bad for our kids. Too bad for our future.

We can’t let this happen. Parents, students, teachers, administrators, local school boards, state school boards: we have to stand together to defend what belongs to us. We must protect the commons.

Public schools under democratic control are part of our heritage as Americans. Conservatives don’t destroy traditional institutions. Conservatives conserve. Anarchists blow up neighborhood schools. Not conservatives. Nihilists destroy what belongs to all of us. Stand and argue. Resist.

Angie Sullivan, Nevada teacher, reports on the bizarre actions of Andre Agassi, one-time tennis star and high school dropout. His flagship charter school that bears his name is on the state’s list of persistently low-performing schools. It is also known for high rates of teacher and principal turnover. The state may give Agassi’s charter to another charter operator. But Agassi and his business partner Bobby Turner have raised nearly $300 million to build charter schools around the country.

Sullivan writes:

Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund II, L.P. raised $296,294,416 on 2016-06-16.

Agassi has become a very very wealthy man selling his “charter doctrine”.

Unfortunately, his own flagship charter school shows charters are the ultimate tax payer scam.

The worst schools in the state of Nevada are charters.

In particular, Agassi Preparatory is not graduating, not performing, not achieving.

Agassi has open the door financially for other Vegas charters which are also on the lowest performing list.

He preaches charter doctrine all over he United States selling real estate and profiteering.

This isn’t really about kids. This is about cold hard cash.

Now Agassi charter may be taken over by another charter.

The tax payer needs to be asking some serious questions about who is making money from these charter deals.

The tax payer needs to demand some accountability and transparency from Nevada’s charters.

This is some serious fraud and waste.

Someone needs to be accountable for this fiasco.

Maybe the Charter Authority needs to answer some questions.

Maybe the Nevada State Board of Education.

Maybe the Nevada Department of Education.

Who knew all these charters were failing and either covered it up or did nothing about it? It looks like it’s been going on for at least a decade too from the data I’ve been collecting.

Not good.

Dirty dirty dirty.

This powerful editorial about the election was published by the New York Daily News, Donald Trump’s hometown tabloid. The editorial appeared before Comey injected his explosive news into the election. The Daily News reacted to Comey’s statement with a call for him to be fired for meddling in the election. Then on November 1, the News published a front-page editorial titled: “Damn Right We’re With Her.”

The editorial board of the News knows Trump very well. They have watched him for many years.

If you want to know why Trump must be defeated, this is your reading assignment for today.

The first editorial tells you why Trump should not be president–ever.

The November 1 editorial tells you why Clinton should be elected.

The editorial board has met with both Trump and Clinton many times.

And this is why they doubled down on their endorsement despite Director Comey’s intervention:

The Daily News again extends its wholehearted endorsement of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

We do so with faith that Clinton would be a transformative leader for the good, far beyond making history as the first female President.

And we do so with fact-based, fearful conviction that Donald Trump would lead a nation divided against itself, with catastrophic consequences at home and abroad.

Lost in a campaign distorted by Trump’s ego-driven demagoguery is the indisputable truth that Clinton’s instincts, skills and programs are an excellent match for the challenges of a uniquely frightening American moment.

We are a country at war. The 50 states are united in rage. The 320 million people of this land tear at one another in a battle to reclaim their destiny from a government that, put bluntly, screwed them on a bipartisan basis.

Almost an entire American generation has been born since the country last had a semblance of responsive, responsible governing. Instead, Democrats and Republicans alike have exhausted the nation in stalemates over symbols and dogma.

Meanwhile, the working and middle classes suffered joblessness, home foreclosures, wage stagnation, massive student debt, opioid addiction and further ills – as the wealthy rode the waves ever more comfortably, often with Uncle Sam manning the galley oars.

Now comes a reckoning that made vengeful soulmates of the unlikely Bernie Sanders and the ungodly Trump. Vessels for white-hot anger, the socialist and the tax-evading billionaire built their candidacies on destroying a “rigged” system as champion of its victims.

But revenge for the sake of revenge – which is the heart of Trump’s campaign – would be madness as the chief motivator for selecting the custodian of the world’s shining-star democracy, largest economy and mightiest military.

On Oct. 20, the Daily News Editorial Board published the longest editorial in its 97-year history – a call for burying Trump in a landslide. We needed 7,500 words to document his unfitness for the presidency as an ignorant and divisive “liar, thief, bully, hypocrite, sexual victimizer and unhinged, self-adoring demagogue.”

Leaving aside his Trumpian mountain of disqualifications, the crucial distinction between the renegade Republican and Clinton is that Clinton is, at heart, a forward-looking optimist who offers rational programs targeted to create a stronger, fairer, more unified America.

Her unparalleled understanding of the world, her unmatched grasp of policy successes and failures and her proven ability to broker constructive compromise between hunkered-down ideologues must far outweigh the nagging mistrust that Clinton generates after her decades at the height of national service….

No illusions: Expecting to hold the House, Republicans have telegraphed plans to launch multiple anti-Clinton investigations. Still more, Senate GOP leaders have pledged to block all Clinton Supreme Court nominations.

Even so, victory — the more solid the better — would position Clinton to win action on behalf of the working and middle classes by addressing the interests both of her ideological foes and of all the Americans who are furious that Washington catered to a corrupt, elite establishment while condescendingly dismissing their needs and beliefs.

Donald Trump is all about selling a single repulsively flawed product: himself.

Hillary Clinton is no saleswoman. Instead, she is a doer who has a historic chance to prove that the U.S. government can actually work to the benefit of its citizen bosses.

No election in our lifetimes has produced a clearer choice: Clinton over Trump, urgently and by acclamation.

There is more. It is worth reading, as is the first editorial referenced here.

Bottom line is that Clinton has plans to improve life for our nation, while Trump is an egotistical bully, a liar, and a vengeful hypocrite who would bring our nation and our economy to ruin.

Ariana Prothero writes in Education Week about the “Outsized Influence” of lobbyists for the virtual charter industry.

The virtual or online charter industry is a sham and a fraud. Readers of this blog have read many articles and research studies demonstrating that these “schools” survive by the power of their lobbying and campaign contributions, not because they have any educational value. Studies, even by charter-friendly organizations like CREDO of Stanford, have repeatedly demonstrated that virtual charters have high dropout rates, low test scores, and low graduation rates. This doesn’t seem to bother state officials because…well, lobbying and campaign contributions.

K12 Inc is the biggest operator in the field. It was started by the Milken brothers, it operates for-profit, and it is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The article doesn’t mention it, but two dozen K12 Inc schools lost NCAA accreditation because of the shoddiness of the education they offered.

The article goes into detail about K12 Inc and also Connections Academy, which is owned by Pearson. It does not go into the protected status of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) in Ohio, which has been relieved of all accountability because of its owner’s generosity to legislators and the governor.

K12 Inc owns CAVA (the California Virtual Academy), which was shown to be profitable while delivering inferior education in a powerful series by Jessica Califati in the San Jose Mercury-News. The state attorney general worked out a fine for K12 Inc, but the company continues to operate as usual. I personally communicated with a member of the California state school board to ask whether there would be any action to close CAVA, in light of its poor results, and I was told that it was under investigation by three different state agencies. I don’t know if that was real or just another way of saying “forget about it.”

There are even some in the charter industry who realize that virtual charters are an embarrassment to the whole industry.

But to date, even in Republican strongholds like Tennessee, the abysmal Tennessee Virtual Academy has escaped all efforts to close it down.