Archives for category: Massachusetts

Blogger Jersey Jazzman is an experienced teacher and graduate student at Rutgers, where he has learned how reformers play games with data. He is better than they are and can be counted on to expose their tricks.

In this post, he blows away the myth of the “success” of Boston charter schools.

The public schools and the charter schools in Boston do not enroll the same kinds of students, due to high attrition rates in the charters (called Commonwealth charter schools).

He writes:

“As I pointed out before, the Commonwealth charter schools are a tiny fraction of the total Boston high school population. What happens if the cap is lifted and they instead enroll 25 percent of Boston’s students? What about 50 percent?

“Let’s suppose we ignore the evidence above and concede a large part of the cohort shrinkage in charters is due to retention. Will the city be able to afford to have retention rates that high for so many students? In other words: what happens to the schools budget if even more students take five or six or more years to get through high school?

“In a way, it doesn’t really matter if the high schools get their modest performance increases through attrition or retention: neither is an especially innovative way to boost student achievement, and neither requires charter school expansion. If Boston wants to invest in drawing out the high school careers of its students, why not do that within the framework of the existing schools? Especially since we know redundant school systems can have adverse effects on public school finances?”

Conclusion: Jersey Jazzman opposes Amendment 2, which would lead to an unsustainable growth in charter schools, free to push out the students they don’t want.

The propivatization lobby really wants to beat back teachers, parents, and school boards in Massachusetts!

Mercedes Schneider reports that the latest filings show that close to $32 million has been spent on the resolution–pro and con–to increase the number of charter schools by 12 a year forever.

The pro-privatization forces have put in almost $20 million, most of it from financiers from out-of-state, who have no connection to the children or public schools of Massachusetts.

The pro-public school forces have raised $12 million, most of it from teachers’ unions, who don’t want to see a batch of non-union privatized schools draining away resources from public schools.

The hedge fund managers’ lobby, DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) has joined the battle, bringing more money from Wall Street to Massachusetts on behalf of privatization.

I am on the train returning from Wellesley to New York City, after Pasi Sahlberg’s brilliant performance last night. I say “performance” because he didn’t give a conventional lecture. He used a multi-media platform to entertain, interact, and inform the audience. He began his talk by posing a mathematical question, which appeared on the screen behind him. He urged the audience to add the numbers, out loud, simple whole numbers, as they appeared on the screen. Many of us showed how easily we were fooled by what we thought we saw. How easily we draw false conclusions. That was his introduction to a performance that included film clips, music, data, and exposition. If you have a chance to invite him to your state or organization, I urge you to do so. He is amazing. As soon as I have the video link, I will post it.

In talking to parents and teachers during my visit, I learned that all those millions from hedge fund managers, billionaires, and union-busters are now showing up as television commercials blanketing the state with lies. Earnest “parents” explain in the commercials that they are voting for Question 2–the approval of more privately run charter schools–because they “support” public schools, they want to “help” public schools. They do not explain that passage of Question 2 means that neighborhood public schools will be closed and replaced by corporate-controlled charter schools. They do not explain that more money for charter schools means less money for public schools. They do not explain that those who vote for Question 2 are voting to cut the budgets of their own public schools.

It is a low, misleading, dishonest campaign. Why are the “reformers” dishonest? Simple. If they told the truth, the public would overwhelmingly reject their goal of privatizing public schools and turning over control to out-of-state corporations. This is the billionaire-funded propaganda campaign that dare not speak its name.

Corporate reform refuses to be truthful. It wraps itself in self-righteous lies about promoting civil rights and closing the achievement gap. Destroying a democratic institution is not promoting civil rights. Creating colonialist “no excuses” charter schools that exclude or kick out low-scoring students does not promote civil rights or reduce the achievement gap. Making a fetish of standardized testing guarantees that the “achievement gap” will never close because the standardized tests are designed to produce achievement gaps that never close.

Where do the “reformers” find the white teachers willing to enforce the harsh discipline of no-excuses schools and impose unquestioning compliance on nonwhite children? Very likely, these teachers attended progressive private or public schools. Did they learn the value of conformity and obedience in TFA training or at the Relay “Graduate School of Education”?

As Alan Singer wrote on Huffington Post, Massachusetts is now ground zero in the battle for public education. It may be the most liberal state in the nation. It is far and away the most successful state school system, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. If the billionaires can persuade the people of Massachusetts to turn over a dozen schools a year from here to eternity, they can do it anywhere. After all, what’s a couple of million dollars to the Waltons, whose family wealth exceeds $130 billion? If the billionaires can hoax the people of Massachusetts for only $15 million, what state will be outside their reach? You can be sure that the charter industry won’t stop in Boston and the small cities of the state. They have their eyes on the suburbs, too.

What happens on November 8 will matter to the future of public education in America.

Will the corporate reformers pull the wool over the eyes of the public? Will their deceptions and lies cover up their goal of undermining one of our most important democratic institutions?

Or will the grassroots actions of parents and teachers strip away their evasions, lies, and propaganda and demonstrate that the public schools of the Bay State are not for sale? Not at any price.

Historian Jack Schneider fears that charter schools in Massachusetts have lost their capacity to innovate. Instead, they have a single-minded focus on test scores and “no-excuses” discipline. They have lost sight of the original vision of charters as laboratories of innovation.

He writes:

“Yet an emphasis on the original vision of charter schools—charters as experimental hubs in an integrated network of public schools—might do a great deal to reestablish common ground. Perhaps more importantly, by thoughtfully regulating the charter sector with the aim of fostering system-wide innovation, policy leaders might make it possible to reap the benefits of charter schools without paying the steep associated costs.

“Of course, Massachusetts charter schools are regulated. The number of charter seats in each district is limited by the state—a cap being challenged by Question 2. And charters are held accountable by the state for their performance. But current regulations do little to support charters as laboratories. In fact, current state regulatory practices have fostered a climate hostile to innovation.

“The chief problem with current regulatory practices is that the state relies chiefly on standardized test scores to determine charter performance—a practice that severely undercuts any impulse to innovate. Additionally, given some high-profile charter implosions, the state has become increasingly risk-averse, and now only approves “proven providers.” Thus, rather than a thousand flowers blooming, we instead have seen the proliferation of a single model—one oriented towards rigid discipline and test-oriented instruction; three-quarters of the charters in Boston, for instance, are so-called “no excuses” schools. This kind of monoculture is fine for parents who desire it. But it hardly reflects the wishes of most parents, and it certainly isn’t going to promote systemic improvement.
Eliminating the cap on charter schools won’t solve this problem. In fact, it will exacerbate it, as a small number of chain operators will be in the strongest position to take advantage of the new opportunities to expand. Simply put, another KIPP, MATCH, or Uncommon school is not going to bring new ideas to Massachusetts, or to Boston, where most of the expansion is likely to occur….

“Charter schools were supposed to be places of innovation—something we have not seen in practice. This vision, however, can still be rescued. Charters can play a critical role in the strengthening of all public schools. But not if Question 2 passes and we eliminate the cap. However ironic it may seem, then, a vote against charter expansion may be the only way to save the original promise of charter schools—as places for innovation.”

Pasi Sahlberg, the great Finnish educator, was in Birmingham, Alabama, last night, where he patiently explained how to make schools great. There is a summary of his advice here.

Thursday night (tomorrow), he will speak at Wellesley College at Alumnae Hall at 7:30 pm.

He will be introduced by Howard Gardner.

I will be there too because I endowed the lecture series to make sure there was one great campus that sought out the best minds in education and presented them each year in a public event. The series is called the Diane Silvers Ravitch 1960 Lecture on Education and the Common Good.

Come early, as parking will be limited. Chelsea Clinton is conducting a rally for her mother (class of 1969) from 3-5. I wish she would stay to hear Pasi’s lecture. She would learn a lot.

Maura Healey, the Attorney General of Massachusetts, has come out in opposition to Question 2, which would lift the cap on charter schools. Another dozen charter schools would be authorized every year indefinitely. Out-of-State billionaires, including the Waltons of Arkansas, have contributed millions of dollars to privatize public schools in Massachusetts.

I received this email the other day:


We Have the People, They Have (more and more dark) $$! 


Dear Diane,
And what excellent people we have! People like youand Attorney General Maura Healey, who has joined Senator Elizabeth Warren and the ever growing movement to protect public education for ALL students.
“If you say the money follows the student and then you don’t actually reimburse the district – then that’s a problem.” – Attorney General Maura Healey
And in other encouraging news, the Boston and Newton School Committees passed No on 2 resolutions this week, and our total has reached more than164 school committees statewide, including urban and suburban districts.
It’s time to stand up to the out-of-state billionaires and show them what a real grassroots campaign looks like, because when we fight, we win!
There have been countless great commentaries and letters to the editor from our No on 2 grassroots, but I wanted to highlight this commentary by Boston University Professor of Social Studies Education Christopher Martell. Clickhere to read his five thoughtful and clearly presented reasons to vote no.
And don’t miss EduShyster on this week’s big court ruling for keeping the cap and against the folks who argued that lifting the cap is a civil rights issue.
We have victory in our sights thanks to the hard work of people like you, people out knocking on doors, making calls and talking to everyone you know!
Sign up for a canvass shift this Saturday, Oct. 8 near you:
Boston – 10:00 AM
Almont Park
40 Almont St.
Brighton – 3:00 PM
Ronan’s Deli
243 Faneuil St.
Brookline – 1:00 PM
Also Sunday, 11:30 AM
Dunkin’ Donuts
1955 Beacon St., Cleveland Circle
Fall River – 10:30 AM
Fall River Educators Association
178 4th St.
Haverhill – 3:00 PM
Haverhill High School
Parking Lot A
Lowell – 4:00 PM
Riley School
115 Douglas Rd.
Northampton – 10:30 AM
Potpourri Plaza
243 King St.
Norwood – 2:00 PM
Norwood High School
Pittsfield – 2:00 PM
188 East St.
Quincy – 9:30 AM
MTA Office
Worcester – 3:00 PM
16 Alden St.
Click here to see a full list of all neighborhood canvasses. Question 2 is bad for our schools, and it’s time we stand up united to vote NO.
To get in touch with the Save Our Public Schools campaign and learn how to plug in to this important movement, click here.
Lisa Guisbond and Ann O’Halloran
CPS Executive Director and President
P.S. Click HERE to help CPS continue to inform the public on education issues, including charter schools, high-stakes testing and full funding of our public schools. 

Tracy Novick lives in Worcester, Massachusetts, a small city that was hit hard by de-industrialization.

In this article, she explains that the Wall Street backers of Question 2, which would lift the cap on charters, are pitching their propaganda at affluent white liberals. Their slick ad campaign is aimed at white guilt. They say “vote yes for the sake of poor black and brown children.” They pretend that there is plenty of money for two separate systems of schools. There isn’t.

Voting yes, she writes, will inflict “savage inequalities” (Jonathan Kozol”s book title) on public schools across the state, but not in the affluent suburbs, which are not dependent on state aid. They can assuage white guilt, but everyone else will suffer, not their children, not their schools.

She writes:

“Recently, those pushing for cap lift have been piling on the suburban guilt. It was all over the column I referenced yesterday; it was a big part of the Newton School Committee public testimony last night. Some of this is about wealth, a lot of this is about race, but it is all intended to make those who have a lot feel badly about those who don’t and vote for cap lift to make themselves feel better.

“As a parent in one of those urban communities, I am telling you: spare us.

“I am a parent in a community in which the vast majority of our school funding comes from the state. Worcester is unable to fund its schools on its own. Under McDuffy, Worcester, along with Springfield, Fall River, Lowell, and many of the other urban districts, is majority state funded.

“That isn’t true of most of the places the cap lifters are trying to send on a guilt trip. Most suburbs get a minimum 15% of their foundation budget in state aid. They are majority local funded.
And most fund well over the minimum requirement.

“As I’ve said numerous times, to some extent, this is actually required: the foundation budget hasn’t been reconsidered for twenty years, and the districts that can make up the gaps themselves are doing so.

“Many districts cannot.

“This includes mine.

“Should the ballot cap lift pass, and the state suddenly be faced with funding the reimbursements of up to 12 new schools a year, every year, something is going to have to give. There is no plan in the ballot question for dealing with the funding, and there is nothing in the plan to change reimbursement or any other funding rates.

“It will start, of course, with continuing to not fully fund reimbursements. As the number of schools, and reimbursements, and facilities fees get larger and larger, the state’s going to have to look at state education aid.

“When that happens, it isn’t going to be Newton, funded in FY16 at 165% of foundation, or Cambridge, funded in FY16 at 227% of foundation, or–pick a W: Weston? 208% Wellesley? 165%–that get hit.
Will it hurt them if they lose their state aid? Yes.
Will it devastate their budgets? No.

“Worcester and its peer communities have no such local resources, though. Thus their district public school children–which are the vast majority of schoolchildren in those districts–will be those hurt.

“If you start to feel guilty about other people’s children in “those” districts, think about this:

“Keep in mind where most of them go to school.
Remember how those schools are funded.
Remember who will really be hurt by a cap lift.
And vote no on question two.”

UPDATE: Marc Kenen, the executive director of the Massachusetts Charter School Association and also the author of ballot Question 2, which would expand the number of charter schools in the state, has written to say that this post is untrue. I have no way of knowing who “Nat Morton” is since he or she will not reveal his/her identity. “Nat Morton” is a passionate advocate for charter schools who posted comments here frequently. If Marc Kenen is not “Nat Morton,” I apologize. Someone writes a blog and calls him/herself “Nat Morton,” and I implore that person to give their true name so readers can judge their credentials and their authenticity. I will also ask Marc Kenen to stop writing insulting comments to this blog, as such comments are not permitted.

Knowing this background: I leave the original post intact but warn readers that the identity of “Nat Morton” is unknown, and I can’t be certain who he/she is, other than that it is not me. Beyond that, I can’t know until “Nat Morton” removes his/her mask.

The original post began here:

Reader Christine Langhoff in Massachusetts sent the following comment about a blogger who has frequently written on this blog to defend charter schools, support Question 2 to permit more of them, and to flout his superior research abilities.

“A Boston parent, exchanging emails with (G)Nat Morton, received a digital file from Gnat in support of his arguments. But he forgot to use his nom de plume, and revealed himself as Marc Kenen, executive Director of the MA Charter School Association and also the author of ballot Question 2.

“Kenen has not denied that Nat Morton is his avatar. Further, Stephen B. Ronan is the only person I have ever seen refer to Nat Morton’s blog, and in any forum where the one appears,the other is apt to chime in. This leads me to conclude that Kenen is Gnat is Ronan.

“I find it difficult to enage seriously with someone who would defund our excellent public schools when he is not even willing to own his perspective publicly by using his own name as he advances the cause of the privatizers. And if there’s any question whether the ballot question is designed to defund our schools, it’s worth noting that Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson made this point in the Askwith Forum at Harvard on Sept. 27 regarding Question 2. He asked Kenen directly why he had not written a funding mechanism into the proposal. Start at 1:12:00 (It’s apparent in the video that Kenen bears more than a passing resemblance to his Nat Morton avatar.)”

So there you have it: the leading advocate of Question 2 (more charters) pretends to be an independent researcher but is in fact a paid employee of the state charter association. Why not give your name and affiliation and let people make their own judgment? This is redolent of the charter movement itself, which pretends to be about helping poor kids but attracts funding from Wall Street, right wing politicians, and others whose real goal is privatization, not helping improve schools for all children.

Our national goal is equal educational opportunity, not a free-market of winners and losers. Privatization does not advance equal educational opportunity. It exacerbates inequality, just like any free market.

The November referendum on charters in Massachusetts has raised important questions. The measure would permit the addition of 12 new charter schools every tear into the future. What problem does that solve?

Harvard doctoral student Jacob Fay writes:

It pits group against group, reduces the funding available to Boston public schools, diverts funding from public schools to charter schools.

This is a crucial election. The billionaires are throwing in $20 million or so because if they can sell charters to the most successful state in the nation, they can sell them anywhere.

This election has national significance. Will Bay Staters agree to privatize public schools or stand together to reject privatization? Privatization always produces segregation. It never produces equity.

Mercedes Schneider has been following the money trail in Massachusetts, where voters will decide whether to allow charters to expand by 12 a year indefinitely. The issue is Question 2 on the November 8 ballot.

Some of the money supporting charters is “dark money,” bundled by committees that are not required to identify their donors publicly.

“To date, the ballot committees in favor of Question 2 have raised just shy of $14.5 million in unique dollars** to expand charters in MA– with $8.6 million of that amount (60 percent) coming from New York-based Families for Excellent Schools– and being dumped into the coffers of Great Schools Massachusetts.

“In contrast, the single ballot committee opposing Question 2, Save Our Public Schools, has raised $7.2 million– just under half of the amount raised by the pro-charter-expansion camp.”

“Thus, the total money spent on MA Question 2 is currently at $21.7 million. By comparison, as of October 05, 2016, the marijuana legalization ballot measure has a total of just over $4.3 million in funding ($3.7 million, in favor, and $634,000, opposing)– or only 20 percent of the amount of money behind Question 2 on charter expansion.”

Are the people of Massachusetts prepared to turn their public school dollars over to private corporations? Can they be fooled by expensive propaganda to privatize their public schools?

The public schools of Massachusetts are the best in the nation. Don’t let he privatizers buy them or steal them?

Ring doorbellls. Call your neighbors and friends. Don’t let the Walton/Walmart family of Arkansas take over and privatize your schools. The schools were built and paid for with your tax dollars. They belong to the people of Massachusetts, not to Wall Street and Walmart.