Archives for category: Privatization

Nancy Bailey, experienced classroom teachers, shares her thoughts about SLAYING GOLIATH in this post. 

Bailey commends the book for showing that the resistance has a history, and we should remember those who started it.

It returns to the start of standardized testing movement, highlighting one of the most famous resistors, Vermont blogger Susan Ohanian. Susan became one of the first voices, and, I will add, listeners, to teachers and parents on her blog. This was before blogs were popular.

She points to researchers David C. Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle and their signature book The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Frauds, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education and Richard Rothstein’s The Way We Were?: The Myths and Realties of America’s Student Achievement. These and other signature books warned about the problematic signs of disruption to our public schools. They remain a relevant part of history today.

In Slaying Goliath we are taken back to the original Save Our Schools movement and shown how the spark was lit to form new groups like the Network for Public Education and the Badass Teachers Association.

Diane remembers United Opt Out founders Peggy Robertson, Tim Slekar, Morna McDermott, Shaun Johnson, Ceresta Smith, and Laurie Murphy. UOO spared many children from the humiliation of taking high-stakes tests designed to fail teachers, schools, and the students! These education leaders stood up to the oligarchs who foisted strident policy against children and their teachers, into their classrooms. Even though this movement has been, and continues to be, waylaid by nonstop assessment in competency-based education, it has sparked a nation of parents and educators who are better-informed and committed to saving their public schools.

Diane salutes the premiere bloggers who continue to move the equation against the disruptors.

We learn about dark money and failed reforms like Common Core. There’s much, much more.

The message I took away from this book is that in order to press on, we need to better understand where we’ve been, at what point we stand in history, and how we can, as Davids and good Americans, stand on the right side of future history for a public education system that serves children, not corporations. Our public schools must be great with opened doors for everyone.

Goliath has a history. Less well known is the history of the resistance. We must remember to thank those who came before us for speaking truth to power. We must not let the Disruptors falsify history, as they have falsified a myth about our public schools.

 

Steven Singer reviews SLAYING GOLIATH in the pages of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 

He writes:

The whole text is about the community of teachers, parents, students and concerned citizens who’ve been fighting against the corporate interests trying to destroy public education.

And let me tell you, it’s like nothing 
I’ve ever read. This is a history torn from the front page. It’s a continuation of her previous two books — 2010’s “The Life and Death of the American School System,” which was a history of the decadeslong plot, and 2013’s “Reign of Error,” which was also a research-based guide to stopping the destruction. “Slaying Goliath” is a chronicle of how the movement to counter the disruptors is succeeding.

One of the things I love about it is that term — the “disruptors.” She says that it’s time we stop calling the anti-public school crowd “education reformers.” They don’t deserve that label. They aren’t trying to bring about the positive change typically associated with reform. They’re trying to disrupt our school system like a hedge fund manager or vulture capitalist would do to a business in a hostile takeover.

However, the tide has finally turned against them. After three decades, it’s become painfully clear that the snake oil they are selling just doesn’t work. Our public schools are NOT failing — they’re struggling under reduced funding and the needs of students who are increasingly living in poverty. Standardized testing is NOT an effective way to assess learning; it mainly reflects family income. Charter schools are NOT producing better academic outcomes than authentic public schools; in fact, they often do much worse while denying students basic services and scamming the public.

Where the book is truly unique is in its celebration of the education activist community. Diane Ravitch talks about groups like Journey for Justice, United Opt Out, the Badass Teachers Association, and her own organization, the Network for Public Education. She talks about education bloggers, researchers, journalists, student protestors and parent groups.

In short, Ms. Ravitch’s book is not just about the Goliath of the disruptors. It’s a celebration of everyday Davids who stand up to the hulking beast and armed with only their slingshots of facts have continually beaned him between the eyes.

Arthur Camins wrote a beautiful review of SLAYING GOLIATH at The Daily Kos. 

In light of Camins’ experience as an educator and his passion for justice, I am most grateful for his close and sympathetic reading of this book. Until recently, he was Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at Stevens Institute of Technology.

He writes, in this excerpt:

Ravitch’s first chapters, Disruption is Not Reform! and the Odious Status Quo, set the context for a thorough repudiation of the state of education in the United States: Endemic historic inequality made worse by decades of focused effort to disrupt a bedrock of American democracy, public education; Support for standardization linked to punishment of students, teachers, and schools by test scores; and, A determined effort to shift essential financial support from democratically governed public education to a competing private sector that includes privately governed charter schools and vouchers for private schools. The perpetrators call themselves reformers. Ravitch calls them disrupters. In her telling, that is a descriptive accusation, not a complement.

“No one likes the status quo,” she writes. “Disrupters claim to oppose the status quo, but they are the status quo.  After all, they control the levers of power in federal and state governments. They write the laws and mandates. They define the status quo. They own it.”  They are a somewhat disparate collective of market ideologues, self-regarding billionaires, technology titans, hedge fund managers, and entrepreneurs out to make (or steal) a fortune at the public trough.  What unites them in an unwavering faith (ideas not supported by evidence) in the power of competition to drive human behavior.  

Slaying Goliath upends the myths of declining achievement and the lies that teachers unions and incompetent teachers are responsible for poor children’s failure to rise to their potential (or do well on standardized tests.  Instead, Ravitch centers blame where it belongs, on our systemic failure to address the systemic- and personally debilitating effects of poverty.

I hope you will open the link and read the review in its entirety.

The book’s official publication date is TODAY! January 21!

Valerie Strauss, veteran education writer at the Washington Post, interviewed me about my new book SLAYING GOLIATH. 

Her questions get to the heart of the book. I hope you will read the exchange.

Today is “pub day,” as they say in the trade.

I started writing SLAYING GOLIATH in February 2018 as I watched and read news reports about the teachers’ strike in West Virginia.

I watched in awe as every school in the state was closed by every superintendent so that teachers were technically not breaking the law that prevents them from striking.

I watched in amazement as teachers and support staff assembled in the state capitol, decked in red T-shirts, carrying homemade signs, and declaring their allegiance to #55Strong, a reference to the 55 school districts in the state.

I saw them stand together proudly and defiantly, insisting on fair wages and decent working conditions.

I realized as #Red4Ed spread from state to state that something fundamental had changed in the national narrative about education.

The media were no longer talking about “bad teachers” and “failing schools,” but were actually listening to the voices of those who worked in the schools.

In January 2019, I marched in the rain with teachers of the UTLA in Los Angeles.

And I saw the national narrative change.

I read stories about how poorly teachers were paid instead of blaming them for low test scores.

Suddenly the press woke up to the massive neglect and underinvestment in education that was creating a teacher shortage.

Demoralization was replaced by jubilation as teachers realized that they were not merely passive bystanders but could take charge of their destiny.

Many teachers ran for office. Some won and joined their state legislature.

I began to see the world in a different light.

I looked at the latest NAEP scores and read the lamentations about flat scores for a decade (that was before the release of the 2019 scores, which confirmed that the needle had not moved on test scores despite billions spent on testing).

So many changes were happening, and suddenly I realized that the so-called reformers were on the defensive. They knew that none of their promises had come through. They were on a power trip with no expectation anymore of “closing the achievement gap” (which is a built-in feature of standardized tests, which are normed on a bell curve that never closes). No more expectation that charter schools were miraculous. I began checking and realized that the number of new charter schools was almost equaled by the number of charter schools that were closing.

Something new and different was in the air: Hope!

Arne Duncan wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post saying that “some people claim that reform is failing, don’t believe them.” Then I knew it was all over.

I knew that the “reform” project was nothing more than a Disruption movement. It had succeeded at nothing.

Yet it was the Status Quo.

And this behemoth had the nerve to claim it was opposed to the “status quo.”

The behemoth–Goliath– controls all the levers of power. It controls federal policy, it is steered by billionaires, it has the allegiance of hedge fund managers, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and a long list of foundations. One of my sons, a writer, read an early version of the manuscript, and he said there were too many names in the chapter about the Disruption Movement. I explained the importance and necessity of naming names. Every one of them was documented.

Arrayed against this daunting assemblage of the rich and powerful were parents, educators, students, people who wanted to protect what belongs to the public and keep it out of the hands of corporations and entrepreneurs.

I decided to tell the story of the Resistance and to zoom in on some of the heroes. There was Jitu Brown in Chicago, who led a hunger strike of a dozen people on lawn chairs and forced Rahm Emanuel to capitulate. There were Leonie Haimson Rachael Stickland, who organized other parents and defeated Bill Gates and his $100 million project called inBloom, which was all set to gather personally identifiable student data and store it in a cloud managed by Amazon. There were the valiant and creative members of the Providence Student Union, who employed political theater to stop the state from using a standardized test as a graduation requirement. There was Jesse Hagopian and the brave teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, who refused to administer a useless test, risking their jobs. There were the parents, students, and activists in Douglass County, Colorado, who fought year after year until they ousted a far-right board that wanted to be first in the nation to offer vouchers for religious schools. There are individuals, like Ed Johnson in Atlanta, who keeps telling the school board how to approach reform as a system rather than as an opportunity to punish people. There were many more, and many that I did not have space to include.

Goliath is not dead yet. But he is propped up solely by the power of money. Goliath has no ideas, no strategies, no plans that have not already been tried and failed.

I loved writing the book. I wrote it to give hope and encouragement to all the Davids still fighting to preserve and improve public schools and the teaching profession.

Goliath will always have more money. But take heart: Goliath may be standing but he will not be there forever. Every act of resistance adds up. Goliath stumbled. He will fall.

Even billionaires and oligarch tire of pouring millions and millions into failure after failure after failure.

Please give a copy of SLAYING GOLIATH to school board members and legislators. Give a copy to your local editorial writer.

On my book tour, I will be in Charleston, West Virginia, on February 22 to celebrate the second anniversary of the historic West Virginia teachers’ strike.

And I will personally thank them for changing the national narrative!

 

 

In thinking back over the past decade, Peter Greene realized that Michelle Rhee was one of its defining figures.

For a time, she was everywhere. The media loved her stern and angry visage. She graced the cover of TIME and NEWSWEEK. She appeared on the Oprah show, NBC’s Education Nation, “Waiting for Superman.” And then she was gone.

For years, she was the face of the “reform” movement, a crusader set on busting unions, firing teachers and principals, and leading the way to nirvana. At one point, she boldly predicted that she would turn the public schools of D.C. into the best in the nation. After Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his race in 2010, Rhee stepped down as chancellor of the D.C.schools and launched StudentsFirst, which was anti-union, pro-testing, pro-Charter, and pro-voucher. Then it disappeared, never having raised the $1 billion she predicted.

Now the face of that same movement is Betsy DeVos, and the media doesn’t love her the way they loved Rhee, even though their goals are identical.

Like many of the big names in education disruption in the oughts, Rhee skated on sheer chutzpah. There was no good reason for her to believe that she knew what the heck she was doing, but she was by-God certain that her outsider “expertise” was right and that all she needed to create success was the unbridled freedom to exert her will.

And in 2010, it was working. The media loved her and, more significantly, treated her like a go-to authority on all educational issues. They fell all over themselves to grab the privilege of printing the next glowing description of the empress’s newest clothes. She was more than once packaged as the pro-reform counterpart of Diane Ravitch (though one thing that Rhee carefully and consistently avoided was any sort of head to head debate with actual education experts).

For the first part of the decade, it kept working. Students First became a powerhouse lobbying group, pushing hard for the end of teacher job protections. She was in 2011’s reform agitprop film Waiting for Superman. LinkedIN dubbed her an expert influencer. She spoke out in favor of Common Core and related testing. A breathless and loving bio was published about her in 2011; in 2013 she published a book of her own. She had successfully parleyed her DC job into a national platform.

2014 seemed like peak Rhee. I actually decided to stop mentioning her by name; I felt guilty about increasing her already-prodigious footprint. She seemed unstoppable, and yet by 2014 we knew that the TFA miracle classrooms, the DC miracle, the TNTP boondoggle, the StudentsFirst failures (far short of 1 million or $1 billion). Rhee was the Kim Kardashian of ed reform, the popular spokesmodel who did not have one actual success to her name. She was increasingly dogged by her controversies.

And then, in the fall of 2014, Michelle Rhee simply evaporated from the ed scene.

Greene traces the trajectory of her rise and fall in this post. What a spectacular rise it was, what an inglorious fall.

The parade has passed by, and she is no longer its leader. She is not even in it.

When I read Gary Rubinstein’s review of SLAYING GOLIATH: THE PASSIONATE RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZATION AND THE FIGHT TO SAVE AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS, it literally took my breath away.

Gary read the book with care.

I can’t summarize what he said.

Please read what he wrote.

I can only say that I have long admired his candor, his fearless integrity, and his insistence on accuracy.

To get praise from someone with such high standards is indeed an honor for me.

State auditors are questioning whether two charter schools in Broward County had any students at all and are proposing that the schools repay the state $5.5 million.

Two charter schools in Broward County failed to adequately prove students attended during the 2017-18 school year and should repay a combined $5.5 million, the state Auditor General report says.

The report, released in late December, questions the student counts at Innovation Charter School in Pompano Beach and Imagine Charter in Weston. Officials at the two schools say they can verify their enrollments and plan to appeal to the state Department of Education, which will make the final decision.

If the department agrees with the audit, the schools would lose roughly an entire year’s budget: $1.6 million for Innovations and $3.9 million for Imagine. The Broward school district, which is responsible for dispersing state money to the schools, could withhold monthly allocations until the money is repaid. If the schools close, the district could get stuck with the bill.

“The district has met with the governing boards of the charter schools with respect to their plans to appeal these … findings and is prepared to assist them during their discussions” with the education department, said a statement from Chief Communications Officer Kathy Koch’s office.

The auditors reviewed records from October and February of the 2017-18 school year; those are the two months when official counts are taken to see how much money schools should receive.

The report said Imagine could not adequately prove that its 948 students actually attended the school and Innovation couldn’t prove that its 386 kids were actually there.

Auditors can be so darned picky. Who ever heard of schools without students?

Samuel Abrams is the leading national authority on the history of Chris Whittle and the Edison Project. His book Education and the Commercial Mindset recounts the story of the Edison Project, its highs, its lows, its shape shifting.

Abrams was a teacher in a public high school in Manhattan until he earned his doctorate. Now he is director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization at Teachers College, Columbia University.

In this post, he updates the status of Edison.

EdisonLearning Terminated in Chicago

EdisonLearning, the for-profit school management company, is a shrinking shadow of its once prominent self. Launched with much fanfare in 1991 as the Edison Project and taken public as a Wall Street darling by Merrill Lynch in 1999 as Edison Schools, the company changed its name a second time to EdisonLearning in 2008. At its height, the company in 2003 managed 133 schools enrolling 80,000 students in cities across the country. The company is now down to running two credit-recovery centers in Ohio and six alternative schools in Florida.

The latest bad news for the company, reported Chalkbeat in September, came in Chicago. After five years of running four credit-recovery centers in the Windy City, the company saw its contract terminated. School district officials concluded that students at the company’s schools “weren’t receiving enough in-person instruction and that its online curriculum offered mostly low-level tasks.”

In addition to faulting EdisonLearning for inadequate instruction, district officials took EdisonLearning to task for charging its own schools significant fees to use the company’s software. One official on this account, according to Chalkbeat, derided the company as a “money factory.”

Such criticism dovetails with censure of the company by district officials as well as former employees in Ohio, as reported by ProPublica in 2015, for aggressive marketing and for overstating attendance to collect per-pupil funding from the state.

Transforming Edison into a profitable operation has been an unending enterprise, as documented in the book Education and the Commercial Mindset(2016). The company, as the Edison Project, was initially slated to run a national network of for-profit private schools. But that plan hinged on the introduction of vouchers. With Bill Clinton’s defeat of George H.W. Bush in 1992, vouchers stood no chance of becoming a national reality in the near future. The company accordingly transmuted into a subcontractor, selling its management services to municipalities as well as charter boards to run schools.

This new model led to substantial growth and much support on Wall Street. When Merrill Lynch took Edison Schools public in 1999, the company was valued at $900 million. But with growth came mounting losses. Upon reaching its peak with 133 schools in 2003, the company shifted gears to focus more on providing school districts with professional development, curriculum guidance, and computer software for assessing student progress. The company moved further in this direction in 2008 when it changed its name for a second time to EdisonLearning.

In 2013, the company was forced to split. Its owner, Liberty Partners, a private equity group based in New York that purchased the company in 2003 for $91 million, was winding down. In what amounted to a fire sale, Liberty managed to sell only EdisonLearning’s supplementary educational services division to Catapult Learning, based in Camden, NJ, for $18 million. The remainder of the company trudged on in managing 11 schools, four online academies, and 13 credit-recovery centers. As Chalkbeat reported, with the nullification of the contract in Chicago, EdisonLearning is now down to two credit-recovery centers and six alternative schools.

 

This post by Peter Greene appeared in Forbes, where he is now a regular contributor, explaining the real world of education to non-educators.

It is Greene’s perceptive review of SLAYING GOLIATH, which will be officially published on January 21.

To my delight, he describes this blog as “the Rick’s Cafe” of the Resistance to what is wrongly termed “reform,” but which I have renamed Disruption. Call it what it is.

He goes straight to the heart of the book:

This is the story of the last decade of public education in this country. It’s a far-ranging story that covers every corner of the nation and dozens of different issues. It’s the story of people with great power and people who would seem at first glance to have no power at all. Ravitch is telling a saga here that is broad in scope and rich in detail. Up until now, nobody has managed to capture the full breadth and depth of the battle over the next direction for U.S. public education, but Ravitch renders the complex and multi-character clear and comprehensible without sacrificing the full scope of what’s been happening.

Ravitch details how the folks she dubs the Disruptors first codified their ideas into law with No Child Left Behind and went on to push a vision of a test-and-punish regime, privately owned and operated schools, and circumventing democratic processes. The disruption movement has given us charter schools, high stakes testing, and the de-professionalization of teaching. It has used the real problems of inequity and underserved communities to justify false solutions….

Fans of education reform will undoubtedly disagree with some of Ravitch’s conclusions and analysis. That’s fine. What’s history without some debate. This book still provides the most complete, compact, detail-filled narrative of what has been happening to U.S. education since the Reagan administration release A Nation At Risk.