Archives for category: Scandals Fraud and Hoaxes

Carol Burris, veteran educator and executive director of the Network for Public Education, writes here about what the new Trump administration plans to do to American education. She foresees that President Obama’s “Race to the Top” will turn into President Trump’s “Race to the Bank,” as for-profit entrepreneurs find ways to cash in on the education industry. The ultimate goal is the elimination of public schools, which are a cornerstone of a democratic society.

She writes:

The elimination of democratically governed schools is the true agenda of those who embrace choice. The talk of “civil rights” is smoke and mirrors to distract.

The plan on the Trump-Pence website promotes redirecting $20 billion in federal funds from local school districts and instead having those dollars follow the child to the school of their choice — private, charter or public. States that have laws promoting vouchers and charters would be “favored” in the distribution of grants. Like Obama’s Race the Top, the competition for federal funds that states could enter by promising to follow Obama-preferred reforms, a Trump plan could use financial incentives to impose a federal vision on states.

The idea is not novel. Market-based reformers have referred to this for years as “Pell Grants for kids,” or portability of funding.

Portability, vouchers and charter schools have been hallmarks of Pence’s education policy as governor of Indiana. Unlike the Trump-Pence website, which frames choice as a “civil rights” initiative, Governor Pence did not limit vouchers to low-income families. He expanded it to middle-income families and removed the cap on the number of students who can apply.

Pence attacked the funding and status of public education with gusto as governor, following the lead of his predecessor Mitch Daniels:

It was promised that vouchers would result in savings, which then would be redistributed to public schools. What resulted, however, was an unfunded mandate. The voucher program produced huge school spending deficits for the state — a $53 million funding hole during the 2015-16 school year alone. That deficit continues to grow.

The “money follows the student” policy has not only hurt Indiana’s public urban schools, it has also devastated community public schools in rural areas — 63 districts in the Small and Rural Schools Association of Indiana have seen funding reduced, resulting in the possible shutdown of some, even after services to kids are cut to the bone.

In contrast, charters have thrived in Indiana with Pence’s initiatives of taxpayer-funded, low-interest loan, and per-pupil funding for nonacademic expenses. For-profit, not-for-profit and virtual schools are allowed. Scams, cheating scandals and political payback have thrived, as well. Former Indiana education commissioner Tony Bennett was forced to resign as the commissioner of Florida[1] after it was discovered that he had manipulated school rating standards to save an Indiana charter school operated by a big Republican donor who gave generously to Bennett’s campaign.

Burris shows how this kind of untrammeled school choice affected the schools of Chile and Sweden, where the far-right imposed Milton Friedman’s school choice theories. In Chile, the result was hyper segregation of all kinds; in Sweden, rankings on international exams fell. What was left of public schools were filled with the children of the poor.

Burris asks important questions:

Do we want our schools to be governed by our neighbors whom we elect to school boards, or do we want our children’s education governed by corporations that have no real accountability to the families they serve?

Do we to want to build our communities, or fracture them, as neighborhood kids get on different buses to attend voucher schools, or are forced to go to charters because their community public school is now the place that only those without options go?

Do we believe in a community of learners in which kids learn from and with others of different backgrounds, or do we want American schools to become further segregated by race, income and religion?

The most shocking instances of charter school scandal and fraud consistently appear in states that have embraced the choice “market” philosophy. Are we willing to watch our tax dollars wasted, as scam artists and profiteers cash in?

Public schools are not a partisan issue. People of all political parties serve on local school boards.

Trump’s plan is a radical plan, not a conservative plan. Conservatives don’t blow up traditional institutions. Conservatives conserve.

Now is the time for people of good will to stand together on behalf of public schools, democratic governance, and schools that serve the community.

Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy invited me and several others to submit questions for John King’s press conference at the National Press Club. I was interested in knowing what he thought about the NAACP’s call for a moratorium on new charter schools until there were assurances of accountability and unless they stopped diverting resources from public schools. You will note that Secretary King continued his full-throated advocacy for more charters and said that it was up to states to make the rules. Not only does he completely ignore the existence of the nation’s public schools, not only does he disregard the NAACP, he intends to keep shoveling hundreds of millions of federal dollars to new charter schools with no expectation of accountability or transparency.

Husseini wrote:


Some of the questions I got from folks were asked at the “news maker” event with Education Secretary John King at the National Press Club yesterday. Here are those questions — as asked by the moderator, which may be slightly different than how they were submitted — along with King’s responses. Here’s full PDF. Here’s full video. (Part of the first question here was from Diane Ravitch, as was the last question, below. The middle question was from my partner, Emily Prater, who is a third grade teacher at a Title I school in Washington, D.C.

MR. BALLOU: Charter Schools. You’ve said, “What I worry most about is we have some states that have done a really great job with charter authorizing and so have generally high quality charters and have been willing to close ones that are underperforming. On the other hand, you have states who’ve not done as good a job, 17 places like Michigan. We have a history of a low bar for getting a charter and an unwillingness to hold charters to high standards. What’s your view on where charter authorizing should be by the time you leave office, and how do you plan to get there? As someone who cites your own education in New York for saving your life and trajectory, and what of non-charter public schools? For some time, one of the arguments against charters was over resources about charters getting better resources than public education.

And there’s actually a second question sort of tied to this. A few days ago, the NAACP’s national; board called for a moratorium on new charter schools until laws are revised to make charters as accountable and as transparent as public schools. Do you agree with them, that charter schools should meet the same standards of accountability as public schools? And if you do, will you stop funding new charter schools as they recommend?

SECRETARY KING: So, let me start with this. We are fortunate, I think, as a country to have some high performing charters that are doing a great job and providing great opportunities to students. Charters that are helping students not only perform at higher levels academically, but go on to college at much higher rates than demographically similar students and succeed there. That’s good, we should have more schools like that and I think any arbitrary gap on the growth of high performing charters is a mistake in terms of our goal of trying to improve opportunity for all kids.

That said, where states are doing a bad job on charter authorizing, that has to change. You know, I’ve talked about the example of Michigan. We have states that have set a low bar for getting a charter, and then when charters perform poorly, they fail to take action to either improve them or close them, which is the essence of the charter school compact. Charter schools were supposed to be a compact, more autonomy in exchange for greater accountability. And yet, some states have not followed through on that compact. That is a problem.

Now, those decisions are made at the state level, they’re made based on state law. What we’ve done in the administration over the last eight years is two things. One is we’ve provided resources to improve charter authorizing in states and worked with states to strengthen their practices around reviewing the quality of charters, reviewing the quality of charter applications.

And two, we’ve invested in increasing the supply of great high performing charters. But, to the extent that what folks are saying is they want states to do a better job on charter authorizing, I agree. But where we have states that are doing a good job on charter authorizing and we have charters that are doing great jobs for kids that want to grow, they should be able to. And I think this is an issue where we’ve got to put kids first. We’ve got to ask what’s best for the students and parents.

As Arne would often point out, students and parents aren’t as concerned about the governance model as they are about is my child getting a quality education? We’ve got to be focused on that, which is one of the reasons why I think arbitrary caps don’t make sense, is we shouldn’t limit kids’ access to great opportunities.

MR. BALLOU: A lot of teachers have been writing. (Laughter) What do you propose to do about the equality of pay between teachers and administrators, for example, like yourself? One teacher says, “I worked 12 hours yesterday, I didn’t have time for lunch. Did you have time for lunch? I make $47,000 a year. How much do you make,” which of course is public record. “I can’t go to the bathroom when I need to. Can you go to the bathroom when you need to? And please don’t talk about how great teachers are. We don’t need empty rhetoric. We need resources, we need policies that actually help us teach, not help profiteers.” How do you– a pretty upset teacher there.

SECRETARY KING: Yeah, look. I think we see across the country, we see states that have not made the investment they should in their education system. We did a report earlier this year, the department, looking at the difference in state investment in prisons versus K-12 education. And what we found is that we see over the last 30 years rate of increase in investment spending on prisons that is three times as high as the rate of increase in spending on K-12 education.

That suggests to me that as a society, we haven’t put our resources where we should. So, are there states that should be spending significantly more on teacher salaries? Absolutely. And should we be paying more to teachers, especially teachers who are willing to serve in the highest needs communities and the highest needs fields where we have real demand? Absolutely. And the President’s proposed that. The President proposed a billion dollars for an initiative called Best Job in the World that would support professional development, incentives, career ladders for teachers who teach in the highest needs communities.

So we agree about the need for more resources and focusing those resources on teachers. One of the places I worry most about is in early leaning. We did a study on preK pay and found that in many communities around the country, pre-K teachers are making half what they would be making if they were working in an elementary school, which again suggests that our priorities are not right.

So this is a place where I agree with the questioner, we need to invest more resources in educators. We should pay our teachers very well because we know that teachers are essential to the future of our country. And we need to make sure the working conditions are good. It’s not just a question of teacher pay. I think of a place like Detroit, you know. If the water is leaking from the ceiling and there are rodents running across the floor, those working conditions are not ones that are going to make teaching a profession that people want or a profession people will want to stay in over the long term. And so we’ve got to make sure that working conditions are strong.

And the final point I’d make, is this is one of the reasons that supplement, not supplant, is so important because if you consistently under-resource the highest needs schools, the result will be poor working conditions in those schools and the inability to retain the great teachers that our highest needs students need.

MR. BALLOU: We’re running quickly out of time. Had an issue with one of your senior staff who had to resign over waste fraud and financial abuse. Have you been able to clean up the issues in the Inspector General’s office?

SECRETARY KING: So, this is about an employee in our IT department who made mistakes and was accountable for those mistakes, chose ultimately to resign. He’s no longer with the department. We have a very strong team around our IT and we are very focused, as folks are across the administration, on continuously strengthening cyber security. This is actually cyber security awareness month. Just came from a cyber security convening at the department this morning. We’re very focused on making sure that our IT systems are as strong as possible, that we protect the security of data. And that we insure that we’re providing good services.

So for example, Collegescorecard.ed.gov is a tool that we’ve built and through our investment in the strength of our IT systems, and work across the administration to leverage technology on behalf of taxpayers and students, Collegescorecad.ed.gov allows students to find information about every college, to find out about their graduation rates, how much people make who’ve graduated from that school, how able folks who’ve graduated from that school are able to repay their loans. It’s a great tool that we’ve made available and that is continuously evolving to try to provide services.

So IT is really a strength now of the department. But as is true across– for any employer, there are sometimes employees who make mistakes and we have systems in place to insure that that’s dealt with.

Ann Cronin is puzzled by the stance that Connecticut officials take toward charter schools. They consider charter schools to be the salvation for children of color. They ignore the public schools, which enroll 98% of the state’s public school children, compared to 1.5% in charter schools.

Bear in mind that Connecticut has long been recognized as one of the best state systems in the country. Yet Governor Malloy and the legislature keep cutting funding for their excellent public schools in order to increase funding for privately managed charter schools. This despite the huge charter scandal in the state, when the governor’s favorite chain (Jumoke) imploded after the revelations of nepotism, misspent funds, and a lack of accountability. This despite the fact that most charters do not outperform public schools. This despite the fact that Connecticut is still bound by a court order to integrate its schools and charters are seldom integrated.

She invites her readers to thank the NAACP for calling for a moratorium on new charters.

This is an astonishing post by Mercedes Schneider. She details the charges of a whistle blower at the College Board, who was hired by David Coleman but couldn’t tolerate the manipulation of test items and use of U reviewed items that were fixed after the actual testing. Manuel Alfaro has left the employ of the College Board, but he couldn’t remain silent about the abuses he witnessed.

Alfaro writes:

David Coleman and the College Board have made transparency a key selling point of the redesigned SAT. Their commitment to transparency is proclaimed proudly in public documents and in public speeches and presentations. However, public documents, such as the Test Specifications for the Redesigned SAT (https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/test-specifications-redesigned-sat-1.pdf), contain crucial statements and claims that are fabrications. Similar false claims are also included in proposals the College Board wrote in bids for state assessments—I got the proposals from states that make them public.

To corroborate my statements and allegations, I needed the College Board to administer the tests. If I had gone public before the tests were administered, the College Board could have spun this whole matter as “research” or some other nonsense. Now that the PSAT and SAT have been administered; now that the College Board has committed an insurmountable violation of trust; we the people can decide the future of the SAT.

He goes into great detail about the manipulation of data, the lack of transparency, and violations of trust at the College Board.

This is the open letter that he circulated to the staff at the College Board:

Dear Colleagues:

Over the last year, I’ve explored many different options that would allow me to provide students and their families the critical information they need to make informed decisions about the SAT. At the same time, I was always seeking the option that would have minimal impact on your lives.

I gave David Coleman several opportunities to be a decent human being. Using HR and others, he built a protective barrier around himself that I was unable to penetrate. Being unable to reach him, I was left with my current option as the best choice.

For me, knowing what I know, performing most tasks at the College Board required that I take a few steps onto a slippery slope. Where my superiors stood on that slope was influenced by the culture at the College Board, but ultimately it was their personal choice. They chose to conceal, fabricate, and deceive instead of offering students, parents, and clients honest descriptions of the development processes for item specifications, items, and tests.

I feel bad for all of us and wish that there was a better solution. Like you, I owed allegiance to the College Board, but my first allegiance was, is, and always will be to the students and families that we serve. Please understand that. Millions of students around the world depend on us to protect their best interests. When we forget that, and put the financial interests of the organization first, it is easy to justify taking a shortcut here and a shortcut there in an attempt to meet unrealistic organizational goals.

You are good people. You just need better bosses.

Best wishes,

M

Chris Savage at Eclectablog has been following the fortunes and misfortunes of the Michigan Education Achievement Authority since its inception in 2011.

 

Savage was thinking of writing a summary of the serial scandals, corruption, incompetence, and educational disaster, but decided the best way to show it was to post a list of the headlines of the stories he has written about the EAA.

 

This was Governor Rick Snyder’s pet program for “saving” the poor children of Detroit from their failing public schools. Instead of helping the public schools, Snyder decided to create this special district, in which all the lowest-performing schools were clustered. There, they would be under the control of a single administrator, selected by the Governor. The first EAA leader was John Covington, a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. He swiftly left his job in Kansas City (which lost its accreditation after he departed) to take the higher-paying job in Detroit. He left the EAA under a cloud.

 

This should be a documentary about the failure of corporate reform. Maybe someone who sees Chris Savage’s stories will start thinking of making that documentary. It is a very sad story, because the children of Detroit need a good education, and they are not getting it under Governor Snyder’s rule.

Blogger Chaz’s School Daze explains why the NYU study on the “success” of closing large high schools and replacing them with small high schools is bogus.

He writes:

“This week, NYU released a study showing that students fared better with the closing of the many large comprehensive high schools and replaced by the Bloomberg small schools. The basis for the study’s conclusion was the increased graduation rate from the small schools when compared to the closed schools. However, the study is fatally flawed since the graduation rate is a bogus parameter and easily manipulated by the school Principal to allow students to graduate academically unprepared for college and career. Let’s look at how schools manipulate the graduation rate.”

I posted Leonie Haimson’s critique of this Gates-funded study, which relied on the views and insights of those in charge of designing and implementing the policy in the NYC Department of Education.

Chaz points out that the study ignored the pressure on teachers in the new small schools to pass students; the pressure on principals to raise graduation rates; and the widespread use of fraudulent “credit recovery” to hand diplomas to low-performing students.

The data on graduation rates are made meaningless by these corrupt practices. The researchers did not see fit to examine nefarious ways of graduating students who were unprepared for college or careers.

Chaz points out that educators in Atlanta went to jail and lost their licenses for changing grades. Why was there no investigation or prosecution of equally serious actions in Néw York City?

In its recent grant competition for the proliferation of charter schools, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $71 million to Ohio, the largest grant to any state. As it happens, Ohio has been the site of numerous cases of charter corruption. The press was filled almost daily with the latest charter scandal. In addition, the state official responsible for charter oversight ignored the low grades of online charters, who are known for their generous contributions to the GOP. This official resigned (his wife is the campaign director for Kasich’s presidential bid).

Thus, when Ohio was singled out by the U.S. ED to receive a huge grant to create more charters, there was a collective gasp from the media in Ohio and from Democratic officials (remember, the same party as the Obama administration), some of whom must have seen the grant as a reward to the Kasich administration.

Now, the U.S. ED says that it will watch Ohio’s charter spending with more than the usual care (the usual care being none at all). That’ll show them.

Valerie Strauss posts a copy of the letter from the U.S. ED to Ohio, saying that it will monitor the charter grant. ED didn’t know about the Ohio charter school scandals. And she says, you can’t make this stuff up.

 

Who didn’t know that Ohio’s charter schools had become a national joke — literally. The Plain Dealer ran a story this year that started like this:

Ohio, the charter school world is making fun of you.

Ohio’s $1 billion charter school system was the butt of jokes at a conference for reporters on school choice in Denver late last week, as well as the target of sharp criticism of charter school failures across the state.

Wouldn’t you expect someone in the federal government considering giving millions of dollars to Ohio for charter schools to have read the June 2015 coverage in the Akron Beacon Journal which said:

No sector — not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals — misspends tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio.

But the U.S. Department of Education had NO idea!

 

 

 

Mercedes Schneider received an email sent by the Walton Family Foundation to its many friends and admirers, touting the success of a school that is part of the Achievement School District in Tennessee. Being the careful researcher that she is, she gave the email a close reading and discovered that it was pure propaganda, signed by the WFF director of education, Marc Sternberg.

The email boasts about a young man who graduated from a high school in Tennessee and now returns to the low-performing school as its principal. Cue the violins, as we know he is sure to succeed. This school is one of the lucky schools that is part of the Achievement School District, which will surely lift the lowest 5% of schools in the state (mostly in Memphis with a few in Nashville) to the top 25%, in a mere five years.

Mercedes notes that the school has been in the ASD for only one year. Why the confidence that it will be transformed?

She points out what Walton’s propaganda machine failed to mention: Of the schools that have been part of the ASD the longest, four of the six are still in the bottom 5%, and the other two are in the bottom 6%. (She credits Gary Rubinstein with the original research demonstrating the failure of the ASD.) Why is Walton pretending that the ASD is a grand success?

She writes:

So, if ASD dramatically improves schools, why feature a school that has been in ASD for only a single year? Why not feature schools that have been in ASD for years and have therefore (surely) shown evidence of *dramatic improvement*?

Easy answer:

ASD has no schools that have *dramatically improved.*

Still, the Waltons want to sell ASD as a solution for those “bottom 5 percent” of Tennessee schools. They email subscribers with a feel-good story of a man who graduated from the “bottom 5 percent” school and who became a success anyway when the school was not in the bottom 5 percent– and without any detailed consideration of the factors that might have contributed to the school’s now having “fallen” into the bottom 5 percent based on test scores.

Converting the school to a charter led by an alum of the school surely will allow (Frasyer High) MLK Charter to climb on the backs of some other, less fortunate Tennessee schools and exit that bottom 5 percent.

The first superintendent of the ASD, Chris Barbic, pledged to achieve his goal in five years. After four years, he had a heart attack. He failed. He quit.

The ASD continues to post its boast on its website, even though it has been a flop.

No data-driven policy here. Just propaganda.

Emily Talmage, Maine teacher and blogger, began to wonder whether there was a connection between Maine’s Common Core standards, its Smarter Balanced tests, and its proficiency-based tests. She did some research, and you won’t be surprised–although she was–to learn that behind everything was ………the Gates Foundation!

http://emilytalmage.com/2015/10/22/gates-undercover/

Whether it was the Nellie Mae Education Foundation or Great Schools or Educate Maine, the money came from Gates.

“Several months ago, while conducting some much overdue research into the back-story of Common Core, I stumbled across a document from the Gates Foundation that painted such a frighteningly clear picture of next-gen ed-reform that I actually wondered for a time if perhaps I was hallucinating.

I wasn’t, and within a very short time, it became unmistakably obvious that the Common Core Standards, our new Smarter Balanced test, and Maine’s one of a kind (but not for long if they have their way, so watch out!) proficiency-based diploma mandate were all linked like pieces of a puzzle to a corporate-driven agenda to transform our schools into “personalized” (digital!) learning environments. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, see here for more.)

Quite literally sick to my stomach, I emailed a union rep to ask if he knew anything about the paper I had found.

“It’s ghastly,” he replied, “but in Maine, it has been the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the Great Schools Partnership that has been behind these policies.”

Okay. So maybe I was mistaken. Nellie Mae sounded friendly enough. So did Great Schools. (Who doesn’t like great schools?)”

What’s the bottom line? Online digital learning for all, linked to online assessments.

Peter Greene carefully reviewed the Obama administration’s “Testing Action Plan” and concluded it is phony, a duplicitous confirmation of the status quo.

Did you think the administration realizes that the billions of dollars spent on 13 years of standardized testing was a waste? Think again.

Did you think the administration really wants to reduce time spent on testing? Think again.

Did you think the administration understands that it is not fair to give exactly the same test to children who can’t read English, children with disabilities, and others of their age? Think again.

Have they lost faith in standardized testing? Not a bit.

Here is what they see as the problem that needs fixing, Greene writes:

“Before you get excited about the administration taking “some” blame for the testing mess, please notice what they think their mistake was– not telling states specifically enough what they were supposed to do. They provided states with flexibility when they should have provided hard and fast crystal clear commands directions for what they were supposed to do.

“Because yes– the problem with education reform has been not enough federal control of state education departments.”