Archives for category: Turnaround

When Gina Raimondo was Governor of Rhode Island (she is now Biden’s Secretary of Commerce), she determined that the only way to fix the Providence schools was a state takeover. Raimondo, a former hedge fund manager, hired Angelica Infante-Green as state commissioner, although Green’s experience was limited to two years of Teach for America and a few years as a state bureaucrat (she was never a principal). Green promptly joined Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, whose members favor privatization and oppose unions.

Green hired Harrison Peters as superintendent of schools for the troubled Providence district. Peters hired ex-Tampa administrator Olayinka Alege to be the Providence network superintendent of secondary schools.

Then parents and students began to complain that Alege liked to massage their feet and pop their toes. More boys came forward to report toe-popping incidents. Alege said it was discipline, but some of the toe-popping occurred in private gyms.

Infante Green asked both Harrison Peters and Alege to resign. Peters leaves with a buyout of $170,000. Legislators are outraged that he wasn’t fired “for cause” without severance pay.

Senator Louis P. DiPalma, chairman of the Senate Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight Committee, called the Peters payout “unconscionable.”

I’m not a lawyer, but I think there could have been termination for cause,” he said. “And there should have been 11 months ago.”

DiPalma, a Middletown Democrat, noted that Peters on Monday told the committee he knew about news reports from 2009 that Alege had been accused of squeezing the toes of multiple boys in Florida – a practice referred to as “toe popping” – but Peters did not tell the hiring committee about that information.

Infante-Green is undeterred. The turnaround will continue.



During the Obama years, the Center for American Progress reliably cheered on the administration’s education policies. As one after another failed, CAP never backed down. Charter schools good. Closing schools good. Common Core great. Despite the convergence of evidence that these policies did not work, that they destabilized fragile urban neighborhoods, that they demoralized teachers and created shortages, CAP never wavered.

As Peter Greene shows in this post, the CAP has learned nothing from the past 15 years of failed reforms. They are still pushing policy ideas cribbed from the GOP.

They still are pushing state takeovers and turnarounds.

He writes:

”And what example do folks who support takeovers and turnarounds like to cite? Of course, it’s New Orleans. Do we really have to get into all the ways that the privatization of the New Orleans school system is less than a resounding success? Or let’s discus the Tennessee experiment in a recovery school district, in which the state promised to turn the bottom five percent into the top schools in the state, and they utterly failed. As in, the guy charged with making it happened gave up and admitted that it was way harder than he thought it would be, failed.

“The whole premise of a state takeover is that somebody in the state capital somehow knows more about how to make a school work than the people who work there (or, in most cases, can hire some guy who knows because he graduated from an ivy league school and spent two years in a classroom once). The takeover model still holds onto a premise that many reformsters, to their credit, have moved past: that trained professional educators who have devoted their adult lives to working in schools– those people are the whole problem. It’s insulting, it’s stupid, and it’s a great way to let some folks off the hook, like, say, the policy makers who consistently underfund some schools.

“Most importantly, at this point, there isn’t a lick of evidence that it works.

“We have the results of the School Improvement Grants used by the Obama administration to “fix” schools, and the results were that SIG didn’t accomplish anything (other than, I suppose, keeping a bunch of consultants well-paid). SIG also did damage because it allowed the current administration and their ilk to say, “See? Throwing money at schools doesn’t help.” But the real lesson of SIG, which came with very specific Fix Your School instructions attached, was that when the state or federal government try to tell a local school district exactly how things should be fixed, instead of listening to the people who live and work there, nothing gets better. That same fundamental flaw is part of the DNA of the takeover/turnaround approach.

“But CAP is excited about ESSA because some states have included this model in their plan. So, yay.”

Worst of all, CAP ends it’s paean to ESSA by linking to a paper produced by a Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change.

If proof is needed of a mind meld between “centrist” Democrats and free-market, DeVos-style Republicans, This is it.


Thanks to Mike Klonsky for calling attention to this article about state takeovers of districts and schools. A takeover nullifies parent and community voice. A disproportionate number of takeovers have been inflicted on African-American communities. As we know from the failure of the Achievement School District, these takeovers have a bad track record. What do they accomplish? They nullify parent and community voice.

In New Jersey – which, in 1987, became the first state to take over a school district – Camden is among several urban districts that have come under state control. The state hired Camden’s superintendent, while the mayor appoints school board members – a practice that predates the state takeover of the district in 2013.

A judge last week dismissed a lawsuit from Camden residents seeking the right to elect school board members, questioning the rationale for electing a board that has been stripped of its power by the state.

In Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia School District is governed by a five-member School Reform Commission, with three members appointed by the governor and two by the city’s mayor. The Chester Upland district is also under state control. Camden, Philadelphia, and Chester Upland have large minority populations.

Be sure to read the descriptions of districts where democracy was snuffed out.

They are districts hollowed out by poverty, deindustrialization, and white flight. The state takeover didn’t help. It stripped away one of the few ways in which residents had a voice. Now they have lost that too.

This is how the story of Highland Park, Michigan, begins:

“Highland Park, Michigan, a small city within Detroit’s boundaries, was once called the “City of Trees.” Thick greenery lined suburban blocks crowded with single-family homes built for a growing middle class. Henry Ford pioneered the assembly line at his automobile plant on Woodward Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfare. The suburban school district was considered one of the top 10 in Michigan, according to a report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1962.

“Today, most of Highland Park’s trees are gone. Overgrown, empty lots and burned-out houses outnumber occupied homes on some blocks. The Ford plant stands empty. And parents say Highland Park’s once-proud school district has collapsed, hastened by four years under state control.”

As you read these stories, ask yourself the question: seeing the problems, why was state takeover of the schools supposed to be a good idea?

Jack Hassard, emeritus professor of science education at Georgia State University, warns his fellow Georgians about a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that will allow the state to cancel local control.

This is Governor Nathan Deal’s so-called “Opportunity School District,” modeled on Tennessee’s failed “Achievement School District.”

Read the language of the proposed amendment:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?

( ) Yes

( ) No

If we posit that the state of Georgia does not know how to improve student achievement in “chronically failing public schools,” then what is the amendment really proposing? Let the state take control of schools away from their local school district and give them to out-of-state corporate charter chains. Even though this was tried and failed in Tennessee, let’s do it in Georgia too.

Angie Sullivan, kindergarten teacher in Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada, works in a school that is eligible for “turnaround.” All the teachers were called for interviews. Here is her report on what happened:



The CCSD turnaround school selection process is a nonsensical destructive monster. They claim school turnaround is based on data – and this is a lie. This CCSD “empire” needs to be reviewed and reconsidered.


At a time when 30,000 CCSD students do not have a licensed teacher – the highly qualified fully licensed teachers at my school were “interviewed” yesterday. The main product of the turnaround interview: scaring real teachers who have been under threat of interview since December 15th.


There are plenty of schools in the district to “turnaround” since many places have only long term substitutes as staff. Opportunties for “take-over” are plentiful.


There is no good reason to threaten to implode a fully staffed CCSD school by interviewing us all day.


I was interviewed last year and this year. The strange turnaround interview questions are all about assessment and data driven instruction. I understand from the questioning – someone powerful thinks data is learning.


I will state here – it is not. Kids are more than a score. If the focus is only data – a full education is not obtained. Period. Many, many things are learned by students in my classroom everyday which will never be measured but are essential. Data is a tool – one tool. That is all. And computer data is only one snap-shot in time and measure what computer data can measure. That is all. Data will only measure a small piece of learning.


For those of you who do not know what turnaround is . . .


The district takes a school with low standardized scores and removes the principal and interviews the staff. Some staff are allowed to stay but many teachers have to find a new place to work. It implodes the school. Then “turns the school around” by over-testing and micro-managing the staff and students. It is not proven to be effective. If you study results of turnaround schools across the United States – it has not been a success. It is proven to be scary and disruptive – removing teachers and dispacing them. It is primarily used to re-organize schools with students and parents who cannot effectively advocate for themselves. Children of color re-organized into robotic scary testing scripted education environments. At a time when the teachers were fighting for pay and insurance, “turnaround” CCSD administrators were at the school board asking for another test for African American students. The turnaround focus is not on finding and retaining geat teachers or caring about students – the focus is improving testing scores.


Having gone through the turnaround interview process twice now – I am convinced it is most effective at targeting veteran teachers and harrassing them.


Why do I say this?


My school has not been able to use standardized tests for two years. We were a pilot school for SBAC in 2014 and it didn’t run. Then last year 2015 when SBAC was implemented for all Nevada – SBAC failed across the state. Our last valid standardized testing was three years ago 2013 because that was when the computers could run the test.


My school has no current standardized data.


Turnaround is based on standardized testing – but the testing hasn’t happened.


I was interviewed because of testing my school did three years ago in 2013? Mysterious data qualified my school for turnaround.


Some of the other assessments that could have been used are questionable as far as accuracy – I mentioned this openly to the interviewers. My direct langauage was: They are crap because they are.


There is an current environment in which we are not encouraged to openly question the validity of the tests we are mandated to use – but we should. Just because someone spent a lot of money doesn’t meanwhile it is a worthwhile test.


My school keeps having to interview because my school computers did not run the test in 2014 and 2015?


I kept asking at the interview which data was being used because we haven’t been able to test our kids for two years. We have a lot of data from other types of tests. Which mystery data was driving the turnaround selection process? No one could tell me why my school was selected or which data my school “failed” to be selected for turnaround.


Selection of my school to interview this year was random.


Admin used the words data to justify harrassing my school staff and no one was supposed to question. I am very angry. Being randomly interviewed based on events in 2013 is harrassment. And this was the answer I was given when I asked.


The turnaround interview team who was sent did not know why they were there. I asked them.


The turnaround interview team asks sterile weird questions about data and assessment and evalution. I told them many important things that would be helpful if people cared – but the computerized form did not allow for them to record this input. If it did not fit into the computerized interview slot – it was rejected and not needed. This was not an interview where I could particpate.


Some of the questions were encouraging staff to disparage each other. I don’t appreciate interviews that ask me to talk badly about the people I work with. Schools are a community and teachers should help each other.


Some of the questions were asking me to disparage my administrator. I felt like asking if I needed to invoke Weingarten Rights and get a union representative to help me. My adminstrator is excellent because kids come first.


Some of the questions were encouraging staff to evaluate each other by wandering around other classrooms. Teachers should not be encouraged to “spy” on each other – it destroys a schools environment when this happens. We learn best from each other but not if staff are encourage to report so teachers will be punished.


Some of the questions were degrading and insulting. Yes or No questions with no win-win answers. Totally frustrating because teaching is not black and white.


What are the components of an effective lesson? This old teacher would frankly state there are many effective ways to instruct – which one do you want? What subject are you teaching? What is the goal of the lesson? Again – no one right answer.


I consider the whole turnaround interview process harrassment. It felt like an attack on my due process and like I was set up to fail. The interview people were nice enough but sent to fill in the blanks not to help my school. The scare tactic of interviewing teaching staff with decades of experience is not nice. It is bullying and union-busting. Period.


I think the decision has already been made somewhere far away from my classroom – but they were instructed to torture us anyhow to prove some point or meet a random goal.


None of the questions asked about kids. I offered but it didn’t fit in the blank.


This interview was not about caring or authentic instruction which is essential to real learning. This interview could not provide any real information to anyone about what actually goes on in my classroom.


It was an investigation about my peers, my principal, and my data.


I feel like my union representation should have been there.



In summary:


Turnaround being data driven is a lie. It is random and scary. Any school could be selected at anytime and my school proves this. Current CCSD turnaround interviews are terrible data too – since the computer only allows certain answers to be recorded.


The district has many, many places which are ripe to “turnaround” because they are decimated already. Threatening to destroy my school so someone powerful can check off a box somewhere for money is ridiculous.


The computers not working at my school – this is a problem that is not solved by interviewing my staff. My school does not have the tools to give anyone reliable data.


Everyone needs to be asking frank questions about the turnaround selection process and this empire as a whole. CCSD turnaround grabbing a school like mine to interview makes absolutely zero sense unless something outside of valid data is actually the basis for being considered.


The CCSD turnaround monster is gobbling up real teachers and students. Is it making progress according to its own teribble strict data collection?


Someone needs to be asking questions. Big ones.


And I will state the obvious – we are short licensed highly qualified teachers.


Even on my worst day, I’m better than a long term sub who doesn’t have a college degree. You get rid of people like me and replace me with whom?


What are we doing?


Crazytown. Stressful. Waste of time and money.

Peg Robertson is a teacher in Colorado and a national leader of the Opt Out movement (she co-founded United Opt Out). In this post, she describes what happens to teachers in schools that are supposedly “turnaround schools.” They are “gaslighted.” Anyone who has seen the famous George Cukor film of the same name knows what it means to be “gaslighted.” Ingrid Bergman’s husband wants to kill her, and he tries to convince her that she is going mad. In Peg’s school, teachers are told that they caused low test scores, and officialdom works hard to persuade them that they cause failure.


She writes:


Gaslighting is such an insane reality to live in that it becomes incredibly difficult to focus on anything else except the ability to get through the day- it is designed intentionally so.



So let’s try to take a look at what’s really happening.



The first stage of Gaslighting is described as disbelief. Strange events, behaviors, and actions by others begin to occur. Perhaps you are told something that doesn’t seem true to you or simply just sounds bizarre. Perhaps someone you trusted speaks to you in a manner that seems fake, or staged.



In my case, the “disbelief” began with the supposed root cause of our turnaround status.



We were told: Students experienced lower-quality and less rigorous instruction that did not accelerate them to proficiency and beyond, because the CCSS was not used to guide instruction in all content areas.



Now, for someone like myself, who has spent hours upon hours researching and advocating for the end of corporate education reform this “root cause” at first, is quite laughable. We know that standards – good, bad, and ugly, in no way increase student achievement. Quite honestly, there’s no correlation whatsoever between standards and student test scores. This has been clearly confirmed by looking at NAEP scores and the standards used in the various states. So, simply put, it’s a lie.



And therein follows the disbelief. You are told a lie about this so-called turnaround status. And I can assure you that nationwide there is no root cause – in a school improvement plan housed on a department of education website – that will state the truth – the truth is clearly poverty and that has been confirmed as well. But in this gut wrenching fast move to privatize our public schools it is necessary to lie and necessary to beat people into compliance in order to cash in quickly – using policies which gaslight educators who ultimately must carry out these actions of educational malpractice.



So, you sit in disbelief at these lies. At first you think, okay, whatever, we can play this game. We’ll continue to do right by children behind closed doors and the policy makers can go screw themselves. That’s the first reaction. At this point you still believe you have some autonomy and you think you might be able to reason with the powers that be in order to figure out a way to “tweak” this to make it doable.



But then, the gaslighting process continues. The policy makers have a strangle hold on our public schools, and they will find various ways to continue to push forward their measures in a turnaround school. Perhaps they will bring in an auditor who interviews (interrogates) each staff member in an attempt to expose weaknesses that might confirm the so-called root cause. Perhaps they will bring in district personnel to dig through your data and observe your classrooms nonstop in order to, once again, find confirmation that your root cause is true, valid and that ultimately – you, the educators, are to blame for your low test scores. Perhaps they will bring in consultants, books, videos, or additional training to lead you to see how embracing their root cause will fix your failure. There are many ways they might move forward as they gaslight you. In my school, we were enrolled in the Colorado Department of Education turnaround program. We were labeled a Relay Leadership School and Relay indoctrination became the vehicle for our gaslighting.



This is a gripping story, and I urge you to read it all in total.