First piece of news is that I’ve been published. Yes, it’s a teeny tiny chapter in a book with some heavy hitters but still, I have something to brag about now. The book is definitely worth checking out. The title is Left Behind in the Race to the Top: Realities of School Reform.
Now onto the news.
Michelle Rhee is back in the news since the Atlanta cheating scandal hit the papers recently. Ms. Rhee’s reign in DC continues to haunt her. One of these times, someone besides her best bud the now DC Chancellor Maya Henderson, might take on a real investigation. See That’s what friends are for: Rhee and the DC cheating scandal revisited.
First up, Michelle Rhee’s Reign of Error
Michelle A. Rhee, America’s most famous school reformer, was fully aware of the extent of the problem when she glossed over what appeared to be widespread cheating during her first year as Schools Chancellor in Washington, DC. A long-buried confidential memo from her outside data consultant suggests that the problem was far more serious than kids copying off other kids’ answer sheets. (“191 teachers representing 70 schools”). Twice in just four pages the consultant suggests that Rhee’s own principals, some of whom she had hired, may have been responsible (“Could the erasures in some cases have been done by someone other than the students and the teachers?”).
Rhee has publicly maintained that, if bureaucratic red tape hadn’t gotten in the way, she would have investigated the erasures. For example, in an interview conducted for PBS’ “Frontline” before I learned about the confidential memo, Rhee told me, “We kept saying, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this; we just need to have more information.’ And by the time the information was trickling in back and forth, we were about to take the next year’s test. And there was a new superintendent of education that came in at the time. And she said, ‘Okay, well, we’re about to take the next test anyway so let’s just make sure that the proper protocols are in place for next time.’”
At best, that story is misleading.
The rash of “wrong to right” (WTR) erasures was first noticed by the DC official in charge of testing, who, after consulting with the test-maker, asked Rhee to investigate, in November, 2008. Through her data chief, Rhee turned to Dr. Fay G. “Sandy” Sanford for outside analysis.
I have a copy of the memo and have confirmed its authenticity with two highly placed and reputable sources. The anonymous source is in DCPS; the other is DC Inspector General Charles Willoughby. A reliable source has confirmed that Rhee and Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson discussed the memo in staff gatherings. Sanford came to Washington to present his findings in late January, 2009, after which he wrote his memo.
In response to my request for comment, Rhee issued the following careful statement: “As chancellor I received countless reports, memoranda and presentations. I don’t recall receiving a report from Sandy Sanford regarding erasure data from the DC CAS, but I’m pleased, as has been previously reported, that both inspectors general (DOE and DCPS) reviewed the memo and confirmed my belief that there was no wide spread cheating.” After receiving this statement, I sent her the memo; her spokesman responded by saying that she stood by her earlier statement.
Chancellor Henderson did not respond to my request for a response.
Sanford wanted the memo to be kept confidential. At the top and bottom of each page he wrote “Sensitive Information–Treat as Confidential,” and he urged, “Don’t make hard copies and leave them around.” (The memo.)
The gist of his message: the many ‘wrong to right’ erasures on the students’ answer sheets suggested widespread cheating by adults.
“It is common knowledge in the high-stakes testing community that one of the easiest ways for teachers to artificially inflate student test scores is to erase student wrong responses to multiple choice questions and recode them as correct,” Sanford wrote.
Sanford analyzed the evidence from one school, Aiton, whose scores had jumped by 29 percentiles in reading and 43 percentiles in math and whose staff–from the principal down to the custodians–Rhee had rewarded with $276,265 in bonuses. Answer sheets revealed an average of 5.7 WTR erasures in reading and 6.8 in math, significantly above the district average of 1.7 and 2.3.
To read this article in full, go to Taking Note.
And more commentary on Micehlle Rhee in DC:
The current headline is that John Merrow found “the smoking gun,” or the confidential memo warning Michelle Rhee of the extent of cheating that may have occurred in Washington D.C. schools in response to her draconian “reforms.” Merrow’s “Michelle Rhee’s Reign of Error” summarizes the evidence of an inexcusable failure to investigate the cheating and it recalls the lesson of Watergate – the cover-up is often worse than the original crime. Merrow concludes with the question, “What did Michelle know, and when did she know it?”
Merrow’s report leads to the question of “What did Arne Duncan know and when did he know it?” After all, Duncan and Rhee have earned the title of “the king and queen of data-driven education reform.”
The District of Columbia’s policies were not only due to the kindness of billionaires and their $65 million contribution to Rhee’s test-driven evaluation system. Rhee’s toxicity also was enabled by Duncan’s $75 million Race to the Top (RTTT) grant, and its requirements that bubble-in testing be used to punish schools and individuals. In fact, the announcement that D.C. had won a RTTT grant was coordinated with a last-minute effort by Duncan to save Rhee’s job as chancellor.
We should remember the closing days of Mayor Adrian Fenty’s unsuccessful reelection campaign. The primary had become a referendum on Rhee’s “reforms.” As Duncan’s department awarded RTTT funding, he praised the Fenty-Rhee education record as “absolutely extraordinary.” The Washington Post’s Bill Turque reported, “if any doubt remained about where the Obama Administration’s sympathies are in the District primary, they were eliminated at a morning photo op that preceded the official RTTT announcement.” Duncan’s announcement of the grant on the eve of the election had “the unmistakable feel of a Fenty campaign stop,” as Duncan joined the embattled mayor and his controversial chancellor in a walk with children wearing Fenty campaign stickers. Asked if he was taking sides in the Democratic primary, Duncan said of Fenty, “I’m a big fan.”
Soon afterwards, Duncan phoned the new mayor, Vincent Gray, urging him to retain Rhee as chancellor. He explained the intrusion into local affairs by saying of Rhee that he is a “big fan” of hers.
Duncan subsequently raised eyebrows by joining Rhee in a panel discussion at a time when D.C. schools were under investigation by the Office of the Inspector General. The New York Times’ Michael Winerip noted, “You would think Mr. Duncan would want to keep Ms. Rhee at arm’s length during the investigation. And yet there they were, sitting side by side last month.”
We should also remember that the ongoing D.C. cheating scandal could have unfolded differently. Atlanta also had a district leader who intimidated educators with demands for quick boosts in test scores, and who was decidedly uncurious about whether that pressure contributed to cheating. In Georgia, however, the probe was led by prosecutor Richard Hyde who distanced himself from politics when investigating the cheating. Winerip quoted Hyde, who said of Duncan appearing publicly with Rhee, “I’m shocked that the secretary of education would be fraternizing with someone who could potentially be the target of the investigation. The appearance of a conflict of interest is troubling because it can cause the public to lose faith in the investigation.”
Of course, Rhee deserves the lion’s share of blame for the “reign or error” in the D.C. schools. She was the one who placed unbearable pressure on administrators and thus encouraged cheating, nonstop test prep, and other educational malpractice.
Rhee has not been alone, however, in foisting high-stakes testing on the entire nation. She has done so with the financing of billionaires and Duncan’s D.O.Ed. So all three groups of accountability hawks should be held accountable. Rhee and her team in D.C. should all be subpoenaed. Corporate funders should demand an accounting of Rhee’s StudentsFirst. Above all, they should reveal the what factual basis, if any, the organization has for its teacher-bashing soundbites.
And President Obama should demand that Duncan explain what he knew about the toxic culture he helped fund in D.C. Duncan should then explain when he knew that data-driven “accountability” was driving the joy from teaching and learning. When did he know that high-stakes testing and honest school cultures are mutually incompatible?
And in Indiana:
The Indiana Supreme Court this past week held that Indiana’s Choice Scholarship program did not violate the Indiana Constitution’s prohibition on the drawing of funds from the state’s treasury for religious purposes. Under the school voucher program, parents are permitted to send their children to a private school of their choice instead of a public school and the state’s Dept. of Education will provide them a voucher to pay for their tuition at the private school. Nearly all of the schools participating in the Choice Scholarship program are religious schools, including Indianapolis’ MTI School of Knowledge, also known as the Islamic School of Indianapolis.
Tonight, WRTV’s Call 6 Investigator Rafael Sanchez is reporting that MTI is under investigation for providing answers to its students before taking the state-mandated ISTEP examination. According to Sanchez, the school’s website boasts that its students have won multiple scholarships, and that when it comes to standardized tests, “the school does not teach to the test.” But he reports the school is accused of an even greater offense–cheating.
To read this article in full, go toThe Daily Censored.
The emphasis on standardized testing has demoralized teachers who are professionals and understand better than most what education is about. To follow is a letter from one of those teachers.
My profession is being demeaned by a pervasive atmosphere of distrust, dictating that teachers cannot be permitted to develop and administer their own quizzes and tests (now titled as generic “assessments”) or grade their own students’ examinations. The development of plans, choice of lessons and the materials to be employed are increasingly expected to be common to all teachers in a given subject. This approach not only strangles creativity, it smothers the development of critical thinking in our students and assumes a one-size-fits-all mentality more appropriate to the assembly line than to the classroom. Teacher planning time has also now been so greatly eroded by a constant need to “prove up” our worth to the tyranny of APPR (through the submission of plans, materials and “artifacts” from our teaching) that there is little time for us to carefully critique student work, engage in informal intellectual discussions with our students and colleagues, or conduct research and seek personal improvement through independent study.
Now onto the Parent Trigger.
The first time the Parent Revolution came onto the scene was in California. I wrote two posts about Ben Austin and the Parent Revolution three years ago, Ben Austin and His Parent Trigger, Now in Seattle and Ben Austin’s Antics, Continued.
With the approval of charter school Initiative 1240, the same situation can be employed in our state.It happened most recently in Adelanto, CA and is now being pushed in Florida.
As Sikes reports in Purple Scathings about Adelanto:
With Florida republican senators obliged to pass Parent Trigger this session to serve Jeb Bush’s political interests, it’s crucial to remind Floridians what those senators have to ignore. With House sponsor Carlos Trujillo affirming that controversial charter school advocacy group Parent Revolution can operate in a Parent Trigger effort in Florida “under first amendment protections,” a clear picture of how the group operates must be made clear for Floridians. Writing in NSFWCORP (subscription required) Yasha Levine reveals more details of the coercive strong-arm tactics the group used on Adelanto, California citizens.
Turns out that Mary (not her real name), who had a second-grade daughter in Desert Trails, had good reason to join the campaign. Chrissy says she had serious problems with her immigration status and was facing deportation.
Parent Revolution promised to make those problems disappear. It was an offer than must have been hard to resist: help a group pull off its trigger campaign or face deportation and the possibility that she’d never see your family again………She was in a heap of trouble. She had gone to a lawyer, who told her that there was no way around this other than you going back to Mexico.”
I recognized the woman’s name. She had been interviewed by cable news networks, and appeared in dozens of news stories talking about parent empowerment and the need for parents to take an active role in their children’s education. She even squirted a couple of tears for reporters once.
Dangling citizenship in front of a desperate mother facing deportation—this is what parent empowerment looks like to the billionaires trying to privatize public education. And it appears she was not the only one.
Multiple sources told me that Parent Revolution had propositioned other undocumented Latino immigrants, promising to help resolve their immigration status in return for their support of the parent trigger petition. Help with immigration in exchange for a single signature? It’s an offer that many families must have found difficult to turn down.
By one estimation, the implementation of Common Core will increase the number of failing Florida schools to over 100. With many of these schools sure to be in communities filled with English-as-a-second language homes, Parent Revolution could find a target-rich environment for such despicable coercion of Florida families.
This is the group which Jeb Bush gave a shout-out to at his DC Summit last fall and that his top advisor, Patricia Levesque has paraded around for Florida legislators and media the past two years. To ignore how Parent Revolution operates, Florida’s republican legislators show what they are willing to allow to enter some of the state’s most vulnerable communities to serve Bush’s agenda.
More on the Parent Trigger in Adelanto:
It might be worthwhile to study this case before adopting the Parent Empowerment in Education bill. Although the Florida bill gives district boards the decision-making power — with the charter-friendly State Board of Education as the tie breaker — the two scenarios are sufficiently similar to be instructive.
The proposed procedures for a petition with a majority of signatures by parents with eligible children to force a major overhaul of an underperforming school are murky. More important, existing laws already give students the right to transfer from low-performing schools, permit charter conversions for any school, require districts to foster parent engagement and to establish advisory councils that include a formal role for parents in every school.
In California, Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles-based advocacy group, trained and provided pro bono services to the Desert Trail Parent Union. Following the group’s advice, the parents distributed two petitions. The first one sought to reform the school through class-size reductions, extending school hours, acquiring more technological resources for students and requiring master’s degrees for teachers. The second one, which would supposedly be used only as a way of pressuring Adelanto school district officials to accept the terms of the first petition, proposed transforming the school into a charter.
Parents representing more than 50 percent of the students signed both petitions, but only the second one was submitted to the School Board.
“Many parents felt betrayed and asked to remove their signatures,” Carlos Mendoza, former president of the Adelanto School Board, told me on Tuesday. The Florida bill also permits parents to sign multiple petitions and is therefore susceptible to the same bait-and-switch tactics.
A dispute erupted because it wasn’t clear whether parents could remove their names. The Parent Union filed a lawsuit in a county court and a judge ruled in their favor.
To read this article in full, go to the Miami Herald.
Michelle Rhee’s organization, Students First, is leading the charge in Florida along with Jeb Bush for the Parent Trigger. Rhee’s organization has also been active in California and the Dems don’t like it there at all.
From the Los Angeles Times:
SACRAMENTO — California Democrats on Sunday condemned efforts led by members of their own party to overhaul the nation’s schools, arguing that groups such as StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform are fronts for Republicans and corporate interests.
Before delegates overwhelmingly passed a resolution excoriating the groups on the final day of the party’s annual convention here, speakers urged them to focus on protecting students and teachers.
“People can call themselves Democrats for Education Reform — it’s a free country — but if your agenda is to shut teachers and school employees out of the political process and not lift a finger to prevent cuts in education, in my book you’re not a reformer, you’re not helping education, and you’re sure not much of a Democrat,” said state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, a registered Democrat whose office is nonpartisan.
To read this article in full, go to the LA Times.
And why do these people have to employ such back door, underhanded tactics to get charter schools established? Because, they are not that great and there is a lot of graft involved in what is turning out to be a big money making scheme. Case in point:
The couple running Ivy Academia could face prison time over the $200,000 in public funds. The case is seen as having major implications for other charters.
In a case that could have impact statewide, a Los Angeles jury Friday found the operators of a west San Fernando Valley charter school guilty of illegally taking or misappropriating more than $200,000 in public funds.
Together, Yevgeny “Eugene” Selivanov, 40, and his wife, Tatyana Berkovich, 36, faced 26 felony counts for using state money in ways they insisted were legal under laws that apply to nonprofits and charter schools in California. Over several years, for example, they spent more than $34,000 on meals, entertainment and gifts that they classified as business expenses or gestures of appreciation for teachers.
Charter advocates followed the case closely because it could expose other operators to prosecution and, because, they said, it could undermine the flexibility that is benefiting more than 410,000 California students now enrolled in those campuses. For charter critics, the result is a long overdue rebuke of an anything-goes mentality that they contend sometimes abuses the public trust and drains resources from students.
“This message is going to resonate throughout the charter school community,” said prosecutor Sandi Roth. “You can’t spend the charter school funds for anything you want. It has to be money spent on the kids and the schools.”
To read this story in full, go to the Los Angeles Times.
And another charter school scam, the waiting list game. From edushyster:
No doubt your state is home to a lengthy waiting list of students trapped in union-stifled public schools. In Massachusetts we call this list a “waiting list” and it is growing lengthier by the day. Not only is there virtually no one left who is NOT on the list, I believe that in fact you are on the list and you don’t even live here and are frankly not a high achiever. Our waiting list for excellence and innovation has now grown so long that policy makers have no choice but to respond to the growing waiting list by making policy that reflects the extraordinary length of the waiting list.
Except that some actual reporting this week by the Boston Globe revealed that the waiting list is more fiction than fact. The story follows on the heels of this devastating expose in Chicago in which a reporter dismantles claims of a 19,000 charter wait list in Chicago, the length of which is now being used to justify charter expansion even as public schools are closed in that city.
The numbers game
In Massachusetts, as in Chicago, the primary flaw in the list is that it counts applications, not students. So a student who applies to four charters, eight charters, twelve charters gets counted multiple time times. That’s a key distinction because as this guidance counselor told the Globe: “If a family is applying to charter schools, they are applying to all of them,” said Susan Trotz, a guidance counselor at the city-run Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain. Which is how a city with 55,000 students in its public schools can end with fully 27,000 students allegedly waiting to attend academies of excellence and innovation.
Up, up and up
Nor is the waiting list adjusted as students enter a charter school or any other school for that matter. According to the Globe, some charters keep students on their waiting lists for years. An appropriate analogy might be if Harvard began referring to the 32,994 students it didn’t admit this year as a “waiting list,” then added that number to the 32,270 it didn’t admit last year, giving it a “waiting list” of 65,264, or a fiercely urgent case for lifting the Crimson Cap.
You can get on but you still can’t get in
A true waiting list would also be connected to available seats within charter schools, so that a student who applied would have the option of attending in the *extremely unlikely* event that another student leaves the school in order to return to a union stifled public school. But that doesn’t happen, because unlike truly public schools that must accept any student who appears at any time, charters in Massachusetts don’t have to accept students after the start of the school year, or in grades 10, 11 and 12.
To read this post in full, go to edushyster.
David Sarota breaks it all down here.
Education “Reform” with David Sirota
What’s really happening in education politics? Would you believe it’s a battle between greedy school teachers and corporate CEOs who want what’s best for the children? Well, not so much. Charter schools backed by these so-called “education reformers” aren’t necessarily better than standard public education- it’s actually been proven that they aren’t. Charter schools do however make sense as a business strategy, allowing corporations to make big money off school children. How does this strategy work? David Sirota explains.
The worst part is that we now have politicians supported by wealthy individuals and business interests who are selling off our public schools, closing them and converting them into charter schools.
By Peter Rugh
Boos and hisses fills the auditorium of Brooklyn Technical High as the governing board for New York City’s public schools, the Panel on Education Policy, takes the stage. It’s March 11 and the PEP is meeting to consider a proposal from Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott to close nearly two dozen schools.
Parent after parent, teacher after teacher, student after student takes the microphone and pleads for their school to remain open.
Similar scenarios are consistently playing out in many parts of the country. Officials in Chicago last week announced plans to eliminate fifty-four schools next year in one swoop. The city’s mayor, former Obama White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, was on vacation at the time of the announcement and could not be reached for comment.
Earlier this month twenty-three schools got the axe in Philadelphia, about ten percent of the city’s total. Nineteen protestors, including American Federation of Teachers head Randi Weingarten, were arrested for attempting to block the entrance to the building where Philly’s education reform committee dished out the guillotine treatment.
To read this post in full, go to Nation of Change.
Now onto the Common Core Standards, another big money business. It surprised many to find out that the Common Core Standards with given the thumbs down at the Republican National Convention.
LOS ANGELES – The concerns about the federal Common Core curriculum and the national standards it would impose on local schools reached the level of the Republican National Committee Friday and was passed unanimously. Illinois RNC National Committeewoman Demetra DeMonte said she was happy to co-sponsor the resolution and encourage others to support the effort.
… RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee recognizes the CCSS for what it is– an inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children so they will conform to a preconceived “normal,” and, be it further
RESOLVED, That the Republican National Committee rejects the collection of personal student data for any non-educational purpose without the prior written consent of an adult student or a child student’s parent and that it rejects the sharing of such personal data, without the prior written consent of an adult student or a child student’s parent, with any person or entity other than schools or education agencies within the state
To read this article in full, go to the Illinois Review.
Some very good points were made by Senator Ligon and others about the Common Core Standards.
PRESS CONFERENCE: Sen. William Ligon Introduces SB 167 – Withdraw from Common Core Curriculum
Bob Sikes at Scathing Purple Musings goes into further detail about the RNC’s proposal here:
I find every read of the Republican National Committee’s resolution against Common Core State Standards (CCSS) more stunning than the last. Beyond the “on-size-fits-all” criticism are supporting details so condemning that they cannot be walked back now that they’re out. Let’s take a look at a few:
WHEREAS, the NGA and the CCSSO, received tens of millions of dollars from private third parties to advocate for and develop the CCSS strategy, subsequently created the CCSS through a process that was not subject to any freedom of information acts or other sunshine laws, and never piloted the CCSS……….WHEREAS, the NGA and CCSSO in concert with the same corporations developing the CCSS ‘assessments’ have created new textbooks, digital media and other teaching materials aligned to the standards which must be purchased and adopted by local school districts in order that students may effectively compete on CCSS ‘assessments’
In a radio interview this week, Florida Senator Marco Rubio – a presidential hopeful – was critical of his own party for it’s past engagements in crony capitalism. You can be sure that he was aware of the resolution at the time. Rubio also knows that CCSS is a major part of Jeb Bush’s prescription for education reform for the nation. Bush’s silence on the RNC resolution indicates he’s furiously working behind the scenes the get it squashed.
Even worse for Bush is that the RNC resolution condemns CCSS for it’s betrayal of themes he presumes to champion: choice and competition.
WHEREAS, the CCSS program includes federally funded testing and the collection and sharing of massive amounts of personal student and teacher data, and
WHEREAS, the CCSS effectively removes educational choice and competition since all schools and all districts must use Common Core ‘assessments’ based on the Common Core standards to allow all students to advance in the school system and to advance to higher education pursuits;
One red state education boss blinked this week; and it’s one of Bush’s Chiefs for Change. Louisiana superintendent John White suddenly removed his state from the CCSS database that’s required by federal law. Was White – and perhaps Gov. Bobby Jindal – responding to this part of the resolution?
….rejects the collection of personal student data for any non-educational purpose without the prior written consent of an adult student or a child student’s parent and that it rejects the sharing of such personal data, without the prior written consent of an adult student or a child student’s parent, with any person or entity other than schools or education agencies within the state
To read this post in full, go to Scathing Purple Musings.
In Alabama, the Common Core Standards have been repealed:
On their second attempt in as many months, state Republicans have succeeded in pushing a bill to repeal Alabama’s common core curriculum standards out of committee.
In a split decision, the committee approved the bill sponsored by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, with senators voting by voice vote instead of roll call.
Beason told the committee he opposes the standards the Alabama State Board of Education approved for Math and English language arts in 2010 because they have not been proven.
With 45 states currently using the new standards, he said, it “leads to the possibility of everyone going into the ditch at the same time” if they fail.
To read this post in full, go to AL.com.
And finally, one of the engines that keeps these ideas of ed reform going and profitable is an organization called ALEC.
Here is an excerpt on what they are doing in Florida to take over the public schools.
This report documents the footprint that ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, has inFlorida. ALEC’s impact in state legislatures across the country cannot be underestimated. This corporate‐funded 501(c)(3) organization has been operating and expanding since its inception in 1973.
ALEC has unprecedented access to lawmakers and to the composition of the bills they pass into law.
Out of Florida’s 160 state legislators, 60 have had ties with ALEC since 2010 through dues records or records of its task forces where corporate lobbyists vote as equals with legislators on “model” bills behind closed doors. In the House, 46 representatives have been affiliated with ALEC task forces; in the Senate, 14 senators.
ALEC and its legislative leaders in the state have supported and pushed some of Florida’s most devastating legislation. Despite claims to the contrary, ALEC’s agenda is not based primarily upon ideology, but mostly upon pecuniary rewards for its corporate funders. The resulting ALEC “model bills” that have been adopted by ALEC “task forces” have been introduced in Florida by ALEC representatives and have amended Florida statutes for the worse, harming the rights and opportunities of everyday citizens in the process.
The key findings of this report include:
• ALEC model bills introduced across the country have devastating impacts upon public education, consumer protections, environmental protections, workers’ rights, equitable healthcare systems, just tax policy, and voting rights.
To read this report in full, go to ALEC in Florida.
That’s all for now.
Post Script: I usually have no problems with WordPress but recently the spacing in between my paragraphs has been inconsistent even though that is not the way the post is originally written. WordPress support has been no help so, if anyone has any ideas on what the issue might be, please leave a comment here.