Bill Gates will be bringing yet another grand experiment onto public school children in Seattle soon in the form of a charter school “Sierra” which is part of the Summit charter school chain.
Remember the small high school experiment that Gates subsidized? Fail.
The Common Core Standards? On the brink of a major fail.
Merit pay? Bad idea from the beginning. It didn’t work at Microsoft, why should it work with teachers?
Charter schools? Every time we hear the trumpets blow about a charter school that is successful, we find out that there was a lot of behind the scenes shenanigans going on…students being counseled out or expelled if they can’t make the grade, a demand of cash or an inordinate amount of volunteer time required of the parents (see below re: Summit), long application forms that weed out those parents who might not know English, ELL students need not apply, and other parents who don’t have the bandwidth, for whatever reason, to fill out the form.
So let’s look at Summit.
What caught my attention about Summit initially was an article in the Philanthropy News Digest that was sent to me. Here’s an excerpt:
The (Gates) foundation also awarded $4 million to Summit Public Schools and $4.2 million to Green Dot Public Schools, both California-based charter management organizations looking to expand into Washington. Both organizations have been engaging with communities in the western part of the state, where they hope to adapt their existing models to the needs of local communities.
Green Dot Public Schools, both California-based charter management organizations looking to expand into Washington. Both organizations have been engaging with communities in the western part of the state, where they hope to adapt their existing models to the needs of local communities.
So I got on the horn with my fellow edu advocates, writers, activists and educators and received a plethora of information.
These are some of the responses I received.
Regarding Bill Gates and Summit:
… in 2011 the Gates Foundation gave $50,000 to Summit Institute: “TO ACCELERATE THE IMPACT AND QUALITY OF THE CLASSROOM ROTATIONAL BLENDED MODEL OF INSTRUCTION FOR 208 9TH GRADE STUDENTS AT SUMMIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS: RAINIER AND TAHOMA IN SAN JOSE CALIFORNIA”
“Blended learning”, by the way, means putting a student in front of a computer with 40 to 50 other students and one teacher and calling it “education”. See “Online (Blended) Learning” for additional information on the subject.
According to Summit’s own report titled Washington State Fundraising Summary which was sent to me by a parent in California who has been looking into Summit:
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:
Funder Information: Have funded Summit through a variety of channels over the last 3 years- $150,000 total for Optimized, $450,000 from NGLC, have requested funding for Personalized Learning and more this year.
Current Proposal: (The Gates Foundation) Have requested a proposal from Summit for $8M for 4 Summit schools in WA, as well as access to a newly formed Gates Facilities Fund.
The report goes on to mention the usual set of donors who like to fund all things ed/corporate reform including the Bezos Family Foundation.
Bezos Family Foundation
Funder Information: Run by (Amazon’s Founder and CEO) Jeff Bezos and his parents and other family members. They funded KIPP and Stand for Children, and donated $975,000 to the most recent 2012 charter school measure in WA as well as to previous attempts to introduce charter schools in WA.
Current discussion: Molly and Megan attended a breakfast with Diane and Diego, and have indicated an interest in further discussion around funding.
According to the report, Jim Spady of Seattle’s Dick’s Burgers has pledged $50,000 to the cause. Chris Korsmo with the League of Education Voters offered to connect Summit with “prospective funders in Washington”.
Connie Ballmer, whose husband was CEO of Microsoft, and Tonya Dressel with Partners for our Children were also on the list.
Regarding Meg Whitman and Summit:
From a parent in San Francisco:
El Cerrito is just north of Berkeley, which is just north of Oakland.
Summit’s petition was rejected by the local school district (West Contra Costa Unified) on August 12th so Summit submitted its petition to the county ed agency (Contra Costa County Office of Education) for approval.
In California, charter school authorizers may be 1.) the local school district, 2.) the county office of education, or 3.) the state board of education. This allows charter school operators to go from agency to agency as they seek their authorization (“authorizer shopping”).
Meg Whitman is on Summit’s board. She ran against Jerry Brown during CA’s last gubernatorial race and spent more of her own money than any other self-funded political candidate in U.S. history. She also turned down Warren Buffett when he asked her to join the Giving Pledge (billionaires commit to donating half of their money to charity).
Dell, Inc., Brad Bernatek (remember him?) and Summit
The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation paid for a glossy report on online learning, oop’s, “Blended Learning”, and Summit is a featured school.
Michael Dell is founder and CEO of Dell Inc. Dell, Inc. is a multinational computer technology company based in Texas where the foundation is located. Dell, Inc. “sells, repairs and supports computers and related products.”
Oh the web of edu/corporate reform.
Adding another string to the web is Brad Bernatek’s involvement with the report. (His name is on the cover of the report.) Remember him? He was the Broad graduate who our former Broad superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, brought in as a “Broad Resident” to watch over the hen-house as Director of Research, Assessment and Evaluation. He was also put in charge of implementing the MAP test for the superintendent who was on the NWEA board that produces the MAP test.
Brad played around with some numbers for Goodloe-Johnson. Those numbers were used to push the Broad agenda for Common Core Standards, a review of the teachers’ contract and ultimately charter schools.
To follow is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Seattle Times, The Truth Needle | False: Seattle Public Schools underestimated students’ college-readiness:
“In a presentation used at community meetings in 2008, for example, the district said only 17 percent of its graduates “met the entrance requirements for a four-year college.”
It’s unclear whether district staff oversimplified the explanation, misunderstood what Bernatek was trying to do or misused it in their zeal to convince the public and potential funders of the need for the changes outlined in the five-year plan.
What is clear: At least one School Board member raised questions about the figure from the beginning. And the district didn’t publicly correct it, even after it pulled the figure from some of its own reports.”
The percentage was actually 46%
For more on Bernatek, see Oops, I Did It Again! and Seattle Schools data guy has resigned – a casualty of 17 Percent-Gate?
Now back to Summit charter schools.
What Summit demands of parents: (Which probably weeds out a lot of students. This is called “cherry picking”.)
According to the Everest Parent Organization website which is the parent organization associated with Summit-Everest, it is required that parents or guardians put in 30 hours of volunteer time with the school each year, 50 hours if you have two students attending the charter school. That’s a lot of time if you’re working full-time or holding down two jobs as many are doing to make it through these difficult financial times. It also helps keep the school’s cost down. Yes, parental involvement is important and ideal but many parents hardly have the time to work, return home, make dinner and help with homework. As a working single mom while my daughter was in school, I know what that’s like that firsthand.
Along with volunteer time, they ask that parents “donate” $500 for each student attending this charter school.
I truly wonder what the Charter School Commission was thinking when they approved this school for Seattle. Did they actually read the website?
The Summit charter school in Seattle is to be located in the south end of Seattle and supposedly drawing on minority students who live in the area.
How many parents do you think in the low-income area will be able to come up with $500 per student and at least 30 hours of volunteer time?
And they call themselves a “public school”?
What this does is eliminate impoverished families and families who are holding down two or more jobs. This is termed “cherry picking” and one way to ensure high test scores, a qualification for a charter school to remain open.
About Summit’s AP classes:
From a parent in Oakland:
Summit claims that all its students take several AP classes. Since AP classes are designed for exceptional students only, of course their claim is that they’re taking a full cross-section of students and turning them into exceptional students. Since that’s obviously not possible in real life, either their selection process is screening for students capable of taking AP classes or they’re watered-down AP classes, in name only. Or the whole thing could be a lie, of course — that’s always possible with the ever-slippery charter sector.
Summit’s attrition rate:
Summit Prep lost 18.86% of its class of ’13 between freshman year and the beginning of senior year — I don’t have information on the number who graduated. It lost 26% of its Latino students (the most significant nonwhite group) in that time. Again, we don’t know how many graduated.
Standard charter practice is to push out the less successful students before graduation and then tout the percentage of the remaining number who graduate and go to college, so even though not all of them presumably do that, those claims have no credibility whatsoever and should just be shrugged off.
Also, by the way, when “Waiting for ‘Superman'” trashed Woodside High School (with a false portrayal) to aggrandize Summit Prep Charter, there was HUGE pushback from Woodside parents. They bought a big banner and put it across the outside of the school — I’ll have to go look at the wording, but it was something like “We love our teachers — man, you’re super!” It was there for a long time and may still be.
Summit’s rollout plan for Washington State:
In a field report titled “Greenlighting 2015” that was sent to me regarding Summit’s plan for our children’s future and was discussed at a Summit board meeting, their plan is to establish four schools in seven different districts in Washington State, two in the fall of 2015 and two in 2016.
The facilities will be paid for by Gates through the Washington State Facilities Fund and leased to Summit at “sustainable rates”.
Eric Premack with the Charter School Development Center is being funded by Gates “to look at Washington State and prepare the groundwork for entry”.
According to this field report, Summit has questions about how much of the Seattle school levy budget they will receive. “The thinking is that the first charters approved will be the first ones to get access to the levies.”
Bill Gates is spending $8-$10 million on bringing charter schools to Washington state per the report and the Washington Charter Schools Association has paid for “all trips”, approximately $3.75M, to fly charter groups into our state to check out the terrain, and Premack is the main figure in all of this.
They see Teachers United as helping the cause of establishing charter schools in our state. (Long story about Parents United. For now, know that it was established with Gates money, is anti-union and they are all about all things ed/corporate reform.)
The Charter School Commission didn’t do their homework on vetting Summit charter schools but maybe that isn’t the point of the commission.
Dora Taylor with a lot of help from Parents Across America members and other education advocates.
Post Script: Please read the first comment below written by a Summit charter school parent. It is very revealing.