The stealth campaign for charter schools found in emails of Seattle Public School employees and the candidacy of Omar Vasquez

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We have published several articles on Summit charter schools and “personalized learning” which is a sugar coated description of placing students in front of a computer for all their lessons and tests. There is nothing personalized about the programs, simply that the student can do the lessons at their own speed and has nothing to do with their interests, strengths or academic weaknesses. The program is prepackaged and a robot could provide the same learning experience.

Speaking of robots, Summit charter school and other commercial enterprises are now developing “academies” where anyone who has a pulse can take a course, become a “trainer”/“facilitator” and be hired by Summit or another online school to respond to student’s questions and track their progress. This is not my idea of receiving a good education but is a cash cow for business enterprises.

Another aspect of the idea of “personalized learning’ is that it is unvetted. No one knows who developed the programs, their credentials, and unlike a text book, you can’t open it and get an idea of the subject matter, its accuracy or whether the information is objective and unbiased.

We have written about how the small Mary Walker School District in Eastern Washington chose to include online charter schools under their umbrella under the guise of ALEs – Alternative Learning Experiences — even though the State Supreme Court had determined that charter schools were unconstitutional in the state. A hefty investment in Mary Walker by the Gates Foundation helped the small, cash-strapped district carry out this charter-laundering deal.

Seattle Education also noted later that in January of 2016, the Mary Walker School District (MWSD) rescinded their request for approval of charter schools in the City of Seattle after requests were made twice, first by The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and then by MWSD, for the school district to recognize the charter schools and thereby provide legitimacy to the schools.

During the legal limbo all Washington charter schools found themselves in after the state’s charter law was (rightly) found unconstitutional in the fall of 2015 and they were declared illegal, Summit Sierra Charter School in Seattle decided to recast itself as a ‘homeschooling center’ and avoid the Mary Walker scheme. But now it is back as a charter school, with no ties to the Seattle School District.

With all of this in mind, why are officials who represent the Seattle Public School district and various principals falling all over themselves to develop relationships with Summit charter schools, wasting valuable time and resources supporting a charter school when Seattle is still struggling with a limited budget and all the complexities of managing 104 actual public schools?

The Seattle Public School board passed a resolution on March 2, 2016 making clear its commitment to public education and its opposition to charter schools. Why are people within the administration ignoring that resolution?

Our next question is, why keep all this activity in the dark for three years, not providing the information to the Seattle Public Schools’ Board of Directors or the School Board’s Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee? Is Seattle’s School Superintendent Larry Nyland aware of this activity? Michael Tolley, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, who Michael Starosky reports to, the person who began the chain of events that we will describe, is to report directly to the superintendent. Is that happening? It seems as if there is a shadow district within the Stanford Center that neither the school board, parents nor teachers know anything about.

Per emails that we received through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), there have been numerous conversations between Seattle Public Schools’ key administrators and Summit representatives, meetings at Seattle Public Schools’ administrative offices, the Stanford Center, sharing of district information with Summit Sierra charter school and tours provided by both parties.

There has also been communication between Seattle Public School principals and Summit Sierra charter schools.

We will provide a timeline of the two batches of emails, Part One and Part Two, bringing to light what has been in the shadows for the last three years in a series of posts beginning today.

The focus of this first set of emails is a conversation between Eric Anderson, Director of Research, Evaluation & Assessment within Seattle Public Schools who shows on his LinkedIn page interests in the Broad Foundation (Center), Teach for America, The KIPP Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Malia Burns, Founding Executive Director of Summit Sierra charter schools who refers to herself as “Principal” as the occasion dictates, who is also on the Washington State Teach for America State Board.

Eric Anderson appears to have taken over from Broad Foundation “Resident” Brad Bernatek whom some of you might remember from his false17% stat about graduation rates.

To follow is the first timeline:

The specific emails referenced below can be viewed here. 

10/3/2014

Michael Starosky, Chief of Schools with Seattle Public Schools, does a “virtual introduction” between Malia Burns, former “Principal” of Summit charter schools, and Eric Anderson, Director, Research & Evaluation at Seattle Public Schools.

Starosky suggests Anderson would be a great resource to Burns in “learning in all things SPS”, particularly around data systems and measuring student growth.

10/6/2014

Anderson writes to Burns expressing his excitement in partnering with Summit Sierra charter schools.

4/8/2015

The Seattle Times reports the Seattle School Board has no interest in becoming a charter school authorizer. Unbeknownst to the board and public, Eric Anderson continues to collaborate with Summit Sierra charter school and continues to do so after the board’s position on charters is made public.

7/7/2015

Malia Burns with Summit charter schools contacts Eric Anderson to make arrangements to meet or talk on the phone about student assessments.

7/7/2015

Eric Anderson immediately responds to set up an appointment the next day.

7/7/2015

Malia Burns and Eric Anderson decide to meet at the Stanford Center where the Seattle Public School administration offices are located.

7/9/2015

Malia Burns to Anderson, “It’s great to meet kindred spirits working in education to support the work we all are doing within schools.”

Ms. Burns shares with Eric Anderson the login to Summit’s Personalized Learning Plan and cognitive skills rubric.

2/9/2016

Eric Anderson to Malia Burns, ”With all the Charter School news in recent months I thought I’d check in” and sharing his hope that everything “remains positive” for Summit Sierra charter school.

Anderson expresses interest in bringing a small team from Seattle Public Schools to visit Summit Sierra charter school.

2/9/2016

Malia Burns responds to Eric Anderson that they would “love to have a group visit” from people representing Seattle Public Schools.

2/9/2016

Jen Wickens, Chief Regional Officer for Summit charter schools who is also on the Strategic Advisory Council for Teach for America. Inc. and CEO of Impact Public Schools “providing leadership in the ed reform sector”, replies to Eric Anderson to arrange a visit to Summit suggesting sometime during the week March 14, 2016.

2/9/2016

The same day Eric Anderson responds to Jen Wickens confirming a visit the week of March 14, 2016 and stating an interest in Personalized Learning.  Anderson states he would like to bring in a group of 4-5 people with “our new Senior Research Scientist from my team” and “a couple of others from Teaching & Learning”.

11/10/2016

Jen Wickens and Eric Anderson arrange another onsite visit for Anderson to see a student demonstration of Summit’s Personalized Learning Plan

The next set of emails will focus on correspondence between Summit Sierra charter schools and principals within the Seattle Public School district.

Note: “Chief of Schools” is a new position created for Starosky. Starosky reports to Michael Tolley, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning which is a relatively new position. Starosky oversees the activities of five Executive Directors which is another layer of Seattle Public Schools bureaucracy created by Broad trained Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson six years ago.

Michael Tolley is the last vestige of the Goodloe-Johnson era. The former superintendent brought Tolley with her from Charleston, SC.

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How Omar Vasquez fits into the push for charter schools in Seattle

Omar Vasquez, who is running for a position on the Seattle School Board, is on the Washington Board of Directors for Summit charter schools but he won’t likely tell you that. Omar started in education as a Teach for America, Inc. recruit, is now on the Washington State Teach for America Board and has been active with charter schools ever since since first working for Teach for America, Inc. Recently all information about his involvement with charter schools has been scrubbed from his website and LinkedIn Page. As an attorney in Seattle, he has represented charter schools.

When Mr. Vasquez was asked about charter schools during his candidate interview with the King County Young Democrats, he lied and said he never had any involvement with charter schools. The Young Democrats decided to endorse him based on that interview.

As Michael Maddox wrote on his blog #hashtag:

Omar Vasquez – I mean, this guy told one group that he supported Charter Schools, and another that he didn’t. The guy lies, and when he’s called out or criticized, shows a temperament that does not lend itself as evidence that he could be a good school board member. Blatant lying, shitty temperament, and support for Charter Schools? HARD PASS.

The Washington State Democratic Party platform states in no uncertain terms that the party opposes charters yet the State Democratic Party gave Vasquez $2,000 worth of in-kind donations to his primary campaign, most likely to obtain access to the vital GOTV tool VoteBuilder, which helped him eke out a second place finish in the primary after Zachary DeWolf and just ahead of Andre Helmstetter. The thousands of dollars from corporate ed reformers like Lindsy Hill, founder of the Washington TFA, and the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) helped as well. His dishonesty about his charter ties helped smooth the deal. Do the State Democrats know they have been underwriting someone whose positions and work history directly conflict with their platform?

The teacher’s union at least, was not fooled by Vasquez. His Teach for America history would likely have been a deal breaker for them. The short-term  flash-trained TFA recruits have been used as a union-breaking tool and cheap labor for charter schools. As we have pointed out on this blog numerous times, the founder of Teach for America, Inc., Wendy Kopp is married to the founder of one of the biggest charter school franchises, KIPP’s Richard Barth. It’s bitterly ironic that charter schools which claim to aim to serve underprivileged students of color, offer these students the least qualified, high turnover teachers available – in direct contradiction of all research that shows that experienced, stable teaching staff serve these students best.

Vasquez’s Twitter history also reveals his support of charter school’s legal victory in Washington State.

The Seattle Public School (SPS) board passed a resolution on March 2, 2016 reaffirming its commitment to public education and its opposition to charter schools.

The final paragraph of the resolution states:

RESOLVED, that the Seattle School Board of Directors (1) requests that the Legislature focus on its paramount duty to amply fund K-12 educational needs first as mandated by the McCleary decision; (2) opposes charter schools and charter school legislation; and (3) disapproves of the establishment of Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) status for former charter schools when operated by non-resident school districts.

No wonder Vasquez is trying to hide his charter connections.

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Dora Taylor

 

Related articles:

Seattle Public School Board candidates

The scoop on Seattle School Board Candidates Chelsea Byers and Omar Vasquez: Buyer Beware

Summit Sierra charter schools

The inherent racism of Summit “public” (charter) school

A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle

Serious student privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform

Summit (Sierra) charter school: The skinny on the Gates-backed school set for Seattle, Brad Bernatek (remember him?) and a host of others

Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning Pathways & the Gig Economy

Teach for America

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

Teach for America

A professor’s encounter with Teach for America

The grifters of corporate ed reform: KIPP charter schools with the aid of the DOE

The Broad Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools

The Broad Foundation: A Parent Guide to the Broad Foundation’s training programs and education policies

The Battle for Seattle, Part 2: Hijacked!

Bill Gates has spent $440M to push charter schools: Here is the list of recipients

Bill Gates funds the media, including the Seattle Times’ Education Lab, then secretly meets with them

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The Ugly Facts About Ed-Reform, Partisan Bickering and the Resistance

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I find it disturbing how quickly basic facts are flushed down the memory hole.

Yes, Betsy Devos is the extreme example of the type of privatizer destroying public education, but the Democrats – with Obama at the helm – opened the door.

Don’t believe me?

Take a look at Obama’s Digital Promise Initiative, whose purpose was to break open the education market for companies to sell personalized learning products to school districts. Why employ actual teachers, when computers and software can do the job.

How about the ESSA’s inclusion of “innovative assessments” – which edutech predators like iNACOL can’t wait to leverage into more online learning software and continuous testing in the classroom.

The ESSA also gave the charter lobby everything they wanted, and then some.

How can financially stressed public schools, always under the threat of being labeled “failures” based on test scores, compete with flush and unaccountable charter schools? Answer: They can’t.

I believe facts still matter and will fight alongside anyone who wants to protect our public schools, but I refuse to be a cog in anyone’s machine.

I won’t be participating in the partisan blame game, where public education plays the pawn. I’m over the constant maneuvering to score political points – while our schools burn to the ground, but neither of this country’s two cynical political parties seem to smell the smoke.

I’m also convinced it’s impossible to fight and win using the same structure that makes neoliberalism so destructive.

So don’t ask me to become a faceless member of your public education defending non-profit. Paying dues and then walking away isn’t enough for me now.

I’m also sick of powerful, god-like leaders sitting atop hierarchies which rob members of their voice, conscience, and agency.

How can we claim to care about democracy when we refuse to practice it?

If we are truly fighting against the commodification of public education, why would it be acceptable to treat members of our own groups as objects – either as an unintelligent mass that needs to be lead to the truth by an “enlightened” leadership or – at the most cynical – a captive audience to be manipulated for personal gain and advancement by the vanguard of a revolutionary dictatorship.

How can we claim to care about the unique gifts of every child and at the same time be afraid of our own individuality and power?

Barbara Deming – deep thinker, feminist, and champion of nonviolent social change – had this to say about the power of individuals:

If greater gains have not been won by nonviolent action it is because most of those trying it have, quite as Oglesby charges, expected too much from “the powerful”; and so, I would add, they have stopped short of really exercising their peculiar powers – those powers one discovers when one refuses any longer simply to do another’s will. They have stopped far too short not only of widespread nonviolent disruption but of that form of noncooperation which is assertive, constructive – that confronts those who are “running everything” with independent activity, particularly independent economic activity. There is leverage for change here that has scarcely begun to be applied.

If the solution was easy; we’d already have done it.

These are trying times. What used to work has failed us.

We’re scared. The question is what to do with this fear? I see two choices:

We can allow this fear to push us into a panic-stricken frenzy; forever reacting to the latest crisis, allowing those we oppose to set the agenda.

Fear also has a way of justifying tactics which compromise our integrity and over time robs us of our humanity.

Or

We can pause, go deep, and really consider Barbara Deming’s challenge to come up with a new “form of noncooperation which is assertive, constructive – that confronts those who are ‘running everything’ with independent activity…”

In it for the long haul.

Fighting back against ed-reform is going to take a lifetime. Undoing the damage and creating schools which foster face-t0-face democracy, will take even longer.

This is good news. We have the time to get it right.

Since the United States was built on the double fault line of genocide and racism, this is an opportunity to begin to right those wrongs; build on the lesson that ignoring past oppression guarantees more oppression in the future.

Flattening hierarchy, promoting individual agency, and increasing the public good means no one or any group gets tossed aside in the name of expediency.

There’s time to do our homework, to dig down and learn what has worked in the past and the powerful insights mixing in with the failures.

This is an opening to deeply learn our history. Get to know the labor radicals, socialists, populists, anarchists, and all the other colorful rebels of the past.

It’s also an opportunity to face and understand the ugly facts buried in the past: Manifest Destiny and genocide, lynching, eugenics, and the human/environmental carnage brought about by the industrial revolution and perpetuated by modern capitalism.

The architects of ed-reform have given us one clue to their system’s weakness: They love the idea of highly processed children, who will grow up to be widget-like adults.

Why?

Because beaten-down children, all taught from the same script, have the potential to create the most compliant worker class the world has even seen; afraid of authority, accepting of the master’s world view, and willing settle for anything.

Bootlicking is the career our business pleasing politicians are really getting our children ready for.

If there’s going to be any hope for a sane and equitable future, we desperately need to encourage and develop the independent, divergent thinkers among us. These are the individuals who will be the first to shake things up.

Want to be a rebel? Start buying books and reading. If you want to be a revolutionary, organize a reading group.

Crisis of courage. 

Unfortunately, teaching, as a profession, is on a different timeline.

I believe due to the recent alignment of technology and federal law, the United States is now on an accelerated track to diminish and ultimately eliminate the role of teacher as a professional career.

Instead, the idea of the teacher will be re-purposed. First, as digital facilitators. Later, the human component will be replaced all together with digital mentors and tutors. 

Teachers, at this point, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by standing up and fighting back against the push to destroy our public schools.

The only thing missing is the courage to do so.

Final thoughts.

The small bit of success I’ve experience as an activist has occurred by refusing to play the game and forcing my opponent to engage using my parameters and rules. Other critical elements have been: fearless friends, humor, and the willingness to let others join in and put their own spin on the action.

I believe all of us already have what’s needed to make change possible: a conscience and the ability to act. All we need is the courage to use these gifts.

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

 

 

ELO’s: How Community-Based Learning Advances the Cyber Education Agenda, Part 1

 

Editor’s note: Post republished with permission from Wrench in the Gears.

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ELOs: How Community-Based Learning Advances the Cyber Education Agenda

ELO’s are learning experiences that by definition happen OUTSIDE the classroom. This makes them a perfect foil for digital learning. These learning opportunities, pitched as experiential and hands-on, will readily capture the imaginations of students and parents who have been steamrolled by the test-and-punish system. In selling the 21stCentury “redesigned” ecosystem version of education, reformers will play up exciting partnership programs like robotics, filmmaking, and CTE apprenticeships. There will be allusions to educational technology, its importance for 21st century work force skills, but the extent to which this new version of public education relies on adaptive, data-mined modules will be downplayed.

This is the third installment in a series on learning ecosystems. For more information see these related posts: “Future Ready” schools and digital badges.

A key tenet of Ed Reform 2.0 is “anytime any place learning.” Detaching education from the normal school day and physical school buildings will permit the transfer of face-to-face classroom instruction to digital platforms. Once implemented, these systems of “personalized learning” will efficiently extract children’s data so their futures can be channeled through black box algorithms, while significantly reducing staff costs since online instructors can theoretically “teach” thousands of children at a time. If reformers were up front about it, “Future Ready Schools” would be a much harder sell. And since they are nothing if not expert at framing their issues, my belief is that they intend to use Extended/Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs) as cover for this planned cyber takeover. Most Americans would never willingly trade neighborhood schools for a chrome book education, but reformers will sell the public on project-based learning in communities while minimizing the central role devices are intended to play. Out-of-School-Time (OST) learning will be presented as a welcome relief, an antidote even, to the harm wrought by No Child Left Behind. It’s all part of the plan, so please don’t be fooled.

ELOs are learning experiences that by definition happen OUTSIDE the classroom. This makes them a perfect foil for digital learning. These learning opportunities, pitched as experiential and hands-on, will readily capture the imaginations of students and parents who have been steamrolled by the test-and-punish system. In selling the 21stCentury “redesigned” ecosystem version of education, reformers will play up exciting partnership programs like robotics, filmmaking, and CTE apprenticeships. There will be allusions to educational technology, its importance for 21st century work force skills, but the extent to which this new version of public education relies on adaptive, data-mined modules will be downplayed.

ELOs are vastly different from school-community partnerships of the past. We’re not talking about an organization working closely with a teacher or group of teachers and their classes on a unit of instruction- planning field trips, research opportunities, projects and presentations. This is not about collaboration, organizations coming INTO schools to do their work. No. ELOs are about sending students OUTSIDE schools, individually, to earn credit towards graduation by demonstrating competencies tied to set national standards. While a teacher may work with a student to develop an ELO plan and monitor their progress, they have no instructional role in the process. They are essentially case managers handling the paperwork.

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The Afterschool Corporation (TASC) is an ELO proponent. George Soros founded TASC in 1998 with funding from the Open Society Foundations. In 2012 TASC prepared a policy brief entitled “Learn Anytime, Anywhere: Rethinking How Students Earn Credit Beyond School Hours.” The document outlines strategies states can employ to expand opportunities for students to earn credit in alternative settings. Among those recommendations are:

  • Giving districts the ability to award school credit via proficiency based assessments.
  • Providing stimulus money to develop new credit-bearing ELOs.
  • Creating databases that match students to ELO providers.
  • Transferring public school funding to Out-of-School-Time education programs/partners. Tie funding to mastery rather than enrollment.
  • Encouraging the use of ELOs as part of school turnaround strategies.

I encourage you to investigate the amount of foundation support being poured into Out-of-School Time (OST) learning where you live. If it’s a major metropolitan area, my guess is there is quite a bit of money flowing. Does your city have a cool new maker space? Neighborhood robotics program? Culturally responsive creative writing center? 21st Century Community Learning Center? Are unusual things showing up in your library? Things like 3D printers and culinary programs? Maybe your town is a HIVE learning community or a LRNG city?

Once you have a sense of the OST programs and their funding sources, consider the following:

  • Are the foundations funding non-profit community-based learning spaces ALSO advocating for appropriate funding of our public schools, reduced class sizes, access to safe-healthy buildings and adequate instructional materials? And if not, why not?
  • What interest might those funders have in controlling the public education sphere? Do they influence what gets taught and what does not through their grant making?
  • How about those community partners? Does the existence of their organization or educational program depend upon continued denial of resources to the schools they serve?
  • Are the programs being offered by community partners something that would normally have been found IN a school 15 years ago?
  • Are your community’s OST or after school programs experimenting with digital badging?
  • What data are these partners collecting on students, and with whom is it shared?

ELOs further privatization interests, but in this case community-based non-profits and workforce partners are the ones who stand to benefit, not charter schools. This is one way Ed Reform 2.0 differs from Ed Reform 1.0. Years of budget cuts have taken their toll on neighborhood schools, and many districts serving majority low-income populations are no longer able to provide a well-rounded curriculum with arts, music, school libraries, sports, and extracurricular activities. As a result, schools have become reliant on public-private partnerships to fill gaps where they can.

In recent years the Community School movement has risen in prominence, and the ranks of organizations vying to meet the needs of students caught in intentionally defunded school systems has swelled. It should be noted that while ELOs are a significant component of Community School movement nationally, they are rarely part of the public discussion. You can read more about issues with a community school model here. It should be noted that Strive Together is a major player in this movement. Pushing pathways from cradle to career, Strive is a program of Knowledgeworks. Knowledgeworks, based in Cincinnati OH, is funded by the Gates Foundation and one of the most prominent advocates for the learning ecosystem model that relies on badges and ELOs.

Unless we call attention to it, few will question the growing role of Out-of-School Time, project-based learning in public education. Even if it means tacitly accepting that due to ongoing austerity this type of learning has less and less of a place WITHIN schools, people are likely to accept it because something is better than nothing. But by making this concession, rather than fighting for the well-resourced schools our children deserve, we normalize the starvation of neighborhood schools and lay the groundwork for the transition to a decentralized learning ecosystem. Schools are being hollowed out. Many of the activities we, as children, were fond of-clubs, plays, and creative writing-are being turned over to the OST sector. Certified teachers with knowledge of child development and pedagogy are being forsaken, abandoned in their device-filled classrooms and left to enforce the data-extraction process. We shouldn’t allow that to happen. We need to reclaim joy and bring it back INTO our schools. Once we start outsourcing credit, elective or core, to community partners the days of neighborhood schools are truly numbered.

Part two will provide background on the rise of ELOs as a tool of education reform as well as examples of how they are being implemented nationally.

– Wrench in the Gears

The Attack on Teachers Goes to College

Originally published on The Progressive website.

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The Attack on Teachers Goes to College

The dramatic lockout of faculty at Long Island University in Brooklyn this fall brought home the reality that what is happening in higher education is closely related to the attack on education in our K-12 public schools.

On August 31, 2016 the contract between the faculty on the Brooklyn campus and Long Island University (LIU) was due to expire. The negotiating team was told on that day if they did not accept the contract, faculty would be locked out.

The faculty members turned down the contract offer but did not vote to strike. In response, LIU cut off professors’ email accounts and health insurance. The professors were locked out of their classrooms and told they would be replaced. If faculty members went into the university buildings where their offices and classrooms were, they were told they could be criminally charged for trespassing.

Some of those faculty members had been teaching at LIU for twenty or thirty years.

As I listened to some of them express their shock at being treated so poorly to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, I was reminded of what I have heard K-12 teachers in schools across the country say about endless budget cuts, union-busting, and the threat of being replaced by less-skilled (and cheaper) employees.

One of the issues of concern in the LIU contract was a two-tier wage system that would pay new full time and adjunct instructors less. In addition, the university wanted to stop funding the Adjunct Benefits Trust Fund which helps adjunct professors buy health insurance.

After the lockout was announced, the school administration replaced the faculty with non-faculty employees, and placed advertisements on Monster.com for replacement instructors.

The students did not stand for the actions taken by the school administration and joined the teachers in protest, chanting,” LIU professors locked out, students walkout!”

On September 15, the twelve-day Long Island University lockout of the school’s faculty ended, but none of the issues in the dispute were resolved. The current contract was extended until May 31, 2017.

Faculty members were docked a full week of salary, which amounted to approximately the same value as the 2 percent raise they had asked for in contract negotiations. As LIU Professor Michael Pelias stated during an interview on Democracy at Work with Economist Richard Wolff, that same 2 percent raise, which would have gone to 600 people, is also equal to LIU President Kimberly Cline’s annual salary.

Undergraduates at LIU pay $33,678 per year in tuition. This does not include room and board. Students borrow approximately $35,000 to $45,000 by the end of four years.

The two-week conflict at LIU mirrors what has been happening in K12 public schools across the nation over the last ten years.

As Srividhya Swaminathan told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!,

“The whole notion that you could replace a faculty by advertising on Monster.com just flies in the face of what academia is actually about.

Public school teachers make a similar case about Teach for America, Inc., an organization that recruits recent college grads, provides them with five weeks of training and then populates charter schools and sometimes whole urban public school districts with these amatuer teachers. The recruits sign a two or three-year contract to remain in the program, and they are not required to have a degree in education or a related field, any expertise in the subjects they are teaching, or a desire to stay in the profession.

Consequently, TFA recruits add to churn and stress in the lives of our most vulnerable students. By design, TFA teachers have no particular loyalty to the community where they work, and they provide a loophole to allow “alternative certification” and waiving licensing criteria for states and schools that receive Title I funding.

Another goal of the LIU lockout was “keeping workers unorganized … even as their institutions are corporatized,” according to Deborah Mutnick– Academe magazine blog.

In K-12, charter schools generally do not allow unionization of school staff, and some promoters of charter schools openly express a desire to crush teachers’ unions. Stuart Fishelson told Democracy Now!,

“This is what corporations are trying to do to education. They’re trying to corporatize and remove the familiar and the important parts of learning.”

The same is true in K-12.

Charter schools are run by CEOs, not principals, along with an appointed board that imposes a corporate, top-down management style.

There are charter school chains such as Greendot, Imagine and the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) that draw profits from the school system. Teach for America had revenues of $318 million in 2012.

This is the corporatization of our public schools.

Charter schools receive very little public oversight, even though they are funded by public tax dollars. Charter schools also can be co-housed in public schools while paying little or no rent. They can use a school district’s website to advertise for students and benefit from other public resources. But charter-school students and parents do not have recourse to democratic mechanisms such as hearings by the district school board.

Other corporate interests that seek to make a profit from our education system—at the expense of real teaching and learning in the classroom—include such companies as Pearson, that sell standardized tests. In Seattle last year fifth graders took eight standardized tests and eighth graders took nine standardized tests. This did not include quizzes or tests created by a teacher directly relating to what was taught in the classroom. These were tests paid for by school districts and required by politicians who get donations from corporations with a stake in testing.

Then there are businesses, such as Zynega, which groom students for jobs in their companies through specialized education programs.

In public schools, and, increasingly, at the college level, crucial decisions are being made by people with little or no experience in education. In the case of LIU, according to Sealy Gilles on Democracy Now!, the LIU president has very little in the way of academic background. She sees herself as a corporate turnaround artist..”

We see the same scenario in the Los Angeles school district, where Eli Broad, the founder of the Broad Foundation, is a proponent of charter schools and believes schools should be run like a business. He favors retired military personnel and people with backgrounds in business, and wants them to run the nation’s schools. So he created the Broad Superintendents’ Academy, which produced several school turnaround “experts” such as Marie Goodloe-Johnson who was briefly Superintendent in the Seattle Public School district but was fired due to a financial scandal; Beverly Hall, former Superintendent of Atlanta public schools who was indicted by a grand jury in a cheating scandal; Jean-Claude Brizard,who received a vote of no confidence with the Rochester City School District and resigned from chief of Chicago Public schools after only seventeen months; LaVonne Sheffield who as Superintendent of Rockford Public Schools (RPS) was the subject of a lawsuit and soon resigned and left the district; and  Robert Bobb, the former Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit who also became the subject of  a lawsuit  because he was receiving money from the Broad Foundation during his tenure, which represented a conflict of interest.

These people were placed in school districts to close public schools and convert them into charter schools. They and others have been the “turnaround artists” of K-12 public schools.

“The other issue was academic freedom,” explains Deborah Mutnick on Democracy Now!. “This management has attempted more and more to encroach on curricular issues that really are the purview of the faculty.”

The same could be said of corporate-run K-12 schools. Standardized testing leaves much less room for K-12 teachers to develop and use their own lesson plans and curriculum.

Because of the pressure on districts to use tests associated with the Common Core or lose Title I funding, teachers are focusing more of their attention on test prep than providing a well-rounded education that includes the development of critical and creative thinking

Finally, the LIU walk-out resembles recent teacher strikes which have drawn the support of students and parents. Whether at LIU or in public schools across the country, when teachers go on strike not only for fair wages but also to fight for a better learning environment for their students, students, parents and the community stand with them.

We saw that in Chicago where parents and students marched with their teachers and in Seattle where parent groups formed quickly to join the strike lines and serve hot coffee and soup to the teachers.

It’s time for the teaching community, students, and parents to stand together in all realms of education and ensure the development of a well-rounded education that addresses the needs of all students.

-Dora Taylor

Dora Taylor is a Northwest Regional Progressive Education Fellow. She is a founding member and President of Parents Across America, and has co-authored two books, Digital Networking for School Reform and Left Behind in the Race to the Top: Realities of Education Reform

The US Department of Education’s Digital Promise to advance the ed-tech field and online learning in public schools

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Editor’s note: Cheri Kiesecker was a panelists for the Webinar: Stop the Ed Tech Juggernaut hosted by Parents Across America. Click here for links to the video recording and slides from the program.

-Carolyn Leith

The USDoE’s Digital Promise to advance the ed-tech field, CBE, and online education

In 2011 the US Department of Education (USDoE)  launched the nonprofit Digital Promise,  and Digital Promise helped create The League of Innovative Schools. (Click to see the map of Innovative Schools in your area).  Digital Promise and the League of Innovative Schools are involved with Relay Graduate School, Bloomboard, the use of standardized student hand gestures, real-time data from student white boards, data badges (micro-credentials) and Competencies. Click to see details.  According to former US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan’s speech, the nonprofit marriage of Federal Government and Edtech, Digital Promise was created ” to advance the education technology field”.

“This is not a task for government alone. We can create the environment for innovation. But experts in schools, research labs, and entrepreneurs big and small will do the difficult work of developing new technologies, getting them adopted in homes, schools, and districts across the country.

Digital Promise will aid that work by bringing together people from business, education, and the research community to advance the education technology field.
Even as we’re launching this new effort, a group of school districts have stepped forward to lead this transformation. We’re calling them the League of Innovative Schools.
Digital Promise will be a truly collaborative effort across all sectors.”

Arne Duncan, Sept. 16, 2011 Launch of Digital Promise  

However, launching  Digital Promise in the U.S. was not enough.  The nonprofit GLOBAL Digital Promise was  launched in 2013.  Global DP’s work “supports learner agency” and US DP and Global DP  have “a formal agreement and informal relationships between the two organizations [to] enable deep and fluid collaboration.”  One has to wonder, what kind of  information and resources are shared in this formal and informal relationship?

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Digital Promise’s roots go deeper than its launch in 2011

Digital Promise was previously authorized in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, and Arne Duncan reminded us of that at the 2011 Digital Promise launch when he said:

“I especially want to thank Representative John Yarmuth, for his leadership. Along with Senator Dodd, Representative Yarmuth worked to authorize Digital Promise in the Higher Education Opportunity Act. That’s the reason we’re all here today.”

The US Department of Education has been ACTIVELY engaged in promoting businesses, corporations, and edtech in public education.

In 2012 the USDOE joined with the FCC in creating “DIGITAL TEXTBOOK PLAYBOOK,” A ROADMAP FOR EDUCATORS TO ACCELERATE THE TRANSITION TO DIGITAL TEXTBOOKS“:

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The US Department of Education later followed up on its promise to advance the edtech field and accelerate the transition from textbook to online education with their Open Education Resources, #GoOpen initiative in 2015.  Once again the USDoE joined forces with others: Department of Defense (Federal Learning Registry) , Microsoft, Amazon, Edmodo,  and a host of others to deliver this “free” online curriculum.  You can see from the USDoE Press Release that it appears that Microsoft will be handling the interchange of data sharing.

The seemingly urgent push to transform education into a global workforce talent pipeline, creating k-12 badge pathways, allow workforce to “utilize student data and develop curriculum to meet market demand”,  measure 21st century (non-cognitive) soft skills and competencies,  creation of workforce data badges /credentials and Competency Based Education (CBE) seems to be coming from the many sectors mentioned in Digital Promise.

This excerpt from a 2015 NGA  letter to all states explains the workforce-education competency based transformation and also mentions the NH Innovative testing model as an example of future CBE assessments:

“Communicating the Change (page 14) A policy change to a CBE system is unlikely to occur unless a governor who supports a move toward CBE can communicate the need for change, the potential value of CBE, and strategies to overcome the associated challenges. The basic message a governor can communicate is that a CBE system is responsive to the learning needs of individual students. CBE would benefit students and families, teachers, communities, and businesses. Well prepared individuals have a greater potential to be productive members of society who better use taxpayer money by staying in the education system only for as long as necessary to meet their professional goals. Despite the appeal of CBE and its potential benefits, the structure does not fit within society’s current entrenched vision of education and existing policies.

State policymakers and the public at large habitually picture desks, a blackboard, and students facing a teacher at the front of the classroom when thinking of a typical K-12 educational environment. Higher education produces a similarly traditional vision of 18-year-olds in ivy-covered buildings. These systems do not work for enough of today’s students. CBE is one way to respond to the evolution in the demands of current students and offers a new way to overcome existing shortcomings. Governors are well positioned to lead and encourage a discussion on the potential value of a move toward CBE.”

“K-12 Policy Environment  – If governors want to discuss the benefits of CBE for K-12 students, they should emphasize the ability to provide more personalized instruction so that far more students can meet more rigorous and relevant standards, regardless of background, ability, or stage of development. CBE is designed to meet students where they are and get them the help they need when they need it so that they can master the defined standards of learning. In a CBE system, the support and incentives are in place to increase the likelihood that students have mastered content and are ready for the next step. Maine produced several communication resources to educate the public about its progress toward a CBE system. The Maine Department of Education home page prominently features the state’s plan, Education Evolving, for putting students first and a separate Web site devoted to CBE in the state.  In addition to providing easy-to-navigate resources, the state created several informational videos that explain what CBE is and how it is benefiting Maine’s students. Governors in other states can use similar resources and work with their departments of education to develop plans and tools to publicize the benefits of CBE to students, families, educators, and state and local policymakers.”

Governors who seek to move their states toward a CBE system should consider several policy changes to overcome the barriers embedded in the current system. In a CBE program, the role of the educator and how he or she delivers the content can look different from current practice. Educators must be able to guide learning in a variety of ways, not simply supply content. Changing the role of the teacher has significant implications for teacher-preparation programs, certification, professional development, labor contracts, and evaluation. Computer-based learning is likely to be even more important in a CBE system than in the current time-based system. In addition, robust assessment is a key element of CBE, designed to facilitate more flexible and better testing of students’ learning. Assessment is frequently tied to accountability in K-12; therefore, policymakers might have to reconsider what they want their accountability systems to measure.

Finally, policymakers who want to implement CBE will need to figure out how to fund the transition to such a system and create the right incentives for educators and administrators. If policymakers want to pay for student learning instead of seat time, they will have to fundamentally change the way they budget and allocate dollars to school districts and higher education institutions.”

“ To deliver high-quality instruction in a CBE model, educators require access to assessments that measure learning progress along the way so that they can modify their teaching based on each student’s progress toward mastering the desired content and skills. To draw on the power of those assessments in a CBE system, assessments should be offered on a flexible timeline instead of during one window at the end of the semester or school year. No state has yet figured out how to make the switch to such a model at the K-12 level, but New Hampshire is working toward that goal.

You can read more here.

…and remember that NGA is part of another nonprofit, launched at a USDoE education summit in 2005 and created to implement student-level data sharing in every state:  The Gates funded, Marc Tucker managed Data Quality Campaign, whose 10 founding partners are at the forefront of Common Core and data driven  accountability.  

And if that weren’t enough, there is also a WORKFORCE Data Quality Campaign, whose focus is using K-16 student data to fuel workforce needs. As you can see, they were “giddy” when “The U.S. Departments of Education and Labor released joint guidance to help states match data for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reporting. (For more on School Workforce and data badges see here, here, here, and here.)

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Data and Dollars

Aligning student data bases and workforce pathways is also in line with the US Department of Labor-Workforce Data Quality Initiative which plans to use personal information from each student, starting in pre-school, using the states’ SLDS data system.

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KnoweldgeWorks,  iNACOLEdutopia are just a few of the edtech organizations who have managed to influence policy and declare the need for online Competency Based Education, “personalized learning”, online “blended learning”, and measuring children’s social emotional soft-skills (SEL).

Keeping track of all the reforms and special interest groups is a difficult task. Luckily, there are a few maps for you to follow.  We suggest you look at the Global Education Futures map or do a quick search in the GEF Executive Summary.  Additionally, Silicon Valley has created a History of the Future playbook, listing the hurdles of incorporating ed-tech into education, they list the problem and what they did or plan to do, to “fix” it.

The push to advance online education does not take into regard the warnings and mounting evidence of health effects, inappropriate use of screen time, concerns over data privacy and profiling children, and the repeat studies that say online education does not enhance student learning and blended learning fares even worse.

Why then, is every sector promoting ed-tech, online competency based assessments and workforce data badges? ….Could it be the money?

Time Magazine: Screens in school a $60 Billion Hoax

EdWeek: Edtech is a $7.7 Billion Dollar Market

EdWeek: Sweetspots in K-12 assessment market, Computer Adaptive and non-academic assessments

McKinsey Global estimated that increasing the use of student data in education could unlock between $900 billion and $1.2 trillion in global economic value.

-Cheri Kiesecker

Questions We Should Be Asking About “Future Ready” Schools

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How far are we from the day we’ll be forced to rely on online education modules to inspire and excite the minds of young people; where badge collections replace diplomas; and virtual reality games substitute for Friday night dances, track meets, spelling bees, and school plays?

Editor’s note: Original post written for Wrench in the Gears and re-published with permission. Visit Wrench in the Gears for more information on the danger of “learning eco-systems.” -Carolyn Leith 

Questions we should be asking about “Future Ready” schools

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How far are we from the day we’ll be forced to rely on online education modules to inspire and excite the minds of young people; where badge collections replace diplomas; and virtual reality games substitute for Friday night dances, track meets, spelling bees, and school plays? How much time do we have before certified human teachers are replaced by “Task Rabbit” pathway designers and AI personal “tutors?” Before we lose all expectations for privacy surrounding how and when we access our educations? Before the entirety of our educational lives becomes consolidated under a unique ID number and its associated digital shadow?

Online learning is claiming ever-larger blocks of instructional time in bricks and mortar schools. Budgets prioritize technology purchases over investments in human staff and facilities. Increasingly responsibility for assessment is being taken away from teachers and placed under the purview of data dashboards and black boxes that monitor in minute detail our children’s academic and social-emotional “progress” towards standards we had no part in setting.

For all of these reasons, we need to take a critical look at school redesign programs that are showing up in communities across the nation. Our government is rolling these initiatives out right now in coordination with think tanks, philanthropies, and the education technology sector. If thousands of superintendents nationwide are signing on to “Future Ready Schools” it is imperative that as citizens we start considering the far reaching consequences a data-driven, technology-mediated system of public education will have for the health and wellbeing of our children and our democracy.

As we move into the era of the quantified self. I find myself worrying. I worry a lot. I worry that we should be asking questions, a lot of questions, and that our window for questioning is shrinking by the day.

Many who spend their days in our nation’s schools have been put into positions where they are almost compelled to welcome the concept of “school redesign.” They have been living for years in the test-and-punish nightmare that No Child Left Behind created. They’ve been coping with austerity budgets, toxic buildings, staff shortages, lack of respect, frozen wages, and the ongoing challenge of meeting the needs of students living in poverty with far too few resources at their disposal.

Current conditions in many of our nation’s schools are appalling, and that is by design. It is through this dissatisfaction with our current situation that they hope to accomplish a shift away from a “standardized” education based on a single high-stakes test given at the end of the year to a “personalized” digital education that employs ongoing online data collection as children progress through the curriculum year round.

So with that in mind, I invite you to consider the questions below. Hopefully they will give you some ideas you can use to start your own conversations with parents, teachers, and school board members in your own community. In my heart I believe the 21st century schools parents and human teachers desire for their children are very different from the version being pushed, behind closed doors, by the educational technology sector.

Questions we should be asking about school redesign and “Future Ready Schools:”

Technology-mediated education is considered to be a disruptive force. Many “innovative” 21st century education approaches seek to undermine traditional concepts like “seat time,” the Carnegie Unit, age-based grade levels, the centrality of teachers in classrooms, report cards, diplomas and to extend credit-based learning beyond the school building itself. Before moving forward with these ideas, shouldn’t there be a wider public discussion about which aspects of traditional schooling we want to retain moving forward? Disruption for the sake of creating new markets for businesses is an insufficient reason to dismantle neighborhood schools.

Why should we allow our children to be human subjects in this grand data science experiment? This is particularly troublesome given the fact that ethics codes for data scientists are not nearly as well developed as codes of conduct for bio-medical research.

What are the implications of expanded 1:1 device use and screen time on children’s health and emotional states?

How does the use of embedded “stealth” assessments contribute to the normalization of a surveillance society in the United States?

What overlap exists between data analysis used to monitor national security interests and data analysis used to assess educational content and activities in our nation’s schools? How does the Office of Educational Technology interface with the Department of Defense and how comfortable are the American people with those relationships? See xAPI or Tin Can or Douglas Noble’s 1991 extensively-researched book “Classroom Arsenal: Military Research, Information Technology, and Public Education” for additional background information.

As nano-technology advances make wearable devices more commonplace, shouldn’t parents have the right to refuse the collection of live data streams on behalf of their children? What types of monitoring (bio-metric and otherwise) have been enabled through the expanded presence of devices in our schools? Cameras, microphones, touch screens, and fit bits for example?

While personalized learning platforms tout their “individualization,” to what extent do these programs recognize our children’s humanity? As systems thinking becomes embedded within public education policy, are our children being valued as unique human beings possessed of free will, or merely as data points to be controlled and managed?

Feedback loops influence human behavior. In what ways could large-scale implementation of adaptive education programs and online educational gaming platforms contribute to the collective brainwashing of our children?

Personalized education means that algorithms decide what educational content your child CAN see, and what content they won’t see. Is it the duty of education to expose children to a wide range of content that will broaden their view of the world? Or is it the role of an adaptive learning program to feed the child information for which they have already expressed a preference? Consider the implications of a “Facebook” model of education.

How much data is too much? Data is never neutral. Who is collecting the data and to what end? Data is always a reflection of the ideology in which it is collected. Why should we trust data more than the professional expertise of human teachers?

We caution children about their online presence, but through the imposition of digital curriculum we are forcing them to create virtual educational identities at very young ages. Should that worry us? What are the implications of our children having digital surrogates/avatars that are linked to comprehensive data sets of academic and social-emotional information? Do we really understand the risks?

Who owns the intellectual property that students create on school-managed cloud-based servers? Do they have the right to extract their work at will?

What roles do teacher education programs and certification policies play in furthering a technology-mediated approach to public education?

Will students enrolled in private schools have their data collected at the same level as public school students? Is privacy something that will become ultimately be available only to the rich and elite? Will we allow that to happen?

Should it be the basic human right of all children to have access, if they choose, to a public education model in which humans teach one another in (non-digital) community in an actual school building?

-Wrench in the Gears

The Doublespeak of Ed Reform Regarding Charter Schools

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Originally published in The Huffington Post, by co-editor Sue Peters

I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t an intentional Catch 22 that some people are trying to trap our public schools in– setting them up to fail, making it impossible for them to be creative or independent, and then saying: “See! They’re losers! They don’t ‘innovate’! Sell them off to private enterprises!” 

While watching part of NBC’s “Education Nation” (aka the week-long made-for-TV ad for Waiting for ‘Superman) last month, I tuned into the Teacher Town Hall where a teacher from a charter school was asked what made her school successful. “Teachers at our school are given the freedom to innovate!” she replied brightly.

Hmm, I thought. Sounds great. So why aren’t the teachers in my children’s public schools given that same freedom?

Instead, they are increasingly being slipped into the full nelson of a standardized curriculum measured by an ever-increasing barrage of computerized tests, all imposed by a top-down district management. (It feels stifling just to write about it.) Then the education reformers point an accusatory finger at our schools, call them “failing,” and hold up charter schools as exemplars of “innovation.”

And that’s one of the first ironies — or hypocrisies — of the current national dialogue on education reform.

The biggest players in ed reform — President Obama, Ed Secretary Arne Duncan, billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad: the “Superman” crowd, let’s call them — keep pushing privately run charter schools as the answer to all that ails our public schools (the central theme of ‘Superman’). One of the main winning traits of charters, they say, is their freedom to “innovate.” Indeed, free of public and school district oversight and mandates, privately run charter schools are granted the right to create their own curricula and empower their teachers to, allegedly, “innovate.” (They’ve also been allowed to exclude and expel students who don’t perform to their liking, a serious flaw of charters that even Secretary Duncan has acknowledged.)

Understandably, charter operations like to tout this precious autonomy they are given. Green Dot School’s site states:

3. Local Control with Extensive Professional Development and Accountability Principals and teachers own critical decisions at their schools related to budgeting, hiring and curriculum customization.

Now, why aren’t our non-charter public schools being given the creative and managerial autonomy that these reformers value in charters? Instead, when it comes to influencing or running our school districts with their corporate management trained superintendents, or their agenda-laden grants, these same reformers impose strictures on our schools and kids that quash innovation.

For example, here in Seattle, why is our district, led by a reformist Broad Academy-trained superintendent, taking autonomy steadily away from individual schools and principals and centralizing it? Why is it telling our teachers they need to follow the central office mandated curriculum exactly? Why is it sending “visitors” from the central office to escort the school principal on pop-ins into classrooms to monitor teachers? (I’ve heard these are called “Learning Walks” — apparently a trademarked term.) I can understand a principal checking on her/his staff, but why the accompanying Thought Police?)

Some researchers are even determining where exactly in the classroom a teacher should stand in order to deliver the “perfect lesson.”

I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t an intentional Catch 22 that some people are trying to trap our public schools in: setting them up to fail, making it impossible for them to be creative or independent, and then saying: “See! They’re losers! They don’t innovate! Let’s sell these schools to the private enterprises of KIPP charters, Green Dot charters, Billy Bob’s Acme Charters & Co.!”

Unfortunately this is just one of many conflicting messages coming from this latest breed of ed reformers. Those who are driving the national dialogue about the direction of our kids’ public education — from President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and lurking in the shadows with their open checkbooks, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Waltons, the Fishers and the Dells — are saying one thing out of one side of their mouths and another thing out of the other.

Here are some other examples of ed reform doublespeak:

“CLASS SIZE DOESN’T MATTER (except in charters)”

How many times have we heard the reformers declare that “class size doesn’t matter”? They claim that an “excellent” teacher can somehow transcend overstuffed classrooms and reach all kids. If this were true, then why do private schools and charters tout smaller class sizes and individualized attention as a key advantage over public schools?

Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone reportedly has a school with class sizes that average 15 kids, with two licensed teachers to every classroom! That’s a private school — and every parent’s — dream. From the Oct. 13, 2010, New York Times:

In the tiny high school of the zone’s Promise Academy I, which teaches 66 sophomores and 65 juniors (it grows by one grade per year), the average class size is under 15, generally with two licensed teachers in every room. There are three student advocates to provide guidance and advice, as well as a social worker, a guidance counselor and a college counselor, and one-on-one tutoring after school.

And from the Green Dot charter company web site:

1. Small, Safe, Personalized Schools All Green Dot schools are small (no more than 560 students when fully developed), ensuring that each student will not go unnoticed. In addition, small schools are safe and allow students to receive the personalized attention they need to learn effectively. Classes at each school will be kept as small as financially possible with a target student to teacher ratio of 27:1.

So apparently class size does matter to ed reformers when it comes to charters, but somehow not when it comes to the rest of the kids in regular schools.

“AN ‘EXCELLENT’ TEACHER CAN TRANSCEND EVERYTHING!”

How often have we heard the line: “The single most important factor in a child’s academic success is the teacher”? Here it is in the recent “manifesto” of (soon to be former) District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and NY schools chief Joel Klein et al:

As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents’ income — it is the quality of their teacher.

And here’s NBC (in an Education Nation press release) parroting this line:

Research and school-based evidence around the country now confirms that the most important variable affecting the success of the student is the effectiveness of the teacher, and the second most important variable is the effectiveness of the principal. Those two factors far outweigh the socioeconomic status, the impact of parental involvement or class size.

Problem is, these statements are false.

The most significant indicators and influences on a child’s success in school are what’s going on in these kids’ lives at home. In other words, their socioeconomic background and home life. Of course academic ability is not determined by race, gender or economic status. But success — the possibility of a child being allowed to fulfill her or his potential — is necessarily influenced by how much support they get at home, the stability of this home life and whether or not this child comes to school hungry each morning.

For the ed reformers to say that none of this matters — all you need is an “excellent” teacher — is false and another rigged scheme: rigged for failure. They may as well be dunking teachers in water to see if they are witches.

It defies common sense to say that a teacher, however brilliant, can transcend all challenges a child brings to school, can navigate a classroom of any size and any needs, and if the child does not succeed in school (in ed reformspeak that only means doing well on standardized tests), it is clearly unfair and inaccurate to lay the blame entirely on the teachers.

A great teacher does make a difference, for sure. But a teacher alone cannot determine a child’s academic success.

Despite this repeated canard, it’s clear that Geoffrey Canada, one of ed reforms’ heroes, recognizes these facts. Why else would his HCZ offer all the wraparound services that it does — Baby College, medical and dental care for students and their families? This is a clear acknowledgment of the fact that a child in poverty needs a great deal more than a stellar teacher to have a fair shot at educational success.

“AN ‘EFFECTIVE’ TEACHER IN EVERY CLASSROOM (but 5 five weeks of training will do!)”

I also find it rather hypocritical for the ed reformers to say they care about pushing academic achievement for all kids, and measure the success of their reforms by how many kids go to college — one of Canada’s benchmarks for HCZ — and then turn around and utterly dismiss the higher education of professional teachers.

Returning to the increasingly silly “manifesto”:

A 7-year-old girl won’t make it to college someday because her teacher has two decades of experience or a master’s degree — she will make it to college if her teacher is effective and engaging and compels her to reach for success.

If master’s degrees are so useless, then why don’t we just eliminate all academic degrees in all fields and just hire “effective, engaging” young credentialed dentists and doctors too? Does anyone really need an MBA? Or a law degree, for that matter?

On the one hand the reformers say they want an “effective” or “excellent” teacher in every classroom. On the other hand they promote sending Wendy Kopp’s Teach for America, Inc. trainees — who have only five weeks of training and are only required to commit to two years on the job — into the most struggling and challenging urban schools in the nation. Only 34 percent of TFA recruits stay in the field for a third year. Teachers don’t hit their stride until about the fifth. So most TFA-ers quit before they have even become “effective” teachers. (Michelle Rhee herself is a TFA graduate who only stayed for a few years in the field, and tells some pretty damning stories about her own mistakes as an inexperienced teacher.)

If the ed reformers were serious about promoting and supporting excellent teachers in every classroom, they would support well-trained professionals who are committed to the kids and the profession for the long term. Instead they disparage dedicated lifetime teachers as dead wood and promote young short-termers as the salvation. And their incessant teacher-bashing utterly undermines any claims they may have of “supporting” teachers.

“MONEY DOESN’T MATTER (except in the Harlem Children’s Zone)”

“Money doesn’t matter” the reformers like to say. I think I even heard President Obama say that recently, alas. And yet, the most comprehensive example of a charter model, Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone, has an operating budget and net assets in the multi-millions.

Reports the New York Times:

In 2009, the Harlem Children’s Zone had assets of nearly $200 million, and the project’s operating budget this year is $84 million, two-thirds of it from private donations. Last month, the Goldman Sachs Foundation pledged $20 million toward constructing an additional school building. With two billionaires, Stanley Druckenmiller and Kenneth Langone, on the board, its access to capital is unusually strong.

Canada’s Zone, at least acknowledges that underprivileged kids need a great deal of support inside and out of the classroom and school in order to succeed. His program offers social support services and medical services to these kids and their families for years, which is great. But he is given millions and millions of dollars to do it. That gives the lie to all those who say that money is not part of the solution to creating better schools. It also gives the lie to the reformers’ teacher-bashing mantra that somehow an “effective” or even “excellent” teacher can transcend all society’s ills.

It does take money to hire enough teachers to reduce class sizes, to maintain safe and clean facilities, invest in solid and inspiring curricula and enrichment. That’s an indisputable fact. We as a nation have not made education a funding priority. All my life, schools have been holding bake sales, as the famous bumper sticker laments, scrambling to pay for basics. It is a national shame. And the Obama/Duncan lottery of Race to the Top is unconscionable in that it does not fund all 50 states equally or at all.

So here’s where I’m at with this: Everything good the reformers tout about private control of our public schools via charters could be given to our existing public schools without handing over the control and finances of our schools to private charter franchise operators.

Smaller class sizes, more creative autonomy for teachers, local autonomy for schools, non-standardizing curricula that allow for more innovation, better resources for the kids from greater allocations of money — all of this is possible in our existing schools, if our superintendent, school board and central administration office would allocate our school district’s resources properly. But they don’t — as the recent damning state audit of Seattle’s School District revealed. (That’s why a growing number of parents and The Seattle Times support a “No” vote on the school levy Nov. 2 — unprecedented in a town that always backs school levies).

ALL public schools should offer ALL these things to ALL kids, no private-charter franchise middlemen required, and no lottery required either.

— Sue Peters

Originally published in The Huffington Post, 10/25/10 by co-editor Sue Peters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

McCleary Crime Scene Special Session Coloring Sheet

 

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art courtesy of Susan DuFresne

As parents with kids in public school, it takes a tremendous amount of restraint when describing the just completed session of the Washington State Legislature.

A profanity laced tirade feels justified, maybe even appropriate. How else to explain the lunacy of the extreme arrogance and cowardice on display in Olympia?

Contempt of the McCleary Ruling

Much has been made of the Supreme Court fining the Legislature $100,000 a day for contempt of the McCleary ruling.

What’s not talked about is the Legislature’s refusal to even create a fund to collect the fines.

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The Governor was politely asked by the Supreme Court (see pages 8-10) to make sure the account and fines were collected. Inslee, showcasing his wishy-washy leadership style, decided not to rock the boat and let the Legislature wiggle out of this symbolic slap on the wrist.

Nothing stings more than a token fine, collected in imaginary dollars, deposited into a non-existent bank account.

Public School Funding

The next jaw-dropping absurdity was lawmakers’ approach to the public school funding crisis.

Members of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee held much hyped public forums – which not only managed to insult parents who have been patiently waiting and advocating for much needed funding for their resource starved schools – but seemed specifically designed to push the Senate’s preferred solution, a state property tax dependent levy swap.

The State Budget Director tried to excuse the continued foot dragging by stating:

State Budget Director David Schumacher even said early in the session that nobody expected lawmakers to meet the requirements of the McCleary decision until 2017 because the court set a 2018 deadline.

Surprising no one, the Legislature passed and Governor Inslee signed the infamous Kick-the-Can Plan. A perfect example of bipartisanship of the most craven sort.

Sorry public school students, no funding for you. Better luck next year.

Charter Schools

Confirming the Bizzaro World bubble which has sealed off the Capital from reality, charter schools received lavish attention from lawmakers.

Never mind that these schools have been:

  • ruled unconstitutional
  • serve less than a 1000 students and have been open for less than 8 months
  • operate under a legally dubious ALE scheme engineered by Randy Dorn and the Gates Foundation.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees perfectly sums up the inverted logic in Olympia.

Worth noting: Rees was the education advisor to Vice President Richard Cheney, afterwards moving on to work for Michael Milken in his education business. (Take a moment to let that sink in.)

“We celebrate the parents who led this charge, and the school and movement leaders who refused to take no for an answer,” said National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees. “Their amazing efforts on behalf of Washington’s students has led to one of the most remarkable victories in the history of this movement.”

Translation outside of Bizzaro World: The money we poured into PACs, lobbyists, and TV ads during Seahawks games finally paid off.

Lessons from the 2016 Regular Session

Public school parents, the system has failed us and our children. Nice isn’t working. Outrage is a fitting response. Time to say goodbye to get a long, to get a little strategy.

We must hold lawmakers and the Governor accountable for their criminal neglect of our kids and public schools. Every day, 1 million public schools students’ Constitutional rights are being violated.

Angry? We sure are.

Here at TRAP Headquarters, we demand lawmakers immediately begin to treat the Constitution as THE LAW as opposed to a suggestion which must be followed only when it’s convenient to do so.

If this isn’t possible, time to #ArrestTheLegislature.

Happy coloring.

-Carolyn Leith and Shawna Murphy, cofounders of TRAP (Teacher Retention Advocate Parents)

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Bill Gates has spent $440M to push charter schools: Here is the list of recipients

Male Hand Holding Stack of Cash Over Clouds and Sky

Per a previous post titled, “Before you can fund the charter school, you have to fund an advocacy organization that can create a climate for the charter school to exist”, Bill Gates has been busy for several years funding established organizations or creating new ones to funnel cash into a push to establish charter schools in Washington State and around the country.

To follow is a list of organizations and schools that have received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The organizations and schools with figures shown in bold relate directly to charter school promotional activity in Seattle and surrounding areas. For the amounts given to all other recipients, go to Google docs.

Stand for Children: $9,000,000 +/- (I got tired of counting and recounting)

Aspire Charter Schools: $21M +/-

National Council of La Raza : $32M +/-

Community & Parents for Public Schools of Seattle (CPPS): $159,440 (per the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website , “Purpose: to develop a strategic plan for building a dynamic parent network that can embrace and catalyze change within Seattle Public Schools”, meaning integrating charter schools into Seattle, particularly in the minority communities.)

Charter School Growth Fund: $5M

University of Minnesota

New York Charter School Resource Center Inc

Chicago Charter School Foundation

Success Academy Charter School: $400,000

Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund

St. HOPE Academy

Local Initiatives Support Corporation

Thomas B. Fordham Institute: $7M

New Schools Fund dba New Schools Venture Fund: $93M +New Schools Fund dba New Schools Venture Fund: $93M +/-

Progressive Policy Institute

University of Washington Foundation: $1,089,761 (Lot of papers and “studies” came out of the UW supporting charter schools. Also a Teach for America, Inc. training ground was set up in the School of Education.)

GreatSchools, Inc.: $9M +/

Perspectives Charter School

Noble Network of Charter Schools: $2M +/-

California Charter Schools Association: $6M +/-

NCB Capital Impact

Progress Analytics Institute

High Tech High Foundation

Keys to Improving Dayton Schools, Inc.

Cesar Chavez Public Policy Charter High School: $1.6M +/-

Pacific Charter School Development Inc.

Charter Schools Policy Institute: $200,000

Charter School Leadership Council: $800,000

Illinois Network Of Charter Schools: $1.4M +/-

Stanford University: $12M +/- (Charter school “studies” were produced here. Unfortunately for Gates, the most well known study Stanford produced, the CREDO Report, stated charter schools were either the same or lower performing than public schools.)

RAND Corporation: $7.5M +/-

National Alliance For Public Charter Schools: $12.5M +/-

Green Dot Public Schools: $9,675,588 (One  was approved for Seattle.)

KIPP, Inc charter schools.: $10,000,000 (KIPP charter schools were touted by state legislators as the best thing since sliced bread. Sad day for them, they’re not and none were approved for Washington State.)

Institute for Research and Reform in Education Inc.: $11M +/-

Marquette University

Aspira Inc of Illinois

Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools: $670,000 +/-

Charter Fund Inc dba Charter School Growth Fund: $57.5M +/-

California Charter Schools Association: $6.5M +/-

New Schools for New Orleans Inc: $8.6M +/-

Houston Area Urban League Inc

District of Columbia College Access Program

Newark Charter School Fund, Inc.: $3,595,070

National Association Of Charter School Authorizers: $15M +/-

Trustees of Dartmouth College

Local Initiatives Support Corporation

Texas Charter School Association: $1.6M

FSG, Inc.

New York City Charter School Center: $4.7M +/-

Friendship Public Charter School

New Visions for Public Schools, Inc: $73.5M +/-

School District of Philadelphia

Denver School of Science and Technology Inc

The Arizona Charter Schools Association: $200,000

New York Charter Schools Association Inc: $204,988

Partners for Developing Futures Inc.

Mastery Charter High School

Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools: $650,000

League of Education Voters (LEV) Foundation: $2,586,378

Colorado Education Initiative

Black Alliance for Educational Options Inc.

100 Black Men of America, Inc.

Colorado League of Charter Schools: $818,471

The Boston Educational Development Foundation, Inc.

E.L. Haynes Public Charter School

The King Center Charter School

Rocketship Education: $200,000

Georgia Charter Schools Association Inc.: $250,000

Jumoke Academy Inc

Denver Public Schools: $4,001,999 (The Seattle Public School board members took a trip to Denver a few years ago to visit charter schools. They came back with rave reviews about KIPP charter schools.)

Hartford Public Schools

Spring Branch Independent School District

Achievement First Inc.

Philadelphia Schools Project

Boston Private Industry Council Inc

American Federation Of Teachers Educational Foundation: $10M The AFT had Bill Gates as their main speaker when their convention was in Seattle.

Harvard University: $33.6M +/- (Lots of papers and “studies” favorable to charter schools were produced at Harvard for Eli Broad and Bill Gates.This number is based on grants tagged for K12 education and doesn’t include community grants)

Washington State Charter Schools Association: $10.5M +/-

Mississippi First Inc.

CHIME Institute

Seneca Family of Agencies

Summit Public Schools: $8,000,000

Spokane School District #81: $525,000 

Children’s First Fund, The Chicago Public School Foundation

LEAP Innovations

East Lake Foundation, Inc.

New Schools for Chicago

Low Income Investment Fund

Fund for Public Schools Inc

Friends of Breakthrough Schools

Puget Sound Educational Service District: $27.5M +/- (See CCER, the Road Map Project and the loss of student privacy)

Franklin-McKinley School District

Craft3

The list above does not include Teach for America which Bill Gates granted $2.5M to open an office in Seattle and the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) that came to town with their dog and pony show bashing teachers and trying to make way for Teach for America. Bill Gates has granted that group $12M+/- between 2009 and 2013.

Also see The Fordham Institute and the National Council on Teacher Quality: Manipulating Teacher Layoffs (& Union-Busting?).

It is also interesting to note that the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) recently received $1,743,064.

For the list with all of the numbers see Google docs. The list was put together by a Parents Across America Portland member using information provided at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Awarded Grants website.

So, if Gates paid his fair share of taxes in our state rather than be the man behind the curtain, would it help us fund public schools adequately?

My guess is “YES!”.

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

Check out Mercedes Schneider’s post to find additional expenditures made by Bill Gates pertaining to charter schools:

Who Does Gates Fund for “General Operating Support”?

 

System Failure: Charter Schools in Louisiana

fail-box-illustration-design

Since 2005, approximately $700 million in public tax dollars have been spent on charter schools that currently have not achieved a C or better on the state’s grading system.

New Orleans was to show the success of the privatization of public schools after the takeover of the system following Hurricane Katrina. See the introduction to the Shock Doctrine titled Blank is Beautiful: Three Decades of Erasing and Remaking the World to find out the root of the corporate takeover of the New Orleans public school system.

The so-called success of charter schools in New Orleans never happened and in fact, it has been a disaster. See The Cruel Hoax of “Choice” With Charter Schools, So much for school choice in New Orleans and elsewhere, and Rethinking Schools interview with Karran Harper Royal titled Colonialism, Not Reform: New Orleans Schools Since Katrina.

To follow is a report issued in May of 2015 by the Center for Popular Democracy and the Coalition for Community Schools that describes some of the details of the failure.

System Failure: Louisiana’s Broken Charter School Law

Underinvestment in Oversight Leaves Louisiana’s Charter Schools Vulnerable to Financial Fraud and Academic Failures

Executive Summary

In the ten years since Hurricane Katrina, post-storm changes to the state’s charter school law have dramatically grown the number of charter schools in the state.

Since 2005, charter school enrollment in the state has grown 1,188 percent. Through this growth, the Louisiana Department of Education’s Recovery School District—created to facilitate state takeover of struggling schools—has become the first charter-only school district in the country, with other states lining up to copy its model. Louisiana taxpayers have invested heavily, paying billions of dollars to charters and state takeover schools since the storm, including over $831 million in the 2014/2015 school year alone.

The rapid growth and massive investment in charter schools has been accompanied by a dramatic underinvestment in oversight, leaving Louisiana’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers at risk of academic failures and financial fraud. The state’s failure to create an effective financial oversight system is obvious, as Louisiana charter schools have experienced millions in known losses from fraud and financial mismanagement so far, which is likely just the tip of the iceberg. According to standard forensic auditing methodologies, the deficiencies in charter oversight throughout Louisiana suggest tens of millions of dollars in undiscovered losses for the 2013-14 school year alone.*

In this report, we identify three fundamental flaws with Louisiana’s financial oversight of charter schools:

Oversight depends too heavily on self-reporting by charter schools or the reports of whistleblowers. Louisiana’s oversight agencies rely almost entirely on audits paid for by the charters themselves and whistleblowers. While important to uncover fraud, neither method systematically detects or effectively prevents fraud.

The general auditing techniques used in charter school reports do not uncover fraud on their own. The audits commissioned by the charter schools use general auditing techniques designed to expose inaccuracies or inefficiencies. Without audits specifically designed to detect and uncover fraud, however, state and local agencies will rarely detect deliberate fraud without a whistleblower.

Inadequate staffing prevents the thorough detection and elimination fraud. Louisiana inadequately staffs its charter-school oversight agencies. In order to carry out high-quality audits of any type, auditors need enough time. With too few qualified people on staff—and too little training for existing staff—agencies are unable to uncover clues that might lead to fuller investigations and the discovery of fraud.

As the state has insufficiently resourced financial oversight, it has failed to create a structure that provides struggling schools and their students with a pathway to academic success. While underinvesting in the dissemination and implementation of successful strategies to lift academically struggling schools up, state lawmakers have continued to invest in both charter expansion and conversions of public schools to charters. Coupled with an unwillingness to help failing schools succeed, the rapid growth of charters has failed Louisiana children, families and taxpayers. Since 2005, approximately $700 million in public tax dollars have been spent on charter schools that currently have not achieved a C or better on the state’s grading system.

In this report we identify two fundamental flaws with Louisiana’s academic oversight of charter schools:

■ Underinvestment in systems that help struggling schools succeed. Lawmakers and regulators have invested in systems that set high standards and then close schools that fail to meet them, rather than helping them improve to meet the standards. This investment in a severe accountability system does not support schools achieve academic success.

■ Heavy reliance on data that is vulnerable to manipulation. The state’s academic oversight system relies largely on sets of data that can be manipulated by regulators, authorizers, or the charters themselves. Without reliable data, schools, parents and the public have no way to accurately gauge academic quality at their schools.

To read this report in full, go to Popular Democracy.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Noam Chomsky on public school privatization in a nutshell

This is what we have seen happen in New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and New York.

The following was posted on the Seattle Opt Out Facebook page:

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Manufacture Crisis —> Privatize Public Resources

1) Manufacture Crisis: budget, edu-performance and/or consequences of NCLB/grant compliance failure (often measured against known unattainable standards)
2) Fail close/take over public schools
3) Replace with charter schools linked to private CMOs (Charter Management Organizations), corporate eduservice providers (Pearson) and for-profit online learning. Staff with Teach for America temps who are indebted recent college graduates.

Done.

Dollarocracy

Dollarocracy Perfecting the Propaganda State through Dollarocracy

We saw this when the WalMart Walton’s and Bill Gates poured millions of dollars into our state to bring in charter schools, a privatization of a publicly funded system.

We also saw this with the GMO initiative that would have required the labeling of our foods in the state of Washington.

Per McChesney, one of the authors of the book “Dollarocracy”, from a report in the Evergreen State College student newspaper:

McChesney explained how the term dollarocracy captures the “crisis” in American politics today. “Instead of ‘one person, one vote,’ you have ‘one dollar, one vote,” he said. “Those with lots of dollars have a great deal of power, and those with no dollars have no power.”

McChesney and Nichols lectured about the role money has in American politics and how the judicial decision commonly known as Citizens United has increased the influence money has in politics.

“Washington state is the number one example in the United States of the crisis of Dollarocracy,” Nichols said, referencing Initiative 522, concerning labeling of genetically modified foods, which did not pass in the Nov. 6 election. Nichols explained that the initiative failed, despite the overwhelming public opinion support for genetically modified foods to be labeled in stores. “You couldn’t find somebody that was against it.”

Nichols also said that companies like Monsanto, ConAgra Foods, Coca-Cola, and General Mills, “paid to make people so confused, so uncertain, so troubled… that they would vote against it.”

The Seattle Times reported the “No on 522” campaign raised over $21 million, a record in Washington state, while “Yes on 522” raised just over $6 million.

To follow is a great discussion by the authors, Evergreen alum Robert McChesney  and John Nichols, on the roots of the big money takeover of our country, how it has affected what used to be a democracy in the United States and what needs to be done to change the course we’re on.

This talk was held at Evergreen State College in November, 2013.

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

During my Sunday morning activity of randomly checking out information on the internets, I came across this video of Thom Hartmann talking about his book “The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America–and What We Can Do to Stop It”.

This is a good video to watch after taking in what McChesney and Nichols say about where we are and how to get out of it.

This is a description of Hartmann’s talk:

Looking at American history, Hartmann, host of The Big Picture, sees that roughly every four generations, catastrophe strikes. To avert the next economic and social disaster, he urges us to reject the destabilizing profit motives of corporations, and embrace the ideals of democratic civil values that once defined the nation.

 

There is also another good discussion about the book Dollarocracy, this time about the influence of big money on local news, on Book TV. Sound familiar Seattle?