The latest cash grab : Teacher/charter school villages

gentri4

 

TFA recognizes the value of the Centers concept and has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Seawall Development Company to replicate the Centers for Educational Excellence model across the country. Philadelphia, along with Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, is a TFA-identified growth area, and TFA has committed to being the lead commercial tenant in these developments, with their corps members making up the majority of residential tenants.

TFA: The New Gentrifiers

As I noted in a previous article titled The Battle in Seattle Against Yet Another Charter School Invasion, a developer plans to build a project that includes retail, low income housing and at one time, a charter school, the Green Dot charter school chain, in Southeast Seattle.

Based on further research, I found this is not an anomaly but a national trend.

Bankers, developers and real estate brokers are working together with Teach for America (TFA) and charter school enterprises to offer low income housing mainly for Teach for America recruits and other teachers who do not have adequate pay for clean and safe housing along with free space for charter schools through city and state support. These are our tax dollars paying for highly lucrative business ventures where all the profit goes back to the bankers, developers and brokers.

These people are not developing these projects out of the goodness of their hearts, they are doing it for, of course, the money.

dollars2.jpg

So how does this work?

Basically, developers will get money from the city or state to provide low income housing in blighted areas or low-income communities. A charter school is brought in to sweeten the pot along with teachers who will begin the process of gentrification.

In a few years, the local community becomes popular for basically the creative class or white middle and upper classes and before you know it, you have a Soho, a Mission district in San Francisco, a Northeast Portland.

Property values begin to rise and an investment made with public money goes into the pockets of the bankers, developers and brokers.

For Teach for America, Inc. it’s a perk. They can retain recruits at very low pay because they now have “affordable housing” for the working poor and charter schools can come in with little to no cash required because of city and/or state subsidies.

Sweet deal for the 1%, not so good for the rest of us.

When the value of the property around the school begins to skyrocket, those who were to benefit from the developments will not be able to afford to live anywhere near the original charter school/low income housing sites.

And, if a charter school goes belly up, as a large percentage of them do, less money has been lost and the space is move-in ready for the next charter school venture.

According to an article titled Why Are Community Development Lenders Financing Charter Schools?  published in ShelterForce:

Some CDLF [Community Development Lenders] practitioners also believe that charter schools are conducive to urban revitalization because they provide middle-class families with “safe” educational alternatives that encourage them to move to and stay in urban areas, helping to break up the concentrated poverty found in many of those areas. Research documents that charter schools are used by higher-income, primarily white urban residents who do not want to send their children to local public schools serving large numbers of low-income, black and brown students.

Other studies provide evidence that charter schools are used by more affluent whites in non-urban communities as well, as a means of facilitating segregation. More generally, numerous studies have found that charter schools lead to increases in segregation in education by race, ethnicity, and income, across metropolitan areas

  1. It’s Where the Money Is

CDLFs are mission-driven organizations, but they also respond to the market. There are substantial and growing public and private incentives for investing in charter schools. Those incentives are particularly attractive given the limited availability of other forms of subsidy.

One of the most effective forms of subsidy to encourage CDLFs to support charter school expansion is the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDOE) Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities (CECSF) program. The USDOE awarded $280.9 million in CECSF grants between 2002 and 2015 “to public and nonprofit entities to develop innovative credit enhancement models that assist charter schools in leveraging capital from the private sector.” CDLFs received at least 75 percent of these CECSF grant dollars

Indeed, the program has been very successful in leveraging private capital with federal funding sources. LISC calculated that, through 2012, approximately $250 million in CECSF dollars leveraged an additional $3.2 billion in charter school facility financing, with private investors attracted by the lower risk and greater financial profitability.

0dqonuEb_400x400

Before heading to other cities where this is happening, I thought it would be worth noting that the Homesight low-income housing development in Southeast Seattle that was to house Green Dot charter school and populated by Teach for America recruits has one financial backer of note, Bill Gates. Bill Gates is a proponent of school privatization. The Gates Foundation provided Homesight with $100,000 to support the Regional Equity Network to advance a community-led agenda in the Puget Sound region”* and $16 million to Green Dot “to support the expansion of Green Dot Public Schools into the state of Washington”. Also of note, two of Washington Teach for America’s “Supporters” are Goldman Sachs (who finances several of these charter school/low income developments around the country) and Avenue Properties.

So, let’s see what’s been happening elsewhere.

gentri2

One of the first examples of these business ventures was one Cory Booker pushed back in 2012. Cory Booker is no friend of public education because of his ties to the donor class so this comes as no surprise to those who have been following him.

As the then Mayor of Newark, Cory Booker stated at the groundbreaking of the Teachers Village per NBC New York:

“This is how we reinvent and rebuild a great American city,” Mayor Cory Booker declared when ground was broken for Teachers Village, a downtown development of eight buildings planned to have 200 apartments for teachers, three charter schools, a day care center and stores. It’s being designed by architect Richard Meier, a Newark native best known for designing the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The $150 million price is being covered by a combination of private and public funds.

In the next paragraph, the reporter writes:

The hope is that schools will be better with teachers who live in the community, and that it will create a middle-class enclave in a city where nearly one-third of families with children live in poverty. Middle-class residents can bring neighborhoods stability, attract more businesses and ultimately improve tax revenue.

Per New Jersey Business:

The project was awarded nearly $40 million in Urban Transit Hub tax credits from the state Economic Development Authority and allocated $60 million in federal New Markets tax credits for the school portion. Other public financing came from the city of Newark, the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and federal Qualified School Construction Bonds, according to an EDA memo. Private financing came from Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial Corp., TD Bank and New Jersey Community Capital, Beit said. In the early months of the recession, Beit said, Berggruen’s unwavering commitment to the project — Berggruen said he considers his investment “long-term” — brought everyone else together.

Teachers Village now has three charter schools.

All of this out of public coffers at an estimated $200 million.

Originally, leaders of the teachers’ unions were all for Teachers Village until they came to realize the concept was not for public school teachers but for Teach for America recruits. (It’s hard to imagine these folks were that naïve.)

According to Ed Week in an article titled Projects Couple Affordable Teacher Housing With New School Construction:

Newark Teachers Union President John M. Abeigon says the union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, initially backed the project because it thought it would benefit more traditional public school teachers. At the start, he says, the developers had emphasized its planned support for such educators.

But Abeigon contends that the project then became aligned with what he calls the “corporate charter school movement.” For evidence, he cites the complex’s three charter schools and the fact that most of the apartments are rented to charter teachers and staff.

Abeigon’s concerns are echoed by Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT.

“This was supposed to be a way to recruit and support and retain Newark public school teachers,” she said. “That was the basis on which then-president of the Newark Teachers Union Joe Del Grosso [now deceased] and the AFT said this makes sense, because we really do believe in the idea of teachers living in the communities in which they teach. But Teachers Village came to be about charter teachers alone and that was dead wrong.”

Abeigon also argues that the complex’s close ties to charter schools belie the developers’ professed commitment to the long-term health of the community—a sentiment shared by other critics of the project.

“It’s a known fact that traditional public school teachers, who I refer to as career educators, stay longer than charter school teachers, so their commitment and investment in the community is that much greater,” he said. “Those living in Teachers Village are going to be turnaround tenants. They’ll do their two-year stints with [Teach For America] or a charter school, beef up their résumés, and then go get a job elsewhere. They aren’t going to really be invested in Newark.”

And in New York, another housing development. Per Affordable Housing Finance:

A new vibrant, mixed-use development that is providing much-needed affordable housing, a charter school for underserved students, and nonprofit office space has been built on an underutilized area of a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) site in East Harlem.

Jonathan Rose Cos., Harlem RBI, and Civic Builders partnered to create the East Harlem Center for Living & Learning on the site of George Washington Houses. The development includes the 89-unit Yomo Toro Apartments; the DREAM Charter School…

The total development cost for the project was approximately $84 million, including $30 million for the Yomo Toro Apartments. The affordable housing portion was financed through low-income housing tax credit equity provided by Enterprise Community Investment and sourced by JPMorgan Capital Corp., first and second mortgages from the New York City Housing Development Corp. (HDC), a loan from New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Reso A funding from City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

In San Diego, there was a push to revise code requirements that would allow a charter school to be a part of a low-income housing development.

The community had issues with the school bringing with it additional unwanted traffic to the neighborhood causing the variance for the charter school to be tabled.

The difference between what happened in San Diego and what occurred in Seattle is that the variance request was reviewed by way public meetings in San Diego, not behind closed doors as was done in Seattle.

Thanks to the efforts of former School Board Director Sue Peters, the school board and the public were alerted to the second attempt by Green Dot charter school to receive special treatment by the City of Seattle in terms of receiving a code variance.

RBHGroup-logoThe RBH Group, who were the developers for the Newark project and whose CEO Ron Beit sits on the board of Teach for America, Inc. in New Jersey, then went to Hartford, Connecticut.

According to a report published by Goldman Sachs:

RBH Group, the developer of Newark’s Teachers Village, announced the completion of financing and the start of construction on Hartford’s Teachers Corner, a mixed-use apartment complex in downtown Hartford aimed specifically at teachers

RBH Group’s founder and president Ron Beit said, “Teachers Corner represents a public and private partnership committed to urban reinvestment, building affordable and workforce housing and contributing to revitalizing the center of the city.

Following the Teachers Village project in Newark, NJ, the RBH Group, through its joint venture with the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, partnered with Prudential Social Investment Group, the City of Hartford and State of Connecticut to build the $20M project

Funders include City of Hartford, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, State Department of Housing, Capital Region Development Authority CRDA, State Department of Economic and Community Development, Prudential Social Investment Group and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group.

In Baltimore, per Urban Land magazine:

The $21 million renovation of a long-vacant, century-old former tin box manufacturing plant in Baltimore’s Charles Village neighborhood was completed in summer 2009 by Seawall, founded by father and son Donald [Previously on the Teach for America, Baltimore Advisory Board] and Thibault Manekin. The project includes 40 apartments—ten reserved as affordable—and 35,000 square feet (3,250 sq m) of commercial space.

All the apartments are rented to school teachers at substantial discounts to market rental rates, and all office space—with the exception of Seawall’s headquarters—is leased to education-related organizations, including Teach for America.

Over 70 percent of the residents are members of Teach for America who work in Baltimore’s public school system, Morville notes. Several others are participating in the Baltimore system’s City Teacher Residency program, and some teach in parochial schools…

The financing mechanism that really made the project pencil out was the pairing of the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) with federal and state historic tax credits, Morville says. The project is located in a census tract defined as “highly distressed” under the NMTC program.

And in San Jose:

Developer proposes project with charter school, affordable housing for San Jose ‘urban village’.

With affordable housing and a [Aspire] charter school, the mixed-use project would be a first for San Jose and transform a currently vacant industrial property in the Alum Rock area.

As with charter schools and the Common Core Standards, venture capitalists are cashing in on public school funding making school districts even more strapped for cash while desperately trying to keep schools together, employ certified teachers and adequately staff their schools.

Make no mistake about it, these “teacher villages” are not about the children or the communities they live in. This is yet another big grab for cash by financial enterprises.

Dora Taylor

*Post Script:

It’s a devious web that Bill Gates and others weave particularly in the Seattle area where many of us caught on several years ago to the efforts by a few to privatize public schools in the US.

For that reason, it’s important to explain some connections.

Homesight and Regional Equity Network (REN):

Tony To, the Executive Director of Homesight is a co-chair for REN. Thus, the grant from Gates describes two receiving parties, Homesight and REN.

 

Recommended articles:

SIX REASONS WHY WE DON’T WANT GREEN DOT CHARTER SCHOOLS IN SEATTLE

This Is What Happens When You Criticize Teach for America: An internal memo reveals how TFA’s obsessive PR game covers up its lack of results in order to justify greater expansion.

Why Are Community Development Lenders Financing Charter Schools?

Public Schools to Community Development (A highly recommended deep dive into what the thinking is on the part of the moneyed community.)


Critics rip plans for $22M charter school at Cayce Homes

Who Will Live In Newark’s Teachers Village? TFAers

TFA: The New Gentrifiers

Policy Link: A recent find that shows who is connected to what organizations in Washington State

Projects Couple Affordable Teacher Housing With New School Construction

WHEDco Bard Academy Charter School to share space in Bronx with affordable housing and music center in 2013  

It’s an East Harlem DREAM come true: a new charter school beneath affordable housing 

EMAILS REVEAL THE “GATES MACHINE” IN ACTION AFTER THE WASHINGTON STATE SUPREME COURT’S DECISION THAT CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL

BILL GATES IN WASHINGTON STATE: MAYORAL CONTROL AND CHARTER SCHOOLS

WHAT BILL GATES HAS SPENT SO FAR IN OUR STATE TO SUPPORT CHARTER SCHOOLS

Washington State: Charter School Backers Want to Oust Judge Who Authored Anti-Charter Decision

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Six reasons why we don’t want Green Dot charter schools in Seattle

no_privatization

The Green Dot charter chain tried to sneak through a project to open a high school in Seattle’s south end as they had done with a middle school last year. Southeast Seattle is made up of minority communities which create a rich and diverse culture adding to the fabric of Seattle. Green Dot charter school franchise targets minority communities with the promise that they, and they alone, can provide for students the best education possible. This has not been the case.

When some community members found out about a plan that the Green Dot charter chain was to be part of a development in Southeast Seattle, red flags were raised and a zoning variance that Green Dot charter school was trying to push through the city came to a halt.

It was pointed out that the requested variance, which was being pushed through by someone in the Department of Neighborhoods with no authority to do so, was only applicable to public schools under the purview of the school district and therefore Green Dot, being a charter school, could not receive a zoning variance for the location they had chosen.

The Green Dot middle school received a variance for the Southeast Seattle location last year but that was done under the radar and illegally with the assistance of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

As former Seattle School Board Director and co-founder of this blog Sue Peters states about the charter high school which is applicable to the junior high charter school as well:

Green Dot is violating the law. They are asking for a waiver from zoning law called a departure. But they have no legal right to make that request. Only the Seattle School District can legally do so, according to city law — specifically Seattle Municipal Code 23.79.002. Yet someone in the City worked with Green Dot behind the scenes and granted them one waiver already and want to grant them another.

City law (SMC 23.79) also states that the advisory committee that makes these zoning determinations must include a representative from the Seattle School District. That did not happen. So it was convened unlawfully by the Department of Neighborhoods.

Charter schools are also required to comply with local and state and federal law (See RCW 28A.710.040).

So Green Dot is committing violation after violation. It is never a level playing field with charter operators and backers. Too often they want rules and laws broken or special treatment that truly public schools are not granted. And then they have the audacity to claim to make apples to apples comparisons with truly public schools.

When the flag was raised about the Green Dot charter franchise requesting a variance for a high school in Southeast Seattle, the Seattle School Board unanimously passed a resolution  that charter schools should not be afforded a variance because they are not considered public schools. For this school board vote, Director Zachary DeWolf recused himself because of his involvement as a Commissioner with the Seattle Housing Authority, the governing body that approved to sell city land to Homesight which is a development and financial group.

You can view that portion of the Seattle School Board meeting at 1:04:00:

It is interesting to note who is on the board of Homesight. On the board are Natalie Hester, Co-founder and Director of Impact Public Schools, an organization that promotes charter schools and is also on the board of Washington State Charter Schools Associations (WA Charters), Jen Wickens, CEO of Impact Public Schools, who was formerly with Summit charter schools and Virginia Freeburg, Director of Individual Giving at Seattle Preparatory School which is a private school. It is interesting to note there is no representation of Seattle PUBLIC schools are on this board.

cover-image2

Along with the school board’s resolution, there have also been protests at the construction site where the Green Dot junior high and high school are now to be co-located. Apparently Green Dot charter schools has decided to co-locate the high school with the junior high school rather than try again for a variance at the Othello location.

While all of this is happening, the legality of charter schools is again being challenged at the level of the State Supreme Court and is slated for review in April of this year.

The people of Seattle have voted three times against having charter schools in the state of Washington and it’s obvious that opinions have not changed. No one wants the privatization of public schools in Seattle. The few who do want charter schools stand to make a profit on the privatization of a public good.

Some of the people associated with Green Dot charter schools and its history

Green Dot charter schools have less than a stellar history.

ben-austin  I originally took notice of Green Dot during the time of the scandal in South Los Angeleswhen Ben Austin was hired by Green Dot founder Steve Barr to promote the school by any means necessary and that’s exactly what he did. Parents were duped into signing a petition to “turn around” their school. What the parents did not understand is that according to a new California law, that meant closing the school and thereby providing the opportunity for that school to be converted into a charter school. The parents were extremely upset about this once they discovered that their school was to be closed.

It was a scam.

This was termed the “Parent Trigger” and was written into legislation in Washington State with Initiative 1240.

The charter school established by Green Dot Corporation in Watts, California closed.

As Brett What wrote in his article Green Dot Public Schools, Teacher Retention, and the Failure of Past Models:

This is a story of a charter school in the Green Dot Public School system which, after four years of operation, is coming to an inglorious end. It is not an end to the system, or even to school itself, but an end in name and in so many exhausted careers used by Green Dot to experiment with failed policies in Watts, California.

Since then I have been following the Green Dot charter franchise and consider them on par with the KIPP charter school chain, both bottom feeders in the world of charter schools.

To follow are three key people associated with what is happening in Seattle.

Steve Barr

greendot-2
Steve Barr, Founder of Green Dot and Future Is Now (FIN)

After being caught with his hand in the Green Dot cookie jar in 2009, Green Dot founder and CEO Steve Barr, who is married to Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, an organization that populates charter schools with unqualified “teachers”, branded a new organization called Future is Now (FIN) and opened two charter schools in New Orleans while maintaining a seat on the Green Dot board.

Things didn’t go well for Barr’s new financial venture, even in a town where charter schools thrive. Barr’s new brand failed miserably where his school, John Mcdonogh High School, brought the School Performance Score down to a 9.3 out of 150. Two years after the school was established, Barr pulled up stakes again and the students once again became part of the diaspora that is the school population in New Orleans since Katrina.

From Diane Ravitch’s blog, Oprah’s Charter Schools Star in New Orleans is Closing Down:

It seems like only yesterday that the Oprah television network featured an exciting new charter school in New Orleans that promised to turn around the John McDonogh school. The new charter group was led by Steve Barr and his Future Is Now organization.

“One year after the Oprah television network featured New Orleans’ John McDonogh High School in “Blackboard Wars,” hoping to depict a successful charter school turnaround, the Recovery School District is dissolving the school. All staff members will lose their jobs.

“A fresh start. This school needs a fresh start,” Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard said of the school run by Future Is Now.

“Struggling charter schools have three years to prove themselves, and they can lose their authorization to operate after the fourth. However, the school known as John Mac is closing after only two years. The high school had the lowest performance score in the state in 2013, after alternative schools.

Petruzzi
Marco Petruzzi, CEO of Green Dot charter chain.

Marco Petruzzi

Mr. Petruzzi is a former hedge fund manager who took over the role of CEO for the Green Dot Corporation when Steve Barr founded FIN.

He will be discussed under the six reasons why Seattle does not need Green Dot charter schools anywhere in the vicinity.

Bree Dusseault

Locally there is Bree Dusseault who founded four charter schools in New Orleans before moving to Seattle with her husband. Her first job in Seattle was with Bill Gates’ funded think tank the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE). Soon after Broad Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson hired her to be part of a new layer of bureaucracy as an Executive Director overseeing schools in a portion of the district. Ms. Dusseault immediately created quite the kerfuffle when she tried to oust a well loved high school principal based on student test scores. This was an attempt to instill the policy of Race to the Top (RTT) that Goodloe-Johnson was basically placed in Seattle to implement by the Broad Foundation. It didn’t work out for Goodloe-Johnson or Bree Dussault. After Goodloe-Johnson’s departure, Ms. Dussault founded WA charters in Seattle and is now Executive Director for Green Dot charter schools in Washington State. 

#anotherdayanothercharterschoolscandal

Now getting to the seven reasons why Green Dot has no business in Seattle or any other city or town for that matter.

1. The impact of charter schools on the surrounding community

An example of the effect of a charter school on a community is exactly what we are seeing in Seattle now.

Sue Peters states the following about the impact a charter high school would have on Seattle’s Southeast community and the school district.

Pretend for a second that the proposed Green Dot school was not a charter school, but a proposal for just another public high school. Who in the city or district could justify spending taxpayer funds to build another high school within 1-3 miles of three other existing public high schools which all have space for more students? It would be fiscally irresponsible. This is no different. This is taxpayer money we are talking about, and public land it would occupy. Another school in that area is not needed. Furthermore, it will almost certainly negatively impact the existing neighboring schools by draining resources and students from them.

Now return to the fact that it is a charter school. What would it offer that Rainier Beach with its IB program, its aerospace program, its School Improvement Grant (SIG) and high graduation rates doesn’t already offer? What would it offer that Cleveland High School, with its successful STEM program, diversity, decent grad rates and popularity not offer? What would it offer that Franklin High School, one of the truly diverse high schools in the district – meaning, the student body is not comprised of any one, racial majority – academies and popularity offer? The answer is nothing. It is not needed.

2. Questionable practices:

Being a charter school franchise with little to no public oversight and no opportunity for parents and students to turn to a district school board or other outside governing body for relief, the CEO and internal board do as they see fit with little to no regard for city, state or federal regulations.

To follow are three examples of what Green Dot has tried to get away with.

Inappropriate behavior by staff:

Parents of a student who attended Green Dot charter school in Tacoma, Washington testified in a Charter School Commission meeting this January that their daughter had been sexually molested and the school’s response they felt was inadequate. They moved their student out of the school because the issue had not been dealt with, there had been no disciplinary process put into place and “race issues were thrown back in our faces”. The parents said that Green Dot was “not a steward of the community”.

Teachers changing answers on students tests:

From the Los Angeles Times:

Cheating on state tests found at two Los Angeles schools

The state has thrown out the test scores of a top-performing Los Angeles school and of the highest-scoring campus in the nationally known Green Dot charter group after cheating was uncovered involving several teachers.

Short Avenue Elementary in Del Rey and Animo Leadership Charter High School in Inglewood were barred from receiving academic rankings released last week by the California Department of Education. That action deprived the schools of the state rating that has become the key figure used by parents and officials to judge campuses in California.

At Short, three teachers are accused of changing answers or coaching students to the correct answers or both. At Animo Leadership, a science teacher is accused of fixing wrong answers.

The violation of students’ and parents’ rights:

From Green Dot charter schools and freedom of speech:

Now, Green Dot, the retail chain that poses as an institution of education is facing new charges of gross misconduct: political repression of both students and retaliation against one particular teacher as well as Constitutional violations of the law.

Students,   parents, staff & teachers are engaged in a campaign to protest the   planned firing of Science Department Chair Mr. Friedman.  Friedman is well respected and a “fabulous   teacher” according to GD Human Resources Director Kelly Hurley. He has   brought many science programs, scholarships to Anímo and has helped hundreds   succeed and go on to college.

[Green Dot’s] Anímo Leadership students’ Constitutional Rights were violated by the on campus   seizure in early May (by Principal Murcia) of student petitions collected   outside school to protest the firing of History Department chair Sonia Del   Pino.  Students were called into the   office, intimidated, forced to sign statements & petitions confiscated.  

This violated CA Education Codes 48907 & 48950, US Supreme Court Decision Tinker vs. Des Moines and the US   constitution. In response, Mr. Friedman called the American Civil Liberties   Union & National Lawyers Guild to help protect students’ free speech   rights. He helped organize a student/parent/ staff committee to defend their rights, the teachers’ contract & fight the Del Pino firing.

3. Lackluster overall performance:

The Green Dot charter school franchise promotes itself as a college-ready preparatory chain of schools promising high test scores and IB classes although the opposite is true.

As Sue Peters points out in her argument that placing a charter middle school and high school in a community already served by public schools:

We already have an example of a Green Dot charter school in WA–Destiny Middle School in Tacoma – and its state test results are not impressive. As many as 64 percent of their students failed the Smarter Balanced Language Arts test and 78 percent failed the SBA math test. Why replicate this?

And from Schools Matter:

The Schools Steve Barr Made: Green Dot Charters post NINE of the lowest SAT scores

Green Dot Corporate Charter Schools hold the dubious record of NINE of the lowest fifty average SAT scores in Los Angeles County for 2015. The billionaire backed charter chain, founded by corporate executive Barr and run by hedge fund manager Marco Petruzzi, group of SAT bottom dwellers leads all other charter chains in comprising 18% of the fifty worst. These schools were (lower numbers are worst performing):

• 4. Animo Locke Charter High School #1 (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1033

• 12. Animo Watts Charter High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1092

• 14. Animo Locke Charter High School #2 (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1104

• 16. Alain Leroy Locke High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1107

• 19. Animo Ralph Bunche High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1117

• 25. Animo Locke Technology High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1129

• 26. Animo Oscar De La Hoya Charter High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1129

• 34. Animo Jackie Robinson High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1150

• 50. Animo South Los Angeles Charter (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1180

The privately managed charter chain’s marketing slogan is “…all students graduate prepared for college, leadership and life.” These dismal SAT scores would seem to indicate otherwise. For context 1500 is considered the minimum threshold for college readiness, while 2052 was the composite average for Freshmen accepted into UCLA in 2013.

You can find a list of the SAT scores here.

4. The churn

There is the constant opening and closing of charter schools, many times with little to no notice to parents of the closing and the churning of teaching staff creates instability for students and the communities they live in. You can read what happened to Locke High School in Watts, California that was taken over by Green Dot which was led by Marco Petruzzi in the article Green Dot Public Schools, Teacher Retention, and the Failure of Past Models by Brett Wyatt. To follow is an excerpt.

I began to question the effectiveness of the Green Dot model after the first year, when over 30% of the teachers resigned. By my second year of teaching for Green Dot, both of the administrators whom hired me had to resign, as had the dean of the school. At the end of the first semester of my second year, another 30% of the teachers had left. Now, at the end of my second year, the school is being re-organized, only a small fraction of the remaining staff will transfer with it, and I have been re-assigned to a different and currently re-organized academy. First, I want to explore the numbers. Only two of the sixteen teachers from the original Locke Ace, who transferred to Locke II, will be moving on to Locke B academy. The new cluster re-organization will dis-aggregate the ninth grade into a separate academy to be housed in the main Locke HS building with the two of the grade10-12 academies. Locke A academy will move to the bungalow area in the back of the school. 

Here is the churn that occurred at Green Dot’s Amino Locke II charter school in Los Angeles:

ANIMO LOCKE II ADMINISTRATION NOTICE OF TRANSFER Locke Cluster Coordinator Chad Soleo – Moved to a national outreach position of VP of Advancement due to his excellent service as Locke Cluster Coordinator.

FORCED RESIGNATION (2008-2012) Principal – Discrepancies in practice, test scores did not improve

FORCED RESIGNED (2008 -2012) Assistant Principal – There was a discrepancy during state testing, he left three days later.

RESIGNED (2008 – 2012) DEAN – Multiple incidences of being beaten by students

TRANSFER (2012-2013) Assistant Principal– Transferred from Locke Tech where he was reportedly attacked by students to Locke II, and now transferred to be the principal at an Animo middle school.(2012 – Present) INTERIM PRINCIPAL – Position to be made permanent 2013-2014 (2012 – Present) DEAN , being promoted to Administrator in Residence.

COUNSELORS (2011-Present) Three full time counselors have been at the school since 2011, no reports on their placements for 2013-2014

FULL TIME TEACHERS Note: Teach for America (TFA) Full Time Educator (FTE) Provisional – Teacher does without a clear credential

SPECIAL EDUCATION RESIGNED (2008-2013) TFA – Moving out of state

RESIGNED (2009-2013) FTE – Hired into another district

RESIGNED (2011-2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons

RESIGNED (2010-2012) Provisional – Left mid-year for personal reasons (2010 – Present) FTE (2010 – Present) Provisional

MATH RESIGNED (2011-2013) TFA – Leaving for personal reason, possibly leaving profession

TRANSFER (2010-Present) FTE – Transfer to Animo Pat Brown

TRANSFER (2010-Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th Grade Academy

TRANSFER (2010-Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th Grade Academy (2012-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2011-Present) TFA

SCIENCE RESIGNED (2002 – 2012) FTE – Moved out of state

RESIGNED (2009-2012) TFA – Left teaching profession

RESIGNED (2011-2012) Provisional – Left teaching profession

MEDICAL LEAVE (2010 – 2013) FTE – Return is uncertain (2011-Present) FTE (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA and Provisional

HISTORY RESIGNED (2011-2013) TFA – Hired into another district as administrator (2008 – Present) FTE (2010 – Present) TFA (2010 – Present) TFA (2011 – Present) FTE

ENGLISH RESIGNED (2008 – 2012) TFA – Left teaching profession

RESIGNED (2009-2012) TFA –Hired into another district

RESIGNED (2010-2012) FTE – Left teaching profession, resigned mid-year

RESIGNED (2011-2012) TFA and Provisional – Left teaching profession

RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Injured by student, Left mid-year for personal reasons

RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons

RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons (2010-Present) TFA

RESIGNED (2011-Present) TFA – Hired into another district.

TRANSFER (2011 – Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th grade academy

RESIGNED (2011) FTE – Left without a new assignment, (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2013 – Present) TFA

SPANISH TRANSFER (2010 – 2013) TFA – Taking new position at Animo Pat Brown (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2012 – Present) TFA

PHYSICS MEDICAL LEAVE (2011-2013) FTE – Injured after battery by student, left in January 2013

PE (2006-Present) FTE (2011 – Present) TFA

TECHNOLOGY RESIGNED (2011-2012) FTE – Left mid-year for personal reasons (After a series of long term subs, a new full time teacher has been hired in April)

DRAMA RESIGNED (2009-2013) FTE – Moving out of state

ART (2011 – Present) FTE

ENGINEERING RESIGNED (2011- 2012) TFA – Left for personal reasons

LONG TERM SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS – Used to fill in for resignations and accounted for about 15% of the teachers at Locke II.

LONG TERM SUB (2011-2012) CLEAR CREDENTIAL- Left to be full time PE teacher and athletic director in another district.

LONG TERM SUB (2011-2012) PROVISIONAL– Hired into Locke Tech

LONG TERM SUB (2012 – 2013) PROVISIONAL – Birth of child

LONG TERM SUB (2011-Present) PROVISIONAL

LONG TERM SUB (2013 – Present) PROVISIONAL

LONG TERM SUB (2013 – Present) PROVISIONAL

LONG TERM SUB (2013 – Present) CLEAR CREDENTIAL

Regarding little to no notice given by Green Dot charter schools to parents when a school is to be closed, or in the following case a public school being “reconstituted” by Green Dot,  Fremont High, Ánimo/Green Dot Social Justice Charter, Menlo Adult School: SOUTH CENTRAL PROTESTS SCHOOL CLOSURES + smf’s 3¢.

An excerpt:

Mirna Rico, a Fremont High School parent and activist, said, “The district still hasn’t notified us parents or the community. We heard about the reconstitution on the news. They’ve been stonewalling us, and it doesn’t give us a chance to decide what to do.”

School reconstitutions, like charter takeovers of public schools, are extremely disruptive to students and their families. Fremont representatives discussed the ongoing community efforts to save the school and invited people to go to their Web site.

Marlon Silva, a junior at Ánimo Justice and one of the student leaders, described the march to Green Dot. He explained how Petruzzi told all the press to leave before agreeing to meet with students and parents.

“Green Dot’s motto is parents and students have a voice and input,” Silva said, “but when this decision was made, the only thing Green Dot cared about was money. It’s a business behind a mask of a school.”

For more on charter school churn, see:

Charter Schools Are Constantly Burning Out Teachers—And They Often Like It That Way

5. The use of public dollars with little to no oversight:

The Green Dot charter chain of schools has a CEO and an unelected in-house board. There is no oversight provided by a local school board. In this type of system, parents, students and teachers have no where to go with grievances outside of the charter school. This makes for frustrating circumstances for parents and students.

The example I used previously in this article is the incident that occurred at a Green Dot charter school in Tacoma. According to Melissa Westbrook who attended a charter school commission meeting recently, parents of a student who attended Green Dot testified that little to nothing had been done in response to their daughter being sexually assaulted at the charter school. The parents stated they withdrew their daughter from the school out of fear that something might happen again to their child.

They began to understand that the charter school commission had little to no say over what happens at a specific charter school, it is only the charter school and they are in complete control.

This is a lesson everyone needs to remember.

Ironically, the public money that went with the student to the charter school will not be returned to the school district even if the student returns to a public school. It’s just one less student the charter school has to worry about and yet they get to keep the cash for that school year.

There is also a lack of transparency in how the public dollars are used.

6. The money

The people who establish a charter school and run it, generally referred to as CEO’s and synonymous with Principals at a public school, pay themselves very well.

Mind you, the teachers are poorly paid and there is always skimping on books and supplies but there is a reason these folks establish charter schools and it’s all about the money.

Marco Petruzzi, CEO of the Green Dot Corporation, in 2013 made $279,478. Most charter schools do not post salaries as they do in public schools.

In 2014, CEO’s representing various charter school brought home the following:

Image 3-18-18 at 4.12 PM

There are many reasons why we don’t need the headache of a Green Dot charter school in our school district and probably more than I have outlined here.

Let’s just not look backwards one day and find new reasons why Green Dot was a bad idea.

Dora Taylor

Note: Melissa Westbrook at the Seattle Schools Community Forum is keeping up on this issue and is a recommended follow.

Recommended reading:

GREEN DOT CHARTER SCHOOLS: A CAUTIONARY TALE: This is a story of a charter school in the Green Dot Public School system which, after four years of operation, is coming to an inglorious end.

The Inside Story of a Green Dot charter school: Green Dot Public Schools, Teacher Retention, and the Failure of Past Models

The schools Steve Barr made: Green Dot Charters post NINE of lowest fifty SAT scores: “The lowest-performing, based on test scores, is the large Green Dot chain.” — Los Angeles Times

Steve Barr Bails on McDonogh: Surplus Laptops Sold Bearing Student Data

14 of 15 Green Dot schools are “failing” by Parent Revolution’s definition by Caroline Grannan and originally posted in the San Francisco Chronicle

Ben Austin: The Six Figure Salary Man – Green Dot

The Miracle That Wasn’t: Steve Barr’s Failure in New Orleans

Green Dot charter schools and freedom of speech

Another charter school scam?… ‘Parent Revolution’ charged with misleading parents about signatures on ‘close this school’ petition

Connections between Eli Broad, the Parent Union (aka Parent Revolution, the creators of the “Parent Trigger”), and Green Dot

Parent Empowerment or Parent Manipulation?

Signing Their Rights Away:A series of court rulings suggests that students who attend charter schools do not have the same rights as public school students…

The Racist History of the Charter School Movement:Touted as the cure for what ails public education, charter schools have historical roots that are rarely discussed.

Updated: Hostile Charter Takeovers Sideline Communities: One of the top-down, private control education reformers most prominent tenants are hostile takeovers of neighborhood schools and turning them over to charter corporations. 

Charter Schools:What is a charter school?

Do Profits Drive Desire for LAUSD Board Seat? Most of the time the charter school industry’s corporate leadership is able to craft their messaging so as to distract the populace from the real purposes undergirding their projects. But occasionally, someone in their sector goes off script and tells the truth about what chartering is all about.

Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express To Fat City 

K12 Inc.: Virtually Failing our Students: Yale Education Studies students research on equity, policy, school choice and desegregation

IS IT RESEARCH – OR PROPAGANDA?

UW BOTHELL ‘THINK TANK’ CRPE AIMS TO DISMANTLE PUBLIC EDUCATION

MY EXPERIENCE AS A STUDENT WITH THE CENTER ON REINVENTING PUBLIC EDUCATION

THE GATES OWNED CENTER ON REINVENTING PUBLIC EDUCATION (CRPE) RIGHT HERE IN SEATTLE

Parent Guide to the Broad Foundation’s – Parents Across America

DR. GOODLOE JOHNSON

THE TRUE LEGACY OF SEATTLE’S FIRED (BROAD ACADEMY) SUPERINTENDENT MARIA GOODLOE-JOHNSON

TEN + REASONS WHY THE SEATTLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT, DR. MARIE GOODLOE-JOHNSON, SHOULD BE FIRED WITH CAUSE

Green Dot charter schools: A cautionary tale

 Green Dot Founder Steve Barr, who is married to TFA Founder Wendy Kopp, created a mythology about his corporate charters that persists.
Green Dot Founder Steve Barr created a mythology about his corporate charters that still persists.

This post is being republished regarding Greendot charter schools. The charter school chain opened a school in Washington State in defiance of the Washington State Supreme Court ruling and word has it they plan to open another school in West Seattle even with a second lawsuit pending in the Washington State courts.

On the left margin of this page, you can find articles about Green Dot charter schools. Related Seattle Education posts include: Parent Trigger, Parent Revolution, Ben Austin and his Parent Trigger now in Seattle and The “school conversion” clause in Initiative 1240, the parent trigger and ALEC model legislation.

One of the many problems with Green Dot, besides a high attrition rate and their propensity for closing schools, is the way they scam low-income parents, many who are immigrants, to sign on to the school and their propensity for hiring Teach for America (TFA) recruits who are fresh out of college with unrelated degrees and given 5 weeks of training before putting them in a classroom and the charter chain’s lackluster academic track record, see 14 of 15 Green Dot schools are “failing,” by Parent Revolution’s definition, is their tendency of closing schools after a few years if things don’t work out for them.

See Taking on a Charter School Closing and What Happens When a Charter School Fails.

There is a particularly poignant story that Diane Ravitch published in 2013 that parents and teachers should read before signing onto Green Dot public charter school:

The Inside Story of a Green Dot Charter School

Green Dot Public Schools, Teacher Retention, and the Failure of Past Models

By Brett Wyatt

This is a story of a charter school in the Green Dot Public School system which, after four years of operation, is coming to an inglorious end. It is not an end to the system, or even to school itself, but an end in name and in so many exhausted careers used by Green Dot to experiment with failed policies in Watts, California. The original Locke High School, like so many schools centered in poverty and neglect, had many systemic problems. Green Dot, a charter school system headed by Marco Petruzzi, requested to administer the school in 2008.

The school was divided into 4 cluster schools, those being Animo Locke I, Animo Locke II, Locke ACE Academy (Architecture, Construction, Engineering), Animo Locke Tech, Animo Locke III and Animo Watts . According to founding teacher Ryan Ballard, “Our first school year was 2009-10. We were a CTE, career-technical education school with a philosophy of preparing kids for college along with providing for them the notion that they will have a marketable skill/trade that, if college was not their choice, they could make a good living working in a field that would be needed well into the future. In 2011, Locke Ace was closed and re-organized into Locke II.” No reason was given for the closure. As a new hire to Locke II, I was told that the merger was part of the long-term plan to make all Green Dot schools college preparatory. According to Ballard, the principal of Locke Ace was let go. Of the 16 teachers assigned to Locke Ace, 9 teachers moved into Locke II, one teacher was a long term substitute, and the rest left for personal reason.

Only two years later, Locke II is being closed and re-opened as Locke B Academy, part of Animo Locke A, the only one of the Locke cluster schools to pass (conditionally) WASC ( Western Association of Schools and College) s accreditation. In fact, Animo Locke II, Animo Locke III, and Animo Locke Tech all failed the 2012 WASC accreditation. forcing Green Dot to merge all of the campuses, operationally, into the one school to receive accreditation. Animo Watts will continue to operate independent of the schools located at the main Locke campus. My concern in this report is the fate of the teachers and administrators who chose to work for Green Dot Public Schools with the allure of excelling in an entirely new, authentically based program of teaching based on the College Ready Promise and the chance of receiving high salaries based on excellent performance. I began to question the effectiveness of the Green Dot model after the first year, when over 30% of the teachers resigned. By my second year of teaching for Green Dot, both of the administrators whom hired me had to resign, as had the dean of the school. At the end of the first semester of my second year, another 30% of the teachers had left. Now, at the end of my second year, the school is being re-organized, only a small fraction of the remaining staff will transfer with it, and I have been re-assigned to a different and currently re-organized academy. First, I want to explore the numbers. Only two of the sixteen teachers from the original Locke Ace, who transferred to Locke II, will be moving on to Locke B academy. The new cluster re-organization will dis-aggregate the ninth grade into a separate academy to be housed in the main Locke HS building with the two of the grade10-12 academies. Locke A academy will move to the bungalow area in the back of the school. The list below does not include the names of the teachers for legal reasons. Instead, I have given their department and employment status.

ANIMO LOCKE II ADMINISTRATION NOTICE OF TRANSFER Locke Cluster Coordinator Chad Soleo – Moved to a national outreach position of VP of Advancement due to his excellent service as Locke Cluster Coordinator.

FORCED RESIGNATION (2008-2012) Principal – Discrepancies in practice, test scores did not improve

FORCED RESIGNED (2008 -2012) Assistant Principal – There was a discrepancy during state testing, he left three days later.

RESIGNED (2008 – 2012) DEAN – Multiple incidences of being beaten by students

TRANSFER (2012-2013) Assistant Principal– Transferred from Locke Tech where he was reportedly attacked by students to Locke II, and now transferred to be the principal at an Animo middle school. (2012 – Present) INTERIM PRINCIPAL – Position to be made permanent 2013-2014 (2012 – Present) DEAN , being promoted to Administrator in Residence.

COUNSELORS (2011-Present) Three full time counselors have been at the school since 2011, no reports on their placements for 2013-2014

FULL TIME TEACHERS Note: Teach for America (TFA) Full Time Educator (FTE) Provisional – Teacher does without a clear credential

SPECIAL EDUCATION RESIGNED (2008-2013) TFA – Moving out of state

RESIGNED (2009-2013) FTE – Hired into another district

RESIGNED (2011-2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons

RESIGNED (2010-2012) Provisional – Left mid-year for personal reasons (2010 – Present) FTE (2010 – Present) Provisional

MATH RESIGNED (2011-2013) TFA – Leaving for personal reason, possibly leaving profession

TRANSFER (2010-Present) FTE – Transfer to Animo Pat Brown

TRANSFER (2010-Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th Grade Academy

TRANSFER (2010-Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th Grade Academy (2012-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2011-Present) TFA

SCIENCE RESIGNED (2002 – 2012) FTE – Moved out of state

RESIGNED (2009-2012) TFA – Left teaching profession

RESIGNED (2011-2012) Provisional – Left teaching profession

MEDICAL LEAVE (2010 – 2013) FTE – Return is uncertain (2011-Present) FTE (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA and Provisional

HISTORY RESIGNED (2011-2013) TFA – Hired into another district as administrator (2008 – Present) FTE (2010 – Present) TFA (2010 – Present) TFA (2011 – Present) FTE

ENGLISH RESIGNED (2008 – 2012) TFA – Left teaching profession

RESIGNED (2009-2012) TFA –Hired into another district

RESIGNED (2010-2012) FTE – Left teaching profession, resigned mid-year

RESIGNED (2011-2012) TFA and Provisional – Left teaching profession

RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Injured by student, Left mid-year for personal reasons

RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons

RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons (2010-Present) TFA

RESIGNED (2011-Present) TFA – Hired into another district.

TRANSFER (2011 – Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th grade academy

RESIGNED (2011) FTE – Left without a new assignment, (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2013 – Present) TFA

SPANISH TRANSFER (2010 – 2013) TFA – Taking new position at Animo Pat Brown (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2012 – Present) TFA

PHYSICS MEDICAL LEAVE (2011-2013) FTE – Injured after battery by student, left in January 2013

PE (2006-Present) FTE (2011 – Present) TFA

TECHNOLOGY RESIGNED (2011-2012) FTE – Left mid-year for personal reasons (After a series of long term subs, a new full time teacher has been hired in April)

DRAMA RESIGNED (2009-2013) FTE – Moving out of state

ART (2011 – Present) FTE

ENGINEERING RESIGNED (2011- 2012) TFA – Left for personal reasons

LONG TERM SUBSTITUTE TEACHERSUsed to fill in for resignations and accounted for about 15% of the teachers at Locke II.

LONG TERM SUB (2011-2012) CLEAR CREDENTIAL- Left to be full time PE teacher and athletic director in another district.

LONG TERM SUB (2011-2012) PROVISIONAL– Hired into Locke Tech

LONG TERM SUB (2012 – 2013) PROVISIONAL – Birth of child

LONG TERM SUB (2011-Present) PROVISIONAL

LONG TERM SUB (2013 – Present) PROVISIONAL

LONG TERM SUB (2013 – Present) PROVISIONAL

LONG TERM SUB (2013 – Present) CLEAR CREDENTIAL

I have had the chance to interview many of these teachers and their stories point to two main reasons for leaving: unsafe working conditions and limited future advancement.

I know the issue of school safety first-hand. In 2011 I was struck by a student so hard that I left to be treated in an emergency room. The student received a one day suspension and was to return to my class. I filed a police report and the student was arrested and later released. As the only teacher of my subject at the school. I had to get a restraining order to keep the student from being re-assigned back to my classroom. That same year two teachers were struck from behind with bottles.

Other teachers have been spat on, had coins thrown into their faces, and verbally threatened. There was an inconsistency of disciplinary actions by site administration such that students expressing violence or extreme acts of obscenity toward teachers received detentions or minimum suspensions while students who were tardy or out of uniform also received suspensions or one or multiple days. The suspension policy was challenged by parents who won a court decision ordering Green Dot to lower the suspension rate at Locke II, which averaged over 2 suspensions per student. The first semester of 2012 felt out-of-control once students learned of the reduced suspension policy. One science teacher was attacked and thrown to the floor. An English teacher had a party-popper exploded in her face. An English teacher had a student use profane language at her and then spat at her feet. A science teacher had a student punch the wall next to her face. All four of these teachers confided in me that the administration investigated their claims and then put the burden back on the teacher by asking, “What did you do to cause the student to act so violently? All four of these teachers have left the school.

Student profanity towards teachers was ignored. All teachers became subjected to constant profanity. This situation escalated to the point where I called on the union for intervention. The union pointed out to the administration that the contract stipulates that a teacher- administrator or counselor-student mediation must be set up before a student can re-enter the classroom after acts of extreme profanity. Teachers were also advised by the union that they may assign an in-school suspension. According to my local union representative, the district is responding to the situation by requesting that teachers be allowed to vote on removing Green Dot from the California Education Code. A poll by the union has shown strong support for the Green Dot’s request by teachers at the Founding Five schools and by new teachers, as the district claims that the education code severely limits its ability to meet the needs of students. Another problem faced by Locke

Cluster schools is the political voice of the “Founding Five” schools in Green Dot’s charter, these being: Animo Leadership Charter High School, Animo Inglewood Charter High School, Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter High School, Ánimo South Los Angeles Charter High School and Animo Venice Charter High School. These are not neighborhood schools, but are schools where students must apply and be accepted through a set of criteria. This is not the case for the Locke Cluster schools. Teachers at these schools are rated much more highly in the Green Dot evaluation system and as a result have higher job security and will mostly receive salary increases when the school district begins basing salary increases only on job performance.

Incentives, such as salary increases based on job performance, have been another reason for teachers to leave Animo Locke II. The incentive program rates a teacher on a set of evaluations formerly known as The College Ready Promise (TCRP) and now known as Teacher Effectiveness (TE). (Understanding Green Dot’s constantly changing acronyms is essential to keeping track of Green Dot’s ever changing policies.) Teachers are evaluated on an extensive list of criteria, being scored from a level 1, a teacher with absolutely no idea what is happening in the classroom, to a 2, a teacher who understands what is needed but is ineffective in its implementation, to a 3, a teacher who satisfactorily implements the Green Dot objectives, to a 4, a teacher who, WITH THE ASSISTANCE of the students in creating a collegiate academic environment, is exemplary. The evaluations, conducted by the principal, are subjective to the interpretation of the principal and highly dependent on the skill and cooperation of the students. To this evaluation are also added the overall performance of the students on their tests, or, in the case of non-tested teacher like myself, to the scores of the entire school, the scores given by students to their teachers, peer scores, and community ratings. The result of this scoring system places the average teacher at Locke II at about 2.6, translated as ineffective but mostly improving. Even more than the violence, it is the constant harassment of the administration upon teachers of being less than adequate, in need of improvement, or being placed on development plans, a system whereby a low performing teacher scrutinized each week until proven capable or terminated, which has caused so many of the teachers to leave the school. There is little to no encouragement, nothing done to help a teacher’s self-esteem, only the constant chorus of “you can improve.” Sadly, so may new teachers leave the profession because they believe this system is the norm in public education. Their years of education, both in their specific field and in teacher training, usually through the University of California, Los Angeles, is all left behind them. It’s both troubling and distressing to see so many aspiring, young teachers cast away their hopes of making a difference by being evaluated as ineffective, or even as clueless, and then led on the path of termination. To me, this is the most significant failure of the Green Dot model, its inability to retain and train teachers to become effective in the classroom. This is not to say that Green Dot did not try. In 2012 Green Dot received a second award from the Teacher Incentive program of $11.7 million. From this fund, teachers were offered salary bonuses ranging from $500, $1000, and $1500 if, after two years, the teacher was rated as effective, highly effective, or very highly effective. These incentives were not taken seriously by teachers at Locke II. First of all, the average teacher rating is not even close to receiving an award.

Second, many teachers do not last for two years. In fact, it only added to the despair because teachers at the school do not understand how they can take students performing so far below the national average, with reading, writing, and mathematical skills far below grade level, and transform them into students who can perform at the national average at a school beleaguered by violence, profanity at school, as well as disparaging conditions at home. As one teacher expressed it to a district vice-president, “You are worried about why my student’s head is down in class while I am worried about what happened to the student to cause the student to be inattentive. Do you know the lives of the students at home? Do you know what it takes for a student to come to school without being jumped? The alcoholism or drug use in the community? Is the student pregnant or did the student get beaten or verbally abused by the parent? There is so much more going on in that student’s life than my assignment and I cannot deliver the curriculum until that student can feel like the world cares.”

However, the incentives of the Teacher Incentive Program were very good news to Green Dot teachers at non-neighborhood schools. Nothing is known by teachers about the dispersal of funds not used in the teacher incentive program. Next year, the remains of two former Locke Cluster schools will re-open with a new name and almost entirely new staffs. The past will be forgotten and the future will be made to look bright and hopeful. What becomes of this next experiment on the part of Green Dot with the careers and lives of many new hopeful teachers, and the students who will hope for a safe and successful school environment, will largely depend on the Green Dot’s administration to reflect on the mistakes of the past and move forward into developing a school with a strong foundation and a long-term commitment to the community it serves. Since the Green Dot Board itself is not subject to the same scrutiny of its principals and teachers, it will be up to outside agency to oversee their decisions and track their success and failures with our children, their teachers, and the public funds used for their education.

One final thought, on May 30th I was notified that another Locke High School Cluster principal, Blain Watson of Animo Locke Tech, had resigned to move on to a new high school outside of Green Dot. Mr. Watson was the last of the African American principals working at the Locke Cluster. Many teachers have been concerned about the fact that there is no longer any African-American administrators assigned to Locke Cluster High Schools for 2013-2014; and though I would be loath to suggest any malfeasance on the part of Green Dot, my conversations with activist Hispanic and African American teachers include words describing the new Hispanic principals as “privileged persons disconnected with the local community” and “This represents hubris on the part of Green Dot”, the latter statement coming from social science teachers familiar with Herodotus and his admonitions on those exercising power in excess.

Brett Wyatt, PhD

Animo Locke II College Preparatory Academy

For more on the Greendot charter chain, see:

Green Dot Charter Schools and Freedom of Speech

The “school conversion” clause in Initiative 1240, the parent trigger and ALEC model legislation

There’s a reason why Stand for Children doesn’t want to refer to the school conversion clause in Initiative 1240 as the parent trigger. If you Google “parent trigger”, articles come up about how it has divided communities, how it has been used as a tool for charter operators to take over existing school buildings and how it started with Steve Barr, then the CEO of the Green Dot charter chain to open a charter school in Compton amidst much uproar by the majority of parents using an existing school building. (Which begs the question, just where do Bill Gates, Alice Walton and Stand for Children see all of these charter schools being located?  The Seattle Public School district is above capacity right now in terms of class space). Oh yeah, and the other reason why Stand for Children denies the fact that the term “school conversion” is not the same as the parent trigger is because the parent trigger has been formalized as a model bill and pushed as legislation in 17 states by ALEC.

Even with Steve Barr’s big fail in Compton, CA trying to take over a school building, the Heartland Institute, yes the same one who loves vouchers and questions the reality of climate change, the effects of second-hand smoke and other issues that may require government regulations, liked the idea and produced an outline for a parent trigger bill in 2010 that could be submitted by state legislators.

In the Heartland’s version of parent trigger legislation, a school did not have to be failing to be converted by a simple majority of parents. Sound familiar Seattle?

In November of 2010, Heartland took their outline to the “bill mill” ALEC.

ALEC had the connections to provide the parent trigger model bill to legislators around the country. And that’s exactly what they did. So far seven states have some form of the parent trigger.

According to Initiative 1240, a school doesn’t need to be “failing” to be converted into a charter school nor does the initiative require a school community to be notified of a petition being circulated. This, compared to other states, is pushing the envelope to the point that Washington State could have the most radical parent trigger law in the country.

Is this what we want Seattle?

Dora Taylor

Green Dot Charter Schools and Freedom of Speech

The Green Dot charter franchise has been bandied about in the state of Washington as a charter school candidate due to the misguided hype of the corporate media. If charter schools were allowed in our state, what is happening in Los Angeles would be occurring in Seattle.

Danny Weil has provided a great description of these schools in the following article that was originally published in The Daily Censored:

Los Angeles students and teachers need your help fighting Green Dot Charter Schools

I have written extensively about Green Dot Charter Schools, an educational retail charter chain that gained a foothold in Los Angeles and a step-ladder into the public consciousness due to favorable publicity by the charter charlatans and their corporate allies.  You can read about the detestable Green Dot and its takeover of some of Los Angeles schools, with the help of the political coordinating class that comprises what can only be called corrupt politics, in an article I wrote back in 2010, Green Dot model homes for sale : Education-R-Us.

Los Angeles educator, writer and activist Robert Skeels has done a better job than I have in covering the corruption that is endemic to the Green Dot syndicate and you can find his scathing look at the retail charter racket at: Political Patronage for Green Dot Public Schools’ Chief Propagandist.

Now, Green Dot, the retail chain that poses as an institution of education is facing new charges of gross misconduct: political repression of both students and retaliation against one particular teacher as well as Constitutional violations of the law.

As I explained and forecasted in my book: Charter school movement: history, politics, policies, economics and effectiveness (2009) the growth of charter schools was designed to lead to such autocracy, among other things.  The whole enterprise is a power grab by Wall Street and the financial sector and they are deeply implicated in school closures, land grabs, zoning, gentrification, commodification of education and the robbing students of their ability to develop their critical thinking skills through dummied down curriculum, union busting, racism, eventual moves for nationwide privatization, all while creating the new school-to-prison pipeline.  They are the darlings of the right wing.

These ‘obedient schools’ or ‘commodity schools’ were sold and marketed to mostly black and Latino parents whose children were not faring well in underfunded, under-performing schools.  Charter schools were advertised as the answer to inequality and schooling under capitalism just like tonic was sold from Connestoga wagons by roaming grifters traveling from town to town.  It worked.

Now we find that charters are not the elite boutiques that will compete with traditional public schools, thus raising all boats, an idea that Albert Shanker of AFT had when he came up with the idea (and one propagated by reactionaries as prevarication), but instead they are dank, dark dungeons of despair designed to serve low-income, students of color who they prey on under the auspices of providing a service.  That is why they have mushroomed like Pawn shops throughout major cities.  They serve what their Board Chairman would never dare say publicly but believe personally – sub-prime kids.  These are the disposable youth that will constitute the society of surplus labor where jobs are low-paid and increasingly automated.  A society where there may be no work at all – a permanent surplus population society.

Most people think that charter schools are public schools when they are not; they are publicly subsidized.  Many labor under the assumption that if they are non-profit then they must be ‘ok’ for you can’t skim money if the schools are non-profit, right?  Wrong.  Too many residents believe that charter schools have a legitimate seat at the table, when in fact they are the first step towards total privatization of education and work as a Trojan horse for vouchers, as I explain in my book.

The whole thing is made more insidious due to capitulation of teacher union leadership to the existence of charters.  Randi Weingarten and the decrepit leadership of NEA, AFT and their locals all accept charters as legitimate partners in education.  This would be like the banking industry accepting shy-lockers as legitimate business partners in money lending.  But wait: the banking industry is now the shy-locker of choice just like the charter schools are replacing traditional public schools as the schools of ‘choice’ while public school closures are carried out in broad daylight.  What were once odious and even illegal practices: the privatization of education and loan sharking, are now cornerstones of the emerging fascist America.

It doesn’t help, of course that we have a rancid political class that embraces charters as innovation and reform and are all too ready to assure that they get funds to carry out their commodified business plans.  Jerry Brown is pushing a ‘Millionaire’s Tax’ which is hardly a millionaire’s tax (it raises the sales tax for working people as well) but what it does do is explicitly allow for any revenues gained by its passage to be divvied up with the 96 charter schools that exist in California.  The bill also does not distinguish between for-profit charters and non-profit charters, giving credence to the fact they are hardly distinguishable.  This is the ‘trade-off’ that corporate democrats come up with.  If not for corporate democrats the right wing reactionaries in this country would never be able to put into place programs they have conceived decades ago.  It takes the smiling face of the corporate democrat to assure implementation of the seedy charter schools.

Green Dot ANÍMO High School

This is what the following is about, the suspension of laws and the use of oppression to silence political resistance.  If we don’t, then we can only look to sink faster and deeper to the bottom as the predator class gains the upper hand.  Green Dot states that they are an alternative to traditional public schools that have failed when the actions of their staff teach students authoritarianism, anti-constitutionalism, unethical behavior, disdain for other points of view, and denigration of the Bill of rights and violations of the law.  This is the Green dot curriculum.

Danny Weil continues:

Students,   parents, staff & teachers are engaged in a campaign to protest the   planned firing of Science Department Chair Mr. Friedman.  Friedman is well respected and a “fabulous   teacher” according to GD Human Resources Director Kelly Hurley. He has   brought many science programs, scholarships to Anímo and has helped hundreds   succeed and go on to college.

Anímo   Leadership students’ Constitutional Rights were violated by the on campus   seizure in early May (by Principal Murcia) of student petitions collected   outside school to protest the firing of History Department chair Sonia Del   Pino.  Students were called into the   office, intimidated, forced to sign statements & petitions confiscated.   This violated CA Education Codes 48907 & 48950, US Supreme Court Decision Tinker vs. Des Moines and the US   constitution. In response, Mr. Friedman called the American Civil Liberties   Union & National Lawyers Guild to help protect students’ free speech   rights. He helped organize a student/parent/ staff committee to defend their   rights, the teachers’ contract & fight the Del Pino firing.

Of   course for all this he became a Green Dot target for termination. Both   organizations are defending Friedman & the students. A June 8 ACLU letter to Green Dot CEO Petruzzi said:

“Given   the recent illegal interference with students’ expressive activity, and Mr. Friedman’s   support for those students’ expression, the school may be engaged in   impermissible retaliation against Friedman.”

Buyer beware.

Dora