The Battle in Seattle Against a Charter School Invasion

seattle

Originally published on The Progressive.

Charter schools and other market-based forms of “school choice” have been touted as ways to make education more responsive to “market demands.” But when you look at the latest attempt to force these schools onto the citizens of Washington state, you have to ask, “Just who is demanding these schools?”

Washington State has been pushing back against charter schools for a decade.

Three times, between 1996 and 2004, the state held ballot initiatives allowing charter schools in the state. Three times the voters said “No.”

In 2012, Bill Gates, Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, and other wealthy education “reformers” made a concerted effort on a fourth try to bring charter schools to the state. The public received a barrage of TV ads, forums, and mailers sponsored by organizations such as the League of Education Voters and Stand for Children, both of which are financially backedby Bill Gates.

Initiative 1240 passed 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent, only squeaking by despite the enormous financial advantage of the “Yes” campaign, which outspent the “No” campaign by a margin of 12 to 1.

Charter schools remain a controversial and unpopular concept in the state of Washington particularly in Seattle where over 60 percent of the voters were against the initiative.

After Initiative 1240 passed, a special commission was established to approve charter schools in the state. It is comprised of politically appointed members with no accountability to the general public with the ability to circumvent oversight by local school boards.

The commission recently approved the Green Dot charter chain, despite its checkered history. Green Dot has been faulted for poor test score results, loss of accreditation, low SAT scores, teachers cheating on student’s tests, poor teacher pay, high teacher turnover, student free speech violations, and misleading parents.

The Green Dot charter chain got its foothold in Seattle by subterfuge.

When community members in Southeast Seattle, a neighborhood of minority cultures and immigrants, found out a Green Dot middle school was part of a development plan there, citizen activists pushed back.

Former Seattle School Board member Sue Peters, who helped block Green Dot from receiving a zoning variance, told me in an interview: “Green Dot is violating the law. They have no legal right to make that request, yet someone in the City worked with Green Dot behind the scenes and granted them one waiver already and want to grant them another . . . So Green Dot is committing violation after violation.”

“Too often [charters] want rules and laws broken or special treatment that public schools are not granted,” she summed up. “And then they have the audacity to claim to make apples to apples comparisons with truly public schools.”

In May, 2017 Green Dot managed to push through a different zoning variance—this one to have “greater than allowed” building height for a high school—and, again, by operating under the radar and with the assistance of the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods division of Major Institutions and Schools.

When community advocates called attention to Green Dot requesting a second variance, the Seattle School Board unanimously passed a resolution that charter schools should not be afforded a variance because they are not considered public schools.

On the board of the company Homesight, which is the developer of the site in Southeast Seattle, is an executive from Impact Public Schools, which advocates for charter schools, Natalie Hester, who also serves on the board of the Washington State Charter Schools Association.

There were no representatives from Seattle Public School district on the board of the company.

With the variance for the high school successfully pushed through, but the variance for the middle school stymied by the school board’s resolution, Green Dot has decided to co-locate the high school with the junior high school.

Local citizens protested at the construction site.

And once again, the legality of charter schools is being challenged at the level of the State Supreme Court.

Seattle citizens voted three times against charter schools and there is no indication that opinions have changed. Only a select few backroom operators want the privatization of public schools in Seattle so the battle in Seattle continues.

Dora Taylor

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The Endgame of Corporate Reform, Part 3: Online Learning, Social, Emotional Learning and the Department of Defense

This is the third and final post in the series.

Part 1: The endgame of corporate reform in public school education: What do Betsy DeVos and Seattle Public School’s IT Lead John Krull have in common?

Part 2: The endgame of corporate reform in public school education : Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and the Federal Government

Part 3: Online Learning, Social, Emotional Learning and the Department of Defense

data-mining2

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was a major contributor to the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development and in 2014, Bill Gates was also busy contributing to IMS Global.

Per the in-depth article How exactly did the Department of Defense end up in my child’s classroom? at Wrench in the Gears, the work in the Department of Defense has begun to be intertwined with companies developing software to teach, track and assess K-12 students.

In 1999, just as cloud-based computing was coming onto the scene, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13111 and created the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative or ADL with the purpose of oversight, research, and development of online learning.

ADL is located within the U.S. Department of Defense and was initially used by the National Guard for electronic learning and training.

In 2011 ADL developed software that could track a student’s activities while using a computer. The program was called xAPI or Tin Can API. The original version of Tin Can API was part of a research project commissioned by ADL.

According to ADL’s website:

The Tin Can API (sometimes known as the Experience API or xAPI) is a brand new specification for learning technology that makes it possible to collect data about the wide range of experiences a person has (online and offline). This API captures data in a consistent format about a person or group’s activities from many technologies. Very different systems are able to securely communicate by capturing and sharing this stream of activities using Tin Can’s simple vocabulary.

Now we are back to the notion of “anytime, anywhere” education making it easy to plug into a gig economy of piece work employment without benefits as explained by Carolyn Leith in her article “Learning is Earning” the Rand Corporation way with digital badges and Edublocks.

IMSglobalregistered.jpg

This is where IMS comes into the picture.

According to their website:

IMS Global is a non-profit member collaborative inventing the future of educational and learning technology.  IMS enables a plug & play architecture and ecosystem that provides a foundation on which innovative products are rapidly deployed and work together. IMS suppliers are the market leaders in innovation. IMS institutions are getting to the future of digital learning faster.  

IMS established the IMS Digital Credentialing Initiative providing “digital badges” to signify work accomplished by students as they are taught and assessed by a computer.

These badges can be used by companies to access a job applicant before an interview to see not only what they have purportedly learned but also their emotional and psychological makeup.

Per the article How exactly did the Department of Defense end up in my child’s classroom? , in the 1990’s:

IMS Global began to advance implementation of e-learning systems. This non-profit began as a higher education trade group and now has over 150 contributing members, including IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Pearson, and hundreds upon hundreds of affiliated companies and institutions that use its open source specifications. The Gates Foundation is a platinum level sponsor of four major IMS Global initiatives.

IMS partnered with the Department of Defense on various projects including with Learning Management Systems “to track information about the learner’s experience with learning content”.

In 2002, IMS partnered with the Department of Defense division ADL. The goal of the partnership was basically, and in layman’s terms, to keep a student on a fixed set of learning paths of classwork and assessments and also allow a student to bookmark their progress when taking breaks. This software is called Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM). SCORM is a set of specifications based on an Initiative from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense.

SCORM can be used in conjunction with Dreambox, another start-up funded by Bill Gates that provides software lessons in math for grades kindergarten through 8th grade. With Dreambox, a student receives tokens as prizes for answering questions correctly.

The Office of Naval Research rewarded a contract in 2014 for:

The Alternate Reality Teaching:

OurSpace project will be designed to capture the imagination of children while embracing modern educational research on learning progressions, gender and gaming, and social emotinal learning.  The project is designed to engage students, teachers, and families.  It is a multi-student online learning environment, populated with an ever-expanding variety of games using and educational game authoring toolkit that lets students and teachers create their own future and have learning tailored to their chosen field.

Now that lessons are online using videos and video games to keep a child’s attention, people owning businesses like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, are jumping on the gravy train. Zuckerberg and his wife set up the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative which Zuckerberg describes in a Facebook post, the “education initiative would focus on “personalized learning” — the idea of using various technologies to help students customize their educational pathways”. Jeff Bezos’ Amazon developed “Inspire”, a platform that “works like a search engine for educational videos, lesson plans and games”.

Conclusion

The same people who are selling software to school districts so students can learn “anywhere, anytime” and be assessed using markers for academic performance and their emotional state, also espouse the importance of “21st century skills” which they describe as:

  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Global and cultural awareness
  • Information literacy
  • Leadership
  • Civic literacy and citizenship
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Social responsibility and ethics
  • Initiative

I’m not sure where these ideals fit for children who work in isolation in front of a computer six to eight hours a day working on prescribed lesson plans with online tutors but I suppose that is not for public school students to concern themselves with.

This is a cautionary tale.

We are being sold on the idea of a golden key that, even though it will cost school districts millions of dollars, will open the door to learning for all students using packaged programs and assessments, but don’t be fooled, there is not only a monetary price to be paid.

Your child’s privacy will be lost and their information sold to the highest bidder. Your student will not receive a well-rounded education and the promise of a “career ready” curriculum will more than likely land your child a contract job with no benefits and no future.

This vision benefits the few with little interest in helping the many.

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Alison McDowell breaks it down further in her video about the DOD and public education.

Representative Ruth Kagi is no friend of public education

big money

 

Let’s take big money out of politics starting with Ruth Kagi.

There is a race in the 32nd Legislative District in Seattle where an educator, Wesley Irwin, is running against an establishment Democrat who has been in office for too long.

This post will be about the incumbent, Representative Ruth Kagi, who I have mentioned briefly in two previous posts, The Proposition 1B “Preschool for All” Wheel of Fortune: Same players, new game and Money for charters but nothing for public schools? It’s time for a recall in Washington State.

First, let’s look at Kagi’s record on public school education.

On charter schools:

In the Washington State Democrat’s platform is the statement “We oppose charter schools”. This plank in the platform was hard fought throughout the state as one Democratic legislative district after another passed resolutions stating that charter schools are unconstitutional and undemocratic and yet Ruth Kagi voted for Bill 6194 allowing state funding to keep open a handful of charter schools that were deemed unconstitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court. Her constituents voted unanimously against Bill 6194 and against charter schools in any form. See Resolution passed unanimously by the 32nd District Democrats regarding any and all legislative bills that would authorize charter schools in Washington State.

But the chronic under-funding of our public schools did not come to a resolution in that same session.

So much for representing the people.

On class size:

Initiative 1351 reducing class sizes was opposed by Kagi  

On a cost of living wage increase for teachers:

Rep. Kagi also voted to suspend the much needed “Teacher Cost of Living Adjustment” (COLA) in 2013, yet she voted for a tax cut that gave the Boeing Company billions of dollars (Bill 2294) and then received the maximum contribution allowable from Boeing the following year.

On the Common Core Standards:

Kagi voted for the Common Core Standards and the related SBAC tests.

So how could Ruth Kagi consistently vote against the will of the people for several years now?

Well, let’s take a look at some of her contributors:

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife: Donated $500,000 to push the charter school initiative and contributed to keep the charter schools open after the Supreme Court’s decision that charter schools are unconstitutional in Washington State.

Amazon CEO Jeff  Bezos and his wife, big financial supporters of charter schools.

Boeing

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) , push for the privatization of public schools.

The Community Center for Education Results (CCER): Mary Jean Ryan

For a cumulative view of Kagi’s contributors, see FollowTheMoney.org.

Ruth Kagi is endorsed by the League of Education Voters (LEV) (not to be confused with the League of Women Voters). She even gave LEV money in 2014.

And, LEV gave her a big thank you for voting to fund charter schools on their website.

If you’re pro public schools, you do not want to be associated with the League of Education Voters. For more on LEV, see A look back at the League of Education Voters.

Even though Ruth Kagi touts that she is all about the children, her actions say something entirely different.

For additional information on the subjects mentioned in this post, see:

THE CHARTER-PUSHERS: WHO IS BANKROLLING THE $8 MILLION EFFORT (and counting) TO BRING CHARTERS TO WASHINGTON STATE?

The Charter School Bill 1240 and the 1%: An Analysis

A case study of how the ultra-wealthy spend millions to get what they want in school reform

The Proposition 1B “Preschool for All” Wheel of Fortune: Same players, new game

Race to the Tots: Universal (for profit) Pre-K, DFER, KIPP and the suits

Lisa Macfarlane with WA DFER wins the Walton Award for privatization.

The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates and your student’s privacy

Common Sense Questions About the Common Core Test

Video: Clinical Child Psychologist: The Common Core Standards are developmentally inappropriate

Study shows the Common Core PARCC test does not determine college readiness

Dora Taylor