The latest cash grab : Teacher/charter school villages

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Weekly Update: First for some fun, and then more fun

First, for some fun check out:

The three-day World Rhythm Festival in Seattle, a weekend of immersion in world music, drum and dance. 3 days packed with an amazing range of world music traditions, including African, Middle-Eastern, Latin, Indian, Brazilian, North American, and more.

The World Rhythm Festival, which starts today, is at Seattle Center and the corresponding International Marketplace will be in the Fisher Pavilion.

There will be dance and drumming workshops and special concerts and events for three days and the best part is that all the events are free.

You can bring a drum and use it in any class and the International Marketplace will offer a selections of drums that you can purchase or you can rent a drum.

Does this look like fun or what!

Check it out!

Next up, the Mayor’s Office is looking for volunteers to host after-school classes for middle school students through Engage Seattle.

Per the mayor’s blog:

Recently on our blog, we called for caring and consistent community members to step up as elementary school reading tutors. The need for adult role models does not end with early literacy, however – middle school is another critical time that community members can weigh in to support youth. In fact, research shows that teenagers not attending after-school programs are three times more likely to skip class and engage in dangerous activity (2001 YMCA study).

Through Engage Seattle, our office is connecting community members to meaningful volunteer opportunities within ten middle-school Community Learning Centers (CLCs) across Seattle. These centers, managed by Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Seattle YMCA, provide opportunities for students to engage in academic, recreation, and enrichment programs after school. Middle schoolers not only have the opportunity to receive assistance on their homework and make academic gains in reading and math, but are also able to participate in 5-10 week courses such as ultimate Frisbee, cooking, art, and other hands-on learning activities.

Check it out, get involved and support our youth.They need us.

Now on another positive note, check out Military Children Stay a Step Ahead of Public School Students which was published originally in December, 2011.

Below is an excerpt:

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — The results are now public from the 2011 federal testing program known as NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. And once again, schools on the nation’s military bases have outperformed public schools on both reading and math tests for fourth and eighth graders.

At the military base schools, 39 percent of fourth graders were scored as proficient in reading, compared with 32 percent of all public school students.

Even more impressive, the achievement gap between black and white students continues to be much smaller at military base schools and is shrinking faster than at public schools.

On the NAEP reading test, black fourth graders in public schools scored an average of 205 out of 500, compared with a 231 score for white public school students, a 26-point gap. Black fourth graders at the military base schools averaged 222 in reading, compared with 233 for whites, an 11-point gap.

In fact, the black fourth graders at the military base schools scored better in reading than public school students as a whole, whose average score was 221.

How to explain the difference?

It has become fashionable for American educators to fly off to Helsinki to investigate how schools there produce such high-achieving Finns. But for just $69.95 a night, they can stay at the Days Inn in Jacksonville, N.C., and investigate how the schools here on the Camp Lejeune Marine base produce such high-achieving Americans — both black and white.

They would find that the schools on base are not subject to former President George W. Bush’s signature education program, No Child Left Behind, or to President Obama’s Race to the Top. They would find that standardized tests do not dominate and are not used to rate teachers, principals or schools.

They would find Leigh Anne Kapiko, the principal at Tarawa Terrace Elementary, one of seven schools here.

Test preparation? “No,” Ms. Kapiko said. “That’s not done in Department of Defense schools. We don’t even have test prep materials.”

At schools here, standardized tests are used as originally intended, to identify a child’s academic weaknesses and assess the effectiveness of the curriculum.

Ms. Kapiko has been a principal both inside and outside the gates and believes that military base schools are more nurturing than public schools. “We don’t have to be so regimented, since we’re not worried about a child’s ability to bubble on a test,” she said.

Military children are not put through test prep drills. “For us,” Ms. Kapiko said, “children are children; they’re not little Marines.”

Under Mr. Obama’s education agenda, state governments can now dictate to principals how to run their schools. In Tennessee — which is ranked 41st in NAEP scores and has made no significant progress in closing the black-white achievement gap on those tests in 20 years — the state now requires four formal observations a year for all teachers, regardless of whether the principal thinks they are excellent or weak. The state has declared that half of a teacher’s rating must be based on student test scores.

Ms. Kapiko, on the other hand, has discretion in how to evaluate her teachers. For the most effective, she does one observation a year. That gives her and her assistant principal time for walk-through visits in every classroom every day.

“We don’t micromanage,” said Marilee Fitzgerald, director of the Department of Defense Education Activity, the agency that supervises the military base schools and their 87,000 students. “Individual schools decide what to focus on.”

The average class in New York City in kindergarten through the third grade has 24 students. At military base schools, the average is 18, which is almost as good as it is in the private schools where leaders of the education reform movement — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York; the former education chancellor in New York City, Joel I. Klein; and Bill Gates of Microsoft — have sent their children.

To read the article in full, go to The New York Times Education section.

More good news, students pushing back on the privatization of their education.

On Education Radio’s program Teacher Performance Assessment: A Money Grab for Pearson:

This week on Education Radio we speak with Education Radio producer Barbara Madeloni and two students from the teacher education program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she is on the faculty, Amy Lanham and Rachel Hoogstraten, about their experiences coming to understand and resist the incursion of privatizing forces on teacher education. Barbara, Amy and Rachel tell the story of the push for the development of a national teacher performance assessment (TPA) for student teachers, the infiltration of Pearson Inc into the distribution and scoring of the assessment, and the implications of these for public teacher education, teacher development, privacy and confidentiality, and how we understand what it means to teach. Their story reminds us that, as educators with a commitment to social justice, it is our responsibility to understand the neoliberal agenda, name it when we see it at work, educate each other about how it insinuates itself into our institutions and discourses, and stand together in solidarity to resist.

Amy Lanham is a doctoral student in English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.Rachel Hoogstraten is working toward her M.Ed in English education at the University of Massachusett Amherst. Both Amy and Rachel are completing their student teaching practicum in the University of Massachusetts Amherst licensure program in secondary education.

Barbara Madeloni is a senior lecturer in the Department of Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a member of the Education Radio collective.

Now, I could go on and on about all the awful stuff that there is to deal with but it is spring so let’s get out there and enjoy it. Let’s sing, dance and make joyful noise!

Dora

Teach for America, Inc. Displays Taken Down in Portland and Seattle Apple Stores

According to a previous post on this blog, Parents Across America, Seattle: Part of Protest at Apple Store:

Steve Jobs with Apple has gotten on the ed reform bandwagon and is offering free iPads to Teach for America recruits but of course none to real teachers who have teaching experience, degrees in education and have devoted their lives to their school communities.  Nope, this is for the TFA, Inc. recruits with five weeks of training to teach to the test and nothing more. I guess they need some sort of way to track all of those test scores.

Check out this great video titled An Apple a Day for TFA.

The protest happened on August 13, 2011.

Dora

Part 1

Part 2

Well guess what…they took down the displays in Portland and Washington in late August although it was planned for the photo’s of all those nice, young and enthusiastic recruits to be up through September prominently displayed in the front windows of both stores. We haven’t heard about other cities and whether the displays were left up or not but in Seattle and in Portland where a protest was being planned, they were taken down.

According to a source in Portland:

About the Apple protest — I had called Apple a few times in August to complain about the Teach for America display and ask that they give
iPads to professional teachers instead. In the process I was passed around by phone from one corporate office to another, so I talked to
many people because no one seemed to know how to handle my complaint/request.

The week before we were planning to protest back-to-school week, I called to ask how long the promotion would be going on. I was told — again after being passed around — the display would go on through September and the program –giving iPads to TFA  would go on as long as people wanted to donate them. I did mention the Seattle protest. We planned to protest in Pioneer Square mall, so I  went over to find out about the legalities of protesting inside the mall versus the public sidewalk — this was a few days after the call
to Apple. When I got there, the display was gone. I asked the “genius” when it had been taken down. He said they just came to work, and it was gone — unusual he said because staff is usually told about
things like that. Then he tried to pull up the promotion on the internet. He got an error message. He tried some other ways to access
the page, because that shouldn’t happen he said. But he got nothing.

When I got home I checked the TFA website, and the promotion was still there. I sent the message out to my protest group. By the time they got the link, the TFA page posted an access denied page. Now the only evidence you can find of the campaign is from secondary web sites.

I think it was your protest and our threat of a protest that stopped the
campaign — but mostly you.

This action also got noticed at the Daily Kos, Defeating Teach for America at the Apple Store–A Small Victory.

Great going people.

Dora

How to tell if your School District is infected by the Broad Virus

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Chicago has just learned that it will inherit Rochester, New York’s controversial and unpopular school superintendent, Jean-Claude Brizard (Broad Superintendent’s Academy “Class of 2007”).

Those of us who have experienced the “leadership” of  L.A. billionaire Eli Broad’s corporate-trained superintendents send Chicago our condolences. We have been there, done that, with scars to show for it, and nothing in the way of real academic or positive gains for our schools and kids.

In fact, the Broad brand has been seriously tarnished lately, to the point where it really should be considered a liability rather than an asset. Here are just a few examples of Broad supts who have been ousted or left their districts in a cloud of controversy:  LaVonne Sheffield (Broad Superintendents Academy “Class of 2002” – resigned), Rockford, Ill.;  Maria Goodloe-Johnson (Broad “Class of 2003” – fired), Seattle, Wa.; Matthew H. Malone (Broad “Class of 2003” – resigned) former superintendent of Swampscott, MA; Deborah Sims (Broad “Class of 2005”- resigned), Antioch, CA.

Meanwhile,  Detroit can’t seem to shake its power-hungry Emergency Financial Manager Bob Bobb (Broad Academy “Class of 2005”) whose illegal control of the Detroit School District was stopped in court, but has been recently ratified by a law signed by extremist Republican Governor Rick Snyder.

And now Brizard of Rochester is going to bring his brand of Broad magic to Chicago.

What’s striking is the similarity of the reigns of terror and error of these Broad ‘graduates.’ Disturbingly so, in fact. Many of the above earned No Confidence votes from their district’s teachers, and from parents too. All meted out a top-down dictatorial approach. Most alienated parents. Many closed schools. A number had questionable audits on their watch. More than one had false or questionable data to support their reforms. All commanded large salaries with perqs, while at the same time slashing services for kids and closing schools in the name of financial scarcity. A number of them avoided informing the elected school board of their plans or actively withheld information from them, effectively bypassing democracy.

Scandal, controversy, animosity followed them all, inevitably out the door.

If this trend continues,  Brizard’s tenure in Chicago will likely be short-lived too. But he still could do some serious damage while he’s there. So, heads-up, Chicago.

To help our fellow school districts throughout the nation, here is a guide to diagnose whether your school district has come under the influence of the Broad Foundation (and what you can do about it).

How to tell if your School District is Infected by the Broad Virus

Schools in your district are suddenly closed.

Even top-performing schools, alternative and schools for the gifted, are inexplicably and suddenly targeted for closure or mergers.

Repetition of the phrases “the achievement gap” and “closing the achievement gap” in district documents and public statements.

Repeated use of the terms “excellence” and “best practices” and “data-driven decisions.” (Coupled with a noted absence of any of the above.)

The production of “data” that is false or cherry-picked, and then used to justify reforms.

Power is centralized.

Decision-making is top down.

Local autonomy of schools is taken away.

Principals are treated like pawns by the superintendent, relocated, rewarded and punished at will.

Culture of fear of reprisal develops in which teachers, principals, staff, even parents feel afraid to speak up against the policies of the district or the superintendent.

Ballooning of the central office at the same time superintendent  makes painful cuts to schools and classrooms.

Sudden increase in number of paid outside consultants.

Increase in the number of public schools turned into privately-run charters.

Weak math text adopted (most likely Everyday Math). Possibly weak language arts too, or Writer’s Workshop. District pushes to standard the curriculum.

Superintendent attempts to sidestep labor laws and union contracts.

Teachers are no longer referred to as people, educators, colleagues, staff, or even “human resources,” but as “human capital.”

A (self-anointed, politically connected) group called NCTQ comes to town a few months before your teachers’ contract is up for negotiation and writes a Mad Libs evaluation of your districts’ teachers (for about $14,000) that reaches the predetermined conclusion that teachers are lazy and need merit pay. [“The (NAME OF CITY) School District has too many (NEGATIVE ADJ) teachers. Therefore they need a new (POSITIVE ADJ.) data-based evaluation system tied to test scores…”]

The district leadership declares that the single most significant problem in the district is suddenly: teachers!

Teachers are no longer expected to be creative, passionate, inspired, but merely “effective.”

Superintendent lays off teachers for questionable reasons.

Excessive amounts of testing introduced and imposed on your kids.

Teach for America, Inc., novices are suddenly brought into the district, despite no shortage of fully qualified teachers.

The district hires a number of “Broad Residents” at about $90,000 apiece, also trained by the Broad Foundation, who are placed in strategically important positions like overseeing the test that is used to evaluate teachers or school report cards. They in turn provide — or fabricate — data that support the superintendent’s ed reform agenda (factual accuracy not required).

Strange data appears that seems to contradict what you know (gut level) to be true about your own district.

There is a strange sense of sabotage going on.

Dolores Umbridge — Broad Academy Class of ????

You start to feel you are trapped in the nightmarish Book Five of the Harry Potter series and the evilly vindictive Dolores Umbridge is running your school district. (Seek centaurs and Forbidden Forest immediately!)

Superintendent behaves as if s/he is beyond reproach.

Superintendent reads Blackberry (Goodloe-Johnson, also see comments ) or sends texts (Brizard, see comments) while parents and teachers are giving public testimony at school board meetings, blatantly ignoring public input.

A rash of Astroturf groups appear claiming to represent “the community” or “parents” and all advocate for the exact same corporate ed reforms that your superintendent supports — merit pay, standardized testing, charter schools, alternative credentialing for teachers. Of course, none of these are genuine grassroots community organizations.

Or, existing groups suddenly become fervidly in favor of teacher-bashing, merit pay or charter schools. Don’t be surprised to find that these groups may have received grant money from the corporate ed reform foundations like Gates or Broad.

The superintendent receives the highest salary ever paid to a superintendent in your town’s history (plus benefits and car allowance) – possibly more than your mayor or governor — and the community is told “that is the national, competitive rate for a city of this size.”

Your school board starts to show signs of Stockholm Syndrome. They vote in lockstep with the superintendent. Apparently lobotomized by periodic “school board retreat/Broad training” sessions headed by someone from Broad, your school board stops listening to parents and starts to treat them as the enemy. (If you still have a school board, that is — Broad ideally prefers no pesky democratically elected representatives to get in the way of their supts and agendas.)

Superintendent bypasses school board entirely and keeps them out of the loop on significant or all issues.

School board candidates receive unprecedented amounts of campaign money from business interests.

Annual superintendent evaluation is overseen by a fellow named Tom Payzant.

Stand for Children appears in town and claims to be grassroots. (It is actually based in Portland, Ore., and is funded by the Gates Foundation.) It may invite superintendent to be keynote speaker at a political fundraising event. It will likely lobby your state government for corporate ed reform laws.

Grants appear from the Broad and Gates foundations in support of the superintendent, and her/his “Strategic Plan.”

The Gates Foundation gives your district grants for technical things related to STEM and/or teacher “effectiveness” or studies on charter schools.

Local newspaper fails to report on much of this.

Local newspaper never mentions the words “Broad Foundation.”

Broad and Gates Foundations give money to local public radio stations which in turn become strangely silent about the presence and influence of the Broad and Gates Foundation in your school district.

 THE CURE for Broad Virus:

Parents.

Blogs.

Sharing information.

Vote your school board out of office.

Vote your mayor out of office if s/he is complicit.

Boycott or opt out of tests.

Go national.

Follow the money.

Question the data – especially if it’s produced by someone affiliated with the Broad or Gates Foundations or their favored consultants (McKinsey, Strategies 360, NCTQ, or their own strategically placed Broad Residents).

Alert the media again and again (they will ignore you at first).

Protest, stage rallies, circulate petitions.

Connect and daylight the dots.

— Sue Peters

For more information on the Broad Foundation, see: A Parent Guide to the Broad Foundation’s training programs and education policies by Parents Across America.

(this post was updated from the original version, to add more information, 4/19/11 – sp.)

Letter from a Teacher to Superintendent Enfield and Seattle School Board: Please don’t outsource our jobs to TFA

Despite growing enrollment and schools that are bursting at the seams throughout the district, the Seattle School District is apparently under-reporting enrollment in a number of its schools for this fall, and subsequently planning to announce teacher layoffs on May 15. Waiting in the wings are Teach for America, Inc. recruits which the School Board voted 6-1 (Director Patu dissenting) to contract with last year (with very little public discussion), at an added cost of $4,000/head, for reasons that remain unclear. The truth is, many of Seattle’s schools are alarmingly overcrowded, and the district plans to reopen two more elementary schools in the fall. There is no reason to lay off teachers. Teachers will likely be called back in the fall, if they are still available. Where does this irrational process leave Seattle’s 20,000 fully trained teachers who are eager to work in our local schools? One teacher asks the superintendent and school board to tap the talent it already has. — Sue p.

Dear Superintendent Enfield and Seattle School Board,

I am an aspiring high school English Language Arts teacher in the Seattle Public School district, seeking a contracted position. I grew up in Seattle, attended public school in Seattle, and am dedicated to making an impact on Seattle’s students. I am not the first person who will tell you, from personal experience, that Seattle has no shortage of great teachers; currently there are thousands of teachers out of work in Seattle. A job was posted earlier this school year at West Seattle Elementary and over 600 teachers applied.

_______________________________________________________

“A job was posted earlier this school year at West Seattle Elementary and over 600 teachers applied.”

_______________________________________________________

However, despite this reality, on November 17th, 2011 at the Seattle Public Schools board meeting the board voted—after hearing one compelling teacher, parent and student testimony after another—to move forward with Teach for America contract negotiations. Not only will this cost more money for Seattle, a district in the midst of a tremendous budget crisis (according to the SPS website the state cut funds by $34.8 million for the 2010-11 school year and will cut $42.7-46.1 for the 2011-12 school year), but it will give what jobs are available to novice, nontraditionally qualified teachers, 80% of whom will quit the profession and abandon Seattle’s students after 3 years.

This is the most salient argument against bringing TFA to Seattle: there is no teacher shortage. In fact, there is a monstrous surplus of teachers who are dedicated to making a long-term career out of urban public education in Seattle, including myself. Most of us haven’t had the opportunity to show, in an interview setting, what we can do to support students and improve education at any of Seattle’s Title I schools. Some haven’t even had the opportunity to apply for a job at any of these schools because none have been posted in our areas of endorsement (including secondary English Language Arts, a core subject in which classes are overflowing and teachers struggle desperately to give students a personal, differentiated experience in a district where enrollment and class size continue to rise (see the “Guide to Understanding the Operating Budget – Detailed Report” dated November 2010).

Many highly capable, talented, energetic teachers—some young, some with up to five or six years of experience—have been RIFed from contracted positions. They weren’t offered contracts for this school year. And even more teachers will find out in May that they don’t have a contract for next year either. And contrary to the popular anti-“last in, first out” rhetoric, I find it hard to believe that the majority fit the stereotype of burned-out, do nothing, read a book at their desk while class runs amok, teachers. Most teachers are very good teachers, and all teachers are struggling to do their jobs well because of a fundamental lack of trust and support from the government and community.

_______________________________________________________

“If you want dedicated teachers who are committed to a long and storied career in urban public education, please talk to your pool of nearly 20,000 teachers before you outsource our jobs.”

_______________________________________________________

All I ask of Seattle’s school board, superintendent, principals and parents, on behalf of myself and every other enthusiastic, motivated, purposeful teacher in Seattle—employed or unemployed—is that we are given a fair chance to prove ourselves before our jobs are given away. If you want dedicated teachers who are committed to a long and storied career in urban public education, please talk to your pool of nearly 20,000 teachers before you outsource our jobs.

_______________________________________________________

“All I ask of Seattle’s school board, superintendent, principals and parents (…) is that we are given a fair chance to prove ourselves before our jobs are given away.”

_______________________________________________________

Teach for America’s main selling point is that it provides struggling, high poverty, urban schools with effective tools to close the “achievement gap” between white students and students of color. I completely understand why this message, when presented with glossy brochures and exuberant testimonies, sounds appealing to schools, parents and students who everyday are brutally confronted by failure despite a massive teacher surplus.

However, there are a number of reasons why TFA—well intentioned as it and its participants may be—will not come close to solving, addressing or even slowing the bleeding of low academic achievement in Seattle’s urban schools. In fact, TFA will remove what remains of academic opportunity in Seattle’s struggling schools by passing over qualified teachers in favor of unqualified ones. In order to address the complex and multifaceted issues of failure, Seattle needs to bring everyone involved in and affected by these troubled schools—parents, students, teachers, administrators, district staff, board members—to form a supportive, sustainable community. Change must start from within.

_______________________________________________________

“The Seattle school district is overflowing with qualified, passionate, desperate teachers who do not feel represented or supported by Seattle Schools’ leadership.”

_______________________________________________________

I could talk about how, while TFA claims to increase student achievement and help to close the “achievement gap” in urban schools, there is no convincing evidence of TFA teachers being able to do this under any circumstances. (While many research studies are posted on TFA’s website, they are not reliable, and there are at least as many recent studies showing that TFA teachers are less effective than traditionally certified teachers, new or experienced.) However, I don’t think it matters, nor is it particularly fair to the bright young people who dedicate two years of their lives to a very difficult job. What matters more than anything else is that the Seattle school district is overflowing with qualified, passionate, desperate teachers who do not feel represented or supported by Seattle Schools’ leadership. With even more RIFs imminent and morale at an all-time low, with absolutely no confidence in the leadership, with new teacher evaluation protocol bringing sweat to the brow of even the most talented new teachers, with new district, state, and federal requirements being heaped upon the already breaking backs of teachers, I have to wonder: are any teachers in Seattle in a position to do their best job? Is it any wonder that teachers are struggling?

What other systemic issues are at play in determining why one student is successful in school and another is not? I contend that a student’s achievement in school, or even a child’s success in life, has very little to do with the capability of any given teacher. This does not take any responsibility away from teachers to do the best job possible. Instead, I hope it focuses the role of teacher to a scope of influence that is reasonable. Can anyone help students achieve if neither students nor teachers are even given the opportunity to achieve?

Seattle owes it to teachers to support and respect them in their chosen profession, as it is a very difficult one, requiring much dedication and courage. We owe it to students to look at them as whole people—members of communities—without resorting to quantifying them with statistics. And we owe it to parents to support them in what is the most difficult and admirable of any job, one that nobody can quite adequately prepare themselves for, one that requires tremendous patience and encouragement.

If we are to achieve excellent and sustainable public education in Seattle, we need to look deeper and wider than what happens for fifty minutes inside any given classroom. In order to be successful education needs to be, if nothing else, a collaborative effort that engages teachers, students, families, communities and administrators. TFA will not help to improve education in Seattle in the short or the long term. TFA will heal our schools like a Band Aid on a broken neck.

Sincerely,

Sara H.

Is Washington State government trying to jump on the ed reform bandwagon of failure?

Two recent attempts by WA state government to subvert democracy in order to potentially push an ed reform agenda are cause for alarm.

Two eyebrow-raising news items out of Olympia strongly imply that Governor Gregoire and Co. may be positioning our state to turn some tricks yet again for “Race to the Top” bribery funding.

Both involve bypassing the democratic process. This is the M.O. of many corporate ed reformers. Mayoral control of school districts is the desired scenario of top-down, anti-democratic ed reformers like Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg and  others. [See sidebar: Power grabs: the M.O. of Ed Reformers]

In the first example, Gov. Gregoire recently proposed eliminating the democratically elected State Superintendent of Public Schools (currently Randy Dorn) and seizing control of state education herself. The Seattle Times (quoting Dorn himself, I believe) rightly called this a power grab.

Crosscut’s David Brewster applaud’s Gregoire’s move as “bold” (I guess that’s one way to describe seizing power away from the voting public).

Now Publicola reports that the state senate education committee has apparently just been rigged by the pro-corporate-reform clique (aka the “Waiting for Superman” fan club). Two new members have suddenly been added to the committee and, whaddya know? They both support corporate ed reform, and now tip the balance of the board potentially towards privatization of public education and other discredited “reforms.”

I know we’re tucked away in the far northern corner of the nation, but really, did no one in our echelons of state government get the memo? Nationwide, state after state, study after study, scandal after scandal show that the “reforms” commanded by “Race to the Top” are failing.

Charter schools, merit pay, high stakes testing – are all proving to either not work at all, or do serious damage to our schools and the teaching profession, or are by and large no better than what we already have in our public schools.

To recap: 83 percent of charter schools perform no better or perform worse than traditional public schools. (Read Stanford University’s CREDO report which found that only 17 percent of charter schools outperform traditional public schools.)

High stakes testing does not make teachers or kids perform better, and “value added measures” are riddled with error.

Merit pay doesn’t work. Teachers aren’t motivated by making more money than the teacher in the next classroom. Two separate studies out of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Performance Incentives have now reported this fact.

RTTT demands that states remove caps, change laws, do whatever it takes to make public education an open market for privately run charters. Washington State is one of only a dozen or so states that does not allow charters.  Some say this is why Washington failed to “win” RTTT dollars in its bid last year. Voters have voted against handing over our public schools to private enterprise at least twice. But clearly there are players in Olympia who want to push charters through anyway.

Voters Schmoters

Apparently Gregoire, the state senate education committee, and our friends at Jonah Edelman’s (does your mom know what sneaky stuff you’re up to?) carpetbagging astroturf PAC “Stand for Children” think we voters should be shut out of this process. (Publicola reports that S4C apparently contributed $21,000 to the campaign of one of the newly implanted committee members, Senator Steve Hobbs, D-44, Lake Stevens. Here in Seattle, Stand for Children had a semi-secret, invite-only fundraiser last year featuring Seattle’s Broad-trained School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson as a speaker, and with the stated goal of raising funds to help elect pro-reformers to office. Some parents cried “conflict of interest” when they heard about this extra-curricular political fundraising by the supt. But the school board members I asked said, No, it was just fine for the superintendent to lend the power and influence of her elected office in that manner.)

Bringing back those brilliant moonbeams

Meanwhile in California, new (recycled?) Governor Jerry Brown is apparently going in the opposite direction of Gov. Gregoire. Rather than stacking the state school board with reformites, one of his first orders of business as the new gov was to kick out the most fervent corporate reformers, the controversial Ben “parent trigger” Austin and Ted Mitchell, president of the pro-charter NewSchools Venture Fund. Brown instead appointed an array of – get this—qualified educators and others to help drive the education policy of one of the nation’s largest states. Even the teacher-bashing L.A. Times was forced to agree he had chosen a pretty substantial and fair-minded group of people.

Now, the L.A. Times may also claim that Brown’s moves are merely a thank you to the teacher’s union which supported his campaign. But detractors would be wrong to dismiss Brown’s selection so simplistically. Parents across the country cheered Brown’s  choices. And this may well be yet another indication that the tide is turning against the “Waiting for Superman” teacher-bashing, rah-rah charter crowd, and turning towards sensible, positive education policy.

Also, rumor has it that Brown, who once supported the creation of two charters in Oakland as mayor, has since soured on the concept, and disagrees with the heavy-handed,  top-down, federal control of President Obama’s “Race to the Top” education policies.

Which brings us back to Washington State. Are we really going to dance for “Race to the Top” dollars  again (pennies, really, when the limited amounts awarded are divided by the number of kids statewide) by selling out our schools and kids to private enterprise and failed “reforms”? And is our democratically elected governor and the senate education committee going to stage a coup against our democratically elected state school superintendent in order to force that agenda on us? Not a very honorable picture.

–sue p.

SIDEBAR:

Power Grabs: the MO of the Ed Reformers (cause they know the people won’t support their agenda)

A Seattle Times editorial rightly questioned Gregoire’s proposal, but wrongly called Washington’s failure to fully capitulate to the federal edicts of “Race to the Top” a loss. It also didn’t note that the national “trend” toward mayoral control of school districts has resulted in despotism and failure.

The Bloomberg/Klein dynamic duo in New York comes immediately to mind. As the nation learned this past summer, the alleged “success” of the mayor and school chancellor’s much ballyhooed ed reform policy was a sham.

And too easily this mayoral control thing can run amok. Witness Mayor Bloomberg’s recent insistence on appointing the totally unqualified publishing exec Cathie Black to school chancellor. The state law prevented a non-educator from taking the helm of the school district, and a state panel voted 4-2 against granting a special waiver to get around the law. Yet Bloomberg, never one to let state law get in the way of his ambitions, still managed to wrangle a waiver to bypass the law and allow Black, his choice, to be appointed anyway, over public protest.

(It appears these schemes may be catching up with Mayor Bloomberg, who may be feeling some political fallout for the Cathie Black debacle and other controversies on his watch. The New York Times reported on Jan. 9 that the three-term mayor’s approval ratings have sunk to 37 percent.) [These two paragraphs were updated on Jan. 13. –s.p.]

The pro-privatizing Broad Foundation prefers and supports mayoral takeovers of public school districts (Bloomberg model) which eliminates democratically elected  school boards and gives the mayor sole authority to appoint the superintendent. (This is what Gregoire’s shenanigans remind me of). This set-up squeezes the public out of the decision-making process and consolidates their representation to just the mayor.

See the pattern here? This is how the corporate ed reformers push their agendas through. By force, manipulation and power grabs. Such end runs around democracy are a trademark of the current breed of corporate ed reformers who want complete control and no pesky public input to get in the way of their agenda.

In Compton, Calif., using the “parent trigger”  mechanism invented by Ben Austin, a consultant for Green Dot charters, parents were tricked and intimidated into signing a petition that would have converted their kids’ school into a charter. They were told the petition was merely to “beautify” their  kids’ school — not hand it over to a private enterprise.

This is fairly typical ed reform behavior — sneak something by, force something through, change the law if you have to. This underhanded, undemocratic behavior does not speak well of the reformers, and instead raises many questions about their true agenda.

–sue p.

 

Is Washington State trying to jump on the ed reform bandwagon of failure?

Two recent attempts by state govt to subvert democracy in order to push an ed reform agenda are cause for alarm.

 

Two recent eyebrow-raising news items out of Olympia strongly imply that Gregoire and co may be positioning our state to turn some tricks for Race to the Top funding.

Both involve bypassing the democratic process. This is the MO of many corporate ed reformers. Mayoral control of school districts is the desired scenario of top-down, anti-democratic ed reformers like Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg and various others. [See sidebar: Power grabs: the MO of Ed Reformers]

In the first example, Gov. Gregoire recently proposed eliminating the democratically elected State Superintendent of Public Schools (currently Randy Dorn) and seizing control of state education herself. The Seattle Times (quoting Dorn himself I believe) rightly called this a power grab.

SHAW http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2013850318_edfunding06m.html

The pro-privatizing Broad Foundation prefers and supports mayoral takeovers of public school districts (Bloomberg model) which eliminates democratically elected  school boards and gives the mayor sole authority to appoint the supe (this is what Gregoire’s shenanigans remind me of). This set-up squeezes the public out of the decision making process and consolidates their representation to just the mayor. (But if you’re Bloomberg, you buy your office and have the laws change so you can stay in office for as long as you like.)

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/editorials/2013865899_edit07education.html

 

Crosscut’s Brewster applaud’s Gregoire’s move as “bold” (I guess that’s one way to describe seizing power away from the voting public.) http://crosscut.com/blog/crosscut/20029/Impressive-power-moves-from-Gov.-Gregoire/

Now Publicola reports that the state school board has just been jiggered by the pro corporate reform clique and two new members have suddenly been added to the board and, whaddya know? They both support corporate ed reform, and now tip the balance of the board potentially towards privatization of public education.

 

http://www.publicola.net/2011/01/11/our-first-amendment-rights/

I know we’re tucked away in the far northern corner of the nation, but really, did no one in our echelons of state government get the memo? Nationwide, state after state, district after district, study after study, scandal after scandal show that ed reform and the demands of Race to the Top are failing. Charter schools, merit pay, high stakes testing – are all proving to either not work at all, do serious damage to our schools and the teaching profession, or are by and large no better than existing public schools.

RTTT demands that states raise limits, change laws, do whatever it takes to make the public education a market for privately run charters. Washington State is one of only a dozen or so states that does not allow charters. Voters have voted against handing over our public schools to private enterprise at least twice. But clearly there are players in Olympia who want to push charters through anyway.

Voters Schmoters

But apparently Gregoire, the state Baord of Education, and our friends at Jonah Edelman’s (does your mom know what sneaky stuff you’re up to?) carpetbagging astroturf PAC “Stand for Children” think we voters should be shut out of this process. (S4C apparently funded the campaign of one of the implanted school board members who actually lost his election.)

To recap: 83 percent of charter schools perform no better or perform worse than traditional public schools. (Read Stanford University’s CREDO report.)

High stakes testing do not make teachers or kids perform better, and “value added measures” are riddled with error.

Merit pay doesn’t work. Teacher aren’t motivated by making more money than the teacher in the next classroom. Two studies out of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Performance Incentives have reported this fact.

Meanwhile in California, new/old Governor Jerry Brown is apparently going in the opposite direction of Gov. Gregoire. Rather than stacking the state school board with reformites, one of his first orders of business as the new gov was to kick out the most fervent corporate reformers, the controversial Ben “parent trigger” Austen and New Schools Venture’s Ted Mitchell. Brown instead appointed an array of – get this—qualified educators to help drive the education policy of one of the nation’s largest states. Even the LA Times was forced to agree he had chosen a pretty substantial and fair-minded group of people. Now the Times and others may also be claiming that Brown’s moves are merely a thank you to the teacher’s union which supported his campaign. But detractors would be wrong to dismiss Brown’s selection so simplistically. Parents across the country cheered Brown’s sensible and insightful choices. And this may well be yet another indication that the tide is turning against the “Waiting for Superman” teacher-bashing, rah-rah charter crowd, and turning towards sensible, positive education policy.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0108-brown-education-20110107,0,4390922.story

Also rumor has it that Brown, who once supported the creation of two charters in Oakland as mayor, has since soured on the concept, and disagrees with the top-down, federal control of President Obama’s Race to the Top education policies.

Which brings us back to Washington State. Are we really going to dance for Race to the Top dollars by selling out our schools and kids to private enterprise and failed “reforms”? And is our democratically elected governor and the state school board going to stage a coup against our democratically elected school superintendent to force that on us? Not a very honorable picture.

Gov Gregoire should not try to rig the game so a very few politicians and investors with an agenda decide what will happen to our kids, their teachers and their schools. And she should not crown herself czar of education.

–>

SIDEBAR:

Power Grabs: the MO of the Ed Reformers (cause they know the people won’t support their agenda)

A Seattle Times unsigned editorial rightly question’s Gregoire’s proposal, but wrongly calls Washington’s failure to capitulate to the federal edicts of Race to the Top a loss. Itsalso fails to note that the national “trend” toward mayoral control of school districts has resulted in undemocratic despotism and failures. The Bloomberg/Klein dynamic duo in New York come immediately to mind. Turns out their alleged raised test scores were a sham. Too easily this mayoral control thing can run amok. Witness Bloomberg’s insistence on appointing the totally unqualified including by NY state law Cathie Black to school supertindent. This was over wide public protest and required a legal waiver to rig this. See the pattern here? This is how the corporate ed reformers push their agendas through. By force, manipulation and power grabs. They have a serious problem with the democratic process. Why? Because they likely know that the voting public would not support their self-serving and draconian “reforms.”)

Such end runs around democracy are a trademark of the current breed of corporate ed reformers who want complete control and no pesky public input to get in the way of their agenda.

The f-word keeps coming to mind when I think about what the ed reformers are doing — fascist. I know that may sound like an exaggeration, but look at the pattern:

In NYC, the public schools community didn’t want Cathie Black, a business woman with zero background in ed, to become the next schools chancellor. The law prevented a non educator from taking the helm. So Bloomberg arranged for a waiver to go around that law and allow Black, his choice, to be appointed anyway, over public protest.

My testimony to the Seattle School Board about FERPA (& student privacy)

An incident earlier this year in which the private contact information of 10,700 Seattle public school children and 1,400 teachers got passed along from the school district’s database to a political marketing firm prompted a group of parents to investigate this breach of privacy and formally request that the school district change its policy regarding FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). Here is what I said to the Seattle School Board and superintendent on Oct. 6, 2010.

I am an SPS parent and co-editor of the Seattle Education 2010 blog.

Tonight I’d like to address concerns about how well the district safeguards our children’s private information.

At the beginning of every school year, our kids come home with stacks of papers and forms for us to read and sign.

I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to one in particular  – the FERPA form.

I advise parents to read this carefully.

This form asks parents and guardians for permission to share our children’s private information with other people or organizations like universities, military recruiters, or anyone who asks.

Many of us have a number of concerns with this form and would like to request changes to the district’s policy to ensure the greater safety of our children.

First of all, we would like to change the form from an opt-out to an opt-in form.

The way it is now, if a family fails to return the form – it if gets lost or never makes it home — the district interprets that as a default parental consent to sharing this information. We believe that is wrong.

Second, if parents sign YES to this form, it allows the district to share the private directory information of our children with anyone who requests it. This raises a number of concerns.

Here’s what personal student info that can include:

Parent/guardian and student name, home address, home phone number, email address, student photo or video,  date of birth, grade level, enrollment status, height and weight of athletes, most recent school or program attended, and other information that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.”

It’s hard to imagine how the release of a child’s photo, e-mail address, birthdate, height and weight to a complete stranger could not amount to “an invasion of privacy” or potentially lead to some kind of harm.

Many of us parents are troubled that this information should be released at all.

Thirdly, anyone can ask for and get this info. The district does not require that anyone state their purpose, it does not do a criminal background check.  All a person needs to do is sign a Declaration of Noncommercial Use.

Many of us are not okay with that.  We would like the district to severely restrict what information it releases and to whom, limiting it to known organizations with legitimate purposes.

Earlier this year, a number of parents and teachers were disturbed to discover that the private contact information of 10,700 Seattle public school children and 1,400 teachers was passed on to a political marketing company, DMA Marketing/Strategies 360.

The information was requested by the Alliance for Education and Schools First. Both passed the info onto a third party.

We believe that passing along private student information to a third party should be forbidden.

For a fuller account on what happened in this instance, please see my the article on our blog called “Should the School District Be Allowed to Give our Kids’ Phone Number, Addresses and Photos to Every Tom, Dick or Pollster?”

Modern technology and the internet have made it very easy for information to fall into questionable even dangerous hands.

There are too many loopholes in the district’s FERPA policy that leave our children vulnerable. We would like to see those loopholes closed.

We believe the district should err on the side of our children’s privacy and safety.

We have entrusted you with our children and their private information. You need to do a better job of safeguarding both.

Thank you.

— sue p.

Why the sudden pom-poms in Seattle for Teach for America, Inc.?

“Did you ever work at a job where, when you got enough skill to get a raise in pay, you were fired, and a new man put in?” – Jim from “In Dubious Battle,” John Steinbeck

“The teaching profession in Seattle should be opened up to attract additional talent, including programs such as Teach for America.” – “Our Schools Coalition” “petition.”

An agenda item was quietly slipped into tonight’s Seattle School Board meeting: an “Agreement with Teach for America” apparently to bring TFA recruits to the Puget Sound area as “teachers.” There has been no public discussion of this notion. Indeed, it’s doubtful that many people in the community even know what TFA, Inc. is.

Just as quietly, the item has been crossed off the agenda:


Agreement with Teach For America – Approval of this item will allow TFA candidates to apply for open positions during the Phase III hiring process – This item is a placeholder. Documents should be posted by close of business Tuesday.

Why and why? Why was it introduced and why was it removed?

Is it a coincidence that the Seattle Times recently published an op-ed by the Dean of the School of Education at U.W. Seattle, who also happens to be a TFA corps member, and happens to mention TFA?

Is it a coincidence that our local state Representative Reuven Carlyle suddenly announced on his blog that “It’s time for Teach for America”?

There is an item in the Senate Bill 6696 that passed earlier this year, Olympia’s (failed) effort to qualify our state for the dubious “Race to the Top” money that also mentions allowing alternatively credentialed teachers to work in our state.

Clearly a concerted push is on from some powers that be to place short-term, under-qualified “teachers” in our schools and I, and many others, would like to know why.

Why, when we have many truly qualified teachers here in Seattle looking for work.

Why, when the school district has laid off teachers for two years in a row.

Who asked for TFA, Inc. recruits?

Well, from what I can gather, none of us did. But because it is part of the corporate ed reform agenda to weaken or demonize the teacher’s union (as displayed in “Waiting for Superman”), hand over our public schools to privately run charter franchises which then employ cheaper, non-union teaching force, because Seattle’s School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s agenda for our school district coincidentally closely aligns with the goals of the Broad Foundation on whose board she sits, alongside Wendy Kopp, the CEO of Teach for America, Inc., and Richard Barth, CEO of KIPP charters, it would seem that Goodloe-Johnson and others are apparently hell-bent on forcing this agenda on our district, schools and kids, whether any of us parents want it — or even know about it — or not.

Memo to Supt. Goodloe-Johnson: Your colleague and fellow-Broad board member Michelle Rhee also pushed this agenda in this manner on the D.C. school district, and it cost the mayor his job and probably hers too.

None of us asked for TFA, which is why, I am surmising, that the corporate ed reformers got some of their point people to “introduce” the idea of Teach for America, Inc. to Seattle in their op-eds and blog posts, as if the thought spontaneously and organically occurred to them.

Which is why, I am guessing, my local State Representative Reuven Carlyle out of the blue recently declared in his blog that Washington should bring Teach for America “teachers” here. At a time when experienced professional teachers are being RIFed, why would he suggest that?

I think it was also no coincidence that the so-called “Our Schools Coalition,” an Astro-turf entity fabricated by Strategies 360/DMA Marketing a political marketing firm hired by the Alliance for Education, also tacked on a question about TFA, Inc. in their push-poll survey earlier this year, with no explanation of what TFA, Inc. is. The Alliance and the superintendent like to refer to this survey and claim it demonstrated that a majority of the SPS community supports these ideas. That is dishonest and untrue, to put it nicely. I wonder how many respondents even knew what the question meant?

At best this is a misguided notion about what it takes to teach, especially the most challenging kids — TFA, Inc. places its recruits in the most challenging schools.

At worst, it is an arrogant dismissal of teacher professionalism, another example of applying a business mindset to schools (get the cheapest labor you can), and possibly a dog whistle to a union-busting mentality. If that sounds harsh perhaps I am still reacting to some of the techniques the corporate ed reformers have been so willing to practice – like baseless mass firings of teachers (by D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee and others) and applauded by President Obama himself, or the firing of perfectly decent principals because “No Child Left Behind”  declares their schools a failure, or McCarthyism disguised as journalism at the L.A. Times — shockingly applauded by Education Secretary Arne Duncan — and which may have driven at least one teacher to suicide.

Apparently Rep. Carlyle has received a number of negative responses to his blog post, as well as some positive ones from TFA-ers who say they are still teaching somewhere.

I know at least one TFA veteran. He stayed in the profession and is absolutely dedicated to kids and public education. He is thoughtful, eloquent and I’d love for my kids to have him as a teacher. But he is a statistical minority. Most TFA teachers don’t stay the course. Only 34 percent stay on past the required second year.

Why, at a time when the corporate ed reformers have turned the national Klieg lights on the humblest of professional teachers and declared them failures and demanded they perform miracles, are these same enterprises (Broad, Gates, Goodloe-Johnson, Carlyle et al) out of the other side of their mouths pushing for uncredentialed, inexperienced “teachers” to take on our most challenging schools?

It makes no sense. (But I’ll bet it makes dollars for somebody.)

—Unless you truly believe that short-term youthful energy and enthusiasm trump every other trait in teaching. Or unless you just want a young, inexperienced, cheap and malleable labor force.

TFA is the darling of the media and corporate ed reformers. Its founder Wendy Kopp is featured often in the media. TFA, Inc. is billed as an altruistic nonprofit and the teaching equivalent of the Peace Corps. But is this accurate?

I did some research and was surprised to discover that Teach for America, Incorporated is actually a multimillion-dollar enterprise. It is funded by all the usual suspects and then some: Gates, Broad, the (WalMart) Waltons, Dells, (the Gap) Fishers. Its founder sits on the board of directors of the Broad Foundation (alongside Seattle’s Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson), one of the unelected, unqualified but main drivers of education policy in America right now.

Info about TFA funders can be found in their Annual Report.

Here are a few excerpts:

National Growth Fund Investors (2006-10) The following funders generously supported our significant growth between 2006 – 2010.

$10 Million

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
Doris & Donald Fisher Fund
Rainwater Charitable Funds

National Growth Fund Investors (2009-13) The following funders generously committed to support our significant growth between 2009 – 2013.

$10 Million

Doris & Donald Fisher Fund
Martha and Bruce Karsh
Robertson Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation

$6 Million

Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

Why does TFA, Inc. need so much money to give college kids only five weeks of training? This “nonprofit” sure has a lot of money coursing through its corridors.

I have a lot of questions about all this.

So I asked my representative, Reuven Carlyle, why this idea suddenly sprung into his head. Here’s what I wrote:

Sept. 21, 2010

Dear Representative Carlyle,

I am Seattle public schools parent, resident and voter in your district, and I would like to know: Why do you want to bring Teach for America recruits to Seattle? (http://reuvencarlyle36.com/2010/09/20/time-for-teach-for-america/)

What’s wrong with the teachers we already have in Seattle, either in the public schools or hoping to find work there?

Do you know how long Teach for America “recruits” are trained? Just five weeks.

Do you know how long they are required to commit to their role as teachers? Just two years.

Do you know how many actually stay in teaching? Only 34 percent stay on for another year.

You have advanced degrees related to your field and apparently value higher education and expertise, why do you support bringing people to Seattle to work in an important and difficult field in which they have no degree or credentials?

Do you think that’s enough experience or enough of a commitment to our kids? If so, why? How?

Did you know that Teach for America, Inc. is a multimillion-dollar enterprise?

Research shows that a good teacher doesn’t reach his/her stride until about the fifth year of teaching. Why do you support bringing “teachers” to Seattle who will come and leave before they have even matured yet as professionals?

At a time when Seattle Public Schools has RIFed teachers for two years in a row, if you help bring Teach for America recruits to Seattle, you may be helping other local teachers lose their jobs, or make it harder for new teachers to find a job. Are you okay with that?

I understand that Teach for America recruits are non-union and not paid as much as regular union teachers, so by supporting TFA recruits, aren’t you effectively supporting lower pay for teachers?

Kids in public schools, especially in the less privileged communities, already suffer disproportionately from instability in their lives and schools. Why would you support adding more churn to their lives by bringing in short-term, unqualified “teachers” that will have no long-term commitment to them?

Why don’t you instead support fully funding our schools, fully hiring all the teachers we need, reducing class sizes and supporting teachers to continue their education and experience so they can commit to our children and the noble profession of teaching for the long term?

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Sue Peters

SPS parent, voter and co-editor of
Seattle Education 2010
https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/

I am still waiting for his response.

— sue p.