A Concise Primer on Privatization from Marion Brady

This is a concise primer, written by Marion Brady, on how the 1/100 of 1% have been privatizing our schools and getting away with it. -GFB

Advice column for pundits and politicians

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/01/07/a-primer-on-the-damaging-movement-to-privatize-public-schools/

Privatizing public schools: A primer for pundits and politicians

 

When, about thirty years ago, corporate interests began their highly organized, well-funded effort to privatize public education, you wouldn’t have read or heard about it. They didn’t want to trigger the debate that such a radical change in an important institution warranted.

If, like most pundits and politicians, you’ve supported that campaign, it’s likely you’ve been snookered. Here’s a quick overview of the snookering process.

 

The pitch

 

Talking Points: (a) Standardized testing proves America’s schools are poor. (b) Other countries are eating our lunch. (c) Teachers deserve most of the blame. (d) The lazy ones need to be forced out by performance evaluations. (e) The dumb ones need scripts to read or “canned standards” telling them exactly what to teach. (f) The experienced ones are too set in their ways to change and should be replaced by fresh Five-Week-Wonders from Teach for America. (Bonus: Replacing experienced teachers saves a ton of money.) (g) Public (“government”) schools are a step down the slippery slope to socialism.

 

Tactics

 

Education establishment resistance to privatization is inevitable, so (a) avoid it as long as possible by blurring the lines between “public” and “private.” (b) Push school choice, vouchers, tax write-offs, tax credits, school-business partnerships, profit-driven charter chains. (c) When resistance comes, crank up fear with the, “They’re eating our lunch!” message. (d) Contribute generously to all potential resisters—academic publications, professional organizations, unions, and school support groups such as PTA. (e) Create fake “think tanks,” give them impressive names, and have them do “research” supporting privatization. (f) Encourage investment in teacher-replacer technology—internet access, I-pads, virtual schooling, MOOCS, etc. (e) Pressure state legislators to make life easier for profit-seeking charter chains by taking approval decisions away from local boards and giving them to easier-to-lobby state-level bureaucrats. (g) Elect the “right” people at all levels of government. (When they’re campaigning, have them keep their privatizing agenda quiet.)

 

Weapon

 

If you’ll read the fine-print disclaimers on high-stakes standardized tests, you’ll see how grossly they’re being misused, but they’re the key to privatization. The general public, easily impressed by numbers and mathematical razzle-dazzle, believes competition is the key to quality, so want quality quantified even though it can’t be done. Machine-scored tests don’t measure quality. They rank.

It’s hard to rank unlike things so it’s necessary to standardize. That’s what the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) do. To get the job done quickly, Bill Gates picked up the tab, got the CCSS “legitimized” by getting important politicians to sign off on them, then handed them to teachers as a done deal.

The Standards make testing and ranking a cinch. They also make making billions a cinch. Manufacturers can use the same questions for every state that has adopted the Standards or facsimiles thereof.

If challenged, test fans often quote the late Dr. W. Edward Deming, the world-famous quality guru who showed Japanese companies how to build better stuff than anybody else. In his book, The New Economics, Deming wrote, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Here’s the whole sentence as he wrote it: “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it—a costly myth.”

 

Operating the weapon

 

What’s turned standardized testing into a privatizing juggernaut are pass-fail “cut scores” set by politicians. Saying kids need to be challenged, they set the cut score high enough to fail many (sometimes most) kids. When the scores are published, they point to the high failure rate to “prove” public schools can’t do the job and should be closed or privatized. Clever, huh?

The privatizing machinery is in place. Left alone, it’ll gradually privatize most, but not all, public schools. Those that serve the poorest, the sickest, the handicapped, the most troubled, the most expensive to educate—those will stay in what’s left of the public schools.

 

Weapon malfunction

 

Look at standardized tests from kids’ perspective. Test items (a) measure recall of secondhand, standardized, delivered information, or (b) require a skill to be demonstrated, or (c) reward an ability to second-guess whoever wrote the test item. Because kids didn’t ask for the information, because the skill they’re being asked to demonstrate rarely has immediate practical use, and because they don’t give a tinker’s dam what the test-item writer thinks, they have zero emotional investment in what’s being tested.

As every real teacher knows, no emotional involvement means no real learning. Period. What makes standardized testslook like they work is learner emotion, but it’s emotion that doesn’t have anything to do with learning. The ovals get penciled in to avoid trouble, to please somebody, to get a grade, or to jump through a bureaucratic hoop to be eligible to jump through another bureaucratic hoop. When the pencil is laid down, what’s tested, having no perceived value, automatically erases from memory.

 

Before you write…

 

If you want to avoid cranking out the usual amateurish drivel about standardized testing that appears in the op-eds, editorials, and syndicated columns of the mainstream media, ask yourself a few questions about the testing craze: (a) Should life-altering decisions hinge on the scores of commercially produced tests not open to public inspection? (b) How wise is it to only teach what machines can measure? (c) How fair is it to base any part of teacher pay on scores from tests that can’t evaluate complex thought? (d) Are tests that have no “success in life” predictive power worth the damage they’re doing?

Here’s a longer list of problems you should think about before you write.

 

Perspective

America’s schools have always struggled—an inevitable consequence, first, of a decision in 1893 to narrow and standardize the high school curriculum and emphasize college prep; second, from a powerful strain of individualism in our national character that eats away support for public institutions; third, from a really sorry system of institutional organization. Politicians, not educators, make education policy, basing it on the simplistic conventional wisdom that educating means “delivering information.”

In fact, educating is the most complex and difficult of all professions. Done right, teaching is an attempt to help the young align their beliefs, values, and assumptions more closely with what’s true and real, escape the bonds of ethnocentrism, explore the wonders and potential of humanness, and become skilled at using thought processes that make it possible to realize those aims.

Historically, out of the institution’s dysfunctional organizational design came schools with lots of problems, but with one redeeming virtue. They were “loose.” Teachers had enough autonomy to do their thing. So they did, and the kids that some of them coached brought America far more than its share of patents, scholarly papers, scientific advances, international awards, and honors.

Notwithstanding their serious problems, America’s public schools were once the envy of the world. Now, educators around that world shake their heads in disbelief (or maybe cheer?) as we spend billions of dollars to standardize what once made America great—un-standardized thought.

A salvage operation is still (barely) possible, but not if politicians, prodded by pundits, continue to do what they’ve thus far steadfastly refused to do—listen to people who’ve actually worked with real students in real classrooms, and did so long enough and thoughtfully enough to know something about teaching.

 

Note: I invite response, especially from those in positions of influence or authority who disagree with me.

Marion Brady mbrady2222@gmail.com

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Pro-Privatization Ideologue Rips Privatization of Public Schools

Valerie Strauss goes into some detail about how the person in charge of Stanford’s CREDO institute has concluded that privatization does not work in the public education sector.

Here’s the money quote from Margarte Raymond, the head of CREDO, who happens to be married to Eric Hanushek, who jump-started the Value-Added Measurement syndrome in education:

This is one of the big insights for me. I actually am kind of a pro-market kinda girl. But it doesn’t seem to work in a choice environment for education. I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career. That’s my academic focus for my work. And it’s [education] the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to expect parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state. I think there are other supports that are needed. Frankly parents have not been really well educated in the mechanisms of choice.… I think the policy environment really needs to focus on creating much more information and transparency about performance than we’ve had for the 20 years of the charter school movement. I think we need to have a greater degree of oversight of charter schools, but I also think we have to have some oversight of the overseers.

Ravitch Critiques the Current Education Privatization Movement and Offers Suggestions for a Different Way

For a clear summary of the evidence showing that not a single one of the currently fashionable methods of ‘reforming’ public education has worked, then read the first twenty chapters of the latest book by Diane Ravitch, “Reign of Error”, published today by A.A. Knopf.

This book gratifies me because it lays out in a concise and organized manner much of what I and a number of other education bloggers have been trying to point out for the last four or five years. Ravitch’s clear prose is a masterful summary of the evidence that the bipartisan “reforms” being committed against public education are not only ineffective by the yardsticks held up by these ‘reformers’, but are also resegregating our schools and foisting an inferior education onto our poorest kids.

On the other hand, if you prefer to see a clearly-laid out set of suggestions for a more sensible way to fix our school system, then this is still the right book to read! In chapters 21 through 33, she lays out a logical and sensible way to really fix our schools.

Keep in mind, as you read the book, that the “reformers” of public education have been in charge in some of our largest cities for about 20 years now. For example, Paul Vallas ran Chicago Public Schools from 1995-2001, and Arne Duncan ran them from 2001-2009; since then they are under the control of mayor Rahm Emanuel. They did such a WONDERFUL job that Chicago just found it necessary to close down dozens of schools and fire thousands of teachers and other employees. Joel Klein ran New York City’s public schools from 2002 to his departure to head Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp. Michelle Rhee and her crony Kaya Henderson have run DC Public Schools since 2007.

Those school systems remain in crisis, despite the claims of our wealthiest citizens (Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, the Walton family and a bevy of hedge fund managers) that those leaders were producing piles of ‘excellence’ while having almost no teaching experience or school leadership credentials.

If you doubt my claims, all you need to do is look at the graphs and tables in Ravitch’s appendices.

It stokes by own vanity to find a couple of my own blog columns cited on pages 150-151, wherein I had delved into the data on Michelle Rhee’s mythical successes in Baltimore from 1992-1995.

(Rhee has since admitted making the numbers up, but chuckled that they didn’t matter. She has no shame! I also discovered that a possible reason for the increases that were noted at her school and grade level may have been due to two facts: (1) Her school and her grade had one of the greatest attrition rates over those two years of any of the schools in the study; and (2) her grade at her school also had one of the largest percentages of students who scored so low on the CTBS that their scores weren’t even counted!)

Here are the headings and summaries for chapters 5 – 20 of Reign of Error:

5: The Facts About Test Scores

Claim: Test scores are falling, and the educational system is broken and obsolete.

Reality: Test scores are a their highest point ever recorded.

6: The Facts About the Achievement Gap

Claim: The achievement gaps are large and getting worse.

Reality: We have made genuine progress in narrowing the achievement gap, but they will remain large if we do nothing about the causes of the gaps.

7. The Facts About the International Test Scores

Claim: We are falling behind other nations, putting our economy and our national economy at risk.

Reality: An old lament, not true then, not true now.

8. The Facts About High School Graduation Rates

Claim: The nation has a dropout crisis, and high school graduation rates are falling.

Reality: High school dropouts are at an all-time low, and high school graduation rates are at an all-time high.

9. The Facts About College Graduation Rates

Claim: Our economy will suffer unless we have the highest college graduation rates in the world.

Reality: There is no basis for this claim.

10. How Poverty Affects Academic Achievement

Claim: Poverty is an excuse for ineffective teaching and failing schools.

Reality: Poverty is highly correlated with low academic achievement.

11. The Facts About Teachers and Test Scores

Claim: Teachers determine student test scores, and test scores may be used to identify and reward effective teachers and to fire those who are not effective.

Reality: Test scores are not the best way to identify the best teachers.

12. Why Merit Pay Fails

Claim: Merit pay will improve achievement.

Reality: Merit pay has never improved achievement.

13. Do Teachers Need Tenure and Seniority?

Claim: Schools will improve if tenure and seniority are abolished.

Reality: There is no basis for this claim.

14. The Problem with Teach for America

Claim: Teach for America recruits teachers and leaders whose high expectations will one day ensure that every child has an excellent education.

Reality: Teach for America sends bright young people into tough classrooms where they get about the same results as other bright young people in similar classrooms but leave the profession sooner.

15. The Mystery of Michelle Rhee

(no sub-headings for this chapter)

16. The Contradictions of Charters

Claim: Charter schools will revolutionize American education by thei freedom to innovate and produce dramatically better results.

Reality: Charter schools run the gamut from excellent to awful and are, on average, no more innovative or successful than public schools.

17. Trouble in E-Land

Claim: Virtual schools will the promise of personalized, customized learning to every student and usher in an age of educational excellence for all.

Reality: Virtual schools are cash cows for their owners but poor substitutes for real teachers and real schools.

18. Parent Trigger, Parent Tricker

Claim: If parents seize control of their school, they can make it better.

Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.

19. The Failure of Vouchers

Claim: Students who receive vouchers for private and religious schools will experience dramatic success.

Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.

20. Schools Don’t Improve if They Are Closed

Claim: Schools can be dramatically improved by firing the principal, firing half or all of the teaches, or closing the school and starting fresh.

Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.

Next, I’ll give the headings of the chapters laying out solutions.

Kentucky Wildcat Strike?

From : Schools Matter website

Kentucky Teachers Strike as Union Leaders Sit on Hands

Posted: 20 Mar 2019 08:32 AM PDT

The continuing waves of job actions across the country demonstrate the irrelevance of AFT and NEA top-heavy and top-down misleadership.  As Kentucky teachers and parents plan an execute sick-outs to shut down schools in protest of a toxic package of state legislation to rob schools and crush teacher voices, the union misleaders continue to urge teachers to go to work and, instead of striking, to send a delegation of beggars to the state capital to “lobby” corporate legislators.   Teachers are not having it.

From Nation of Change:

Don’t call what Kentucky teachers just did a “wildcat” labor action, at least not when you’re speaking with Tim Hall. Hall, a classroom teacher at Shawnee High School in Louisville, answered my phone call as he was driving to the state capitol in Frankfort to protest the latest slate of education-related bills being considered in the legislature. He and hundreds of other teachers in Jefferson County Public Schools, the state’s largest school district that includes Louisville, called in sick, prompting the district to close schools for over 100,000 students. 

Hundreds of those teachers joined Hall at the state capitol. It was the third time in a week and the second day in a row that enough JCPS teachers called out sick to trigger a full district shutdown. The sick-out spread to four other districts that also had to close. But neither the state teachers’ union nor the local union for Jefferson County had anything to do with organizing the action. In fact, union leaders urged teachers to show up for work, preferring instead to have districts send small teams of teachers to lobby state lawmakers. 

Yet Hall bristled at using “wildcat” to describe what JCPS teachers were doing. “I don’t like that word,” he said. “I think our concerns are reflective of teachers not only in JCPS but also across the state.” 

The Kentucky teachers’ actions are the latest in what has become a wave of teachers using their collective power to influence legislation in state governments, but the sick-out in Kentucky is also a sign of how teacher protests are evolving. 

Teachers who once saw labor actions as effective tactical responses to attacks on their financial well-being are now understanding that their labor power is part of a broader strategy to even the playing field in a political landscape that is increasingly unequal. And there’s strong evidence they’re having an impact. 

Teacher strikes are evolving 

The teachers, joined by parents and other public education activists, organized the sick-out action on social media sites including the Facebook page for JCPS Leads, which Hall helps facilitate. Teachers went back to work at one point, but then extended their protest to a fourth, fifth, and then a sixth day to ensure controversial bills were killed in the legislature. 

The roots of this year’s labor action are in last year’s statewide strike when teachers closed schools across the Bluegrass State to protest a new pension bill that would have put retirement earnings for new teachers at greater risk and shortchanged retirees and senior teachers. This year’s sick-out is different. 

First, teachers have a much broader array of targets for their protests. “We want a whole package of bills voted down,” Hall explained. 

Once again, a threat to teachers’ pensions, House Bill 525, has stirred the teachers’ ire because it would reduce the participation of educators on the state employee pension board. But two other bills go beyond wage-and-benefits grievances: House Bill 205 that would establish a statewide school voucher program giving tax breaks to those who donate to private school scholarships for special-needs and low-income students, and Senate Bill 250 that would take school principal hiring decisions away from local, site-based committees, which include teachers, and give the district superintendent sole responsibility for the hiring process – the bill applies to JCPS only. 

Hall sees all three bills as attacks on democracy. “They’re about taking away our ability to collaborate on how our schools operate,” he said. By removing educators from the pension board, ramping up a statewide voucher program, and undermining teachers’ influence on principal hiring, teachers are being pushed further out to the periphery of decision making, he explained, and in turn, are less able to make their voices heard as advocates for their schools and their students.

Also, there’s a good reason why Jefferson County teachers are taking it upon themselves to lead the labor action and go it alone in speaking out for their colleagues elsewhere in the state. Not only is JCPS the only district affected by the bill to change principal hiring; JCPS is also the only district currently under threat of state takeover. Proponents of charter schools and vouchers are generally seen as the most ardent backers of the takeover effort. 

And Hall and other teachers see all three bills as efforts to further undermine their participation in governance of their schools and usher in more state control and privatization of schools. 

A movement about democracy 

In taking their demands beyond economic grievances to include issues of governance and local community voice, the Kentucky teachers are joining a strong new trend in the teacher movement. 

When West Virginia teachers walked off the job last year and started what’s become known as RedForEd, they generally made wages and benefits the core of their grievances. But in their labor action this year, West Virginia teachers expanded their protests to include issues with privatization, specifically, to fight new legislation that would take public money from traditional districts and use it for charter schools and for private and religious school tuition. 

Also this year, teachers in Los Angeles and Oakland, California, made opposition to the unchecked growth of charter schools and their lack of transparency and accountability a centerpiece of the unions’ demands. 

Education journalists and “experts” have noticed this trend and described it as mostly a battle over funding for public schools vs. charter schools, voucher programs, and other forms of privatization. But that misses the broader argument teachers make that all education mandates that stem from top-down authority and big money interests are meant to rob teachers of having a voice in how schools are governed. 

Teachers are making RedForEd a fight not just for funding but also for political power. 

Teacher strikes work 

There’s evidence that the teachers’ change in strategy will work. 

Last year’s RedForEd protests clearly affected state legislation where the protests occurred. According to a new analysis, in four states where teachers walked off the job, state legislatures responded by increasing baseline state funding for schools by 3-19 percent. 

This year, teacher strikes in Los Angeles and Oakland led to calls from local governments for moratoriums on new charters and increased regulation of the industry. In response, California state lawmakers acted with “lightning speed” to enact new laws that require more transparency in charter school operations. 

How successful were the Kentucky teachers? As of this writing, on the final day of the legislative session, two of the three bills teachers targeted in their protests appear to be dead – the bill restructuring the state pension board and the bill creating a statewide school voucher program. The bill targeting the principal hiring process in JCPS appears to have passed in both chambers and will likely be signed by Governor Matt Bevin. 

Two out of three is not a bad batting average in a “red state” where Republicans hold a trifecta of strong majorities in both branches of the state legislature and the governor’s seat. And should the dead bills come back to life, Hall assures me, or similar bills spring up, teachers will return to the capitol. 

“We’re tired of being unsupported and messed with,” he said. “Teachers want to have fair ways for us to ensure the public education system continues to provide access to well-supported schools for

Published in: on March 20, 2019 at 5:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Privatizing Government for Private Profit and Public Poverty

from RestoreReason.com.

I just listened to “The Coming Storm”, by Michael Lewis*. I didn’t carefully read the description before diving in, and thought it would inform me about the increasing violence of weather. Rather, I learned about the privatization of weather, or at least the reporting of it, and the Department of Commerce.

Turns out, the Department of Commerce has little to do with commerce and is actually forbidden by law from engaging in business. Rather, it runs the U.S. Census, the Patent and Trademark Office, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Over half of its $9B budget though, is spent by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to figure out the weather. And figuring out the weather, is largely about collecting data. “Each and every day, NOAA collects twice as much data as is contained in the entire book collection of the Library of Congress.” One senior policy adviser from the George W. Bush administration, said the Department of Commerce should really be called the Department of Science and Technology. When he mentioned this to Wilbur Ross, Trump’s appointee to lead the Department, Ross said, “Yeah, I don’t think I want to be focusing on that.” Unfortunately for all of us, Ross also wasn’t interested in finding someone who would do it for him.

In October 2017, Barry Myers, a lawyer who founded and ran AccuWeather, was nominated to serve as the head of the NOAA. This is a guy who in the 1990s, argued the NWS should be forbidden (except in cases where human life and property was at stake) from delivering any weather-related knowledge to Americans who might be a consumer of AccuWeather products. “The National Weather Service” Myers said, “does not need to have the final say on warnings…the government should get out of the forecasting business.”

Then in 2005, Senator Rick Santorum (a recipient of Myers family contributions) introduced a bill to basically eliminate the National Weather Service’s ability to communicate with the public. Lewis asks his readers to “consider the audacity of that manuever. A private company whose weather predictions were totally dependent on the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. taxpayer to gather the data necessary for those predictions, and on decades of intellectual weather work sponsored by the U.S. taxpayer, and on the very forecasts that the National Weather Service generated, was, in effect, trying to force the U.S. taxpayer to pay all over again for the National Weather Service might be able to tell him or her for free.”

It was at this point in my listening that I began to think how this privatization story was paralleling that of education’s. In both cases, those in the public sector are in it for the mission, not the money. In both cases, the private sector only “wins” if the public sector “loses”. In both cases, it is in the interest of the private sector to facilitate the failure of the public sector or make it look like it is failing.

Just as private and charter schools profit when district schools are perceived to be of lower quality, Barry Myers has worked hard to make government provided weather services look inferior to that which the private sector can provide. As Lewis points out, “The more spectacular and expensive the disasters, the more people will pay for warning of them. The more people stand to lose, the more money they will be inclined to pay. The more they pay, the more the weather industry can afford to donate to elected officials, and the more influence it will gain over the political process.”

Myers clearly understood the private weather sector’s financial interest in catastrophe and had no qualms about maximizing on it. One of those opportunities presented itself in Moore, Oklahoma when the NWS failed to spot a tornado that had spun up quickly and rapidly vanished. AccuWeather managed to catch it and immediately sent out a press release bragging that they’d sent a tornado alert to their paying corporate customers 12 minutes before the tornado hit. But, they never broadcast the warning…only those who had paid for it got it. This focus on profit above all else is why when the Trump Administration asked a former Bush Commerce department official to provide a list of those who should lead NOAA, Barry Myers’ name was not on it. “I don’t want someone who has a bottom line, or a concern with shareholders”, said the official, “in charge of saving lives and protecting property.”

That sentiment is how I feel about the provision of “public” education by private and charter schools. I don’t want someone who has a bottom line, or a concern with corporate shareholders, in charge of educating America’s children without full transparency and complete accountability to taxpayers and the public. Rather, when taxpayer dollars are funding a service previously provided by the public sector, the potential must be weighed, for damage to the common good caused by the motive to profit.

Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening today. As described by Jim Sleeper in a recent Salon.com article titled “Republic derangement: A party I used to respect has gone off the cliff”,** “the disease of turbo-marketing [is] reducing American education, entertainment, social media, politics and the dignity of work itself to levels determined by a mania to maximize profits and shareholder dividends, no matter the social costs.

No, I’m not saying there aren’t problems with the public sector. But, the idea that the public has more control over a private corporation than it does over a public entity is ludicrous. The idea that parents have more say over a charter school’s Education Management Organization (EMO) or a private school’s owner, than they do over a school district governing board is ludicrous. Ever try to attend an EMO’s board meeting, let alone be allowed to make a “call to the public” at one? How about gaining visibility to the financial documents of a private school? Not happening.

The key to public sector performance is public engagement. For-profit corporations are generally motivated by profit. That is as it should be. Public entities are generally motivated by doing good for the public, again, as it should be. Neither is inherently bad or good, they each have their place and purpose. In some cases, there can even be a good mix of the two, such as with the U.S. Postal Service. But, the focus on privatization is currently being overplayed, to the detriment of our public institutions and the common good of our Nation and our world.

Truth is, government can provide a valuable check on corporate greed. Likewise, fair competition from the private sector can provide a check on the potential for government complacency or really, that of any monopoly, private or public.

Balance is the key. As Simon Sinek said, “The trick to balance is to not make sacrificing important things become the norm.” One of the most “important things” in my mind, is to care for those who do not have the capacity to care for themselves. To ensure ALL OUR children have the opportunity to lead healthy, productive lives, no matter the circumstances of their birth, or the zip code in which they live. In the words of John Dewey, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”

*https://www.audible.com/…/The-Coming-Storm-Audi…/B07F43574T…&
**https://www.salon.com/…/republican-derangement-a-party-i-u…/

Newfound Teacher Militancy in ‘Red’ States and in a DC Charter School!

It is great to see so many of my former teacher colleagues in red states, as well as at a charter school here in DC, engaging in militant action against the corruption and privatization and defunding of public education. Walkouts in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and Colorado are very inspirational not only to parents, teachers and students in those states, but also to the entire, beleaguered working class and union movement in this country.

I am also pleased to see the teachers at Chavez Prep Middle Charter School here in DC also doing their bit in exposing the hypocrisy of their own management in wasting millions on hiring consultants instead of actual classroom teachers for science or English as a second language. (Most of the teachers I’ve known who worked at charter schools told me they took the job with very high expectations and commitment, but found out after a while that the high-sounding ideals of the school weren’t carried out in practice.) Here is the Washington Post article on the Chavez demonstration:

=============

 

Education

Teachers from only D.C. charter school with a union take to the streets to protest

Teachers and staff from the District’s Chavez Prep Middle march to the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library on Tuesday as they protest what they say is the school’s excessive spending on a consultant. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

By Perry Stein April 25 at 6:43 PM

A rare battle between teachers and administrators at a charter school has broken into public view, with educators taking to the streets of a D.C. neighborhood to press their case that the school is spending millions of dollars on consultants while cutting core classroom positions.

The teachers at Chavez Prep Middle — the first D.C. charter school to unionize — say the administration’s spending is hurting students, who predominantly come from low-income, Hispanic families.

The teachers voted in June to unionize and are represented by the American Federation of Teachers. The three other campuses in the D.C. Cesar Chavez charter network are not unionized. The protest unfolded as teachers at Chavez Prep Middle are negotiating their first contract with school leaders.

“We want to make sure our students are as best served as possible,” said Do Lee, an eighth-grade math teacher. “But a lot of our money is going to the [consulting firm], and we don’t see the trickle-down effect.”

The leaders of the Cesar Chavez charter schools say the consulting firm is needed to boost the lagging performance of students and that the schools risk closure if their academic standing does not improve.

Charter schools are publicly funded and privately run, and unlike the traditional public school system, their teachers are not typically unionized. Massive teacher protests have been organized by unions in states such as Oklahoma and West Virginia this year, but they have emerged from the states’ traditional public school systems, with thousands of teachers represented by a single union. At Chavez Prep Middle, 30 teachers are in the union.

Nearly 7,000 charter schools serve 3 million students in the country, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The American Federation of Teachers says that in the past year, teachers at more than a dozen charter schools nationwide have voted to unionize.

School leaders at Chavez said the union is misrepresenting the staffing cuts and the role of the consulting firm — and argue that it is a necessary investment for the school.

 

The Cesar Chavez network has a four-year, $5.3 million contract with TenSquare, a consulting firm that supports charter schools, according to school leaders. The annual budget at the four schools combined is more than $26 million.

[Teachers walk out, cancel classes for an hour at D.C.’s Anacostia High]

Enrollment and standardized test scores have declined in recent years in the Chavez network, and the D.C. Public Charter School Board said in December it would close the schools if they don’t improve their academic performance, according to the board’s 2017 review. The board ordered the Chavez network’s Parkside Middle to be shut down over the next three years. The charter network schools have experienced high turnover in their administrations.

Network administrators say they brought in TenSquare to help turn around the schools.

“The goals for TenSquare’s efforts within the Chavez network require a sustained effort,” Rick Torres, the network’s board chairman, wrote in a statement. “The good news is that we are already seeing encouraging signs of improvement thanks to the dedication of our teachers and staff and the support of TenSquare’s specialists in the areas where Chavez needs additional help to support our students and families.”

TenSquare founder Josh Kern said his consulting firm has 12 employees working across the four campuses. He said the firm trains school leaders, coaches and teachers and works with struggling students. TenSquare is working with three other D.C. charter schools, and Kern said client schools see dramatic improvements in their charter board evaluations. The firm also works with schools in New Orleans and Las Vegas.

“The work we are doing is essential to the school,” Kern said, “and absolutely necessary to improving the school.”

The unionized teachers at Chavez Prep Middle have already scored a small victory: The National Labor Relations Board found merit in March to allegations that Chavez school administrators are making changes to the workplace without negotiating with the teachers. An administrative trial is set for this summer.

Chavez Prep Middle teachers who protested Tuesday said they are angry that the administration is not filling vacant positions for a social studies teacher and a teacher of English as a second language. The Columbia Heights middle school campus has a large population of Hispanic students, and teachers said the English-language position is critical. The loss of these positions, they argued, leaves the staff stretched thin.

But school leaders said they had to make those cuts because of declining enrollment. The schools receive city funding for each student enrolled, and the four campuses went from 1,420 students in the 2015-2016 school year to 1,172 students this year, according to data from the D.C. charter board.

The protesting teachers marched from the middle school campus in Columbia Heights to the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library, where some of the teachers met with school leaders to continue contract negotiations. Representatives from TenSquare were present at the negotiations.

The educators carried signs invoking the philosophies of the school’s namesake, Cesar Chavez, a Mexican American farmworker who became a national labor leader.

“What would Cesar do?” one sign read. Protesters chanted “TenSquare, escucha, estamos en la lucha,” which translates from Spanish to, “TenSquare, listen, we are in the fight.”

“It seems to us that TenSquare is coming in and exploiting a broken evaluation system to fill their pockets,” said Christian Herr, a science teacher at the school and one of the union leaders.

Published in: on April 27, 2018 at 9:32 am  Comments (2)  

The 2017 NAEP Results, DC & USA

I am visiting the National Press Club building, for the first time, for the official presentation of the long-awaited results of the National Assessment of Educational  Progress which American students took TWELVE MONTHS AGO.

Let that sink in: it took almost a full school (or calendar) year for the results to be tabulated and properly massaged. (So much for having data that teachers could possibly use!)

In the morning session, presenters acknowledged that for the nation as a whole, reading scores are flat – essentially unchanged — after 25 years of various types of ‘reforms’. Panelists tried to explain why, and seemed to me to give just about diametrically-opposed solutions to the problem. The introductory presenter (whom we saw on tape), essentially blamed us adults for not letting kids see us read often and deeply enough, and said that if we just wish harder, the results will come. (not quite a direct quote, but close)

I did a quick appraisal of how Washington DC’s scores have improved (or not) before and after mayoral control, which was imposed shortly after students took the 2007 NAEP. You may recall that Michelle Rhee was imposed as DC’s first education Chancellor. She and her henchwoman, Kaya Henderson (who succeeded Rhee) predicted, in writing, all sorts of miraculous gains that would come if they were free to fire teachers en masse and subject them to rigorous numerical control via IMPACT and VAM.

None of it came to pass.

With today’s data it is even clearer than ever. I found 16 separate subcategories of students for which I could easily find data. Of them, improvements were better BEFORE mayoral control for 12 of them, and in only 4 was the improvement slightly better AFTER mayoral control.

That’s a three-to-one vote against mayoral control and the whole educational Reformster movement.

In other cities and jurisdictions, it’s more of the same. The imposition of Common Core curriculum, along with SBAC and PARCC testing and the like, has in fact made the gaps between high-achievers and low-achievers wider than ever.

The only positive thing for DC education officials is that now DC isn’t the last in the nation any more! That honor now belongs to Detroit — in a city and state where privatization of schools has run wild under the supervision of Billionaire “Christian” Betsy Devos.

Really, really sad.

Or as Peter Greene of Curmudgucation wrote earlier today,

It’s NAEP Day. Here’s What To Remember As You Peruse All the Various PIeces Offering Reactions and Analysis of the So-Called Nation’s Report Card. Really.

Posted: 10 Apr 2018 08:24 AM PDT

Even if you disagree with the valu the NAEP, it is the yardstick by which many folks, including many reformsters, choose to use in measuring educational achievement.

The 2017 tests were taken by students who have, for the most part, received an entire education shaped by ed reform.

The scores were not good.

Ed reform has failed.

Everything else is just details and noise.

Published in: on April 10, 2018 at 4:05 pm  Comments (2)  

Dont Sell Off Puerto Rico’s Schools!

Gadfly On The Wall Explains the horrible privatization plan there.

https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/07/crippled-puerto-rico-offered-school-privatization-as-quick-fix-for-woes/

Published in: on February 7, 2018 at 9:28 am  Leave a Comment  

What Exactly Are the Differences between Democrats and Republicans on Charter Schools?

According to this column by Carolyn Leith, not really all that much. I thought this is worth reading. The source is here

Last year, I wrote an open letter to Senator Patty Murray pleading with her to reconsider the lavish financial support charter schools were slated to receive in the soon to be re-authorized ESEA.

My argument:

The Supreme Court has found the Washington State Legislature in contempt for not fulfilling its duty to fully fund basic education.

The federal government made this situation even worse when it allowed aid to states to expire in 2012. This money was being used by states to keep our public schools running.

Given the precarious state of public school funding in Washington State, I’m confused by your willingness to include generous funding for charter schools in the ESEA.

Not only did the Supreme Court rule Washington State’s charter law unconstitutional, but charter schools have a track record for all kinds of financial scandals. Don’t believe me? Just google “charter school scandals” and take a look.

We can’t afford to have any dollars diverted from our classrooms. Any dollar lost to scandal is one not being spent on the 1 million public school students in Washington State.

The rest is history.

The ESEA sailed through Congress and with President Obama’s signature – became law as the ESSA.

In November, Patty Murray – supporter of the TPP and co-author of the ESSA – skated to another term with 59% of the vote.

The only kink was Trump’s victory and his selection of Betsy DeVos to be the new Secretary of Education. THAT was a buzz kill.

Suddenly, Democrats and progressives (whatever that means anymore) couldn’t stop talking about charters and the evils of privatization.

AWKWARD.

Here’s the thing: Democrats are just as into charter schools as Republicans. The only difference is the language they use to sell the idea to their supporters. Democrats talk about gaps while the Republicans complain about the public education monopoly.

Don’t believe me?

In September, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, John King, sent out a press release announcing $245 million in new grants for charter schools. $245 million !?!

“Ensuring that all students have access to an academically challenging and engaging education is critical to preparing them for college and career success,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “Innovative charter schools are continuously developing new and impactful practices to close achievement gaps and provide all students with the skills and abilities they need to thrive. We are proud to support these efforts along with strong charter school authorizing and accountability, particularly given these grantees’ commitment to communities facing steep academic challenges.”

(Did you see the word gaps?)

Selective Outrage

I’m done with Democrats who only activate their moral compasses when a Republican is President. I don’t have the time or patience to support an organization that puts scoring political points over principles.

Remember when Hillary Clinton made big headlines by trying to sell NEA members on the lesser of two evils argument that non-profit charters were a vast improvement over the garden variety charter school?

Think about it: The Democratic Party’s candidate for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton, was campaigning as a supporter of charter schools — to an audience full of teachers. You can’t be more pro-charter than that.

But now – with a Republican President and a potential Education Secretary who LOVES all things charter – Democrats and their progressive minions are beside themselves. Outraged, even.

Sorry to be a downer, but I can’t help wondering where all of these VERY concerned Democrats were a year ago.

Oh, I remember, they were in Congress, working with the charter lobby to re-write the ESSA, so privatization supporters could get EVERYTHING on their wish list.

It’s Worse Than You Think

Now, we come to the really bad part of the story. The ESSA – constructed in a bipartisan manner – is a doomsday device for public education AND it’s the law of the land.

Here are the ESSA’s three arms of destructio

  • Accountability measured designed to create turn-around schools which are ripe for charter conversion.
  • Innovative assessments to usher in online learning software, ELOs, and “anytime, any place learning”.
  • Infusion of big federal dollars so charters can push out resource starved public schools

It appears the school privatizing lobby – within the Democratic Party – was so sure of a Clinton victory, they rushed to pass the ESSA – never considering the possibility of a Clinton loss.

Well, it happened.

Instead of the happy face of privatization offered by the Democratic Party, we’re faced with a Betsy DeVos who can’t wait to push the red button and could care less about human suffering or the rubble left behind.

Charter Lobby Victory

The ESSA gave the charter lobby everything they wanted and then some. Take a look:

Specifically, changes to the Charter School Program (CSP) include the following:

The CSP now includes dedicated funding for the replication and expansion of high-performing charter schools. In addition, state grants can also be used for the same purpose.

The state grant program can now be administered by governors and charter support organizations in addition to state educational agencies.

The state grant program prioritizes funding to states that provide equitable resources to charter schools and that assist charters in accessing facilities.

The state grant program provides schools with additional spending flexibility for startup funds. For example, they will be allowed to use CSP funds to purchase a school bus and make minor facility improvements.

The state grant program includes new protections to ensure funds go to charter schools with autonomy and flexibility consistent with the definition of a charter school.

Charter school representatives must be included in Title I negotiated rule-making and must be included, like other stakeholders at the state and local level, in the implementation of many federal programs.

CSP recipients will have more flexibility to use a weighted lottery to increase access to charter schools for disadvantaged students. CSP grantees will also be permitted to use feeder patterns to prioritize students that attended earlier grades in the same network of charter schools.

And other provisions that affect charter schools include:

  • New and expanding charter schools are required to receive timely allocations of Title I allocations and to be “held harmless” in the same manner as other eligible Title I traditional public schools.
  • The highly qualified teacher requirement has been repealed. Charters are free to design personnel systems and hire staff that meet the unique needs of their school.
  • States are required to administer annual reading and math assessments in reading and math in grades 3-8, and once in high school. Science assessments are required once in each grade span: 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12.
  • States must hold all public schools accountable for improving student achievement of all students, as well as all subgroups of students.
  • Schools are also accountable for adjusted four year and extended cohort graduation rates.
  • LEAs have flexibility to use Title I funds for school improvement to increase the number of high-quality charter schools serving students attending failing schools.
  • New provisions to demonstrate compliance with the “supplement not supplant” requirement include additional flexibility in aligning federal program funds with their educational programs.

What can we learn from all of this?

Neoliberalism – and school privatization is straight out of the handbook – hurts people and the public institutions humans depend on.

The particular political leader pushing the neoliberal agenda doesn’t matter. Some will appear progressive, others conservative. It doesn’t matter.

Blind partisan loyalty is sucking the legitimacy out of our political process.

This has got to stop.

When your political team embraces part of the neoliberal agenda, you need to speak up and say “NO” – just as loudly as when the other team does.

Otherwise, we’ll continue to be rewarded with dumpster fires like the ESSA.

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

What Randi Weingarten of the AFT gets wrong

I’m going to repost in its entirety this article on Schools Matter about the double game that has been played by Randi Weingarten, the current president of the American Federation of Teachers.

(I remember the racist teachers’ strike of 1968 in New York City…)

======================================================

Weingarten Swaps History for Sophistry

Posted: 13 Aug 2016 06:49 AM PDT

Posted by Mark Naison yesterday.  

Mr. Ahern provides important corrections to Weingarten’s sketchy assessment of AFT’s first hundred years.  I am sorry to see he did not mention AFT’s seminal role in creating TURN in the late 1990s, a traitorous group that could not have been created without financial support from Eli Broad.

Lies My Union President Told Me
Sean Ahern

Letter to the American Educator re AFT President Randy Weingarten’s “Honoring Our Past and Inspiring Our Future” (http://www.aft.org/ae/summer2016/wws)


President Randy Weingarten’s “Honoring Our Past and Inspiring Our Future,” written on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the AFT is an exercise in “perception management.” Weingarten claims that she has “pored over historical documents from our archives” and concluded that the AFT “has been a vehicle to fight for positive change both in public schools and in society.” Further on she states her case even more explicitly:  “For 100 years, the AFT has worked to build power and use it for good.”

As a member of the UFT for the past 17 years, son of a UFT retiree, brother to a former UFT teacher and CSA principal, product of the NYC public school system (1959-1971) and father of three, all of whom graduated from NYC high schools, I proudly count myself as a witness to the last 50 years of UFT/AFT history.  Based on my experience and knowledge I challenge her very one-sided findings for failing to point out major examples of how the AFT has been a hindrance to “positive change both in public schools and in society.”

I do not write to honor Albert Shanker and those who followed the course he took. It is my hope that through a full review of our AFT history, rational and thoughtful working people, acting in their own class interests, will conduct an internal critique, identify the wrong turns, and bravely set a new course for our union. It is my hope that current and future generations will overcome the seemingly willful blindness that is found in Weingarten’s article.

Weingarten’s airbrushed history offers a textbook example of how to frame a narrative by omitting all evidence that contradicts her thesis.  This method is not one of historical inquiry seeking educational enlightenment.  It is the method used by a defense attorney to sway a judge or jury, guilt or innocence aside.

In business and politics this is the method used to win market share, frame political campaigns and control the hearts and minds of the people. 

The sociologist and historian James W. Loewen has critiqued this method when applied to global and US history textbooks in his widely read Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Book Got Wrong (1995, 2008).  It is a method that seeks to produce a generation that is misinformed, politically unaware, and lacking in self-knowledge and self-esteem.  It casts pedagogues as society’s thought police.

There is much in in AFT history that should be critically examined.  When the full story is told it should include honest and in-depth criticism of key positions taken since Albert Shanker ousted his former mentor and colleague David Selden and rose to the Presidency of the AFT over two generations ago.

The 1968 UFT strikes against community control, led by then UFT President Albert Shanker weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., became arguably the longest hate strike in US history and was part and parcel of the “white” backlash and neo conservative/neo liberal counter revolution which we still suffer from today.  I was a high school student at the time in one of the community control districts where progressive teachers and students kept the school open during the strike.

With community control ended decentralization still afforded parents the power to elect local school boards.  Efforts by UFT members to interfere with minority parents voting in the 1973 District 1 school board elections on the Lower East Side were successfully overturned in Federal Court and upheld on appeal.

“In their complaint, filed on September 18, 1973, the Coalition for Education in District One, various unsuccessful candidates at the election and members of minority groups (Black, Hispanic and Chinese) challenged the validity of the election under the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended in 1970, 42 U.S.C. 1971, 1973 et seq.” http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F2/495/495.F2d.1090.74-1296.74-1204.1017.1018.html

To be cited in violation of the 14th amendment and the 1965 Voting Rights Act hardly constitutes an “honor” to be conferred upon a supposedly liberal northern city and a largely “socialist” union leadership that prided itself on its support for civil rights in the 50’s and early 60’s.  I attended public school in this district from 1959 – 1971.  Weingarten apparently missed this case while she “pored over” the AFT archives.

The median salary for a NYC public school teacher in 2016, discounted for inflation and the extended day, is less than it was in 1973.  Add to that the explosive costs of education and housing and it is fair to conclude that a teacher with 7 years on the job today is worse off than their counterpart was over 40 years ago.  Top salary is now reached after 22 years on the job as opposed to 8 years in 1973. Even those few nearing retirement are just on par with their counterparts of 43 years ago.  I ask President Weingarten the simple question:  Who has the AFT been building “power” for? Surely the salary schedule is in the AFT archives and should figure in any assessment of the AFT’s “power” or lack thereof.

Jerald Podair in his Strike That Changed New York (2002) suggests a causal linkage between the 1968 strike and the decline in power, of both the UFT and the Black community.  Among his most striking and relevant observations is:

“…the Ocean Hill-Brownsville crisis had so damaged the UFT’s standing with black New York that Shanker, even if he had possessed the fire in the belly to attempt a cross-class interracial assault on the champions of fiscal austerity, would have found few friends there.  Black New Yorkers were as angry about the decimated schools as Shanker, but they viewed him, and the union he led, as an enemy…Community control in black neighborhoods was dead, replaced by a decentralization structure that gave the UFT more influence than black parents…the failure of the UFT and black citizens to work together to oppose school service cuts was as predictable as it was tragic.  The union would now cast its lot with the banks.  And the black community, politically marginalized, economically expendable and no longer in control of the language of “community” – would be unable to do anything about it.” (Pp194-195)

In the 1970s Shanker went on to become a leading national opponent of Affirmative Action, submitting a brief on Allan Bakke’s behalf.  The brief, submitted in the name of the AFT, is not mentioned by Weingarten though it is in the Shanker Papers and the AFT Papers that she claims to have “pored over.”

The current wave of “Education reform” was launched with the 1983 publication of A Nation At Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform towards the end of Reagan’s second term.
For over 30 years the leadership of the AFT has been a partner in this latest wave of “education reform” and thereby maintained their “seat at the table” alongside the “reformers.”  This is a matter of public record.   When questions were raised that strongly contradicted the claims made by “A Nation At Risk” (see the Sandia Report, Bracey, Berliner and Bidell, Emery and Ohanian) the AFT and those closely associated with Shanker (including Diane Ravitch, then Assistant Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration) chose to ignore and even suppress a devastating critique that potentially could have deflated the bubble of “reform” a generation ago (See http://projectcensored.org/3-the-sandia-report-on-education-a-perfect-lesson-in-censorship/ ).

Comfortably based on the education reformers  bogus critique of the state of public education and its politically motivated remedies, Shanker, Feldman and Weingarten are all on record in support of the “reforms” themselves: high standards for students and teachers, standardized curriculums, high stakes testing for students and teachers (for how else to measure whether the high standards are being met), charter schools (to counter the states monopoly over education and to give parents “choice”) and mayoral control in large urban systems serving predominantly Black, Latino and Asian students which has been the means through which “reform” was foisted upon school communities.

Most recently, the “reformers” and their corporate cabal attempted to hoist the AFT on its own petard.    It was only the death of Supreme Court Justice Scalia that averted a negative ruling in Vergara v California that would have done away with the agency shop. The stay of execution is only temporary, there are more cases to follow.  Is this what Weingarten means by “building power?”  Power for whom?  Power for what?

I challenge president Weingarten to go before any large urban local delegate assembly and defend the AFT’s record over 30 years in support of education “reform.”  Does she have the gall to tell us to our face that school closings, privatization, elimination of sports, the arts, electives, vocational programs, attacks on tenure and seniority, the disappearance of Black and Latino educators, increased segregation, high stakes testing and value added teacher assessments are to be viewed as “collateral damage,” and not the central defining features of a neo conservative/neo liberal, corporate led consensus on the proper role and direction for public education?  She wouldn’t do such a thing, so she redacts the record of AFT collaboration with the “reformers” and then presents herself as a teacher and student advocate.

Teachers and their unions face grave pressures and are in a more defensive posture than they were 50 years ago.  What power?  What positive changes have been brought about?  No doubt Weingarten and her supporters will point to the fact that teachers have a job with benefits and a defined benefit pension plan, a rarity now among US workers.  What is the message here? Do senior teachers shut up and thankfully crawl to the finish line? Do new and mid-career teachers count their lucky stars that they are not suffering the same hardships that the majority of our students, their families and communities face?  Is this then the real meaning of “professionalism;” to divide us from the rest of the working class?   Should the membership cast a blind eye to the AFT’s quisling response to the neo conservative/ neo liberal consensus on education, the U.S. empire and the economy so that at least some of  the so called “professionals,” (most importantly the paid staff and retainers at AFT Inc.) will be spared because the oligarchy has need of an ideological police?

The isolated individual, teacher, parent, student, may opt to save their own skin when no alternative option is in sight, but experience shows that this is a losing proposition for the large majority.  The greatest good for the greatest number comes not from dog eat dog competition, but from collaboration.  Acknowledgement of this historical fact has led working people at important moments to embrace the fundamental credo of solidarity and act accordingly.  Such a moment is upon us.

There is no defending the AFT record of betrayal of this credo and the self-destructive impact it has had on the membership and the communities we serve.  Weingarten simply casts a blind eye over what needs to be understood and corrected. If teachers applied this same method to reflect on our own classroom practice we would never learn a thing.

I urge the American Educator to open its pages to a real discussion of AFT history.  I urge my sister and brother educators to study and reflect upon AFT history.  As William Faulkner wrote, “the past is not over, it’s not even past.”

Peace,
Sean Ahern

Delegate to the UFT Delegate Assembly. Member of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) caucus.  August 7, 2016

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