Gleanings from the Alternative Fact-World of Betsy ‘Checkbook’ DeVos

Your first installment from the pearls of wisdom from the perennial purchaser of politicians, Betsy ‘Checkbook’ DeVos:

devos-on-alpha-beta-schools

(source: Washington Post, the Parent-Herald and several of my Facebook friends and former colleagues)

Maybe we should look at the actual graduation rates for DC public and charter schools, courtesy of the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, or OSSE:

Here are the official 4-year graduation rates for 2016:

hs-graduation-rates

hs-graduation-rates-part-2

 

I highlighted some of the schools. The pink ones are the five DC charter high schools where the graduation rate is decidedly BELOW 70%. The orange ones are the ten (10) regular DCPS high schools where the graduation rate is decidedly ABOVE 70%.

(This is not counting two DC charter schools that closed for extremely low performance or for wide-spread theft by their founders.)

(Full disclosure: my own children graduated from Banneker and School Without Walls some years ago. Notice what the graduation rates are from those two schools.)

Also, notice that the overall graduation rates from the regular public high schools in DC (69.0%) and from the DC charter school sector (72.9%) are not all that different. And that’s even though the charter schools can and do push out students to the regular public schools. This is also despite the fact that to get into a charter school, students have to have parents or guardians who can navigate the application process — and we have a lot of students here in DC where the parents are ‘MIA’.

I will also let you look at the official four-year graduation rates by the various subgroups (by gender, ethnicity, and so on). Once again, you will not see the huge disparities claimed by Billionaire Betsy between graduation rates in the regular DC public schools and in the charter schools. [There is one large disparity: the number of white, Asian, or multi-racial students in the DC charter high schools is tiny; they are almost all in the regular DC public schools!]

grad-rates-dc-pub-and-charters-by-subgroups

 

So, I guess we can expect lots more ‘alternative facts’ from Billionaire Betsy, just like we have gotten used to seeing them coming from Marmalade Mussolini, aka #45.

 

A list of HELP senators’ fax numbers

This is so you can bug them with faxes, telling them not to vote in favor of Bigoted, Billionaire Betsy.

Al Franken                          MN        (202) 224-0044

Bill Cassidy                          LA            (225) 929-7688

Christopher S. Murphy  CT           (202) 224-9750

Elizabeth Warren             MA         no faxes

Johnny Isakson                 GA          202-228-0724

Lamar Alexander              TN          (202) 228-3398

Lisa Murkowski                 AK          202-224-5302

Maggie  Hassan                 NH          no faxes

Michael F. Bennet            CO          303-455-3358

Pat Roberts                         KS           202-224-3514

Rand Paul                            KY           (202) 228-6917

Richard Burr                       NC          (202) 228-2981

Robert P. Casey, Jr           PA          (202) 228-0604

Sheldon Whitehouse       RI            (401) 453-5085

Susan Collins                      ME         (202) 224-2693

Tim Scott                             SC           (855) 802-9355

Todd Young                        IN           no faxes

Patty Murray                     WA          (202) 224-0238

And here is my letter to them (I’ve visited, or lived in, 46 of the states so far):

Dear Senator:

I have visited your great state in the past, but since I was born and raised in the District of Columbia and still live there, I have no senator. So I’m calling on you.

I would like to put myself on the record as vigorously opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. Not only does she have ZERO personal experience with public education in any form, she in fact is on record as favoring turning ALL education over to private businessmen and religious groups, including the weird form of messianic Christian fundamentalism her billionaire family favors. Her billions of dollars of personal wealth, mostly gained by a pyramid scheme that should have put her family in jail long ago, have been used to purchase politicians to promote her useless ideas, because she was never able to get voters to approve them.

During her confirmation hearings, she demonstrated that she has NO understanding of ANY of the most important issues concerning students and their parents today.

As a result of her machinations, local control has been removed from Black and Brown communities all over Michigan, and educational funds are flowing to all sorts of unethical, unregulated, for-profit charter school operators and religious fundamentalists running unregulated, storefront voucher schools. As a result, the scores of Michigan students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have, over the past 20 years, tumbled from being significantly above the national averages to being significantly below the national averages, both in reading and in math. And Detroit now has the very worst scores of any city in the nation. Thanks to Betsy Devos. And let us not forget that her policies also brought us the national shame of polluted water in the entire city of Flint.

You must vote AGAINST DeVos for Secretary of Education.

Thank you.

 

Guy Brandenburg

DC Resident, DC Native, Parent of two DC public school grads

 

Who judges whether a reform is a success or not in education?

Excellent question, posed by Larry Cuban, on the case history of the once-widely-celebtrated Gary Plan for education.About 100 years ago, its blend of manual and mental training, along with night schools for recent immigrants, was seen as a marvel and widely copied. Now nobody remembers it even existed, partly because of how they defined ‘success’, according to Cuban. Here’s the link

I’ve certainly noticed that if you ask people about any sort of reform, you NOT necessarily find agreement. I have spoken to Turks who vehemently deny that there was any sort of systematic genocide of Armenians roughly a century ago, and Chinese who deny that anything bad is happenig in Tibet. There are even people who defend the memory of Genghis Khan, Franco, Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and the KKK!

 

EduShyster Reveals the Awful Record of Betsy DeVos

You really owe it to yourself to read about the horrible mess that the DeVos family is making of education in Michigan, precisely in order to hamstring all of us ordinary folks for the benefit of the rich and wealthy. EduShyster has a brilliant, long column as a result of her in-depth investigation. Here is the link.

If you can demonstrate against her, all the better.

Even the NYT Editorial Board Has Doubts About Betsy DeVos

I don’t normally agree with the editorial board of the New York Times on education, but even they have a hard time stomaching Betsy DeVos:

Big Worries About Betsy DeVos

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

JAN. 10, 2017

The director of the Office of Government Ethics, the nonpartisan agency charged with vetting the financial disclosures of cabinet nominees for potential conflicts of interest, sent an extraordinary letter to Senate Democratic leaders late last week. Never in the four-decade history of the agency, he wrote, have ethics officials felt such “undue pressure … to rush through these important reviews,” leaving “some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings.”

 

As the Senate races forward with confirmation hearings this week, the spottiest disclosures have come from wealthy private-sector nominees with no governing experience and many potential conflicts. In other words, the people most in need of a complete ethics review.

 

Exhibit A is Betsy DeVos, a billionaire and education lobbyist who is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary. Ms. DeVos’s finances are a tangle that could take weeks to investigate. Despite that, Republicans had set her confirmation hearing for Wednesday. But late Monday night, they pushed it back to next Tuesday.

 

People who have seen her financial disclosures so far say that Ms. DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, have investments in some 250 companies registered to a single Grand Rapids, Mich., address, entities whose investments could take weeks for the ethics office to research. Already, though, there are reports that the DeVoses are indirect investors in Social Finance Inc., a private company that refinances student loans. Private lenders like Social Finance are banned from most of the direct student lending market; their lobbyists have already written to the Trump transition team pitching to change that. That’s only one potential conflict. What if her family has holdings in educational technology or for-profit colleges? Given time, the ethics office will learn this, and reach an agreement with Ms. DeVos to sell off assets that could pose a conflict.

 

Beyond erasing concerns about her many possible financial conflicts, Ms. DeVos also faces a big challenge in explaining the damage she’s done to public education in her home state, Michigan. She has poured money into charter schools advocacy, winning legislative changes that have reduced oversight and accountability. About 80 percent of the charter schools in Michigan are operated by for-profit companies, far higher than anywhere else. She has also argued for shutting down Detroit public schools, with the system turned over to charters or taxpayer money given out as vouchers for private schools. In that city, charter schools often perform no better than traditional schools, and sometimes worse.

 

Mr. Trump has at times displayed breathtaking ignorance about the powers and basic function of government. Many on his transition team are new to government service as well. But the Senate, and people advising him, including Reince Priebus, his chief of staff, have no excuse.

 

Mr. Trump’s nominees will need only a simple majority vote to be confirmed. So what’s the hurry? Republicans seem worried that the more time the Senate has to examine some of these nominees’ backgrounds, the more chance a Republican or three could break ranks. Maybe they’re afraid of Mr. Trump’s ire, should any of his picks generate red flags. That’s backward thinking, of course: The potential for conflicts is more reason, not less, to take the time needed for thorough vetting, and the only route to a responsible vote.

Accountability and Following the Law in DC Education

Valerie Jablow has yet another well-researched column on how the laws on accountability and transparency are NOT enforced in the education sphere in DC, especially for charter schools. I highly recommend reading and digesting it, and then figuring out how to act on her recommendations.

 

Compare ‘Education Reform’ to Ineffective but Profitable Quick-Weight-Loss Schemes

John Viall compares the past 15 years of education ‘reform’ to the past 30 or 40 years of completely counterproductive weight-loss schemes — in both cases, the results are exactly contrary to what they were promised to be. In one case, we can see that America’s obesity rates are some of the worst in the world. In the other, we have certainly not ‘raced to the top’ on TIMMS, PISA, or any other international test, despite all of promises by both the Bush and Obama administrations.

He concludes (I added some color):

“For a sixth time the PISA test was administered in 2015.

Now, 15-year-olds from seventy countries and educational systems took the test. How did U. S. students fare?
The envelope please.
In reading U. S. students scored 497. In other words, after fifteen years of school reform and tens of billions wasted, reading scores were still down seven points.
Fifteen years of listening to blowhard politicians—and U. S. students averaged 470 in math, a depressing 23-point skid.
Surely, all that meddling must have done some good? No. Science scores averaged 496, still down three points.
Fifteen years of diet plans that couldn’t possibly fail and, metaphorically, we were all just a little more fat.
PISA scores had been the foundation on which all school reform was built; and after all these years, America’s 15-year-olds were scoring 33 points worse.

What Lessons Has DC Drawn From PISA?

Basically, the lessons drawn by those in charge of education in Washington, DC, is to do exactly the opposite of everything being done by nations with high test scores. Valerie Jablow at EducationDC explains the details.

If US Students Are Doing Worse After 15 Years of Test & Punish (NCLB, RTTT, ESSA, etc), Then By All Means Do It Harder and More Vigorously!

You probably saw the results that American students actually did a little worse than in previous years on the international math/reading/science test known as PISA, and are falling behind their international peers. If you didn’t, here are a few links: here, here, and here.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed that since 2001, the American public education system has been laboring under various ridiculous laws like ‘No Child Left Behind’ which mandated that by 2014, every single student in every single subgroup in every single school would magically become ‘proficient’ on American tests that are similar to PISA, or else their teachers and administrators would be fired, the schools would be shut down, and their education would be turned over to private charter operators.

Of course, not all American students became magically proficient – that was not possible, just like not everybody can run a 5 or 6 minute mile, no matter how many coaches you fire. However, many, many schools were shut down, many teachers and principals were fired, and private charter operators have taken over the profits from educating more and more students.

Two states stand out from the rest: Michigan and Massachusetts.

Michigan, the home of incoming EdSec Betsy Devos, has turned over the education of its poorest students to lots of charter and voucher schools — and if you look at the results, they are terrible. Detroit appears to be the worst of all cities tested, in fact. (See graph below) Therefore, she (and many other ‘reformers’) want to extend those efforts to all 50 states.

Massachusetts, however, has a serious cap on the number of charter schools. Its citizents recently voted down a proposal funded by people like DeVos to remove that limit and open up dozens of additional charter schools. May I add that Massachusetts has the highest NAEP scores in the nation? * And teachers who are generally union members? Quoting from one of the Post articles, our current secretary of education, who thinks that the solution to everything educational is more charters, more testing, more standards, and more vouchers:

“King pointed to Massachusetts, where students excelled on the PISA test, as an example of how states can get education right.”

In other words, if you do everything that King and Devos recommend, then you might guess that your test scores will go DOWN. If you do the opposite of what they recommend, then it looks like scores go UP.

math_tuda_barchart1-2015

  • Although Boston is not #1 in scores of all large separately-tested cities, Massachusetts as a whole is in fact #1 on the latest NAEP. Don’t believe me? Look it up here.

 

 

“Schools Matter” on Democrats’ Public School Betrayal

Jim Horn (I think) here excoriates the heads of the AFT, NEA and Diane Ravitch for helping sell out public school students, their families and their teachers to the corporate and financial oligarchs. Is he going overboard?

I know for a fact that Randi Weingarten is playing a very complicated double game: she personally negotiated the terrible contract in DC that started the give-back of pretty much all teacher rights in return for a mythic ally high salary that very, very few teachers will ever stick around to collect.

Is Horn going too far? Read it, and comment. I’m posting the whole thing.

Schools Matter

DeVos Will Make Democrat’s Charter Plan Easier to Sell

Posted: 05 Dec 2016 07:55 AM PST

A few years back Diane Ravitch was forced to admit openly what the opponents of testing accountability knew when No Child Left Behind became law: the ridiculous goal of 100% percent student proficiency in reading and math could never be met, and the fanciful imposition of such a pipe dream would wreak havoc across the entire K-12 education universe.

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By the time Ravitch finally came around to acceding the dangerous fantasy that she had loyally promoted along with her fellow charter and voucher supporters at the Hoover Institution, almost half the schools in the U. S. had already been labeled as failures, and a reckless and corrupt corporate feeding frenzy had been set into motion by Ravitch’s free market chums. Tutoring companies were draining billions in federal dollars by cramming poor children for tests they would never pass; the scandal-ridden Reading First gang was shoving its antiquarian reading techniques nationwide to really bad effect; alternate teacher certification scams had been federally incentivized; charter schools, both virtual and physical, were springing up like mushrooms in cow paddies after a rain, and a whole new industry of sponsored fake education research by corporate foundation “think” tanks had become an acceptable occupation for under-employed academics.

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During the seven years since Ravitch’s lucrative conversion experience, Diane has made it clear that she maintains one foot solidly on the side of the corporate education reformers who brought us the NCLB disaster. It took her until 2013 to admit her stubborn wrongheadedness on Common Core, even while maintaining even today her support for “voluntary” national standards–whatever that means. Today she maintains her enthusiasm for shoveling Core Knowledge into the heads of children, just as she remains a supporter of ridiculously high NAEP standards that have been used by “reformers” for years to bludgeon the public schools for their low scores.

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In early 2015, her crucial support for NCLB 2.0, which is better known as ESSA, made her culpablility undeniable. This was followed by a year of propagandizing for the longtime charter supporter, Hillary Clinton, while pretending to be the most determined foe of school corporatization. Diane’s blog was used to soft-pedal Weingarten’s autocratic choice of Clinton over Sanders, just as it was used to obfuscate Hillary’s supportive position on corporate welfare charters. And it was her political soulmate, Randi Weingarten, who put the final flourishes on the Democratic platform, which clearly supported charter schools while pretending to do the opposite.

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Her recent outlining for Jay Mathews the kind of charter schools she would support signals that she is ready to swing both legs onto the side of the charter fence. Along with the NEA’s Eskelsen, AFT’s Weingarten, and the troglodytes running the DNC, Ravitch is clearly signaling surrender on charters to Team Trump, even before the first inaugural dance.

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Ravitch, as lead propagandist for the corporate unions, will use the Betsy DeVos nomination to make the Dem position of supporting “non-profit” segregated no excuses charters seem most reasonable in comparison. It is not a coincidence that Ravitch is suddenly playing footsie with charter spokesman, Jay Mathews.

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The ESSA, which could not have happened without NPE, NEA, and AFT support, will continue intact, thus allowing Trump, too, to appear reasonable in letting public schools die a slower death than Sister Betsy would have preferred. And thus the bipartisan dismantling of public education is likely to continue on schedule. The biggest change we are likely to see in Washington are the corporate Democrats from the Gates Foundation heavily reinforced by the corporate Republicans from the Walton Foundation.
Oh yes, don’t forget to send your next donation to NPE. Ravitch and the corporate unions need your support to buy a whole new coat of whitewash.

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