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.

 

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!

 

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.

A Cartoon Strip I Like – TeachingTed.Com

I just found out about this cartoonist from Diane Ravitch. He’s a good artist and has something to say about education and the world that teachers inhabit. You might like his work, too. Here are a couple of his strips:

cartoon-on-ed

 

cartoon-on-trump

 

cartoon slippery slope.png

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

 

 

Aaron Pallas Asks: What’s the Worst that can Happen With Betsy Devos as Education Secretary?

He gives two possible scenarios. The first one is pretty friggin’ bad. I won’t give any details, but I think there are plenty of other really bad scenarios that he didn’t consider. Can you think of any, after reading his take?

Click here for the link, or else copy and paste this into your browser:

http://hechingerreport.org/whats-worst-happen-new-ed-secretary-betsy-devos-scenarios/

What if Finnish Teachers Taught in the USA?

You have all heard that FInland does the best job in the world at getting high scores on tests like PISA without burdening their students or their teachers with extreme workloads. Finland does not have long hours of homework for elementary kids, and they don’t require the daily filing of rigidly formatted, complex lesson plans for teachers. Finnish teachers are selected from the very best of their university classes, and have enormous amount of control over what they do, which they plan with their peers.

So what if some of these Finnish teachers came and worked here in the US?

Now we know, thanks to an article in The Atlantic.

A couple of quotes, from three such teachers. One said,

“If you asked me now, my answer would be that most likely I would not continue in this career.”

Another:

While teaching in Finnish schools, she had plenty of leeway to plan with colleagues, select curricular materials for the principal to consider purchasing, and influence decisions about schedules and responsibilities.

Today, with 16 years of teaching in U.S. public schools under her belt, this ESL teacher feels that she lacks a career in teaching. She described it as a rote job where she follows a curriculum she didn’t develop herself, keeps a principal-dictated schedule, and sits in meetings where details aren’t debated.

And another:

“I teach six classes a day with a one 45-[minute] ‘planning’ period,” she said. “My classes are at three different proficiency levels, and I have four minutes between classes to prepare for the next class. At the same time, I am expected to stand in the hallways to monitor students as [they] transfer from class to class, and to check my email for last-minute updates and changes because of ongoing testing or other events.”

All of those tasks, and several others, wear her down: “I feel rushed, nothing gets done properly; there is very little joy, and no time for reflection or creative thinking (in order to create meaningful activities for students).”

Muja concluded her response with a quote from one of Pasi Sahlberg’s articles for The Washington Post, “What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools?”

Sahlberg, an education scholar and the author of Finnish Lessons 2.0, answers the theoretical question in his article’s title, writing in part: “I argue that if there were any gains in student achievement they would be marginal. Why? Education policies in Indiana and many other states in the United States create a context for teaching that limits (Finnish) teachers to use their skills, wisdom and shared knowledge for the good of their students’ learning.”

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