Archive | November, 2015

Malcolm Baldrige Award Promotes School Privatization

25 Nov

The November 18 San Diego Union reported: “The Charter School of San Diego is among four recipients awarded the 2015 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, a top presidential honor for performance in the public and private sectors.”

Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award: “An award established by the U.S. Congress in 1987 to raise awareness of quality management and recognize U.S. companies that have implemented successful quality management systems. Awards can be given annually in six categories: manufacturing, service, small business, education, healthcare and nonprofit. The award is named after the late Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige, a proponent of quality management. The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology manages the award, and ASQ administers it.”

I had never heard of San Diego’s first charter school which was founded in 1994. In the past many hoaxes have been perpetrated concerning education, so I decided to do a little digging. I asked, “What made this charter school worthy of a literally one-in-a-million presidential honor?” I found the award was not based on merit! For example, the school is into year four of needs program improvement (meaning failing) under the No Child Left Behind act.

The award announcement came from Commerce Secretary, Penny Priztker. She is quoted as saying:

“The winners were chosen for their ‘outstanding commitment to sustainable excellence through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership.’ The Charter School of San Diego won in the education category for its ability to help students who despite enrolling ‘academically behind and at risk of never receiving a high school diploma, 94-98 percent of those enrolled have graduated from the Charter School of San Diego or successfully transitioned back to a traditional public school.’”

This implies the charter school saves children who can’t make it in public school and even heals their issues to the extent they can go back to public school! That is just fabrication.

It is true that over 70% of Charter School of San Diego students are labeled socioeconomically disadvantaged but that is not unusual. The public school where I work, Mar Vista Senior High School, matches that and has more than twice as many English learners as the charter school. My school and the charter school make a good comparison.

In the March, 2015, all California charter and public schools administered the California High School Exit exam. The March administration was given to sophomores and is the main component of the federally mandated Adequate Yearly Progress evaluation. My school and the charter school had the following results:

Mar Vista Senior High School (420 tested) Passing Rates

Math: All Students : 84% Socioeconomic: 81% English Learners: 65%
English All Students: 85% Socioeconomic: 82% English Learners: 60%

Charter School of San Diego (320 tested) Passing Rates

Math: All Students : 79% Socioeconomic: 76% English Learners: 62%
English All Students: 84% Socioeconomic: 82% English Learners: 63%

When I looked at this data, it seemed to me that my high school, which has also been labeled a failing school for the past five years just like the charter school, looked pretty good. We had more than double the English Language Learners, the same percentage of socioeconomically disadvantaged students and our sophomores outperformed theirs. In addition, our dropout rates are lower.

To understand what is happening here, I looked at the principals involved starting with Penny Pritzker. According to Forbes, “The Hyatt heiress has carefully positioned herself at the intersection of wealth and politics, becoming Commerce Secretary in 2013 after working as a key Obama fundraiser. (She also donated $250,000–just to his second inauguration celebration.)” She is worth about $2.4 billion.

It seems that Billionaires are more interested in profits and advancing private business than world class education for the children of ordinary people. That $700 billion a year spent on education in the United States is too enticing. It turns a billionaire green with desire.

Tom Vander Ark, the well known shill for “corporate education reform” really likes Charter School of San Diego. He wrote in 2014:

“I met Mary Searcy Bixby in the fall of 1999 in a converted retail space in an outdoor shopping mall in San Diego (the same day I visited Larry Rosenstock in a vacant warehouse that become [sic] High Tech High). When I was a public school superintendent, my team had created an alternative school in a mall so I immediately liked the idea. As founder of The Charter School of San Diego, Mary had created (what I’m pretty sure was) the first flex school network as an “independent study” charter school launching in 1994. Five years later, Mary had 19 locations including converted retail and commercial real estate locations serving over 2,000 students. Students attended in two shifts, studied online and print instructional materials, and progressed at their own pace.”

“Altus Institute is the parent corporation to a network of charter schools that includes The Charter School of San Diego (est. 1994), Audeo Charter School (est. 2001), Mirus Secondary School (est. 2007), and Laurel Preparatory Academy (est. 2013). Altus Schools strive to help students achieve by creating alternative educational options that put students’ needs first and to deeply reduce dropout rates.”

Vander Ark is a former officer of the Democrats for Education Reform and an enthusiastic proponent of education technology including cyber-schools. The Democrats for Education Reform are the group that brought us Arne Duncan. Financed by several hedge fund operators, they are huge proponents of privatizing public education with charter schools.

Mary Searcy Bixby, the founder and CEO of Charter School of San Diego, is from San Diego where she attended Marian Catholic High School and obtained both a BA in English and an MA in curriculum and instruction from the local Catholic university, University of San Diego.

Recently, Tom Davis a long time educator and school leader joined Bixby as Educational Reform Project Director. Davis is retired from more than 40 years in public schools and does have deep experience and training.

A few items of interest were revealed by the Altus Institutes form 990 filings. The most current available form 990 covered 2012 and predates Davis’s arrival. Bixby’s total compensation that year was $297,000. She is getting into Eva Moscowitz type earnings and her per-student rate is much higher than Eva’s. In 2010, someone or some entity gave Bixby’s schools $4,500,000 in new buildings and property; which established a strong base for expansion.

This joint statement from Bixby and Davis is on their website:

“We appreciate Ted Kolderie (Senior Associate, Education Evolving), Eric Premack (Executive Director, Charter Schools Development Center), Jed Wallace (President and CEO, California Charter Schools Association), and Pat Hyndman (Chairperson, Vistage) for sharing their expertise and thoughtful insight. Thank you for your courtesy, professionalism, and genuine interest and warmth.

“Thanks to Gail Audrict (Orleans Parish School Board), Alexina Medley (Warren Easton Charter School), and Maggie Runyan-Shefa (New Schools for New Orleans) for sharing the New Orleans experience with Davis and Bixby. Educational Reform in New Orleans is inspring [sic] the education leaders across the United States. The extraordinary model New Orleans provides us leads others to a new way of thinking.”

The Malcolm Baldrige award that Charter School of San Diego displays on its web site is part of a coordinated attack on public schools. There is nothing special about that charter school and public schools in San Diego provide better education.

Charter schools harm public education by diverting tax dollars to private pockets and opening the path of corruption, instability and segregation.

Disturbingly this attack is being led by the Democratic Party. For decades the Democrats prided themselves on supporting and protecting public education. Now, they attack teachers and work to privatize public schools. Who will join the righteous fight to save America’s great public education system from a corrupted political system and corporate greed?

NGSS is Science Education Plague

12 Nov

Three bad ideas have taken root in California; common core, charter schools and NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards and Framework). There is growing awareness of the draw backs associated with common core’s top down control of schools and the often fraudulent and unstable charter school movement. On the other hand, most people have not heard of the NGSS. Monday, I was required to attend a “professional development” day focused on NGSS.

I teach math and physics at Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach, California. It is a magical place. The school sits about 6 blocks from the beach. Once, I actually walked down that beach and made an unconventional crossing into our neighbor suburb, Las Playas de Tijuana. Mexico is that close. Naturally, a lot of Spanish is spoken by our amazingly peaceful and kind students.

My district has set up cohorts made up of teachers from four high schools, tasking selected teachers in the various subject areas with leading professional development activities. Since I teach in two core areas, math and science, I am required to go for both NGSS and CCSS indoctrination (buying into these regimes is required for teacher leaders and administrators if they want to keep their jobs). Unfortunately, the creation of both NGSS and CCSS was led by testing company executives and CEO’s like Louis Gerstner from IBM and not experts in pedagogy.

These business executives have recklessly foisted their misguided education policies on America; not even pilot testing the transmogrification they propose. Political pressure driven by a few billionaires causes these changes to be abruptly instituted. Instead of a reasoned and thoughtful roll out of radical curricular changes, schools are forced to transition to them immediately, creating extreme discontinuities in the learning sequence.

For our NGSS training, we started with a November article in Science Scope magazine by Joe Krajcik called “Three-Dimensional Instruction – Using a New Type of Teaching in the Science Classroom.” He tells us that “Classrooms incorporating three-dimensional learning will have students build models, design investigations, share ideas, develop explanations, and argue using evidence, all of which allow students to develop important 21st century skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and self management.” Honestly, the only thing that appears new here is developing 21st century skills instead of 20th century skills.

These are all known principles of cognitive development that have been around for more than a century. They reflect the work of Dewey, Vygotsky and Piaget. It is the constructivist approach. I endorse that kind of pedagogy, however, the poorly written NGSS standards (close to undecipherable) are being forced onto students without matching cognitive readiness, violating Vygotsky’s “zone of proximal development” theory.

For example, approximately 30 core ideas are to be investigated by students and assessed in kindergarten through 2nd grade. Six science standards are to be introduced in kindergarten including earth’s systems, motion and stability, forces and interactions, and engineering design. At the same time, CCSS require that these babies learn to read, write and do math. Not even the Chinese expect babies to forgo childhood to be scholars destined to advance the economic engine. It is a huge mismatch in cognitive development that portends permanent damage.

The disturbing part of my training was the sight of three bright young teachers caught up in this “corporate education reform” sausage grinder. The week before our cohort met they were pulled out of classes for a day to work with district curricular leaders on planning the event. They gathered materials, planned a lab activity and tried very hard to take us through a demonstration lesson that illuminated the three dimensions of learning. We all had a nice day off from teaching and tried not to be negative Nancy’s, but none of the real issues with NGSS were discussed.

At the high school level, NGSS standards require integrated science just like common core requires integrated math. My school tried integrated math in the 1990’s and abandoned it as a bad idea. Now, I am teaching integrated math III. However, science is different than math. Most math teachers have enough background in algebra, geometry and statistics to teach any level of integrated math. It is the rare science teacher who has expertise in all science domains: earth science, biology, chemistry and physics.

NGSS writers posited that chemistry and physics principles like Newton’s laws, the gas laws, and atomic structure would be so thoroughly apprehended by 8th grade, that it would not be necessary to teach them in high school. In high school, student are to create reports and videos that explain the energy transformations behind global warming and how Darwin’s laws of evolution correctly explain the development of life. There are almost no high school chemistry or physics standards in NGSS.

I personally believe that the existence of global warming caused by human activity (burning fossil fuels) is settled science. I also think Darwin was a gifted scientific observer whose theory of evolution is well founded. On the other hand, why overweight the standards with these two controversial topics? I am not saying ignore them, but they are central to these new science standards and they do not need to be.

NGSS was never pilot tested and was rushed into existence before people had a chance to vet it. Therefore, NGSS is full of errors and horribly misaligned.

NGSS is another of those dreams held by a rich powerful man that has been ramrodded into existence. Luis Gerstner the former CEO of IBM started campaigning for these standards in 1995. In 1996, he talked the National Governors Association into making him chairman of a new non-profit named Achieve Incorporated. Achieve was charged with making his standards dream a reality. He remained the chairman of Achieve until the standards were completed in 2013 and copyrighted by Achieve Inc.

Unlike Bill Gates, Gerstner did not drop out of school. And not only did he complete school himself, he hired many people who had been to school. These are his only qualifications for leading education policy in America. Like Gates’s common core, Gerstner’s NGSS is terrible education policy that came about because America’s democratic process and the principal of local control of education were sundered.