A Scholarly Masterpiece: William Frantz Public School

19 May

By Thomas Ultican 4/18/2021

My wonderful friend from New Orleans, Mercedes Schneider, said of this meticulously researched book, “Intense, captivating, and horrible in its reality, William Frantz Public School is a story overdue for the telling – a must read for those seeking to understand New Orleans’ history and the lingering impact of White racial superiority upon the Black community and city infrastructure.” I concur. It is a captivating read.

At its 1938 founding, speakers proclaimed the new William Frantz Public School (WFPS) a “protection for democracy” and a “fortification against encroachment of those terrible ‘isms.’” (WFPS page 3)

However, racism did not just encroach; it dominated. WFPS was built to be a White students only school. Sitting on the border between the all white Florida neighborhood and the all Black Desire neighborhood, WFPS only served the White families. Worse still; the authors report,

“The Orleans Parish School Board built no schools between 1941 and 1951. As a result, existing neighborhood schools throughout the city faced overcrowding. The problem was particularly acute in Desire. Due to the severe overcrowding, many Black children attended school for only a fraction of the time as their White peers living in the Florida neighborhood.” (WFPS 9)

With the Brown versus the Board of education decision in 1954, the Supreme Court declared racial segregation as a school enrollment policy unconstitutional. Louisiana segregationists quickly coalesced to become leaders of their state’s “massive resistance” movement to oppose integration.

In 1955, a wealthy lawyer named Leander Perez and a state senator named William Rainich established the White Citizens’ Council in Louisiana. By that fall, the white supremacist organization had chapters in half of the state’s parishes and a statewide membership of 100,000. The New Orleans chapter would eventually grow to over 50,000 members. (WFPS 21)

As the White Citizens’ Council started calling for the public schools to be closed rather than integrated, a group named Save Our Schools (SOS) formed to oppose closing schools. The book notes, “Although ardent in their work, many perceived SOS as elite and ‘liberals allied with the Urban League, the Council of Jewish Women, [and] the league of Women Voters.’” (WFPS 24) Many SOS members sent their own children to all white public schools and though disagreeing about the Brown decision, they all agreed it was settled law.

The authors document political strong-arming, horrific acts of cruelty and the hysterical fear with which white racists fought to stop school integration. Their greatest horror was realized when one 6-years-old girl named Ruby Bridges was escorted into WFPS on November 14, 1960.  

The Times-Picayune ran an editorial with the headline “Dreadful Day Comes at Last” and the White Citizens’ Council started pressuring White parents to pull their children out of WFPS. Protestors surrounded the school, chanted racist slogans and intimidated anyone approaching the school. (WFPS 35)

In an attempt to keep some of the White children in WFPS, President Mary Sand and others from SOS organized car pools to deliver students to the front of the school so they would not be forced to go through the heckling crowd. “Like the families of the students they transported to WFPS, SOS drivers received crude and threatening telephone calls, up to 200 per day, from people who told the women they would ‘cut your cunt out and stuff it down your throat.’” (WFPS 59-60)

As a result of the intimidation tactics, New Orleans was able to defy court orders and schools remained virtually segregated. The following year:

“Black citizens started an unofficial boycott of White-owned department stores and threatened to cancel the Zulu parade, a traditional and popular Black parade, during the upcoming Mardi Bras. Rumors circulated that the entire Mardi Gras celebration would be canceled … By mid-December, city business leaders along with the Times-Picayune finally called for the end of the protests, intimidation, and vandalism.” (WFPS 69)

As the decade of the 90s opened the neighborhood around WFPS was in trouble. “Prostitutes worked the streets outside some schools, and an early 1990s poll of Black students from the Desire projects located near WFPS found 40% of Black students had seen a dead body and 72% had seen weapons being used.” (WFPS 121)

Seventy-five thousand Black children and 19,000 White children constituted Orleans Parish school district in the early 1990s with extreme poverty gripping the Black community. (WFPS 117)

By 1993, there were no White students attending WFPS. (WFPS 111)

In 1997, the state established its test based accountability scheme. (WFPS 128)

In 1998, WFPS was judged academically unacceptable. (WFPS 132)

In 2005, WFPS was put on the National Register of Historic Places. (WFPS 155)

In 2013, like the rest of the post Katrina schools in New Orleans, WFPS became a charter school. (WFPS 258)

Three white women who are not from New Orleans – Connie L. Schaffer, Meg White, and Martha Graham Viator – say they considered not writing this book because of that. It is our great good fortune that they did. Their scholarly and extremely readable effort shines some much needed light on the horrible racism and mistreatment the Black citizens of New Orleans.

Testing Industry Scores Big in California

13 May

By Thomas Ultican 5/13/2021

At 1:45 PM this Wednesday, the California State Board of Education (SBE) adopted a “student growth model” to evaluate student learning. It is a method fans of standardized test based accountability have been trumpeting. The big winner here is the testing giant Education Testing Services (ETS) who created the model to be used.

Board member Sue Burr who was appointed to the board by then Governor Jerry Brown made the motion for using the growth model. She carefully presented her motion directly from the state’s California Department of Education (CDE) staff report which recommended:

“The student growth model methodology, which includes using RG [residual growth] scores and the EBLP [Empirical Best Linear Prediction] hybrid approach to report aggregated student growth, and that the following score reporting be adopted:

“1.        Report the EBLP weighted average for:

“1. Schools

“2. Student groups in a school

“3. The “All” student group in an County or District

“4. Student groups in a district with 500 or fewer students (with test scores)

“2.       At the Local Education Agency level, report the simple average for all race/ethnicity and program participation student groups with more than 500 scores.”

Board member Patricia Ann Rucker seconded the motion. She is a legislative advocate for the California Teachers Association.

The measure was adopted by a unanimous 10-0 vote. The only member of the eleven-member board not voting for it was Board President Linda Darling-Hammond who was absent.

Developing an Accountability Model to Satisfy ESSA

In January 2016, the SBE discussed how to bring the state’s accountability vision in line with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) new accountability requirements. SBE received an information memorandum from the CDE stating,

One such indicator would be a student-level growth model. This memorandum provides an overview of student-level growth models that can be used to communicate Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment results.”

In 2017, the state joined with testing vendor ETS to develop a Growth Model. After exploring several different models, the SBE selected the “residual gain” method for further study.

Again the state hired testing vendor ETS to evaluate the residual gain model in 2018. In a report, ETS stated that the model had low “cross-year stability.” In other words the results were not consistent. ETS developed an arithmetic manipulation method to solve the stability problem that they named the “Empirical Best Linear Prediction (EBLP).”

Student Growth Model Requires Opaque Math

The graphic above shows two types of growth models. One is the gain model which simply subtracts the third grade testing data from the fourth grade data to get a gain score. However, it is not really that simple. Mathematical manipulation is required to make the scale from the 3rd grade match the scale in 4th grade. This requires several assumptions that affect the results.

The method California has chosen adds another set of mathematical assumptions to create an expected outcome. That expected outcome is then subtracted from the 4th grade data to get the residual gain score. However since those scores are not stable, the ETS averaging scheme is being applied to make the results appear stable.

ETS is the Goliath of the standardized testing industry. It administers America’s most important standardized tests (including the SAT, PSAT, CLEP, AP, TOEFL, and Praxis exams) and develops many of them. ETS was organized as a non-profit in 1948. Today, their 2018 tax document shows this “non-profit” has revenues in excess of $1.5 billion. It also shows that 17 board members working 2-hours or less per week had an average income of $73,000 and 33 key employees had average incomes of over $533,000 per year with President Walter McDonald taking in $1,350,474.

The ETS “non-profit” is actually diving up a lot of profits.

Standards Based Education and Testing is Harming Kids

In December, Peter Greene put together a compendium of articles he has posted about the stupidity associated with standardized testing in schools. One particularly important article is about Daniel Koretz book the Testing Charade. This recognized testing expert from the Harvard Graduate School of Education gives us one more well-founded dismantling of the myth that standardized testing is anything other than destructive.  

Student testing data does not indicate learning, teacher effectiveness or school quality and it is statistically noisy. A correlation study of how testing data is affected by various factors assigns r-values of between 1 and 0. A value of 1 means 100% correlated and a value of 0 means not correlated at all. When correlation studies are done with standardized testing data there is only one factor that has an r-value greater the 0.3 (weakly correlated) and that is family wealth which has an r-value of 0.9.

So if Burrito Canyon high school has excellent testing data that is always better than the scores at Pawn Valley high school, there is nothing known about the learning and teaching, but you can be confident students at Burrito Canyon have wealthier parents.

These growth models – that are now being used in almost every state in America – take in noisy testing data that has little valuable meaning and applies fancy arithmetic. It is the classic garbage in – garbage out situation.

Not only is standardized testing removing almost $2 billion dollars from America’s classrooms every year, it is doing damage to students. Standards based education is bad education theory because there are no standard children. Testing forces educators to teach to the test and it further narrows curriculum. Gifted education professionals have shown repeatedly that this methodology driven by corporations and billionaires is harmfully misguided.

Authentic Education Reform Based on Diversity Research

7 May

By Thomas Ultican 5/7/2021

“Dedicated with admiration and respect to public school teachers who opt-out of commercial standardized tests.”

These are the words of dedication for Garn Press’s new book in their “Woman Scholars Series,” Diversity Research in Action. In this book, lengthy excerpts from published research by three PhD’s in education Anne Haas Dyson, Denny Taylor and Catherine Compton-Lilly are introduced and woven together by a forth doctorate of education Bobbie Kabuto. It seems like decades since this kind of authentic thinking about how to improve education and equity in our schools has been widely shared.

On a personal note, I began my masters of education program in 2001 and found the kind of pedagogy being advocated by these women very appealing. Unfortunately, that was precisely at the time when Ted Kennedy and George Bush teamed up to smoother it. It was obvious to me that we needed to meet our students at whatever attainment level they had and begin there. Students are not standard so it made no sense to follow some standards arrangement when teaching them.

Most educators found teaching to the standards and administering testing mandated by the No Child Left Behind act – the 2002 rewrite of the US federal education law – heartbreaking. In my remedial high school algebra classes, students were learning but just not fast enough. Instead of being encouraged to continue growing, they were labeled failures.

Building Biographic Literature Profiles

At a time when the president of the United States, George H. W. Bush, and the governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, joined with CEO’s like IBM’s Louis Gerstner to call for education standards, Denny Taylor was conducting research which showed how foolhardy they were.

Hundreds of students, dozens of teachers and administrators participated in Taylor’s “Biographic Literacy Profiles Project” from 1989 – 1991. Essentially, she turned kindergarten thru third grade teachers into ethnographers studying their students and how they made sense of literary learning. They collected into portfolios every scrap of paper available that showed how students were using symbols, drawings and invented writing methods to communicate. They added to these portfolios notes describing what the students were doing, what kind of growth they were exhibiting and how they were successful.

Taylor wrote,

“…, while I would rather have the child’s production than some simplistic (asinine is probably a better descriptor) ‘text’ copied from the board, the child’s writing without notes written by the teacher still only provides a part of the ‘picture.’ Portfolios are not enough. To understand how individual children actively engage in the reconstruction of the functions, uses, and forms of written language we need to observe them at work.” (p 117)

Taylor published the findings of the “Biographic Literature Profiles” under the title Teaching Without Testing.” The profiles show how unique each student is and therefore, how useless education standards and testing are.

“They leave teachers and administrators with no alternative but to teach to the test. Children’s lives are altered, drilled, and skilled – the natural rhythm of their learning is changed to a solemn beat.” (p 150)

One of the school principals participating in the project noted,

“Change should be teacher initiated, teacher implemented, and teacher controlled. But teachers don’t have the power.” (p 140)

Over the last thirty years this has persisted. Peter Greene a Forbes commentator and decades-long educator tweeted.

Permeable Curriculum

In introducing this section, Bobbie Kabuto states,

“Curriculum is the heart and soul of educational systems, and it is in jeopardy of a coup d’état by corporate and political forces. It has not always been this way. As a teacher in the mid 1990s, I knew a time when money was invested in the professional development of teachers rather in than in high-stakes testing.”

Here, Professor Anne Hass Dyson takes the reader through negotiating a permeable curriculum and why it is required. Often teacher world and student world require interplay between children’s language and experience and that of the teacher. The distance between the two is exacerbated by diverse sociocultural backgrounds. Teachers and students do feel disconnected. Dyson states,

“On the one hand, we must allow – indeed, support – the embedding of written language in children’s social worlds, so that they find it a useful symbolic tool (a suggestion made by educators as separated in time and space as Ashton-Warner, Freire, and Vygotsky). But, on the other hand, we must also help children expand and negotiate among the sociocultural worlds – the dialogues – in which they participate.” (p 205)

It requires the educator to deeply understand the student’s home culture and what children are currently fascinated by in order to design curriculum that meets their needs.

Habitus and Chronotype

Researcher Catherine Compton-Lilly’s research is focused on habitus and chronotype. Habitus explains the complex interactions between culture, social structures, and individual agency. In other words what are the environmental factors linking to the way a student talks, acts and believes. These are the factors crucial to the development of cultural capital. Chronotype literally means time-space. Compton-Lilly applied the chronotype motifs from literature to motifs in literacy and schooling.

Compton-Lilly observes,

“Significantly, expanded notions of time invite educators and scholars to think about inequity ‘because time is largely taken for granted and therefore invisible, the social relation of time can continue to maintain existing inequalities and create new ones in the globally constituted world.’” (p 311)

She also shared,

“As Sorokin (1943) argued ‘Observation shows that persons equally old according to the physical clock are physiologically at quite different stages of development.” Yet there are areas in educational research that attempt to normalize development, create age- and grade- level expectations, and require students to make adequate yearly progress.”

Top flight education scholars like the authors of Diversity Research in Action are why billionaires are funding non-university based teacher development programs like the academically inferior Teach For America spinoff TNTP and the late Eli Broad’s superintendents’ academy. They know that authentic professional educators oppose their uninformed theories of education and disruption of public schools.

If you are interested in a deeper perspective on teaching and learning, I recommend this book.

Billionaire Sponsored Edtech Sales Pitch

29 Apr

By Thomas Ultican 4/29/2021

Laurene Powell Jobs and Amplify Education are hosting a Virtual Summit which is what they’re calling this May’s sales event. Jobs is very confident that her billions qualify her to shape education policy. In her drive to privatize public education, she has accumulated and created several pro-edtech and anti-teacher organizations. She also provides leadership and money to other billionaire driven organizations promoting education technology while simultaneously denigrating public schools.

When Laurene’s husband, Steve Jobs, died in 2011 she inherited the rest of the billions the couple had derived from the company Steve founded, Apple Inc. Since then, her fortune has grown to more than $30 billion. Fundamentally, Jobs only qualification for shaping national education policy derives from her marrying the right guy.

In 2016, Powell Jobs’ sent Hillary Clinton four uninformed education policy positions:

  1. “Re-design entire K-12 system – we know how to do it, but it comes down to political will.
  2. “Think about Charters as our R&D … must allow public schools to have leaders that can pick their team and be held accountable.
  3. “Need to increase IQ in the teaching sector: Teach for America; they are a different human capital pipeline.
  4. “Need to use technology to transform – technology allows teachers and children to focus on content mastery versus seat time; …”

Some Laurene Powell Jobs Connections Mapped in LittleSis

The LittleSis map above has a hyperlink to the original in the caption. Shown here is a minimal display of Jobs’ connections within the movement to privatize and monetize public education. However, every line and name is hyperlinked on the original map to a large trove of information in the LittleSis data base.

The point of the map is that Jobs is the owner of Amplify through her non-profit organization, Emerson Collective.

The Amplify “Virtual Summit”

The May sales event was promoted in the Education Week Advertiser with the title “Reading Reimagined: Uncovering the Science Behind Personalized Learning.” All but one of the presenters at the daylong affair is an Amplify employee. They will emphasize three points:

  1. “The Science of Reading in personalized learning.”
  2. “What to look for in a personalized learning program.”
  3. “How to leverage COVID-19 relief stimulus funding to combat instructional loss.”

Russ Walsh is a professional educator and blogger. Recently (4/26/2021), He began an article about the science of reading with,

“Call me crazy, but when I learned I had cancer a few years ago, I did not immediately consult a journalist. Instead I chose to see an oncologist. When COVID broke out, I threw in my lot with Dr. Fauci and other infectious disease scientists, instead of a former reality TV star who suggested I inject bleach. And so, when I want advice on reading instruction, I avoid the journalists, the parent lobbying groups, the reading program sales reps, and the agenda driven pseudo-education organizations, and I look to the experts.”

The professionals Russ pointed to were Peter Johnston and Deborah Scanlon of the University at Albany who have debunked the Science of Reading (SOR) in a new report. Russ quotes them as stating,

“There is no one right way to teach reading. Student’s difficulties are unique to the individual students. Better to assume that the instruction we are providing is not meeting the student’s needs and adjust accordingly, than to focus on one instructional approach.”

Professor Paul Thomas of Furman University has also been out spoken in his scorn for the science of reading ideology.

In a previous post, I defined the nebulous term personalized learning:

‘“Personalized Learning” is a euphemistic term that indicates lessons delivered on a digital device. These lessons are often organized with a playlist and come with a claim of using artificial intelligence to tailor the lessons to the recipient. The scheme is related to competency base education (CBE).”

For five decades, the CBE scheme, operating under several different names, has posited that drilling small skills for mastery is the best way to teach. It has not worked yet.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said in a 2015 report that heavy users of computers in the classroom “do a lot worse in most learning outcomes.”

Wireless Generation to Amplify

Greg Gunn a former associate of the Carlyle Group who had earned a Masters of Electrical Engineering from MIT joined with Larry Berger to found Wireless Generation. Berger was a graduate of Yale University with a BA and had been a White House fellow working on Educational Technology at NASA during the Clinton administration.

In 2010, News Corporation paid $360 million dollars to acquire Wireless Generation and renamed it Amplify Education, Inc.

By August of 2015, after spectacular failures in North Carolina, News Corporation announced it was exiting the education business. The corporation took a $371 million dollar write off to get out of the digital curriculum business. The next month, News Corporation announced it had sold Amplify to members of its staff. In the deal orchestrated by Joel Klein, he would remain as a board member and Larry Berger would assume leadership of the company.

It was soon learned that the real buyer of Amplify was Laurene Powell Jobs. Larry Berger is still leading the company.

Why Tax Billionaires Out of Existence

22 Apr

By Thomas Ultican 4/22/2021

Twenty years of studying education policy, politics and practices has been awakening. Seeing billionaires inflict their often misguided and unpopular beliefs on our nation’s public schools has made it clear how undemocratic and dangerous extreme wealth is. They have established voucher programs routinely sending taxpayer money to religious schools even though these programs have lost decisively whenever submitted to voters. In her book Slaying Goliath, Diane Ravitch labeled these 0.1% of Americans as disrupters. She asked and answered the question “what do disrupters want?” They want:

  • Inexperienced teachers with little or no training from organizations like Teach For America.
  • To replace teachers with machine teaching (“blended learning” – “personalized learning”).
  • To move fast and break things including school systems, historic schools and communities.
  • To eliminate local democratic control over schools.
  • To eliminate teacher tenure and seniority rights.
  • To eliminate teacher defined benefit pensions.
  • To eliminate teachers unions.
  • To evaluate teachers and schools with standardized test scores.
  • To lower taxes and reduce spending on education.

Controlling the Political Process

In 2018, the Network for Public Education (NPE) produced a masterful report detailing how school board elections are being stolen from local residents. In the introduction to Hijacked by Billionaires: How the Super Rich Buy Elections to Undermine Public Schools,” the authors state, “This report provides some insight into how the very wealthy insert themselves into local elections through direct contributions, Independent Expenditure Committees and even non-profit organizations.”

The Billionaires Cited in “Hijacked by Billionaires”

In my post-election analysis of three elections, School Board Elections 2020: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” I show that billionaires Alice Walton of Bentonville, Arkasas, Michael Bloomberg of New York, New York and Stacy Schusterman of Tulsa, Oklahoma poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the school board races in Oakland, California and Indianapolis, Indiana.

In that same election, the spending in Los Angeles and for California state offices was enormous. Through a combination of direct contributions and political action committees, seven billionaires put more than $14,000,000 into the 2020 election. The bulk of it went into the Los Angeles school board election with over $1,000,000 going to state assembly and senate races plus more than $1,000,000 went into five county board of education elections.

The Path of Billionaire Spending in California’s 2020 General Election

Similar election spending went on in New Orleans, Camden and many other jurisdictions mainly through Public School Allies the political arm of the City Fund founded by billionaires John Arnold and Reed Hastings.

In 2014, SFGATE reported, “Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who suggests that democratically elected school boards are the problem with public education, says they should be replaced by privately held corporations.” Hastings said out loud a belief held among many of his anti-democracy peers.

Creating an Alternate Teacher Training Path

In their effort to privatize public education, billionaires have created alternate paths for teacher credentialing and professional development.

Mercedes Schneider writes in her book Chronicle of Echoes, “Wendy Kopp declared that she had a force of young, predominantly-Ivy League idealists for sale, and Big Money arrived on the scene to make the purchase.” Wendy Kopp is the founder of Teach For America (TFA) and the young idealists for sale were her “temp teachers” who have no intention of staying in the classroom. In 2011, the Walton Family Foundation donated $49.5 million to TFA. Many corporate donors also sent TFA $100,000 to $999,000: “Anheuser-Busch, ATT, Bank of America, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Boeing, Cargill Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, Emerson, Entergy, ExxonMobil, Fedex, Fidelity Investment, GE, Marathon Oil, Monsanto, Peabody, Prudential, State Farm, Symantec, Travelers, Wells Fargo.”

These unqualified “temp teachers” have not studied teaching and they have no experience. A new teacher coming through a traditional program has taken many education courses and spent a year working with a master teacher as a supervised student teacher. TFA teachers typically have no education courses in college and get just five-weeks of classroom training in the summer.

TNTP is one of several organizations that only exist because billionaires have financed them. Wendy Kopp founded TNTP (originally called The New Teachers Project) in 1997. She assigned Michelle Rhee, who had completed a two year TFA tour, to lead it. Along with TNTP and TFA there are also the Broad Superintendents Academy and the fake school for professional educators called Relay Graduate School instilling the billionaire inspired privatization mindset.

Selling Technology and School Choice

With their enormous wealth, billionaires have poured more than $200,000,000 into organizations like New School Venture Fund to sell edtech and school choice; also funding think tanks (CREDO and CRPE) to provide a veneer of academic credibility.

To advance these sales they have created their own education media empire with The Education Post and The-74 as their flagships. Bill Gates has spent lavishly on publications like EdWeek turning them from a teacher resource into an edtech promoting outlet.

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” —Plutarch (c. 46–120 ce)

In 2017, Bill Moyers wrote,

“The top 1 percent owns more than 30 percent of America’s wealth. The poorest half owns just 2.5 percent. Wall Street bonuses alone are twice the amount of all the combined earnings of minimum-wage workers in this country. We are grotesquely, bizarrely, grossly unequal — unequal in cash, health care, schooling and access to clean air and water. Unequal in our access to power. And we are becoming more unequal by the year: Since Ronald Reagan became president, the income of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans has doubled.”

As Louis Brandeis famously stated, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

San Francisco “Progressives” Promote Gentrification Undermine Democracy

16 Apr

By Thomas Ultican 4/16/2021

A new political PAC, Campaign for Better San Francisco Public Schools,” demands that schools be opened for in person classes immediately. They also make two dubious claims, “The election process for choosing the Board of Education is not meeting the needs of San Francisco” and “Many large cities successfully use an appointment process to choose a Board of Education.”

San Francisco Democrats Embrace the Open Schools Now Agenda

Neoliberal forces especially from the Republican Party have been campaigning for schools to be opened immediately for more than a year. Republicans see it as a wedge issue that could help them win back suburban women. Carl Hulse’s New York Times article noted that “congressional Republicans have begun to hammer relentlessly on President Biden, Democrats and teachers’ unions to open schools quickly.”

Surprisingly, San Francisco Democrats have joined with the former president’s open-schools-now campaign. Mayor London Breed has even sued the school board trying to force them to reopen schools. Breed explained,

“Families right now aren’t able to plan for their futures. They can’t decide whether to accept a job offer because they don’t know when they’re going to be able to once again have their kids returned to the classroom. This is paralyzing our city and our residents, and I know that this is a drastic step, but I feel we are out of options at this point.”

Seeyew Mo, a computer scientist who uses his skills to develop political campaign tools, is the executive director of the Campaign for Better San Francisco Public Schools. In a recent bid for a seat on San Francisco’s Democratic County Central Committee, he was endorsed by Nancy Pelosi, London Breed and YIMBY among others. YIMBY is the yes in my Backyard advocates for safe, affordable housing in California often accused of advancing a gentrification agenda.

The Campaign for Better San Francisco Public Schools’ background article claims that school boards should be appointed not elected citing a 2013 article from the Center for American Progress (CAP) as evidence. The CAP article was sponsored by the Edythe and Eli Broad Foundation and reviewed by Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Both entities are infamous for promoting school privatization.

Political Action Committees must file a statement of purpose to legally spend money. When the Campaign for Better San Francisco Public schools filed their form, the treasure named was James Sutton a prominent San Francisco Lawyer and the principle officer named was hedge-fund founder Patrick Wolff. 

Wolff founded Grandmaster Capital with seed funding from his billionaire friend Peter Thiel. According to the hedge fund journal, Wolff and Thiel were initially brought together by a common interest in chess. “Thiel is a serious chess player and Wolff began his career as a full-time, professional chess player, twice becoming US champion, hence the Grandmaster name.” 

In 2018, Wolff wrote commentaries on education for the San Francisco Examiner. In one piece he declared,

“California is failing. San Francisco is failing. The status quo is unacceptable. The fate of our children’s education is literally our future.”

“But in the interest of full disclosure, I will report that I have met several times with Marshall Tuck and he has greatly impressed me with his knowledge, his passion, and his ideas. And Marshall Tuck has the full-throated endorsement of Arne Duncan, who was US Education Secretary under President Obama.”

Gentrification

The Wolff-Thiel connection and Mayor Breed’s appointment of Sonja Trauss to the Regional Planning Committee of the Association of Bay Area Governments has people worried.

Szeto and Meronek referenced Tory Becker the director of the anti- gentrification group LAGAI when writing about Trauss,

“Entrenched online in the libertarian strongholds of Reddit and TechCrunch, and in the real world through real estate- and tech-sponsored nonprofits like SPUR and YIMBY Action, Trauss’s followers live by the neoliberal belief that deregulation and building more housing, even if it’s only affordable to the richest of the rich, will trickle down and eventually make housing affordable for all. Her vision is Reagonomics ‘dressed up in a progressive sheep’s costume,’ according to Becker.”

San Francisco Supervisor Gordon Mar opposed Trauss’s appointment noting that the appointee must be able to bridge divisions across neighborhoods and ideologies. Mar claimed, “Sonja Trauss has a history of inflaming these divisions, rather than working across them” citing “the declaration that ‘gentrification is what we call the revaluation of black land to its correct price’” and “forcefully shouting down Chinatown community elders.”

Recall the Board

School district parents, Autumn Looijen and Siva Raj, filed a school board recall petition. They wanted to recall the entire board but the two members elected in November cannot be recalled this year.  Looijen and Raj are tech workers who moved to the city last December. They claim the school board was too busy with school name changes instead of getting schools open.

In the original filing, Looijen is listed as treasure and Raj is listed as principal officer. In an amended filing, Looijen is listed as principal officer and the new treasure is James Sutton the same high priced San Francisco attorney as the PAC, Campaign for Better San Francisco Public Schools, used. One of Sutton’s junior lawyers, Dale Bellitto, is listed as Assistant Treasure. In 2015, she was a Teaching Fellow at KIPP Infinity charter school in New York City.

Cato Indoctrination for Educators

8 Apr

By Thomas Ultican 4/8/2021

The Education Week Advertiser just notified me about an opportunity to be indoctrinated into the Cato Institute’s culture and education views. The ad proclaims, “The Cato Institute and the Sphere Education Initiative are excited to announce the return of Sphere Summit: Teaching Civic Culture Together for the Summer of 2021!” They generously offer impressive full scholarship programs for educators and administrators.

The money for all this comes from Charles Koch and associated libertarians. It is funneled through the Cato Institute which was originally called the Charles Koch Foundation, Inc. when he and fellow libertarian Edward Crane founded it in 1977. It is one of the many organizations and businesses that Charles Koch uses to advance his personal interests which are often referred to as the Kochtopus.

Sphere Summit Speakers

Ryan Bourne – According to libertarianism.org, he is “the R. Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at Cato.” Bourne writes about fiscal policy, inequality, minimum wages, infrastructure spending and rent control.He is a contributor to the Daily Telegraph and the UK website ConservativeHome.

Arnold Kling – A Senior Affiliated Scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University to which the Charles Koch Foundation contributed a total of $29,156,700 in 2017 and 2018 (EIN: 48-0918408). He specializes in housing-finance policy, financial institutions, macroeconomics, and the inside workings of America’s federal financial institutions. He also is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC.

Clark Neily – He is vice president for criminal justice at the Cato Institute. Neily served as co-counsel in the District of Columbia v. Heller case in which the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment rights had been violated. The ruling overturned the District of Columbia’s handgun ban and requirement that lawfully owned rifles and shotguns be kept “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock.”

Tom G. Palmer – He is a senior fellow at Cato Institute and director of Cato University. He is also a VP of the Institute for Humane Studies (HIS) at George Mason University and a VP for International Programs at the Atlas Network. HIS was co-founded by Charles Koch in 1974. An outgrowth of HIS, the American Energy Alliance, had a central role in Koch’s successful campaign defeating the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill to limit greenhouse gasses (Kochland pages 448-449).

Jonathan Rauch – He is a senior fellow in the governance studies program at the Brookings Institute and author of books and articles on public policy, culture, and government. His many Brookings’ publications include the 2015 ebook Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Back-Room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy.

Jeffrey Rosen – He is President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate the public about the U.S. Constitution. Rosen is also professor at The George Washington University Law School and a contributing editor of The Atlantic.

Nadine Strossen – She was president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) between1991 to 2008. Veteran National Review fans may be familiar with Strossen, because she was a friend and frequent sparring partner of William F. Buckley.

Darrell West – He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of TechTank. His current research focuses on artificial intelligence, robotics, and the future of work. West is also director of the John Hazen White manufacturing initiative and vice president of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institute.

It appears that the first four presenters will be delivering the libertarian message and the second four will be delivering a mixture of pro-edtech and pro-American positions. All eight speakers have two commonalities. They are professionals who will be paid well for their appearances and none of them have any k-12 teaching or administrating experience.

Four professional development workshops are to be presented by:

  1. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education which was founded by Alan Charles Kors in 1999 to dismantle the so-called liberal bias in higher academia. Source Watch reports that they were part of the right wing State Policy Network.
  2. The Bill of Rights Institute, established in September 1999 by the Charles G. Koch Foundation, is a Virginia based nonprofit that promotes teaching a conservative interpretation of the Constitution.
  3. The National Constitution Center is a nonprofit institution devoted to the Constitution of the United States.
  4. iCivics is a non-profit organization offering teachers digital civics education curriculum including games, digital tools, and lesson plans.

For more than fifty years, Charles Koch has been pouring money into advancing his libertarian free market philosophy. Koch has taken Austrian economic theory from its 1950s fringe thinking status to an influential force in American governance. This is a continuation of that effort. Targeting teachers and school leaders is designed to expand Koch’s ultra-conservative low tax and small government agenda.

Why I Support Public Education

29 Mar

By Thomas Ultican 3/29/2021

The original cause for my supporting public education was that my rancher father married a school teacher. Growing up in southern Idaho, I learned many philosophical and theoretical reasons for supporting the establishment and maintenance of public schools from my mother. However, it was from watching mom and her dedicated colleagues in action that I learned to truly respect and appreciate public school.

I remember stories of my father being warned that he better not treat that woman wrong. For several years in a row she won the Elmore County sharp shooting contest. She didn’t like to chop a chicken’s head off so she would pull out her rifle and shoot it off.

Mom had some old school attitudes but maintained a mind of her own. There was a period in which she had to come home at lunch time and milk the cow. One Friday, after having to chase the cow across King Hill creek again, she had had enough; didn’t discuss it just loaded that cow into a trailer and took it to market.

In my home, there was no doubt about the value of education and also an abiding belief that the American public education system was unparalleled. My father was a high school basketball referee and an ardent supporter of music study.

As was common in the community, school events were family events. Helping the local school was one of the main missions of our civic organizations whether it was building viewing stands at the football field or sewing costumes for school plays.

My grandfather was an immigrant from Scotland who came to America on the Lusitania. Three years after his arrival that ship was sunk by a German U-boat killing 1,800 passengers and further pushing America into engaging with World War I.

It was through family in Scotland that my mother became familiar with the British Education system. She learned of its high stakes testing which was deciding a child’s education path; if that education would continue and whether it would be academic or vocational. To her, the great advantage for America’s schools was they did not have these kinds of tests determining a child’s future. American students were not immersed in testing hell.

Instead of being sorted out by testing, American students had multiple opportunities to reenter the education system in whatever capacity they desired. Immature 11-year olds, did not have their futures decided by dubious testing results.

Still today, Idaho has a greater than 90% white population making it one of the whitest places in the world. It used to be even whiter.

I did not meet a Black person until I was a 17 years-old high school student. That year the University of Idaho Vandaleers gave a concert at my high school. A local rancher’s wife threw an after party for the choir and that is where I met Ray McDonald. Not only was he a talented singer, he was also one of the top running backs in America who would soon be drafted in the second round by the Washington DC professional football team. All I really remember is I was star struck and he was a friendly guy who played piano.

Although there was very little racial diversity in the community there was significant religious diversity. We had Mormons, Mennonites, Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Assembly of God and other denominations attending our schools.

In a 2001 interview conducted at the Gathering, Richard DeVos lamented that it was awful that public schools had replaced churches as the center of communities. He did not identify whose church was going to be accepted as the community center.

The unifying factor in Glenn’s Ferry, Idaho was the public schools. Children from rich families and poor families grew up together in those schools. At school functions, parents from the disparate religious sects came together and formed common bonds. Political decisions concerning community governance were developed through these school based relationships.

Public schools became the foundation for democratic governance in the region plus it was literally where people voted. To me, it is unfeasible that a healthy American democracy does not include a healthy public school system.

America’s Founding Fathers Believed in Public Education

The second and third presidents of the United States advocated powerfully for public education. Thomas Jefferson saw education as the cause for developing out of common farmers the enlightened citizenry who would take the rational action a successful republican democracy requires. Jefferson contended,

“The qualifications for self government are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training.”

When Jefferson who was a former ambassador to France was queried about the French Revolution, he responded, “It has failed in its first effort, because the mobs of the cities, the instrument used for its accomplishment, debased by ignorance, poverty and vice, could not be restrained to rational action.” He called for the establishment of universal free public education claiming it as a requisite for the survival of a democratic republic.

Jefferson and his peer John Adams were integral to the founding of the United States. Jefferson is credited as the main author of the Declaration of Independence. Our system of government with its bi-cameral legislative branch, judicial branch and executive branch came about in great measure because of John Adams’ advocacy.

Like Jefferson, Adams also saw public education as crucial for the survival of our fledgling democracy. In a 1775 essay, he wrote:

“reformation must begin with the Body of the People which can be done only, to affect, in their Educations. the Whole People must take upon themselvs the Education of the Whole People and must be willing to bear the expences of it. there should not be a district of one Mile Square without a school in it, not founded by a Charitable individual but maintained at the expence of the People themselves”

Shortly before the American Revolution, Jean-Jacques Rousseau had published the controversial novel Emile, or On Education. He was widely condemned by the ruling elite for the religious views expressed in the book. However, the main portion of the book was about education. Rousseau’s character in the book was a tutor for children of the wealthy. That was the nature of education in the 18th century. Only children of the wealthy had the wherewithal to be educated by private tutors or in one of the few private schools.

Jefferson and Adams were calling for egalitarian progress giving common people the tools required to be self-governing. They were calling for a public school system.

Between 1820 and 1860, the Massachusetts education advocate Horace Mann – more than any other American political leader – was responsible for the nationwide spread of public schools. With the challenges of industrialization, immigration and urbanization, public schools became the tool of social integration. Horace Mann became the spokes-person for schools being that instrument.

It was Mann’s point of view that children in the common school were to receive a common moral education based on the general principles of the Bible and on common virtues. The moral values to be taught in public school were Protestant values and the political values were those of republican democracy.

Integrating the Protestant religious view into the common schools caused a split in communities. The burgeoning Catholic immigrant population did not want their children indoctrinated with an anti-Catholic ideology. Following the civil war, these influences irrupted into the “Bible Wars.” Author Katherine Stewart shared that it was in this atmosphere that “President Ulysses S. Grant declared that if a new civil war were to erupt, it would be fought not across the Mason-Dixon Line but at the door of the common schoolhouse.”

Stewart also noted an insightful admonition from Grant:

“Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate. With these safeguards I believe the battles which created the Army of Tennessee will not have been fought in vain.”

Early in the 20th century, public schools had been established serving every community from coast to coast. The results from this vast American public education experiment shine like a lighthouse beacon on the path of Democracy and social happiness. A nation that entered the century as a 2nd rate power ended the century as the undisputed world leader in literacy, economy, military power, industrial might, cultural influence and more.

Today, unbelievably, more and more forces are agitating to undo public education and even American Democracy itself.

As the 21st century dawned, the American public education system was facing a billionaire financed attack. Instead of financially enhancing public schools, libertarians called them “failures” and too expensive. They called public schools “monopolies” shutting out private business that would surely outperform “government schools.”

Hopefully the aphorism attributed Lincoln is true: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

Schools are MAGA Targets

15 Mar

By Thomas Ultican – 3/15/2021

One of America’s wealthiest public school districts typifies the damage MAGA Republicans are doing to public schools. San Diego County’s San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) serves just over 13,000 students in five middle schools and five high schools. With former Republican congressional candidate Mike Allman’s narrow school board victory, the MAGA coalition has achieved a 3 to 2 majority.

This election result advances using school reopening as a political wedge issue. Normally nonpartisan school board elections have been turned into partisan political battle grounds.

May 25, 2020, the former President Tweeted,

“Schools in our country should be opened ASAP. Much very good information now available. @SteveHiltonx @FoxNews

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 25, 2020

In July, the former Secretary of Education declared,

“School leaders across the country need to be making plans’ to have students in the classroom. There will be exceptions to the rule, but the rule should be kids go back to school this fall. And where there are little flare-ups or hot spots, that can be dealt with school by school or a case-by-case basis. There’s ample opportunity to have kids in school.”

Carl Hulse’s Feb. 12, 2021 New York Times article ran under the banner, “Republicans Seize on Shuttered Schools as a Political Rallying Cry” with a subtitle stating, “As President Biden struggles to keep his pledge to reopen schools in 100 days, Republicans in Congress are hammering at the issue as a way to win back alienated women and suburban voters.”

The SDUHSD school board election is a case study in using school reopening and hard ball politics in search of political gain.

Mike Allman’s Election Signaled MAGA Politics have Arrived

Michael Allman is a self-described “libertarian-leaning Republican.” He came to San Diego to work for Sempra Energy; is a former executive of Southern California Gas Co. and until 2016 was an executive at a software company called Bit Stew Systems. He received a BS in Chemical Engineering from Michigan State and an MBA at the libertarian economist Milton Friedman’s school, the University of Chicago.

He is a wealthy investor who lived in Rancho Santa Fe for twenty years before moving to Solana Beach.

Running for school board was Allman’s second foray into electoral politics. He ran in the 2018 district 52 congressional primary; a district in which he did not live. He was matched against incumbent Democrat Scott Peters and five fellow Republican challengers. Allman reported $415,109.45 total campaign spending in that race of which $300,000 came via his personal loan.

He garnered a disappointing 3.9% of the vote.

In 2020, Allman ran against Jane Lea Smith and Amy Caterina to become the Area 4 SDUHSD board Trustee. Caterina eventually dropped out and endorsed Allman but was still on the ballot. The former special education teachers and medical device researcher, Jane Lea Smith, proved to be stout competition. Allman won the seat with 7,507 votes to Smith’s 7,181 (42.3% to 40.5%).

Like in his congressional race, Allman ran for a school board position in an area where he does not live. He personally contributed $29,000 of his total $33,333.55 in campaign contributions received and loaned his campaign $30,000. He out-spent Smith who received a total of $14,096.01 in campaign contributions five to one. If the $7,066.88 in independent expenditures by the teachers union is included, the spending advantage drops to three to one.

Allman was clear about two points in his campaign to be on the board; schools must be opened full time for face to face instruction and the teachers union is the problem. Four days before the election he posted,

“Teachers unions’ goals are in direct conflict with those of school boards.

“I will be your independent voice on the board and will work for students, parents and taxpayers. I am not beholden or supported by the teachers union.”

A post by Allman at the end of August called for opening schools and joining his political movement. He wrote,

“The Teachers Union will demand that the return to in-class learning be delayed.

“If you would like to get involved to ensure that our schools open as quickly and safely as possible, please join this group. We have a SDUHSD Board Meeting in a couple of weeks, and we can make a difference!”

Allman provided a link to the private face book page SDUHSD Families for School Reopening.”  An education activist and student mother who was kicked off of the page says that Allman was the key voice and administrator of the group until he was elected. She claims he is still the key voice leading FB discussions in the group but is no longer an administrator.

Of the five people who are current administrators of “SDUHSD Families for School Reopening,” Ginny Merrifield and Alison Stratton seem to be the most politically involved.

Allison Stratton runs a marketing company and was very involved in Mike Levin’s 2018 successful campaign for the CA 49th congressional district seat. It is surprising to see a significant supporter of a Democratic congressman decide to back an Issa-like Republican. She is purportedly one of Allman’s most vocal allies. There are some activists who believe Allman is using the school board seat as a stepping stone to run against Levin for the 49th district in the next election.

Ginny Merrifield is a very connected operator in Republican circles. She is a trustee of the E3 Civic High charter school located in the San Diego Central Library. She was a co-founder and trustee of the private and pricey Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad, California. She is on the board of governors for the $750 million San Diego Foundation. Her husband Marshal ran for San Diego city council as a Republican but was not elected. She is a very active and publicly open ally of Trustee Allman’s.

Recently Merrifield became the founding Executive Director of the Parent Association of North County (PANC). The contact address listed for PANC is 5965 Village Way, San Diego. It is a strip mall with only one education related business; Elite Educational Institute a tutoring, college consulting and SAT test preparation organization. Along with Executive Director Merrifield, PANC lists nine directors one from each of the nine north county school districts they claim to represent.

PANC publishes three organization objectives: reopen schools, grow membership and recruit substitutes. Regarding substitutes they say, “Due to a shortage of qualified substitutes, parents have created easy step-by-step instructions for parents to get a 30 day emergency substitute credential.”  

PANC is not unique. On January 26, 2021, Edsource reported,

Open Schools California includes parent groups in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Richmond and other cities who say that distance learning has been a disaster for most students, and the state needs to push harder for safety measures that would allow campuses to reopen for in-person instruction. The group announced its formation Monday.”

In the city of San Diego the group Reopen SDUSD began posting on their new Face Book page in September 2020. They supported three pro-open schools candidates for the San Diego Unified School District board. All three were soundly defeated by the incumbents up for reelection.

A rebuttal page called Reopen SDUSD Exposed has arisen claiming,

“We are committed to exposing the truth about Reopen SDUSD @reopensandiegoschoolsnow. They are filled with anti-science, anti-vaccine, anti-testing voices. They don’t want our schools open safely, they want them open at any and all costs.”

Reopen SDUSD Exposed admits “not all Reopen SDUSD supporters are anti-mask, anti-vaccine, Q following nut jobs,” but they are aligned with them.

The San Diego Union reported on March 11, “Three parents filed a class-action lawsuit against San Diego Unified this week alleging that the state’s second-largest school district failed to provide sufficient in-person learning and sufficient access to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.” One of the plaintiffs is Reopen SDUSD co-founder Gina Smith.

Reopen SDUSD Exposed Venn Diagram Depicting Reopen SDUSD Membership

Saturday March 13, 2021, PANC and Reopen SDUSD held a joint reopen schools rally in front of the county administration building in downtown San Diego. However, it does not appear that they attracted any local media attention.

Implementing the MAGA Politics of Division and Violence

In San Dieguito, the five member school board now has a three vote MAGA majority.

Maureen “Mo” Muir is the SDUHSD Board Trustee for Area one. In 2014, she was endorsed by the San Diego County Republican Party for what was then an open board seat. In 2018, the board was rearranged into Areas and Mo had a very difficult contest for the Area 1 seat; defeating Amy Flicker 7486 to 7291. In 2016, she also ran as a Republican for California’s 76th Assembly district and lost. Today she is the SDUHSD board President. This long time Republican finds herself in the uncomfortable position of having to support a radical MAGA style Republican agenda.

Joining Muir and Allman in the MAGA coalition is Melisse Mossy who is married to Jason Mossy, head of the Mossy Auto group and its many San Diego County dealerships. Mossy is a wealthy Christian house wife living in Rancho Santa Fe who does not seem to value the public school system. In a promotional video for the Santa Fe Christian School, Mossy says that if she could design a school it would be like this school where for the teachers it is more like a ministry. She states,

“I used to be a teacher in the public school environment and I have seen the worst case scenario. This is the farthest thing from it.”

Allman went to his first board meeting as a Trustee on December 15, 2020. He came ready to cause a stir by promoting four divisive agenda items.

Trustee Mossy introduced an Allman inspired proposal to change the time of the regularly scheduled Thursday at 5 PM board meetings to an alternating schedule of 9 AM and 5 PM. Allman seconded the motion. Minutes indicate that this motion was amended to alternating 3 PM and 5 PM. This change to a many years precedence will obviously make it more difficult for working people especially teachers to attend SDUHSD board meetings.

Allman wrote a proposal calling for a change to Rosenberg’s Rules of Order instead of using Roberts Rules of Order at Board meetings. According to Jurassic Parliament, the Rosenberg Rules are less Democratic giving more power to the chair and the majority. They are simpler with their rules stretching only to 10 pages compared to the 787 pages explaining the Roberts Rules, but that also gives the chair more power to make ruling interpretations. After a discussion the item was labeled a “future agenda item.”

Allman also proposed changing the boards legal council to Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP. When the agenda item arose, Muir moved to make the change and Allman seconded the motion. It would be unusual for a public school district to hire this “school choice” promoting law firm. On the firm’s web site they state,

“If you view charter or private schools as opportunities to improve public education, we are aligned with you. We want to help you make a positive difference.”

 After a discussion, Muir withdrew her motion and requested that a legal subcommittee to include Allman and Ms. Young meet with staff and review legal counsel options to recommend to the Board.

Allman’s big agenda item of the day was for all SDUHSD schools to open on January 4, 2021 for face to face instruction. Part of the resolution he authored stated, “The Governing Board designates Trustee Allman as the Board’s spokesperson for matters addressed by or arising from this Resolution.”

The board made it clear that all board members would be spokespersons and not just Allman. They also decided to start with one day a week in person before going five days a week on January 27. After that changes the MAGA coalition of Allman, Muir and Mossy provide the three required votes.

The San Dieguito teacher’s union immediately took legal action that stopped the in person school openings.

In late February, SDUHSD Superintendent Haley petitioned the state health department for an opening approval. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has offered a safety review process for school districts to request approval to reopen early while still in counties designated as “purple tier” for infection. Inexplicably, Haley announced that schools would open on March 8th before receiving word from the state.

When March 7th rolled around with no update from the state, PANC scheduled a rally to push for the approval, but that day the CDPH officially rejected the opening petitions from SDUHSD, Carlsbad Unified and Poway Unified. This apparently led to the following all too common MAGA style violence threat appearing on the Encinitas Votes face book page.

It would not be a real divide the community movement without a recall effort. In 2018, when Lea Wolf ran for the Area 5 Trustee position, she billed herself as a fiscal conservative and wrote in a recommendation for David Andresen, “David has been a tremendous resource for me as a entrepreneur since we met at San Diego Chamber of Commerce.” This founder of several technology companies who lost that school board race to Kristin Gibson is now leading an effort to recall Gibson.

On her website gathering recall signatures, she lists four reasons why Gibson’s performance is so egregious that she must be recalled: 1) Opposed letter grades during pandemic 2) Voted for $5.3 million Chrome books purchase 3) Approved 3.5% pay raise for Superintendent Haley and other administrators 4) Missed 2-thirds of last 9 board meetings.  

In the votes for the Chrome book purchase and pay raises, she voted with the majority. Gibson, who lectures at San Diego State University and is a member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics, disagreed last spring with a late change in grading policy from pass-fail to letter grade. At the time, Superintendent Haley was quoted,

“There’s no one voice, there’s no one decision that everybody is in agreement with. We acknowledge that. This is a very difficult time and a very difficult decision, we’ve never had a pandemic school closure and, hopefully, we will never have one again.”

Missing 2-thirds of the last 9 board meetings appears to be a lie. Since the end of June last year there have been 17 SDUHSD board meetings. Minutes show that Gibson attended 5 of 7 regular and 8 of 10 special board meetings. Three of her four absences occurred between 1/14/2021 and 2/1/2021. During that 2-week period she was dealing with a family crisis.

Even with all of the school districts in San Diego County issuing plans to open face to face in April, the MAGA Republicans continue to agitate. They blame teachers unions for keeping schools closed but surveys show that teachers and the general public have about the same opinion on opening schools in this pandemic. An article at the five-thirty-eight reports,

“According to a Feb. 11-14 Quinnipiac University poll, 47 percent of adults believe that schools are reopening in their community at about the right pace; just 27 percent believe it’s not happening quickly enough, and 18 percent think it’s happening too quickly. Likewise, a plurality (48 percent) of parents and guardians of K-12 students told YouGov/HuffPost that schools in their area were handling things “about right”; just 23 percent thought they were being too restrictive, while 19 percent thought they were taking too many risks. And educators are pretty happy too: 63 percent in the Hart Research/AFT poll said their school system has struck a good balance on the issue. Fifteen percent said that their school system had not done enough to resume in-person instruction, while 16 percent said it had gone too far to do so.”

Maybe rich people like Mike Allman and the former Secretary of Education, think teachers and students should take the risk and get back in school. But “little flare-ups or hot spots” are existential threats for many teachers and school staff. Now that vaccines are rolling out and schools are announcing reopening plans it seems foolish to rush it. Schools finally have the resources needed for a safe reopening and the staffs have vaccines being distributed that make them safer. Getting school open by May 1 is reasonable and prudent. Teachers, staff and students are not endangered unnecessarily.

Education Development Center and Urban Collaborative

22 Feb

 By Thomas Ultican 2/22/2021

A North Carolina resident asked “what do you know about the Urban Collaborative?” She was concerned about a company providing free airfare to school leaders in her child’s district; airfare to meetings in far-off cities. She wondered, “What is their motive? Is it more about money and power than special education?”

The Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative was founded by Dr. David Riley, Educational Co-Chair of the Summer Institute on Critical Issues in Urban Special Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Riley was the Executive Director of the Collaborative until he succumbed to cancer May 2, 2016. The Collaborative is a national network of education administrators responsible for youth with disabilities in urban school districts. It is a national version of the Massachusetts Urban Project, a state-wide network that Dr. Riley founded in 1979. In 1994, The Education Development Center (EDC) expanded the Urban Collaborative into a national organization.

An October 1, 2019 announcement from Arizona State University stated:

“The Urban Collaborative has a rich history of collaboration with school districts — more than 100 in 25 states — committed to leading inclusive and equitable education. It has resources, sponsors and partners, consultants and data-driven review processes, and annual meetings of education leaders from the nation’s largest urban school districts.”

“This fall, the Urban Collaborative joins Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College [MLFTC]. It was formerly an initiative of the nonprofit Education Development Center.

Lauren Katzman, Urban Collaborative executive director, joins MLFTC as associate research professor.”

The Education Development Center

In 1956, Dr. Jerrold R. Zacharias an atomic physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) formed the physical science study committee (PSSC). Their goal was to make the existing uninspiring physics curriculum come alive. PSSC Physics became a national success whose methods were widely adopted.

Dr. Zacharias’s timing could not have been better. On October 4, 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite (Sputnik). This led to several rapid developments. In August of the following year, Education Services Incorporated (ESI) was created to market the study committee’s PSSC Physics. ESI went on to sell several books into the education markets. After a decade, ESI merged with the newly formed Institute for Education Innovation to become The Education Development Center (EDC).

Dr. Zacharias’s 1986 New York Times obituary noted,

“In World War II he helped make radar a reality for the Navy and then headed the engineering division of the Los Alamos atomic bomb project. Afterward, as director of the Laboratory of Nuclear Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he designed the first atomic clock, still the most precise tool for measuring time.

“But it was in remaking physics education that he left his firmest mark on American science. As President Kennedy said in 1961, Dr. Zacharias ‘started a revolution in science teaching in the United States.”’

Dr. Zacharias’s contribution to science teaching was probably over-hyped but at least it created a much needed positive story about public education. Since its beginning, public education in America, has experienced a continuous cacophony of misplaced derision.

  • In 1889, the top 3% of US high school students went to college, and 84% of all American colleges reported remedial courses in core subjects were required for incoming freshmen.
  • In 1940, the US Navy tested new pilots on their mastery of 4th grade math and found that 60% of the HS graduates failed.
  • In 1942, the NY Times noted only 6% of college freshmen could name the 13 original colonies and 75% did not know who was President during the Civil War.
  • In 1955, Why Can’t Johnny Read became a best seller.
  • In 1959, LIFE magazine published “Crisis in Education” that noted the Russians beat us into space with Sputnik because “the standards of education are shockingly low.”
  • In 1963, Admiral Rickover published American Education, a National Failure.
  • In 1983, A Nation at Risk stated, “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

After every one of these dire but unfounded warnings, American society went on to lead the world in social, scholarly and cultural achievement. None of these claims held water. The great failure erroneously assigned to public education during Sputnik was no different.

Failing American education was blamed for the Soviets beating us into space. However, when Sputnik launched, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was pleased! He later stated, “We were certain that we could get a great deal more information of all kinds out of the free use of space than they could.” Sputnik established that the use of the heavens was open and free. To President Eisenhower it was an advantage. It meant that the US could use its superior scientific and manufacturing abilities to monitor and gather intelligence more successfully than the Soviets could.

The late Gerald Bracey wrote about the reality of the Sputnik fallout for Education Week:

“In late 1956, U.S. News & World Report had run an interview with historian Arthur Bestor, the author of ‘Educational Wastelands: The Retreat From Learning in Our Public Schools’, under the headline, ‘We Are Less Educated Now Than 50 Years Ago.’ Shortly after Sputnik, the magazine brought him back to explain ‘What Went Wrong With U.S. Schools.”’

Bestor declared that faulty education policy was “why the first satellite bears the label, ‘Made in Russia.”’ Countering Bestor’s statements,Bracey shared evidence that it was a command decision not education that led to the result. He wrote,

“Nazi Germany’s rocket genius Wernher von Braun, now the lead scientist of America’s Army Ballistic Missile Agency, was furious. At the time of Sputnik’s launch, the U.S. secretary of defense-designate, Neil McElroy, was touring von Braun’s operation in Huntsville, Ala. Von Braun, usually cool and politically savvy, lost it: ‘We knew they were going to do it!’ he yelled at McElroy. ‘Vanguard will never make it. We have the hardware on the shelf. For God’s sake, turn us loose and let us do something!’

“Von Braun did have the hardware on the shelf. On Sept. 20, 1956, more than a year before Sputnik, his group had launched a four-stage Jupiter-C rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The first three stages attained a speed of 13,000 miles an hour, a height of 862 miles, and a distance down range of 3,550 miles. The fourth stage could have easily slipped a satellite into orbit. But the fourth stage was filled with sand.”

There is substantial evidence that public school science education in the 1950s was not nearly so jejune as claimed. The 1999 docudrama October Sky tells the story of four high school boys from Coalwood, West Virginia. Coal miner’s son, Homer Hickman, was inspired by Sputnik and recruited three friends to take up rocketry with him.

A preponderance of science teachers has shown this film to their classes. It tells the story of four high school students engaged in scientific investigation and winning a national competition in rocketry. The movie highlights the wonderful encouragement and inspiration coming from their teacher, Frieda Joy Riley. In fact, Riley was so inspiring that The Freida J. Riley Award was established in her honor and is awarded annually to an American educator who overcomes adversity or makes an enormous sacrifice to positively impact students.

The PSSC physics curriculum has doubtlessly contributed to teaching high school physics, and like other successful curricular proposals the syllabus did address “an unmet need.” The EDC claims, “The Cold War and the emergence of the Russian space program in the late 1950s stoked U.S. concerns about a glaring national weakness in math and science.” The “concerns” certainly existed but achievement by the 1950s K-12 students testifies to how unfounded those concerns were.

Like so much of the slander endured by public education, the “glaring national weakness” claim was an illusion rather than “an unmet need.”

Tools of Corporate Education Reform

In the early years, the EDC was an organization making liberal ideology a reality. They developed a science curriculum specifically for the realities of Africa. They led a consortium of U.S. universities in founding the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur. The EDC produced educational TV shows noteworthy for their African American and Latino casts. They engaged in educating village health workers in Mali.

Unfortunately, in the 1980s, EDC seems to have become distracted by power and money while it dove into education technology. The timeline cited above notes; in 1984 their Semantic Calculator won software of the year, in 1986 they won the same award with the Geometric Supposer, and in 1985 EDC acquired the Center for Children and Technology. In 2002 they founded the New Bedford Global Learning Charter School.

In 2018, EDC presented the inaugural EDC Impact Award to Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX. That same year they were publishing statements like, “As new technologies transform the workplace, programs such as the Amgen Biotech Experience and the STEM Learning and Research Center are preparing the next generation of innovators and inventors.”

The latest available non-profit tax statement for the EDC covers tax-year 2017. The statement reveals the large amounts of money going through EDC and a number of hefty “non-profit” salaries. In 2017, EDC raked in $155,645,130 and over $153 million of that came from their funders. It also lists the salaries for 12 employees all taking in well more than $200,000 for the year.

In 2004, EDC was presented a decade long General Services Administration (GSA) contract. The GSA contract certifies that EDC can meet competition, pricing, small business and other federal contract requirements for the services specified in each schedule. In schedule 874-4, 874-4RC Training Services EDC states, “Our EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO) program, established in January 2000, provides effective online professional development for educators to improve online teaching skills and to streamline the process of incorporating online resources into their daily business practices.” By “daily business practices” they must mean classroom teaching.

Less is known about finances at the Urban Collaborative because they were part of EDC until 2019 and now they are receiving their grant money through an umbrella non-profit arm at Arizona State University. Like Stanford’s CREDO and the University of Washington’s CRPE, money is donated to a second party who then passes it on to these organizations. They are not recognized non-profits so there are no tax records specific to them.

The costs for school district memberships to the Collaborative are unknown, but in 2006 the costs were openly posted on the Urban Collaborative web site:

“Membership fees are based on the total student enrollment of the district. A graduated fee scale is applied to determine the number of senior-level administrators who receive Collaborative publications and reports, paid airfare to Collaborative meetings, and other Collaborative benefits at no extra charge.

 

“The annual fee for a school district with a total enrollment of less than 15,000 students is $2,400 (covers one district leader).

“The annual fee for a school district with a total enrollment of between 15,000 and 50,000 students is $3,800 (covers two district leaders).

 

“The annual fee for a school district with a total enrollment of more than 50,000 students is $5,000 (covers three district leaders).

“Districts may enroll additional senior-level administrators in the Collaborative for $1,500 per enrollee per year.”

The Urban Collaborative semi-annual meetings are underwritten by corporate sponsors hawking their wares. In the Collaborative sponsor’s brochure, it says, “Our national meetings provide unique opportunities for your organization to deliver its message to many of the nation’s most influential urban education decision makers, network with education leaders from across the country, as well as participate in meeting sessions.”  The companies listed in the sponsor’s brochure are mostly edtech companies like Scientific Learning, TeachTown and TeleTeachers.

 A Closing Comment

The relationships that Urban Collaborative fosters and the curricular development activities at EDC may have value. But sadly, these organizations have been corrupted by billionaire dollars and the lust for national prominence. They have lost their focus on improving public education and have become power players in the world of corporate education reform.