Tag Archives: Eli Broad

School Choice is a Bamboozle a Hornswoggle a Flimflam

3 Aug

Two central ideologies behind school-choice are markets always make superior decisions and the cost of having local control of schools is poor outcomes. Both ideas are demonstrably untrue, but big money and power politics keep them alive.

In 2017, a national survey showed a dramatic drop in support for charter schools. A related Chalkbeat article said,

The survey, conducted by the school choice-friendly journal Education Next, found that slightly more Americans support charter schools, 39 percent, than oppose them, at 36 percent. But that marks a drop from 51 percent support just last year — one of the biggest changes in public opinion seen in the long-running survey, according to Harvard professor and the magazine’s editor-in-chief Marty West.

An internet search of “charter school growth slowing” brings up articles from around the country concerning the charter slow down. Education Week noted, “Last year, more charter schools closed than opened in the Bay Area for the first time since California passed its charter law in 1992. (California was the second state to allow charters to open.)”

To address this choice crisis, two Billionaires are starting a new national organization. A July 31, 2018 Chalkbeat article by Matt Barnum explains,

“The City Fund, as the group is being called, will push cities to expand charter schools and district schools with charter-like autonomy. It represents a big increase in visibility and influence for advocates of the “portfolio model” of running schools, a strategy that’s been adopted by cities like New Orleans, Denver, and Indianapolis.

“The group was announced Tuesday morning on the blog of Neerav Kingsland, who leads education giving at The Laura and John Arnold Foundation. According to a separate presentation created by the group and viewed by Chalkbeat, the Arnold Foundation and the Hastings Fund have already given the group over $200 million.”

Reed Hastings (Netflix Founder and CEO) is a charter school advocate who served on the board of the California Charter School Association; was the primary advocate of California’s charter school co-location law; and was also a key supporter for lifting charter school limits in California. He is a primary investor in DreamBox Learning, a company creating software to teach kids at computers. He famously stated that elected school boards need to be done away with.

John Arnold made his fortune at Enron and a hedge fund. He retired at 38-years-old. His private non-profit, the Laura and John Arnold foundation supports privatizing schools and ending democratic local control. He gives lavishly to charter schools (example: Gifted the Charter Growth Fund – $13 million).

The portfolio model of school reform calls for viewing schools like assets in a stock portfolio. Based primarily on the results of standardized testing the bottom scoring 5% of schools should be closed and replaced with new charter or innovation schools (charter like district schools). A serious flaw in this plan is the problem of error causes standardized testing to be useless for evaluating schools or teachers. Testing is a terrible ruler.

Former Assistant US Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, reacted to Arnold and Hasting promoting portfolio districts noting,

“Bonafide Reformer Jay P. Greene of the University of Arkansas has written several posts arguing that the portfolio model is a failure and that it is no different from a school district (although it is privately controlled). Read here. and here. The latter post is advice written to the Arnold Foundation about why it should not invest in the portfolio model. Sad. They didn’t listen.”

Innovation schools are promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). They are district schools which present an operation plan for improving test outcomes and then receive autonomy to carry out the plan. Whether innovation or charter, local control of schools by democratic means is ended.

Disruption is not a good feature in education. The portfolio theory violates the need for stability. Brooke Havlik writing for Nova Education’s “Science and Learning” published “Psychologists Find School Stability a Factor in Achievement Gap.” Brooke stated, “Two new studies published this month suggest that changing schools may have a negative impact on cognitive development and student performance, especially for students experiencing chronic, high-levels of poverty.” (emphasis added)

In cities like Denver and Indianapolis, the portfolio model almost exclusively effects schools in poor and minority communities. In other words, the students most negatively impacted by this theory have their schools closed and the community loses its democratic rights.

A New Paper from In The Public Interest (ITPI) Documents the Flimflam  

This spring, ITPI published “Fraud and Waste in California’s Charter Schools.” The report documents $149,000,000 fraudulently purloined by factions of the California charter-school industry. The total of stealing stated is a summation of cases cited in media reports. The actual amount stolen is much larger.

The ITPI report also reveals how fortunes are created by gaining control of publicly financed assets. The report discloses,

“While charter schools constructed with general obligation bonds cannot be sold or used for anything other than the authorized school, schools constructed with tax-exempt conduit bonds become the private property of the charter operator. Even if the charter is revoked, neither the state nor a local school district can take control of this property. Additionally, schools constructed with private funding subsidized by New Market Tax Credits or acquired with private funds but whose mortgage payments are reimbursed through the Charter Facilities Grant Program (known as “SB740”) are typically owned without restriction.”

The American Federation of Teacher (AFT) released a new white paper, “Report on the Aftermath of the Great Depression: A Decade of Neglect.” It shares,

“Moody’s Investors Service, the bond rating agency, found that not only do charter schools tend to proliferate in areas where school districts already are under economic and demographic stress, but that charter schools tend to “pull students and revenues away from districts faster than the districts can reduce their costs.” As a result, charter schools also can add to school district credit risks, increasing the cost of borrowing. A growing body of research documents this impact.”

  • “Los Angeles: Each student leaving for a charter cost the district $3,900 in lost services.
  • “Philadelphia: Two different studies in Philadelphia found the cost of lost services to be between $4,828 and $6,898 per pupil leaving.
  • “North Carolina: A student leaving an urban North Carolina school district costs between $500 and $700 in lost services. The effect is smaller in non-urban districts.”

A Case Study in Destroy Public Education (DPE) (Part 1)

R.B. Buzz Woolley is a wealth philanthropist and venture capitalist from La Jolla, California. A San Diego Reader report from 2011 said of him,

“On the political front, meanwhile, Woolley personally donated $6500 to the California Charter Schools PAC in March and $25,000 to the Alliance of California Charter Schools Independent Expenditure Committee in June. In May, he also kicked in $10,000 for Californians Against Special Interests, a primarily GOP group mounting an initiative for a so-called paycheck-protection measure banning direct deductions of labor union dues.”

Buzz and The Mushroom House

In 2015 Woolley Purchased the Mushroom House for $5 Million

In 2005, Buzz Woolley and longtime columnist Neil Morgan founded Voice of San Diego. It was the first digital nonprofit news organization to serve a local community in the country. Besides his interest in using new technologies for media, Woolley also is enthusiastic about education technology in the classroom. In 2013 Woolley’s Girard Foundation sent over $500,000 to companies developing software for “personalized” education and competency-based education.

In 2004, Buzz Wooley was the President of the then new Charter School Growth Fund. That year, Don Fisher (Gap Inc.) and Wooley each contributed $100,000 to the fund. They were the only contributors. John Walton (Walmart) and Greg Penner (Walmart) joined the board. The next year, Buzz Wooley resigned as President.

Charter Fund Officers 2005

Image is from the Charter School Growth Fund 2005 Tax Form

The other important figure in the Thrive Public Schools case study is Nicole Assisi. Nicole attended Coronado High School and UCLA where she earned a multisubject teaching credential. Her first teaching job was leading English classes at San Diego’s Mira Mesa High School – 2002-2003 school year.

In 2003, she moved on to High Tech High where she was a teacher and project-based learning trainer until 2005 or 2006. Her linked in profile says she worked at High Tech until 2006 but it also says that in 2005 she went to Los Angeles to be an Assistant Principal at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy. In 2008, she moved on to be Principle on special assignment at De Vinci Schools (Formerly Wiseburn 21st Century Charter). She left De Vinci schools and returned to San Diego in 2013.

Nicole_CMO

Nicole Assisi from the Thrive Public Schools Web-Site

Along the way, Nicole earned a master’s degree in English and Communication/Media Studies from University of San Diego – 2004 and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Southern California – 2010.

A Case Study in Destroy Public Education (DPE) (Part 2)

The 34-years-old Nicole was provided with $8,960 from the Charter School Growth Fund and $100,000 from the Gates supported Educause to come to San Diego and start a charter school.

In the fall of 2013 she submitted a charter proposal to San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and then withdrew it. Soon after, she did the same thing at the Grossmont School District. Finally, in November, she resubmitted her completed proposal to San Diego Unified.

SDUSD’s charter review committee recommended her proposed Thrive Public Schools be authorized to start September 1, 2015 instead of 2014. They felt she needed more time to get a school organized and populated. In a surprise move the SDUSD Board voted 3-2 to reject the petition.

The next day Buzz Woolley’s Voice of San Diego ran an opinion piece by Nicole. She called herself “a sacrificial lamb” and said the Board “made a mockery of the entire charter-approval process, which I worked diligently to navigate.” She also wrote, “Thankfully, the County Board of Education has an opportunity to right this wrong when our appeal comes before them next week.”

The county also turned down the charter with a 3-2 vote. The county review committee had recommended against approving the charter.

Nicole really had no worries because the pro-school-privatizing State Board of Education (SBE) would come to her rescue. Though the law encourages the SBE to respect the decisions of counties and districts, it seldom does. In the spring, SBE voted 9-0 to authorize Thrive Public Schools.

The money started flowing Nicole’s direction. The known list of 2014 donations:  Woolley’s Girard Foundation $108,000, Gate’s Educause $254,500, Charter School Growth Fund $175,000 and the Broad Foundation $150,000 for a total of $688,000. The next year, Broad gave another $50,000 and the New Schools Venture Fund sent $100,000. There is another $144,000 promised from Educause.

Nicole has opened two more schools and a fourth set to open in September. Choice promoting publication, The 74, describes a co-located Thrive elementary school,

“The Juanita Hills campus is co-located with Carver Elementary, a pre-K-5 school that enrolls much higher proportions of disadvantaged students and English learners than Thrive. The two facilities share the same lot, but a long blue line has been painted down the center to separate them. A Thrive parent complained that though Carver had its own library on-site, Thrive kids couldn’t use it.”

Tom Vander Ark is a well-known promoter of education technology and public-school privatization. He described the Thrive education program,

“Curriculum such as Readers’ and Writers’ Workshop and CGI Math provide collaborative opportunities for small groups to work directly with the teacher, while other students work on Chromebooks or iPads.

“The middle school team uses Google Classroom to make and manage assignments. Math software includes ST Math and Zearn.

Kids at computers running software programs is lifeless, boring and de-personalized. It is bad education.

Thrive has actively developed the support of many neo-liberal and conservative politicians. Among their listed supporters are: State Senator Ben Hueso (D); Dede Alpert (D), Former Assembly Woman and State Senator; Kerry Flanagan, Chief of Staff, California Charter Schools Association; Tom Torlakson (D), Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of California; Jed Wallace, President and Chief Executive Officer, California Charter Schools Association; Mark Wyland (R), State Senator. These people are enemies of public education supporting the same benighted policies as Betsy DeVos.

The three existing Thrive schools opened in the administrative area of SDUSD known as the Crawford Cluster. Like most cities, it is in San Diego’s poor and minority communities where the privatization efforts are focused. One of the reasons SDUSD’s Board rejected the Thrive petition was to protect the existing schools. There were already four charter schools within the cluster boundaries.

Crawford Cluster Map

Crawford Cluster Map from SDUSD

In 2017, Thrive announced its big advance which stands to make founder and CEO Assisi a wealthy woman. The report in the San Diego Union says,

“The 35,000-square-foot facility will be the fourth San Diego campus for Thrive Schools and will open in about 12 months at the former site of Bayside Community Center at 6882 Linda Vista Road.”

“The project’s cost became more affordable for Thrive through the federal New Markets Tax Credit Program, which gives tax credits to for-profit businesses that are helping revitalize low-income communities.”

“Civic San Diego was eligible for the program and was allowed to sell the tax credits to whoever was making the investment. In this case, the credits were sold to the bank lending money to Thrive to buy the site.”

Although paid for with tax money, the deed will belong to Thrive Public Schools and CEO Nicole Assisi.

Some Ending Observations

Thrive Public Schools is a net negative for San Diego. SDUSD is far more professional, stable and capable. Thrive undermines SDUSD budgets and divides people like the students at Carver Elementary. The charter school experiment has failed. It was a bad idea and needs to end.

Put these schools under the supervision of elected school boards and quit stealing tax payer money. School choice truly is a Bamboozle; a Hornswoggle.

 

Fake Teachers, Fake Schools, Fake Administrators Courtesy of DPE

11 Apr

The destroy public education movement (DPE) has given us Teach for America (Fake Teachers), Relay Graduate School (Fake Schools) and from the Broad Superintendents Academy (Fake administrators). None of these entities are legitimately accredited, yet they are ubiquitous in America’s major urban areas.

There was a time in the United States of America when scoundrels perpetrating this kind of fraud were jailed and fined. Today, they are not called criminals; they are called philanthropists. As inequitable distribution of wealth increases, democratic principles and humane ideology recedes.

It is time to fight the 21st century robber-barons and cleanse our government of grifters and sycophants.

Philanthropy in America is undermining the rule of law and democratic rights. Gates, Walton, Broad, DeVos, Bradley, Lily, Kaufman, Hall, Fisher, Arnold, Hastings, Anschutz, Bloomberg, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Dell and the list goes on. They have afflicted us with Teach for America (TFA), charter Schools, vouchers, phony graduate schools, bad technology and bogus administrators implementing their agendas.

Without these “philanthropists” and their dark money schemes none of this would exist. Public schools would be healthy and teenage suicide rates would be going down; not up. Instead we have mindless testing, harmful technology and teaching on the cheap.

This “philanthropy” is about profits, reducing tax burdens on the wealthy, imposing religious dogma and subjugation of non-elites. It is harmful to America’s children. The attack on public education was never primarily about benefiting children. It certainly was never based on concern for minority populations.

The Absurdity of Fake Teachers from TFA

 Over the last five years, there have been several wonderful books written on the politics of education reform and the best of them all have a chapter on Wendy Kopp and TFA. Diane Ravitch gave us Reign of Error, Dana Goldstein wrote The Teacher Wars and Mercedes Schneider produced A Chronicle of Echoes. I wrote a review of Chronicle. These three books are masterpieces of scholarship and research, however, my favorite book about the politics of education is Why You Always Got to be Trippin by Ciedie Aech which is a masterpiece of sarcasm.

The basic pitch of TFA has changed since Wendy Kopp’s 1989 senior thesis, “An Argument and Plan for the Creation of the Teacher Corps.” Later when creating TFA, Kopp reached out to the National Education Association (NEA). NEA VP, Sharon Robinson responded, “Even a suggestion that acceptable levels of expertise could develop in short termers simply doesn’t mesh with what those of us in the business know it takes to do the job – much less with what our young need and deserve” (Goldstein).

Kopp replied that the new teacher corps was merely “an emergency response to a shortage of experienced, qualified teachers” in high-needs schools, “and would therefore not be telling the nation that its inexperienced members were preferable to, or as qualified as experienced teachers” (Goldstein).

However, in 1997, Kopp founded The New Teachers Project now called TNTP and installed first year TFA alum, Michelle Rhee, to lead it. TNTP advertised itself as an agency helping people transition into teaching from other careers and also providing professional development to school districts. The Rhee led TNTP infamously initiated a relentless campaign of teacher-bashing. TNTP was virulently anti-teachers’ union and anti-tenure. Rhee inspired headlines throughout the country like these from California, State Needs ‘Lemon’ Law For Teachers, California Schools May Get Break from Bad Teachers  and Escape Hatch for Incompetent Teachers Closed .

The message was clear. Public education was failing because of bad teachers. TFA and TNTP offered the solution.

Mercedes Schneider described another TFA mission change:

“Though the TFA website notes that Kopp’s organization has ‘aggressively worked to grow and deepen [TFA] impact,’ Kopp’s initial push had nothing to do with placing former TFAers in educational leadership positions. By 2001, TFA began to clearly publicize its now-twofold mission: Yes, to continue to place ‘top talent’ in the classroom in two-year, Peace-corps style. However, in addition, TFA would enable those ‘teacher leaders’ to ‘force systemic change to ensure educational equity.’” 

Wendy Kopp was a child of wealth from the tony Dallas neighborhood of Highland Park. She attended Highland Park High with a predominantly white student body and a 95% graduation rate (Schneider). That graduation rate was before the current credit recovery fraud.

While at Princeton, Kopp became editor-in-chief of the student magazine “Business Today” which was founded in 1968 by Steve Forbes. Having a circulation of 200,000 in 1987, it could charge businesses $5,000 a year for advertising (Schneider). She demonstrated her ability to raise money and developed many personal contacts with important CEO’s while running “Business Today.”

After graduating with a BA degree in Public and International Affairs, she went to New York to start her Peace-corps styled non-profit. Kropp’s first grant for $26,000 came from Exon-Mobil. Union-Carbide gave her free New York office space. She sent fellow Texan Ross Perot her business plan and he came through with a $500,000 challenge grant which helped TFA raise an addition $1.5 million. Her first hire was a friend of her brother’s, Whitney Tilson (Goldstein). Tilson would later create the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

Early on, there was serious push-back against TFA by education professionals. After observing the TFA summer training in 1990, Education Professor Deborah Appleman called it “ludicrous.” In 1994, Linda Darling-Hammond, then a researcher at Columbia University’s Teachers College, excoriated TFA for being “a frankly missionary program” that elevated the resume building of its recruits over the educational needs of poor children (Goldstein).

Because of this pushback and Kopp’s lack of management training and experience, TFA went through a series of existential crises. Schneider noted, “Despite the financial and organizational issues and bad press, Kopp managed to scrape by and carry TFA with her into the new millennium.”

Schneider also wrote about improving the financial fortunes at TFA,

“…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. No more insolvency issues for Wendy Kopp and TFA.”

 The money that came in is truly staggering to contemplate. Here is one paragraph from Diane Ravitch:

“When the U.S. Department of Education ran a competition in 2010 for the most innovative programs in education, with four top prizes of $50 million, TFA was one of the winners (the KIPP charter chain, headed by Wendy Kopp’s husband, Richard Barth, also won $50 million). In 2011, a group of foundations led by the Broad Foundation made a gift of $100 million to TFA. In the same year, the Walton Family Foundation – one of the nation’s most conservative foundations – pitched in $49.5 million, the largest single education grant made that year by a foundation committed to privatization. TFA also received federal funding through AmeriCorps grants and an annual congressional earmark of $20 million. In the five years from 2006 to 2010, TFA raised an astonishing $907 million in foundation grants, corporate gifts and government funding.”

TFA has been remarkably successful everywhere except in the classroom. These temporary teachers with virtually no training nor experience are not ready to run a class. Because a large percentage of TFA teachers do not stay past two years, it is impossible to run long term studies of their effect on students. However, it is well known that TFA induced teacher churn harms children. Today, a significant number of charter school teachers come from TFA.

Ciedie Aech faced some of the most virulent forces of the DPE movement while teaching in Denver, Colorado. Her comments about TFA are both amusing and prescient. She wrote,

“Good teachers; well, good teachers, and oh surely this was obvious – even glaringly self-apparent in the fast pace of magical days devoted to a truer national compassion: Good teachers? – Were young.”

 “Oh, those Teach-For-A-Minute girls, he now declared snidely. Really, who was surprised? Everybody knew: You couldn’t count on them.”

 “Despite their designated unreliability; despite, even, their surely ungrateful lack of loyalty for stoically sticking around and “taking” the abuses created by an ever-shifting, funding-lucrative reform – huge numbers of these oft-labeled undependable Teach-For-A-Minute girls (and oh, yes, a lesser number of surely just as undependable Teach-For-A-Minute boys) were now being ever more massively produced.”

 “As a journalist followed the teaching year of a suddenly deployed troop of Teach-For-A-Minute miracle workers, ultimately, he found only one greenhorn to be exceptionally able. (And so many others who were both frighteningly and disastrously unprepared.)”

Charter Industry Has Created A Fake Education Graduate School

The well-known blogger, Peter Greene AKA the Curmugducator, has a knack for colorfully and accurately summarizing creepy agendas. He concludes an article about Relay Graduate School:

“Reformsters have managed to build and fund an entire alternate education universe in which they make up their own credentials, their own schools, their own entire system built on a foundation of nothing but money, connections, and huge brass balls. There’s never been anything like it since hucksters pitched medicinal snake oil off the back of a wagon, and it would be kind of awesomely amazing, like watching a python consume an entire elephant– except that instead of an elephant, this parallel shadow system is gutting public education in the communities where it is most needed.”

The Alliance for Philadelphia Public schools learned that their schools were using training materials from Relay Graduate School (RGS). Kate Peterson, a graduate student at Arcadia University, investigated Relay’s founders and programs for Alliance. Her policy brief apprised,

“Relay Graduate School of Education is a stand-alone school based in New York City. It began as Teacher U in 2007, when Dave Levin, co-founder of KIPP Public Charter Schools, and Norman Atkins, co-founder of Uncommon Schools, decided to develop a program that would supply their charter schools and others with high-quality teachers, which they deemed as scarce. They partnered with the founder of Achievement First, Dacia Toll, to create their program. Receiving $10 million from Larry Robbins, founder of the hedge fund Glenview Capital Management and current board member of Relay, and $20 million from the non-profit The Robin Hood Foundation, the three charter school leaders partnered with Hunter College in New York to implement their program ….

 “In 2011, it was renamed Relay Graduate School of Education and was granted a charter by the New York State Board of Regents ….”

Peterson also pointed out that the lack of scholarship and experience in education among the three founders. She wrote,

“Based on their backgrounds, it is apparent that all three charter and Relay founders have little education and training in teaching. Atkins opened a charter a year after graduating with a M.A. in educational leadership with little to no experience teaching. Levin founded KIPP two years after working for Teach for America with no formal education in teaching as well. Toll too founded a charter a year after graduating with her J.D. and teaching certificate with very little experience in education. After founding these charters, they did not go on to be teachers in them, but rather managers of them. Thus, Relay’s founders began a teacher training program without much formal education and experience in teaching themselves.”

Mercedes Schneider took another look at RSG this March (2018) and began her piece,

“Relay Graduate School of Education (RGSE) is a corporate reform entity whose “deans” need not possess the qualifications that deans of legitimate graduate schools possess (i.e., Ph.D.s; established professional careers in education, including publication in blind-review journals).”

There are now fifteen “deans” of RSG each running a stand-alone campus that they themselves founded. Mercedes notess that twelve of the fifteen have light teaching experience with TFA and also reports on the qualifications of all the “deans.” She concludes with:

“There you have it: 15 “deans”; no Ph.D.s (but one almost); no bachelors degrees in education; no refereed publications, and not a one “dean” qualified for a tenure-track position in a legitimate college of education. But who needs legitimacy when you can franchise yourself into a deanship?”

The Unaccredited Broad Superintendent Academy Trains Public Education Destroyers

Eli Broad, estimated to be worth $6 billion, made his fortune by building two fortune-500 companies, KB Homes and Sun America. He is a product of public education but is determined to privatize the system.

The Broad Academy is an unaccredited administration training program for school leaders run by the Broad Foundation.

Broad’s theory is that public school administrators and elected school boards lack the financial background to run large organizations. Motoko Rich’s Times article explained, ‘“The new academy,’ he said, would ‘dramatically change this equation’ by seeking candidates in educational circles as well as recruiting from corporate backgrounds and the military, introducing management concepts borrowed from business.”

In her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Diane Ravitch related what she learned about Broad’s thinking during a 2009 meeting with him. She wrote,

“He believes that school systems should run as efficiently as private sector enterprises. He believes in competition, choice, deregulation, and tight management. He believes that people perform better if incentives and sanctions are tied to their performance. He believes that school leaders need not be educators, and that good managers can manage anything if they are surrounded by smart assistants. Broad told an audience in New York City in 2009, ‘We don’t know anything about how to teach or reading curriculum or any of that. But what we do know about is management and governance.’ The Broad education agenda emphasizes the promotion of charter schools, the adoption of corporate methods for school leadership, and changes in the way teacher are compensated.”

Broad is rich so his ideas about education – which are based on little beyond opinion – are taken seriously. He has created an administrators school that ignores 200 years of public school and scholarly experience. It is ludicrous that any state would accept this kind of training as legitimate. Unfortunately, graduates from the fake Broad academy are working in school systems across America.

Past Time to Say, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Fake School

Time to stop the bi-partisan theft of public education from Americans. Stop fake teachers entering classrooms. Stop fake administrators doing damage like Deasy in LA or Bersin in San Diego or Wilson in Oakland or White in Louisiana or Bobb in Detroit or Klein in New York or etc. Perpetrators of a fake graduate schools are criminals. Temporary teachers with no credentials, no training and no experience are a hoax. Billionaire trained administrators are a menace. Time to end this charade.

California’s Charter School Led CBE Invasion

29 Jun

This January (2016), Fortune Magazine announced that Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, has launched a new $100-million-dollar fund to support education initiatives and other groups. The notice goes on to state:

“Hastings is the fund’s sole trustee while Neerav Kingsland, the former CEO of charter school supporter New Schools for New Orleans, is serving as CEO. The fund’s website explains its philanthropic mission: “Currently, too many children do not have access to amazing schools. Our aim is to partner with communities to significantly increase the number of students who have access to rich and holistic educational experiences.”

The “rich and holistic educational experience” is to be delivered by charter schools employing competency based education (CBE).

Competency Based Education

The United States Department of Education promotes and describes CBE:

 “Transitioning away from seat time, in favor of a structure that creates flexibility, allows students to progress as they demonstrate mastery of academic content, regardless of time, place, or pace of learning. Competency-based strategies provide flexibility in the way that credit can be earned or awarded, and provide students with personalized learning opportunities. These strategies include online and blended learning, dual enrollment and early college high schools, project-based and community-based learning, and credit recovery, among others.”

 Instead of a structured course with a teacher, students will log into a computer and earn badges for demonstrating competencies in an online environment. “Personalized learning opportunities” is a euphemism for a computer based course delivered in isolation.

It is a terrible idea! The last thing a 21st Century student needs is to be shoved in front of another inert digital device. Students need to interact with “highly qualified” certificated teachers, adults who they can trust. Students need to; measure, calculate, weight, work in small groups, discuss ideas, write, and get professional feedback. Students need structure, stability and direction. None of this is provided online.

Technology in education is more of an expensive mirage than a useful tool and competency based education (CBE) is fool’s gold.

In 2003, I took the state of California’s 52-hour life insurance course. That meant 52 hours of seat time with an insurance industry veteran who made the subject come alive. Today that insurance course is online with an online exam. No real industry context is imparted and cheating on the exam is rampant.

This is the kind of education Hastings and his ilk are vigorously promoting. CBE means lower quality education delivered at great profit to corporate providers and testing companies.

CBE learning is embraced by President Obama, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, Education Secretary John King, The Walton family, the new federal education law, Pearson Corporation and many business executives. Few experienced education professionals not profiting from one of these entities support it.

Computers are good at drilling information and conducting fact checks. However, educators have known for more than a century that this kind of teaching is destructive. To create understanding, all of the modes of learning must be actively engaged. Drill and skill destroys the desire to learn and undermines development of creativity.

Big Money Being Poured into CBE

 In 2004, the Don and Doris Fisher Foundation along with the Schools Future Research Foundation each provided $100,000 to start the Charter Schools Growth Fund in Broomfield, Colorado. The Fisher Foundation is based on profits from GAP Inc. and the School Future Research Foundation was a Walton Family Foundation supported fund that seems to have disappeared. The original elected board of directors for the Charter School Growth Fund was comprised of John Walton, Don Fisher, and John Lock.

In 2010, the President-CEO of the Charter School Growth Fund, Kevin Hall, decided to purchase the struggling Dreambox Inc. of Bellevue, Washington for $15,000,000. By then the fund was so large and he could do it. He subsequently invested another $10,138,500 into Dreambox. [data from 2014 form 990]

A recent National Public Radio report on the Rocketship schools reported:

 “Rocketship students often use adaptive math software from a company called Dreambox Learning. The company was struggling when Reed Hastings, the Netflix founder turned education philanthropist and investor, observed it in action at a Rocketship school several years ago. His investment allowed Dreambox to become one of the leading providers of math software in North America, currently used by about 2 million students.”

 Kevin Hall left his $465,000 a year position at the Charter School Growth Fund to join Hastings on the board of Dreambox Inc. This company is now positioned to be the dominant supplier of software products into the CBE market. Pearson corporation has positioning itself to be the company that tests students and issues completion badges. If the big standardized test goes away, Pearson will do just fine supporting CBE.

In March, Emily Talmadge wrote a very interesting piece about CBE from a more national prospective. She reported:

“Since at least 2009, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation has poured millions of dollars into the latest ed reform craze that has made headlines recently due to investments of billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Reed Hastings of Netflix.  When stripped of the misleading rhetoric that often surrounds it, “personalized learning” is the digital, data-driven system of schooling designed to trigger giant corporate profits along with tightly controlled, work-forced aligned learning outcomes.”

The foundations working to privatize public schools are almost all organized under IRS tax code 501(c)(3), which means they cannot engage in direct or even indirect support of political candidates and they must file an IRS form 990 every year. These forms detail who they gave money to and how much they pay top fund administrators. For following these and other rules, they become a tax free entity. The latest complete set of form 990’s is from tax year 2014 which details spending in 2013. The chart below is based on an analysis of selected 2014 form 990’s

Fund Totals

Fund Spending on Organizations Implementing CBE

 The 2013 spending of the following list of seven funds was analyzed: California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), The Edythe and Eli Broad Foundation (Broad), New Schools Venture Fund, Charter School Growth Fund, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Gates), The Silicon Valley Fund, The Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Other than the data for the Gates fund, the information all comes from 2014 form 990’s. The Gates data came from his foundation web site.

The spending on these five schools was extraordinary in that the amounts given are far greater than the amounts these organizations typically give to other charter schools. Most grants to charter schools from these funds are significantly less than $50,000 unless it is for startup purposes. So what made these five schools worthy of $33,000,000 in 2013? They are all testing CBE principles on their students.

A look at some of the key board members of these funds reveals a small community of wealthy true believers.

 KIPP Foundation: Doris Fisher, John Fisher, Reed Hastings, Carrie Walton Penner

Silicon Valley Fund: John Fisher, Ted Mitchell

New Schools Venture Fund: Lauren Powell Jobs, Ted Mitchell

Edythe and Eli Broad Foundation: Eli Broad, Gregory Mcginity

Charter School Growth Fund: Kevin Hall, John Fisher, Carrie Walton Penner

California Charter Schools Assoc.: Reed Hastings, Carrie Walton Penner, Gregory Mcginity

 The Silicon Valley Community Foundation is a little different than the other six organizations. It is not significantly about privatizing schools. There are many large community funds in California like this one and they support things ranging from community art to homeless shelters. However, funds like the San Diego Foundation and the Los Angeles Community Foundation have huge assets and they support charter schools at a much higher rate than they support public schools. A little light shined on these community foundations might make it less likely that they continue spending patterns that many of their board members probably do not understand.

All of this spending to undermine the present public education system is predicated on an article of faith held by wealthy (amateur education policy experts) reformers – “public schools are failing.”

In a June Atlantic Magazine article, Jack Schneider put it this way:

 “Thus, despite the fact that there is often little evidence in support of utopian schemes like “personalized online learning,” which would use software to create a custom curriculum for each student, or “value-added measures” of teachers, which would determine educator effectiveness by running student test scores through an algorithm, many people are willing to suspend disbelief. Why? Because they have been convinced that the alternative—a status quo in precipitous decline—is worse. But what if the schools aren’t in a downward spiral? What if, instead, things are slowly but steadily improving? In that light, disruption—a buzzword if ever there was one—doesn’t sound like such a great idea.”

 The evidence says America’s public schools are indeed continuously improving. But, misguided “do-gooders” are threatening to destroy the system and charter schools are the vehicle implementing their schemes. It is time for an OPT OUT of charter schools movement and a halt to CBE.

Lily’s Betrayal Letter

5 Oct

Yesterday was the worst of days and best of days. In the morning as usual I checked email and social media and there was Steven Singer’s post, “Teachers Told They’re Endorsing Hillary Clinton by NEA Leadership. Membership Opinions Unnecessary.” When I finished his post I saw my friend Paula Meyers had posted the Seattle area justice fighter, Susan Dufresne’s graphic #NEADoesntSpeak4Me; that caught my emotion exactly. With this in mind, I went to the Kearny Mesa Buddhist Center for World Peace Prayer. In the afternoon, things seemed improved; the San Diego Chargers won an exciting game over the Cleveland Browns.

NEADoesntSpeak4Me

Then I got an email message from Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, president of the NEA. Lily has been a great disappointment to me. It is not her fault. It’s mine. I believed she was a breath of fresh air who rose to the leadership of the NEA by merit and was willing to speak truth to power. Fooled again! Then this April in Chicago she stood on stage and lied to us. She pledged to no longer take money from Bill Gates but her fingers were crossed. Now, she employed power politics to get Hilary Clinton the NEA endorsement; personal power and influence have trumped democracy, public education and the teaching profession. I will attempt to analyze her message.

“My fellow educators,
I wanted to be the first to let you know that your elected representatives to the NEA PAC Council and the NEA Board of Directors took action to recommend Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary for President of the United States. I am so proud of the thoughtful, thorough and incredibly rich discussion that your elected leaders held. It was truly what democracy looks like.”

Balderdash! I live in California, my elected representatives didn’t even vote. We have the largest delegation in the United States.
I heard that you argued against those who said there is no reason to give our endorsement this early, saying we would lose political clout if we don’t. It is also said that you felt that Bernie Sanders would never be able to mount a credible winning general election effort.

“I am also extremely proud of this decision because I know that Hillary is a strong leader who will do what’s best for the future of all of America’s students and public schools.”

Anthony Cody is correct, clear and succinct on this point: “The current field of candidates in the Democratic party is limited to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Clinton has a close association with the Gates Foundation, which has been a major donor to the Clinton Foundation. Clinton has made it clear that she is a solid supporter of the Common Core and believes that such a testing system ‘helps you organize your whole education system.’ So if we want a change from the nation’s current trajectory in education, we need to look elsewhere.”

It is beyond my most optimistic reach to see Hilary Clinton as being more than marginally different than Barack Obama when it comes to education policy. There is a reason that Marc Tucker wrote the infamous ‘Hilary Letter’ to her. He saw a like-minded individual that would support the tenets for education reform that Diane Ravitch later labeled “corporate education reform.” This is education reform that views students as economic assets to be cultivated for the benefit of the state.

“After an extensive review of the candidates and an in-depth discussion, your leaders saw what I know – Hillary Clinton will be a champion for students and educator in the White House. She has a 30 year history of standing up for students and strong public schools and has actively engaged in conversations with educators in this campaign. Secretary Clinton told your leaders today that she won’t make a single decision about developing education policy without educators being in the room.”

This is complete prevarication. She has a close supportive relationship with both Bill Gates and Eli Broad. She was billed as co-President by her husband when he signed legislation taking power from Washington DC’s school board and authorizing charter schools. It was from that administration that we got “Goals 2000” and its call for national standards and testing. She voted for “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB). That is not a 30-year history of standing up for students and strong public schools. And her friends from her days as a member of the Board of Directors at Walmart have to be counted among the nations biggest enemies of public schools.

“As a U.S. Senator, Hillary Clinton was a champion for our cause, earning an “A” grade from the NEA for her support on the issues most important to our students, but even before serving in the Senate, Clinton was a champion of the students we educate. While every first lady has an admirable cause, Hillary chose to stand up to the for-profit healthcare industry to advocate for children’s healthcare. Her campaign ultimately led to the largest expansion of public health care in decades, when millions of American children received health coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).”

Clinton voted for the punitive anti-teacher NCLB in 2001. This March, Edweek reported: “And earlier this year, the American Federation of Teachers, which endorsed Clinton in her 2008 race, and the Center for American Progress, a think tank closely aligned with the Obama administration that also includes some former Clinton aides among its top ranks, came out with a proposal to test students every year, but only use the results for school accountability in certain grade spans.” So, did she get that NEA “A” grade for supporting testing or was it her work on health care?

“Even before running for president, Hillary championed early education and affordable college, and she sponsored efforts to ensure equal pay for equal work and to make it easier for workers to join a union.”

This sounds like pretty much what all Democrats say they stand for and it is hard to see how this makes her so much better than other Democrats vying for the nomination. Why didn’t the NEA keep its powder dry and see who was willing to save public education form greed driven reform? Get some real and substantial commitments? It appears that this endorsement is more about currying favor for national union leaders with the Clinton’s than it is about fighting for teachers and public education.

“And in 2016, the stakes for strong public schools will be too high to sit on the sidelines! Right now, there are presidential hopefuls who have made a career of attacking educators and public education to the detriment of students. They have allies like the Koch brothers, who have committed to spend $1 billion to defeat a pro-public education candidate like Hillary Clinton and taking control of the White House.

“With so much at stake, you cannot sit on the sidelines – America’s students need you today! And that is why I am asking you to join our campaign stand up for our students and make sure that we give all students the opportunity to a quality education.”

Yes, it is true that a lot of money is being spent to destroy public education in America. Unfortunately, a lot of that money is from people like the hedge fund fake democrats at the Democrats for Education Reform who support Hilary. There is nothing here that says she is clearly the champion for public education that we must support. She looks a lot more like a corporate education reformer who will continue the disastrous Obama agenda.

“Together, we can help elect Hillary Clinton as our next president and ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed.
Gracias,
– Lily
Lily Eskelsen Garcia
National Education Association President”

Lily, you need to rethink your course. You are a smart beautiful spokesperson for the NEA. You are dumping that great opportunity to make a real difference and playing value degrading power politics that has eliminated the democratic process in our union to get this endorsement. Two other major unions – the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – have indicated that they will take more time to consult their members about an endorsement in the primary.