Tag Archives: Gates

Billionaires Push School Privatization

14 Mar

President Donald Trump visited a private religious school in Florida on March 2, 2017, signaling once again that his education agenda will focus on school choice.

Trump DeVos Rubio in Florida

Photo by Alex Brandon of the AP taken from report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The argument for privatization schemes like charter schools and vouchers is that public schools in many low-income neighborhoods are abhorrent failures. Worse yet, the poor families living there have no affordable education options and are trapped. The question is asked, “why don’t poor people have some of the same choices as wealthier people?”

A possible solution is proposed, “Instead of sending public dollars to ‘failing schools,’ vouchers could be given to parents so their children can attend private schools.” Another popular option is to use tax policy and monetary incentives to encourage privately operated charter schools. The claim is made that – because of market forces and reduction in both operating rules and oversight – charter schools will innovate and provide improved pedagogy. The traditional public schools which are encumbered by state regulations and teachers’ unions will learn from these charter school innovations and market forces will cause them to also improve.

Unfortunately, there are three base assumptions here that are wrong. While it is true that some schools have been so poorly resourced and politically damaged by both racism and corruption that they are an abomination, in general America’s public school system is amazingly great – not failing, great!

Secondly, voucher-fed private schools are not that good. Private schools that compare favorably with public schools are much more expensive than any proposed vouchers.

As for the charter school claims; they have not innovated, they have increase education costs and the lack of oversight has resulted in an endless stream of scandal. In addition, the improved pedagogy which has been touted in advertising is refuted by refereed studies.

President Trump proposed spending $20 billion supposedly by repurposing title I funds to promote “school choice.” That is a stunning number. It is equal to more than two-thirds of the spending on the Manhattan Project. The US spent about $1.9 billion on the atomic bomb development. That was estimated to be equivalent to $30 billion in 2013. Another estimate says $2 billion in 1945 dollars was equivalent to $26 billion in 2016. Mr. Trump is calling for a nearly Manhattan Project sized effort to privatize America’s public schools. Does he believe public schools in America are in that kind of crisis or is this just another feckless politician demagoging education for his own selfish purposes?

Mercedes Schneider’s book School Choice makes a powerful arguments for why “school choice” is not only an idea that is unsupported by evidence but will cause extensive damage to our world’s greatest democratic institution. She shared this quote from the longtime teachers’ union leader and one of the original supporters of charter schools, Albert Shankar.

“A pluralistic society cannot sustain a scheme in which the citizenry pays for a school but has no influence over how the school is run. … Public money is shared money, and it is to be used for the furtherance of shared values, in the interest of e pluribus unum. Charter schools and their like are definitely antithetical to this promise.”

Vouchers.

Russ Walsh teaches college reading at Rider University and publishes the blog, “Russ on Reading.” This March he wrote “School Vouchers: Welfare for the Rich, the Racist, and the Religious Right.” That’s certainly a novel take on the “3-Rs” of education. In this piece, Mr. Walsh explains vouchers:

“What are vouchers exactly? School vouchers come in many forms and since the general public is typically opposed to voucher schemes, politicians who favor them have come up with a variety of Orwellian doublespeak names for them like Opportunity Scholarships, Education Choice Scholarships, or the Education Savings Accounts. Another way states have found to get around calling vouchers vouchers is the scholarship tax credit. These schemes allow individuals and corporations to direct their tax monies to private institutions who then use the money for scholarships for students.”

Trump and DeVos went to a Catholic School in Orlando to praise and encourage Florida’s use of scholarship tax credits which appear to run afoul of the first amendment to the United States constitution’s establishment clause. It redirects public dollars to religious schools which does entangle church and state. The Americans United for Separation of Church and State say voucher programs undermine religious liberty.

In Florida, the tax credit voucher is called Florida corporate tax credits. A Florida League of Women Voters report states, “In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that vouchers paid by the treasury were unconstitutional. Florida corporate tax credits (FTC) became the vehicle to fund what initially were private school scholarships for children from disadvantaged families.”

This month a Texas Superintendent of Schools, John Kuhn, informed the Association of Texas Professional Educators about vouchers:

“Three different research studies published recently have found that voucher programs harm student learning—including one study sponsored by the Walton Family Foundation and the Fordham Institute, both proponents of vouchers. Students who use vouchers underperform their matched peers who stay in public schools.

“You heard me right. I’m not just saying that vouchers don’t help very much. I’m saying voucher programs result in students learning less than if the voucher programs didn’t exist. Giving a student a voucher to improve his education is like giving a struggling swimmer a boulder to help him swim. The Walton Foundation study said: ‘Students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools.’ A study of the voucher program in Louisiana found very negative results in both reading and math. Kids who started the voucher program at the 50th percentile in math dropped to the 26th percentile in a single year. Vouchers are so harmful to children that a Harvard professor called their negative effect ‘as large as any I’ve seen in the literature.’”

Evidence from Sweden, New Zealand, Chile and several American metropolitan areas has consistently shown that privatizing schools with vouchers not only does not improve education outcomes, it harms them. When the monies for voucher programs are removed from public education budgets, the opportunities for the 85% of our students attending public schools are reduced.

Privately Run Charter Schools

At the behest of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s teacher’s union MGT of America studied the costs associated with charter schools in LA. MGT reported, “these data indicate that LAUSD has a nearly $600 million impact from independent charter schools.” Running dual school systems increases costs. Therefore, the evidence for benefit from charter schools needs to be clear and convincing.

The National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado recently published a compilation of refereed studies under the title Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms. A paper by Miron and Urschel says of charter school studies, “For example, all of the California studies either found mixed or positive results, while four out of the five Michigan studies and three out of the four Ohio studies produced negative results.”

In Learning, Miron and Urschel also noted:

“A third factor that overshadows the body of evidence on school choice is the predominance of partisan researchers and activist organizations that carry out the research. Especially in the areas of home schooling, vouchers, and charter schools, the bulk of studies that find positive impacts in favor of school choice have been conducted by advocacy groups.”

Two consistent features of modern education governance are that politicians and business men who have power enforce their own particular biases even though lacking both educational experience and knowledge. The second feature is education policy is not based on refereed peer reviewed research by professionals.

For decades, John Walton and the Walton Family Foundation promoted vouchers as the ideal fix for what Walton saw as needing fixed. In a Washington Post article Jeff Bryant wrote:

“Fully inculcated with Friedman’s philosophies, and motivated by the myth of school failure spread by the Reagan administration, the Waltons were ready for their education revolution to begin.”

After a series of defeats trying to promote vouchers, the foundation transitioned the privatization agenda to advancing charter schools. Bryant continued:

“According to a pro-union website, another member of the Walton family, Carrie Walton Penner, sits on the board of the foundation connected to the prominent KIPP charter school chain—on which the Walton Family Foundation has lavished many millions in donations—and is also a member of the California Charter Schools Association. Carrie’s husband, Greg Penner, is a director of the Charter Growth Fund, a ‘non-profit venture capital fund’ investing in charter schools.”

Search “charter school investment” and at least two pages of paid ads for charter school investment funds will appear. In March 2015, the Walton Family Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation co-sponsored an event in Manhattan called “Bonds and Blackboards: Investing in Charter Schools.” In the Business Insider report on this event, reporter Abby Jackson wrote:

“Hedge funds and other private businesses are particularly interested in the growth and success of charter schools. The growth of charter networks around the US offer new revenue streams for investing, and the sector is quickly growing. Funding for charter schools is further incentivized by generous tax credits for investments to charter schools in underserved areas.”

An article by the Education Law Center’s Wendy Lecker states,

“As noted in a 1996 Detroit Metro Times article, while the DeVos’ ultimate aim was to abolish public education and steer public funds to parochial schools, they knew not to be blatant about that goal. Thus, they chose a vehicle that blurred the lines between public and private schools- a “gateway drug” to privatizing public education: charter schools.”

Here in California we have a plethora of billionaires and other wealthy people working to expand charter school penetration including; Bill Gates, Reed Hastings, Eli Broad, Doris Fischer, Carrie Walton Penner and the list continues.

America’s Public Schools Rock

As I wrote in a 2014 post, the declaration that America’s public education system is failing has a long history. Diane Ravitch reported the following quote from Jim Arnold & Peter Smagorinsky on her blog.

“Admiral Rickover published “American Education, a National Failure” in 1963, and 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 1955 Why Johnny Can’t Read became a best seller, and 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. The US Navy in 1940 tested new pilots on their mastery of 4th grade math and found that 60% of the HS graduates failed. 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.”

By the middle of the 20th century, cities and villages throughout the USA had developed an impressive educational infrastructure. With the intent of giving every child in America the opportunity for 12 years of free education, this country was the world’s only country not using high stakes testing to deny the academic path to more than a third of its students. The physical infrastructure of our public schools was of high quality and schools were staffed with well-trained experienced educators.

This system that is the foundation – to the greatest economy in the world, the most Nobel Prize winners and democratic government – has passed the exam of life. It is clearly the best education system in the world. To diminish and undermine it is foolhardy. Arrogant greed-blinded people are trying to steal our legacy.

“Say it Ain’t So” NEA and AFT

6 Jan

In 1919, the biggest baseball star in Chicago and possibly all of America was “Shoeless Joe” Jackson. After “Shoeless Joe” and seven other members of the Chicago White Sox were convicted of fixing the 1919 World Series, the Chicago Daily News headline – “Say it ain’t so, Joe” – was the anguished plea from fans and especially hero-worshipping boys. Today, when I look at America’s teachers’ unions, I feel similar emotions to the ones those disappointed boys must have felt.

The leadership of both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) are not protecting educators and public schools. They campaigned for and support the new education law ESSA. They lend their name to advance Competency Based Education (CBE). They promote Social Emotional Learning (SEL). In the last election, both unions immediately endorsed a candidate with a greater than two-decade record of promoting policies undermining professional educators and privatizing public schools.

The California Teachers Association (affiliate of NEA) publishes, California Educator. There are two main thrusts in the December 2016 issue; implementation of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and promotion of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education.

NGSS like its sibling CCSS codifies terrible education theory that arose at the behest of a corporate leader, Louis Gerstner (RJR-Nabisco CEO). (To be fair Gerstner did not just sell cigarettes; he also worked at IBM.)

Selling Social Emotional Learning

I have positive opinions of Buddhist philosophy, however, western fads like mindfulness, where the psychological underpinnings of the Buddhist principles are not well understood, annoy me. Here is a quote from the December California Educator:

“The gentle sound of chimes is followed by the teacher’s voice asking students to focus on being in the here and now at Pioneer Elementary School in Union City.

“Neena Barreto is helping transitional kindergartners regulate their own nervous systems through practicing the art of mindfulness.”

In another short piece about Michelle Cauley, we are told:

“Cauley, one of six SEL facilitators with Los Angeles Unified School District, teaches children how to deal with their emotions by using calming techniques such as deep breathing and counting to 10. She provides professional development to educators in the Second Step SEL program, which offers K-8 lesson plans training.”

The Second Step SEL program is a product of the Committee for Children. They describe themselves:

“Committee for Children is a global nonprofit dedicated to fostering the safety and well-being of children through social-emotional learning and development. We are the world’s largest provider of research-based education programs that have helped over 9 million children in 26,000 schools develop vital social-emotional skills to avoid violence, bullying, and sexual abuse. From Iowa to Iraq, Chile to Chicago, we are helping children around the globe stay safe, respect themselves and others, succeed in school today, and build a better world tomorrow.”

Califronia Educator quotes Cauley,

“Kids should be getting these skills at home, but they’re not. Now students are teaching these skills to their families.”

All of this may seem positive, warm and fuzzy, but this last quote is problematic. Is there a darker side of SEL which includes inappropriate intrusion of government into family life and child rearing? A wise old saying alerts us that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Joy Pullman, managing editor of The Federalist, comments on SEL Boosters:

“The federal government has pushed states to create initiatives like this by demanding in the new federal law that replaces No Child Left Behind, called the Every Student Succeeds Act, that states include “non-academic measures” in school ratings. Despite this, all the leading researchers in this nascent field say the sorts of quasi-psychological measures are not at all reliable enough to be used to rate schools, states, or individual children. That’s not stopping boosters, however (it rarely does).”

One of those boosters is the California Office to Reform Education or CORE. I have written about this faux government agency. It is financed by – the usual we know better than any professional educators “non-profits.” CORE districts has made social emotional learning 40% of school evaluation. The following graphic is taken from their pilot SEL document sent to participants.

core-districts-sel

Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project in Washington, DC.  Writing in Townhall She states:

“According to the monolithic progressive-education establishment in this country, SEL is the next big thing to fix the problems with public education. The same was true of outcome-based education, and Common Core, and fads infinitum. But this fad isn’t just ineffective, it’s dangerous. Parents should demand a halt to pseudo-psychology – and a restoration of their autonomy in raising their children.”

The big Kahuna in the SEL movement is CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). In 2010 CASEL asked Joseph Durlak, PhD, Professor emeritus of Psychology, Loyola University Chicago, to conduct of study of SEL. His investigation was the first large scale study of SEL and it showed impressive results. The main funding for the study came from William T. Grant Foundation and the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health. The summary of claims:

“This article presents findings from a meta-analysis of 213 school-based, universal social and emotional learning (SEL) programs involving 270,034 kindergarten through high school students. Compared to controls, SEL participants demonstrated significantly improved social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance that reflected an 11-percentile-point gain in achievement.”

This study was a meta-analysis of data collected between 1955 and 2007. There are three main bias problems with meta-analysis studies. Number one is the obvious problem of a researcher shading the data, the second common problem is a good meta-analysis of badly designed studies will still result in bad statistics. The third – and I suspect most relevant here – is the file drawer problem characterized by negative or non-significant results being tucked away in a cabinet.

In September 2011, Berkley’s Julie Suttie reported about Durlak’s paper in the journal Greater Good. Professor Suttie wrote:

“While these results are encouraging to SEL researchers and practitioners, not all large-scale studies have provided such hearty endorsements of SEL lately. Last fall, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, released a report that evaluated seven different SEL programs, including Positive Action, and the results were underwhelming.

“In the study, for each SEL program, a research team compared a group of five to seven schools running that program with other schools in the same district not employing the program. When the researchers looked at their results, they saw no significant differences in social and emotional literacy between the schools that received SEL training and those that didn’t, and no increases in academic achievement or decreases in problematic behavior. In other words, the SEL programs appeared to be duds.”

The December California Educator makes the NEA commitment to SEL obvious and the AFT provides free lesson plans for teaching SEL. The teachers’ unions are backing another Bill Gates promoted set of top down standards to be forced on public schools. To quote the Turko Files, “It’s just not right!”

STEM is and Always was a Fraud

In the 1990’s, I was working in Silicon Valley. The papers were full of reports about the shortage of American trained engineers. Our Democratic congresswomen, Zoe Lofgren promised to work with Democratic President, Bill Clinton to open the doors to foreign talent – to expand the H1B visa program.

In 1993, just the year before Zoe began her congressional campaign to save Silicon Valley, every company interviewing engineering graduates at San Diego State University cancelled the interviews. By 1995, in the San Jose area, engineers were rapidly changing jobs as companies tried to steal each other’s secrets and talent. One of the main motives for promoting the fraudulent H1B visa program was not as much driving salaries down as it was the fact that engineers working on those visas could not change companies.

The biggest justification for the H1B visa program was that we were not training enough math, science and engineering professionals. The reality I saw was people who could have easily applied their skill set in a different area that had a need – were laid off. New hires from India or China were given those open positions.

California Educator does not question the assumptions about needing to inspire more students into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) it just asserts “STEM education is taking off.” The union organ then regales us with real-life examples of STEM teaching heroes and heroines.

We read, “For Camie Walker’s elementary students, engineering makes math and science relevant.” Camie is quoted as saying “To me, engineering is the path-way between math and science and language arts, so students can make connections to what they are learning in ways they never could before.”

We are also assured that “Her STEM program incorporates Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core.”

Another piece in California Educator starts, “This year, Jason Diodati’s upper-level engineering students are building battling drones.” The article continues, ‘“They’ll have to rebuild the ones that get destroyed,’ says Diodati, who teaches physics and engineering at Templeton High School in Templeton, near San Luis Obispo.”

Neither Walker or Diodati are teaching engineering. They are teaching project based science. Engineering is a branch of applied physics that people cannot study until they develop advanced mathematics and science skills. Generally, people do not study engineering until their second year at a university and not in real depth until their third year.

I like the concept of teaching project based math and science, but mislabeling it engineering to placate businessmen in engineering companies has doomed the NGSS science standards. These standards have kindergarten engineering standards that are somehow supposed to be unique from kindergarten science standards. Standards based mechanized education is horrible education theory and horrible unnecessarily and confusing science standards are a disaster.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers magazine, Spectrum proclaimed “The STEM Crisis Is a Myth.” They counselled “Forget the dire predictions of a looming shortfall of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians.

Writing for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Jay Schalin observed,

“Everybody knows that the best way to get ahead today is to get a college degree.  Even better is to major in one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects, where the bulk of the jobs of the present and future lie. Politicians, business leaders, and academics all herald the high demand for scientists and engineers.

“But they are, for the most part, wrong. The real facts suggest that, in many STEM specialties, there is a labor glut, not a shortage.”

“The apparent misinformation continues to this day. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been particularly vocal about supposed shortages of skilled labor in the computer industry.”

Walter Hickey writing at the Business Insider reputed,

“We clearly don’t have a STEM shortage. If we did, rudimentary economics would kick in and show either low unemployment for new majors or a rising price of computer science labor. People wouldn’t say they’re out of the industry because of no jobs.”

Michael S. Teitelbaum wrote a powerful piece on this issue for Atlantic magazine titled “The Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage.” He reported:

“A compelling body of research is now available, from many leading academic researchers and from respected research organizations such as the National Bureau of Economic Research, the RAND Corporation, and the Urban Institute. No one has been able to find any evidence indicating current widespread labor market shortages or hiring difficulties in science and engineering occupations that require bachelors degrees or higher, although some are forecasting high growth in occupations that require post-high school training but not a bachelors degree. All have concluded that U.S. higher education produces far more science and engineering graduates annually than there are S&E job openings—the only disagreement is whether it is 100 percent or 200 percent more.”

If the NEA and the AFT are going to be our public voice, they have got to stop promoting corporate education reform. Stop promoting SEL standards, Common Core State Standards, NGSS science standards, STEM education fraud, Competency Based Education and the federal education law ESSA that benefits everyone but students, teachers and taxpayers. Teachers unions must fight these corporate inspired raids on education funding and their effort to de-professionalize teaching.

Education Discernments for 2017

28 Dec

The education journalist Kristina Rizga spent four years embedded at Mission High School in San Francisco and apprehended this key insight concerning modern education reform: “The more time I spent in classrooms, the more I began to realize that most remedies that politicians and education reform experts were promoting as solutions for fixing schools were wrong.” (Mission High page ix)

California Adopts Reckless Corporate Education Standards

Standards based education is bad education theory. Bad standards are a disaster. I wrote a 2015 post about the NGSS science standards concluding:

 “Like the CCSS the NGSS is an untested new theory of education being foisted on communities throughout America by un-American means. These were not great ideas that attained ‘an agreement through conviction.’ There is nothing about this heavy handed corporate intrusion into the life of American communities that promises greater good. It is harmful, disruptive and expensive.”

 Louis Gerstner (RJR Nabisco and IBM – CEO) instigated the NGSS standards. They are so poorly written that California adopted them and then started a rewrite.

A group of billionaires influence California’s education policy; Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Reed (school boards suck) Hastings, Carrie Walton Penner, Doris Fisher and others. At their insistence, the state adopted both the nationally-flailing common core state standards (CCSS), and the unworkable next generation science standards (NGSS).

These two sets of standards are examples of bad top down education policies imposed on schools by the super-rich and associated politicos.

‘Profitization’ Movement is Destroying Good Public Education

In a brilliant article, psychometrics expert, Gene V Glass stated, “A democratically run public education system in America is under siege. It is being attacked by greedy, union-hating corporations and billionaire boys whose success in business has proven to them that their circle of competence knows no bounds.”

Up until recently, there has been a relentless effort to evaluate schools and teachers based upon standardized test scores. George Bush’s No Child Left Behind act made the testing of math and English almost the sole evaluative measure for schools. This misguided ideology was used to demonize and destroy many wonderful schools in poor communities.

I wrote about Ciedie Aech’s wonderfully sarcastic book, Why You Always Got to be Trippin? The following quote from Ciedie illuminates the unjust treatment schools in the wrong zip-code faced when judged by testing incapable of measuring school quality or student growth.

“Why was it, the question kept rising up over the years. Well, why was it that those schools most quickly and aggressively labeled as ‘drop-out factories’ – schools slated for closure or an endless chain of reforms, schools forced through the fatal destabilization of restructure and redesign, schools branded publicly as being underused failures, schools negatively marked with the highly publicized letter grade of an F – well, why was it that such a large percent of these schools (shoot, pretty much all of them) had traditionally served as a home to non-dominant-culture, non-privileged-class, minority students?”

 “Personalized Learning” Leads to Big Bucks

This year it became clear that the big profits in education were no longer in standardized testing. The real money ‘reformsters’ were lusting after was in charter schools especially cyber charters; charter school real-estate deals; and competency based education (CBE). Fortunately for profiteering entrepreneurs, the United States Congress passed a rewrite of the federal education law calling it Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

I wrote to my congressman saying, ESSA is worse than NCLB. It provides money to accelerate privatizing public education, incentivizes CBE and even continues the baseless standardized testing mandates. And it has provisions for financial companies to get into taxpayer pockets via social impact bonds. ESSA takes care of everyone but students and taxpayers.

In a recent post, I noted:

“When congress passed the new education law (ESSA), the United States Department of Education was transformed into the nation’s leading education technology sales force. The Secretary of Education became a shill for a group of corporations and their ‘non-profit’ foundations working to sell ‘blended learning’; ‘competency based education’; ‘personalized learning’; ‘linked learning’; etc. These initiatives have at least four things in common; they all profit technology companies; they all are unproven; they all promote unhealthy education practices; and they overturn a student’s right to privacy.”

Competency based education is actually a failed idea from the 1990’s but this time it supposed to work because it is delivered by a computer. One of America’s leading experts on CBE and the destruction it promises for America’s public schools is Emily Talmage. She writes:

“Knowledgeworks recently described the new learning system as an ‘ecosystem,’ in which the role of the traditional teacher will soon be obsolete.

“With major investments from Wall Street, leaders in the online learning, ed-tech, and student loan industries, and even celebrity billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Reed Hastings of Netflix, the transformation has recently been picking up speed. Meanwhile, political groups on both the left and right are moving the system forward by lobbying for ‘personalized,’ competency-based policies and ‘innovative’ assessment systems.”

It is an education policy that only a toxic mix of hubris and greed could spawn.

Real education requires a life to life communion between teacher and student. Daisaku Ikeda, the founder of Soka Schools, touches on this subject in his book Soka Education, “Recognizing each student as a unique personality and transmitting something through contacts between that personality and the personality of the instructor is more than a way of implanting knowledge: it is the essence of education.” Socrates likened this to being “kindled by a leaping spark” between teacher and student. Low cost on-line learning is spiritless, amoral and dead.

The author and practicing educator, Mercedes Schneider shares, “The current technological challenge for classroom teachers is not teaching students how to use technology. It’s weening kids from phones and other such personalized technology long enough for them to learn to interact with a world that is not accessed by swiping a touch screen or typing with their thumbs.”

Schools are spending huge amounts of money on electronic tablets and laptop computers to institute profit incentivized “personalized” education theories. Conversely, I recommend eliminating all student screen time until high school. In high school, I would only have students use technology for writing reports, science experiments and essays. The last thing 21st century students need is more screen time and they deserve to have their privacy protected and not hoovered up by data mining corporations.

Jack Schneider writing in the Atlantic magazine asked some provocative questions:

“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.”

He went on in the article to show that public schools have indeed continued to progress.

There Are Failing Schools and They Need Repair

Why did so many parents in poor urban communities embrace charter schools? The fact is some of their schools were horrid and had been that way for as long as they could remember. When someone said, they would spend some money on the schools, parents jumped at the chance to improve their child’s school.

I heard this story at the National Public Education conference in Raleigh North Carolina. A mother from New Orleans gave her personal school experience. She said that before Katrina, the schools in the poorer sections of New Orleans were an abomination. It was normal for middle schools to have 55 children in classes, with no fans or air conditioning.

In her book School Choice, Mercedes Schneider, a product of New Orleans’ education, confirmed “Not only were the schools segregated, but more tragically, the parish refused to construct new schools for the growing black student population. Not just separate schools for whites and blacks but not of equal quality by design.”

John Thompson’s A Teacher’s Tale presents convincing evidence that taking disciplinary control policies away from local administrators and teachers in his Oklahoma high school directly contributed to violence, terrible attendance and safety issues. He describes packs of out of control gang affiliated students roaming hallways instead of attending classes, while site administrators were not allowed by state bureaucracies to take the kind of effective action needed to create a positive and safe learning environment.

On the ridiculous theory that public education needs disruption to improve, John writes, “Inner city schools need more disruption like we need another gang war.”

Failing schools are not failing because of teachers’ unions, tenure laws or bad teachers. They are failing because of bad education policy dictated by politicians and businessmen. They are failing because of racism and prejudice which are the main motivators for school choice. And they are failing because of corruption.

Dale Russakoff’s book The Prize details the epic fail of Mark Zuckerberg’s $100,000,000 gift which was matched by another $100,000,000 from several other philanthropic organizations and individuals. Intended to fix the poorly performing schools of Newark, New Jersey, it failed by every conceivable benchmark. It’s a story of feckless politicians, arrogant reformers and amazing teachers. It tells of the unmitigated degradation of the urban center of a once great American city and the difficulties facing Newark’s educators charged with the impossible task of righting that urban decline in their classrooms.

The real prize in Newark was the public education budget which corrupt politicians used to feather their own nest.

As Detroit so glaringly demonstrates, charter schools although not intrinsically bad schools, are a danger to public education. Peter Greene the educator and commentator explains:

“One of the great lies of the charter-choice movement is that you can run multiple school districts for the price of one.

“A school district of, say, 2,000 students can lose 75 students and with them about $750,000 dollars of revenue, and somehow that district of 1,925 students can operate for three quarter of a million dollars less. And how does the district deal with that loss of revenue? By closing a building – because the more school buildings you operate, the more it costs.”

A study this year in Los Angeles reported that charter schools are draining $600 million a year from the Los Angeles Unified School District. Because of fixed costs, schools must reduce services and increase class sizes to remain fiscally viable. If the privatized system becomes too large too fast, the public system will collapse. And the privatized system needs the board run school system to take the students they don’t want.

We have overwhelming evidence that charter schools are generally not as good as board run schools on almost all measures including the misleading standardized testing results. We know charters increase segregation; we know charter fraud is rampant; we know charters close when business goes bad and we know they drive education costs up. It is time for common sense to prevail.

2017

With the coming of Trump and Betsy Devos, everything I read leads me to believe that the federal government will continue and accelerate the failed Bush/Obama education policies. However, it will be out in the open because there are no fake progressives in this group to hide behind. Americans of all stripes do not want their public education system parceled out and sold. Most conservative like most liberals believe in public education. They do not want their schools taken over by faceless corporations and distant bureaucracies.

A national consensus on the need to protect America’s truly great public education system is probable.

Education profiteers will over-reach in 2017 and we will make significant strides toward winning back local control of our schools.

Sweetwater Schools Embrace “Corporate Education Reform”

22 Nov

At November’s monthly Mar Vista High School staff meeting, the CORE Districts accountability protocol was formally presented. In June, the Sweetwater Union High School District’s (SUHSD) board agreed to a $39,200 per year fee for CORE Districts membership. By accepting the CORE agenda, SWUHD receives data services; digital tools; professional development and an opportunity to partner with the Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) Research Collaborative. This act aligns SWUHD with the “corporate education reform” agenda; including top down control.

CORE Districts is Another Faux Government Agency

The NCLB version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 demanded that by 2014 one-hundred percent of all students would be judged proficient in mathematics and English based on standardized testing. Then Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan used this non-sense provision of the failed law in legally suspect ways – waivers – to bribe schools into accepting several federal mandates. Included in his list of demands was using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers, a practice that is both expensive and has been thoroughly debunked going back as far as 1999. When California refused Duncan’s evaluation demand, its waiver application was rejected.

CORE Districts first gained attention when six renegade districts financed by corporate dollars made a deal with Arne Duncan for an NCLB sanctions waiver. John Deasy, the soon to be failed superintendent of Los Angeles Unified Schools and five other school district superintendents made a legally questionable side deal bypassing state officials.

The vehicle used to justify the district direct waivers was the deceptively named California Office of Reform Education (CORE), a non-profit with no official governmental status.

In 2015, American Institutes for Research (AIR), wrote a fifty plus page report on CORE that captures the names of the players and the history of CORE. AIR is a large provider of testing materials for k-12 education so it is not surprising that the report is favorable to the pro-assessment CORE. AIR details that CORE predates the 2013 waivers which garnered nationwide attention and recounts:

“By the time CORE officially began in fall 2010, two established venues had helped build relationships among participating district leaders through which they communicated regularly about their work. The first venue was the Urban Education Dialogue (UED), a forum of large urban district superintendents designed to foster dialogue about the challenges and opportunities associated with running K–12 school systems in California. Six of the superintendents who eventually brought their districts into CORE regularly attended the semiannual UED meetings. Through these interactions, those leaders developed an understanding of one another’s situations and general approaches to district leadership. They also built a set of personal relationships with peers who faced similar challenges and had similar priorities.”

The report also shows how deeply involved some of the original CORE district leaders were with forces sympathetic with privatizing public schools and using data to drive instruction from positions of power. Praise from Eli Broad and McKinsey & Company is damning. “To be praised by fools—that is the greatest shame.” (Nichiren in 1272)

“Long Beach USD had already earned a reputation for excellence: The district received the second ever Broad Prize in 2003 as the nation’s best urban school system. In 2010, McKinsey & Company also identified it as one of the world’s 20 most improved school systems.”

A key force behind the CORE development was the Stuart Foundation which provided $700,000 in 2010 and $800,000 in 2011 to continue the collaboration that started over the failed Race to the Top application. That continuation became the CORE. At about the same time one of the minority owners of the San Francisco Giants, Phil Halperin formed California Education Partners which became the administrative and fundraising arm of the CORE.

Darwin Bond-Graham wrote about Halperin in Counterpunch:

“Among the minority owners of the Giants are some Democrats also. Giants owner Philip Halperin runs the Silver Giving Foundation, a philanthropy he created with money he amassed while working as a partner in the Weston Presidio private equity firm. Halperin’s official biography on the Stanford Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies web site (where he sits on the advisory board trustee) says that at Weston he was, ‘focused on information technology, consumer branding, telecommunications and media,’ and that he ‘previously worked at Lehman Brothers and Montgomery Securities.’”

 The funders of California Education Partners, PACE and CORE are a nearly identical group which includes:

 The James Irvine Foundation

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Walter and Elise Haas Fund

D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation

Stuart Foundation

The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

The Walter S. Johnson Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Silver Giving Foundation

 David and Lucile Packard Foundation

A little quick not so thorough research shows that since 2010 the Gates foundation has contributed over $7 million; Bechtel $500,000; Irvine $1.1 million; Hewlett $1.6 million; Stuart $1.5 million.

All this spending has two agendas; implementing common core and establishing the infrastructure of Competency Based Education (CBE). CBE in short means education on the cheap by putting children in front of screens and supervising them with minimally trained people. Sweetwater has the technology in place to take this path.

The Basis of The CORE Districts School Improvement Plan

Corporate education reformers disdain input form working educators. Instead, they are constantly on a quest to find a “silver bullet” that can be monetized. The CORE found a guru in Ontario, Canada named Michael Fullen. From John Fensterwald’s writing in Edsource:

“In January [2013] and last fall, two delegations of California educators that included Torlakson, Chief Deputy Superintendent Richard Zeiger, California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Executive Director Mary Sandy, Vogel, Levine and a half-dozen superintendents and CEOs of charter management organizations made sojourns to Toronto, funded by the San Francisco-based Stuart Foundation. There they observed classrooms and met with Fullan, teachers and provincial leaders about Ontario’s strategy of school improvement.”

 Later the same article continues:

“Fullan reviewed CORE’s waiver application, which cites his writing and says that CORE’s “alternative accountability model and day-to-day work” is motivated by the “changed culture and positive and lasting improvements” in Ontario. The waiver expresses confidence that the same philosophy – paying attention to data but using it as a basis to improve, not as a cudgel to declare failure – would work in California.”

It is notable that the waiver Duncan bestowed on the CORE districts was based on Fullen’s ideas with its multiple accountability measures, but did not include teacher evaluations by testing.

Fensterwald added, “McKinsey & Company named Ontario, along with Long Beach Unified and Aspire Public Schools in California, among the 20 most effective school systems in the world.” While on the 2009 international test, Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, the Ontario schools did indeed score almost as high as the best readers in the world (Finland), their math scores did not. In addition, as Fensterwald notes, “scores in science on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) have declined over the past decade.”

This recalls the advice I often heard from the Vice-President of Engineering at Sunward Technologies, “if there is a problem, sell it as a feature.”

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Data Mining

 The CORE website states:

“The CORE Districts are the first in the nation to include the measurement of social and emotional factors in a system of school improvement and accountability – our School Quality Improvement Index. We have done so because we believe they offer schools and educators more and better information that furthers understanding of students and what they need to learn and succeed. This information can be used to inform and shape strategies to help students succeed in school and prepare them for success in college, careers and life.”

 The following graphic depicts the CORE index for accountability that weights SEL at 40%.

 core-index-graphic

Social emotional skills training is the hottest new fad in education. It seems so logical; if we can just teach Shaniqua and Jesus to behave properly with grit, they will manifest so much more of their potential. How could anyone object to educators teaching and tracking social behavior?

The Brookings Institute which has been solidly pro-corporate-education-reform, has produced one of the few extant studies of SEL practices. Their study is based on data from CORE Districts produced in 2014. Although, generally positive about the approach, they call for more study:

“In sum, our preliminary analysis of the data from CORE’s field test provides a broadly encouraging view of the potential for self-reports of social-emotional skills as an input into its system for evaluating school performance. That said, the view it provides is also quite limited. It says nothing about how self-report measures of social-emotional skills would perform in a high-stakes setting – or even with the very modest weight that will be attached to them this year within CORE. Nor can we say anything about how CORE’s focus on social-emotional learning will alter teacher practice and, ultimately, student achievement. The results presented above are best thought of as a baseline for future analysis of these issues – and many more.”

Jane Robins recent article in Townhall is called “The Latest Big Education Fad, Social-Emotional Learning, Is As Bad As It Sounds.” She cautions:

“Suppose the government decides a child will be a more acceptable student, citizen, and worker bee if he learns to acquiesce to the “consensus” of the group, regardless of his own moral standards, or if she learns to accept that all commands of the government must be obeyed. The student may fulfill the standard by developing the correct attitudes, but under whose authority does the government presume to instill attitudes that may conflict with parents’ desires?”

Robins describes the dangers of psychological damage for children if this kind of behavior modification is attempted by inadequately trained people. Then she addresses the most worrisome aspect of all; the loss of privacy for children that is almost certain in the age of data-mining:

“Dr. Effrem and Dr. Thompson both warn also about the extraordinary threat to student privacy that implementation of SEL standards would present. With states building longitudinal student databases that track children from cradle to career, it’s inevitable that data collected from observing and analyzing children’s emotional states will be preserved . . . forever. And because USED has gutted federal student-privacy law to allow sharing of personally identifiable information on students with almost anyone the government wants, that data is likely to be widely disclosed – without parental consent.”

 California’s Teacher’s Unions Oppose CORE

A letter to the state school board from the president of the California Teachers Association, Eric C. Heins and the presidents of each of the CORE district’s union locals, laid out several points of contention with CORE. They observed that the new federal law eliminated all waivers as of August 1, 2016 and called upon the state of California not to grant a state waiver to the CORE. The letter states:

“The Presidents whose signatures are added to mine on this letter represent the educators who work in those CORE districts. Their Associations have never endorsed and do not now support the extension of the CORE waivers. Further, these education leaders strongly believe the CORE waiver is a serious impediment to the collective education change efforts in California. As educators, we are committed to improving the conditions of teaching and learning, advancing the cause of quality public education, and ensuring that the dignity and civil rights of all children are protected. At a time when we are working hard in California to implement positive changes that safeguard the quality public education all students deserve, this top-down waiver system which excludes teacher input and collaboration is counterproductive and divisive. The CORE waiver process does not reflect the work of a broad-based diverse group of individuals with a genuine stake in their school. The stakeholders are cut-out of the development and execution of viable education reform implementation strategies.”

Approximately a million students attend what are now the 10 districts affiliated with CORE. However, 5-million students still attend non-CORE schools. These schools along with the state of California are still in the process of developing the new federally mandated state accountability system.

In contrast to the CORE’s top-down approach, California’s State Superintendent of Instruction, Tom Torlakson has established a 30-member Accountability and Continuous Improvement Task Force. Torlakson’s task force comprises a broad range of voices including labor, academia, parent groups and educators that are engaged in the development. History informs us that this democratic approach to governance will produce a more lasting and superior product.

Sweetwater Schools Embrace “Corporate Education Reform”

I believe Sweetwater Union High School District to be a model of what is possible in education. The model has been created by a wonderful culture of teachers and parents working together often despite political corruption and malfeasance. Today, Sweetwater has a clean board and an enthusiastic well trained educator at the helm. However, the district has succumbed to the sirens song of corporate education reform.

We have spent untold amounts of money on technology. We purchased I-pads for 20,000 students and are now replacing the I-pads with laptops. It is as if we believe putting children in front of screens is more important than smaller class sizes.

We have every kind of education software program imaginable including a useless education management package called Canvas. Canvas has a terrible front end which few teachers use by choice, but Canvas was designed to host online classes and facilitating blended learning. It fits perfectly with the corporate push to replace teachers with technicians and low skilled monitors. It is the path to enervated education.

This year every teacher in the district was given a tee-shirt that says “Sweetwater Union High School District – Putting Students First.” Exactly the kind of corporate sloganeering employed by Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz. The pressure to ware these shirts at staff meetings is demeaning for professional educators but classic corporate think.

What makes this district great is that we care about kids and we put fully certificated teachers in all our classrooms. We maintain order and we know our students. We provide a safe healthy environment. Stop the raid on our resources and get out of bed with “corporate reformers” before permanent damage is done. CORE districts, social emotional learning and standards written by the testing industry (CCSS) are antithetical to good pedagogy.

Education Caste System

12 Jul

In 1999, motivated by idealistic impulses, I quit working on the next greatest hard drive to become a teacher. Like most people, I knew public education was in bad shape with bad teachers and poor administration. I hoped to advance the American promise that anyone’s child could become a captain of industry or even the president of the United States. America is supposed to be a meritocracy with equal opportunity for all.

I heard about “Nation at Risk” and I knew “Johnny” never could read. I was confident that a person with a successful engineering career under his belt could make significant contributions to public education. So it was off to the new masters of education program at University of California San Diego and my crusade to save public education.

These past 15 years have been enlightening. I soon learned what I knew about the state of public education was absolute baloney. The experienced teachers were amazing and once I got past the initial arrogance that blinded me to that fact, I realized that I had a lot to learn about teaching. I was not going to school the existing teachers; they were highly skilled and effective. My first two years in the classroom, I literally did not encounter any bad teachers who were not motivated to do a good job. The schools in San Diego were much better than the ones I attended 30 plus years earlier and the students were far more accomplished than my peers.

Concurrent with my entering the class room the bi-partisan No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was adopted. It soon became clear that education for working and middle class students was becoming more skills oriented with lessened creativity and minimal independent thought. The new education reform was based on standards and accountability for standardized testing results. This new theory of good pedagogy ignored the advice educators like Dewey and Herbart and adopted what Alfie Kohn mockingly dubbed the “longer stronger meaner” theory of education. This kind of pedagogy diminishes thought and creativity. It implies that thinking is for the children of wealthy people in private schools who are the natural leaders of society. The other students have utilitarian purposes but thinking undermines that value. It is all driven by an ancient and evil ideology that posits it is OK to use lesser human beings for the purposes of social elites.

El Puente founder, Frances Lucerna, has a similar observation:

“In the public schools now it’s basically all about standardized testing, and mechanical literacy. This is resulting in dumbing down, watering down, the experience that young people have in school. It is equivalent to telling students that they are not to go deep within themselves and think in complex ways about things, but that they need to go back to memorizing and stuffing their heads with knowledge that has nothing to do with their experience and their world. This is not by accident: there is a reason that this is happening, why it’s happening in public schools and not in private schools and other places. This is an education for followers, not for leaders. And that’s why I think a movement for change has to arise, and the arts are fundamental in this.” (Muses Go to School, Page 58)

In 1973 David Rockefeller’s Trilateral Commission produced “The Crisis of Democracy” a report in which they indicate that too much education for common people is a threat to democracy. On page 115 on the report they conclude, “The vulnerability of democratic government in the United States thus comes not primarily from external threats, though such threats are real, nor from internal subversion from the left or the right, although both possibilities could exist, but rather from the internal dynamics of democracy itself in a highly educated, mobilized, and participant society.” In other words, don’t teach common people to think, to have philosophy, or develop their own ideas – the elites of society will take care of that. It is not in the interest of the upper class to have too much education – too much democracy.

Of course, this elitism or classism is not new. I recently studied a lecture on an event that occurred in 1279. Twenty peasant farmers living in Atsuhara (present-day Fuji City, Japan) were arrested and falsely accused of stealing rice from a local priest. When the second most powerful figure in Japan questioned them, he did not ask about the charges. He offered clemency if they would just renounce their religious beliefs and join the approved Buddhist sect. Surprisingly, all twenty farmers refused the free pass. Three of them were executed and the other seventeen were exiled to remote regions of Japan.

Known as the “Atsuhara persecution” this event is significant in the history common people. Daisaku Ikeda, the founder of the Soka Schools said, “Set in 13th-century feudal Japan, this was truly a pioneering struggle for human rights that will shine forever in history.” In the same lecture Ikeda commented,

“…the devilish nature of authority fears the awakening of the people. To those in power who forget to serve the people and instead exploit them, wielding authority for self-serving ends, the presence of individuals who discern their true insidious nature and are determined to take a stand against them is a hindrance and inconvenience. That’s why the powerful do everything they can to crush them.” (July 2014, Living Buddhism)

Another struggle for rights that shines eternally in history is the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson penned these famous lines:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

As a boy growing up in rural Idaho, I was thrilled by these words. The precept that all men are created equal and have the right to seek an equal station based on merit excited my idealistic yearnings. For me, America was “that shining city on the hill.” It was some time before I started coming to grips with the contradictions that inhered from the beginning. Jefferson was a slave owner; women were denied human dignity and if you were not a member of the land owning class, the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God did not entitle you to equal station. But the ideas were pregnant with idealism and the potential for human advancement. It still gives me hope.

In our country, over the past more than two centuries there have been many advances in human rights, but the ugly side of human nature that wants to use others for personal purposes has not been conquered. It has merely transformed to forms which use less obvious and possibly more insidious methodology. Doctor Ikeda spoke directly to this point in a speech he delivered at Harvard University in 1993:

“I propose that self-motivation is what will open the way to the era of soft power. While systems depending on hard power have succeeded by using established tools of coercion to move people toward certain goals, the success of soft power is based on volition. It is an internally generated energy of will created through consensus and understanding among people. The processes of soft power unleash the inner energies of the individual. Rooted in the spirituality and religious nature of human beings, this kind of energy has traditionally been considered in philosophical themes. But without the support of a philosophical foundation to strengthen and mobilize the spiritual resources of the individual, the use of soft power would become nothing more that ‘fascism with a smile’, In such a society information and knowledge would be abundant, but subject to manipulation by those in power. A citizenry without wisdom would fall easy prey to authority with self-serving goals. For these reasons, the burden of sustaining and accelerating the trend toward soft power lies with philosophy.” (New Humanism page 189)

In the 1930’s the philosopher historian Arnold Toynbee observed in his masterpiece, A Study of History, “The bread of universal education is no sooner cast upon the waters than a shoal of sharks arises from the depths and devours the children’s bread under the educator’s very eyes.” In his deep study of more than three-thousand years of human history, Toynbee saw this pattern repeat.

Toynbee also saw a pattern that gave him pause about the future of our civilization. He wrote:

“We must ask whether, as we look back over the ground we have traversed, we can discern any master tendency at work, and we do in fact unmistakably decry a tendency towards standardization and uniformity: a tendency which is correlative and opposite of the tendency towards differentiation and diversity which we have found to be the mark of the growth stage of civilizations.” (A study of History page 555)

As I read the words of great men of character and think about my own observations, I am convinced this is a time of opportunity and peril. We must fight against the arrogance of elitism which looks down on common people as mere pawns and considers their own good fortune a matter of birth right or superiority. We must fight against the whole concept of Teach for America (TFA) and its untrained student teachers from elite schools which reeks of this kind of stinking thinking. The fraudulent charter school movement is the shoal of sharks rising from the depths to devour the children’s bread. Standardized education; standardized testing and common core standards seem to exactly match Toynbee’s description of the trends in decaying societies.

A witch’s brew of arrogance, greed and elitism is poisoning public education in America. Eli Broad (a billionaire home builder) did not think experience in education was valuable for administrators who run educational institutions, so he created his own non-certified institution that trains non-educators to lead the schools of common people. Bill Gates does not think class size matters. He sees no problem with classes of 50 students, but he sends his children to a private school in Seattle that has class sizes of 12 to 15. Michael Bloomberg does not think teacher education and experience is important. So he worked to privatize New York City’s schools so he does not need to waste money on experience and training. These attitudes would be indefensible if they were not promoted by extremely wealth elites.

We do not need to accept a society dominate by self-appointed elites who inherited their wealth and position or were able to unscrupulously bend financial law to their advantage. As educators we must educate the public and arm them against charlatans like: Jeb Bush; Arne Duncan; Democrats for Education Reform; Joel Klein; Michelle Rhee; Bill Gates; Andrew Cuomo; Daniel Malloy; Eli Broad; Bill Gates; the Walton family; etc.. We must give them the knowledge and wisdom to see the foolishness of these people. We need to make the nature and identity of the enemies of common people clear to all so no one is deceived by them. It is time to end the caste system in America and achieve the promise of meritocracy and opportunity for all.

Common Corporate State Standards and Other Obscenities

19 Feb

The largest change in the history of American education is rolling out across America in a most unusual and imprudent way. The Common Corporate State Standards (CCSS) written by corporations to facilitate profits are a colossal copyrighted Trojan horse. The official CCSS web site says, “The NGA Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) hereby grant a limited, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to copy, publish, distribute, and display the Common Core State Standards for purposes that support the Common Core State Standards Initiative. These uses may involve the Common Core State Standards as a whole or selected excerpts or portions.”(1). It sounds very much like some ‘alphabet soup’ government agency has copyrighted the standards but that is not the case – it would be illegal for a government agency to copyright the standards! No, the corporate sponsors and foundations who finance the private non-profits NGA and CCSSO, who wrote the standards, own the copyright. Bill Gates has more sway over these rights than anyone because he put in the most money. No elected or school official has the legal right to alter any of the standards. They must be used as written. Support for the CCSS has been developed by giving money to generate good media and positive scholarly responses. The standards have not been thoroughly piloted. Curriculum supporting the standards has not been written and educators certainly have not been trained in how best to institute this new approach. In fact, most educators do not know much about the CCSS other than it is supposed to increase testing significantly and anyone who questions CCSS or the rush to implement them is for the status quo and for giving incompetent teachers the right to continue harming children with the aid of their evil teachers union.
It seems there are three groups promoting CCSS. Group 1 is made up of very sincere motivated educators who see CCSS as a path of true reform in education that will promote understanding and reasoning. Group 2 is made up by people of extreme hubris who are using education reform as a way to establish their own legacy as founders of new charter schools or of increasing personal power. Many members of this group have no educational training or experience and have no respect for those with experience teaching or administering schools. Group 3 is a large powerful group that sees CCSS as a key to unlocking a fabulous money making opportunity and only care that people believe what they are selling. From them we get such terrible ideas as giving every 7th grader an I-pad and testing regimes that turns learning into a behaviorist nightmare. If reasonable people do not start listening to professional educators these CCSS are guaranteed to be an even bigger failure and significantly more damaging than No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its evil cousin Race to the Top (RttT).
In a way, group 1 is the most troublesome. Many of its people have doctorates in education, they are young and they want to make their mark in the world. Most of them believe in some form of the constructivist pedagogy advocated by Piaget and Dewey. They are delighted to see a focus on less standards and activities designed for students to create understanding. Many of them believe that the opportunity for true education reform which was thwarted by NCLB has finally arrived. Recently, I encountered a long time acquaintance of mine who fits this description. When I mentioned that the once pro-standards advocate, Diane Ravitch, has pointed out that these standards have not been tested. I was told the Diane Ravitch and I should both shut up and stop obstructing real progress. Because they believe in the educational theories that the standards are purported to facilitate, these people, who should see the perversity of this national standards movement, are blinded to the lurking evils. The big questions that none of these advocates want to face include: How are the standards going to be tested? How will the testing data be used? Isn’t it likely that the school year’s final summative exam will become the accountability tool used by the national leaders of education, public and private, who have arrogated local control over education to themselves? Won’t that turn these standards into just another behaviorist means that undermines good pedagogy?
Bill Gates has done more to advance the cause of CCSS than any other person. The New York Times reported that his foundation spent $373 million on education in 2009 of which $78 million was devoted to advocacy — quadruple the amount spent on advocacy in 2005. Over the next five or six years, the foundation expects to pour $3.5 billion more into education, up to 15 percent of it on advocacy. “The Alliance for Excellent Education, another nonprofit organization, was paid $551,000 in 2009 “to grow support for the common core standards initiative. The Fordham Institute got $959,000 to “review common core materials and develop supportive materials.” Fordham’s president, Chester E. Finn Jr., was widely quoted praising the standards after their March 2010 release (2). In 2008, Gates teamed with Eli Broad and the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) to make presidential candidates focus on issues like standards, teacher quality and accountability. Linda Darling-Hammond was Barack Obama’s spokesperson on education, but during the Democratic Party’s national convention while teachers were in the crowd “fired up and ready to go” Gates, Broad and the DFER were busy hijacking education policy. They were able to push out professional educators like Darling-Hammond who were seen as too friendly to unions and replace them with people like the failed Chicago school CEO, Arne Duncan. He has no education experience or training, yet he became secretary of education. He would not qualify to be a substitute teacher in many school districts. His qualifications were that he supported testing accountability, charter schools and disliked unions. Even educators at places like University of California Berkeley have received large grants to help promote the CCSS. CCSS advocates have successfully used their incredible financial resources to make these standards seem like an idea developed by and supported by enlightened educators from across the nation. Independent voices have been muffled but not quite silenced.
Group 2 the people of extreme hubris and power lust are convinced that public education in America needs them to start a new school system or develop a new education management paradigm. Eli Broad does not appear to be financially benefiting from his philanthropy or his academy for school administrators. This arrogant man strongly believes that trained educators are incompetent fools when it comes to management and that only people from outside of the education community can save America’s schools by employing the wise management practices of the business community. Broad has taken the absurd position that experience in education – unlike experience in all other human endeavors – is a liability so education leadership should be given to people with no experience. It never occurs to him that the biggest problem with American schools is the lack of respect powerful men like him have for professional educators. In my own school district, our superintendent wants to develop a K-16 school system. Under his leadership, our district has started a charter school that is now competing with the local elementary schools which send us their students. The elementary system is well staffed with professional educators and is competently led. The community is served well by these schools. Yet, this lifelong educator that leads my district justifies undermining the difficult work of these fine institutions with his vision for a K-16 institution. Charter schools are appearing in many places that have good public schools – not responding to a need only to the ego of their founders.
Group 3 is a cancer on our society. For the most part they are not concerned with how students fare. They only lust for the profit center that education spending in the United States represents. In addition to the private management groups that are starting charter schools nationwide, Jed Bush is leading a nationwide digital education campaign. Lee Fang reported, “The nonprofit behind this digital push, Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, is funded by online learning companies: K12 Inc., Pearson (which recently bought Connections Education), Apex Learning (a for-profit online education company launched by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen), Microsoft and McGraw-Hill Education among others. The advisory board for Bush’s ten digital elements agenda reads like a Who’s Who of education-technology executives, reformers, bureaucrats and lobbyists, including Michael Stanton, senior vice president for corporate affairs at Blackboard; Karen Cator, director of technology for the Education Department; Jaime Casap, a Google executive in charge of business development for the company’s K-12 division; Shafeen Charania, who until recently served as marketing director of Microsoft’s education products department; and Bob Moore, a Dell executive in charge of ‘facilitating growth’ of the computer company’s K-12 education practice.” In another section of the same article Fang tells us about the strategies being put forward by lobbyists like Patricia Levesque, a top adviser to former Governor Jeb Bush. Fang writes, “According to author Steven Brill, ex–DC school chancellor Michelle Rhee’s new group, StudentsFirst, raised $100 million within a few months of Levesque’s remarks. Rhee’s donors include Rupert Murdoch, philanthropist Eli Broad and Home Depot founder Ken Langone. Rhee’s group has pledged to spend more than $1 billion to bring for-profit schools, including virtual education, to the entire country by electing reform-friendly candidates and hiring top-notch state lobbyists (3).” Levesque’s remark that Fang referenced was about how much better it would have been if Mark Zuckerberg had given his $100 million to support the right candidates instead of giving it to the Newark public schools.
The motivation for the CCSS was certainly at least in part a view that education in America was poor and needed to be reformed. However, a good case can be made that a sustained attacks on public education which was kicked off by the Reagan administration in 1983 with its “Nation at Risk” report is more responsible for this view than reality. “Nation at Risk” which was produced by mainly corporate actors and with little input from professional educators drew conclusions that were not sustained by the facts. Nevertheless, the meme that public education in America was failing took root and is a justification for the modern corporate driven education reform movement. I called these CCSS the Common Corporate State Standards, because in my view the standards were written by corporations for corporations and have little to do with a sincere effort to improve education. It is much more reasonable to believe that people like Rupert Murdock expect significant return for their investment in these standards than to believe these corporate sponsors are putting up share holder dollars out of their altruistic impulse to support public education. The list of corporate sponsors for the non-profit Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) that owns the copyright on the CCSS is long and, not surprisingly, dominated by testing, and on-line education companies.

Corporate Partners: AdvancED, American Institutes for Research (AIR), Data Recognition Corporation, ETS, Global Scholar, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, IQity, McGraw-Hill Education, Microsoft, Pearson Education, Evaluation Systems Group of Pearson, Promethean, ACT, Apple, Corwin Press, Evans Newton Incorporated-Partnering with Schools for Student Success, Intel Corporation, K12 Inc., Measured Progress, Measurement Incorporated, MetaMetrics, The Menta Group, Northwest Evaluation Association, School Improvement Network, TaskStream, Wilson Language Training, Cisco, The College Board, Discovery Education, International Business Machines Corporation, Pearson’s School Achievement Services, Questar Assessment, Inc., Renaissance Learning, Inc., SAS, Scholastic, Texas Instruments, Truenorthlogic, Wireless Generation (4)

This corporate intrusion into education literally removes assets from the classroom and puts it into the pockets of testing companies, consultants, publishers, and others. Politicians and scholars have been corrupted by the corrosive influence of corporate money and children have been harmed. How can Chicago’s incredible teen murder rate be seen as anything but dramatic proof of the dangers inherent in turning our schools over to non-professionals? It is beyond irony that the leader of the education reform movement in Chicago, which is a spectacular failure, is now the secretary of education. Politicians like Barack Obama, Antonio Villaraigosa and Rahm Emanuel turn their backs on professional educators and embrace extreme testing, value added measures (VAM) and the end of seniority rights for teachers. There is no validation for VAM or CCSS but these unproven theories are being implemented with great haste. Can anyone call that reasonable or prudent? Yet, Obama uses RttT to bribe states into adopting CCSS, VAM and charter schools immediately. What is the rush? Unfortunately, the politicians listed above look good when compared with their political opposition – people like Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal.
The abominations keep multiplying. In many poor communities the only functional institution is the public school and it is well known that children in stable environments do better. Why then do education czar-mayors like Bloomberg and Emanuel choose to close neighborhood schools where students are not good at multiple choice tests? Did they notice that these schools all happen to be in poor neighborhoods? Many of those closed schools were great, but standardized testing does not test for quality of teaching so excellent institutions were sacrificed at the altar of testing accountability. Children living in difficult circumstances have their life further disturbed by the people who should protect them. Suffering neighborhoods are made to suffer more. Some of the students leave the neighborhood to attend new charter schools. Some don’t! In either case the function of community schools to build neighborhoods and develop culture is ended and the propensity for violence is increased.
I recently read “The Inner Philosopher” which is a dialogue between Lou Marinoff, Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at The City College of New York, and Daisaku Ikeda, the founder of the Soka Schools and President of the Buddhist lay organization, SGI. I conclude with a few quotes from their conversation:

“From a society without philosophy emerges education without philosophy, which in turn gives rise to human beings with no philosophy, a dark portent of the future of humanity.” (Ikeda, Page 2)

“The current Western epidemics – observable from Europe to North America – of obesity, bullying, hedonism and consumerism, along with the decay of social fabric, the deconstruction of education, the collapse of community, and the decline in birth rate appear to be symptoms of a grievous and possibly terminal illness of Western civilization itself.” (Marinoff, Page 74)

(In the US) “The education system has been purged of content, while the media pander incessantly to the demand for celebrity scandal and callow sensationalism. Overexposure to visual media coupled with inattention to written tradition have produced a generation of cognitively impaired children, millions of whom are daily drugged with stimulants.” (Marinoff, Page 75)

“Sadly, contemporary American culture is rooted in vice. Indeed vice is glorified, sensationalized, celebrated, and rewarded. The economic collapse of 2008, which plunged the United States into recession and destabilized the global economy, was caused primarily by unrestrained avarice – systemic vice on a colossal scale.

“Even the legendary homespun virtues of the American grass roots, whose praises were so eloquently sung by the likes of Tocqueville, Emerson, and Whitman, are being undermined and overwhelmed by rampant corruption in public and private sectors alike. The inevitable result is moral degeneracy and societal collapse.

“As Toynbee writes, the ‘breakdowns of civilizations are not brought about by the operation of cosmic forces outside human control’ but by ‘loss of mental and moral balance’ in the values and conduct of their leaders and constituents.” (Marinoff, Page 139)

“I aspire not merely to impart knowledge but also to awaken the powers of my students’ minds. This can only be accomplished via person-to-person interaction, personal example and dialogue. Even the greatest libraries of the world, or the vast storehouses of data on the World-Wide-Web, cannot rival the teacher-student relationship.” (Marinoff, Page 157)

“Many leaders, who ought to be working for the good of society and the people, are blighted by an arrogant elitism and motivated by a corrosive drive for personal gain and lust for power. Nichiren decries such people as ‘talented animals.’” (Ikeda, Page 160)

1. http://www.corestandards.org/public-license
2. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/education/22gates.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2
3. http://www.thenation.com/article/164651/how-online-learning-companies-bought-americas-schools#
4. http://www.ccsso.org/Who_We_Are/Business_and_Industry_Partnerships/Corporate_Partners.html#level3
5. Ikeda, Daisaku, and Lou Marinoff. The Inner Philosopher: Conversations on Philosophy’s Transformative Power. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Dialogue Path Press. 2012.