Tag Archives: Teachers

The Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Back-Stabs Public Education

26 Jan

ACSA endorsed a candidate for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction who actively works to privatize public schools. As a participant in the Destroy Public Education (DPE) movement, he supports initiatives undermining the teaching profession and good pedagogy.

Established in 1971 to advance the cause of public education, the ACSA has joined ranks with groups working to end taxpayer supported universal public education. The endorsement of Marshall Tuck over Tony Thurmond for Superintendent makes this clear.

Tuck and Thurmond are both Democrats. Thurmond is a progressive and Tuck is a neoliberal. The California Teachers Association (CTA) endorses Thurmond as do a long list of elected officials and organizations including Senator Kamala Harris.

Jenifer Berkshire’s article “How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party,” describes neoliberals:

“‘The solutions of the thirties will not solve the problems of the eighties,’ wrote Randall Rothenberg in his breathless 1984 paean to this new breed [of Democrats], whom he called simply ‘The Neoliberals.’ His list of luminaries included the likes of Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley, Gary Hart and Al Gore …. …, the ascendancy of the neoliberals represented an economic repositioning of the Democratic Party…. The era of big, affirmative government demanding action—desegregate those schools, clean up those polluted rivers, enforce those civil rights and labor laws—was over.”

Candidates Photo Fixed

Pictures snipped from campaign cyber sites and reformatted by Ultican.

Tony Thurmond spoke at the CTA delegates meeting in October 2017. He won their endorsement. The CTA news release said:

“We won’t stand for vouchers and we will not allow the privatization of public schools in the great state of California,” Thurmond told cheering delegates. He declared that resolving the teacher shortage is key to closing student achievement gaps. “I don’t know how we close the achievement gaps without closing the teacher shortage in the state.”

When Marshall Tuck answered the ACSA’s questions about “school choice,” he wrote:

“I believe it is important to preserve and strategically expand high-quality public school options for parents, …. These public options can take many forms: some are magnet programs that focus on a particular academic discipline, some are charter schools that have flexibility to innovate with new practices, and some are specialty programs, like those that focus on the arts or sciences.”

Billionaires Support Marshall Tuck

Besides the ACSA, many mega-wealthy people support Marshall Tuck. During his close loss for the same office in 2014, Tuck raised unprecedented amounts of money. Near the conclusion of that race, Tim Murphy of Mother Jones reported:

“The most expensive race in California this year isn’t the governor’s race, … it’s the race for state education superintendent, where incumbent Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck have combined to spend nearly $30 million. Tuck, who has received big bucks from Walmart heir Alice Walton and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, is pledging to rein in the powerful California Teachers Association, ….”

Under California campaign rules, a candidate seeking state office can accept no more than $7300 a year from a single entity. Because we’ve entered a new year, it is possible for individuals to have given as much as $14,600. The following table is from data reported to California Secretary of State as of 1/22/2018. Billionaires love Tuck!

Contributor Names Amount
Michael Bloomberg $14,600
Carrie (Walton) & Gregory Penner $14,600
Alice Walton $7,300
Jim Walton $7,300
Edith and Eli Broad $29,200
Richard Riordan $7,300
Laurene Powell Jobs $7,300
Reed Hastings $7,300
Doris Fisher $14,600
John Fisher $14,600
Laura Fisher $14,600
Elizabeth Stroud Fisher $7,300
Robert Fisher $7,300
William Fisher $7,300
John and Regina Scully $29,200
Brad Gerstner $7,300
Jonathan Sackler $7,300
Andrew Horowitz $7,300
David Horowitz $7,300

A Biographical Sketch of Marshall Tuck

Tuck was raised on the peninsula just south of San Francisco in the upper-middle class community of Burlingame, California. It is a mixed race community with about a 68% white, 20% Asian, 13% Hispanic and 1% black population. The median home price is more than $1,000,000.

There is no data on siblings or his parents. Tuck’s campaign cyber presence does say he is “The son of a teacher … and [he] attended parochial elementary school and public middle and high schools.”

After high school he attended UCLA, where he was a 1995 graduate with a BA in political science. In 2000, he gained an MBA from Harvard Business.

During Tuck’s 2014 race the Sacramento Bee reported, “After graduating from UCLA, he worked for two years in mergers and acquisitions at Salomon Brothers in Los Angeles.”

Tuck’s 2005 bio for the Green Dot charter schools says, “He also spent time as a consultant at Bain & Co., an investment analyst at the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone….” The bio also stated:

“Marshall Tuck joined Green Dot Public Schools in July 2002 as Chief Operating Officer in charge of both operations and finance. Prior to joining Green Dot, Marshall was the General Manager of the Strategic Accounts group at Model N (an enterprise software company), where he led a division focused on opening new markets for the company.”

Steve Barr a politically connected operative from the neoliberal wing of the Democratic party founded Green Dot Public Schools in 1999. He called the schools, public schools, but that is marketing. Green Dot is a private company which has a charter to run a school.

Barr has been active in politics throughout his professional career serving on the national campaigns of President Clinton, Senator Gary Hart and Governor Michael Dukakis and as a finance chair for the Democratic Party.

In 2007, a frustrated Antonio Villaraigosa, LA’s lusty mayor, had just failed to gain control over the Los Angeles Unified School District. He joined with some wealthy supporters to form a non-profit in collaboration with the district, targeting struggling schools in low-income communities for intervention. If school staff voted to opt in, the Partnership offered an alternative approach to improving student achievement, promising a collaborative role in shaping curriculum and running their schools.

The Sacramento Bee reported, “Tuck’s four years at Green Dot caught the attention of Villaraigosa, who selected him to lead the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.”

There is not much detail available about why Tuck and the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools separated. In 2014 the blog School Matters stated, “Many of us hoped that when right-wing business banker Marshall Tuck was ignominiously forced to step down as the ‘CEO’ of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS), that we might have heard the last of Tuck altogether.”

Most recently, Tuck worked as an Educator-in-Residence at the New Teacher Center (NTC), a nonprofit organization working with school districts. It is notable that the Gates foundation has granted this Santa Cruz based organization a total of $18,305,252 since 2009.

Tuck’s Claims of Proven Leadership Success Are Baseless

At Green Dot he worked in finance and operations. It is unlikely that he had much impact on pedagogy. It is unreasonable to either credit or blame him for testing results. In addition, it is a well-known fact that standardized testing results do not measure teaching or school quality.

However, if one uses testing outcomes at Green Dot to bolster claims of proven leadership, then that data becomes relevant. When an LA Times report about charter schools says, “The lowest-performing, based on test scores, is the large Green Dot chain …,” bragging seems more like lying.

The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools suffered many failures during Tuck’s leadership. Teachers and parents revolted against what they called a top-down autocratic leadership after originally voting to join the Partnership.

The Sacramento Bee reported,

“… the Partnership also was marked at times by conflict with the local teachers’ union over recession-driven layoffs and tensions with teachers at the schools who felt their input was not being considered. Teachers passed a vote of no confidence at nine of the schools at the end of the first year, leading to independent mediation.”

The Bee gave voice to several teachers in the report.

‘“As teachers and parents and students, we just wanted to have an agency for what we thought would benefit our school community and benefit learning,’ Baranwal said. ‘And time and time again, they would come in and make the decision.’

‘“It all just came back down to test scores,’ Baranwal said. ‘It’s not allowing space for people to be looked at holistically. Teachers are not just a test score, students are not just a test score.’

“Gillian Russom, a high school history and geography teacher whose campus ultimately spun off from the Partnership, echoed those concerns: ‘Again and again, we felt that he decided what he wanted to do and pushed it through in a very managerial style,’ she said.”

The Bee article also noted that test scores were not so good:

“While Partnership campuses have improved by an average of almost 72 points on the state’s 1,000-point Academic Performance Index, …, the district as a whole rose almost as much during the same period.”

“That same year, the majority of Partnership campuses performed below average compared with California schools with a similar student demographic.”

Why – with all the extra resources the Partnership was given and their focus on testing – did schools test so poorly? The Partnership’s tax records reveal more than $9,000,000 a year in philanthropic donations to less than 20 schools. Additionally, the Wasserman foundation was providing many free services.

Tucks embrace of Teach for America (TFA) harmed the academic program. TFA teachers are youthful college graduates with no education training or experience outside of a five-week summer institute. A 2015 announcement from TFA shows that they were supplying more than 150 teachers to the Partnership.

The Partnership has less than 15,000 of LA Unified School District’s 700,000 students. Assuming that teachers average 20 students each, the Partnership would have about 750 teachers. That means that more than 20% of the teachers in the Partnership were untrained TFA candidates.

Tuck Opposes Workplace Protection for Teachers

John Fensterwald reporting on a Torlakson versus Tuck debate for Ed Source wrote:

“As he has done throughout his campaign, Tuck condemned Torlakson’s appeal of a Superior Court judge’s ruling in Vergara v. the State of California, overturning laws creating tenure in two years, governing dismissals and requiring layoffs by seniority.”

Tenure is defined as “status granted to an employee, usually after a probationary period, indicating that the position or employment is permanent.” Tenure insures K-12 teachers certain rights such as seniority protection and due process. It protects teachers from unjust attacks by powerful community members. It does not preclude firing for cause. I have witnesses several tenured teachers being fired for relatively benign reasons.

Since Socrates time, teachers have always been vulnerable to unjust social attacks.

When Tuck says he had to lay off more effective teachers than ones with seniority, I wonder how he measured that? Teaching is very difficult to evaluate. The seniority system works well; it is not perfect but it stops the firing of more expensive older teachers and diminishes favoritism. Which are both common problems at educational institutions.

Talk to any experienced teacher and they will tell you how much better at teaching they were after ten years than they were after five. Experience combined with training is the only certain path forward.

Assembly Women Shirly Weber of San Diego authored a bill (AB 1220) that would extend the teacher probationary period to three years and end seniority rights. Tuck told the ACSA, “It was disappointing that last-minute politicking was able to stall those efforts; that my opponent in this race was a primary obstacle to AB 1220’s passage, ….” (emphasis added)

Assemblyman Tony Thurmond offered a counter bill (AB 1164) that also extended the probationary period to three years but did not end seniority rights.

Thurmond’s bill also reinvigorates the peer review and evaluation or PAR process. The legislative analyst noted research showing, “PAR is a rigorous alternative to traditional forms of teacher evaluation and development, with research showing that peer review is far superior to principals’ evaluations in terms of rigor and comprehensiveness.”

Both Thurmond and Tuck agree that we have a teacher shortage in California. It does not make much sense – at least at present – to make the profession less attractive by removing legal protections.

Some Background on Tony Thurmond

Unlike his opponent, Thurmond could never be accused of “being born on third-base and thinking he hit a triple.” His mother was an immigrant from Panama. He was born at Fort Ord in Monterey, California, where his father, a native of Detroit, was training for Viet Nam service. Tony’s father abandoned the family of four children and it was not until Tony was 39 years-old that he saw his father again.

The family moved with their mother to San Jose, California where she was employed as a teacher. Tragedy soon struck when the six years-old Tony’s mother succumbed to cancer. He and a brother moved to Philadelphia where they were raised by a cousin.

Tony went to Temple University where he earned a BA in psychology and became the student body president.

He did his graduate work at Bryn Maw College (Bryn Mawr, PA) receiving a dual Masters Degrees in Law and Social Policy and Social Work.

Tony returned to the Bay Area with his wife Kristen in 1998. He soon had two daughters, Maya and Jayden.

For the 20 years preceding his election to the California State Assembly, Thurmond served in various positions at non-profit social service agencies.

His elective offices held are:

  • 2005-2008 Served on the Richmond City Council.
  • 2008-2012 Member of West Contra County School Board.
  • 2014-present Member of the California State Assembly

Conclusion

This is not the first time the ACSA has embraced billionaire education “reform.” In 2014, they refused to endorse Tom Torlakson over Marshall Tuck for Superintendent. On the ACSA webpage, teacher-basher, Katie Haycock’s Edtrust is championed as a partner. Now, this endorsement shows the ACSA to be a willing pawn in the DPE movement.

It is time for school administrators who believe in public education to act with good conscious and resign from the ACSA.

The Mind Trust Attack of Public Education is Led by Democrats

4 Jan

The Mind Trust is the proto-type urban school privatizing design. Working locally, it uses a combination of national money and local money to control teacher professional development, create political hegemony and accelerate charter school growth. The destroy public education (DPE) movement has identified The Mind Trust as a model for the nation.

A Little History

In 1999, Bart Peterson became the first Democrat to win the Indianapolis mayor’s race since 1967. Peterson campaigned on the promise to bring charter schools to Indianapolis. He claimed, “We are simply in an age where cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, 1950s style education just doesn’t work for a lot of kids. The evidence is the dropout rate. The evidence is the number of at-risk kids who are failing at school.”

The new mayor joined with Republican state senator Teresa Lubbers to finally achieve her almost decade long effort of passing a charter school law in Indiana. In the new charter school law, Lubbers provided for the mayor of Indianapolis to be a charter school authorizer. Then Democratic governor, Frank O’Bannon, signed the legislation into law.

During his first run for office, Peterson invited David Harris a 27-year old lawyer with no education background to be his education guy. Harris became the director of the mayor’s new charter school office. By the 2006-2007 school year, the Peterson administration had authorized 16 charter schools.

In the summer of 2007 David Skinner reported for Education Next,

“Peterson himself says, “I’m not interested in striking ideological notes,” but he has certainly struck a chord with education thinkers like Andy Rotherham, former education adviser to President Clinton and co-founder of Education Sector in Washington, D.C. Rotherham says Peterson’s example proves that school choice is perfectly compatible with the philosophy of the left.”

And:

“Andy Rotherham says when he heard the mayor’s office had been granted chartering authority, he wanted in. Then a policy analyst at the Progressive Policy Institute, he believed Indianapolis could be a “proof point,” demonstrating that the sky wouldn’t fall if mayors began authorizing charter schools.”

A brief description of the Progressive Policy Institute from Source Watch says,

“The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) was established in 1989 “and after the 1992 election gained notoriety as ‘Bill Clinton‘s idea mill.'” and a proponent of the Third Way. PPI is the think tank of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), founded in 1985 by PPI’s President, Will Marshall, and counts among its past chairs former President Bill Clinton, Congressman Richard Gephardt, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman.”

These are the political theorists that gave us the “end of welfare as you know it,” the end of the Glass-Steagall banking regulations and the privatization of public schools.

By 2006, Peterson and Harris decided to start a non-profit organization to accelerate their charter school plans. David Harris left the Peterson administration and became a co-founder with Mayor Peterson of The Mind Trust.

The Money Came Flowing

Lately, The Mind Trust does not mention its funders, but in 2010 they almost gleefully shared the information. The Wayback Machine allows a peek at the December 2010 message about contributors:

“The Mind Trust is very grateful to The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, which provided critical start-up funding for the organization and a subsequent grant to pay for core operational expenses through 2010. The Mind Trust would also like to recognize the following funders for their generous support of our programs and operations. Through 2010, they have contributed mightily to the $10,967,356 raised since our inception, and most importantly, their contributions to children are incalculable and stand as testament to the importance of the mission we are all undertaking together.”

They also listed their contributors from 2006 to 2010.

  • The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation
  • Lilly Endowment
  • The Cummins Foundation
  • The Challenge Foundation
  • Lumina Foundation for Education
  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • The Joyce Foundation
  • Ann M. and Chris Stack
  • Ruth Lilly Philanthropic Foundation
  • The Indianapolis Foundation, an affiliate of the Central Indiana Community Foundation
  • The Lacy Foundation/LDI, Ltd.
  • Bowen Engineering Corporation
  • Carnegie Corporation of New York
  • The David and Anne Knall Family
  • Efroymson Family Fund, a CICF Fund
  • Rollin Dick
  • The Two Oaks Fund of the Indianapolis Foundation
  • The W. C. Griffith Foundation
  • The Ackerman Foundation
  • Eli Lilly and Company Foundation
  • Michael L. Smith and Susan L. Smith Family Fund
  • The Ayres Foundation
  • Blackwell Williams Fund, a fund of the Indianapolis Foundation
  • Education Reform Now
  • John and Sarah Lechleiter
  • Myrta J. Pulliam Charitable Trust
  • Arthur Jordan Foundation
  • Moore Foundation
  • Indianapolis Monumental Marathon
  • City of Indianapolis, Community Crime Prevention Program

Their impressive board of directors in 2010 was a virtual who’s who of Indianapolis elites.

The Mind Trust Board of Directors in 2010

Bart Peterson Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications, Eli Lilly and Company, and Former Mayor, City of Indianapolis (Chair)
Jean Blackwell Executive Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, Cummins Inc. and CEO of the Cummins Foundation
Alecia DeCoudreaux Vice President and General Counsel, Lilly USA
Mark Miles President and CEO, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership
Ann Murtlow President and CEO, Indianapolis Power and Light
Jane Pauley Former Anchor, NBC’s TODAY and Founding Co-Host, Dateline NBC
Beverley Pitts President, University of Indianapolis
Joyce Rogers Vice President for Development, Ivy Tech Community College
Andrew Rotherham Co-Founder and Co-Director, Education Sector
Ariela Rozman CEO, The New Teacher Project
David Shane President and CEO, LDI, Ltd., LLC
Bill Shrewsberry President and CEO, Shrewsberry and Associates
Don Stinson Superintendent, MSD of Decatur Township
Eugene White Superintendent, Indianapolis Public Schools

It is noteworthy that no school teachers or parent organization leaders are on this board which is dominated by corporate leaders and politicians. It is possible that one of the four school organization chief administrators taught at one time during their career but no one with recent classroom experience is represented.

By 2007, David Harris was being recognized as a rising star in the DPE movement. The Wayback Machine made available this 2007 news release by the NewSchools Venture Fund:

“The Aspen Institute and NewSchools Venture Fund today launched the Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellowship Program with the announcement of its inaugural class of Fellows from across the country. The program is designed to recognize and support a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders prepared to address the crucial challenge of transforming public education.”

David Harris was included in that list of education entrepreneurial leaders along with:

  • Russlynn Ali, Vice President, The Education Trust, Executive Director, The Education Trust – West
  • Chris Barbic, Founder & Head of Schools, YES Prep Public Schools
  • Richard Barth, CEO, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)
  • Michael Bennet, Superintendent, Denver Public Schools
  • Larry Berger, CEO, Wireless Generation
  • Phoebe Boyer, Executive Director, Tiger Foundation
  • Susan Colby, Partner & Head of San Francisco Office, The Bridgespan Group
  • Gretchen Crosby-Sims, Education Program Manager, Joyce Foundation
  • John Deasy, CEO, Prince George’s County Public Schools
  • Lauren Dutton, Formerly of City Year, Edison Schools and NewSchools Venture Fund
  • James Forman, Jr., Associate Professor of Law, Georgetown University, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, Maya Angelou Public Charter School
  • David Harris, President & CEO, The Mind Trust
  • Kaya Henderson, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships, The New Teacher Project
  • Hosanna Mahaley Johnson, President, Atlanta Local Education Fund, Former Executive Officer for the Office of New Schools, Chicago Public Schools
  • Kristen Kane, COO, New York City Department of Education
  • Dan Katzir, Managing Director, The Broad Foundation
  • Janet Murguía, President & CEO, National Council of La Raza
  • Jeremy Nowak, President, The Reinvestment Fund
  • Tony Recasner, CEO, Middle School Advocates, Head of School, New Orleans Charter Middle School, Head of School, Samuel J. Green Charter School
  • Ref Rodriguez, Founder & Co-CEO, Partnerships to Uplift Communities
  • Jon Schnur, CEO & Co-Founder, New Leaders for New Schools
  • Jim Shelton, Program Director, Education Division, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Elisa Villaneuva Beard, COO, Teach For America
  • Joanne Weiss, Partner & COO, NewSchools Venture Fund

Now that is a motley crew of education “deformers.”

Lately the money has really been flowing. Five principals at The Mind Trust are “earning” more than $150,000 per year and David Harris is making double that. It might not be Eva Moskowitz money but in Indianapolis or anywhere else it is pretty good.

The big foundations are continuing to send big money:

Lilly Endowment

2014 Mind Trust $4,929,000

2015 Mind Trust $18,000

2016 Mind Trust $7,170,000

Total $12, 117,000

{Big Pharma Money}

Gates Foundation

The Mind Trust

Oct. 2012 – $1,420,000

Aug. 2011 $539,334

Total $1,959,334

{Microsoft Money}

 

Walton Family Foundation

2013 Mind Trust $23,000

2014 Mind Trust $650,000

2015 Mind Trust $1,200,000

Total $1,873,000

{Walmart Money}

 

Arnold Fund

The Mind Trust $11,075,000

{Enron Money}

The large contributions have allowed The Mind Trust to accelerate spending. The chart below details income and spending reported on the 2014, 2015 and 2016 tax forms, the last years for which data is available.

Mind Trust SpendingData taken for tax form 990 years 2014, 2015, and 2016

The Work of Privatizing Public Education

December 2016 the not so Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) published a lengthy piece lauding privatization and choice in public schools. They held Indianapolis up as being a leader in developing 21st century schools and The Mind Trust as the catalyst. The paper stated:

“A key reason is The Mind Trust, founded in 2006 by Mayor Peterson and David Harris as a kind of venture capital outfit for the charter sector, to raise money and recruit talent. The Mind Trust convinced Teach For America (TFA), The New Teacher Project (now TNTP), and Stand for Children to come to Indianapolis, in part by raising money for them. Since then TFA has brought in more than 500 teachers and 39 school leaders (the latter through its Indianapolis Principal Fellowship); TNTP’s Indianapolis Teaching Fellows Program has trained 498 teachers; and Stand for Children has worked to engage the community, to educate parents about school reform, and to spearhead fundraising for school board candidates. The Mind Trust has also raised millions of dollars and offered start-up space, grants, and other help to eight nonprofit organizations and 17 new schools, with more to come.”

The PPI claims that bringing in 500 teachers who commit for just two years and have only five weeks of teacher training improves education. This is supposedly better than bringing in experienced teachers or newly minted teachers who are committed to a career in education and have between one and two years of teacher training at a university.

They are also saying that having Stand for Children invade Indianapolis with their dark money and undermine local democratic processes is desirable.

Instead of raising millions of dollars to improve public schools, The Mind Trust is using that money in a way that undermines the education of two-thirds of the students in Indianapolis who attend those public schools.

PPI does admit that not everyone in Indianapolis likes what The Mind Trust is doing. I recently wrote about three scholars who are raising awareness of the resulting damage to Indianapolis schools. PPI tries to minimize their effect stating,

“There are a few headwinds, however. The local branch of the NAACP has long been anti-charter. Though it doesn’t have much of a following, its leaders, plus one outgoing school board member who opposes the innovation network and two local professors, staged a series of forums this fall, called ‘Rise Up Indy Against The Mind Trust.’

In an opinion piece for Campbell Browns 74-million, David Harris stated,

“Consider Ohio, which has had a charter school law on the books for nearly two decades. For years, communities there lacked long-term strategies to build strong charter schools and also lacked local agents pushing for change. As a result, charters in the Buckeye State have been mostly a disappointment, with gains among charter students lagging peers in traditional public schools.”

Doug Martin is an expert on the corporate and theocratic assault against public education. He is also the author of Hoosier School Heist, the book which exposes the corruption, scandals, and campaign financing behind so-called school reform in Indiana and elsewhere. In a post carried on Professor Jim Horn’s Schools Matters Blog, Martin suggests the motivation for Harris’s opinion piece. He notes,

“Besides having the Mind Trust’s David Harris and Earl Martin Phalen and corporate school grandfather Howard Fuller (a BAEO/Edison connected operative who played a role in school privatization in Indiana and Philly) as board members, the Mind Trust spin-off Education Cities is being funded by well-known school privatization billionaire organizations like the Walton Foundation, the Dell Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Kauffman Foundation, and the foundation started by Eli Broad, the Broad Foundation.”

In other words, Harris is ready to expand his empire and he is explaining why Cincinnati and other cities need what he is selling.

Conclusions

Lubienski and Lubienski conducted a large scale research of education data and came to the surprising conclusion that public schools outperform privatized schools. They also saw that most of the “studies” that claimed otherwise were paid for by advocates and not peer reviewed. The claims of success by The Mind Trust seem to fit this description like print to wood block.

 

A Horror Story by Steven Singer the Gadfly

23 Dec

Steven shares a hoary story that has become a national crisis. Unlike a Steven King novel, this book, Gadfly on the Wall, is not a fantasy. It is impossible to overstate the damage being done to America and its children by the greedy, the self-centered and the stupid. They are set on destroying free universal public education in America.

Billionaires be wary, Steven says he is ready to kick your sorry asses.

Many people were disheartened when Donald Trump became president and installed an evangelical who despises public schools as Secretary of Education. Her agenda seems to be ending public education and creating a system of government financed Christian schools. Here, I really love Steven’s attitude. He says,

“We lived through administrations that wanted to destroy us and actually knew how to do it! We can take Tiny Hands, the Bankruptcy King any day! This is a guy who couldn’t make a profit running casinos – a business where the house always wins! You expect us to cower in fear that he’s going to take away our schools. Son, we’ve fought better than you!”

I first met the author of The Gadfly on the Wall at Chicago’s Drake Hotel almost three years ago. Educators, parents and others were arriving for the National Public Education (NPE) conference. The Drake’s lobby waiting area is at the top of a short flight of stairs next to the room where hi-tea has been served since the 19th century. It was here that I met Karen Wolfe from LA, Larry Profit from Tennessee, Steven Singer from Pennsylvania and many others.

My Singer Collage

Steven Singer Collage by T. Ultican

That evening the tall Anthony Cody was at the top of the stairs greeting new arrivals; many of whom gathered in the elegantly appointed waiting area. It was a conducive atmosphere for my first conversation with a humble bespectacled somewhat chubby Steven. I had been reading Steven’s new blog and really liked it. Later, I made some notes about the evening’s encounters intending of write about it when time permitted. Steven beat me to it. In the morning our arrival scene was covered by a wonderful post in his “Gadfly on the Wall Blog.”

I have learned that Steven is disciplined, efficient and a very hard worker. He is emblematic of the teacher blogger. His opinions are sometimes hyperbolic but when he states a fact it is well sourced and the source is readily available. I have often used sources Steven provided when doing my own writing.

Unlike education journalism in commercial and non-profit media, teacher bloggers show more integrity because their peers in the profession demand it. Also, billionaires are not underwriting their blogs. Teachers are providing unvarnished truths about the attack on public education. The Gadfly on the Wall is a compilation of three years of blogs calling out the perpetrators of the attacks on public schools for their false narratives about failing public schools, their often-racist agendas, and their manipulation of data used to justify charter schools, testing and vouchers.

I met Steven again at NPE2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was the same humble likable guy but much busier. I had limited opportunity to talk with him, because he had become a central figure in the Badass Teachers (BATs) Association and he was in demand.

Teachers and their relationships with students are critical. Phony “personalized learning” sold by technology companies and “no excuses” charter schools run by amateur educators are not good enough. Heart and commitment are required. In the article called “Killer in My Classroom,” Steven tells the story of an 8th grader, Tyrell:

“Almost always calm and in control. He was well above the others academically. When one of the others lost his cool, Tyrell would help talk them down.”

Tyrell was moved out of Singer’s remedial classroom and back to regular classes. In his last conversation with Tyrell, Steven tried to convince him that he had better options than “making a stack on the street.”

Steven still wonders if he could have made a difference for Tyrell if given more time, but he will never know. He also has no way of knowing how many children he may have saved. The Tyrell saga still haunts Singer. He shares,

“And Tyrell? About a year later, I read about him in the newspaper.

“Police think it was a drug related hit. Tyrell was in the backseat. He put his gun to the driver’s head and pulled the trigger.

“Bam.

“No more future for either of them.

“Except on restless nights when Tyrell’s face keeps coming back to me.”

School Choice

The Gadfly on the Wall is organized into five sections: Introduction; Racism and Prejudice; School Choice; Testing; and Teaching. I particularly recommend the article from School Choice, “Top 10 Reasons School Choice is No Choice.” Reason number 10 identifies the root problem. Singer does not mince his words:

“10) School choice is not supported by grass roots movement. It is supported by billionaires.

“The proponents of school choice will tell you that they are only doing the will of the people. This is what parents want, they say. Baloney. … They want to steal the public system and replace it with a private one. They don’t care about your child. They just want to steal the hundreds of billions of tax dollars we pay to educate our children. This is not philanthropy. It is a business transaction meant to screw you and your child out of your rights.”

The Brown versus the Board of education decision spurred “choice.” Singer describes the uncanny resemblance charter schools have to the mid-1950’s scheme hatched by Georgia’s then Governor, Herman Talmage. He said, “We can maintain separate schools regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court by reverting to a private system, subsidizing the child rather than the political subdivision.”

The Madrasa schools of the middle east are often cited as fomenting terrorism by indoctrinating students. In his book, Frames of Mind, Howard Gardner also criticized these schools for employing – almost exclusively – rote memorization, which he said circumscribed creativity.

The modern voucher school movement is making tax money available to Christian oriented school systems that are using a similar pedagogical approach to the Madrasa schools.

This December, Rebecca Klein wrote an article in the Huffington Post, “Voucher Schools Championed By Betsy DeVos Can Teach Whatever They Want. Turns Out They Teach Lies.” She reported, “In Indiana, about 4,240 students received over $16 million in scholarships to attend schools that use the Abeka or Bob Jones curriculum, according to 2016-2017 figures from the Indiana Department of Education.”

Singer writing about the same issue, “These books include the following gobsmackers:” He lists seven gobsmakers. Here is number seven:

“7. Brown v. Board of Education is described as social activism by the Supreme Court: ‘While the end was a noble one – ending discrimination in schools – the means were troublesome … liberals were not willing to wait for a political solution.’

“Teacher’s Resource Guide to Current Events for Christian Schools, 1998-1999 (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1998), p. 34”

Steven goes on to say of school choice,

“The bottom line is this – voters don’t want school choice. It does nothing to better children’s educations. It is a product of segregation and racism, and even in its modern guise it continues to foster segregation and racism.”

Testing

Singer makes the argument that when comparing test scores from the US to other countries we are “comparing apples to pears.” The December 12 Washington Post reported on the latest dismal international testing results in reading by US fourth graders. A few days later, Diane Ravitch posted an analysis of these scores by David Berliner. Score on the paper and pencil version of PIRLS 2016:

  • USA 549
  • Singapore 576
  • Hong Kong 569
  • Finland 566

Berliner looks at some demographic information and says “First, we can note that Asian Americans scored 591. That is, our Asians beat the hell out of Asian Asians!” Some more US data shared by Berliner:

  • White Kids (50% of our students) – 571
  • Upper Middle-Class Schools with 10% to 24 % Free and Reduced lunch – 592
  • Schools with 25% to 50% Free and Reduced Lunch – 566

Berliner draws the conclusion, “It’s our social and economic systems, not our schools, that cause lower scores than is desired by our nation.”

Singer asserts,

“By any fair measure, America’s public education system is simply stunning. But the media perpetuates the myth that we’re failing.”

The post called “Standardized Tests Have Always Been About Keeping People in Their Place” was an eye opener for me when I first read it. I have often referred to Singer’s sources showing eugenics is the genesis of standardized testing.

Carl Brigham was one of the original pseudo-scientists claiming that their intelligence tests proved that white people possessed superior intelligence to non-whites. Singer shared this gobsmaking information:

“Brigham created a civilian test of intelligence that could be used to sort and rank students …. He called it the Scholastic Aptitude Test or S.A.T.

“Yes, That SAT.”

Page after page, Steven’s book takes on the forces working to control curriculum, and teacher professional development. His points are powerful.

Racism and Prejudice

This section begins with the article “I Am Racist and (If You’re White) You Probably Are, Too.” Other than a short introductory piece, this is how the book begins. I think that is unfortunate.

I am a white guy who grew up in Idaho, one of the whitest places on the planet. I remember my Asian stepdaughter looking for another Asian face in a busy mall in Boise and it was some time before she saw one. I was seventeen before I talked to a black person, because I had never met one. However, my teenage heart was thrilled by Martin Luther King and his fight for justice.

Racist is a word and it has a dictionary definition. Miriam Webster says, racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” and Dictionary.com says a racist is “a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that one’s own racial group is superior or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.”

I have heard the claim that minority peoples in America cannot be racist because they lack the financial and political power to oppress the oppressors. However, the word racist does not mean oppressor and to use the term for that meaning invites miscommunication. Racism is a sensitive subject and if miscommunication alienates people, they will not apprehend your message.

I am convinced that Steven’s central point is correct, but the implication of the opening article is if you are white; you are a racist. That cannot be true. Racism is a human problem akin to tribalism and is a worldwide plague for which white people hold no dominion.

The rhetoric about failed public schools normally refers to schools in minority communities. Based on years of ingrained racial prejudice and at best benign neglect, schools for “those people’s children” were not properly funded.

For example, a parent from New Orleans told me about sitting in middle school classrooms with 55 students and no air conditioning. Plus, the fan could only be run 10-minutes each hour. She said that students would watch the clock like a hawk for their 10-minutes. So, when charter schools came to New Orleans, many black parents were enthusiastic about someone finally promising to spend money on schools in their neighborhoods.

In this section, Steven makes many important points. He writes, “If you are not careful, being a public school teacher can be an act of colonization.” For the past more than a decade, I taught in a high school dominated by Mexicans. I was often the only white guy in class. As my experience grew, I became more and more cognizant of how important it was that instead of implementing my culture, I assimilated and venerated their culture.

I was particularly moved by Singer’s treatment of educating refugees. He noted,

“Some may shudder or sneer at the prospect of giving shelter to people in need, that is the reality in our public schools. In the lives of many, many children we provide the only stability, the only safety, the only love they get all day.”

He concluded the article on refugees:

“So if we’re considering letting in more refugees, don’t worry about me. Send them all my way. I’ll take all you’ve got. That’s what public schools do.”

I have tried to give a flavor of this wonderful book along with some of my own views. The bottom line is that Gadfly on the Wall is entertaining, informative and provocative. Thank you, Steven.

Rethink and Rollback the Expansion of AP and IB

19 Oct

What if the education reform ideology is wrong? What if the ideology of reform was based on an incorrect understanding of developmentally appropriate pedagogy? In a 2006 hearing before the senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, Assistant Secretary of Education, Henry Johnson testified, “We believe that the Advanced Placement program offers a proven, scalable approach to raising expectations and increasing rigor in America’s high schools, particularly those with high concentrations of low-income students that typically do not offer such curricula.” What if that belief is ill-founded?

I taught AP physics and what a treat that was for me. I always had the highest performing students in the high school. This year both the salutatorian and the valedictorian were in my class. It was way more interesting than teaching a concepts oriented class in physics designed for the general student. Of course, I enjoyed teaching AP Physics to the school’s elite students, however, I perceived a dark side. The more I pondered it, the more I concluded that the AP and IB programs were developmentally inappropriate.

Physics Lab 2

Mar Vista High School – Picture by Thomas Ultican

IB stands for international baccalaureate. People who worked in embassies or other out of country assignments put their children in international schools. When they move from one country to the next, the school curriculum tended to be significantly different. IB developed to standardize curriculum from one country to the next. The IB program is unnecessary in America. Local communities who pay for schools deserve input into the curriculum and locally developed curriculum vetted by education leaders at local universities is more meaningful to the community.

AP stands for advance placement. It is a product of College Board, the testing giant that produces the SAT tests. College Board is organized as a “non-profit” but it has hundreds of employees making six and seven figure incomes. AP is being heavily promoted by technology companies, politicians and other corporations. There is a push to make AP the leader in curricular development and teacher training. AP employs the teach to the test strategy of pedagogy.

The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) is now putting pressure towards the expansion of AP courses in high schools across the nation. A teacher in the Sweetwater Union High School District wrote me this week saying teachers are under heavy pressure to participate in NMSI/AP sponsored training and AP class promotion.

Both AP and IB, allow students to earn college credits that are accepted by most universities. But is it developmentally appropriate? Are we harming students?

“Sicker Not Smarter”

Paraphrasing an observation about American public education students between world war II and the publishing of “A Nation at Risk” in 1983:

“They were not serious about learning. They went to dances, participated in sports and performed in plays. They hung out with friends and listened to rock music. They seldom studied and were consistently average performers when compared with foreign students. They graduated from high school and three months latter a miracle occurred; they became the top college students in the world.”

Throughout the history of American education there has been a constant healthy debate about pedagogy. It would be difficult to find any professional educator that does not believe education in public schools can be improved. However, education reform that is not developmentally appropriate is many times worse than the derided status quo.

The 1983 polemic “A Nation at Risk” marks a transition from education guided by professional educators to education guided by powerful business leaders, politicians and famous scientists. Convinced that education in America was failing, their solution was education standards, testing and competition. The famous education writer from Harvard University, Alfie Kohn characterized modern education reform in his 2001 book, The Schools Our Children Deserve: “The dominant philosophy of fixing schools consists of saying, in effect, that ‘what we’re doing is OK, we just need to do it harder, longer, stronger, louder, meaner, and we’ll have a better country.’” (page 16)

Two years ago, Vicki Abeles published her book Beyond Measure, Rescuing an Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation. She opened chapter 1, “Sicker, Not Smarter” by quoting Stuart Slavin, a Saint Louis University School of Medicine professor and pediatrician. He shared,

“My personal feeling is that we are conducting an enormous and unprecedented social experiment on an entire generation of American children, and the evidence of a negative impact on adolescent mental health is overwhelming. … It is even more profoundly disturbing when one considers that there is absolutely no evidence that this educational approach actually leads to better educational outcomes.” (page 15)

Abeles quoted Donna Jackson Nakazawa, “There’s a perception that constant high demands will make kids stronger says Nakazawa, ‘“but biologically that is not the case; it’s actually breaking down the brain rather than creating resilience.”’ (page 31) Abeles continued:

“We think of the years from zero to three as the critical period for brain development, but Temple University neuroscientist Laurence Steinberg underscores that adolescence is another one. ‘[T]he brain’s malleability makes adolescence a period of tremendous opportunity – and great risk,’ writes Steinberg. ‘If we expose our young people to positive, supportive environments, they flourish. But if the environments are toxic, they will suffer in powerful and enduring ways.’” (page 36)

Writing for the New York Times Magazine this month Benoit Denizet-Lewis addressed the deteriorating mental health manifesting among America’s teens. She reported,

“… Suniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University who has studied distress and resilience in both well-off and disadvantaged teenagers, has found that privileged youths are among the most emotionally distressed young people in America. ‘These kids are incredibly anxious and perfectionistic,’ she says, but there’s ‘contempt and scorn for the idea that kids who have it all might be hurting.’

“For many of these young people, the biggest single stressor is that they “never get to the point where they can say, ‘I’ve done enough, and now I can stop,’ Luthar says. ‘There’s always one more activity, one more A.P. class, one more thing to do in order to get into a top college. Kids have a sense that they’re not measuring up. The pressure is relentless and getting worse.”’

AP Like Common Core is not Age Appropriate

 I taught my first AP physics class in 2004, my first year at Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach, California. All my AP students were taking multiple AP classes and four of them were taking five. I was shocked! They were high school kids not college kids but were allowed – no encouraged – to take a heavier academic load than most college students take.

Jay Mathews of the Washington Post creates an annual ranking of America’s high schools. He explained the ranking criteria with this year’s rankings:

“America’s Most Challenging High Schools ranks schools through an index formula that’s a simple ratio: the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a school each year, divided by the number of seniors who graduated that year. A ratio of 1.000 means the school had as many tests as graduates.”

Today, we actually have AP classes for ninth graders and non-profit organizations pressuring public and charter schools to accelerate moving college education into high school. Like the inappropriate efforts to make kindergarten the new first grade, and move advanced mathematics into 7th grade, college classes in high school are not developmentally appropriate.

History Teaches that Breaking the AP Hold in America Will Not be Easy

 By the 1980’s, an education philosophy popular among the titans of industry started dominating. This ideology posits that standards, high expectation, increased rigor and accountability are the keys to improving k-12 education. In 1994, the CEO of IBM, Louis Gerstner wrote in his book Reinventing Education:

“Schools must meet the test any high-performance organization must meet: results. And results are not achieved by bureaucratic regulation. They are achieved by meeting customer requirements by rewards for success and penalties for failure. Market discipline is the key, the ultimate form of accountability.”

Gerstner started and led a non-profit called Achieve Inc. Achieve wrote and holds the copyright for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These standards have wide financial and political support; however, they are so poorly written, that California re-wrote their version of the NGSS.

In 2010, Bill Gates, who also became an advocate of standards and testing, instigated the writing of the Common Core State Standards. Twenty-one people working in secret wrote the standards. Nineteen of the twenty-one writers came from the testing industry including fifteen from College Board and ACT.

I am not saying there is an evil conspiracy here. I believe that people like Peter O’Donnell the wealthy businessman and political activist from Dallas, Texas, who poured personal wealth into promoting AP are totally sincere in their desire to improve the plight of education in America. I have the same view of Bill Gates and Louis Gerstner. The problem is they have great financial and political power, unfortunately, they do not know what they don’t know about human development and good pedagogy.

Today, colleges throughout the nation are giving college credit to incoming students for successfully completing AP courses. In addition, they are giving extra weight towards admissions to applicants with multiple AP courses on their transcripts. This system is well established and ubiquitous. Chinese history teaches how difficult it is to mitigate this kind of culture.

Two years in a row, representatives from the Chinese ministry of education came to observe classes at Mar Vista High School. They even contracted with one of our math teachers, Mark James, to go to China and teach a model class. In China, there is general agreement that their high-pressure test centric education needs reforming. It is harming the youth.

In Young Zhao’s book Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon there is a chapter titled “The Witch That Cannot Be Killed.” In it he wrote:

‘“Thus, more than a decade’s history of prohibition orders from educational departments has been a history of ineffective orders,’ notes a report in China Weekly after reviewing numerous attempts to curtail the power of testing in Chinese Education. How is it possible that in such a tightly controlled, authoritarian society, the omnipotent government has been unable to kill the witch of testing?” (page 151)

Professor Zhao’s answer to his own question is a warning for us. If we ever recognize the wrong educational path we have taken, changing course will be difficult. Zhao explained:

“In the effort to lessen academic burden and reduce testing, Chinese parents, students, teachers, and schools are all playing the prisoner’s dilemma game. Knowing or assuming that others will continue to do more homework, seek private tutoring, and prepare for tests, very few parents, children, and schools would choose to voluntarily reduce the work load for fear of losing the game. Most schools, knowing that others will continue to use exams to select better students and gain an advantage, will choose to continue to use exams to admit students because the school’s reputation is on the line and will be judged by how well its students score in the future. Essentially the dilemma dictates that everyone must continue to behave in the same way. No one can afford to cut back first, for fear that the others won’t follow suit. Consequently, although new policies might bring a better education for all, no player in the education game is willing to take the risky first step.” (page 155/6)

There are many factors that would improve education and they are well know; smaller class sizes, integrated schools, well maintained modern facilities and teachers certificated in the subjects they teach are four such positive reforms. Surprisingly, increasing rigor and driving expectations down to younger students are counter-productive.

Kindergarteners should receive lessons such as don’t eat the clay and it’s not nice to pull hair. Academics are developmentally inappropriate and likely unhealthy for them. Teaching Newton’s laws of motion and principles of algebra in fourth grade will surely cause more harm than good. The nine-year-old brain is not ready for symbolic reasoning. And, teenagers are dealing with natural biological stress; they need a safe low stress environment for healthy development. Rigor and high stakes testing is the wrong recipe.

It is time to rethink AP and roll it back.

NMSI Pushes Bad Education Policies Based on Junk Science

12 Oct

Last Week, I got this message from a colleague in the Sweetwater Union High School District: “you doing ok, brother Ultican? I have a question for you.  In your tireless research and writing on education schemes and scams, what have you learned about NMSI?  They’re in our district now and I’ve got a bad feeling about the direction it’s taking.” In the words of Dr. Johnny Fever, “Sometimes paranoia is just good thinking.”

The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) was founded by a group of Dallas area lawyers and businessmen. Tom Luce is identified as the founder and Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil and present US Secretary of State, provided the financing.

An ExxonMobil web-page announces:

“ExxonMobil became a founding sponsor of the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) in 2007 with a $125 million commitment to the non-profit organization, which provides scalable and rigorous program solutions that empower school communities to prepare all students to succeed in college and the workforce.”

Some Background on the Founder

NMSI founder Tom Luce’s bio at the George W. Bush Presidential Center states:

Tom Luce

From the George W. Bush Presidential Center

“Tom Luce, Chief Executive Officer, was a founding partner of Hughes & Luce, LLP, a prominent Texas law firm. … He served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development during the George W. Bush administration ….”

“From 2007 to 2011, he was founding CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative, Inc. Additionally, Tom served on Dell, Inc.’s Board of Directors from 1991 until 2012. … He presently serves as the Chairman of the Board for the National Math and Science Initiative.”

Tom Luce is a lawyer not an educator but his fingerprints are all over some of the worst education policies in the history of our country. His bio at the George W. Bush Whitehouse archives says, “… Luce is perhaps best known for his role in 1984 as the chief of staff of the Texas Select Committee of Public Education, which produced one of the first major reform efforts among public schools.” The chairman of that committee was Ross Perot.

A former Texas Lieutenant Governor, Bill Hobby, wrote in 2010 about that 1984 education reform law:

 “Remarkably, most of the reforms initiated in House Bill 72 persist to this day. The teacher test was never repeated, but the statewide student tests are a hallmark of Texas education. They also served as the model for President George W. Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ federal legislation.”

Mark Twain said, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” For Ross Perot, the founder of Electronic Data Systems the problems in education looked like data problems. He and his Chief of Staff, Tom Luce, decided standardized testing and data analysis were the prescription for failing public schools. Unfortunately, standardized testing is totally useless for analyzing learning and public schools were not actually failing.

Tom Luce was also directly involved in implementing NCLB (a spectacular education reform failure) while serving at the US Department of Education.

A Fraudulent Paper from the National Academies Motivated the Formation of NMSI

RISING ABOVE THE GATHERING STORM” was published by the National Academies in 2005. The title of this paper echoes Winston Churchill’s The Gathering Storm which chronicled the lead up to World War II. The name like its predecessor “A Nation at Risk” indicates that the United States is in imminent danger of losing its superior economic and scientific lead in the world and education is the fundamental problem. Like “A Nation at Risk,” “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” is also a polemic that cannot stand up to scrutiny.

The late Gerald W. Bracey from Stanford University illuminated several false claims that were foundational to the papers arguments. He recited the Academies declaration, “’Last year more than 600,000 engineers graduated from institutions of higher education in China, … In India the figure was 350,000. In America, it was about 70,000.’”

Bracey continued,

“Naturally, given this lofty pedigree, the statistics then materialized in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune and on many Web sites. While Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman did not use these specific numbers in his 2005 bestseller, “The World Is Flat,” he did write that Asian universities currently produce eight times as many bachelor’s degrees in engineering as U.S. universities do.”

Bracey discussed the growing doubt about these numbers and cited credible peer reviewed research:

“After an exhaustive study, researchers at Duke University also pummeled the numbers. In a December 2005 analysis, ‘Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate,’ they reported that the United States annually produces 137,437 engineers with at least a bachelor’s degree while India produces 112,000 and China 351,537. That’s more U.S. degrees per million residents than in either other nation.”

This is an example of the kind of subterfuge that is being used to promote the unsupportable claim that education in America is not producing enough science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workers.

The impetus and money for writing “RISING ABOVE THE GATHERING STORM” came from the United States Senate:

“Senator Alexander indicated that the Energy Subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which he chairs, had been given the authority by the full committee’s chair, Senator Pete Domenici, to hold a series of hearings to identify specific steps that the federal government should take to ensure the preeminence of America’s science and technology enterprise. Senator Alexander asked the National Academies to provide assistance in this effort by selecting a committee of experts from the scientific and technical community to assess the current situation and, where appropriate, make recommendations.”

By 2006 that series of hearings seemingly led to President Bush proposing legislation to solve the “crisis” in STEM education. Senate Bill 2198, “Protecting America’s Competitive Edge” came before the senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee on March 6, 2006. Although, the PACE bill never became law, the record of this senate hearing chaired by Lamar Alexander is instructive. It is also where the birth of NMSI came to light.

Arden L. Bement, Jr., Director, National Science Foundation, (one of the academies) said during his testimony:

“As you are well aware, the National Science Foundation has been selected to play a major role in the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative. One of the cornerstones of our involvement is preparing the Nation’s scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematics workforce for the 21st century while improving the quality of math and science education in America’s schools.”

“When three quarters of American colleges find it necessary to offer courses in remedial mathematics and 22 percent of entering freshman take these courses, it is clear that our high schools are not doing the job they should be doing.”

Here a spokesman for the National Academies is revealing that they have a big government contract to fix education. They are not likely to say, “public schools don’t need fixing” and the comment about remedial courses for freshman is meritless. There has always been a substantial number of students needing remedial courses – see the 1892 committee of 10 report.

James B. Hunt, the former Governor of North Carolina testified,

“A recent report on 30 countries and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that of those 30 countries–you have probably heard these figures–the United States is 15th in reading, 18th in science, 24th in math. Of the G-8 countries, the eight countries, we are 7th in 10th grade mathematics.

“Now, those are the facts, folks.”

Governor, that was lame. Researchers around the world have been questioning the methodology employed by PISA and especially the value of their international rankings. For a good discussion of the useless nature of PISA comparisons see Yong Zhao’s Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? starting on page 167. Or take a peek at Noel Wilson’s paper Education Standards and the Problem of Error for a discussion of the absolute folly of standardized testing.

James B. Hunt Jr. also testified. He said, “It is a well-documented fact that the single most important element in a student’s academic success is that student’s teacher.”

That is just ignorance. Parents and their economic conditions are far more important.

Senator Edward Kennedy remarked,

“By 2009, 6 million jobs will go unfilled because our youth will not be qualified to hold them. To keep America competitive, we need more students with degrees in math, science, and critical-need foreign languages.”

That is at a minimum uninformed. Kennedy repeats the lack of STEM educated graduates misinformation. He is selling the big lie.

Lamar Alexander announced one of the day’s star witnesses,

“Peter O’Donnell is here, who is a member of the National Academy’s Committee that produced ‘The Gathering Storm,’ and his work in Dallas is one reason for the inclusion in ‘The Gathering Storm’ report of the advanced placement recommendations.”

Peter O’Donnell is a wealthy businessman from Dallas, Texas and a huge contributor to the University of Texas at Austin. He is described by the American Statesman:

“O’Donnell is something of a godfather in the state Republican Party, having chaired it for several years in the 1960s. He was a top adviser to Bill Clements during his successful 1978 campaign to become the state’s first GOP governor in more than 100 years, and he has contributed to many Republican candidates in Texas and across the nation.

Like most modern edu-philanthropists, he has no education experience or training. He testified about his foundation’s Advanced Placement Initiative which became NMSI:

“The Advanced Placement Incentive Program succeeds because of three fundamental concepts: the high standards of Advanced Placement, which is built on a strong curriculum, rigorous national exams, and measurable results; emphasis on excellent teacher training; and financial incentives for teachers and students. Incentives are key to the success of our program. They provide extra pay for extra work and are paid by private donors.”

He went on to describe the principles which were adopted by NMSI:

“These recommendations will provide public schools in the U.S. with outstanding math and science teachers on a scale equal to the size of the problem. The recommendations are based on six concepts:

  1. High standards;
  2. Measurable results;
  3. Integrated curriculum for math and science for grades 6-12;
  4. Quality teacher training that is based on content;
  5. Incentives to teachers and students based on academic results;
  6. Implementation vehicle in each State to manage the programs to ensure quality control and accountability.

There is general agreement that these six concepts will strengthen education, especially in math and science.”

In other words, NMSI calls for teacher merit pay, a hundred-year-old idea with a hundred years of failure to back it up. It employs top down control by using College Board to design curriculum and train educators. It calls for bribing students to study hard which most education theorists would agree is a way to undermine a student’s need to know and harms self-motivation.

NMSI has been moving into San Diego for a while. It is not just in the Sweetwater School District, in 2015 Serra High School of the San Diego Unified School District held an NMSI AP Incentive Awards Night. The announcement says, “Over $32,000 will be given out to 178 current students and graduates. Three students will be given $500 checks!”

Wealthy Texas conservatives say we should turn away from education professionals at Stanford or those at the California State University and the University of California systems. We should embrace the teach to the test education philosophy of College Board and bribe students to get them engaged. We should do this even though there is no independent evidence supporting NMSI’s claims of success.

I Will Let the Curmudgucator Conclude my Article

Three years ago, Peter Greene wrote about NMSI:

“While there may be similar-ish programs in districts across the country, the big dog in the AP bribery biz is the National Math and Science Initiative. NMSI is an organization that was launched “to address one of this nation’s greatest economic and intellectual threats – the declining number of students who are prepared to take rigorous college courses in math and science and are equipped for careers in those fields.” You may recognize that as a classic reformster talking point– low test scores are a threat to our national security– and in fact, the big launching funders of NMSI include Exxon, the Michael and Susan Dell foundation, and the Gates Foundation. Partners also include the US Department of Education and the College Board, because why not fund an advocacy group that is telling everyone that your product is really important. This isn’t philanthropy– it’s marketing.”

Headline Says Don’t Protect Worst Teachers

18 Aug

Another editorial in the San Diego Union attacks teachers and the California public education system. The author has a personal work history of harming California’s public schools by scheming to privatize them. The editorial was written by Rae Belisle. She is identified as a former member of California’s State Board of Education, but she is so much more than that.

Ms. Belise opened her attack,

“Competition for success in the 21st-century economy is increasingly tied to an educated workforce with strong science, technology, engineering and math skills.

“Parents, community and business leaders, and policy makers trying to keep and grow jobs in California should be shocked that in just a few short years California has won the race to the bottom.”

It is true that education is important to the future of any society, however, it is also important that education policy not be driven by a false narrative.

Her first sentence alludes to the widely promoted fraud that there is a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) deficit in the US. There is not and there never was (see evidence here, here, here, here, and here). In fact, many American graduates have a difficult time finding jobs because the H1B visa program makes foreign graduates more attractive. Foreign workers are cheaper and corporations have more control over them.

Belisle echoed the language form employed by the forces for public school privatization. She says we should be SHOCKED at how California’s fourth graders living in poverty have the nation’s lowest scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Her data is correct but the implication is disinformation.

Her clear innuendo is that public schools are failing and that bad teachers are a big part of the problem.

In her editorial she does note, “Over half of California’s K-12 students are in poverty, which makes our academic decline particularly alarming.” She does not mention that in addition to shocking student poverty, California has by far the largest percentage of language learners in the nation. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2015, the national percentage of English language learners was 9.4%. California’s percentage was 22.4% followed by the state with next largest percentage of language learners, Texas at 15.4%.

A fair reading of the 2015 8th grade math data would note that California’s fourth graders are at the bottom of the nation but by the time they get to the eighth grade they have moved up nine places. Those not living in poverty are 30th out of 51 (data incudes District of Columbia). In other words, the teachers and the schools are doing their jobs in the face of a 50% poverty rate and having 22.4% of their students learning English.

Average 4-Math Calif vs Nation

A NAEP Graphic

It did not help that in the 1990’s, Belisle used her position as legal counsel for the State Board of Education to fight against bi-lingual education.

Schools cannot fix social conditions. It is political leaders that have failed to successfully address poverty and other social ills. In East Los Angeles, children are joining gangs that their great grandfather was in and we just let that disease fester. Political lawyers like Belisle blame teachers and schools for their failures and those of their paymasters.

Who is Raneene “Rae” Belisle

Belisle’s Bio at the Sacramento County Office of Education says,

“Formerly Chief Counsel to the California State Board of Education for many years, Ms. Belisle successfully defended the constitutionality of charter schools and the STAR test, and was most recently involved in the settlement of the Williams litigation.”

“… she served as Associate General Counsel and Team Leader for Government Relations with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).  Her focus at LAUSD was the implementation of all aspects of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.”

When writing about the privatization of public schools in California, I recounted,

“Three key players in the assault on California’s public schools are Walmart heiress, Carrie Walton Penner, Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings and nativist republican politician, Steve Poizner. In 2001, they started EdVoice a lobbying organization that claims California schools are broken and must be reformed. In 2003 Poizner founded the CCSA. Walton Penner and Hastings remain as board members of both EdVoice and CCSA.”

After her stint, as chief counsel for the State Board of Education, she became the CEO of EdVoice. She remained in that position until 2010.

In 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her to be a member of the State Board of Education. A blogger name Sharon Higgins reported the strong opposition to her appointment.

“She was a full SBE participant for one year until March 2010 when the Senate refused to give her a confirmation hearing. They had received staunch opposition to Belisle. For instance, this was the first time in its 39-year history that the Association of California School Administrators had taken an active stance against a state board appointee, …. Belisle is a strong charter school advocate, who had previously given controversial legal advice to the SBE.”

The California Senate’s Rules Committee decided to let Belisle’s term expire and not hold a confirmation hearing. The California Watch described:

“The opposition came from some of the most influential educational and ethnic groups in the state. Several minority groups said Belisle’s legal advice to the education board during the late 1990s to early 2000s, stripped non-English speaking students of culturally sensitive textbooks and other classroom tools.

“The California Federation of Teachers, California School Board Association and Association of Calfornia School Administrators also questioned Belisle’s objectivity.”

It is fascinating why the Hindu America Foundation opposed her so vigorously. In a legal dispute with the State Board of Education, it appears that in defending the Board, Chief Counsel Belisle tried to bully the Hindus. They conveyed:

  • Belisle warned the law firm representing HAF to “watch out” because its client [HAF] had repeatedly threatened and harassed the CDE and SBE staff.
  • Belisle claimed that everyone at the SBE was fearful of them [HAF as well as other members of the Hindu American community].
  • Belisle repeatedly referred to HAF and members of the Hindu American community as “those people” who were “very dangerous.”
  • She made it clear to HAF’s attorney that she considered the Hindu Americans challenging the Board to be religious zealots and extremists.
  • During the course of HAF’s litigation, a thorough investigation of the public records was conducted. Not a single threatening letter nor record of threatening or harassing phone calls from HAF or members of the Hindu American community were found.

Belisle’s Main Point

In this editorial, she was advocating against a proposed amendment to California’s education law, AB 1164. On Facebook, EdVoice her old company informs us Belisle was right.

AB 1164 seems to be mostly about rules for money saved by districts, but it does have one section about probationary teachers. Belisle wrote,

“If passed, AB 1164 would only allow new teachers with two years of consecutive unsatisfactory ratings — the lowest rating possible — another year in the classroom along with increased job guarantees. Other new staff who may have struggled but showed signs of promise, and earned higher ratings such as needing improvement, would not even be eligible for another year of probation.”

The paragraph of AB 1164 that offends Belisle and EdVoice says:

“Before offering a third complete consecutive school year of employment as a probationary employee to an employee of the county superintendent of schools in a teaching position in schools or classes maintained by the county superintendent of schools requiring certification qualifications, the county superintendent of schools shall provide the probationary employee with written notice that includes, at a minimum, specific information on what performance-related improvements the probationary employee must achieve in order to obtain permanent employment status after the third year of probationary status. The information provided in the written notice shall be based on evaluations or reviews conducted by a permanent employee designated to conduct the evaluations or reviews pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or by a school administrator.”

All this paragraph does is optionally extend the probationary period for one more year. That way the district does not have to discharge a teacher they think has promise while maintaining the option to release the teacher before they earn permanent status.

The California Teacher Association takes a position on all education law. They say very little about AB 1164 other than CTA Supports.

Oddly, Belisle wrote in her editorial:

“Discouraging principals from releasing the least effective adults on probation makes no sense. Why give adults who have already proven they are failing our children an easier path to a guaranteed lifetime job? This will make things harder, especially for our most vulnerable students and the hard-working effective teachers and school leaders who are doing the difficult work every day to improve results in the most challenging classrooms.”

Belisle is a lawyer who is steeped in education law, so, she must have another agenda. This law does none of these things. It gives principal’s more options and allows them to be more critical of a teacher’s performance during the probationary period without destroying careers. This law improves professional development and seems to make developing good teachers more likely.

Belisle adds, “Thurmond’s AB 1164 is the embodiment of back-room deals in Sacramento that sell out our children.” She charges Oakland Assembly member Tony Thurmond of some sort of back-room corruption of the worst type, but it is difficult to see his motives. Maybe this is like her charge that the members of the State Board of Education feared Hindus.

Conclusion

There is some sort of agenda here, but it is not clear what it is. Why did a lawyer with a long association to the education privatization movement in California write this article? I do not know. But her associations are clear: Schwarzenegger, Hastings, Walton, EdVoice.

These are not friends of public education, unless you include the unaccountable charter school industry as public schools. I don’t. They are privatized schools run by private boards with little or no public scrutiny.

The San Diego Union continues to run anti-public-school editorials. Belisle is just another paid mouthpiece for the billionaire agenda to monetize public schools and the paper is a willing megaphone.

Editorial Peddles School Privatization Agenda

16 Jul

The San Diego Union editor deserves the bunkum efficiency award for packing so much baloney in a scant four paragraphs. The first sentence of the editorial headlined “Still more bad faith from state ED board” says:

“The State Board of Education’s defining characteristic is its ardent defense of an education establishment more worried about the interests of teachers than students.”

It is true that the education establishment in California does listen to input from teachers and their unions, however, today the establishment is dominated by billionaires like Reed Hasting and Carrie Walton Penner. There are many other establishment powerhouses like the California Charter School Association (CCSA), representatives of the education testing industry and education technology profiteers.

As your newspaper reported, by May, 2016, the CCSA was spending heavily to win seats on the San Diego County Board of Education:

“The political arm of the California Charter Schools Association has spent $220,000 so far on the San Diego County Board of Education election this year, following a difficult period for the independently operated campuses in the region — one that’s been marked by unsuccessful appeals and a string of legal challenges.”

After the recent LA school board election, the LA Times wrote in an article titled “How L.A.’s school board election became the most expensive in U.S. history,”

“It’s an oversimplification to say the outcome was all about money, but charters spent more ($9.7 million compared with $5.2 million), and their candidates finished first in both races on Tuesday’s ballot.”

Clearly these forces for privatizing public schools in California are a significant part of the education establishment. They are anti-teachers’ unions, pro testing and have huge political clout. Governor Jerry Brown, who started two charter schools himself, has vetoed every piece of legislation that proposed any increased accountability on charter schools.

To say the establishment is “more worried about the interests of teachers than students,” is wrong. Or is it just a purposeful lie?

The interests of teachers and students are very similar and neither is getting a fair deal. Teachers and students are in the same overcrowded rooms, using the same facilities and have the same half-hour lunches. No one cares more for the welfare of students and understands more about good teaching than California’s professional educators.

The first paragraph concludes:

“This is once again on display with the state board’s response to the Every Student Succeeds Act, the 2015 federal law that replaced the 2002 No Child Left Behind measure and governs how school systems that receive federal funds must operate. While the new law is much less strict than the old one, it still mandates that schools must be taken over by state governments if they are at the bottom 5 percent of statewide assessments, graduate less than two-thirds of students or have ethnic groups with consistently weak test results.” (bolding added)

Here, I am ready to join with my conservative friends and call for the abolition of the United States Department of Education. Schools should be in the control of parents, teachers and students in the local community. The federal government has no business dictating school policy and especially dictating policy that is a known failure.

In 2009, the Obama administration announced plans to rapidly turn around 5,000 of the nation’s lowest performing schools. It was called the Scholastic School Improvement Grant program (SIG). Today, there is consensus among researchers that SIG was a complete failure. A study by Tina Trujillo, University of California, Berkeley and Michelle Renée, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University stated one its conclusions:

“Conceptually, one of the most frequent critiques of these studies was that they relied on a single measure of effectiveness standardized test scores. While relying on standardized test scores was methodologically problematic because it falsely assumed that the assessments were valid and reliable, doing so as the sole measure of effectiveness also led to narrow conceptions of student success and the purposes of education ignoring the social, civic, and broader academic aspects of schooling. … Student scores on standardized tests are far too narrow to be the sole indicators of school success in the democratic model of schooling.”

For three-decades, states have been taking over local schools. Unfortunately, we have a three-decade record of failure. Dale Russakoff’s book The Prize tells the story of Newark New Jersey’s thirty-years with state run schools including how they squandered a $100,000,000 gift from Mark Zuckerberg. In Newark, the teachers were never the problem and neither was tenure or the union. It was always corrupt politicians and grinding poverty creating traumatized children. The state only made it worse when it disenfranchised local citizens.

Detroit is another horrifying example of the complete failure of a state led turn around. A Michigan state officials, Barbra Byrd Bennett, is now serving time for taking kick-backs  and the schools are worse off. After two decades of state control we read in the New York Times,

“Michigan leapt at the promise of charter schools 23 years ago, betting big that choice and competition would improve public schools. It got competition, and chaos.

“Detroit schools have long been in decline academically and financially. But over the past five years, divisive politics and educational ideology and a scramble for money have combined to produce a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the United States.”

The editor at the Union should be praising not denigrating the State Board of Education for trying to do the right thing in a tough spot. You should be pointing out how the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is terrible legislation that is more about selling technology, mandating testing and privatizing schools than it is about improving education.

As I wrote to Diane Feinstein, ESSA continues the testing mandate and spends large amounts of money promoting dubious technology initiatives such as “personalized learning” and “blended learning.” If these are truly good ideas they will be adopted without federal coercion. Every student in America is required to take a big standardized test in grades 3 – 8 and grade 11.

The big standardized test is useless. It tells us nothing about the quality of teachers or schools. Peter Greene known for his wonderful education blog, “Curmudgucation”, responded to an essay by Morgan Polikoff (USC Rossier), a long-time Big Standardized Test supporter:

“Polikoff’s problem remains– the BS Tests are junk that provide junk data and damage schools in the process. Accountability is a good idea, but the standards-based high-stakes tests that we’ve been subjected to for the past more-than-ten years are junk, and they do not provide a useful, reliable, or valid measure of school quality– not even sort of. Nor have they helped– not even incrementally.”

Like the way that ESSA supports social impact bonds which profit bankers and 1:1 initiatives which profit the technology industry; mandated testing is fueling the testing industry. These bad ideas are being used to transform tax money meant to benefit students into revenue streams for corporations.

These are the kind of corrupt purposes you should denounce instead of school leaders who are trying to finesse this horrible federal law and our thoroughly unqualified Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

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Instead, you tacitly support high stakes testing as a way of evaluating schools. You legitimize the federal government and the state of California taking over San Diego’s schools. How big government of you.

Your editorial continues:

“But the State Board of Education is instead on track to approve vague, mushy Every Student Succeeds standards by the U.S. Education Department’s September deadline that appear designed to impede accountability, not guarantee it.”

In May, your paper editorialized with the headline, “Board of Education is missing mark on college readiness.” The lead paragraph said:

“An unsatisfactory process is expected to come to a disappointing conclusion Wednesday when the State Board of Education grudgingly adopts measures to gauge student progress — forced to do so to ensure California receives federal education aid.”

That editorial also emphasized:

But it still requires that schools be taken over by state governments if they graduate less than two-thirds of their students, are at the bottom 5 percent of statewide assessments or have ethnic groups that have consistently weak test results. Under the proposal before the State Board of Education, beginning in fall 2017, schools will be evaluated on high school graduation rates; student results in English and math Common Core tests; gains made by English-language learners; and student suspension rates. Test scores in third-grade reading and eighth-grade math would be given additional emphasis.” (bolding added)

When coercing states to accept Common Core, Arne Duncan said state standards had to prepare students for “college and career readiness.” It was completely up to the states, but the department of education told them that Bill Gates’ Common Core satisfied “college and career ready.” It was a statement based on nothing; no research or historical evidence. In fact, California’s previous standards are widely viewed as better standards than common core.

A core problem is that standards based education is bad education. Along with the common core, the NGSS science standards are bad standards. Most states are moving away from them. So, I am ready to join you in beating up California’s education leaders for adopting bad education policies like NGSS and Common Core. They richly deserve the flogging.

However, it looks like you advocate these education standards and are for standardized testing as the only criteria for measuring schools and holding them accountable. That is just ignorance.

We have a wonderful method for holding schools accountable and giving them a constant path of improvement. In California, it is the Wester Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accrediting process. I have been through several WASC reviews and they are thorough and rigorous. A team of professional educators comes to the school and spends a week looking at everything and interviews as many stake holders as possible. Their report comes back with expectations to be met. This is real accountability performed by professionals that know education and can help. Testing is expensive and  worse than useless; it is misleading and destructive.

Your third paragraph says,

“Now The New York Times reports Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has rejected such attempts to game the federal law by other states, upending expectations that she would defer to local control.”

In an interview by EdWeek, the Senator who led the writing of ESSA and is also a former US Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander, was not impressed. The interviewer writes,

‘”I think we have a case of an assistant secretary who hasn’t read the law carefully,’ Alexander, chairman of the Senate education committee, said in an interview. ‘The heart of the entire law … was that it’s the state’s decision to set goals, to decide what ‘ambitious’ means, to make decisions to help schools that aren’t performing well.’

“The technical, but important back story: Alexander was referring to a feedback letter Botel sent to Delaware on its ESSA plan, telling the state that it hadn’t been ‘ambitious’ enough in setting long-term goals for student achievement, sparking wonky outrage inside the Beltway and beyond.

“The education chairman noted in an interview that ESSA includes language specifically prohibiting the U.S. secretary of education from telling states what their goals can or can’t be—and that 85 senators voted to approve the new law.”

You end with;

“Will this lead to the board to do the right thing and adopt meaningful standards? There is no reason for optimism — because the board has a very different definition of what is the right thing to do than Californians who care about public schools.”

Common Core and NGSS standards and standardized testing are about monetizing schools and privatizing them. It appears that promoting that path is what you mean by “Californians who care about public schools.” Please realize that you and your fellow travelers are working to destroy a great public trust and a main pillar of democratic freedoms for “a few pieces of silver.”