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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The great charter school rip-off: Finally, the truth catches up to education “reform” phonies -

The great charter school rip-off: Finally, the truth catches up to education “reform” phonies -

The great charter school rip-off: Finally, the truth catches up to education “reform” phonies

Fraud, financial mismanagement, lousy results: Reports highlight awful charter schools and people are catching on

The great charter school rip-off: Finally, the truth catches up to education "reform" phonies
Diane Ravitch, Michelle Rhee (Credit: MSNBC/AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
Last week when former President Bill Clinton meandered onto the topic of charter schools, he mentioned something about an “original bargain” that charters were, according to the reporter for The Huffington Post, “supposed to do a better job of educating students.”
A writer at Salon called the remark “stunning” because it brought to light the fact that the overwhelming majority of charter schools do no better than traditional public schools. Yet, as the Huffington reporter reminded us, charter schools are rarely shuttered for low academic performance.
But what’s most remarkable about what Clinton said is how little his statement resembles the truth about how charters have become a reality in so many American communities.
In a real “bargaining process,” those who bear the consequences of the deal have some say-so on the terms, the deal-makers have to represent themselves honestly (or the deal is off and the negotiating ends), and there are measures in place to ensure everyone involved is held accountable after the deal has been struck.
But that’s not what’s happening in the great charter industry rollout transpiring across the country. Rather than a negotiation over terms, charters are being imposed on communities – either by legislative fiat or well-engineered public policy campaigns. Many charter school operators keep their practices hidden or have been found to be blatantly corrupt. And no one seems to be doing anything to ensure real accountability for these rapidly expanding school operations.
Instead of the “bargain” political leaders may have thought they struck with seemingly well-intentioned charter entrepreneurs, what has transpired instead looks more like a raw deal for millions of students, their families, and their communities. And what political leaders ought to be doing – rather than spouting unfounded platitudes, as Clinton did, about “what works” – is putting the brakes on a deal gone bad, ensuring those most affected by charter school rollouts are brought to the bargaining table, and completely renegotiating the terms for governing these schools.
Charter Schools As Takeover Operations
The “100 percent charter schools” education system in New Orleans that Clinton praised was never presented to the citizens of New Orleans in a negotiation. It was surreptitiously engineered.
After Katrina, as NPR recently reported, “an ad hoc coalition of elected leaders and nationally known charter advocates formed,” and in “a series of quick decisions,” all school employees were fired and the vast majority of the city’s schools were handed over to a state entity called the “Recovery School District” which is governed by unelected officials. Only a “few elite schools were … allowed to maintain their selective admissions.”
In other words, any bargaining that was done was behind closed doors and at tables where most of the people who were being affected had no seat.
Further, any evidence of the improvement of the educational attainment of students in the New Orleans all-charter system is obtainable only by “jukin the stats” or, as the NPR reporter put it, through “a distortion of the curriculum and teaching practice.” As Andrea Gabor wrote for Newsweek a year ago, “the current reality of the city’s schools should be enough to give pause to even the most passionate charter supporters.”
Yet now political leaders tout this model for the rest of the country. So school districts that have not had the “benefit,” according to Arne Duncan, of a natural disaster like Katrina, are having charter schools imposed on them in blatant power plays. An obvious example is what’s currently happening in the York, Pennsylvania.
School districts across the state of Pennsylvania are financially troubled due to chronic state underfunding – only 36 percent of K-12 revenue comes from the state, way below national averages – and massive budget cuts imposed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett (the state funds education less than it did in 2008).
The state cuts seemed to have been intentionally targeted to hit high-poverty school The great charter school rip-off: Finally, the truth catches up to education “reform” phonies -

DC civil rights organizations fail to represent education civil rights agenda | TheHill

DC civil rights organizations fail to represent education civil rights agenda | TheHill:

DC civil rights organizations fail to represent education civil rights agenda

In recent weeks, a few national civil rights organizations including the National Council of La Raza, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the League of United Latin American Citizens and National Urban League have vocally opposed efforts to highlight the dangers of high stakes testing by students and parents opting out of annual assessments. Uniting under the banner of the Washington, D.C.-based Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, these groups are urging parents to comply with annual testing requirements. We strongly disagree with their position.  
Data from these annual assessments are not a reasonable proxy for educational opportunity, and even more, educational equity. African American and Latino students are more likely to be suspended, expelled or pushed-out of school regardless of their performance on the test; and despite some improvement in graduation rates, significant disparities remain.
Moreover, of all the topics that could be addressed as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is considered for reauthorization, why defend a policy that has proven ineffective in advancing the educational interest of children of color and disadvantaged children generally? Schools serving poor children and children of color remain under-funded and have been labeled "failing" while little has been done at the local, state or federal level to effectively intervene and provide support. In the face of clear evidence that children of color are more likely to be subjected to over-testing and a narrowing of curriculum in the name of test preparation, it is perplexing that D.C. based civil rights groups are promoting annual tests.

Why should wealthy parents be able to opt-out of the over-testing by sending their children to private schools while disadvantaged students are forced to exist in a high stakes, over-tested climate for the sake of producing data that confirms what they already know---their schools lack the needed supports?
We are not opposed to assessment. Standards and assessments are important for diagnostic purposes. However, too often the data produced by standardized tests are not made available to teachers until after the school year is over, making it impossible to use the information to address student needs. When tests are used in this way, they do little more than measure predictable inequities in academic outcomes. Parents have a right to know that there is concrete evidence that their children are learning, but standardized tests do not provide this evidence
While high performing countries, wealthy parents and educational experts are calling for more student-centered and deeper learning experiences for their students, LCCR and others are asking communities to continue the practice of subjecting students to tests that have failed to deliver very little in the way of excellence or equity.  Parents have a right to demand enriched curricula that includes the arts, civics and lab sciences.  The parents who are opting out have a right to do so, and they certainly have a right to demand that their children receive more than test preparation classes that leave them bored and less engaged
We should all remember that NCLB was originally enacted in 1965 as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's war on poverty.  The measure was designed to compensate for disadvantages in learning opportunities between low-income and middle-class children. While it was never adequately funded, ESEA was envisioned as an "anti-poverty" bill.  
We now know students cannot be tested out of poverty, and while NCLB did take us a step forward by requiring schools to produce evidence that students were learning, it took us several steps backward when that evidence was reduced to how well a student performed on a standardized test.  Most states have long realized that the goals set by NCLB - such as 100-percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014 - could not be achieved.  In 2013, the US Department of Education wisely began to allow states to opt out of meeting this unattainable requirement. Why not give parents the right to opt out of tests when they realize states have not done the work of guaranteeing their children are being adequately prepared?  
The civil rights movement has always worked to change unjust policies. When 16-year-old Barbara Johns organized a student strike in Prince Edward County, Virginia in 1951 leading to Brown v. Board in 1954, she opted out of public school segregation. When Rosa Parks sat down on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 she opted out of the system of segregation in public transportation. And as youth and their allies protest throughout the country against police brutality, declaring that "Black Lives Matter," we are reminded that the struggle for justice often forces us to challenge the DC civil rights organizations fail to represent education civil rights agenda | TheHill:

Is Voter Turnoff Inviting a Progressive Rollback? - Pacific Standard

Is Voter Turnoff Inviting a Progressive Rollback? - Pacific Standard:

Is Voter Turnoff Inviting a Progressive Rollback?

Recent events in California foreshadow what can happen in a progressive state when voters don’t vote and corporate interests are able to put their representatives in power.

It’s become an unsettling fact of political life that as election turnouts dwindle, campaign spending skyrockets. Los Angeles’ recently concluded school board races, which drew a paltry 7.6 percent of potential voters, underscored this point. Ref Rodriguez, who unseated the District 5 incumbent, received most of the $2.2 million contributed by political action committees controlled by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates. Rodriguez has co-created several charter schools and his backers, unsurprisingly, came from that community. Among the familiar local names of extreme wealth and influence were Eli Broad, Richard Riordan, and William Bloomfield. Equally familiar to followers of school privatization were more distant funders such as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Walmart heir Jim Walton, Laurene Powell Jobs, the Gap Inc.’s Fisher family members, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Rounding out Rodriguez’s cascade of thousand-dollar checks were names associated with high-powered investment firms, various charter schools, and charter-advocacy groups, such as Parent Revolution and StudentsFirst. Even among this varied and far-flung group, two names stuck out: Amplify Learning president Larry Berger of New York, and New Majority California, which calls itself the state’s largest Republican PAC.

There’s some early evidence that even in this bluest of states, the will of the electorate and its representatives is being thwarted.

Amplify Learning is probably the easier of the pair to figure out. It’s Rupert Murdoch’s education information division, headed by Joel Klein and built on the foundation of Berger’s old Wireless Generation company, which Murdoch’s News Corporation purchased in 2010. The friendlier the nation’s second-largest school system’s board of education is toward charter schools, the more likely Amplify is to land lucrative contracts with the Los Angeles Unified School District. New Majority California, on the other hand, is a political money funnel for corporate interests.
The homepage for New Majority California’s website features an image of burning $100 bills—presumably a symbol of the “government waste” the PAC publicly deplores but, perhaps, also a metaphor for the limitless cash that conservative groups are prepared to burn through in order to shape American opinion and elections. One such organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is feeling comfortable enough with California to hold its annual convention in San Diego this July—even though its annual Rich State, Poor State report ranks us 44th in “economic outlook” and 50th when it comes to not being a right-to-work state.
Primarily known for creating “model legislation”—that is, laws modeled on the business interests of people like the Koch brothers—ALEC’s corporate members may figure that if their politicians of choice in California cannot win a single statewide office and remain a battered minority in Sacramento, there’s still promise in focusing on change at the local level. Perhaps with that in mind, ALEC last year created the American City County Exchange, which aims to promote ALEC’s “free market” values (low wages, zero government regulation of goods and services, and bans on fracking bans) at the city hall level.
There’s some early evidence that even in this bluest of states, the will of the electorate and its representatives is being thwarted, with or without ALEC’s direct involvement. California’s plastic bag ban has been put on hold, thanks to a plastics industry-sponsored 2016 ballot measure, which would overturn the new law if passed. And on May 26, Irvine’s city council rescinded its living wage ordinance that had been in effect since 2007.
Affluent Irvine’s attempted rollback of a historic movement to raise the standard of living for America’s lowest-paid workers may be a one-off anomaly, or it could foreshadow what can happen in a progressive state when voters don’t vote and corporate interests are able to put their representatives in power council by council, board by board.
This post originally appeared on Capital & Main, a Pacific Standard partner site, as “Is Voter Turnoff Inviting a Progressive Rollback?"Is Voter Turnoff Inviting a Progressive Rollback? - Pacific Standard:

School reform needs reform - Baltimore Sun

School reform needs reform - Baltimore Sun:

School reform needs reform

It's time to put the narrative to rest: teachers are not lazy, incompetent, uncaring union thugs who need to be monitored by lengthy student testing and supplanted by devices. This tired, poorly drawn image brought to you by the so-called education reformers is falling to the truth, and public demand, resulting in the recently shortened PARCC testing in Maryland, beginning next year.

The myth of bad public school teachers is unfortunate — and so untrue. Sure, in every profession there are some bad actors. Doctors performing unneeded surgery, lawyers working the loopholes, business people cheating customers or their employees. But one bad apple (we are, after all, talking about teachers) is hardly representative of a whole bunch — or for that matter, the entire orchard.

I'm leaving teaching at the end of this school year, as one of the over 200 teachers taking Howard County's early incentive package, which was instituted to save the system money by replacing experienced teachers with cheaper, less experienced ones. It's my time to go; my body can no longer sit on the tiny chairs of an Early-Childhood Special Education classroom and not suffer for it. But as I leave I cannot stop thinking about the many teachers I leave behind. My colleagues, nation-wide, have been taking the blame for the impact of broader issues — poverty, culture and social strains on families — for too long. Public school educators are in a constant battle for fair pay while ever-increasing sums are spent on programs from Gallup consultants to testing companies and classroom technology. This trend has the worst possible effect — it discourages our best and brightest to join the teaching profession.

Good communities like the school I'll leave behind help to ameliorate the effects of poor treatment with great administrators, supportive parents (and flourishing students) telling us we are doing good work, and it makes a difference. But that won't be enough to attract the best teachers and hold onto them. If the anti-teacher (and really anti-student) reformers have their way, we'll turn our students over to technicians who will merely help the students to stay on the right computer program. Are we having fun yet?

It would be helpful if we all stepped back and examined what we want for our nation, communities, families and children. Albert Einstein wisely stated, "It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." If that is our mission, then our schools must be designed accordingly. We need to foster humanity in our schools, especially in a device-driven culture. We need to value each life that comes before us, regardless of economic background, disability or giftedness, ethnic, gender, or racial definitions. If we can do that, we'll impress upon our children that fairness and dignity are due to each one of us. If we are to do that, we must bring the value of the well-rounded teacher front and center.

We have a tendency in education to allow ourselves to be swayed by every new program, device or reform that comes along. Integrated classroom projectors are fun, but they will never outweigh the value of my ability to relate to my students and plan their learning step-by-step. If you remember the teacher that made the biggest impression on you, you'll recognize that it was the basic humanity of the teacher that pulled you in: the passion for their subject; the kindness in spending extra time to teach you; the ability to analyze your errors, and try to teach the subject so that you could understand.

When honored and exalted, professionals strive to outdo each other and themselves; when belittled and beaten, they skulk to easier quarters. Taxpayers, school boards, superintendents and public officials must pull away from the current trends and commit to the truth: we are only human, and we build better schools by recognizing the humanity in our students and the staff they interact with every day.

Last week, for the very last time, I wrapped my 60-year old self in our classroom parachute to simulate the School reform needs reform - Baltimore Sun:

Jeb Bush Offered To Help Obama Administration Re-Authorize No Child Left Behind, Emails Show - BuzzFeed News

Jeb Bush Offered To Help Obama Administration Re-Authorize No Child Left Behind, Emails Show - BuzzFeed News:

Jeb Bush Offered To Help Obama Administration Re-Authorize No Child Left Behind, Emails Show

Jeb Bush’s correspondence with the Department of Education shows the Florida Republican offered to help Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the re-authorization of the controversial education law.

In an email from 2009 obtained by BuzzFeed News, Jeb Bush offered assistance to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on reauthorizing No Child Left Behind – the controversial education legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush.
In the email, the former Florida governor proposes a meeting between Patricia Levesque, at the time the executive director of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, and a high-level official at the Department of Education.
Among the topics to be discussed: how Levesque could “help” the Obama administration re-authorize No Child Left Behind.
The law, which technically expired in 2007 but has remained on the books, mandates annual statewide testing for every grade and penalizes schools for poor performance. The law is unpopular with both Democrats and Republicans, but in efforts to replace the law, the Obama administration has fought to retain as much of the law’s strong federal role as possible, maintaining elements like mandatory annual testing, federal grant programs, and government oversight of achievement by students, especially minorities.
The issue has pitted Jeb Bush against most of his fellow Republicans, who oppose any federal government role in education. In a March op-ed in The Washington Post, however, Bush wrote in support of a limited role for the federal government in education, instead arguing for the states to take the lead.
The 2009 email is one of several pieces of correspondence between Bush and the Department of Education, obtained by BuzzFeed News by way of the Freedom of Information Act.
The email, dated May 29, 2009 — just over four months after Duncan took office — begins with Bush expressing his regret that Duncan had declined his invitation to keynote Excellence in Action 2009, the second annual “national summit on education reform” put on by Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.
“Hopefully, we can get you to come to another event down the road,” Bush writes.
“Also, Patricia Levesque, the executive director of the Foundation I Chair will be in D.C. in late June,” Bush continues, “and i would love for her to meet with one of your top staff, to tell them about Florida progress, help you in nclb reauthorization or in bold initiatives to advance reform, etc.”
Bush concludes: “I hope you are enjoying your job!!!!”

Here’s Bush’s email offering to help with No Child Left Behind:

Here's Bush's email offering to help with No Child Left Behind:
BuzzFeed News / Via Department of Education
The re-authorization of No Child Left Behind is not the only controversial issue on which Bush offered assistance to the White House. Last week, BuzzFeed News reported that Duncan turned to Bush for advice about how to deal with Florida Governor Rick Scott’s objections to Common Core.
A hand-written note from Duncan to Bush in 2013 shows Duncan’s appreciation for Bush’s efforts to reach across the aisle.
“I know this is hard, but your continued courage and clarity of thought is vital to giving our nation’s children a chance in life,” Duncan writes. “They are lucky to have someone with your tenacity as their champion.”

Here’s Duncan’s note to Bush:

Here's Duncan's note to Bush:
BuzzFeed News / Via Department of Education

And here’s the complete correspondence obtained by BuzzFeed News:

BuzzFeed News / Via Department of Education
Ilan Ben-Meir is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Ilan Ben-Meir at

Use of Public Funds without Oversight Mars Escondido Charter Schools

Use of Public Funds without Oversight Mars Escondido Charter Schools:

Use of Public Funds without Oversight Mars Escondido Charter Schools

Editor NoteThis is part three of the series about charter schools in Escondido.  Part one here and part two  here.
Public education advocates around the country are taking a closer look at charter schools, their finances, their admission and expulsion policies, as well as their questionable academic results. These schools, while privately run, receive millions of taxpayer dollars annually, yet oversight is difficult because charter schools are exempt from much of the Education Code that governs traditional public schools.
Public dollars with little public oversight have created environments in which irregularities and questionable practices–both academic and financial—are thriving. At Alianza North County, we’re taking a closer look at these taxpayer-funded schools in Escondido. One such unusual practice is occurring at the city’s most popular and controversial charter school.
It is hard to imagine a publicly-elected school board of a public school district authorizing the payment of one individual’s salary through a different organization than the rest of the staff and faculty. Yet that is what appears to be happening at Escondido Charter High School.
While we are not making any claims about legality of these policies and procedures, we believe there is cause for concern. The Times of San Diego has reported that CalStrs is reviewing the complaint filed by the authors of the article. We are not pension or accounting experts which is why, as citizens and taxpayers, we passed along our concerns to CalStrs. It is up to CalStrs to determine whether this is another charter school loophole or if there is indeed a violation of CalStrs post-retirement earnings policy. We are simply shining light on the concern.
Retirement with six figure pension + six figure salary
Dennis Snyder, Executive Director of Escondido’s most controversial group of charter schools, retired from Escondido Charter High School in 2007.  The school was the last named employer of his long career while contributing to the CalStrs pension fund.
According to data retrieved via Transparent California Link, he has been collecting his full pension since 2007 and is also paid a six-figure salary through the charter schools, but not exactly through the charter schools. He is paid through the Heritage American Foundation. Most likely few people know of his retirement, because by all appearances, Mr. Snyder has continued to work for his schools in the same capacity after his retirement that he did prior to it.
In 2007, the year of his retirement, tax documents show the official source of his salary changing from Escondido Charter High School to The American Heritage Education Foundation, a non-profit entity established by Snyder that raises funds for his schools. According to IRS 990 forms, since 2007, Snyder has been the foundation’s sole full-time employee.
In 2012, the salary he claimed was $104,000 for 40 hours of work per week – specifically for The American Heritage Education Foundation with no salary claimed through the schools. All other teachers and administrators of the charter schools receive salaries as employees of the schools.
Since retiring, Mr. Snyder continues to be the face and the voice of his schools and is usually named as Executive Director, just as he was before his 2007 retirement. In recent years, as Executive Director, he has opened two new schools and it is rumored they are planning to expand. There have been closed-door negotiations at Escondido City Hall about acquiring city-owned land at Mountain View Park but the status of this negotiation is unknown.
One of the Highest Teacher Pensions in the State, Top Three in Escondido Unified High School District
According to Transparent California, Snyder will collect a pension of over $116,000 this year through CalStrs Retirement Fund. The amount has increased a few thousand dollars per year since 2007, but has always been over $100,000 per year, making his pension one of the top 6000 or so for retired educators in the entire state of California. In the Escondido Union High School District, only two retired employees collect a higher pension than Snyder, one being a retired superintendent for the Escondido Union High School District.
CalStrs Limitations on Post-Retirement Wages
One logical reason a retired educator might not want to be paid directly by a publicly-funded school is that CalStrs places a $40,100 limit on post-retirement earnings for retirees employed in a public school (or a CalStrs contributing charter school).
Mr. Snyder’s salary via the American Heritage Education Foundation is 2 ½ times that amount. Because there is no salary paid directly from the school, a full pension seemingly could be collected. In a traditional public school, it would be highly unlikely a public school administrator/educator could retire from his/her position, claim full pension benefits through CalStrs, yet still remain in the same position receiving a salary well beyond the limit of $40,100.
Oversight Needed
Charter schools are notorious for claiming to be “public” when seeking funds, but “private” when they are asked to be accountable. Charter schools are allowed to be less transparent and are not held to the same standards as public schools when it comes to contractor bids, accounting transparency and all sorts of other policies than schools that are directly governed by a publicly-elected board.
Perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at all the charter schools in Escondido. As public education advocate Diane Ravitch has said, “Charter-school people keep saying, “We’re public schools, we’re public schools!” Well, no, they’re not public schools. They can pick and choose their students, and they can kick out students that public schools can’t kick out. Charter schools are privately managed, many of them are not accountable or transparent, and they’re allowed to do things that public schools could never do. For instance, they can say, “We may be using public funds, but you have no right to audit our books.”
Public dollars need public oversight. It is time for thorough and effective oversight of Escondido’s charter schools.
Nina Deerfield is a Naturopathic Physician, Martial Arts Master, Publisher of Alianza North County and a political activist.
Rebecca Nutile is a resident of Escondido. She is a public education advocate and the parent of three young children.Use of Public Funds without Oversight Mars Escondido Charter Schools:

This Week In Education: Thompson: Rick Hess Is Back!

This Week In Education: Thompson: Rick Hess Is Back!:

Thompson: Rick Hess Is Back!

Rick’s back! And Hess’s Personality Quiz: Am I a Wannabe Edu-Bureaucrat? is hilarious. Every other paragraph, I had to shout at the computer screen, “I wish I’d said that!” 
The conservative Rick Hess, who hasn’t explicitly repudiated his identification as a school reformer (or conservatism), is back blogging at Education Week after a several week hiatus. Hess unveils a 17-point quiz which can determine, “Congrats! You're an aspiring bureaucrat!” In doing so, the American Enterprise Institute scholar explains the rise of a new “cheery, ready-made mantra for your brand of ‘reform.’ It's: ‘Meet the new boss; same as the old boss . . . except this time you're going to be lucky to have a really, really smart boss. Not like all those others who have come before.’"
Hess identifies wannabe edu-bureaucrats by asking whether they “routinely describe teachers and schools as ‘good’ or ‘effective’ based on limited, simplistic, standardized metrics like reading and math scores,” seek to impose the “right way to train all new teachers” and mandate teacher evaluation models “for every school in every district in their state,” or condemn parents who opt out of standardized tests as irresponsible.
Wannabe edu-bureaucrats “get a warm feeling when talk turns to ‘P-20 alignment.’" They believe that “people who disagree with me on Common Core, ESEA, teacher evaluation, and the rest are mostly just playing politics. … [and] really wish they'd simmer down and shut up.” Aspiring bureaucrats aren’t trained to conduct or evaluate research, and they “rarely read beyond an abstract,” but they find that "good” research usually agrees with their views on reform. These wannabes “find it easiest to communicate in acronyms and buzzwords.”
Hess writes that you might be a wannabe edu-bureaucrat if “I've never been reminded of the USSR's 'five-year plans' when the U.S. Department of Ed orders waiver states to devise . . . five-year plans, with ambitious (if arbitrary) race-based performance targets.”

A serious analysis of “reform” overreach can’t pack the punch of Hess’s wit, but it can supplement it. For instance, there are reasons why Hess is correct and reformers have become more edu-bureaucratic in the last five years. Under Arne Duncan’s USDOE, competition-driven, test-driven reformers got everything on their wildest wish lists. Many of the reformers’ market-driven, standards-driven, and accountability-driven policies are mutually contradictory. Some policies verged on Libertarianism (for their choice schools) while others imposed social engineering on the rest of us. But, Duncan and the Billionaires Boys Club "incentivized" almost every state to abruptly codify reformers opinions' into law.  Now they have to double-down, forcing schools into fulfilling the unkeepable promises they were coerced into making.
Pre-Duncan, the term “earned autonomy” encapsulated the tension between Free Marketeers and wannabe edu-bureaucrats.  Favored schools, with high test scores (resulting from creaming higher performing students), were granted the autonomy to teach meaningful concepts in an engaging manner. Low-performing schools (that serve everyone who walks in the door) were often required to teach to the basic skills tests and to follow a mandated "aligned and paced" curriculum. If its Tuesday, students must master Reconstruction and move Wednesday to Imperialism, and so on. 
Hess is thus lampooning the results of a dog catching the bus it was chasing. Charter management This Week In Education: Thompson: Rick Hess Is Back!:

New data shows school “reformers” are full of it -

New data shows school “reformers” are full of it -

New data shows school “reformers” are full of it

Poor schools underperform largely because of economic forces, not because teachers have it too easy

In the great American debate over education, the education and technology corporations, bankrolled politicians and activist-profiteers who collectively comprise the so-called “reform” movement base their arguments on one central premise: that America should expect public schools to produce world-class academic achievement regardless of the negative forces bearing down on a school’s particular students. In recent days, though, the faults in that premise are being exposed by unavoidable reality.
Before getting to the big news, let’s review the dominant fairy tale: As embodied by New York City’s major education announcement this weekend, the “reform” fantasy pretends that a lack of teacher “accountability” is the major education problem and somehow wholly writes family economics out of the story (amazingly, this fantasy persists even in a place like the Big Apple where economic inequality is particularly crushing). That key — and deliberate — omission serves myriad political interests.
For education, technology and charter school companies and the Wall Streeters who back them, it lets them cite troubled public schools to argue that the current public education system is flawed, and to then argue that education can be improved if taxpayer money is funneled away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.). Likewise, for conservative politicians and activist-profiteersdisproportionately bankrolled by these and other monied interests, the “reform” argument gives them a way to both talk about fixing education and to bash organized labor, all without having to mention an economic status quo that monied interests benefit from and thus do not want changed.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that many “reformers’” policies have spectacularly failed, prompted massive scandals and/or offered no actual proof of success, an elite media that typically amplifies — rather than challenges — power and money loyally casts “reformers’” systematic pillaging of public education as laudable courage (the most recent example of this is Time magazine’s cover cheering on wildly unpopularChicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel after he cited budget austerity to justify the largest mass school closing in American history — all while he is also proposing to spend $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a new private sports stadium).
In other words, elite media organizations (which, in many cases, have their ownvested financial interest in education “reform”) go out of their way to portray the anti-public-education movement as heroic rather than what it really is: just another get-rich-quick scheme shrouded in the veneer of altruism.
That gets to the news that exposes “reformers’” schemes — and all the illusions that surround them. According to a new U.S. Department of Education study, “about one in five public schools was considered high poverty in 2011 … up from about to one in eight in 2000.” This followed an earlier study from the department finding that “many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding … leav(ing) students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.”
Those data sets powerfully raise the question that “reformers” are so desperate to avoid: Are we really expected to believe that it’s just a coincidence that the public education and poverty crises are happening at the same time? Put another way: Are we really expected to believe that everything other than poverty is what’s causing problems in failing public schools?
Because of who comprises it and how it is financed, the education “reform” movement has a clear self-interest in continuing to say yes, we should believe such fact-free pabulum. And you can bet that movement will keep saying “yes” — and that the corporate media will continue to cheer them as heroes for saying “yes” — as long as public education money keeps being diverted into corporate coffers.
But we’ve now reached the point where the economics-omitting “reform” propaganda has jumped the shark, going from deceptively alluring to embarrassingly transparent. That’s because the latest Department of Education study isn’t being released in a vacuum; it caps off an overwhelming wave of evidence showing that our education crisis has far less to do with public schools or bad teachers than it does with the taboo subject of crushing poverty.
In 2011, for instance, Stanford University’s Sean Reardon released a comprehensive New data shows school “reformers” are full of it -

HISD seeks to terminate charter school's contract after finding irregularities | News - Home

HISD seeks to terminate charter school's contract after finding irregularities | News - Home:

HISD seeks to terminate charter school's contract after finding irregularities


The Houston Independent School District announced Tuesday that it is seeking to terminate the contract of the Hope Academy charter school.
HISD said that irregularities were found involving 35 of 68 students who were reviewed. Officials said 51 irregularities were found, including credit restorations, grade changes, class deletions and class additions.
Authorities said the investigation determined that only two of 21 students who were scheduled to graduate on May 29 were eligible.
HISD released a statement that read in part:
"The district is now contacting all families directly to explain the situation and develop individual plans to ensure each student’s academic needs are being addressed.
"Launched in August 2009, Hope Academy is an external charter school that contracts annually with HISD to provide educational services to at-risk youth in grades 9-12. The school, which has an enrollment of 136 students, is operated by Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Houston’s Third Ward.
"Allegations of possible irregularities first surfaced in April, when the then-Hope superintendent reported concerns to an HISD administrator.
"HISD completed its investigation on June 1. The recommendation to terminate the charter school contract for Hope Academy is scheduled to go before the HISD Board of Education on June 11."HISD seeks to terminate charter school's contract after finding irregularities | News - Home:

Providence plans to abandon school reform organization |

Providence plans to abandon school reform organization |

Providence plans to abandon school reform organization

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – It was billed as the “first labor-management educational management organization in the nation,” winning praise from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
But three years later, United Providence (UP!) is on the chopping block.
Outgoing school Superintendent Dr. Susan Lusi said Tuesday federal budget cuts have forced the district to eliminate the taxpayer-supported nonprofit that was created to oversee Carl G. Lauro Elementary School, Gilbert Stuart Middle School and Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School, three of the city’s lowest-performing schools.
“Three years ago I did not have a crystal ball and I did not foresee the full financial picture that we now live in,” Lusi said.
The decision to slash UP! is the latest blow to a district that has already had to put off technology upgrades in schools across the city as well as a promise to provide more bus passes to high school students in the face of Mayor Jorge Elorza’s decision to level fund the city’s appropriation – $124.9 million – to the school department for a sixth consecutive year. The overall projected school budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is $353.5 million.
Providence’s schools have seen a steady stream of increased state aid since the 2010 passage of the state education funding formula – including another $7 million for the upcoming fiscal year – but Lusi and several school board members have said those dollars aren’t keeping pace with the department’s rising annual fixed costs. The decision to do away with UP! was directly related to a projected $9.1 million in cuts in federal aid, Lusi said.
Lusi said the district also plans to allow a separate contract with Cambium/NAEP to expire. The city is also reducing the number of days reading and math coaches can work by 10, but it is not planning to eliminate any coaches. She said the district and the Providence Teachers Union are also exploring ways to generate cost savings in professional development.
The loss of UP! will likely come as a surprise to education stakeholders.
A 501(c)3 nonprofit education-management organization housed in the same building as the Providence Teachers Union, UP! was created in 2012 in response to an Obama administration policy requiring each state to put together a specific strategy for turning around its lowest-performing schools.
Federal officials gave districts four options for tackling the problem schools: turnaround, which meant replacing at least half of the staff; transformation, which included replacing the principal and extending the school day; school closure; and restart, which forced a school to reopen under a new operation – most commonly as a charter school.
The option chosen for three Providence schools – Lauro, Stuart and Alvarez – was a restart. But instead of bringing in an outside charter organization, the city established United Providence as a way of meeting federal standards without alienating the teachers’ union.
The initiative was praised by Duncan as well as Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Mayor Angel Taveras, who hailed UP! as a national model for labor and management to work together to improve failing schools. The organization was funded with a $100,000 startup grant in early 2012 from the Rhode Island Foundation and received a three-year, $2.6 million contract from the city on the promise that it would improve school climate and implement rigorous reforms to turn around the low-performing schools. It also received a $100,000 legislative grant from the General Assembly.
“The unique, child-centered, approach United Providence is taking to maximize student achievement is particularly exciting because it can be proven successful then replicated throughout the city, the state, and elsewhere,” Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed said in 2012.
The plan to abandon UP! comes just as the organization was viewed to be hitting its stride following initial growing pains that included staff turnover and resistance from teachers in all of its schools.
The organization took steps to right the ship last year when it hired Denise Jenkins as its managing director. Jenkins, who came to the district after overseeing education grants at the Rhode Island Foundation, is credited with using her wealth of experience as a former school administrator and case worker to provide stable leadership of the nonprofit.
At an UP! board meeting on April 27, Jenkins and other officials from the organization said the suspension rate at Alvarez High School had plummeted to 3%, down from 21% at the same time in the 2013-14 school year. The group said suspensions were down and school culture was improving at Stuart Middle School. Chronic absenteeism was down significantly at Lauro Elementary School. Last week, Lauro first-grade teacher Diane Ciccarone was named Providence’s teacher of the year.
But while Lusi and union president Mariebth Reynolds-Calabro agreed that there have been significant “culture and climate changes” in each of the UP! schools, Lusi acknowledged the schools have been a “mixed picture academically.”
“We have not found the secret sauce to really see a steep improvement in student achievement,” Lusi said.
Lusi said she believes UP! was a success because it gave the school department an initial glimpse of what school autonomy can mean across the city. She said the district will continue to give more control to principals at individual schools in the coming years.
Reynolds-Calabro said she was disappointed with the decision to cut UP!, but indicated she believes teachers in the three schools will remain committed to improving student outcomes.
“Providence teachers are used to bumps in the road and this is another bump in the road,” she said.
Dan McGowan ( ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan
 Providence plans to abandon school reform organization |