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Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Well-Funded Echo Chamber That Wants to Destroy Public Education

The Well-Funded Echo Chamber That Wants to Destroy Public Education:

The Well-Funded Echo Chamber That’s Attacking Public Education
the money behind education reform

The term “corporate education reform” usually conjures up names like Michelle Rhee, ALEC and, of course, the Koch Brothers. While Rhee’s influence – or at least her starpower – has receded somewhat, the reach of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) and Charles and David Koch continues to extend far and wide across the education spectrum. Name the “reform” – vouchers, cyber-schools, rapid charter school expansion, or ending teacher ‘tenure’ – and it won’t take long to trace it back to their advocacy and deep pockets.
The focus on a couple of well-known players, however, masks the vastness of the network that is sharply focused on privatizating public education. Over the past few years, this network has widened, making it difficult to string together the many overlapping interests, funding networks and operations.
This week, Media Matters for America, a media watchdog group based in Washington D.C., released a report – a guide essentially – outlining the numerous connections in what it calls the “echo chamber” of advocacy front groups, think tanks, and media outlets that are behind the privatization agenda.
Source: Click to Enlarge

It’s a network that is “increasingly funded by a handful of conservative billionaires and for-profit education companies – often without proper disclosure,” the report states. “These groups are driving the education privatization movement forward by co-opting the education reform mantle.”
The Media Matters guide breaks down roughly 50 organizations into five categories: advocacy, media, philanthropy, corporations, and think tanks. The expanse of the network is staggering. No one is operating in a vacuum. Philanthropic groups – the Charles Koch Foundation, the Coors Foundation, the DeVos Family Foundation, to name just a few – fund the think tanks and advocacy groups profiled in the report (see graphic above). But funding sources aren’t the only thing they have in common. The connections run deep, from sharing board members and staff to building strategic partnerships to lobby for legislation at the state and local level.
Sometimes two groups will become one. In March 2016, Students First, the anti-teacher union group founded by Michelle Rhee, announced it was merging with the 50 State Campaign for Achievement Now (50CAN) a network of state-based organizations pushing for expansion of voucher programs and charter schools. The new larger group will operate under the 50CAN moniker (some state affiliates of StudentsFirst will keep the name, however) and will soon be running campaigns in at least 11 states.
A nexus of a lot of corporate reform activity and collaboration is National School Choice Week (NSCW).  Held every January, NSCW bills itself as a nonpartisan and nonpolitical opportunity to, according to its web site, “shine a positive spotlight on effective education options for every child.” Although public schools are included as one of those “options,” NSCW is clearly a well-funded PR offensive to champion vouchers and charter schools. NSCW was created in 2011 by the Gleason Family Foundation, which as the Media Matters report notes, also gives to a number of education privatization and Koch-affiliated anti-union groups and a number of right-wing think thanks. On the NSCW web site, the Foundation is listed merely as a philanthropic “partner.” Other such partners include ALEC and various Tea Party groups.  And yet the “nonpartisan and nonpolitical” label somehow seems to stick.

“Nonpartisan” is also how former CNN anchor and anti-teacher union activist Campbell Brown describes “The Seventy Four,” the education “news” site she launched in 2015. But Campbell’s ties to privatization groups are extensive and she is also the sponsor of high-profile lawsuits targeting teacher due process rights. Brown sits on the board of the American Federation for Children, a powerful school choice organization that has The Well-Funded Echo Chamber That Wants to Destroy Public Education:

 MUST Read “Here Are the Corporations and Right-Wing Funders Backing the Education Reform Movement”

Charter schools suspending black students at high rates | Crosscut

Charter schools suspending black students at high rates | Crosscut:
Charter schools suspending black students at high rates

Charter schools, which are new to Washington state, appear to be suspending African American students nationally at even higher rates than the traditional public schools whose educational practices the charter operations want to reform.
That’s one of the key findings of a study recently done for theCivil Rights Project at UCLA, which also found particularly high rates of suspensions for students with disabilities attending charter schools.
While the report found that some charter schools do a very good job of holding down suspension rates for all students, it also raised concerns about the effects of disparate rates of suspensions in many of the charter schools. It faulted many charters for contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline with high out-of-school suspension rates — running at least 25 percent of students — at the elementary and secondary levels. In some cases, the practices may amount to civil rights violations, the report suggested.

Under a 2012 ballot measure, Washington launched a modest program for establishing charter schools, with fewer than a dozen operating currently. And, despite a new state authorization by the Legislature in response to a court decision overturning the 2012 measure, questions continue about whether charter schools can be funded with state money.
The discipline report fits with concerns of charter opponents in Washington state about whether they will operate as equitably as regular public schools.
Some supporters of charter schools questioned the research methodology and the value of the report, saying many of the schools are leaders in new approaches to discipline. And the National Association of Charter School Authorizers told the media that parents need to be able to select the type of school they want, including ones with strict disciplinary policies.
The report, done by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, compared close to 5,000 national charter schools to 90,000 non-charter public schools, based on 2011-2012 discipline data of all schools obtained from the U.S Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The report says that the 2011-12 data was used because it provided the first full year of data under a new reporting requirement for charter schools.
The researchers found charters’ suspension rates were higher than that of non-charters for all students by 16 percent.In 2011-2012, for all students at the secondary level, the average suspension rate was 13.2 percent for charters versus 10.5 percent at regular public schools.  A disparity was found between black and white students, and this occurred at both elementary and secondary levels but was particularly a factor with older students, according to the Civil Rights Project report.
“Specifically, the 6.6-point racial gap at the elementary level more than doubles to 16.4 points at the secondary level,” the report said. “This means that charter secondary schools suspend more than 16 more black students than white students per every 100 students enrolled.”
The rate differences for students with and without disabilities also rise with older students. At the secondary level, the suspension rate was 23.3 percent, a couple of percentage points above the regular public schools’ rates.
Emphasizing the sweep of the longstanding problem in public schools, however, the charters’ 13.1 percent suspension rate for American Indians came in 3 percentage points under that of the traditional schools. Latino students had slightly higher suspension rates at traditional public schools; charters suspended Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students at slightly higher rates at the Charter schools suspending black students at high rates | Crosscut:

Peter Greene: John King Is Concerned

John King Is Concerned:
John King Is Concerned

If you’re on the USED mailing list, this weekend you received a “Friend” e-mail from John King, the latest in a series best entitled Let’s Keep Throwing PR Spaghetti At The Wall Until Something Sticks.
The theme, as with his Vegas speech a few weeks ago, is that gosh, we just have to get the focus back on a well-rounded education because somehow, some way, we’ve just gotten all twisted up with this testing stuff.
The most powerful thing about John King is his story, so he pulls that out again and seriously, there is nothing that anyone can mock about King’s story. His mother died, and he was raised for a few years by a very sick father who then also died, and King was an orphan at age 12. He credits his teachers in general and one, Mr. Osterweil, in particular, for saving his life. And in this letter’s retelling of the story, he also credits how involvement in and exposure to the arts also made a huge difference. That’s a new feature; the moral of King’s story is usually that great teachers and an orderly school can turn a student’s life around. Now they also need exposure to the arts to open up the world.
The most intriguing thing about King’s story has always been that he fails to draw any of the obvious lessons from it, like that fact that Alan Osterweil saved King’s life without the benefit of Common Core Standards or a Big Standardized Test. King has never publicly considered whether the reforms he has championed would have helped or hindered Osterweil, or if Osterweil would have approved of theaggressive, excessive suspension policy at King’s Roxbury charter.
But King plows on, with more thin-sliced baloney:
I hear frequently and passionately from educators and families who believe that the elements of a great well-rounded education are being neglected because of a too tight focus on reading and math.
Well, yes. I’m sure you do. But do you have any idea how such a thing happened?
Sometimes, that’s because of constraints on resources, time, and money. Often, teachers and administrators describe how No Child Left Behind and its intense focus on English and math performance left other subjects under-attended to or even ignored.
The mystery here is whether King is incredibly dense, or he thinks the rest of us are. First, the constraints of resources, time and money would not necessarily affect the arts except the federal government mandated that reading and math must be the focus of all education. And that didn’t just happen under NCLB— it continued and was intensified under the Obama-Duncan administration and Race to the Top along with Waiverpallooza, which required states to tie math and reading scores to teacher and school evaluations.
And King has to know that. Arne Duncan can claim ignorance from being safely ensconced in the beltway bubble, but King was out there trying to sell this mess to the people of New York in meetings so contentious that King canceled them and had to be forced back out there to meet with people.
The narrowing of the America’s curriculum did not just mysteriously happen. It was the direct and completely predictable result of the policies pursued by the last two administrations.
I’ve been clear, as has the President and my predecessor, Arne Duncan, that in John King Is Concerned:

The latest on those Kevin Johnson emails - Sacramento News & Review

Sacramento News & Review - The latest on those Kevin Johnson emails - News - Local Stories - April 28, 2016:
The latest on those Kevin Johnson emails
SN&R’s legal fight for the mayor’s “secret” messages and other documents still awaits its day in court.

After more than a year, SN&R’s legal battle with Mayor Kevin Johnson—over whether the city should make public his secret National Conference of Black Mayors emails—is nearing an end.
This past Thursday, April 21, a Sacramento Superior Court judge issued an analysis of both this paper’s and Team K.J.’s legal arguments. The take-home: Johnson’s pro bono attorneys at Ballard Spahr failed to prove that the remaining 158 records in question are privileged conversations between the mayor and his legal team—but SN&R also has yet to prove that they should be made public as well.
Judge Christopher Krueger directed SN&R, the mayor and the city of Sacramento attorneys to meet again “in good faith to attempt to resolve (or at least narrow) their dispute informally,” he wrote.
If this is not possible, the judge ordered that SN&R and the mayor file a joint statement, “no longer than five pages,” detailing areas of disagreement. This statement would be due in approximately three weeks, or sooner, and a hearing will be scheduled for a later date.
This legal tussle dates back to March of last year, when SN&R reporter Cosmo Garvin filed a California Public Records Act request for all emails on the city server sent to or from the mayor’s secret accounts. In response, Johnson sued SN&R and the city last July in hopes to block hundreds of emails from release by the city attorney. This paper stood up to the mayor and, after a hearing last summer, Ballard Spahr released more than 400 emails and records to SN&R.
But 158 emails and documents remain unreleased. SN&R argued that all of them should be made public, Sacramento News & Review - The latest on those Kevin Johnson emails - News - Local Stories - April 28, 2016:

Related stories: 
Why Mayor Kevin Johnson sued SN&R, what we've learned—and what happens next
Mayor’s spokesman to SN&R: “It is what it is.” SN&R, 07.09.15. 

How Kevin Johnson’s lawsuit against SN&R set in motion events that led to his political destruction
K.J. vs. SN&R returns to Sacramento County Superior Court on April 22. SN&R, 04.14.16. 

14 National Conference of Black Mayors members threaten Kevin Johnson and city with lawsuit
The mayors and the group’s executive director claim defamation and lost income. SN&R, 03.31.16. 

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Education (PPIC Publication)

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Education (PPIC Publication):

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Education

Mark Baldassare, Dean Bonner, David Kordus, and Lunna Lopes

Some findings of the current survey:
  • Most Californians say that state funding for local schools is inadequate; solid majorities favor a Proposition 30 income tax increase extension and state and local school bonds.
  • Democrats and Republicans are divided on the Common Core standards. Still, a majority of Californians are confident that Common Core will help prepare students for college and careers.
  • While few Californians have heard of the Local Control Funding Formula, a solid majority are supportive after being read a short description of the policy.
  • Californians are concerned about preschool affordability; most favor using some of the state budget surplus to fund early childhood education programs.
All Adults [PDF]
Likely Voters [PDF]
 Time Trends:
All Adults [PDF]
Likely Voters [PDF]
PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Education (PPIC Publication):

Special Education teacher on leave after controversial letter about tests | WCBD News 2

Upstate teacher on leave after controversial letter about tests | WCBD News 2:
Upstate teacher on leave after controversial letter about tests
Special Education teacher requested students be exempt from federally mandated testing

An Upstate special education teacher says she was pulled from her classroom this week and put on leave after requesting in a letter that her students be exempt from federally mandated standardized testing.
“There’s a difference between testing and standardized testing,” Tracie Happel explained, Wednesday.
Happel says she’s learned this first hand in her 25 years in the classroom. She says testing holds students and teachers accountable, but standardized testing is purely a federal mandate.
In her first year teaching for White Oak Middle in Oconee County, she says the “SC PASS” and “SC READY” tests will force her special education students to meet unreachable standards, based on federal guidelines.
She wrote he concerns in a 3 page letter to the Oconee County School District the day before testing was set to start.
“I expressed my concerns about my students having to take a test where everything was a grade level, when I was working with the kids because they were not at grade level in their academics,” said Happel.
She asked they’d be exempt. She said the district told her it was impossible, but didn’t stop there.
“A few hours after I submitted my letter of objection, I was called to our district office and I was put on administrative leave,” said Happel.
She says the district told her she used derogatory names referencing her students.
“In my letter, I referred to my students and they relayed to me that they feel stupid, and like idiots and like retards,” explained Happel.
She says she works every day to inspire her kids, but they shouldn’t be subjected to fail. She believes it gets down to money with schools earning federal dollars for matching federal standards.
“Children are not exchangeable for money,” said Happel.
Wednesday, the district told 7 News that this was a personnel matter and they could not comment.
In the meantime, Happel just wants to encourage her students faced with taking the tests while she’s away.
“You guys, you can do this. I know you can do this. We talk about this every day how awesome you are. Just do what you’re supposed to do, listen to your mom and dad and I know you can do this,” said Happel, speaking to her students.
Our sister station, 7 News looked into state law. Currently, there is no mandate Upstate teacher on leave after controversial letter about tests | WCBD News 2: