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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Common Enemy – Have You Heard

Common Enemy – Have You Heard:

Common Enemy

In rural Ohio, resistance to the DeVos brand of school reform—unregulated, profitable, hyper-partisan—isn’t hard to find…
Image result for devos weingarten van wertSince Betsy DeVos was tapped to be Secretary of Education, I’ve managed to pen close to 20,000 words about her. And now here she was, standing so close to me that I could make out the flat a’s of western Michigan in her voice. I’d made my way to tiny Van Wert, OH (pop. 10,718) so that I could be part of the long-awaited joint appearance by DeVos and American Federation of teachers President Randi Weingarten. I was expecting little in the way of drama; school visits are highly orchestrated affairs. It was dissonance I was after. DeVos’ brand of school reform—unregulated, profitable, hyper-partisan—has resistance here that extends well beyond the small group of protesters who’d gathered in the parking lot.
I’d caught up with the tour in time for what was intended to be the high point: a robotics showcase featuring students from 5th grade on up doing cool STEM-ish stuff. Members of the high school robotics team showed off their prize-winning creation, something that looked to this untrained eye, like an exercise ball with a bomb attached. Students who’d competed in the Believe in Ohio innovation competition were eager to demonstrate their inventions. A sophomore who’d come up with a screwdriver that never strips screws walked me through his design process, mentioning in passing that Believe in Ohio is Common Enemy – Have You Heard:

California: Time to Reform the “Reformers”! | Diane Ravitch's blog

California: Time to Reform the “Reformers”! | Diane Ravitch's blog:

California: Time to Reform the “Reformers”!

Big Education Ape: The Birth of Fake News: Portrait of the Movement -

The California Teachers Association has assembled a large coalition of groups to support the reform of charter schools. The press release calls it a “Broad Coalition” but in California that is a double entendre. (Do they mean a coalition funded by billionaire Eli Broad? No!).
Broad Coalition of Legislators, Educators and Parents Back 3 Bills to Stop Waste, Fraud and Abuse, Ensure Equal Access for All Students at California’s Charter Schools
Contacts: Claudia Briggs at 916-325-1550 or Mike Myslinski at 650-552-5324
SACRAMENTO – Lawmakers, educators, parents and a broad coalition of community supporters joined for a news conference today in the State Capitol to shed light on a very important package of bills that must be enacted to ensure California charter school accountability and transparency and to also ensure unbiased access to all students.
SB 808 by Sen. Tony Mendoza, AB 1478 by Assembly Member Reggie Jones-Sawyer and AB 1360 by Assembly Member Rob Bonta would address many of the injustices and fraudulent practices that are negatively impacting California’s students.
SB 808 would ensure local control by allowing charter schools to be authorized only by the school district in which the charters would be located. “It is important, especially as an educator, to have people engage in open discussion about ensuring that our children’s educational system continues to improve. Part of ensuring that our education system advances is to make sure that all schools – charter and traditional – are held accountable for the concerns of parents and students,” said Senator Mendoza, author of SB 808.
AB 1478 would require charter school governing boards to comply with existing laws rightfully demanding transparency and accountability to parents and the public in the operation of taxpayer-funded schools.
“Evidence shows that this lack of accountability has led to financial gains for for-profit corporate charter operators, has too often been disastrous for thousands of California students and has cost taxpayers millions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse,” said Terri Jackson, California Teachers Association Board Member and fourth-grade teacher in Contra Costa County. “Public education should be about kids, not profits. Instead of subsidizing corporate charter schools run by for-profit companies with taxpayer dollars, we should be using the money to strengthen our local neighborhood public schools for all California children.”
The California Federation of Teachers also co-sponsored the bills urging lawmakers and the governor to enact them to stop the fraudulent and wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars. “By creating non-profit shells, charter corporations are able to hide behind a technicality to skim off profits from public dollars. AB 1478 will help put an end to this practice, and this package of bills will make charter schools more accountable overall,” said Gemma Abels, a CFT Vice President and president of the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers.

AB 1360 would set new requirements for charter schools’ admission, suspension and expulsion policies, bringing them more in line with traditional schools. “AB 1360 provides equal opportunity for our students by ensuring they have fair access to learning opportunities in all publicly funded California schools,” said Assembly Member Bonta. “Our young people must not be disadvantaged or pushed out of learning California: Time to Reform the “Reformers”! | Diane Ravitch's blog:
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CURMUDGUCATION: Choice and Guarantees

CURMUDGUCATION: Choice and Guarantees:

Choice and Guarantees

You are visiting friends, and at suppertime, they give you two options. "We can go to Restaurant A," they say, "and there will be only one choice on the menu, but I can guarantee you that it will be awesome. Or we can go to Restaurant B where there will be plenty of choices, but it's entirely possible they will all be pretty lousy."

Which restaurant would you select?

Some reformy choice advocates insist that Restaurant B is the better option. These choicers insist that what parents want is choice. I think not. I think what parents (and students and neighbors and taxpayers) want is secure knowledge that public tax money s being well-spent, and that when a student walks into a classroom, that student is being met by a well-trained, capable professional educator who is going to meet that child where the child is, and do their best to lift that child up.

Rick Smith, in a recent conversation with Jeff Bryant, makes the point by talking about health care. If I'm sick or, say, my wife is about to give birth, I don't want a bunch of choices of various hospitals and doctors. I want to know that the hospital I go to will be great. And then Bryant used a word that jumped out at me.

When it comes to schools, people want a guarantee.

Not choice. Not a bunch of bad options. They want a guarantee.

Guarantee is a strong word. We often talk about the promise of public education, and that's a nice word, but a promise leaves an awful lot of wiggle room.
But guarantee. That's strong stuff. No matter who you are. No matter where you live. No matter what your child brings to the table. We guarantee we'll provide whatever is needed to do the job.

A guarantee isn't just a promise that I'll do the job right. It is a promise that if I fail, I will make it right.

There is absolutely no question that there are places, districts, schools that have failed to honor their guarantee. I don't want to minimize that for a second. Some school "failures" have been manufactured by rigging the game and cooking the books (looking at you, test-centered "accountability'). Some school failures have been manufactured by deliberately starving public schools. Some school failures have been deliberate 
CURMUDGUCATION: Choice and Guarantees:

Is Everybody Really on Board with LAUSD's Universal Enrollment?

Is Everybody Really on Board with LAUSD's Universal Enrollment?:

Is Everybody Really on Board with LAUSD's Universal Enrollment?

Big Education Ape: 'Common Enrollment' - The Newest Page in School Privatizers' Playbook -

EDUCATION POLITICS-The pro-privatization LA School Report (LASR) spun a school board committee meeting report last month to say that just about everybody in LAUSD wants charter schools to be included in a universal enrollment system. This was alarming since universal enrollment is an urgent priority of the charter lobby. 
“Common enrollment is a big Walton idea to put charters on the same footing as public schools,” education historian and national treasure Diane Ravitch told me in an email.
Whether they call it universal enrollment, common enrollment, unified enrollment, or OneApp, charters want to piggyback on the establishment. Always insisting that they are “public schools,” they want to be viewed that way by every parent, “regardless of zip code.” Similar enrollment systems in New Orleans and Denver were funded by the pro-charter Walton Family Foundation
This caused a bit of a stir because the article said that even the privatizers’ nemesis, UTLA, was on board. 
“One of the committee members, Robin Potash, a teacher representing UTLA, said it was important for the district to include charter schools in the list of options and to do it faster than their present timeline….“We all know there are many new charters opening in the district and they should be included as soon as possible,” Potash said. “These are all our students and they should be listed as options.” 
Given that universal enrollment is such a boon for charters, could it be true that there is consensus among the California charter lobby, the UTLA representative and all three LAUSD board members on that committee? 
I called UTLA’s Robin Potash to find out if LASR quoted her accurately. 
She explained that her comments at the meeting came after a rosy presentation by the LAUSD School Choice department. (You can watch here.) 
One LAUSD staffer said it was like a shopping cart. “What this will allow parents to do now is a one stop shop.” 
We’re “hoping to increase the equity and access,” said another. 
That resonated with Potash. She said her school, located in South Central LA, has four co-located charters impacting it. She was hopeful that the inclusion of charters in LAUSD’s enrollment application would also bring some much needed oversight of them. 
Potash was looking for solutions to a problem that is so common that the ACLU issued a report last year admonishing the one in five California charter schools that were found using discriminatory enrollment practices, according to the report. The NAACP found discriminatory enrollment by charters to be such a significant problem that it called for a national moratorium on charter expansion until that and other issues were corrected. 
Maybe including charters in LAUSD’s enrollment process would be a way of making them more accountable for using the standard enrollment methods employed by district schools. At least that’s what Potash hoped. 
She’s not alone. 
Last year, California’s State Senate Education Committee held a hearing about charter oversight. The committee was asked to push school districts for common enrollment for the same reasons Potash thought it might help. 
In testimony to the committee, Silke Bradford, the Director of Quality Diverse Providers for Oakland Unified School District, suggested that a common enrollment system like New Orleans uses, would go a long way toward providing the oversight and accountability that charters need. You can watch her testimony here.  
She said for charter schools to be “pure public schools,” a term she coined to distinguish charter schools that are using public funds transparently from those that are not, they have to do better about Is Everybody Really on Board with LAUSD's Universal Enrollment?:
Big Education Ape: Lack of quality schools will doom common enrollment in New Orleans: Andre Perry | -

Diane Ravitch Urges Boycott of Standardized Tests, Saying They Do Nothing for Kids But Make Testing Companies Rich | Alternet

Diane Ravitch Urges Boycott of Standardized Tests, Saying They Do Nothing for Kids But Make Testing Companies Rich | Alternet:

Diane Ravitch Urges Boycott of Standardized Tests, Saying They Do Nothing for Kids But Make Testing Companies Rich

"Defend Your Child. Defend Learning. Opt Out."

Click on picture to Listen to Diane Ravitch

I am very glad that I attended public school during a time when we seldom, if ever, took a standardized test. On the rare occasion when we did, there were no consequences attached to our test scores. Our teachers saw our scores, but we did not. She or he learned something about how we were progressing or not. There was no time devoted to test prep, because the tests didn't matter. Practicing for a test would have been like "practicing" for a visit with the doctor. It makes no sense.

Today, standardized testing has become so ubiquitous that students in public schools are tested every year from grades 3 through 8, a reminder of the No Child Left Behind law, which left many children behind. For some reason, the policymakers in D.C. thought they knew more than professional educators about how to improve education. Test every child every year. Threaten teachers and principals with stiff penalties, including being fired or having their school closed. If scores went up, and sometimes they did, it didn't mean that children were better educated. It may have meant that they were worse educated because their school sacrificed the arts, history, civics, and other activities for the sake of prepping for the all-important tests.

Nevertheless, state leaders became persuaded that tests were good; the more tests the better. Most states are now giving tests that their own legislators would not be able to pass. There ought to be a law that no legislator may impose any test that he or she can't pass. If they took the tests and released their own scores, the testing mania would disappear.

Since that won't happen, the next best thing is civil disobedience. Opt out. Don't let your child take the tests. This a legitimate way of expressing your voice, which is otherwise ignored.

The single most important thing you need to know about the state tests is that they are utterly useless and without any value. The results come back in the summer or fall, when the student has a different teacher. Neither students nor teachers are allowed to discuss the questions on the test, so no one learns anything from them. Teachers are not given a diagnostic report for each student, just rankings. Why do you need to know that your child is a 38 or 48 or 68? How does that help her? What information can you glean from a ranking? None.

Testing today is like visiting the doctor for a regular check-up and learning that your results will be ready in four months, not next week. When the results come in, you are told you are a 12 on a scale of 15. You anxiously ask the doctor, what does that mean? He says, "I am not allowed to tell you." He gives you a few other numbers to show how you rate as compared to others of your height and weight, but he prescribes nothing because he is not able to learn anything from the scores and ratings.

A genuinely diagnostic test would be one where students and teachers could Diane Ravitch Urges Boycott of Standardized Tests, Saying They Do Nothing for Kids But Make Testing Companies Rich | Alternet:

Betsy DeVos Says Media Shouldn’t Emphasize First Hundred Days Because “It’s So Hard to Count to a Hundred” - The New Yorker

Betsy DeVos Says Media Shouldn’t Emphasize First Hundred Days Because “It’s So Hard to Count to a Hundred” - The New Yorker:


WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Education Secretary Betsy DeVos criticized the media on Friday for placing so much emphasis on Donald Trump’s first hundred days, because “it’s so darn hard to count to a hundred.”

“I’m watching the news and they’re going on about a hundred days this and a hundred days that, and all I want to say is, ‘Who the heck can count all the way to a hundred?’ ” she said. “They’re acting like we’re a bunch of math geniuses.”

DeVos added that, if the media wanted to establish a benchmark for Trump’s achievement, “they should have picked a number of days that people can actually count to, like five or ten.”

The Education Secretary then demonstrated how it was possible to count to ten using one’s hands.
Despite the media’s obsession with “ridiculously big numbers,” DeVos said she has no intention of trying to count to a hundred.
“I have an important job and the last thing I need is to do something that makes my head hurt,” she said..Betsy DeVos Says Media Shouldn’t Emphasize First Hundred Days Because “It’s So Hard to Count to a Hundred” - The New Yorker:

NEW Nationally Syndicated Op Ed: School Vouchers Aren’t the Answer #AERA17 – Cloaking Inequity

NEW Nationally Syndicated Op Ed: School Vouchers Aren’t the Answer #AERA17 – Cloaking Inequity:

NEW Nationally Syndicated Op Ed: School Vouchers Aren’t the Answer #AERA17

President Donald Trump has proposed cutting after-school programs for young children as well as grants and federal work-study programs for college students. But his most significant attack on public education may be his pledge to spend $20 billion on market-based school choice, including charter schools and vouchers.
Conventional voucher policies now exist in 16 states. Taxpayers in those states help pay private-school tuition for about 175,000 students each year. Education savings accounts that let states circumnavigate constitutional language against public funding for private and religious organizations are used in 17 states and generate another 250,000 vouchers annually.
Before the public embraces Trump’s plans to create even more vouchers, there are important things it should know about the voucher concept’s origination.
Milton Friedman, a University of Chicago economist and apostle of free-market fundamentalism, believed corporations should be able to profit from education. In 1997, he wrote an article arguing that vouchers were “a means to make a transition from a government to a market system,” to enable “a private, for-profit industry to develop” and ultimately abolish public schools.
In 1955, Friedman also wrote that he didn’t believe in government-sponsored integration of schools. Southern politicians agreed and used vouchers to create what were called “segregation academies” for whites only.
Proponents of school vouchers overlook this history and frame vouchers as a “limited” approach meant to help poor children in cities – even claiming they are a civil right.
The political argument that market-based school choice is the answer for longstanding inequalities in the American education system is at odds with the positions of most national civil rights organizations. The NAACP and Urban League agree that vouchers, in the words of a civil rights leadership conference report, “siphon away all-too-limited public education funds and fail to provide protection from discrimination and segregation.”
There is little evidence that vouchers have a positive effect on student performance. Martin Carnoy, a Stanford University professor of eco­nomics and education, concluded in a recent Economic Policy Institute report that the predominance of peer-reviewed research over 25 years shows vouchers don’t improve student success.
Yet vouchers are supported by well-heeled conservative philanthropists and conservatives including the Koch brothers, American Legislative Executive Council, Walton Foundation and Heritage Foundation. That’s because vouchers purposefully transfer the responsibility for educating students, and the funding that comes with it, away from the traditional democratically controlled public school system.
And vouchers give private schools greater control over the student population through such practices as “creaming” and “cropping.” Creaming occurs when private schools choose to enroll only the best and least costly students. Cropping is when they deny more costly students who are disabled, poor or language learners. Private “choice schools” can legally prevent them from enrolling.
Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos remain committed to privately managed school choice funded by public tax dollars, despite a sordid racial history, opposition from the civil rights community, state constitutional problems and the proven failure of the approach to help students.
You can see the extended version published at The Progressive magazine here.
Read more about school vouchers here.
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NEW Nationally Syndicated Op Ed: School Vouchers Aren’t the Answer #AERA17 – Cloaking Inequity:

Under federal investigation, Celerity charter schools are in danger of losing their accreditation - LA Times

Under federal investigation, Celerity charter schools are in danger of losing their accreditation - LA Times:

Under federal investigation, Celerity charter schools are in danger of losing their accreditation

Los Angeles charter schools that are part of a network currently under federal investigation have been put on notice that their accreditation is in jeopardy.
Seven schools run by the nonprofit Celerity Educational Group are spread across the Los Angeles Unified School District. Six carry the seal of approval of the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges, commonly known by its acronym WASC, an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
On Wednesday, the association sent Celerity Chief Executive Grace Canada a letter saying that after a preliminary investigation, it had found the network to be in violation of several of the agency’s policies. It demanded that Celerity provide evidence to show “why the accreditation status of all CEG schools should not be withheld,” according to the letter signed by WASC President Fred Van Leuven.
Founded by a former L.A. Unified employee, Celerity Educational Group has been operating charter schools in Los Angeles for over a decade. In recent years, it has gone national, expanding into Ohio and Florida — where it struggled to gain a foothold and eventually withdrew — and Louisiana, where it still operates four charter schools today.
But after years of relatively little scrutiny, the charter school network is now the subject of two investigations, one by the inspector general of L.A. Unified, who has been looking into allegations of misuse of public funds, and another by federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Education.
In January, agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and other agencies raided Celerity’s offices as well as the headquarters of a related nonprofit, Celerity Global Development, and the home of the organization’s founder, Vielka McFarlane.
In its review of the group’s financial records, The Times documented years of questionable spending by Celerity’s leaders and potential conflicts of interest.
No one at Celerity, including McFarlane, has been charged with a crime stemming from the schools’ operations. Celerity’s leaders have repeatedly defended the network’s management and financial decisions as perfectly legal and typical of charter schools, which are privately managed but publicly funded.
In its letter to Celerity, WASC criticized the network for not alerting the association to the federal raid and investigation in a “timely” manner. The association’s policies require schools to report any “substantive changes” within 30 days.
It also questioned the organization’s ethics and its commitment to fully disclosing information about its operations. Included in WASC’s letter was a list of requests for Under federal investigation, Celerity charter schools are in danger of losing their accreditation - LA Times: