The Weekly Update for the news and views you might have missed

One item of business first. We have to defeat charter school Initiative 1240.

In the right column of this page are the organizations and prominent individuals who have stated opposition to the charter school initiative. Please be among them.

You can go to the No on 1240 website to get more information on charter schools and the initiative, print out flyers, get a yard sign and to donate to this grassroots, shoe string budget, effort.

This will be the fourth time that such an initiative has gone to the voters. The last three times were a resounding “NO!” but Bill Gates and the Walton’s have decided once again to back a charter school initiative and have bankrolled this effort to the tune of about $3M.

I went through the initiative line by line this week and came to my own conclusions about this proposed legislation in the post  The inconvenient truth about Initiative 1240.

Now, on to the news you might have missed.

Unless you were on Pluto this week, or wherever Broad-trained Chicago Public Schools’ CEO Brizard was during the strike, you know that the Chicago teachers completed their negotiations with Mayor Rahmney and have returned to school, but the strike has resonated with many around the country and will continue to do so.

Here is Juan Gonzalez take on the strike:

Chicago Teachers Union head pushed back — and won 

CTU President Karen Lewis

Karen Lewis, who last week led 29,000 Chicago teachers on a school strike heard across the nation, has suddenly emerged as the new champion for millions of frustrated public school teachers.

Many of those teachers are sick and tired of being made into scapegoats by politicians and corporate honchos who never spent a single day in front of a classroom.

They are fed up with overcrowded classrooms in rundown buildings, with bureaucrats who keep hiring high-paid consultants despite huge budget deficits, with new state laws that tie teacher evaluation to their students’ test scores, with the constant closing of neighborhood schools and the stampede to charter schools.

But most of all, they are furious at the lack of respect for them and their profession.

To read the article in full, go the New York Daily News.

Dean Baker, a US macroeconomist and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, wrote about the Chicago teachers’ strike in this article:

Chicago School Teachers Give Us All a Lesson

Two-thirds of parents supported the Chicago school teachers’ protest in spite of the inconvenience caused by the strike.

We don’t know the final terms of the settlement yet, but it appears that the Chicago public school teachers managed to score a major victory over Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s business-oriented mayor. Testing will not comprise as large a share in teachers’ evaluations as Emanuel had wanted; there will be a serious appeals process for teachers whom the school district wants to fire, and laid off teachers will have priority in applying for new positions.

If these seem like narrow self-interested gains for the teachers and their union, think again. Teaching in inner city schools is a difficult and demanding job.

Most of the children in Chicago’s public schools are poor. Their families are struggling with all the issues presented by poverty. Many of the schools are in high crime areas and serious crimes often take place on school premises. It can be a lot harder job than working for a hedge fund.

It will not be possible to get committed and competent people to teach in the public school system if they cannot be guaranteed at least a limited amount of job security and respect. The $70,000 annual pay that was ridiculed as excessive by so many pundits would not even be a week’s salary for many of the Wall Street types who do nothing more productive than shuffle paper.

The widely held view in the media, that the school teachers and their union are an anachronism, turns reality on its head. The so-called “school reform” movement is by now old news. These people have been more or less calling the shots in public education for the last two decades. Their policies have been tried and failed.

The reformers have made great promises about the potential of charter schools that would be free of the encumbrances of teacher unions and government bureaucracies. It turns out that charter schools are more likely to underperform public schools than to out-perform the public schools they replace.

To read this piece in full, go to Aljazeera.

And finally,

A Student’s Perspective on the Chicago Strike

by Celena Rodriguez.

Chicago student Celena Rodriguez

As a student in CPS, I would like to share the student perspective on the ongoing Chicago strike. Some may say I don’t fully understand why CPS teachers are on strike but actually, I do.

I may not understand everything to its fullest extent but I do know that our teachers are fighting for a good cause. They want us to succeed, but how can we do that when we attend a school “like Gage Park High School”? At Gage Park, there are brilliant teachers there who dedicate and devote all of their time to us, but the environment that is offered to us isn’t what we deserve.

We are a low-income school; we have to be hot during several months during the year because there are few fans and air conditioners, and no central cooling like the other fancy schools that Rahm Emanuel keeps naming during his news conferences. Why doesn’t he name Gage Park? Why doesn’t he name Kelly, Curie, Hubbard, Hancock, Tonti, Sawyer or other neighborhood schools? Do we not count? Are we not important? Does Rahm not want us to have a good future?

When he visits schools, he often chooses charters, selective enrollment schools or the AUSL schools, but he almost never highlights regular neighborhood schools. He refers to us as “my children” and says he will not stand to see another generation fail, but to me that’s exactly what he is doing.
To read her post in full, go to Living in Dialogue.

Edu-bully Kevin Huffman

In Tennessee there is a Commissioner of Education who is so upset that a charter school was rejected by the publicly elected school board four times, that he has decided to hold up the much needed funding to the school district and in fact, give it to another school district instead. He is, by the way, the ex-husband of the queen edu bully, Michelle Rhee.

Check this out:

Nashville schools to lose $3.4M over rejection of Great Hearts

Updated 12:36 p.m.

The money that state officials are planning to withhold from Metro Nashville Public Schools is from a pool of funds that pays for many services related to students, according to a statement released by the school system just after noon today.

The roughly $3.4 million in non-classroom administrative funds that state officials plan to withhold is part of a pool that includes student transportation, utilities and maintenance for 5,000 classrooms and more than 80,000 students, according to the statement.

None of those items is connected to the charter school approval process and “we are very disappointed” in the state’s action, the statement read.

The school system does not have a plan on how to deal with an October cut of more than $3 million from its budget; however, budget changes must be approved by the school board, according to the statement.

Updated 11 a.m.

Newly elected school board member Amy Frogge voted against Great Hearts. She called the Board of Education’s decision to withhold $3.4 million from Metro public schools “shameful.”

“Apparently a few people at the top are angry with five of us for voting against Great Hearts and they’ve decided to take it out on 80,000 children,” said Frogge. “This will not hurt me or the board. It will hurt the less fortunate.”

Frogge, an attorney, said she believed the board’s vote last week against Great Hearts was legal.

The state gave Metro an “unclear mandate” about the charter school, she said. On the one hand, it asked Metro to approve the school. On the other hand, it also issued three contingencies for Great Hearts approval, one being diversity, she said.

“I felt the contingencies should be met before approval,” she said. “The state raised the diversity issue. My question was, ‘How are they going to comply?’”

Frogge said she would be researching the legality of the board’s decision to withhold money from a local school board.

“It’s my understanding they can’t legally withhold money,” Frogge said.

Update 8:55 a.m.

The Tennessee Department of Education plans to give the $3.4 million it is withholding from Metro Nashville public schools to other school districts, according to a statement released this morning.

To read this article in full, go to The Tennessean.

What’s interesting about this next article, is that the Governor of Tennessee is now saying that he wants to have a “statewide charter school authorizer” so that they won’t have to deal with those pesky publicly elected school boards any longer. This is the same sort of “authorizer” that is referred to in charter school Initiative 1240 which will be on the ballot in the state of Washington in November.

Here are the details of this ongoing and unseemly edu-bullying happening in Tennessee.

Partisan battle intensifies feud over charter school

A decision by the state to withhold almost $3.4 million from Metro Nashville Public Schools for defying an order to approve a charter school escalated an already simmering partisan battle over whose political philosophy will shape public schools.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam stopped just short Tuesday of saying a statewide charter school authorizer would be on his legislative agenda when the session begins in January. But Democratic representatives are lining up behind the Metro school board and every district’s right to make decisions for its constituency.

“At a time when we hear so much about ‘education reform’ and ‘local control’ from this administration, this unprecedented action would seem counterproductive,” said Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, House minority whip.

“Taking $3 million from Nashville children is a foolish move and I intend to fight this kind of petulant behavior when we get back in January,” said Jones, who plans to fight any proposal for a statewide charter school authorizer.

State officials said they chose to withhold administrative money — not classroom funds — in hopes of having the least possible effect on students.

Kevin Huffman, commissioner of education, announced Tuesday that the state would withhold a month of administrative funding because the Metro school board refused to approve a charter school application by Arizona-based Great Hearts Academies after being ordered to do so. Board members voted 5-4 to deny the charter Sept. 11, after the board’s attorney said they would be breaking the law.

“We’re responsible for enforcing the law,” said Haslam, who is accused of backflipping on his opinion about whether Metro schools should be fined. In August he said, “With education, the discussion should always be about what’s best for the students.… That being said, threatening money, that’s not the business we’re in.”

Haslam said Tuesday that “when their own attorney tells them that they are violating state law, we can’t just stand back.”

The school system released a statement early Tuesday saying officials had not had time to develop a plan for the loss of funds during October. The state money earmarked for non-classroom expenses is not designated for administrative purposes only, but for all kinds of expenses that also affect Metro’s 81,000 students, such as utilities, student transportation, and maintenance of the system’s 5,000 classrooms, the statement said.

To read this article in full, go to The Tennessean.

In the state of Washington, ed reformers are starting to whisper the name “K12 Online Learning” into the ears of some of our state legislators.

Hey, it’s a cheap way to educate our young ones and what a bonus on the other end, no “expensive” staff and not much overhead either so the profits can’t be beat.

Cyper schools are cashing in…big time.

In K12 Courses, 275 Students to a Single Teacher

Student-teacher ratios at K12, the nation’s largest online educator, are nearly twice as high as Florida’s state-run virtual school, according to internal company documents obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and StateImpact Florida.

A high school teacher working for K12 may have as many as 275 students, compared to Florida Virtual School, which has a maximum class size of 150.

“The concept of one teacher managing 275 or 300 students — it just doesn’t make sense,” said Luis Huerta, a Columbia University education professor who studies online education. “It’s hard to believe one person could do that. You have teacher-pupil ratios that are ten times what it would be in a traditional school.”

According to company documents, K12 provides better student-teacher ratios to schools that pay more per student, though even the best ratios are higher than the state-run competitor’s.

The publicly traded K12 operates in 43 Florida school districts, including in Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange and Duval counties, with students ranging in education level from kindergarten to high school.

K12 has come under fire for high student-teacher ratios and poor student performance in Arizona, Georgia and Tennessee. A July 2012 study by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado found that K12’s students fell further behind in reading and math scores than traditional students.

The online educator is now under investigation by the Florida Department of Education for allegedly using improperly certified teachers and asking employees to cover up the practice.

Better Pay, Better Ratio

K12’s executive vice president of school services, Chip Hughes, laid out the company’s class-size formula in a confidential April 2010 memo.

Under the formula, the more a school district pays, the better the student-teacher ratio.

School districts that pay $4,000 or more per student receive a 225-to-1 student-teacher ratio in high school classes. Districts paying less than $3,000 per student have a 275-to-1 ratio.

By contrast, Florida Virtual Schools, a state-run competitor to K12, uses a maximum ratio of 150-to-1. Florida’s Class Size Amendment, which does not govern online education, allows for a maximum of 25 students per classroom.

Asked if the ratios in the internal company memo are accurate, K12 spokesman Jeff Kwitowski said in a statement: “As with traditional schools, it varies by school, grade and course.”

No industry standard exists for student-teacher ratios in online education — the field is still new and little research is available. But education experts believe teacher involvement with students has the greatest effect on academic achievement.

K12 contracts with local school districts to provide virtual education to students throughout Florida. The for-profit online educator does not report student-teacher ratios to local school districts, and public school administrators have no way to audit a teacher’s student load independently, since one K12 teacher could have students scattered around the country.

To read this article in full, go to The Miami Herald.

And more on K12, Inc. and other online learning enterprises:

Virtually anything goes with online education

The sounds of September: school bells ringing, loose-leaf binders snapping open and shut, sneakers squeaking on gymnasium floors. Next to apple pie, what could possibly be more American than these familiar sounds and the local public schools where we hear them?

But times change. Blackboards and chalk no longer grace every classroom. Even pre-kindergarteners in the best-equipped schools gather around interactive smartboards and tap away on tablet computers. With the Internet, we can share lessons across borders.

In the new Information Age, are local public schools becoming obsolete? Do we need a new model for educating our young? Some sort of revolution in teaching and learning?

Questions like these demand thoughtful and patient democratic deliberation that we’re not getting. In today’s deeply unequal United States, we’re rushing to an educational future that profits our awesomely affluent few — at the expense of the rest of us.

The most striking manifestation of this rush: the near quarter-million elementary and high school students enrolled full-time in taxpayer-funded “virtual schools” that for-profit companies now operate in 27 states. These schools have no physical classrooms, no playgrounds — and no in-person teachers.

How does learning take place? In these online “academies,” even the youngest of students sit in front of their home computers. Their parents serve as “learning coaches,” following instructions they read on screen. Remotely located teachers monitor and grade the students.

One of these remote teachers at the elementary level can have as many as 60 students.

The educational results from this “learning” process can be ugly. A New York Times investigation concluded that K12 Inc., one of the nation’s top two corporate virtual schoolers, squeezes profits “by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload, and lowering standards.”

In Tennessee, about 1,800 kindergarten to 8th-grade students “attended” K12’s Tennessee Virtual Academy last year. Virtual Academy students, notes the state education department, “performed in the bottom 11 percent of schools statewide.” Other studies show similarly dismal academic results.

How could state education officials allow public tax dollars to underwrite these virtual disasters? Don’t we have rules and regulations designed to protect students from commercial exploitation?

We do. But in more and more states these rules don’t apply. What one analyst described as a tight-knit network of “right-wing millionaires and billionaires, bankers, industrialists, lobby shops, and hardcore ideologues” is carving out an ever-growing space where “virtually” anything goes.

In Maine, for instance, the state’s right-wing governor Paul LePage, has “formally embraced” a 10-point plan that effectively sweeps away hard-won protections for students — and taxpayers.

The governor’s plan eliminates “restrictions on online student-to-teacher ratios” and requires taxpayers to pay online providers by the same per-pupil funding formula that covers students in regular brick-and-mortar public schools.

The text for an online education executive order the governor issued earlier this year, the Portland Press Herald recently revealed, came directly from a Florida think tank funded by the virtual school companies “that stand to make millions of dollars” as the governor’s new initiative goes forward.

To read this article in full, go to Nation of Change.

Now, about that ed-reform web, check out:

Big time edu-bully Joel Klein

News Corp. Exec Uses News Corp. Paper To Attack Teachers’ Strike Without Disclosing News Corp. Testing Contracts

In an op-ed in Sunday’s Wall Street Journal, News Corp. executive vice president Joel Klein attacked the ongoing teachers’ strike in Chicago without disclosing his role in administering $4.7 million in educational testing contracts at the heart of the dispute.

In 2010, News Corp. purchased 90 percent of the education technology company Wireless Generation for $360 million, incorporating that company into the education subsidiary of News Corp. now known as Amplify.

Klein, the former schools chancellor for New York City, was hired by Rupert Murdoch to run News Corp.’s education division in July of 2010 and is now the CEO of Amplify. While the Journal — which is also owned by News Corp. — identified Klein as Amplify’s CEO, neither the paper nor Klein himself disclosed that the company has millions of dollars in contracts for the very testing that is a central issue in the strike.

In May, Chicago Public Schools entered into an agreement with Wireless Generation to provide “math assessment services” and “literacy assessment services” to the school district. The math agreement is for “a total cost not to exceed $1,700,000” while the literacy assessment cites a cost “not to exceed $3,000,000.” The Progressive Change Campaign Committee first reported on these contracts in a September 12 blog post.

In his op-ed, Klein downplays the teachers’ rationale for taking action, writing that the strike “feels more about attitude — ‘the mayor doesn’t respect us’ — than substance.” In fact, the Chicago Teachers Union objects to a reformulation of the existing teacher evaluation system which would make standardized tests — like those administered by Wireless Generation — count for 40 percent of the score, which will be used to determine teacher pay and whether certain teachers will be laid off.

Union president Karen Lewis said the tests are “no way to measure the effectiveness of an educator” and that “there are too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform on standardized tests such as poverty, exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger and other social issues beyond our control.” The union is seeking such scores to weigh less heavily on the teachers’ evaluations.

Indeed, reporting in the Journal has highlighted the centrality of teacher evaluations based on standardized testing to the ongoing dispute between teachers and the city. In a September 10 article the Journal noted that the strike has highlighted “a growing national debate over how best to evaluate teachers, set their pay and fire them.”

To read this article in full, go to Media Matters.

I came across this video today titled Who Is Behind The Privatization Of Education: Gates, Broad, KIPP, Pearson, EdWest & The Gulen Schools. This is a recommended weekend watch.

Particularly at:

33 minutes: Bruce Neuberger, AFT 4681 San Mateo Adult School

52 minutes: Sharon Higgins, Founding Member, Parents Across America, researcher and blogger on charters at Charter School Scandals.

1 hour/9 minutes: Susan Miesenhelder, California State University,  Long Beach

1 hour/23 minutes:  Danny Weil, journalist on truthout and author on charters & privatization.

And finally, check out my new fave blog, Edu Shyster. This blogger will have you in tears, laughing and crying all at the same time.

Check out:

Is Education Reform Like Crack for Columnists?

Why is Charter Math so Hard???

Not Another Bad Teacher Movie

And one big THANK YOU! To Diane Ravitch who keeps my inbox full of her great blog updates.

Have a nice weekend.