First up:

Incomes of the wealthy have increased by 28% and yet 24% of our children live in poverty.

24% of our children are living in poverty. That’s 1 in 5 children which is 17M+ children who are not adequately taken care of in terms of their health and diet, and that’s just the basics. That’s where the focus should be if we are truly concerned about the generations that follow us, not what they scored on a standardized test. It’s interesting that the wealthy who are pushing ed reform willfully ignore the obvious.

1 in 5 Kids in U.S. Living in Poverty, Report Says

Signs of economic recovery in the U.S. aside, kids are still suffering: more than one in five children lives in poverty, a study has found.

The Urban Institute, examining data from this year, focused on three areas to determine the impact on children:

  • The number of kids living with an unemployed parent.
  • How many of them rely on food stamps.
  • The overall number of youths living below the poverty line.

To read the results of this study in full, go to the National Journal: The Next America.

From PEW Research:

A Rise in Wealth for the Wealthy; Declines for the Lower 93%

During the first two years of the nation’s economic recovery, the mean net worth of households in the upper 7% of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28%, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93% dropped by 4%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released Census Bureau data.

And what is Congress doing about it? Do I hear crickets?

Lawmaker Unemployment Hearing Attended By Single Member of Congress At Opening

One lawmaker and a few journalists.
One lawmaker and a few journalists.


More than five years since the start of the Great Recession, unemployment remains a major economic problem in the United States, with long-term unemployment among its most stubborn aspects.

Nobody told Congress.

A hearing Thursday on long-term unemployment held before the 19-member Joint Economic Committee began with just a single lawmaker in attendance. Panelists testifying on the problem and its potential solutions spoke only to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the committee’s vice-chair, for the beginning of the roughly 90-minute session.

To read this article in full, go to the Huffington Post.

Speaking of the wealthy 1%:

Byrd Bennett’s ‘underutilization crisis’ was written into a script published by the Broad Foundation three years ago (and removed from the Broad website last week)…Who is Eli Broad and why does he want to destroy public education and turn teacher unions into company unions?

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Eli Broad at Obama's first Inaugural Ball.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Eli Broad at Obama’s first Inaugural Ball.


“The election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, as the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned. With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments — charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards — the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.” – Eli Broad

The historically unprecedented explosion of wealth in recent decades for the top one percent of the American populace is leading to a reshaping of the American economy in the interests of this one percent. Having more wealth than they know what to do with, many of the corporate leaders, hedge fund managers, and bankers are putting their wealth into “venture philanthropies”. They hope to advance an unregulated, free market economy which requires the destruction of the advances towards social equality made in American society during the 20th century due to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the sixties and the labor movement in the thirties. Incubated in the economic Wild West days of the G. W. Bush administration until the financial crisis of 2008, these venture philanthropies continue to seek to bring the business practices of the banking, corporate, and hedge fund manager world to all sectors of the U.S. economy through privatization.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the full-scale assault on public education that has been escalating for the last ten years since the Bush administration instituted the No Child Left Behind law in 2001. Basing itself on rating schools by high stakes testing, combined with declining federal support for education, NCLB has led to wide scale vilification of public school teachers for social conditions over which they have no control. This is being used all over the country as a pretext for closing schools in mostly urban school districts with large numbers of low-income families.

To read this article in full, go to Substance News.

And from edushyster:

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! XOXO Walmart


Imagine that you are possessed of the surname “Walton” and happen to be sitting on mad coin—say a cool $90 billion. How do you celebrate the occasion that is Teacher Appreciation Day? Do you chip in to give the nation’s teachers a raise, knowing they’ve been hard hit by the recession? Do you send them gift cards to Walmart, the store that hath so enrichethed you? If you are a teacher in Massachusetts, the Waltons have an extra special treat in store for you: a fully-funded gala at the Statehouse urging the replacement of the state’s many non-excellent teachers with fresh new innovators who will share their excellence one renewable year at a time. Happy Teacher Appreciation Day, xoxo Walmart!…

It turns out that Walmart money is paying for virtually every aspect of the campaign to eliminate the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts. Millions in Walmart dough is being steered to the groups that advocate for charter school expansion, finance the construction of new charters, conduct the polls showing growing public support for more charters and place strategic op-eds calling for more charters. Some $2 million of that money, by the way, goes to individual academies of excellence and innovation, like MATCH and Excel, whose students are transformed into junior lobbyists come cap raising season. Breaking news: a new poll finds that support for excellence rises as voters learn more about its excellence.

But who are these Waltons and from whence did their big box of excellence cometh? Worth as much as the bottom 40% of Americans combined, the Waltons “get” that there is nothing we can do about the low wages that cause poverty. What we CAN do is “infuse pressure” into the K-12 education system in order to give poor people a “choice” of education options, much like local businesses are infused with pressure when a Walmart Super Center opens its doors nearby, giving the choice-loving consumer a choice of made-in-China goods.

To read this post in full, go to edu shyster.

And more on charter schools:

The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence Student Enrollment

This commentary offers a classification of twelve different approaches that charter schools use to structure their student enrollment. These practices impact the likelihood of students enrolling with a given set of characteristics, be it higher (or lower) test scores, students with ‘expensive’ disabilities, English learners, students of color, or students in poverty.

Informed discussions of whether charter schools are successful include considerations of student differences between different schools. We address “selection bias,” “attrition bias” and the like because measured outcomes are undoubtedly affected by inputs. Charter schools tend to have fewer students with disabilities, fewer English learners, and a less poor population of students than their surrounding public schools (Frankenberg, Siegel-Hawley, and Wang, 2010; Miron, et al., 2010; U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2012).

… little attention has been paid to the mechanisms that generate these differences. One exception is an article in February of 2013, written by reporter Stephanie Simon of Reuters, which described a variety of ways that charter schools “get the students they want” (Simon, 2013):

* Applications that are made available just a few hours a year.

* Lengthy application forms, often printed only in English, that require student and parent essays, report cards, test scores, disciplinary records, teacher recommendations and medical records.

* Demands that students present Social Security cards and birth certificates for their applications to be considered, even though such documents cannot be required under federal law.

* Mandatory family interviews.

* Assessment exams.

* Academic prerequisites.

* Requirements that applicants document any disabilities or special needs. The U.S. Department of Education considers this practice illegal on the college level but has not addressed the issue for K-12 schools.

To read more, go to Teachers College Record.

A charter school scam. Wow, what a surprise! As long as big money is involved in public education there will be graft and corruption.

State cuts off money to UNO charter schools over insider deals

From left, Gov. Pat Quinn, UNO CEO Juan Rangel, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Ald. Edward Burke at the July 2012 groundbreaking on the Southwest Side for the UNO Soccer Academy Charter High School.
From left, Gov. Pat Quinn, UNO CEO Juan Rangel, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Ald. Edward Burke at the July 2012 groundbreaking on the Southwest Side for the UNO Soccer Academy Charter High School.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration has cut off funding to the state’s largest charter-school operator, the politically influential United Neighborhood Organization, over insider deals it says violated terms of a $98 million state grant, according to a letter obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

The deals involved millions of dollars in state funds that went to companies owned by two brothers of a high-ranking UNO executive, Miguel d’Escoto, that were hired as contractors on state-funded school construction projects in Chicago, according to the letter, which was sent to the organization Thursday from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The state agency began investigating UNO in response to reports in the Sun-Times that revealed that d’Escoto Inc. and Reflection Window Co. have been paid a total of $8.5 million out of the state grant. D’Escoto Inc. is owned by Federico “Fred” d’Escoto. Reflection Window is owned by Rodrigo d’Escoto.

The two men are brothers of Miguel d’Escoto, a city transportation commissioner in former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration who resigned Feb. 12 from his $200,000-a-year position as UNO’s No. 2 executive following the Sun-Times reports.

To read this article in full, go to the Sun Times.

Another big surprise, putting students in front of computers 50 at a time in a room with one teacher isn’t working. Who’da guessed.

A National Education Policy Center (NPEC) Report:

Nation’s Online Elementary and Secondary Schools Expand Rapidly, But Academic Performance Lags Behind Other Public Schools, New Report Finds

A national study, released today by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), offers a comprehensive review of 311 virtual schools operating in the United States. It finds serious and systemic problems with the nation’s full-time cyber schools.

University of Colorado, Boulder Professor Alex Molnar, who edited Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2013: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence, summed it up this way: “Even a cursory review of virtual schooling in the U.S. reveals an environment much like the legendary wild west. There are outsized claims, lagging performance, intense conflicts, lots of taxpayer money at stake, and very little solid evidence to justify the rapid expansion of virtual schools.”

To read this report in full, go the National Education Policy Center.

Now on to more news:

Navy Steals: The Military’s New Interest in single-sex STEM Camps

Here’s a little tidbit about the Navy Seals and the military industrial complex and how they are targeting 7 and 8 year old girls with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math instruction (STEM).  This is the same STEM outcome learning that Obama’s DOE and its Kitchen-Cabinet, The Lumina Foundation is carnival barking about.

Seems the little darlings are never too young to be monetized and militarized.

Although women make up about half of the United States workforce, they represent just 24 percent of careers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). In order to correct this, major nonprofit groups have been organizing STEM enrichment camps for middle- and high-school girls, driven by the philosophy that more women will pursue STEM careers if their interest is piqued at an early age.

But recently, some girls-only STEM programs have gone beyond fostering interest in science and math among the next generation of women. Branches of the U.S. military – in particular, the Navy – have increasingly been using these programs to market the military to girls as young as 11 and 12.

To read this article in full, go here.

Gates, et al think it’s a really great idea to gain as much information as possible from our students and put it all in one place so that companies wanting to cash in on the ed biz can get all the demographics they need to sell just the right products to school districts.

Fortunately parents are fighting back.

Parents outraged over NYC schools data sharing program

PAA Founding Member Leonie Haimson speaking at the forum.
Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters and PAA Founding Member, at a town hall on Monday about the city’s plan to share private student data with private corporations.

Parents called the Department of Education’s move to share confidential data about their kids with private corporations “outrageous,” “contemptible,” and worse at a high-drama town hall at Brooklyn Borough Hall Monday night.

The outrage level only got higher after families learned that the city had already handed their children’s personal information over to inBloom Inc., a Gates-funded corporation, which plans to share students’ information with for-profit vendors to help them market “learning products.”

Sally Sinisgalli, a Queens mom, said, “Why do they have to know my ethnicity and my child’s hair and eye color. I don’t write about or put a picture of my children on Facebook. I don’t do it, but the city can do it?”

The student data being shared include names, addresses, emails, photos, grades, test scores, learning styles, disciplinary, health and attendance records, the results of academic and psychological tests, race and ethnicity, economic and disability status and more.

According to the inBloom website, teacher and staff data is also being collected, along with incidentals such as what type of documentation parents presented to confirm a child’s identity and the nature of the student’s home environment, such as single parent or immigrant households.

To read this article in full, go to the Daily Brooklyn Eagle.

Now more on student data.

How Murdoch, Bill Gates and Big Corporations Are Data Mining Our Schools

gates mining

Last week, students across New York finished a set of tests taken over a two week period designed to measure their proficiency at reading and math against new federal college readiness standards known as Common Core. Some parents opted their children out of the exams in protest against what they described as the school system’s over-emphasis on testing and its use of data as the principle indicator of their children’s achievement.

Starting next year, those scores, along with students’ personal information – race, economic background, report cards, discipline records and personal addresses – will be stored in a database designed by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

That’s right, Rupert Murdoch can read your child’s report card anytime he likes and he knows where your kid is sleeping. The database will be managed by inBloom inc, a non-profit outfit that, like Wireless Generation, is under the domain of billionaire Bill Gates – who, together with the Carnegie Corporation and other philanthropic organizations, set up the company via his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

inBloom is receiving $50 million for their services from the New York Education Department through a contract awarded last fall. Data analyzing firms, educational software designers and other third-party venders, both for and not-for-profit, will be granted access to student information.

inBloom is receiving $50 million for their services from the New York Education Department through a contract awarded last fall. Data analyzing firms, educational software designers and other third-party venders, both for and not-for-profit, will be granted access to student information.

New York is not alone in turning to student data tracking system to measure performance. Some 200,000 U.S. teachers use Wireless Generation software as part of a national trend in which education administrators are increasingly turning to data analysis to grasp why America’s pupils are flunking when compared to the rest of the world.

To read more on this, go to the Indypendent.

Now onto the Parent Trigger, Michelle Rhee, SudentsFirst and the great state of Florida.

ben-austinI have written about the Parent Trigger before when it first surfaced in California, Ben Austin with the Parent Revolution was leading the charge to convert a public school into a charter school with the zeal of a new convert. As it turned out, his zeal was being bought and paid for by a charter school that wanted to get a foothold into a Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles. See Ben Austin and His Parent Trigger, Now in Seattle and Ben Austin’s Antics, Continued.

Last year the Parent Trigger surfaced again in Adelanto, California with charges of parents being bribed with promises of Green Cards and citizenship, aggressive signature gathering and the bait and switch of petitions.

With more parents in tuned with the Parent Trigger and what it really means, there was a well-organized push against the Parent Trigger becoming law in the state of Florida. This is how the story unfolded:

More questions raised about StudentsFirst petition

In defending the so-called parent trigger bill, Sen. Kelli Stargel has been referencing a petition signed by more than 1,300 Floridians who support the measure. The signatures were collected by StudentsFirst, the education think tank founded by former D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee.

But questions began swirling late last week, week three people named on the document told The Herald/Times they had never signed it.

On Sunday, The Herald/Times sent an email to each person who had allegedly signed the online petition. Of the 241 who responded, 212 confirmed their signatures.

“I signed it electronically,” wrote Woodie H. Thomas, III, a Palm Beach Gardens attorney. “I’m for any catalyst that brings meaningful change to the public school system.”

But 29 people said they had not signed the petition.

“I did NOT join my name to a petition in support of the so-called Parent Empowerment Act,” wrote John Raymaker, of Tallahassee. “Instead, I signed a petition OPPOSING this act. More deceitful, incredibly dishonest tactics!”

Alan Dorfman, of Delray Beach, said he had signed, but felt duped.

“Further information received after signing makes me believe that at best, I didn’t get the whole story, or at worst, I was fooled by the signature request,” he wrote.

Then Bob Sikes with Purple Scathings did some investigative work:

Ms. Rhee (pronounced "re")
Ms. Rhee (pronounced “re”)

Rhee, Stargel Got Some ‘Splainin’ to do About Those Parent Trigger Petition Signatures

MIAMI HERALD: On Sunday, The Herald/Times sent an email to each person who had allegedly signed the online petition. Of the 241 who responded, 212 confirmed their signatures…….But 29 people said they had not signed the petition

UPDATE: A second person and third person – now four total – who contacted this blog indicating they’d never signed Rhee’s petition also appear twice. All originally on 3/21 and the again during the same small window between 3/29 and 3/30.

UPDATE: A Sarasota woman who responded to both the Herald and this blog – and an opponent of parent trigger – has her name appear once on 3/21 and again on 3/29.

UPDATE: (800PM CDT) 11 signatures are from out of state. One appears twice as they signed once on 3/21 and again on 3/30

UPDATE (742PM CDT) There are 101 repeated names on the petition, many of them re-inserted on 3/29 after originally appearing on 3/21

UPDATE (712PM CDT) Another person just e-mailed” I DID NOT sign the “Students First” petition and NEVER will. They are Anti Public Education….and Greedy.”

UPDATE (658PM CDT) Miami Herald shares similar comment to previous UPDATE, revealing a possible pattern in copying contacts.

“I did NOT join my name to a petition in support of the so-called Parent Empowerment Act,” wrote John Raymaker, of Tallahassee. “Instead, I signed a petition OPPOSING this act. More deceitful, incredibly dishonest tactics!”

UPDATE (651PM CDT) A woman who denied signing remembers signing an anti-parent trigger petition.

Scathing Purple Musings Tally

Yes, they did: 18    No, they didn’t: 15

Kathleen McGrory’s story that appeared in the Miami Herald on Friday included revelations that two people on the list of Parent Trigger supporters Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst submitted to Lakeland Senator Kelli Stargel never signed the petition. One confirmed that she did.

Scathing Purple Musings has the list and began randomly selecting people on Saturday afternoon by contacting the email address on the petition. As of this morning, 125 (approximately 10 percent) have received emails requesting verification. The tally above includes the 3 people (1-yes; 2-no) McGrory referenced in her story. Five of the email addresses which were all cataloged on March 21st or more recently no longer exist and one person was unable to remember.

UPDATE (4:29PM CDT)  One out-of-state contact in New Jersey confirmed their signature with a simple “I support Studentsfirst legislation”

UPDATE (1047AM CDT) Another person who didn’t sign the Rhee-Satrgel petition is Tai Beckensal from Seminole. The professional consultant feels the petition is “a cyber-crime in a way” and added  “as far as how any of these people get our names and emails, phone numbers, even addresses, that is easy enough, they can just buy it from marketing groups.”

UPDATE (1034AM CDT) Chip Righter of Delray Beach didn’t sign either and emails “being a single man my entire life, and never married, I would have little interest in a petition seeking any parental position. If someone has rigged this petition, then they must be fired and banned for life to hold any future legislative positions. In the past I have had to pass drug and polygraph tests to get hired for employment. Why should we not demand all politicians to pass annual polygraph examinations to make sure the decisions they are making are in the best interest for American and stop what we all know is their individual financial gain. If politicians were doing nothing wrong why would refuse? American’s think the very lowest of politicians and they have earned their star.

UPDATE (1027AM CDT) From someone who denies signing: “I can’t imagine any situation where I would have signed anything supported by Jeb Bush or Michelle Rhee, to be honest. As to where they could have acquired my information, I am active in some advocacy organizations and perhaps one of those places shares names and addresses?”

UPDATE (1020AM CDT) From yesterday’s post: Bill Williamson of Palm Bay, Florida denies signing Rhee’s petition saying,”to the best of my recollection, I do not recall signing a petition seeking support for the so-called Parent Trigger legislation. I do not support any legislation that would enable charter schools to shoulder their way into our public school systems without open discussion and local or statewide referendums.”

Serious Problems Remain for Stargel, Trujillo and Rhee on Parent Trigger Petition

Florida State Senator Kelli Stargel
Florida State Senator Kelli Stargel

As Kelli Stargel takes to the Senate floor today to defend her Parent Trigger bill, she will be wondering whether or not it was  a good idea to get involved with Michelle Rhee.

There were likely to be enough votes and political muscle behind it without having to resort to submitting a fraudulent petition into the debate. But Stargel and House sponsor Carlos Trujillo were getting beat up badly in committee debate and had to counter the overwhelming numbers on unpaid state opponents who appeared at hearings to testify. Top dollar lobbyists weren’t going to be enough..

The House went first, and Trujillo began mentioning that he had 800 signatures of support in his pocket and then Stargel said she had 1200.  Some quiet inquiries prompted some foot-dragging by legislative staffs until Stargel’s list, which Michelle Rhee provided was released last week. Miami Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory received the petition late in the week and discovered that a person she knew was on it. McGrory contacted that person who denied signing. After finding another denial, the Miami Herald contacted every person on the list and released the following yesterday afternoon:

On Sunday, The Herald/Times sent an email to each person who had allegedly signed the online petition. Of the 241 who responded, 212 confirmed their signatures. But 29 people said they had not signed the petition

Scathing Purple Musings contacted a smaller number, 158, and received denials from 17. Both surveys received approximately a 20 percent response rate. While both Rhee and Stargel are brushing aside the findings it predictable fashion, some serious questions and problems remain for Stargel and Rhee.

* What not more responses? As Rhee’s survey began collecting signatures on 3/21 – most were in fact collected on this date (more later) – one can assume these folks were recent and savvy users of the internet. Did 80 percent really trash a serious inquiry from a reporter at a major US newspaper?

* 101 people appear twice. This number helps cut into the percentage of non-repondants. But four of these individuals emailed Scathing Purple Musings that they didn’t sign the petition. As the Herald’s list is larger, it’s fair to assume that there are more. Stargel will have to face the reality that as many as 100 Floridians may have had their personal information lifted to support a controversial bill she’s sponsored. The consequences are far more serious for Rhee.

* 12 out-of-state persons are listed on the petition, some from questionable contacts. One appeared twice.

* A clear pattern of the repeating signatures is clear. They all appear first during the first 6 hour period on 3/21 then appear again in a similar-size window on 3/29 and 3/30.

* What did Stargel know and when did she know it? Her evasions will have a short life expectancy that may get her through a vote today, but won’t last much longer. Not with a petition list that went public the minute she touted it. Trigger’s passage will only bring more heat as it will be tainted with evidence that fraud was committed.

* The entire list will eventually be published somewhere and opens a can of worms filled with unknowns.

*Some evidence exists that opponents of Trigger had their personal information lifted, perhaps from another or petition. This is a pattern that Rhee has already established

But in the end, we prevailed!



Parents Across America hails defeat of Florida’s Parent Trigger bill

There is also a push in Texas now to legalize the Parent Trigger but this time it seems that the Parent Revolution shot itself in the foot.

Parents Across America member Lorie Barzano reports on an incident at the Texas House of Representatives:

Ready for a good laugh folks? We don’t often get chances to laugh like this in our struggle…So yesterday I headed to the Capitol to testify against a “Trigger” bill in a House hearing. The bill is sponsored in the TX House by Representative Naomi Gonzalez.

During my testimony, I made several good points about sham of trigger laws and the well-funded corporate-backed groups (like Parent Revolution) pushing such laws. I also made note of the fact that one month ago, I testified at a Senate hearing on the companion trigger bill in the Senate. I noted that at the Senate hearing, Doreen Diaz-an employee of Parent Revolution-testified, introducing herself as “simply” a concerned mother who lead the effort to pull the trigger at  her daughter’s failing public school, Desert Hills Elementary in Adelanto, CA. Never mentioning that she was an employee of Parent Revolution. I noted this to PAA group when it happened. In fact, in follow-up questions of Diaz at the Senate hearing, she insisted that they were just parents leading the charge against failing public schools and no one helped them pull the trigger on Desert Hills Elementary.

So after I testified yesterday, Representative Gonzalez called a woman up to the podium to question in retort. She called up none other than Doreen Diaz, who again introduced herself as the parent who lead the effort to pull the trigger on Desert Hills Elementary in Adelanto, CA. And then, get this, Rep. Gonzalez asks her point-blank, “Do you work for Parent Revolution?”

Diaz hesitates and then responds, “Yes.”

The room broke into mayhem. Half the Representatives on stage went pie-eyed. The other half covered their eyes and slumped in their seats. Representative Gonzalez fumbled for follow-up questions (to try to save her point that parents, not Parent Revolution, pushed the trigger law), but it did not matter. No one heard another word she said. They were too busy gasping, chuckling and chattering amongst themselves. I don’t know if this will kill the bill, but it sure undercut its legitimacy and added some welcomed levity to an otherwise long afternoon and evening at a tedious House hearing.

I have to admit, I laughed the whole way home late last night.

Testifying for the length of a day in House of Reps: 8 lost hours of my life. To hear a Rep ask the question that only proves your point: priceless!

I hope you get a good laugh out of it too.

To see the video of the testimony including Diaz’ gaff, go to 3:48:15 into the testimony.

I’ll end with this note of sanity in what has become the wild west of education.

Principal fires security guards to hire art teachers — and transforms elementary school

The community of Roxbury had high hopes for its newest public school back in 2003. There were art studios, a dance room, even a theater equipped with cushy seating.

A pilot school for grades K-8, Orchard Gardens was built on grand expectations.

But the dream of a school founded in the arts, a school that would give back to the community as it bettered its children, never materialized.

Instead, the dance studio was used for storage and the orchestra’s instruments were locked up and barely touched.

The school was plagued by violence and disorder from the start, and by 2010 it was rank in the bottom five of all public schools in the state of Massachusetts.

That was when Andrew Bott — the sixth principal in seven years — showed up, and everything started to change.

“We got rid of the security guards,” said Bott, who reinvested all the money used for security infrastructure into the arts.

Orchard Gardens a one-time ‘career killer’

In a school notorious for its lack of discipline, where backpacks were prohibited for fear the students

would use them to carry weapons, Bott’s bold decision to replace the security guards with art teachers was met with skepticism by those who also questioned why he would choose to lead the troubled school.

“A lot of my colleagues really questioned the decision,” he said.  “A lot of people actually would say to me, ‘You realize that Orchard Gardens is a career killer? You know, you don’t want to go to Orchard Gardens.’”

But now, three years later, the school is almost unrecognizable. Brightly colored paintings, essays of achievement, and motivational posters line the halls. The dance studio has been resurrected, along with the band room, and an artists’ studio.

The end result? Orchard Gardens has one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. And the students — once described as loud and unruly, have found their focus.

To read this article in full, go to

On that note, have a great weekend and for all of you mom’s out there, make sure you get Sunday off. You deserve it.

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

I was thrilled to be able to provide some good news but just found out from a comment, see below, that it wasn’t good news at all. See Yes, Too Good to Be True.