For the news and views you might have missed
After a short summer hiatus, I’m back with the weekly news. As my mother used to say, “There’s no rest for the weary” and from what I’ve been observing, there’s no rest for the wicked as well.
So let’s get started.
ALEC had its 40th anniversary celebration in Chicago last week but not without notice from the populace.
Jasal Noor, a great journalist who focuses on public education, interviewed Brendan Fisher, general counsel with the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of ALECExposed and PRWatch and Julie Mead, a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin.
Protesters Condemn ALEC’s Push to Privatize Public Education
So if you look at ALEC, K12 Inc. is one of the top sponsors of this year’s meeting. K12 Inc. is the nation’s largest provider of online for-profit schools. And as one of the top sponsors of the ALEC meeting, it’s allying itself with the tobacco industry and with the oil industry and with the pharmaceutical industry, all of which are not something you would normally associate with good educational outcomes, not the sort of thing that you would typically expect of a school that is looking out primarily for kids.
One of the speakers at the ALEC gathering was none other than Jeb Bush, the “expert” on public education who has done much damage to the public school system in Florida and now wants to share his know-how with the rest of us .
From Purple Scathings:
Bush sure doesn’t pick unfriendly audiences, does he? And he sure operates off his own sheet of music, too.
The ugly truth he bemoans happened on his watch. Bush has failed to accept responsibility for the failure of Florida’s children long burdened under the yoke of his FCAT regime. It is time he is held accountable.
The person who has mattered in Florida education policy for more than a decade is Bush. He’s gotten everything he’s wanted save universal vouchers and parent trigger. He owns the results we are getting. Bush no longer has the moral authority to blame others. Nor does he deserve to advance policy without scrutiny.
To read what Jeb had to say at the ALEC soiree, go to Purple Scathings.
While I’m on the subject of Jeb Bush and the corruption of education policy by big money, check out this article that came out in January showing exactly how all of this works:
A nonprofit group released thousands of e-mails today and said they show how a foundation begun by Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and national education reform leader, is working with public officials in states to write education laws that could benefit some of its corporate funders.
A call to the foundation has not been returned.
The e-mails are between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and a group Bush set up called Chiefs for Change, whose members are current and former state education commissioners who support Bush’s agenda of school reform, which includes school choice, online education, retention of third-graders who can’t read and school accountability systems based on standardized tests. That includes evaluating teachers based on student test scores and grading schools A-F based on test scores. John White of Louisiana is a current member, as is Tony Bennett, the new commissioner of Florida who got the job after Indiana voters rejected his Bush-style reforms last November and tossed him out of office.
Donald Cohen, chair of the nonprofit In the Public Interest, a resource center on privatization and responsible for contracting in the public sector, said the e-mails show how education companies that have been known to contribute to the foundation are using the organization “to move an education agenda that may or not be in our interests but are in theirs.”
He said companies ask the foundation to help state officials pass laws and regulations that make it easier to expand charter schools, require students to take online education courses, and do other things that could result in business and profits for them. The e-mails show, Cohen said, that Bush’s foundation would often do this with the help of Chiefs for Change and other affiliated groups.
To read this story in full, go to the Washington Post.
Another article about the response to ALEC’s celebration in Chicago is ALEC’s Unwelcome Party in Chicago.
Now on to the Common Core Standards.
The Common Core Standards program is being rolled out in the Seattle Public School district as we speak and is to be fully implemented by 2015. The question is, can we afford it? The cost of this program, that was dreamed up by Gates & Co., includes teacher preparation, a host of new teaching manuals, course material for students, textbooks and tests. Unfortunately, according to a recently issued report by the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University, Year 3 of Implementing the Common Core State Standards: An Overview of States’ Progress and Challenges, 32 out of the 40 states that took on the Common Core Standards can’t afford it. Oops.
Our state legislators jumped on the ed reform bandwagon to get us signed up for this program without considering the actual costs. Another good reason to keep legislators out of the realm of developing education policy and instead leave it up to educators, parents and students.
Here is an excerpt from the summary of the report:
In addition, state-level activities related to the Common Core are underway. Specifically, 39 states have developed and disseminated state CCSS implementation plans, 38 states have analyzed similarities and differences between the state’s previous standards and the CCSS, and 29 have revised or created curriculum or materials aligned to the CCSS.
Despite these many activities, states face challenges in transitioning to the Common Core. Thirty-four states find it challenging to secure adequate resources to support all of the necessary CCSS implementation activities. Additionally, 32 states report challenges in developing educator evaluation systems that hold teachers and principals accountable for students’ mastery of the standards. In the area of professional development, 37 states consider it a challenge to provide enough high-quality professional development to help teachers implement the CCSS, and 31 states said that providing all math and ELA teachers with state-sponsored professional development was proving challenging.
State education agencies are also struggling with capacity issues related to the Common Core. While most states report having adequate staff expertise to implement CCSS-related activities, fewer say they have enough staff and/or resources.
“Finding adequate resources is the main challenge looming over states’ efforts to prepare districts, schools, principals and teachers for the Common Core,” said Diane Stark Rentner, deputy director of national programs for CEP and author of the study. “Assessments aligned to the new standards will be ready to administer in 2014-15, but funding problems will likely hamper states’
So much to report, so little time.
Next up, Teach for America.
As they say “The rich get richer”.
First, a word from Treme:
And from Diane Ravitch’s blog:
TFA is clearly a very successful operation. It places some 10,000 or so young college graduates in the nation’s schools each year, after giving them five weeks of training. They commit to stay for two years but some stay for three or four, and a few stay longer. Districts pay TFA $2,000-5,000 for each recruit.
According to a recent article in Reuters, TFA has assets of $300 million.
TFA has an awesome fund-raising machine. It won $50 million from the U.S. Department of Education; another $49.5 million from the very conservative Walton Foundation; $100 million from a consortium of four foundations; and untold millions from corporate donors.
This reader wondered why JC Penny was collecting donations for TFA. Another reader said that other big corporations are also fund-raising for TFA. When I went to my bank’s ATM, I was informed that I could donate $1 to TFA.
To read this post in full, go to Diane Ravitch’s blog.
And there’s more.
The Arkansas-based Walton Family Foundation announced Wednesday that it is donating $20 million to a nonprofit that recruits talented college graduates to teach in public schools for two years. The largest number of instructors, more than 700, is slated for Los Angeles.
The gift is a continuation of support that has totaled more than $100 million to New York City-based Teach for America over its 24 years. Walton’s cumulative contribution to TFA in Los Angeles is more than $10 million, according to the foundation.
To read this post in full, go to the Los Angeles Times.
The reality about Teach for America, Inc. is that the organization is no longer about placing recruits where there is a shortage of teachers, it’s about populating charter schools at a lower cost and replacing more highly paid and experienced teachers.
Why are thousands of experienced educators being replaced by new college graduates?
TFA is a self-perpetuating organization. Teach for two years, burn out, go to law school, become a policy maker, make policies that expand TFA.
Teach for America has come under heavy scrutiny in recent months. The organization was imagined over twenty years ago by Princeton undergraduate Wendy Kopp to combat the teacher shortage in urban and rural communities. TFA was to bring recent graduates from elite universities to teach in needy schools.
The idea was pretty simple. TFA was not better for students; it was better than nothing. Providing staff in these schools alleviated overcrowding and research shows that class size does matter in a child’s education.
Twenty years later, school districts are firing huge swaths of educators due to budget cuts. These dedicated teachers lose their jobs through no fault of their own, but find themselves competing for a dwindling number of open teaching slots. One would think that at this point, TFA is no longer necessary. We have a surplus of teachers and until politicians make education a priority and fund more teaching positions, this trend will continue.
Yet in Chicago
[T]he district has committed to more than doubling its investment in the TFA program that trains college graduates for five weeks then sends them into schools for two years at a time. The Board of Education voted to increase its payment to TFA from $600,000 to nearly $1.6 million, and to add up to 325 new TFA recruits to CPS classrooms, in addition to 270 second year “teacher interns.”
This information was revealed after Chicago Public Schools announced layoffs of over 3,000 school personnel due to budget cuts.
To read this article in full, go to In These Times.
Fortunately there has been push back against this “non-profit” gone wild.
Brianna stands beside the conductor’s podium in the band hall of Chicago’s Uplift High School. An engrossed audience is packed on the risers. Mirrored sunglasses obscure her expression, and her only sign of nervousness is in the movement of her hands, clasping and unclasping before her.
Brianna was a public school student in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. In the wake of the flood, whole neighborhoods were destroyed. Approximately 1,300 people had died and hundreds of thousands were yet to return. Amid all this, she had faith her schools would weather the storm.
Instead, she found that her school was one of the many consolidated into charter schools, which draw public funds but are privately managed. Thousands of school employees had been fired (a move later ruled illegal), and many of the replacements were young, lightly trained recruits from Teach for America. By 2007, nearly half of the city’s teachers were in their first three years of teaching. TFA became embedded in the fabric of the district, and one in three New Orleans students can now call a TFA recruit their teacher.
Brianna was vexed by her young new teachers, who were adversarial and fixated on data. “Everything was taken away,” Brianna said. “And then the teachers don’t even care about you.”
Complicating matters, many of the new teachers in the majority-black district were white and unfamiliar with the community. Indeed, the replacement of veteran teachers has decreased by one-third the percentage of black teachers in the district. In the novice classrooms, Brianna saw “a power dynamic type of thing,” in which bald racial hierarchies arose where classroom management failed. The teachers focused less on building relationships, more on “numbers, numbers, numbers.”
The students returned the teachers’ animus. Disciplinary actions spiked. Brianna tells of students being cuffed by police and pulled from classrooms, of classes dwindling and incarceration rising. Today, the Recovery School District boasts an out-of-school suspension rate that’s four times the national average.
Who was this corps of new teachers, so combative in their approach? Why their obsession with numbers? Whence the startling admission, “I’m here for two years, then I’m out”?
Only later would Brianna learn that they were recruited through Teach for America, a nonprofit that places thousands of new teachers in high-needs schools every year. They come armed with five weeks of summer training, committed to two years in the classroom. Founded by Princeton graduate Wendy Kopp in 1989, TFA now has some 28,000 alumni throughout the country.
“Organizing Resistance to Teach for America and its Role in Privatization”
Now, some of those alumni are denouncing the organization. They make up part of the group squeezed into a high school band hall to hear Brianna denounce their ilk. It’s the first time many of them have heard this perspective.
The event, called “Organizing Resistance to Teach for America and its Role in Privatization,” took place during the Free Minds, Free People conference from July 11-14, in Chicago. It aimed “to help attendees identify the resources they have as activists and educators to advocate for real, just reform in their communities.” Namely, resisting TFA.
To read this article in full, go to truthout.
This is how it works. Where the ed reformers can, they change the rules about teaching certification requirements to let loose TFA, Inc. recruits into charter and public schools.
It happened in Washington State with what is termed “alternative certification”. This is not about trained professionals such as engineers, accountants or architects, going back to school to teach, this has everything to do with hiring TFA, Inc. recruits to staff charter schools or even public schools as they have in Chicago and New Orleans. In the case of Seattle, they were brought in with the anticipation of having charter schools legalized in our state.
By the way, Bill Gates provided TFA, Inc. with $2.5M to open an office in Seattle two years ago, then he bankrolled the charter school initiative last year. Coincidence? I think not.
To follow is another example of how TFA, Inc. is brought in:
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation that lets charter schools hire more elementary teachers without teaching certificates. The new law decreases the number of required elementary charter school teachers with teacher certification from 75 percent to 50 percent. That rate was revised several times throughout the legislative process, until a last-minute request by the governor brought the final number from 25 percent to 50 percent for all K-12 charter school teachers (unchanged at the high school level).
The controversial change stems from the ideas that non-licensed people can make really great teachers, and charter schools are an appropriate place to try out innovative ideas, said bill author and state Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph).
To read this article in full, go to The Heartland Institute.
For additional information about Teach for America, Inc. go to the Teach for America page on this website.
I’ve been collecting a cache of articles and information during my hiatus and will have to break down this Weekly Update into a few posts.
I will leave you with this video.
US and Finnish Educational Reform Trajectories: a comparison