Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Look who paid KIPP's way to New Zeeland

Hedge-funder, Julian Robertson
Look who paid KIPP founder, Mike Feinberg’s way to NZ where he got a cool reception. None other than conservative hedge-funder Julian Robertson. Robertson's Aotearoa Foundation, is the local arm of the right wing USA-based Robertson Foundation. It was hedge-fund king Robertson who founded the now-defunct Tiger Management Fund which was mired in scandal over the collapse of U.S. Airways.

Robertson recently gave $1.25 million to  Restore Our Future, a Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney campaign. In fact, Robertson wanted Romney to run his hedge fund. But Romney has enough sense not to get involved in such a crooked organization and ran Bain Capital instead.
"I'm fortunate to be a one-percenter", said Robertson. "I put it up there as probably, if it works, as the best money I've spent -- better than for cancer or education or all these things -- because I think a President of the United States, an effective president, the leverage he has to do good is just enormous." -- Business Insider
Diane Ravitch points out in response to my blog comment, " And owns some charters too, like the one crammed into PS 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, over opposition from parents and teachers and community."

Speaking of KIPP, an arrogant Jonathan Alter  on Melissa -Harris-Perry's show last week, snorted at Texan Univ.Prof. Julian Vasquez Heilig, "I won't let you diss KIPP!" H-P responded angrily, "Yes you will. This is my 5:10 on the video.

Alter yells at Texas prof, "I won't let you diss KIPP!" 

Vasquez-Heilig, rather than "dissing" KIPP, was simply revealing data on the disproportional high dropout (pushout) rate among African-American KIPP students in Texas. I think the "let you" part of Alter's screed is most revealing of the white, male entitlement syndrome which typifies the corporate school reformers.

You might remember, it was faux-journalist Alter who equated teacher unions with the Tea Party and who was Arne Duncan's spear-carrier in the personal media assault campaign on Ravitch.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Michelle Rhee writes about Chicago? Really?

I guess with all eyes on Chicago, Broom Lady Rhee just couldn't resist. But her Washington Post piece, "Chicago teachers strike underscores shift among Democrats" is so full of lies and misinformation that Rhee simply fulfills her own caricature.

You don't have to read very far to find the first lie.

Rhee's piece begins: "I am a democrat because I believe in the party's principles..." OK, that's not exactly a lie but she should have qualified that statement with, "I'm a Rahm Emanuel Democrat." Or, "I'm an Arne Duncan Democrat." Or maybe even," I'm a Tea Party Democrat," since she does most of her work these days for Tea Party guvs like the Ricks -- Scott in Florida and Snyder in Michigan or Walker in Wisconsin.. Wherever you find union-busting pols, there you will find the Broom Lady.

Instead she identifies herself as a "liberal progressive" -- BIG LIE!

Her WaPo piece is a paean to Rahm, who Rhee claims, "underscored a transformation in the Democratic Party. Increasingly, those who staunchly side with unions at any cost appear to be in the minority, while more Democrats are saying we have to look at education differently." She goes on to hail Tea-Party Democratic mayors in L.A. and Cleveland, as well as her own hubby, Mayor K.J. in Sacramento, who are taking Rahm's path against the unions the same way she hailed the Tea Party Republican guvs in Wisconsin and Ohio.

Rhee tells Dems, "I know that opposing unions on some of these policies isn't easy" but you can do it if you close your eyes, push real hard, and follow the money.

She says:
"...the more that unions continue to attack fellow Democrats, casting everyone who challenges their policies as “anti-teacher” or “anti-union,” the more they isolate themselves from the broader Democratic Party.
 Rhee is not without criticisms of Rahm's "concessions." She's upset that the union held the line on seniority rights. She's angry that Rahm let teachers get away with having less than 30% of their evaluation being based on standardized test scores. I suppose she would have liked to see it be 200%.  And mostly she's beside herself over the defeat of "merit pay" which she pushed successfully in D.C. on gullible union leadership.

Then Rhee goes right for Karen Lewis like a flea attacking a Lioness.
It was frustrating to hear Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis say toward the end of the dispute that the strike would continue to see whether there is “anything else they can get.” But at least that was clear evidence that, for union leaders, this strike was never about what was best for kids.
Yes, Rhee and the corporate reformers are all about the kids. You can tell that's true because they say so, and also because they always name their money-raising fronts with names like Students First or Stand For Children or Kids are Nice.

But before any more big city mayors  jump on Rhee's anti-union broomstick and try to fly on it, I would advise them to take a look at Rahm's current poll ratings. Remember, it was Rhee who got former D.C. Mayor Fenty run out of town and Illinois Democratic gov Quinn is almost toast for trying to pull a pension grab in his state.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tribune reports: Rahm taking the charter route on union busting

Billionaire Rauner. His money goes to Rahm's charter expansion. (F. Klonsky toon)
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's first attempt at union busting was beaten back by the CTU strike. The union and its community supporters held the line against the assault by corporate "reformers" like Stand For Children and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). Now the mayor and his patrons are coming at it another way -- with the expansion of privately run, union-free charter schools.

According to the Tribune, CPS officials expect about 53,000 of the district's roughly 400,000 students will attend charter schools this year, and the number of charters will increase to more than 100. The city is aiming to add 60 charter schools in the next five years with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is trying to expand charters across the country.

The Trib cites experts who call union's stand against privately run charter networks unique in the United States, where several big cities, including New York, also have pushed charter schools.
"What's different is this is really the first mass movement against that comprehensive strategy" for privatization, said Janelle Scott, an associate professor at the University of California at Berkeley who studies school policy.
They also point out that charters on average, are performing no better that traditional public schools when it comes to comparative standardized test scores -- Rahm's gold standard.

Critics point out that charter schools' results may look better in part because the schools practice their own form of student selection by squeezing out students with academic or discipline problems.
For instance, Urban Prep Academy has made headlines because the entire graduating class of the all-boys charter school gained college acceptance three years in a row. But school administrators acknowledge that the 2012 class of 85 boys was half its original size by graduation day, though they say the school works hard to keep troubled students in school.
Chicago;s charters also receive hundreds of millions of dollars beyond what other public schools get, largely from power philanthropists like Republican billionaire and Rahm supporter, Bruce Rauner. 

"The private funding picture makes broad comparisons of per-pupil spending difficult," says the Trib. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

FOX News didn't reveal its ties to testing companies

In 89 segments between September 10 and 16, Fox News reported on the Chicago Teachers Union's strike without disclosing its financial ties to the educational technology company administering the standardized tests with which the union takes issue.  This according to Media Matters.
Fox News parent company News Corp. acquired a 90-percent stake in Wireless Generation in 2010. Last May, the company agreed to provide Early Mathematics Assessment Services and Early Literacy Assessment Services to Chicago Public Schools. These contracts total $4.7 million. A central reason the Chicago Teachers Union decided to strike is their objection to the school district's call for heavily weighing such standardized testing to ultimately determine teacher pay and layoffs.
 But Fox News anchors and reporters never once disclosed its parent company's ties to Wireless Generation even as the network routinely criticized the strike and the Chicago Teachers Union.
News Corp and Wireless Generation are part of the media empire owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Hedge-funders underwrite Rahm's post-strike ad campaign

DFER Board member Whitney Tilson is chief of T2 Partners and Tilson Funds . DFER is underwriting Rahm's anti-union ad campaign.
After a devastating political defeat at the hands of Karen Lewis and the CTU in last week's teachers strike and with public opinion moving strongly to the teachers's side. The mayor of Chicago has unleashed a mult-million-dollar damage-control ad campaign. 
From the Chicago Tribune
In a political-style TV and radio ad blitz launched Wednesday, Emanuel says "change is never easy" but declares the outcome "the right deal for our kids." The ads are being paid for by a nonprofit arm of a political action committee started by Wall Street hedge fund managers who believe the creation of privately run charter schools is the best avenue to reform.
The ad campaign is being underwritten by Education Reform Now, the nonprofit arm of the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) Political Action Committee. DFER represents the interests of a group of New York investment companies who are power houses within the Democratic Party but who favor charter schools, school vouchers and anything else that will weaken or destroy teacher unions.
"Mayor Emanuel was the best person to communicate to Chicagoans all of the unprecedented wins the kids of this city received out of this contract, so he fought for them, and we believe he should be in that TV spot talking to Chicagoans about it," said Rebeca Nieves Huffman, executive director of the group's Illinois chapter of DFER.
The TV ads are being produced by John Kupper of AKPD Message and Media, the same firm used by the Chicago Committee, a campaign fund controlled by Emanuel. That firm, was started by Pres. Obama's campaign chief David Axelrod who still has connections with it and whose son reportedly still works there.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rahm's billionaire Republican pal goes off on the CTU

"The critical issue is to separate the union from the teachers. They're not the same thing." -- Bruce Rauner 
Yesterday it was Rupert Murdoch bag man, Joel Klein hating on the CTU. Today its Rahm's billionaire Republican pal Bruce Rauner who's in a rage over the teachers' strike victory. Rauner thinks that Rahm gave away the store in his negotiations with the union.

According to the Tribune,
Rauner, a wealthy venture capitalist who is helping lead a drive for more charter schools in the city, predicted the final details of a new contract would not "end well" for critics of the teachers union because "I think we've given in on a fair number of critical issues." But he called the intense contract negotiations "one battle in a very long-term fight."
I hope the CTU has the same attitude.

More from the Tribune:
Rauner, a potential Republican candidate for governor, speaks frequently with Emanuel and was placed by the mayor on the board of World Business Chicago, the city's economic development arm. Rauner has met more than a dozen times with Chicago Public Schools officials during the initial nine-month period that new CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard's team was organizing policy.
Rauner also is on the board of the Chicago Public Education Fund, a group advocating more teacher accountability, and New Schools for Chicago, an organization seeking private investment in charter schools. He has a charter school named after him, and his wife served on Emanuel's mayoral transition team for education.

Look who's attacking Chicago's striking teachers

No, this strike feels more about attitude—"the mayor doesn't respect us"—than substance.
It's none other than Rupert Murdoch's bag man. In an op-ed in Sunday's Wall Street Journal, News Corp. executive V.P 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.

Media Matters reports that 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."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Charter school mythology -- Part II, The myth of charter superiority

By Mike Klonsky

This is the second part of a two-part series of posts on Charter school mythology.

The transformation of charter schools from in-district experiments in the early 1990s, to competitive, highly-privatized alternative networks a decade later, has had a major impact on the way we think about public education as well as on how learning outcomes are reported. Networks of charter operators, cyber-schoolers, and  their allied web of charter school associations and authorizers, as well as conservative think tanks, have produced their own "studies" and have engaged in a media/advertising blitz aimed at demonstrating the superiority of charters over traditional public schools. Charters and their associations are allowed to use millions in public dollars to make such unsubstantiated claims while traditional public schools are not allowed to advertise.

Heavily financed pro-charter propaganda films like Waiting for Superman, are also passed off as research. Jeffrey Henig, a professor at Columbia University's Teachers College argues that WFS "oversells charter schools."
"The film notes that only 1 in 5 charter schools are highly successful. But “it implies there’s some philosophy that unifies charters and we just need to replicate that,”
 A recent study by the pro-charter Progressive Policy Institute even earned an NEPC Bunkum Award for citing exponential growth organizations, such as Starbucks and Apple, as well as the rapid growth of molds, viruses and cancers, in order to advocate similar growth models for charter schools.

The political pressures put on charter schools and their operators to compete with outperform nearby schools have pushed charters operators to make astounding claims, such as 100% success rates. These pressures have also driven widespread cheating. The latest scandal involved the charter operators of  the Crescendo Charter chain in southern California. The cheating scandal caused one former Crescendo teacher to reflect:
"Here I had been going around bragging about how awesome our school is, and now I wonder: Are we cheaters?"
After some charter schools in New York showed higher test score results than their neighborhood counterparts, Mayor Bloomberg exclaimed,  “I think they demonstrate again and again and again that that model gives superior results.” 
“What we’re seeing, and what we’ve seen all along,” James Merriman, chief executive officer of the New York City Charter School Center, told the New York Times, “is that the longer school day and longer school year that characterizes charter schools, as well as simply a focus on instruction and the sense of having a schoolwide culture that everyone buys into, results in these kinds of achievement scores.”
But a preponderance of currently available research belies the myth of charter school superiority. Regardless of the metric being used, charter schools continue to have more or less the same variance in measurable learning outcomes as the regular public schools they aim at replacing. And in cases where charters did outscore or outpace their public school competition, it appears to have less to do with them being charters as much as it did with their smaller size, selective enrollment/attrition policies (fewer students with special needs or English Language Learners), or greater political cache and access to outside funding. These same factors however, could also account for higher measurable outcomes in public sector schools, especially in wealthy suburban schools and public selective enrollment schools.

If the difference in outcomes have more to do with who schools enroll rather than any particular "model" of schooling, the whole argument for superiority becomes invalid. Rather than being a force for public school improvement, the differential in outcomes can be seen as contributing to, rather than helping to close,  the widening so-called "achievement gap" and the growing social inequity that comes from having and reproducing  a two-tier public school system.

In fact, the very notion of charter school superiority implies a two-tier system. It implies that charters are all one thing, or at least that they have more in common with each other than they do with other public sector schools. But the original concept of charters would seem to work against that notion. Charters were first imagined as individual public centers of innovation. It was their uniqueness -- not their sameness -- that made them such. It was only with the rise of the private and for-profit  charter-management networks and their competition for the public dollar that charters began being considered as a group with common interests opposed to and competing with their public school counterparts.

The emergence of heavily financed charter networks in the 1990s also drove a certain type of academic research, based entirely or mainly on test score comparisons aimed at proving charter superiority. But so far, the effort has failed. In fact a preponderance of the research, even when carried out by pro-charter research organizations and think tanks, has shown charters, taken as a whole, to be no better, and in many cases worse than the public-sector schools they were being compared with.

The most often cited of  this pile of studies was performed by Stanford's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) in 2009. The CREDO Study compared public charter schools and traditional public schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia. The Stanford researchers tried to match up real charter school students with fictional groups of statistically similar students in the same area (“virtual twins”), and compared charter school students’ test score gains) to those of their “twins.”

The study found, among other things, that only 17% of the charters or one in six of the charters studied, had students who did better on the whole than their public school twins, and that 37% actually did worse. In the remaining 46 % there was no statistical difference.

Of course there are big problems in making such comparisons and in drawing big conclusions from these kind of statistical studies. For one thing, they don't tell us anything about what is going on in the schools that  may have led to better or worse outcomes. Secondly, the differences in measured reading and math scores may not have been very great or even statistically significant.

CREDO's finding were essentially replicated in a  study by the pro-charter Mathematica Policy Research, of Princeton, N.J.. The federally commissioned studyRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader, involving 2,330 students who applied to 36 charter middle schools in 15 states, represents the first large-scale randomized trial of the effectiveness of charter schools across several states and rural, suburban, and urban locales. The charter schools in the sample conducted random lotteries for admissions, so that only chance determined who attended. The study, also concludes that the lottery winners did no better, on average, than the lottery losers on non-academic outcomes such as behavior and attendance.

As for networks of charters, run by charter management organizations or CMOs, current studies once again find little or no measurable difference in how students do, between them and other public schools. A recent Single Study Review by the What Works Clearinghouse, of the Report “Charter-School Management Organizations: Diverse Strategies and Diverse Student Impacts, confirms many earlier findings.
The study found that, on average, CMOs did not have a statistically significant impact on middle school student performance on state assessments in math, reading, science, or social studies. Similarly, there was not a statistically significant impact of CMOs on graduation rates and rates of post-secondary enrollment for high school students.
In Chicago, the Sun-Times reports that  charter school franchises produced wildly uneven results — even among different campuses of the same chain — on state achievement test data.
Only one of nine Chicago multi-site charter operators — Noble Street — beat the districtwide average of all Chicago public schools for the percent of students passing state tests last spring on every campus it oversees. The overall passing rate at two city charter franchises — Aspira and North Lawndale — was below the city average at every campus those two groups operate. Four other chains — Betty Shabazz, Perspectives, North Lawndale and Chicago International — saw the majority of their campuses with over-all pass rates that were below the citywide average. In fact, one Shabazz high school campus — DuSable — had a passing rate that put it among the bottom 30 high schools in the entire state. One of its elementary campuses placed among the bottom 40.
Following this first-time release of Chicago charter network scores, David Berliner, education professor at Arizona State University, told the Chicago Sun-Times the results should signal to parents that not all charters are equally replicated, like a McDonalds or Holiday Inn.’

One of the major problems facing charter schools is the instability caused by the rapid turnover of faculty and staff. The  L.A. Times reports that about half of all  teachers in charter middle and high schools left their jobs each year over a six-year period studied by UC Berkeley researchers, who released their findings in July, 2011. Why such an incredibly high rate of attrition? According to the study:
  • They hire heavily from Teach For America, a cadre of recent college graduates who commit to teach for two years.
  • Some young teachers find the intense, demanding charter experience more than they bargained for, suggested Berkeley education professor Bruce Fuller, a study co-author.
  • Leaving for better pay and benefits at traditional school districts.
  • Lack of promised input into school decisions, an unceasing workload and few job protections.
  • "Teachers feel so beleaguered because everything is presented to us as a problem we have to solve. But we can't fix all those problems, like when a kid misses 60 days in a semester."
One of the tactics used by charter operators to artificially drive up test scores has been exclusionary enrollment and push-out tactics. This will be the topic of  Part 3 in this series.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Philly plan to "reform" collective bargaining

The Boston Consulting Group is pushing Philadelphia's school district to "undertake comprehensive collective bargaining reform” with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and, simultaneously, “pursue legislative changes” in the school code.

According to The Notebook writer Ron Whitehorne, the “reforms” advocated in this document would roll back important protections that are afforded teachers under the school code and union contract.

Writes Whitehorne:
The attack on tenure and the call for laying off teachers based on performance rather than seniority is another familiar theme that has profound implications. “Performance” is mainly about standardized test scores, always a dubious metric, but even more so after the revelations about pervasive tampering and cheating. But putting this aside, in the context of budget austerity, administrators would be looking for way to get rid of costly senior teachers, as well as those pesky activists who might challenge their authority.