He Left His Job In Tallahassee: The biggest news in many education circles in the last week was the sudden, unexpected resignation of recently hired Florida State Ed. Sec, Tony Bennett, after it was revealed that he had personally intervened to change "standards" in the State of Indiana to improve the assessment of a charter school and to preserve its status, according to sources in St. Petersberg and elsewhere:
According to the Miami Herald, the larger issue is over the ways the State should conduct evaluations and whole schools should be assessed and ranked. These rankings are crucial to charter schools, especially, because they are the the forefront of the commodification of the public schools, and are supposed to operate within the frames of 'competition.' Bad grades for schools can cost the owners a lot of money. The alleged superiority of privatized schools and charters is a big selling point. Any data or scandal which undermines that presumption of superiority.Bennett has been the center of controversy since the Associated Press reported that school grades in Indiana, where he previously worked, had been changed to benefit a political donor.The AP reported (last week) that Bennett and his Indiana employees “frantically overhauled” the Hoosier State’s school-grading system last year when it looked like one of his political contributors’ schools might get a “C.” But in a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Bennett said it was “absurd” to believe he inflated grades to help Christel DeHann because of her political contributions to Bennett.
No Rhee-forms Are Good Reforms: Teach For American alum and well-placed corpoRatist "reformer" Michel Rhee, former "miracle-worker" administrator of the Washington, DC, schools and now a promoter of a scam called the "parental option," charter schools, and 'national standards,' is also having credibility difficulties since it has been revealed that the "miracles" she was alleged to have wrought in the DC schools were mainly accomplished with the strenuous application of smoke and mirrors. Noted education critic John Merrow, in April, took Rhee to task for her persistent obfuscation about her own involvement in reports that DC students' tests had been doctored to improve the district's appearance. Merrow also rehearsed Rhee's cronyist appointees and her lasting attachment to TFA:
Rhee's skill as an educational 'grifter' has been documented:The 37-year-old Michelle Rhee had been a surprise choice to lead the (DC) schools. After college, she joined Teach for America and taught for three years in a low-income school in Baltimore. After earning a graduate degree in public policy at Harvard, she took over a fledgling non-profit that recruits mid-career professionals into teaching, The New Teacher Project. In that role, she eventually ended up supervising 120 employees. As Chancellor, Rhee would be managing a school system with 55,000 students, 11,500 employees and a budget of nearly $200 million.She surrounded herself with people with no experience running a large urban school system. Her deputy would be her best friend, Kaya Henderson, another former Teach for America corps member who was then Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at TNTP. She would be managing the District’s 11,500 employees.Her Chief of Data and Accountability would be Erin McGoldrick, whom Rhee had met at Sacramento High School some years earlier and who was an avowed fan of Rhee. A classics major at Notre Dame, McGoldrick also studied public policy at UCLA. Although she was in charge of data analysis at the California Charter Schools Association when Rhee offered her the job, McGoldrick had no experience in Rhee’s ‘data-driven decision making,’ according to several reliable sources.
She appears to have started her career by greatly overstating test score improvements during her Teach for America days;Meanwhile her "gift for grift" in the Louisiana deal has been reported by no less reliable source than the redoubtable Charlie Pierce, of Esquire. Inexplicably (or not), Rhee still retains the apparent trust of US Dept. of Ed. Sec, Arne Duncan.
As an administrator, she was charged with abusing her authority to political ends:
and covering up a major cheating scandal;
She lent her political capital to anti-labor measures only tangentially related to education (but vital to her allies);
She oversaw the creation of a convoluted metric that assigned the top ranks to schools she and her allies were responsible for (despite those schools' terrible performance on the very metrics Rhee had previously championed);
And she endorsed a Bobby Jindal initiative which pretty much guaranteed wide-spread fraud (in Louisiana schools).
TFA BASHING, Cont'd.: My distaste for Teach For America is boundless. The director, Wendy Kopp, and her minions have taken what was once a pretty bad, thoroughly neo-colonialist idea (The "rub-off theory": Put poor kids in classrooms with upper-class college grads to be inspired) and advanced it into the national educational dialogue by becoming, in effect a "school for scabs" where poor, struggling, and/or impoverished school/districts use the slightly trained TFA "teachers" to augment and then replace skilled profesionals in the classroom. The melody lingers on.
Twenty-four years running, the rap on Teach for America (TFA) is a sampled, re-sampled, burned-out record: The organization’s five-week training program is too short to prepare its recruits to teach, especially in chronically under-served urban and rural districts; corps members only have to commit to teach for two years, which destabilizes schools, undermines the teaching profession, and undercuts teachers unions; and TFA, with the help of its 501(c)4 spin-off, Leadership for Educational Equity, is a leading force in the movement to close “failing” schools, expand charter schools, and tie teachers’ job security to their students’ standardized test scores. Critics burn TFA in internet-effigy across the universe of teacher listservs and labor-friendly blogs. Last July, it earned Onion fame: an op-ed entitled “My Year Volunteering As A Teacher Helped Educate A New Generation Of Underprivileged Kids,” followed by a student’s take, “Can We Please, Just Once, Have A Real Teacher?”
The reach of the organization is appalling.
TFA’s resources are enormous. The organization’s total assets for the 2011 fiscal year topped $350 million. That includes eight-figure support from the Broad, Walton, and Gates Foundations, leading bankrollers of campaigns to privatize school districts and ramp up standardized testing. The TFA orbit is also growing. It now has more than 10,000 corps members in 48 regions, as well as more than 32,000 alumni. Districts pay thousands in fees to TFA for each corps member in addition to their salaries—at the expense of the existing teacher workforce. Chicago, for example, is closing 48 schools and laying off 850 teachers and staff while welcoming 350 corps members. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans cut 7,500 school staff, converted the majority of its schools to charters, and, between 2005 and 2010, saw its share of black teachers drop from 73 percent to 56 percent. Over the past five years, TFA expanded its Greater New Orleans corps from 85 teachers to 375. (Emphasis supplied.)
Education is becoming a decaying carcass around which all the grifters and vultures collect to feed at the public's expense:
The 11,000 alumni who attended TFA’s 20-year anniversary summit in 2011 got to hear from charter boosters ranging from Harlem Children’s Zone CEO Geoffrey Canada and StudentsFirst CEO Michelle Rhee to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Colorado State Senator Michael Johnston. TFA alums are principals at half of KIPP charter schools—which two alumni founded—and the majority of Achievement First schools. Of the corps members TFA claims remain in education after their two-year stint (a hotly contested figure), administrators and extracurricular leaders are included.If TFA comes to your town or school, remember they're the genteel shock-troops of the "Rhee-form" movement.
What's Wrong With Teacher Assessment Reforms?: Much of teacher discomfort with "rhee-formers" and their plans is embodied in what are called "value-added" assessments and pay and promotion based upon it. Here, in just about three minutes, is what is wrong with those "value added" and "merit pay" schemes for teacher "assessment and accountability:
It's A War-Zone Out There: It is possible that some folks have not been affedted by it yet, but there is a silent, deadly conflict being waged in the public sphere between the Grasping Oligarchz and Plutocratz, who are adamantly opposed to ANY notion of the "commons" or of public sovereignty, and the rest of us. Schools have become a battleground in the conflict.
The terrain, described recently by economist Michael Hudson, in Counterpoint, looks like this: The depth of this has been described by economist Michael Hudson:
. . . financial elites are demanding privatization sell-offs from debt-strapped governments. Pressure is being brought to bear on Detroit to sell off its most valuable paintings and statues from its art museums. The idea is to sell their artworks for tycoons to buy as trophies, with the money being used to pay bondholders. . . . . . .[A] new neo-feudal rentier class [is] eager to buy roads to turn into toll roads, to buy parking-meter rights (as in Chicago’s notorious deal), to buy prisons, schools and other basic infrastructure. The aim is to build financial charges and tollbooth rents into the prices charged for access to these essential, hitherto public services.Blogger/critic Michael D. Yates observes: "Not only will working people become increasingly insecure, but to secure essential services, they will have to pay the new owners monopoly prices."
The flashpoint of the war being waged by capital and its political allies against the public provision of services is education, especially that which serves poor and minority communities. Billionaires like Bill Gates (Microsoft) and the Walton family (Walmart) have established organizations and contributed enormous sums of money to do two things. First, they seek to revolutionize the way in which students are taught. Here they have achieved great victories, with two presidents enacting sweeping laws: No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Both condition federal aid to schools upon what has been described as “teaching to the test.” Literature, art, music, and all critical education are to be sacrificed so that children do well on standardized examinations. Then, how schools and their teachers fare, including whether or not a school continues to exist, depends on students’ scores. Second, these plutocrat “reformers” want to alter radically the way in which schools are organized. The best way to describe their aim is to say that they want them schools to resemble assembly lines, with students as outputs and teachers as assembly-line-like mechanisms who do not think or instill in their students the capacity to conceptualize critically and become active participants in a democratic society. And this Taylorization of schooling has a military-like component, with pupils expected to react to commands with rote discipline and respond unthinkingly to rewards for appropriate behavior.( Emphasis supplied.)
Not only will working people become increasingly insecure, but to secure essential services, they will have to pay the new owners monopoly prices.
- See more at: http://portside.org/print/2013-07-22/war-public-school-teachers#sthash.PiZVC0jX.dpuf
(C)an we shift the conversation from the “accountability/testing” mania to a real meaty discussion about how learning takes place. Maybe we have to dig deeper into what purposes we expect schooling to serve, or each step forward or back may represent just a new no-nothing fad. Until then we are avoiding the BIG question, “accountable for what?”
Finally: Your Weekly Ravitch...