A guest post by Don Bunger of Washington BATS:
(thanks to Ken Derstine for alerting me to this study via Bloggers Network)
My, my… the charter spin doctors are working overtime. It was CREDO who in 2008 provided a study that is widely cited because it documented that, “Thirty‐seven percent of the charters in this study produce learning gains that are significantly worse than what equivalent.”
I guess they needed to produce a counter-narrative to cover their tracks?
But who does the research for this new CREDO study? Perchance do they have ulterior motives for promoting a pro charter study?
Let’s start with the funders. Walton is a familiar name to us all by now. CREDO receives funding from the Walton Family Foundation.
And Who Does CREDO Employ?
Margaret Macke Raymond is the Director or CREDO. She is also a fellow at Hoover Institute. According to her bio there:
“In partnership with the Walton Family Foundation and Pearson Learning Systems, Raymond is leading a national study of the effectiveness of public charter schools. The public-academic-private partnership helps public charter schools adopt information technologies as a means to both support their operations and generate information required by the study design.”
Meg Mazzola is the Manager of Federal Projects. Her bio at CREDO states: “Prior to joining CREDO in 2007, Meg served as Deputy Director of School Relations for the Education Assessment and Charter School Accreditation Program with the American Academy for Liberal Education. Previously, she was Outreach Coordinator with The Center for Education Reform.”
For more about The Center for Education Reform (CER) see my last post but to sum it up again here, CER is an active member of ALEC working diligently to serve their goal of privatizing public education.
According to Substance News, Maribel Gonzalez, the Program Manager for CREDO was “featured on the ‘Parent Revolution’ website on October 9, 2012, at the time Parent Revolution was beginning its road show.”
Universities like Stanford have apparently been bought out by the billionaire charter narrative. In 2013 they promoted another pro-charter report (via press release). That study was funded by the Robertson Foundation who according to one 2010 report: “(I)s also among the largest contributors to Education Reform Now, the aggressive pro-charter school organization, and is one of the main funders of the NYC Charter Center, on whose board Joel Klein sits. The head of the board of the NYC Charter Center is Phoebe Boyer, the Executive Director of the Tiger Foundation and Interim Executive Director of Robertson Foundation.”
Why else stock a “sound research” program that is disguising itself as providing unbiased grounded data with people who have a clear motive to make the charter enterprise out to be things that it is not: effective, sustainable, democratic, ethical, equitable, caring …or public. CREDO’s studies are the equivalent of Phillip Morris’ studies that smoking does not cause cancer. Like the Tobacco Industry, the Charter Industry has to find any means by which to protect it’s own interests.
Crazy Crawfish sums it up this way: “CREDO has violated that informal compact between citizens and universities by producing poorly reasoned, fallaciously propagandized, rubbish.”
The Center for Education Reform sent a piece of tripe to Baltimore area charter school administrators recently. I’ve said it numerous time now, here 1) http://educationalchemy.com/2015/03/04/make-way-new-orleans-chicago-detroit-and-phillie-baltimore-is-gaining-on-you-in-the-race-to-destroy-public-education/ and here,
those were all just a forecast.
NOW privatization of public education is making landfall in Baltimore. That the Center for Education Reform (CER) is sending letters to school personnel should be a loud warning siren to Baltimore teachers and public schools.Center for education reform letter to bcpss charter teacherscopy (1)
CER is powerful. They have money. And they know how to spin a message. Make sure that every teacher, parent and administrator you know has the facts. And ignore CER“spin” as demonstrated in their letter. IT IS NOT GROUNDED IN FACT. IT IS NOT GROUNDED IN RESEARCH. Hell, IT’S NOT EVEN GROUNDED IN REALITY.
But if we won’t make noise and push back, we will herald the destruction of our local unions, our teachers, and our public schools.
What you Need to Know about Center for Education Reform
What’s their motive? They are active members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) whose goal is to completely eliminate public education and teachers unions.
FOR MORE ON ALEC (IF YOU’RE NOT FAMILIAR WITH WHY THIS IS SO DANGEROUS) SEE HERE (click link)
Jeanne Allen, who founded CER, claimed credit for writing the ALEC proposal for the parent trigger. CER works closely with any other organization that opposes public education and supports privatization. Allen refers to the traditional public school system as “The Blob.” Jeanne Allen, has an agenda, and that agenda is choice not achievement. And like Macke Raymond from CREDO, Allen sees the reform agenda as a war.
According to PR Watch: Charter Schools USA and Apex Learning, are corporations that are part of trade groups that are members/funders of ALEC, such as iNACOL, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (a former ALEC member), and the Center for Education Reform (a current ALEC member and the employer of ALEC’s former press secretary Raegen Weber), which have participated in ALEC’s Education Task Force where legislators and private sector members vote on bills to benefit these industries.
The Vermont Political Observer summarizes CER this way:
They work on four fronts: School choice, charter schools, online learning, and teacher quality.
The only form of parental “input” recognized by CER is whether parents can choose their kids’ schools … If your idea of “parental input” is limited to one single act of choice, not unlike going to Walmart to buy a new microwave, then I feel sorry for your children.
“Teacher quality” isn’t a measurement of, oh, the actual quality of a state’s teachers. It amounts to this: Are there state-mandated annual teacher evaluations? Are tenure and retention tied to those evaluations? In other words, have the teachers’ unions been whipped into subservience?
As for “online learning,” CER advocates the availability of “a full-time online caseload.” Which is great, if you want your kid’s education supplied by the University of Phoenix or some other for-profit scam artist.
In short, this CER report is pure ALEC-style horse hockey.
Source Watch documents CER’s role in crafting ALEC model charter school legislation:
2002 ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit Substantive Agenda
According to a February 2005 archive of ALEC’s website:
“The Task Force had a very successful meeting as the guest speakers addressed a standing-room-only crowd. Jeanne Allen from the Center for Education Reform spoke on the need for charter school options and how state legislators must pass laws to give these schools the autonomy they need to be successful. Ron Packard, CEO and Founder of K12, shared the overwhelming positive results of his virtual charter school program.
Some Things to Consider and Share:
Forced privatization is not choice. Many, many schools are forced to close or co-locate with a charter, against the desires and struggles of the communities they serve.
Children as young as six in charter-lands like New Orleans are forced to often take 2 hour bus rides each way across town to attend the charter school that would take them.
The choice rests with the charter schools who can expel or “counsel out” students they don’t want to educate or cherry pick the students they will serve. KIPP for example has enormous attrition rates. But all they show the public are their test scores. Poor test takers are “removed” and left to fall between the cracks.
Charter schools have increased segregation in cities all over the country.
A study in 2009 from CREDO at Stanford University found that 17 percent of charter schools outperformed their counterparts, 37 percent underperformed and 46 percent were not significantly different.
There are too many charter school scandals to note. But with less accountability, and profit motive to private companies receiving our tax dollars, it is clear that quality education to our children is not their main goal.
This new legislation will destroy teachers unions. It’s all clear in the ALEC model legislation.
No, this is not a contentious and offensive analogy between Common Core, testing and Nazi Germany. It’s a post about how a movement can be co-opted. And how to fight back. It’s about strategy co-optation and “ideological camouflage” in which one agenda can be disguised as something else. In this instance it’s about corporate players camouflaging private interests as a public good, and then pointing the blame elsewhere as a distraction. These strategies (listed here) are not top secret. Anyone who has taken marketing or advertising 101 knows how public perception can be manipulated by media and “research.” Because something is not common knolwedge does not make it conspiracy. It just makes the public susceptible to ideological manipulation. I reference here a few historical and fictional examples of how such strategies have been used, and how the American Legislative Exchange Commission’s (ALEC’s) agenda to corporatize, profit from and privatize our public schools eerily mirror these tactics.
The title of this blog is a reference to the movie The Producers (1967). The premise of the movie is that the two main characters, a theater producer for Broadway (played by Zero Mostel) and a meek accountant (Gene Wilder) are both in a slump and they are in need of money. It occurs to Gene Wilder that they’d make more money with a flop than a hit because they can collect the insurance when it goes belly up. So they create a Broadway musical they believe will flop, basing it on a screen play written by an old post-war Nazi nut. There’s the infamous scene where the audience sits in shock and horror while the singers and dancers on stage all croon, “Its springtime for Hitler and Germany.”
So what if…just what if… you were an organization that intended to privatize public education? Given how deep seated our democracy is with the ideal of public education, such a proposal would not win over very many except the most die-hard followers of Milton Freidman. Perhaps you’d get more people to adopt your agenda if first you created systematic “reforms” intended to be a flop. And then when the reforms “fail” you could cash in on your real agenda?
The goal of ALEC is to craft model legislation behind closed doors to create state level policies which serve the interests of their corporate partners. They are a powerful private-public partnership devoted (to a fault) with Milton Freidman’s notions of private enterprise at the expense of the public good. Many of the polices we are seeing promulgated right now can be traced to model education legislation bills which can be seen etched carefully into state-level policies that call for:
-more (corporate led, hedge fund invested) charter schools,
-more vouchers draining the funds greatly needed by starving public schools into the pockets of “venture philanthropists,”
-the call for new teacher evaluations (rolling out the red carpet for union busting TFA faux teachers, and Pearson’s domination of the educational/testing system),
-replacing brick and mortar schools with online classrooms,
-obsessive amounts of data collection via the new tests, lobbying efforts led by Pearson, and political push by billionaires, and “research” done by big data gurus McKinsey and Co.
So does ALEC have a blue print for this nutty proposal? You bet.
Paul Weyrich is a co-founder of ALEC. Eric Heubeck, Weyrich’s protégé, proposes a transition to the new elite domination of society … into a political force that can move the New Traditionalists into the position of ultimate power in our society. Heubeck lays out a three-step process:
There will be three main stages in the unfolding of this movement. The first stage will be devoted to the development of a highly motivated elite able to coordinate future activities. The second stage will be devoted to the development of institutions designed to make an impact on the wider elite and a relatively small minority of the masses. The third stage will involve changing the overall character of American popular culture.
Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions.
We will use guerrilla tactics to undermine the legitimacy of the dominant regime. We will take advantage of every available opportunity to spread the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with the existing state of affairs. For example, we could have every member of the movement put a bumper sticker on his car that says something to the effect of ‘Public Education is Rotten; Homeschool Your Kids.’ This will change nobody’s mind immediately; no one will choose to stop sending his children to public schools immediately after seeing such a bumper sticker; but it will raise awareness and consciousness that there is a problem. Most of all, it will contribute to a vague sense of uneasiness and dissatisfaction with existing society. We need this if we hope to start picking people off and bringing them over to our side. We need to break down before we can build up. We must first clear away the flotsam of a decayed culture.
In terms of our long term prospects, because we will be seen as a purely defensive movement, not interested in imposing our views on anyone, only interested in being left alone, we will surely gain the sympathy of the public … Sympathy from the American people will increase as our opponents try to persecute us, which means our strength will increase at an accelerating rate due to more defections–and the enemy will collapse as a result.
So, how can you tell if co- optation is happening? There are three tenets to examine: message, funding, and motive. Messaging is the equivalent of marketing or advertising. It’s what you see on the shiny brochures or classy websites. It’s the sound bites. They may often promote similar goals and values. Or at least claim to. This is where they get folks on board. So it’s important to examine the funding and motive to see if your movement is being co-opted. Funding includes a deep examination of who is funding the organization. Though the messaging alone will not make evident your own goals are being cop opted, those who pull the purse strings pull the real agenda. The funding reveals the true motives. So what does it mean if an opt out group or an anti-Common Core group is funded by corporations? It means that the goals of those politicians, ideological agenda, or corporations funding the group are the true motives. It means co-opting is taking place. Message: Support Opt Out. Funded by: Corporations X,Y and Z. Motive? Take tips from Paul Weyrich — Opt out because “public schools are rotten. Promote privately run charter schools.” This is not the message of United Opt Out nor part of our motive! Co-optation is a way to use the energies of genuine activists and redirect them without even realizing its happening.
If you were looking to co-opt a movement, perhaps you’d take notes from post war Communist Russia. According to a story by 99% Invisible Radio, after Warsaw was destroyed in WWII the Communists decided to “rebuild” it, according to its original historical conditions. However, after reconstruction, things were not as they seemed. While the Communist developers gave the illusion of nostalgic accuracy… in fact things were constructed only on the surface to resemble Warsaw’s Old Town. Behind the veneer, inside the new buildings were completely in “communist style: fast, cheap, and big.”
The radio report says, “They wanted to send the message that the Old Town—and Warsaw as a whole—would be better than it was before the war. Second, they didn’t want Poles to long for this lost part of the city. By recreating Old Town, the past could stop being such a distraction, and they could get to work on a drastic overhaul of the country.”
So via charter schools and 21st century curricula (aka Common Core), reformers create in the “illusion” of “public” schools, of supporting opportunity, of caring for kids: but beneath the surface something else entirely is being built; it is an ideological bait and switch toward privatization. And their strategy (from the playbook of Weyrich) is to build a narrative that will make public education “forgettable.” With the new faux “reforms” and enough time passing, people will cease to long for what they’re missing. It worked in Warsaw. Why not for ALEC and education?
It also works for organizations that “appear” to be in support of the testing/reform resistance. These co-opt actions are more subtle. It could merely be that politics have trumped ethics. Money talks. While some groups appear to support what we support, when you get past the “messaging” and find the funding connections, you can find the real motive. Make sure it’s one you share before endorsing partnerships with anyone. See Peggy Robertson’s blog post about The Education Commission of the States, a so-called “bi-partisan” non profit organization that claims to provide all the go-to resources any policy maker might need. They took the time to discredit United Opt Out state guides, and to offer their own version of opt out guidelines according to each state. Old Warsaw? New Warsaw? As Peggy Robertson writes regarding Education Commission of the States:
ECS recently came out with an “opt out” document …to let folks know the legalities around opt out … This document allows folks to jump on the Opt Out Bandwagon, while defeating the main reason we have been successful as a social movement. We are successful because we recognize opt out as an act of civil disobedience. When folks share this document, while ignoring the social movement constituents – we are looking at a co-optation.
Check out their funding: It’s a veritable Who’s Who of ALEC membership.
ALEC and the tentacles of its myriad reform legislation has also learned much from the film Promised Land (2013) as well.
In this film about Fracking in a small town, John Krasinski plays a guy pretending to work for an environmental company who wins the hearts and trust of the townspeople. But then later he is exposed for lying to them about something. So, they turn to Matt Damon who works for Global (the fracking company) who they had disliked previously. In one of the final scenes however, Damon, feeling he’d just made a major win for Global at the expense of Krasinski the environmentalist who failed, says that, by lying to the townspeople, “You just guaranteed we’d win.” Krasinki then confesses he’s working undercover for Global, unbeknownst to Damon this entire time. He had set it up so that disguised as an environmentalist, he’d win and then lose the trust of the people. Damon says, “Jesus Christ. You’re with Global” to which Krasinski replies:
Did you really think they were gonna
leave something like this in your hands?
After you let them bring it to a vote?
Steve, companies like Global, they don’t
rely on anyone. That’s how they win.
They win by controlling every outcome.
And they do that by playing both sides.
Anyone who follows policy is aware that the American Legislative Exchange Council rides both side of the “reform” fence. In a nut shell, there are two “teams.” First there’s Team Heritage Foundation (also created by Paul Weyrich) and includes those members of ALEC who articulate an anti- Common Core and anti testing stance. Their claim is that federal overreach is an affront to “state’s rights” and local control. Not that we disagree with them on this. But Heritage Foundation has a very different motive and agenda than we do. Heritage and many other ALEC sponsored education front groups like Freedom Works are front and center in the efforts to lobby at state and federal levels for more privately- run publicly funded charter schools, including online education delivery systems (K12 Inc was the ALEC education sub-committee chair for years).
Then there’s Team Jeb, (aka Jeb Bush) -those members of ALEC who support Common Core and its tentacles of reform including standardized testing, school closures and new teacher evaluations. If you examine closely the corporations who funded the development and implementation of Common Core and the new PARCC and SBAC testing regimes, you’ll find many of them are members of ALEC. See a full blown set of connections here.
But…why? Why, if you are an organization dedicated to privatizing public education would you fund a “reform” policy for public schools which claims to “build 21st century career and college readiness” to rebuild public education? You wouldn’t. Unless… you knew it would be a flop. What if you knew you could help create a system so unbelievably bad, so offensive to parents, so harmful to teachers and schools (and quite profitable along the way), that you could generate a mentality which begins to hate public education itself? Then my friend, you’d have a hit.
It’s “Springtime for ALEC”-the “flop” that enables them to win big. The cost? Public education. And our children.
Keep your child home. Your child will not be promoted. You’re preventing your child from being successful. The school will lose funding.
Yep, we’ve heard it all. But the threats to parents just keep getting worse. Here in Baltimore City, one parent received notification that his child would be threatened with suspension for not taking the test! Suspension records, which follow the child through their school career, will create a series of negative consequences for their school success. In desperate attempts to get creative with their scare tactics, the punishments are eerily beginning to contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline:
Out-of-school suspensions mean lost classroom time and, for some, disconnection from school. A recent landmark study of nearly a million Texas children showed that suspension increased the likelihood of repeating a grade that year and landing in the juvenile-justice system the next year. It also was linked to dropping out.
At first this parent was told “his child would have to stay home during testing.” But he had done his homework and replied that in fact they could not force his child to be denied access to her right to attend her school. He told us in an email correspondence:
(The administrator) initially stated that the children couldn’t come to school until testing was done. I told her that I know that’s not the case and they can’t be denied their opportunity to an education (although we know this testing madness is doing that anyway). She then went into how it’s a Code of Conduct violation and she would treat it as such. The language is on the second page of the memo attached. It would be a Level 1 or Level 2 violation if she chose to take it there.
So they got creative. The Baltimore City letter AOC on Opting out of Standardized testing.final now states:
Refusing to take the test could amount to a Defiance of Authority, more specifically a “failure to follow directions” or a “failure to follow school staff questions or requests.” Both are violation of the student code of conduct and may be classified at Level I or Level II offenses.
Although we know in Maryland from several letters from various counties, crafted at the behest of MSDE, articulate clearly that the decision to handle testing refusals ultimately rests with the local administration, many administrators would like us to believe that their hands are tied and that they are merely following the “policy” (which of course does not legally exist). Most curious though, we have seen many letters and administrative responses from around the state of MD, and have seen and heard a lot of county-level responses to testing refusals; some good, some bad, some ugly. But only in Baltimore City have we heard of schools threatening children with suspension. No suspension threats in Howard or Baltimore counties. Hmmmm. Given the horrific data that shows how children (often children of color) in urban schools are two or three times as likely to be punished with suspension as their county (White middle class peers) for the same exact “infractions”, this action on behalf of Baltimore City, should they enact this threat, perpetuates a racist and classist set of behaviors which could be addressed with a civil rights complaint. At least, a case could made against specific administrators since MSDE clearly indicates that such punitive measures are ultimately the decisions of the administrator to make! This is zero-tolerance behavior at its worst.
In the words of Matthew Prestbury, the Baltimore City parent who provided us with this letter:
In her (the school administrator’s)latest email to me she won’t admit that she is making this decision, only saying that she’s following the district’s guidelines (the memo clearly states that these actions are suggested in order to dissuade parents from “opting out”). Therefore I know that her hands aren’t tied as she’d like to have me believe. And that needs to get out there that they are working to strong arm parents into submission. Parents need to know that.
We’d like to see more comparison data nationally from testing refusals as well. Are there patterns of different disciplinary threats or actions for city children and parents versus their suburban and rural testing refusal counter parts? Is it suspension for city kids, and “Festivus for the rest of us”?
City parents: Tell us your story.
Make way, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit and Phillie!! Baltimore is gaining on you in the race to destroy public education!Posted: March 4, 2015 in Uncategorized
Who will win? The corporations with the most real estate. Maryland public education is a land grab for the education technology industry and privately managed charter schools.
Meet Calvert Education and Camden Partners: Because They’re Coming to a District Near You!
What is Calvert Foundation?
The company was founded in 1906 and is based in Hunt Valley, Maryland.
As of October 7, 2013, Calvert Education Services, LLC operates as a subsidiary of VSCHOOLZ, Inc.
What is Vschoolz?
Vschoolz is located at 1999 N University Dr, Coral Springs, FL 33071. According to their website: “VSCHOOLZ, Inc. provides digital solutions to launch virtual programs to schools, districts, corporations, and other organizations. The company offers an integrated customizable platform that enables teachers to edit, change, remove, or adapt the content provided to fit the individualized classroom and school needs. Its courses are delivered in an online environment incorporating collaborative tools, such as message boards, digital drop boxes, chat rooms, and teacher to teacher file sharing.”
Calvert Education Services and VSCHOOLZ announced a merger to create the “premier provider” of virtual and blended learning solutions for K-12 Education
Enter Pearson. Are we surprised?
Baltimore-based Calvert Education Services has appointed education company executive Steven C. Gross as its new CEO. Gross had been senior vice president of marketing for the school business segment of Pearson Plc.
But Wait! There’s more!
Calvert Education Services is a portfolio company of Camden Partners.
Camden Partners is a Baltimore-based private equity firm that funds and participates in the growth of well-managed emerging public company businesses within the business services, health care and education industries. Current investments include: Infocrossing, Inc., Blue Rhino, Concorde Career Colleges, Superior Consultant Holdings and Pharmanetics.
As a private equity firm they have a long history of “significant investments in the education space.” Their current portfolio companies include companies such as:
- Triumph Higher Education Group
- Calvert Education Services, LLC
- CIBT Education Group, Inc.
- National American University Holdings, Inc.
- New Horizons Worldwide, Inc.
- Questar Assessment, Inc,
David Warnock is a managing member of Camden Partners. He is also co-founder of the Green Street Academy and co-chair of the board of trustees.
According to Warnock:
“What’s coming fast and what we should aspire to is why shouldn’t every kid in a Baltimore City high school have access to Mandarin or access to advanced astronomy or access to science or remedial this or remedial that? … It’s all about giving regular kids access to great educational outcomes.”
And giving access to millions of dollars to private equity firms. Ignore the data that reveals that charter schools are NOT a solution to what ails urban communties and causes schools to “fail”: poverty and racial/economic inequities on a systemic scale. A report reblogged by Bonastia sites:
“A 2010 report by the UCLA-based Civil Rights Project, “Choice without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards,” uncovers some troublesome facts in this regard. “While segregation for blacks among all public schools has been increasing for nearly two decades, black students in charter schools are far more likely than their traditional public school counterparts to be educated in intensely segregated settings. At the national level, 70 percent of black charter school students attend intensely segregated minority charter schools (which enroll 90-100 percent of students from under-represented minority backgrounds), or twice as many as the share of intensely segregated black students in traditional public schools.”
In January 2014, Warnock and Camden Partners sponsored an event in Baltimore and invited all the education “colonizers” where they all learned how to profit from education reform policies.
The event was called:
Here are some of the headlines in the promotional flyer they used to promote interest:
- The Schools and Institutions sector alone has over $400 billion in annual revenue, while venture capital investments in the Education Technology sector have ballooned to over $1.2 billion.”
- Learn how to benefit from today’s huge industry shift, with so many education companies revising their business models.
- Facts like these are what make the for-profit education sector so appealing to investors.
Here are 7 important reasons you should register to attend this encore conference, “Private Equity Investing in For-Profit Education Companies” —
- Learn how to benefit from today’s huge industry shift, with so many education companies revising their business models.
- Understand why much of the industry is pursuing certification training for its huge cost benefit over degree programs.
- Discover which skill-based training programs are becoming commodities and which have pent-up demand.
- Recognize the ramifications of commercial textbook publishers and educational software vendors being eclipsed by new online players.
- Hear why companies providing resources and technical support for MOOCs are flourishing, and why the MOOC trend shows no sign of abating.
- Realize how game-based learning is finding its way into more and more K-12 classrooms, and why game designers are becoming part of the educational team.
THIS LAST ONE IS THE MOST COMPELLING TO POLICIES BEING DISCUSSED BY OUR OWN GOVERNOR HOGAN:
“Gain insight into whether privately managed charter schools will continue to take market share from public schools.”
A study released by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranked Maryland’s charter school laws the so-called “lowest” in the nation for the second year in a row. Well of course they did! NCPCS funded by the billionaire’s boys club (Walton Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Eli Broad Foundation, and Carnegie Corporation of New York) making Baltimore their home.
Charter schools with no accountability but lots of profit:
According to one report dated Jan 29th, 2015: “The first and only bill the legislature has seen thus far on the topic this year calls for the establishment of a public charter school program in Frederick County governed by an independent charter school board, with members elected by the county council. Charter school teachers in Frederick County would also be exempt from performance evaluation criteria determined by the state.”
According to Warnock back in 2007: “We invest in fast-growing companies where the combination of our money and input can help them build shareholder value and increase their size. Our portfolio includes business and financial services, health care and education.”
So naturally there’s an interest in increasing the number of for profit privately managed charter schools, with no accountability and their own independent board to avoid any accountability to the public tax payer and the children they pretend to serve. But the problem is that “Maryland charter school law effectively prohibits online charter schools.”
Not to worry! With Larry Hogan at the helm opening the flood gates, Warnock stands to profit handsomely.
And walking down the red carpet with the edutech industry is Teach for America:
“During the last decade, the local Fund for Educational Excellence led a 12 foundation consortium supporting high school reform. That work continues under the direction of former TFA Director Roger Schulman with support for 14 Secondary Transformation Schools which are operated under contract by outside groups Friendship Public Charter Schools (2 elementary and 2 secondary) and Diploma Plus (2 high schools).” Additionally, Urban Teacher Center was launched by Jennifer Green, a TFA teacher who went on to senior leadership positions in Baltimore. TFA Baltimore has 340 corp members in 107 schools with 600 alumni in the area. Executive Director Courtney Cass says, “We are embarking on an ambitious four-year strategy to recruit 1,000 corps members to Maryland.”
The constellation of corporate interests in spreading rapidly in Baltimore. And privatization of public schools and the teaching profession won’t be far behind.
Taking a deep examination of the premises, facts, and outcomes of current education policies which are built on the corner stones of the Common Core, high stakes testing, and school closures/charters, one can see that in their development, implementation and results, what we are left with is “policy apartheid.” A strong accusation I admit, but perhaps not so far off as we wish. An honest examination of the evidence is warranted.
What does policy apartheid mean? In terms of implementation it suggests that those crafting the policies who are largely politicians and CEO’s from the “billionaire’s boys club”—wealthy and influential organizations or people (whether themselves White or male, or not)– embrace the development of policies steeped in a narrative born of White privilege. A definition of “failing school” framed by Whiteness, privilege, and social class as the defining characteristics for “success” results in further disenfranchisement of people from black and brown communities. Reform policies driven by high stakes testing is the most glaring example of this. The policy itself assumes a number of things that could only be embraced as logical within an APARTHEID mentality: 1) that poverty does not matter, 2) that meritocracy exists unfettered, 3) that any separation is merely an outgrowth of natural consequences, 4) that all children of color need is grit, and 5) that knowledge evidenced in a standardized test has any value. Number 5 warrants deeper examination since numerous studies spanning decades have proven them to be culturally, and racial and class biased. Standardized testing has its roots in the Eugenics movement.
So why else would we allow a practice such as a system of rewards and punishments dictated by test scores be the cornerstone of reform unless we wished to continue to expand segregationist outcomes? This practice essentially tells already historically underserved students that: they must endure meaningless testing at the expense of meaningful learning, and funnel monies to Pearson that could go to real and meaningful resources, in order to receive an equitable and humane educational experience so freely given to their suburban peers. Why should some students be forced to test in order to prove they are equal to their middle class White peers and worthy of the same opportunities? So long as we buy into the narrative that tests can prove anything of value we will continue to then justify segregationist policies and practices while excusing this under the guise of “reliable science.” We must reject the myth that tests can offer scientific validity that perpetuate harmful and inequitable educational practices and then deny any responsibility for this.
And what of policy apartheid outcomes?
In order to understand how we arrive at increasingly segregationist outcomes we must carefully examine language and ask the question: Who is it that owns the narrative promulgating current reforms? Sure, dujour (official) segregation largely went out with Brown v. Board and other Civil Rights legislation. So the system merely became more creative in achieving its aims. Systems that call for “accountability”, “grit narratives”, and “testing “ as a means of reward or punishment might not have the words “apartheid” printed on paper, but the results are just the same.
Reform language now is all about “disruption” innovation and breaking traditional systems. The claim is that in order to provide more “choice” and freedom” (using underserved communities as the target audience) policies must include vouchers and charters. The narrative insists we must “disrupt” the status quo which is code for unionized teachers and public schools. But ironically enough, the folks creating this narrative are themselves driving “top down” policies. It is scripted from the top and designed, not liberate people at the grass roots level or to empower those parents, teachers and students in those communities, but to re-inscribe a new ruling class and an oppressive system. Top-down mandated disruption disorients and disempowers communities who might otherwise push back. This new disruptive system intends on replacing the old so-called “monopoly” of public schools with a new “master”—the corporate owned schools. These masters of the new narrative challenge power merely to reclaim power for themselves. The outcomes of these policies are painfully clear: no accountability to the people they serve; children redefined as human capital; zero-tolerance policies aimed at submission, control, and obedience; and increasingly segregated schools. These polices use language to equate “public” (as in public schools) as itself the “problem” (outdated and monopolistic) and that “innovation” can only be performed by our new corporate and privately owned systems.
Why have we never tried to allow public school teachers the freedom to be innovative? Why have we never allowed public schools to tackle the problems of inequity, or respond to the demands of those communities that have for too long gone ignored? Yes, systems of inequity and lack of quality have pervaded our public institutions for too long. There exists a history of baised “interpretations” on the part of some as to what qualifies as student success, and thus has resulted in unequal opportunities. It is understandable that many civil rights advocates would seek to tighten up consistency in our evaluation systems to deter baised teaching practices. But do we really believe that corporations have the solution? Do we really believe that testing will rectify decades of harmful and biased practices?
A truly innovative disruptive system that flattens the power structure would empower the possibilities and freedoms of teachers and students themselves to reimagine what education can be; not corporations, testing companies, politicians and lobbyists deciding this for them. Rather than funding more testing, we should apply our resources toward a more meaningful preparation of educators to practice culturally-relevant and critically-minded teaching. The former reninscribes aparthied policies and the latter dismantles them.
We can compare the outcomes of two versions of “innovation” and see what each has yielded in terms of outcomes–the first includes innovations led by teachers and, and the second includes innovations led by those who own the “innovation” narrative launching “policy missiles” (to quote Brian Jones) into urban neighborhoods. So which one delivers on its promises to the communities they claim to serve?
Innovations and disruptions led by public school teachers/communities. Two examples:
- The Ethnic Studies program in Tucson, AZ
- The Youth Dreamers program in Baltimore City
These programs disrupted the status quo. These programs innovated and broke free of the yoke of system which were not working. The measure the success of a system is based on its outcomes. So lets’ measure and compare. By all forms of evaluation these programs were a success: Increased school attendance, graduation rates, school grades/performance, achievement of long range professional and college goals, reduction in “problem behaviors” of students. So what happened? These programs were closed by apartheid policies that refused to support the successes of individuals or groups themselves who were creating solutions that work. The Ethnic Studies program did not work for the racist policy- makers. They endured a long legal battle to reclaim a small ounce of their program, and face continuous attack. And the Youth Dreamer’s school apparently did not produce the “right” test scores according to policy makers, and subsequently was dismantled. Their success did not serve the needs or interests of those in power. These innovative programs disrupted apartheid policies.
The Policy-missile approach:
Conversely, Wall Street wants to disrupt “public” education and innovate it into a private system that continues to serve elite interests at the top. In order to ensure their own market success, they must design outcomes that result in an American apartheid—an education for “us”… and a system for “them”.
As P.L. Thomas states, “America’s public schools and prisons are stark images of the fact of racial, gender, and socioeconomic inequity in our society—inequity that is both perpetuated by and necessary for the ruling elite to maintain their artificial status as that elite.”
Disrupting public schools with current top-down charter school policies lead to disrupted communities where gentrification is planned to occur.
“Innovation” is merely code for a creative way to re-segregate urban communities without calling it what it is: Policy apartheid. Disruption and innovation as tools for liberation aren’t intended for those suffering at the hands of an unequal system. Public schools are closed and chopped up into charters. These charters reveal: high attrition rates, corruption, abusive and neglectful practices, and rejection of the neediest children. Black and brown children become a form of capital serving hedge fund companies. Promising that children will no longer be conscripted to a poor education opportunity “defined by their zip code”, they re-inscribe children to a system of poor education defined by the companies now owning their means of education. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
Explain to me how this isn’t an apartheid mentality.
You decide. Is current reform developed by and reproducing apartheid policies? Simply examine the results of current outcomes and decide for yourself if they promote an apartheid mentality. Are these reforms growing, or reducing, inequities? Forget what the policy narrators say. What do they do? Who profits? At whose expense? Whom do the policies actually serve? How much better off are children as a result of these policies and practices? How much better off are the corporations and politicians who promoted them? Are we closing the income and equity gaps as a result of these policies? And if there exists programs that actually evidence success for children, why do policy makers work so hard to shut them down instead of supporting them?
These are tough but necessary questions to address. And the answers might require we hold a mirror up to ourselves as a society a little more closely.