Friday, January 30, 2015

Ohio Superintendents Step Up

Sixteen superintendents from Lorain County, Ohio, have stepped up to speak out for public education in Ohio.

Lorain County is a short hop west of Cleveland, right on the lake. It has given the world Toni Morrison and Tom Batiuk. My first teaching job was at Lorain High School, one of the three public high schools in the city. That was 1979-- the city was a bit over 80K in population, and solidly blue-collar, with steel, auto, and shipping industries firmly in place. The bottom soon dropped out. I was RIFfed at the end of my first year; a year later Lorain was on the news as part of a feature on the collapsing industrial economy. Today the high school where I taught is a vacant lot. So I have a soft spot for Lorain County.

As reported by Michael Sangiacomo on, the sixteen superintendents of Lorain County have come together to call for big changes, particularly targeting "excessive student testing, overly strict teacher evaluations, loss of state funding to charter and online schools, and other cuts in funding."

Funding formulas are a special kind of bizarre in Ohio. According to the superintendents, the state actually pays more to send students to charters and cybers than to send them to public school. They offered some specific examples but the overall average is striking by itself-- the state average per pupil payment to traditional public schools is $3,540 per student, but the average payment to an Ohio charter is $7,189.

The superintendents have a website-- that at the moment offers just a few pieces of information.

One is the summary of the survey that the superintendents conducted in January of 2015. The summary of what they heard from Lorain County residents is short but sweet

* their school districts are doing an excellent or good job,
* high quality teachers are the most important indicator of a high quality education
* earning high marks on the state report card isn't that important
* increased state testing has not helped students
* decisions are best made at the local level,
* preschool education– especially for those students from poverty-- should be expanded (and they said they would increase their taxes to support it)
* school finance is the biggest challenge facing our schools,
* and their local tax dollars should not be going to support private schools and for-profit and online charter schools

The superintendents offer their response as well. They note that the vast majority of citizens are unaware of what's coming out of Columbus and DC. They have some specific concerns about some Ohio reforms, but their overriding concern is " the loss of local control of our public schools." And this, which I found interesting:

We are much to blame for not standing up to these ill-fated education reforms.

 There are some other interesting chunks of information on the site, including a link to the site about How Ohio Charter Schools Are Performing, which features a chance to plug in a charter and compare it to your own school results and a bank of news that provides information about how the charter fight is going. This site comes from the Ohio Charter School Accountability Project, which is a joint venture of the Ohio Education Association and Innovation Ohio. 

Ohio has been hammered hard by the reformsters, and the political leaders of the state have made no secret of their love for charters and privatization. It's nice to see an entire county's worth of school leaders standing up to fight back for public education.


Public Schools Are Not Monopolies

A common rhetorical flourish among reformsters from charter boosters to the governor of New York is to refer to public schools as a monopoly.

That's not the truth. To call public schools a monopoly is to either reveal ignorance or hide behind a lie.

To have a monopoly, we must have a single person or business entity which controls all the supply of a particular commodity. Now, schools are not businesses and education is not a commodity, but for our purposes, let's go ahead and pretend that the term can be stretched to cover something like schooling.

A monopoly would be a situation in which you can't get schooling from anyone else. Put another way, it would be a situation in which you have to deal with a particular boss or set of bosses.

Those of us of a certain age remember when the phone company was a monopoly. It didn't matter where you lived or what service you wanted in a phone, ultimately you were dealing with exactly the same corporate board of directors. And you couldn't do a thing about it.

Public schools would be a monopoly --

-- if every single school in the country was ultimately run by the same board of directors. They are not. That has always been one of the reasons that people choose to live in West Egg instead of in East Egg-- they like the West Egg schools better.

-- if the management of the school could not be replaced by the customers. But they can be. We have this thing called elections, in which the public can replace as many of the board of directors as they wish. Imagine what would happen to a corporation like Microsoft or US Air if they could be voted off the board by a vote of every customer of the company? They can't, but the board of a public school can be.

I was struck this morning, reading Jersey Jazzman's account of the struggle over public education in Jersey City, just how much the reformerized school districts behave like true monopolies.

Graduates of the Broad School, where future school bosses receive master of the universe training, cranks out people who prefer a setting where they answer to nobody. Reed Hastings is just one charter fan who has complained about having elected school boards. The push repeatedly in places like Philly and New Jersey and Detroit and unfortunately the list goes on and on-- that push is to cut the elected board out of the picture and replace it with a structure that is politically insulated from the voters.

Charter and choice fans talk about busting government school monopolies, but what they want specifically is a setting where they answer to no one and where no elected official can bother them. Elected officials are a pain because they have to keep voters happy.

And so we repeatedly see school leaders like Cami Anderson and John White who plough on secure in knowing that they don't have to answer to the voters or the customers or anyone.

That is what monopoly looks like on the ground. You take your complaint to the boss and the boss says, "So what? That's what I want to do, and you can't do a thing about it." And that's not what we get at public schools, where the voters can hire and fire the board members who are the ultimate bosses. That's what we get at school systems that have been reformed, or charter systems that have no elected board and need not answer to anyone.

That's the upside-down world of school reform. Use accusations of "monopoly" to help cut down the public system, and then replace it with systems that behave far more like monopolies than public schools ever did.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Milwaukee's New War on the Poor

On Wednesday, Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Dale Kooyenga released "New Opportunities for Milwaukee." It'stunning. It's a blueprint, a plan, a carefully-crafted rhetorical stance that turns the war on poverty into a war on the poor. Does it present new opportunities? It surely does-- but they are opportunities for more privateers to use the language of civil rights to mask the same old profiteering game.

Make sure your seat belts and safety harnesses are locked in place, because we are about to travel to a place where up is down and forward is backward. The first chunk is directly related to education; the rest is not, but I'm going to go the distance anyway because it helps lay out a particular point of view that is driving some reformsters. The full report is twenty-five pages; I've read them so that you don't have to, but you may still want to. Forewarned is forearmed.


2014 marked the 50-year anniversary of the war on poverty. Since 1964, taxpayers spent over $22 trillion to combat poverty. Little, if any, progress has been achieved.

Those are the opening lines, and our basic premise. The writers declare the war on poverty a failure, and the draw a line between Eisenhower's military-industrial complex and a new poverty industrial complex. "There is a presumption in this nation that all we have to do is appropriate more money to address a problem, but over time we see no correlation between government spending and the alleviation of poverty." In fact, the writer's suggest, poverty has gotten worse in the areas that get the most government attention.

"Two-thirds of the incarcerated African-American men come from six zip codes in Milwaukee and it is no coincidence that those zip codes are also home to the greatest density of failing schools and the highest unemployment in the state." Boy, and that's true. It's also no coincidence that every time I see a building on fire, there's a fire truck right nearby, or that every time find water dripping off my car, there's rain. Say it with me, boys and girls-- correlation is not causation.

The writers acknowledge that the poverty of these areas is "a reality no one should accept" and they talk about "the real pain there." They also assert that "no one wants to be in poverty"and they recognize that "Milwaukee is increasingly becoming a tale of two cities."

They also want you to know that the ideas in this plan won't "cost any taxpayer, at any level of government, a single cent." Because compassion is nice and all, but compassion that doesn't actually cost you anything is best. Their plan is about "unleashing individuals, not unleashing government spending," which rather begs the question of what, exactly, has individuals leashed in the first place. They think their ideas are good for the whole state, but for now, they'll just focus on zip codes with unemployment over 10%.

Chapter 1: Empowerment Through Education

This chapter kicks off with great news! While we lost the war on poverty, we apparently totally won the battle for civil rights and equity. No kidding.

In the past, being a minority in America inhibited an individual from pursuing a promising career and well-paying job. This reality is an embarrassing one for our great country, fortunately tremendous progress has been made on this injustice since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Today, a greater discriminator to escaping poverty is not race, but instead revolves around the ability to obtain a high school diploma.

The emphasis is mine (the comma splice and fractured syntax are theirs).

Just soak that in. Just absorb for a minute the implications. The civil rights movement is over; everybody can just go home now. Race is no longer a factor in poverty, and poverty is no longer a factor in its own perpetuation, and class background has nothing to do with upward mobility. It's all education.I told you you were going to need a seatbelt.

The writers want you to know that "fortunately" Milwaukee is a veritable experimentation laboratory for swell things like open enrollment, choice and charter programs. How's that been working out for them? Well...

There have been successes and failures, but overall the competition between schools and school systems is a positive for the community.

Mind you, just a paragraph earlier the writers had graphs and facts and figures about graduation rates. I guess we're just going to have to take their word for it that competition has been positive. And just to be clear-- no, I don't necessarily think that they are trying to hide the truth here. Choice and free market advocates often believe that choice and competition are virtuous in and of themselves. Educational results are beside the point-- choice is how proper systems are supposed to work, and if the results don't back that up, well, something else is messing the system up.

Now on to their proposed fixes.

Charter School Replication 

Expanding proven charter schools is essential to improving more quality education, say the writers, and once again, this is more an affirmation of faith than an evidence-based conclusion. A short history of charters in Milwaukee follows, featuring a lovely pro-charter quote from President Obama and some examples of swell charter ideas like Rocketship Charters.

Charter schools are a positive for any community. Similar to the voucher program, their existence applies pressure to traditional public schools to increase their educational delivery system in order to compete. 

Their proposal? Allow high-performing charters to replicate without the approval of a charter school authorizer. In this case, "high-performing" will be defined as "beating local mat and reading scores by ten percent for two straight years." So charterpreneurs just need to scoop up some select educational cream, hit the test prep hard, and in two years they can earn carte blanche to create as a big a charter chain as they wish, answerable to nobody at all!

Turnaround schools

Entrenched interests are standing in the way of large scale reform. Thousands of children are "victims of low academic achievement and therefore, dependence on government."

The writers will now use New Orleans and Tennessee's ASD as examples of sweeping reforms. For NOLA, they'll cite success that has been repeatedly debunked. For Tennessee, it's just "early reports" are "encouraging."

Their proposal? A turnaround board that operates outside traditional bureaucracy. The board will entertain proposals from charter operators and will award a five-year charter school contract to the best plan. So, one more public school system turned into a non-public school system to be run as a business. Because it has worked so well in-- oh, wait. It hasn't worked anywhere. Because democracy is stupid and gets in the way of a good business plan? Maybe that's the justification here.

Dual Enrollment Program

"The notion that every student's best interest is served by pursuing a bachelor's degree is without merit."

I have no disagreement with this portion of the proposal at all. Apparently Wisconsin runs a program that helps prep students to be machinists, welders or tech workers in a work-based learning opportunity. In Pennsylvania we have vocational-technical schools, and I will go to bat for these programs any day of the week. The world needs more welders and what's more, the world pays welders good money. There's no reason not to make it easier for students to choose that career path (which is one more reason that the Common Core are a waste of our time).

Proposal? More of that. I'm not going to disagree.

Chapter 220 Intradistrict Aid Flexibility

Back in the seventies, Milwaukee decided (with the help of some federal pressure) to get to integrating its schools.This falls under the heading of Chapter 220 intradistrict stuff.

If I understand correctly, schools basically get paid to accept students who help them meet the mandated mix of integration. The writers want you to know that the statute has a large helping of stupid in that it only recognizes two types of students-- white, and not white. As far as the statute is concerned, Asian, African-American and Latino students are interchangeable.

Proposed solution? If you said "Fix the definition of diversity," you lose. The correct answer is Give out all the money as block grants and don't require any school to do anything in particular with it. So, call a halt to desegregation in Milwaukee? Maybe that's larger than our goal. Perhaps they just want to make sure that charters can choose exactly whatever students they want, no matter what.

DPI Waiver of Mandates

"One size does not fit all." By which the writers mean, schools should be able to get permission to ignore whatever mandates they would like. Because what fun is a charter if you have to follow a bunch of government rules?

Computer Programming Academy

The market wants more technology workers. Let's make it some, because programmers make a lot of money. Perhaps Milwaukee can also start programs for super-models and professional athletes, who also make big money. Or politicians.

And that's the end of the education-specific material. If that's all you came for, you can bail now. 

Chapter 2: Free Market Zones-- Targeted Practices for Challenging Neighborhoods

So, these target areas we're talking about are former industrial areas that have seen a "steady decline in manufacturing and the economic activity related to its supply chain," which was a surprise to me because, you know, the key to fixing all economic problems is education, so wouldn't that mean that back in the days of fuller employment we were going great guns in schools? Anyway, these high-unemployment areas carry a lot of extra costs connected with poverty. But have no fear--

Our proposals are not centered on removing safety nets, but providing trampolines.

I love a good metaphor, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what a trampoline would be, but here some the specific of their plan, so let's see.

Not all is baloney. There's a proposal for zero-percent corporate taxes for new businesses (as long they aren't competing with old one).  Wisconsin also has a 1939 law that you can't sell products at a loss, so that the big guy won't squeeze out the little guy. The writers say that since the big guys are now on line, this is a lost cause (and keeps consumers from getting hot deals). I think I may side with them on this. On the other hand, there's this:

Right-to-Work Zone

Peacekeeper missile. Freedom is slavery. Right to work.

The proposal here is simple. A five-person governor-appointed board should be able to okay keeping any unions away from a new business. The writers say this is necessary to keep Wisconsin "competitive" by which we must mean competitive from an employer's viewpoint, because this is certainly not how you compete for workers.

Oddly enough, Wisconsin is not the only place to recently float this idea. The governor of Illinois has also floated a similar inspiration. It's almost as if somebody, somewhere has suggested this cool idea-- "If you can't get your whole state to go anti-union, maybe you can just set up a few select union-free zones here and there." ALEC? He Man Union Busters Club Monthly?

I have actually seen a business keep the union out. The owner did it by treating their employees so well that they consistently rejected union overtures. I have also seen managers work with unions as effective partners in keeping a company efficient and profitable. I am not a knee-jerk union supporter at all, but the idea that you have to keep the union out to run a company well is narrow, short-sighted, and often more about somebody's personal power trip than effective corporate management.

Right-to-Work states, zones, neighborhoods and companies are baloney.

Chapter 3: Removing Barriers to Work

Apparently there are Puritans in Wisconsin, because this chapter kicks off wit the idea that work is a moral imperative and it's immoral for the government to put obstacles in the way of anybody interested in working.

The writers would like to remove licensure requirements for floor sanders, interior designers, photographers, and African hair braiding. They would like businesses with low traffic and few employees to be operated out of homes. And they'd like to stop the city from creating more license-necessary professions.

Chapter 4: Social Impact Bonds

Lordy, there's a lot of language here, but it appears that this just all fancy talk for "Sub-contract various government functions and initiatives to third parties." So, for example, if you have identified a problem with recidivism, hire an organization to work on that.

If you'll remember way back to the intro, you'll recall that the writers were very concerned that poverty programs were leading to a poverty industrial complex, but it looks to me like this sort of third party contracting is exactly how you create a poverty industrial complex, or social services industrial complex.

It's a version of what we're seeing in reformster thought- throwing money at government programs is bad, but throwing money at private contractors to run government programs is just super.

Chapter 5: Benefit Corporation and L3C

I'm curious about this, but I don't have time to research further. Apparently a benefit corporation is basically a corporation that can't be sued by its shareholders for making too little profit. Benefit corporations are supposed to be all about producing some sort of social good. It's a new legal toy; the first state to approve it was Maryland and that was just back in 2010. Only twenty-eight states have them right now; Wisconsin is not one of them. Low-profit Limited Liability Companies seem to be legal constructions for the same sort of general purposes. I'm not certain, but it seems like just the thing for anybody who wanted to cash in on the social services industrial complex, or run a charter school company.

There are, of course, gaping holes in this proposal. The jobs went away because industry went away, but if we get everyone a diploma, they will be able to get jobs.... where? Spending money on social service programs is stupid unless you're spending it on private companies that implement those programs, in which case it's great. Unions and government assistance are holding people back, but race and class have nothing to do with it.

There's remarkably little in these twenty-five pages about how to actually solve some of the problems of poverty, particularly poverty in a place where the industrialized bottom has fallen out. It may well be that the writers truly believe that an onslaught of business folks will actually lead to some sort of Milwaukee renaissance, or it may be that they are cynically exploiting the issues of poverty, civil rights and equity to help some buddies make bank. 

Either way, this proposal is not about how to help people in the Danger Zones. It's about how to open up the Zones so that private interests can get in there to make a buck. It's opening up the gates to the game lands and telling the pack, "Go ahead. It's open season."

Choice & Charter Digest

In honor of both Throwback Thursday and a week devoted to school choice PR (thanks for endorsing that, Mr. President), here's an assortment of archive pieces from this blog about choice and charters. Enjoy some old favorites and share them with a friend.

Bullying in New Jersey
In which the New Jersey Charter School Association decides that the best way to deal with a Rutgers professor doing research that makes charters look bad is to use the courts to try to bully her into silence.

My Public School Sales Pitch
If I were telling a parent why to choose public school over charters, this would be my sales pitch.

Indiana: Building a Better Leech
Here's how they go about sucking public schools dry in Indianapolis so that charters can profit.

Choice and Disenfranchising the Public
School choice is all about cutting voters and taxpayers out of their own public school system.

The First All-Charter District
A complete takeover of an entire school district by a charter company has been tried. You just don't hear about it much because it was a total failure.

Why For-Profit = Anti-Student
Whether it's a flat-out for profit school or one of those non-profits used to funnel profits to corporate pockets, a school that needs to make money cannot help being bad for students.

Chicago Schools Caught Cooking the Charter Books
When charters need to look successful, there's always plain old changing the numbers. Here's how Chicago gave some charters a helping hand.

Profiting from Non-Profits
Non-profits are a great way to look noble and still make a bundle of loot.

Charters Break the American Promise
School choice is about reinforcing the social strata

Bush: Nuanced and Wrong
Jeb Bush may be backing away a bit from CCSS, but he is leaning into choice and charters. Here's why he's wrong.

Charter Wolves in Public School Clothing: Buffalo Edition
Buffalo, NY, provides yet another model for using charters to get rich off public tax dollars

Should We Embrace Charter Districts
Responding to a piece that puts all the pro-charter arguments in one spot. They're still wrong.

Forever Schools
Charters aren't in it for the long haul; public schools are.

The Public Charter School Test
If a charter wants to claim it's a public school, it has to meet these four tests.

Charters as Money Funnels
The Gulen chain provides yet another example of how charters can be better at making money than at making education.;

Charters Want More Money
Remember how charters promoted themselves by saying they'd make education less expensive. That was the bait. Now comes the switch.

Fraud and Mismanagement in PA Charters
Here's Pennsylvania's version of how to use charters for shenanigans and profit.

How To Win Hearts and Minds for Charterdom
Did you know there's an actual marketing handbook for the charter movement. I am not making this up.

Cyber-Schools Still Suck, Says NEPC Report
NEPC took a look at 338 cybers. Not very pretty.

When School Choice Works
Under what conditions would voucher systems be okay?

Choice & Cable
Market forces do not foster excellence.

School Choice Does Not Reduce the Cost of Education
School choice does not make education cheaper. It just redistributes the money.

Conservatives Don't Really Like School Choice
Okay, I know some say they do. But if you really follow conservative principles, they do not lead you to school choice.

The Financial Fantasies of Choice
Support of school choice rests on some financial fictions that just won't die. This one caused enough ruckus to rate a sequel.

School Choice is Un-American
Choice violates some basic principles that we hold dear in this country.

Involuntary Free Market
Free market competition for schools doesn't fit, because not everybody really wants the product.

The Free Market Hates Losers
The free market demands winners and losers. It's a philosophy that has no place in public schools.

Schools, Transparency and Free Markets
Remember when even that free market CREDO charter fan said that the free market doesn't work for schools.

Charters: Diminishing Returns and Just Good Enough
The free market is incompatible with education. Here's why.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Congress and Your Homework

Congress must not abdicate its responsibility to help all children succeed.

That's Arne Duncan, responding to the proposed Lamar Alexander remix of No Child Left Behind. It's an interesting construction, an inspiring line.

The first picture that popped into my head was an old white guy in a suit, knocking on some family's front door. When a parent answers, he says, "Hello. I'm Senator Bumswoggle, and I'm here to help Chris study for the big algebra test tomorrow."

Okay, that's probably not what Duncan means. But it does raise the question-- what exactly can Congress do to help all children succeed? If we went into classrooms and asked the students, "What do you need from your Congressperson to help you succeed this week?" what would they say?

Would they say that they really, really need to take a bunch of standardized tests? "I think I'm getting better at readung," will say some bright-eyed eight-year-old, "but until I take a standardized test from Congress, I just don't know." Is that what would happen?

Would they say, "Please don't give any more resources to this school. Instead, give the money to some charter operator to set up a completely different school. Yes, I realize they might not let me go to that school, and I'll have to stay in this one scraping by with fewer resources, but I'll sleep better knowing that entrepreneurs have had the opportunity to unleash innovation while making good ROI."
It is sweet that Duncan and Congress want to help. The desire to help, particularly to help those who are most vulnerable, is a basic human impulse, and a credit to every person who feels it. But the desire to help does not automatically confer the ability to help.
Suppose one of my children is injured and rushed to an operating room. I would want to help. I would want to wave a magic wand and fix it, right now. But if I grab a scalpel and dash into the operating theater declaring, "I really want to help. What can I do?" they would have to throw me out, because as someone with zero surgery-related skills, the most useful thing I can do is get out of the way. Even if I am obscenely rich and incredibly powerful, I still don't have the skills.

So if Congress's message to children is going to be, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you" the question remains-- what can Congress actually do to help children succeed?

Not teach the children-- neither Congress nor the Department of Education contains barely any people with skills and expertise in actually teaching children. Congress doesn't know how to build schools or run a sceince fair or assess an essay. Nor would I want to watch a Congressman take a shift or two of lunch duty (okay, I might want to watch a little). With few exceptions, Congresspersons do not know how to do any of the things directly related to helping a child achieve success in school. So they won't help the children succeed that way.

In fact, Congress doesn't even know the individual children that it's talking about. This means that it has no idea what individual strengths and weaknesses the children have. It also means that neither Congress nor Secretary Duncan knows what each individual child means by "succeed." So the actual working with children is best left up to the people who are right there with them-- teachers and parents.That work includes defining and measuring success; Congress lacks the skills and expertise to do either of those tasks.

Congress does have the expertise to deal with the money and politics portion of the picture. Congress can do its part to make sure that every school has the resources that it needs, and Congress has a responsibility to do that honestly, without damaging fictions such as, "We can fund ten different excellent schools for the same money that's now spent on just one." Congress has a responsibility to do its homework, so that it's not making choices based on the lies in charter school PR materials.
Congress has the expertise and skills to make sure that states do not create funding formulas that treat some children like second-class citizens. Congress has the expertise and skills to require that states and school districts remain transparent.

Neither Congress nor the Department of Education has the expertise and skill to determine when a school is failing or what should be done with that failing school. They have been told that expertise in business, politics and money are sufficient to identify and cure failing schools; this is simply not true, any more than my expertise in teaching English means I belong in an operating room or a board room.

Congress's responsibility to help children succeed is not a bad measure. But if we're going to be honest and truthful about the matter, Congress's ability to help children succeed is nearly non-existent. Great responsibility can come with great power, but in this case, Congress's most important power is to step back and let the people with expertise, training and skills do their jobs.

Prime Prep Ends With a Whimper

Prime Prep Academy was going to be one of the great celebrity-based charters, an educational experience spearheaded by a high-profile rich guy famous for accomplishments having nothing to do with education.

The story of Prime Prep Academy has been long and troubled. Well, troubled anyway. The school launched in 2012, on top of the charter bubble. It was meant to be a college prep academy that would be a launching pad for the best high school athletes around. It was a tremendous mess from the very beginning.

For more complete reading about the full-on mess that was Prime Prep, I recommend two articles-- a good summary by Barry Petchesky at Deadspin, and Amy Silverstein's fully fleshed-out and researched piece for the Dallas Observer. But even a brief highlight reel is nstructional.

Sanders partnered with Damien Wallace, who right off the charter application bat set himself up to be paid rent with taxpayer money. The application also included corporate partners who weren't actually partners, and it apparently cut and pasted portions of other school applications. None of these problems slipped by Texas regulators-- but they approved the charter anyway. Silverstein seems a bit surprised by that; perhaps she was unaware that using the rental payment shell game is a not-uncommon way for charter operators to turn a handy profit.

The whole launching-pro-careers thing turned out to be problematic. Graduates found that they weren't eligible to play in college. So the whole point of the school was in question.

Computers were stolen. The school was evicted over a rent dispute. Administrators came and went quickly. Sanders and Wallace became locked in a power struggle, each trying to drive the other out. Sanders frequently expressed displeasure with the amount of money he was making. Several individuals, including Wallace, alleged that Sanders physically assaulted them. Sanders was fired.

Last July, Texas finally announced it would pull the plug. The alleged last straw was having the feds yank the school's eligibility for free and reduced lunches, given the schools mis-handling of previous federal lunch funds. Their finances were a mess, and Texas found them out of compliance with state education code.

Sanders vowed to save his school and as recently as last week there will still rumors (based, possibly, on statements by Sanders) that Prime Prep would be merging with Triple A Academy. Not the first merger rumor to be floated. Triple A's founder and chief flatly denied that any such merger was in the works.

So as Prim Prep limps into 2015, the charter board could not even manage to close the door on themselves. The school was being run by a state-appointed superintendent and board of managers.  Monday the non-profit board of directors attempted to hold a meeting to surrender its charter, but that was canceled when they were unable to gather a quorum. Tuesday the state was granted a final default judgment against the charter in its final appeal.

It remains now to be seen if Prime Prep has enough money to finish the year. According Jeff Mosier in the Dallas Morning News, the school is facing $75K in legal bills, lost $40K in a lawsuit, and owes $45K to the state agriculture department. Plus they have a monthly rent bill of $12.5K.

Texas handed Prime Prep $8.5 million in aid and the feds chipped in a chunk of change as well. That bought two and a half years of high profile celebrity charter hijinks with no educational benefits for the students caught in this mess.

When choice and charter advocates are making their arguments about how competition promoted excellence and choice makes for better educational opportunities for all students, they will probably not bring up this celebrity-stoked unsupervised amateur-hour waste of time, money and resources.

Speak Up for the Profession Now

We're coming down to the wire on your chance to speak out about one of the dumbest ideas to come out of a Department of Education that breeds bad ideas like bunnies.

This particular bad idea is the idea that VAM should be used to evaluate teacher prep programs. In other words, after we get done evaluating my performance based on my students' test results as processed by a piece of junk science that has been soundly rejected both by experts in education and experts in the science of measuring stuff, we will go ahead an use MY made-up evaluation results to evaluate the college education program that gave me my teaching degree in the first place.

This is a dumb idea. It is the emperor of dumb ideas. If dumb ideas were a country, this would be the capital city.

Do not just sit and sputter. Do not go fume in the teachers' lounge. Do something.

I'm kind of amazed-- there are several million teachers in this country, most of whom have to know that this is a dumb idea. There are many colleges of education in this country, all of which are staffed by a variety of people who have to know this is a dumb idea.

And yet, as I type this, the federal website shows 2062 comments on the proposed alterations. 2062.

So here's the link. I'm going to once again make it huge so that you can't miss it. We are talking about the programs that are the gatekeepers of our profession, and what we're talking about is making the gatekeepers stupid. This is fundamental to determining which people will be joining us in our schools, working side by side with us. We cannot sit silent.

We only have until Monday, February 2, to speak up. If you like, you can be part of a crowdtasked mark-up of the bill here at the wire. If you're not sure what to say, just be brief. Copy and paste or link to your favorite commentary on the subject. But don't just sit silent.

Yes, I know the odds do not favor the administration actually listening to what we have to say. But we can be absolutely guaranteed that they won't listen to us if we don't speak. What they're proposing is wrong, and we need to say so. Time's running out. Take the minutes to leave a comment.