Sunday, April 30, 2017

ICYMI: Wrapping Up April Edition (4/30)

Where did that month go? Here are some reads from last week. As always, I ask you to please amplify what speaks to you. "I wish I could write like that person," is what I often hear, and I feel you, but anybody and everybody can tweet, facebook, email and otherwise amplify those voices-- and if you don't push a writer's work out into the world, it doesn't matter if she wrote it. 

Deescalating School Reform Wars

John Thompson has been tireless in trying to build bridges in the school reform debates, and he continues that work with a thoughtful review of Rick Hess's new book.

Eight Questions About School Vouchers

That Betsy DeVos won't be able to answer (or would rather not)

The Untold History of Charter Schools

The "if you're only going to read one post on this list" post for the week. Like me, you probably have absorbed the Albert-Shanker-started-charters story. Rachel Cohen has done some actual research, and we're all a little smarter because of it.

When Anxiety Rules

A recently-minted NY teacher talks about what it's like to go through the EdTPA process (spoiler alert: not good).

Common Enemy

Jennifer Berkshire returns from her trip to Ohio with some serious insights about school reform in Trumplandia.

Quirk in PA Charter Law

Why are students with certain special needs the geese that lay the golden eggs in Pennsylvania's charter law? Here's a good explanation.

School Choice Profits on the Taxpayer's Dime

Carol Burris lays out the facts for Arizona on how their charter industry really works.

Desperately Searching for the Merit Pay Fairy

Jersey Jazzman continues his search for the fabled fairy of magical merit pay (spoiler alert: he fails again).

4th Best High School in New York Doesn't Exist

Yeah, about that US News great schools list...

"I Found a Jewel for You"

Nobody observes the world of littles like Teacher Tom.


  1. If I might be so bold as to add a couple to your list.

    FIRST, here's KIPP Co-Founder and $400,000/year salaried leader Mike Feinberg's ham-handed attempt to get people to "stop debating" and work together:

    After 20-odd years of KIPP leaders bashing public school's, Mike now wants to act nice, but this kinder, gentler facade crumbles upon analysis.

    Under the leadership of Co-Founders Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, and CEO Richard Barth (Wendy Kopp's hubby), KIPP Charter Schools, Inc. has constantly bashed and trashed public schools whenever and wherever possible. They were the shock troops --- the main ones--- in the privatization of the entirety of New Orleans, aiding and abetting the firing of over 7,000 veteran teachers (overwhelmingly black, middle class New Orlean-ians).

    They've also been key players in the privatization and elimination of public schools in huge chunks of other cities, including Newark, Denver, and KIPP's city of origin, Houston.

    They've also engaged in some of the most viciousunion-busting at their schools --- GOOGLE "KIPP-AMP New York teachers union" for one particularly ugly story in that regard.

    For that matter, check out KIPP CEO Richard Barth's public school-bashing tweets during the Question 2 campaign last fall in Massachusetts.

    KIPP's also notorious for refusing to take over existing schools, as part of their secret sauce is they need the ability to cream their student body --- at the front end in terms who is allowed in, and later, when they kick out up to 40% of a school's entering co-hort between 5th and 8th grade (or to 12th grade for KIPP high schools.) The two times they tried to take over an existing school --- where they had no power to cream, and had to accept the pre-existing student body, they failed miserably and pulled out after a couple years (somewhere in Colorado, I believe.)

    Now, however, taking a page from Eli Broad and Broad's phony "I-like-public-schools,-too" pose, KIPP Co-Founder Mike Feinberg says that he "may sound naive", but he he now claims educators and other education activists of all stripes need to simply "stop debating" and educators, parents and people from both sectors---charter and public--
    should just "start working together ... pivot from arguing with each other and begin the important work of STARTING more great schools."

    (Note that I CAPITALIZED the word "STARTING" --- as in that Mike, like his corporate ed. reform allies, wants no attempts made at improving the traditional schools currently in need of funding and support --- as his use of that particular verb is a giveaway. I mean, after all, if they do that, KIPP will have a hard time luring them away. The more that public schools are starved and sabotaged, the easier it is for KIPP recruiters to make their pitch to come on over to KIPP.)

    KIPP Founder Mike Feinberg (yesterday's Houston Chronicle op-ed):

    "Educators and policymakers need to stop debating and start working together. Everyone involved in education in Houston, including district leaders, charter leaders (including me, too), elected officials, private school advocates and education philanthropists must pivot from arguing with each other and begin the important work of starting more great schools."

    " ... "



    Mike Feinberg in his HOUSTON CHRONICLE op-ed: (CONTINUED from last post)

    "Rather than polarizing choices between privatizing the system or fixing school districts by focusing solely on public charters, we could commit to increasing the availability of great schools in all neighborhoods to meet the demands of parents and employers.

    "This might sound naïve, but there is one thing I've learned in more than 25 years of working to improve school outcomes in Houston: No one solution or program will fix everything.

    "Great schools are the unit of change, and we've got to have more of them, of all types, especially in our underserved neighborhoods where parents by the tens of thousands are on district magnet and public charter waitlists."

    Sounds great. Right? However, at the end of the article, he reverts to form and says that a key part of his "let's-end-the-debate-and-work-together" solution is to ... WAIT FOR IT ...

    ... "grow" more charter schools "in response to parent
    demand and results." ...

    ... while neglecting to mention that those schools, like the current charters, will poach students away from the existing public schools. Without such poaching, they can neither come into existence, or continue to exist.

    Once hired at some KIPP schools, part of a KIPP teacher's job is to go cold-call door knocking at the homes of parents currently attending traditional public schools, proselytize them with public school-bashing scripts, to get those parents to come on over to KIPP. It's like you've joined "The Moonies."

    Feinberg tries to square this circle by saying this will happen "in partnership with with local school districts."

    You mean the district that you want to wipe out, and the democratically elected school board that you want to abolish?

    Whatever you say, Mike.

    KIPP Founder Mike Feinberg (yesterday's Houston
    Chronicle op-ed):

    "We should find ways for public charter schools to grow in partnership with local school districts. There are currently ISD schools and public charter schools in Houston – including KIPP, YES College Prep, and others – that are outperforming state averages with underserved populations.

    "It makes sense for these networks to grow in response to parent demand and results."

    1. Another thing about Mike Feinberg.

      A couple years ago, on its website, KIPP inadvertantly posted a video of Feinberg answering whether or not his own children, Gus and Abadit, will be attending a KIPP school when they get older.

      KIPP critic Jim Horn commented on Feinberg's shortly before it was deleted.

      First, Horn provided a transcript:

      x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
      MIKE FEINBERG: "Gus and Abadit [Feinberg's two children] are not going to go to a KIPP school...

      [begins rubbing his face],

      "... and that's actually for--there are several reasons for that. I mean, you get into, for, you know, with a 10-thousand-kid waiting list, um, my kids have options, I don't want to take away a seat from another ...

      [more beard rubbing]

      " ... family that doesn't have options, that's,um, part of it, but at, with my parent hat on, I want the most for Gus and Abadit. I would put them in a bunch of our primary schools in a heartbeat, knowing what a great education they would get, how well they would get taken care of ...

      [makes a strangling motion with his hands].

      "... It would be unfair, I think, to Gus and Abadit, cuz' in a KIPP school, they wouldn't be Gus and Abadit, they would be Feinberg's kids, and I don't want them--I want them to grow up, and being in a school, being Gus and Abadit, and not be a fishbowl parent.

      "And I've seen this happen with other leaders' kids, where, um, ah, within five minutes of being put in timeout, the school is talking about the kid being in timeout. I just want them to have a chance to be Gus and Abadit and, uh, as I said, Gus, you know, he wants to be ...

      [begins scratching his face],

      "... or wear a KIPP shirt, with, with pride, and he wants to be a KIPPster ...

      [starts rubbing his hands together]

      "... he wants to come and tutor, and things like that, to find other ways to get him plugged in to the Team and Family... "

      [looks over to Levin as to say, please, god, get me out of here!]

      x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

      CONTINUED ON NEXT POST will be Jim Horn's analysis of this:

    2. Over at SCHOOLS MATTER, Jim Horn did an analysis of this awkward moment of Feinberg trying to rationalize or explain away exactly why he's going to keep his own kids as far away from KIPP as possible:

      JIM HORN: "Corporate cult leaders, Mike Feinberg and David Levin, are their own biggest fans, and to prove it, they gave themselves 80 minutes onstage at the recent million dollar summit in Houston to answer some puffball questions for the KIPPnotized KIPPsters in the auditorium.

      "Oops, someone got this embarrassing question through...

      " ... "

      "Fortunately for Feinberg, no one at the million dollar summit asked to see that mythical waiting list with 10,000 kids on it. If that were anywhere near the truth, we may wonder why KIPPs like Memphis are having to pay back money for enrollment overestimates based on projections that never matched reality? Surely Feinberg could find one of those many under-enrolled KIPP schools where teachers are sent out regularly with their clipboards to beat the bushes like missionaries to find warm bodies to put in desks (or on the floor).

      "Notice, too, how Feinberg wants to protect the privacy of his children when they mess up at school, even if he is the co-designer of a system of KIPP paychecks that guarantee that every teacher of any KIPP child knows when he has been good or bad by checking the paycheck each KIPPster carries with him from class to class.

      "Remember, too, that public humiliation is standard operating procedure at KIPP, but protection from that is only important for Feinberg's children and the children of the corporate whales the fund KIPP. I understand your quandary, Mikey.

      "Feinberg's fumbling rhetoric and transparent body language cannot conceal the condescending corporate paternalism that is a defining characteristic of KIPP's abusive corporate reform school testing camps. Despite the lame effort, how that paternalism shows through: Feinberg has choices for his kids, but he wants to make sure that the children of the poor have a single option once the testing machine has closed most of the urban public schools. Poor children need KIPP, rich kids don't.

      "What happened to the advertised concept of choice for the poor?? Pure malarkey. The new paternalism demands that elites like Feinberg and Levin should decide what the poor must learn, and how they should learn it, and how they should prove that they do learn it.

      "In the end, passing tests is less important for that distant abstraction called college than it is for the Feinbergs and Levins of the world to know that these kids and their parents are towing the line that has been drawn for them by the Fisher family and the other coroporate overseers who pump hundreds of millions into these chain gangs for the poor.

      "Feinberg's child, Gus, will have to find another way to become part of 'Team and Family.' He can wear his KIPP shirt (while inside the auditorium, for god's sake), and he can maybe come tutor the poor kids and perhaps tell them some of the neat things he is learning out there in the world where children have choices.

      "Nah, forget that last part--the KIPPsters can't afford to have any distractions--they have to prove their sponsors and handlers intentions are noble ones."

  3. Here's another ICYMI article:

    The work of Preston Green III has been getting some traction with his comparison of the unregulated charter industry to both the Enron and sub-prime mortgage fiascos:

    It’s telling that the corporate education reform industry feels so threatened by the work of Preston that it cut loose one of its vicious attack dogs to attempt to rip it apart. This writer, Tracy Dell’Angela, takes shot a discrediting Preston’s writings --- a shot that misses by a mile, by the way.

    Over at Education Post — corporate education reform’s version of the Soviet Union’s TASS News Agency —
    Founder and Lead Editor Peter Cunningham tasked staffer
    Dell’Angela Barber with that particular assignment:

    And a what incredible screed Peter's henchwoman spewed forth. By comparison, it makes or Ann Coulter seem the height of civility.

    Keep in mind that Education Post is a corporate ed. reform propaganda org founded and edited by Peter Cunningham, with funding from the usual suspects:

    Eli Broad, Bill Gates, the Walton's.

    As her Education Post bio indicates, Dell Angela Barber did a 12-year stint at the Chicago Tribune --- presumably not with writing like the one being cited here... it's horribly written, quite apart from its content.

    Since leaving the Trib, she's been employed by the corporate reform industry in a variety of positions at various corporate reform orgs in addition to her paid position at Education Post.



    Hmmm … Tracy gleefully derides Preston’s / his co-writers' work and their "subprime mortgate castrophe = charters" analogy as …

    — “an obscure paper”
    — “a tiresome and misleading anti-charter narrative”
    — an “unfortunate metaphor”
    — “an absurd predatory lending analogy”
    — a “troublesome analogy” that “doesn’t fit, not at all”
    — a”gem of hyperbole”

    (Uhh … so which is it? A “metaphor” or an “analogy” or
    “hyperbole”? All three, I suppose. JACK)

    — “kind of sensational outrage”
    — “an assumption” that “lacks academic rigor”
    — “ominous, half-baked conjecture”
    — “a glorified lit review”
    — has not one “shred of original research in the paper”
    — a work that “doesn’t become ‘academic’ simply because
    four Ph.D.s put their name on it”
    — “an irresponsible and condescending argument from
    four professors”
    — written by authors who “cherry picked every charter
    scandal and nefarious for-profit operator to make their
    shaky case.”
    — “rests on shaky ground when it sprinkles in anti-charter
    dogma published in blogs and by ideologues”

    No really, Tracy. Don't hold back. Tell us how you REALLY feel.

    Of course, Tracy herself is an objective non-ideologue, blessedly free of any “dogma” favoring the corporate ed. reform version of reality. (COUGH! COUGH!)

    And then she even throw in a cheap shot at Jennifer Berkshire's choice to give Preston a forum, because previously, Jennifer “actually edited a newspaper for the American Federation of Teachers,” implying anything Jen writes must be dismissed as the biased hack work of a teacher union shill.

    Indeed, according to Tracy, Jennifer “never met a charter she
    didn’t hate.”

    Tracy then tosses in some cover for charter operators.

    Unlike those “for profit” predatory lenders responsible for either the Enron or subprime mortgage catastrophes, Tracy argues that charter operators “are motivated by a far different (dare I say nobler?) cause: to give our most vulnerable children a shot at a better education, a safer school, a middle-class life.”

    Unfortunately and inconveniently for Tracy, the first comment under the article lists the incredible annual salaries of the top charter operators in just one city — New York City — effectively undermining her portrayal of today’s charter edu-preneurs as the current equivalents of Albert Schweitzer and Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

    Peter Cunningham pulls down almost $200,000* at Education Post, with the org itself operating on a multi-million dollar budget. Therefore, it's likely that Tracy did not pen this screed for free.

    *(Mercedes Schneider found Ed Post’s tax forms, after much on-line cyber-sleuthing)

  5. Here's one more ICYMI entry --- this one from "THE 74", another corporate reform propaganda org funded by the usual suspect -- Broad, Gates, the Waltons, etc.:

    Apparently, the morning "sock-and-belt" check is part of the way that corporate ed. reformers believe we need to educate the poor and minority classes.

    I'm not against uniforms, per se, but a daily sock-and-belt check? C'mon!

    x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
    "The students’ second touch base is Urueta, whose official title is lead founder and head of school. She welcomes every one with a handshake and a uniform check. Students lift their pant legs and sweatshirts to show Urueta they are wearing plain black or white socks and a black belt.

    "They must be wearing khaki pants and a gray polo shirt. It’s perhaps the strictest rule at Tulsa Honor Academy, which offers uniform scholarships to families who can’t afford them.

    "Still, if a student has so much as a Nike swoosh on their socks, they can’t go to class and must wait in the office until someone brings them socks without a logo."
    x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

    You know, Ms. Urueta, if you didn't ask kids to lift their pants legs up in the first place, you'd never see the damn Nike swoosh.

    The same goes for asking kids to lift up their uniform
    polos to check the the color of their belts. As you can see in the article's photos, the students' socks and belts are not visible otherwise.

    Check out the pictures accompanying the article, and you'll see neither the socks nor the belts visible. To verify the proper color of the kids' socks and belts, the kids must submit to this indignity every damn day.

    This is from this story of these two young TFA's returning to Tulsa to save the city's kids by opening a No Excuses charter school (and pull down six-figure salaries, no doubt). The underlying premise, of course, is that Tulsa's pre-existing public schools are beyond hope, so funding or supporting them in any way is a fool's errand. No, instead, Tulsa students' only hope is for ex-TFA's will come in to town and open up a school to poach away as many of those same students as possible. (All of this is orchestrated and funded by ... wait till later in this post.) As for the ones left behind --- or later who return after being kicked out of the corporate charter --- WELL, THAT'S NOT OUR PROBLEM, say the charterizers and privatizers.

    I hate to go all-Jim-Horn on this particular issue, but there's something sinister going on here. This morning check and the rest of it --- being forced to walk down hallways on lines --- has nothing --- NUH-THING! --- to do with educating kids, and more to do with an unhealthy desire to control as part of an insidious larger agenda.

    If an administrator ordered me to check the socks and belts of my students, and punish the transgressors, I'd walk, and so would any other quality educator with a lick o' sense.



    Where did these charter founders learn this --- and this is key as to why kids have to walk on lines through the hallways, and submit to the daily "sock-and-belt" check:

    "Linda Brown, who runs the Boston-based Building Excellent Schools, a group that offers intensive fellowships for school leaders interested in creating high-performing charter schools, has worked with them both. ... Urueta’s fellowship at Building Excellent Schools was critical to her making that school real."

    Hmmm ... Building Excellent Schools?

    Who runs and funds that group? Check out the disclaimer:

    "The Walton Family Foundation provides funding to The 74 and to Building Excellent Schools."

    And there you have it folks. You know who else does a daily "sock-and-belt" check, this time for its employees, while also requiring matching polos and pants?


    There you have it: the Walmart-ization of education, and its training the future workers into being compliant, controllable drones.

    From the article:

    x x x x x x x x x x x x x
    " 'Who wants to lead the chant today?' a teacher asks her class. The teacher shares the room with Ducey, who spent her Sunday recruiting and who graduated from Villanova.

    “ 'This is my favorite part,' Urueta whispers."
    x x x x x x x x x x x x x

    And you know what other organization does inane, mind-numbing chanting to start the day? Check out this video sing-along to the tune of QUEEN's "We Will, We Will ROCK YOU!"