Saturday, September 3, 2016

Some Gates Charter Personalized Love

Don Shalvey has been pushing charter schools for many, many years. He was serving a superintendent of the San Carlos School District when he launched the first charter school in California. That was 1992. In 1998 he joined with Reed "Elected Schools Boards Suck" Hastings (Netflix) to for Californians for Public School Excellence, an astroturf group created to push charter school legislation through California. Shalvey then immediately (with the help of some Hastings money) co-founded Aspire Public [sic] charter management, a chain that has spread across the country, where he was CEO for eleven years. Aspire has attracted attention at various times for ejecting difficult students, spending lots of money on marketing, and operating their own teacher training program based on some questionable practices.

But Shalvey has since moved on to a new job-- deputy director of K-12 education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. So if you have any doubts about where the Gates stands on charters, here's some more evidence that the foundation is just chock full of charter adoration.

Shalvey took to the pages of the NonProfit Quarterly to talk about that very subject. "What Drives My Education Work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation" illuminates some of the flaws in the Gates charter argument.

Once he's rehearsed his CV, Shalvey throws out the old, "Despite our arguments, we're all in it for the education of the kids and not because charters are a great way to invest money and make a bundle while getting the little people to shut up and just do what we know is good for them." Okay, I added on that last part. Next up-- Gaping Hole #1.

This is one idea that we all can agree on: A high-quality education is a bridge to opportunity in the United States.

Well, no. We can't agree on that. Particularly if we're going to allow our opinion to be shaped actual facts. I take no pleasure in poking holes in this, because I really want to believe in the power of education. I've devoted my entire adult life, my entire life's work, to promoting and providing the power of education to my students. But what we know is that the bridge to opportunity has a foundation of money and power and socio-economic status of families of origin. Mind you, I still absolutely believe in the importance of education and the possibilities for many, varied, awesome futures for all of my students. But to pretend that All You Need Is Education, particularly when you come from a low-SES family, is just mean, like telling a girl who wants to be Miss America that all she needs is just a nice hairdo. It's not the whole truth.

And here comes Gaping Hole #2.

And one of the best examples of this belief in action is at Summit Public Schools, a charter management organization with schools in California and Washington. Summit is one of the national leaders in personalized learning. 

Shalvey is about to launch into a sales pitch for Summit and Personalized [sic] Learning. But before we go there, let me point out that this does not provide a "best example" or even a "fair example" of how high-quality education is a bridge to success. A "best example" would involve two parts-- a part where we had proof of the quality of education provided, and then a part where we looked at data showing just how awesomely successful the students became in their lives. Spoiler alert: our discussion of Summit is not going to provide either of those things.

Shalvey is going instead to tout the awesomeness of computer-based learning, something that has been failing to get traction in the education world for decades now. Remember how Rocketship Academies were going to revolutionize education by hooking every student up to computerized instruction. And then they didn't?

Shalvey wants us to know about Summit's success rate. So do some other folks, like the student who complains that computerized "go at your own pace" learning with unseasoned teachers is not very educational. Or the researcher who determined that Summit's attrition rate is nothing to brag about. That includes their retention of teachers, and a look at the Glassdoor reviews hints why. Though many reviews are positive, there are also some like these:

The educational model is seriously flawed and failing students

The culture is unprofessional and emotionally unsafe

Summit (the organization) abuses teachers. As an at-will employee you have no rights.

The management style is top-down, with examples like a single evaluation rubric that allegedly all teachers must use for all students. And Summit is tied to the usual web of reformsters, plus ties to Dell Computers who could be expected to be big fans of a model that requires every student to work at a computer.

And what would a reformster program be without "research." Shalvey directs us to "research" showing that computer-based personalized learning is super-duper. And look! It's a report sponsored and published by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-- so researched sponsored by Gates to prove that the Gates-sponsored programs are doing great.

Shalvey's final plug is for the assimilation of public schools collaboration between charters and public schools, citing the Summit Basecamp program from this year, which brought together a bunch of public school teachers to test-market become familiar with Summit's in-house personalized learning platform (not the first one they've had, actually, but this one was developed with help from facebook!) back in their own classrooms with a hand from their own Summit sales rep instructional mentor, with progress for students measured by looking at MAP test results and oh good lord I can't even-- There are just days when trying to follow every thread of this big reformy mess is like trying untangle a Grand Canyon-sized spider web. But hey-- you know this kind of assimilation collaboration works real good because here's a study conducted on the very subject and can you guess who sponsored the study? Of course you can.

At any rate, it looks as if at the very least, Summit Charters will be a good launching pad for a bunch of competency-based education personalized learning software. Oh, the so many ways to make money while dismantling public education and electing yourself Overlord of US Education.


  1. Peter, there was a story going around the California Delegation at this year's NEA teacher convention regarding Summit's San Jose school, one that requires another multi-part post:

    Here’s another charter school scandal. BELOW is a detailed story of a sex scandal at the Summit Tahoma Charter School in San Jose, CA,

    First, here’s some TV news coverage of this that I just found:

    At this point when this was broadcast, there still existed the possibility that the principal at Summit Tahoma, Nicholas Kim, might face criminal charges, but as the story BELOW indicates, that never happened, or hasn’t yet happened.

    And here is that more detailed story:

    Here’s a story — relevant to the issue of deregulation of charters — that I’ve been sitting on for a couple months. (long post, but worth reading, trust me)

    This sordid tale was going around at the California delegation at the NEA-RA convention held in D.C. in early July of this year. (and yeah, I freely concede tht there’s a possibility of the story being embellished in the re-telling, as in the “telephone game” effect. However, I was able to find some corroboration of the main facts in media reports available on the internet. SEE BELOW)



    It’s about how a principal at a Summit Tahoma Charter School in San Jose:

    1) heard a report that one of his teachers was having sex with a female student;

    2) he conducts “an internal investigation,” where he, on his own, concluded that nothing happened, and thus, never goes to the authorities;

    (This action is a total violation of California law, and a major dereliction of duty, as he is not allowed to make that call NOT to tell the police. Like all adults working in a school setting — administrators, teachers, counselors, nurses, etc. — he is a mandatory reporter. Under penalty of jail and a steep fine for failing to do so, he MUST IMMEDIATELY contact the police. In LAUSD, we have to watch a video and take a test to this effect twice a year.

    This situation is similar to when the officials at St. Hope charter school failed to report what Kevin Johnson was doing.)

    3) it’s rumored by some (again, I heard this from some people at the NEA-RA in early July) that during the charter principal’s so-called “internal investigation,” he found out the story was true; it’s further alleged that, instead of reporting this to authorities as he was legally required, he pressured both the student and the teacher to deny the affair if and when any police or any other oversight authority questions them as in “Do this, and it will all go away;

    “You don’t want ruin Mr. So-and-so’s life and send him to prison. Do you?” … or words to that effect.

    (UPSHOT: the best interests and reputation of the Summit Charter Schools are more important than the well-being of the schools students, or following the law, or removing a teacher whom the principal knows full well likes to get it on with underage girls.)

    4) even though the principal allegedly tried to bury the story, the word got out anyway, and — THANK JESUS!!!! — a non-involved parent did what the principal had a mandatory legal requirement to do, but did not — she called the police;

    5) the police, responding to the parent’s reporting, show up at the school site while the principal is off-campus, and the assistant principal allows the police to question the girl in question in a private room;



    6) the questioning starts just as the principal arrives back at the school;

    7) the principal discovers what’s going on, and frantically calls the Summit charter chain’s main headquarters, and talks his superior and the charter chain’s lawyer, who tells them the principal has a legal right (???!!!) to barge in to the room, stop the police questioning, and order the police to leave. Incredibly he attempts to do just that, invoking the legal advice he was just given over the phone to the police present;

    8) the police tells the principal that their Summit Charter School chain’s lawyers or management to whom he just spoke are in error, and furthermore, the police allegedly tell the principal that if he doesn’t back off, he will be charged with obstruction of justice, and handcuffed; suitably chagrined, he backs the-hell off, and shuts the-hell up;

    9) the police questioning continues, but the girl sticks to her story — the story the principal allegedly pressured her to tell — nothing happened with the teacher;

    (Whew! That was a close one! … ehhh … Not so fast, Principal Kim!)

    10) later, the girl is questioned again by police at her family’s house, and away from the allegedly obstructing principal, she spills the beans;

    11) the teacher is arrested and is currently being prosecuted;

    (He’s a goa-teed loser, from the mug shot in the media coverage BELOW… “Seriously Dude, does affecting that ‘Robin Hood look’ help you score with the girls whom you teach?” Sweet Jesus! God save us all! )

    12) the principal and Summit Charter School put out a very carefully and legally vetted statement, saying that the school’s administration is happy that the evil pedophile teacher has been removed, that’s what they wanted all along if the story was true, and that, contrary to the gossip that been going around, he and the Summit Tahoma Charter school administration cooperated with authorities at all times, and they view the well-being of the victim and of all their students as paramount blah-blah-blah…

    Quite a yarn? Ayy?

    Here’s the actual media coverage I was able to find corroborating the this rumor/story floating around the NEA-RA convention in D.C. this July:


  4. There are times when I simply have to stop reading because I am sick to my stomach. I have watched what personalized learning has done to my kids: one an average kid, one an honors kid, and one with autism and dyslexia. My honors kid did ok.(they always do, don't they?) The other two? They have been harmed.

  5. I keep warning my readers that this is the next big thing (I'm in Washington state where we are slow to ed reform; despite it being the land of Gates, little TFA interest, charter law keeps being turned over and a general suspicion of the next big thing.)