Category Archives: Charter Schools

“Why Aren’t We Talking About This?” (commentary on racism and charter schools)

This may describe the “Tuskegee Experiment” aspects of charter schools and education reform:

Everyone in the nation is talking about our racist history, but do people know what type of racism is happening today, beneath our noses, under the banner of education reform?

With useless, commercial junk-tests as justification, we have been told, for years now, that we must serve up our low-income schools – those schools filled mostly with children of color – to profiteers, who are then free to experiment on children in whatever ways they see fit.

You can read the rest online here.

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Filed under Charter Schools, Education Reform, Uncategorized

Won’t Back Down: Myth-Making Can’t Stand Up to Real Life Education Heroes” (Beacon Press Blog)

Here’s an essay about the movie Won’t Back Down  from Nancy Schniedewind (Professor at SUNY New Paltz and co-editor with Mara Sapon-Shevin of Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education) and Julie Woestehoff  (contributor to Educational Courage):

Walden Media’s Won’t Back Down portrays the heroism of one parent and one teacher fighting harmful educational practices by taking over their school. Their victory is as mythic as it is misleading. Those who should be celebrated by such media attention are the real-life heroes at the grassroots who have been fighting for meaningful educational change day-to-day, year-to-year.

You can read the rest of the story online here.

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Filed under Charter Schools, Education Reform, Press Coverage, Teachers' Unions, Testing

“School reform’s propaganda flick” (salon.com)

More about right-wing funded corporate propaganda disguised as a major motion picture:

The first thing to know about Friday’s opening of the school-choice drama “Won’t Back Down” is that the film’s production company specializes in children’s fantasy fare such as the “Tooth Fairy” and “Chronicles of Narnia” series. The second thing is that this company, Walden Media, is linked at the highest levels to the real-world adult alliance of corporate and far-right ideological interest groups that constitutes the so-called education reform movement, more accurately described as the education privatization movement. The third thing, and the one most likely to be passed over in the debate surrounding “Won’t Back Down” (reviewed here, and not kindly, by Salon’s own Andrew O’Hehir), is that Walden Media is itself an educational content company with a commercial interest in expanding private-sector access to American K-12 education, or what Rupert Murdoch, Walden’s distribution partner on “Won’t Back Down,” lip-lickingly calls “a $50 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”

You can read the rest of the story here.

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Filed under Charter Schools, Education Reform, Politics, Teachers' Unions

Won’t Back Down: Why do teachers’ unions hate America?” (salon.com)

Andrew O’Hehir’s column on Salon.com describes this movie as ” … an offensive, lame, union-bashing drama, which somehow stars Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal.”

Here are a few excerpts from this article:

So teachers’ unions don’t care about kids. Oh, and luck is a foxy lady. This is what I took away from the inept and bizarre “Won’t Back Down,” a set of right-wing anti-union talking points disguised (with very limited success) as a mainstream motion-picture-type product. Someone needs to launch an investigation into what combination of crimes, dares, alcoholic binges and lapses in judgment got Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal into this movie. Neither of them seems likely to sympathize with its thinly veiled labor-bashing agenda and, way more to the point, I thought they had better taste. Maybe it was that actor-y thing where they saw potential in their characters – a feisty, working-class single mom for Gyllenhaal, a sober middle-class schoolteacher for Davis – liked the idea of working together and didn’t think too much about the big picture.

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Filed under Charter Schools, Education Reform, Teachers' Unions

“School vouchers are only beginning” (shreveporttimes.com)

More info on Gov. Jindal’s so-called “education reform” measures:

Of Louisiana’s 700,000 public school students back in class, 7,000, 1 percent, are attending private or church schools on state-funded vouchers. The proportion suggests that for all the commotion, from the Legislature to the courts, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s scholarship program will do neither much good nor much harm to the great mass of schoolchildren.

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Filed under Charter Schools, Education Reform, Funding, Vouchers

“When public schools answer to markets” (Salon.com)

Why move to market-based incentives in public education if the results are not better and there is less public accountability?  Here’s what we’ve discovered so far about market-based education reforms:

There are several problems with this model from the perspective of both efficacy and, more importantly, democracy. First, despite the grand intentions behind marketized programs, they do not get better results on average than traditional public schools. A study conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that 17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, 46 percent showed no difference from public schools, and 37 percent were significantly worse. Additionally, introducing supposedly tough-minded material incentives to improve teacher performance, such as giving higher “merit” pay to more successful teachers and threatening to fire less successful ones, has yielded no measurable benefits for children and, instead, tends to divide and demoralize teachers.

Other studies have found that the competitive incentives designed to drive innovation in the classroom are not operating as intended. Instead of improving teaching and learning practices, market incentives have driven an increase in schools’ marketing and promotional activities – that is, advertisements that better sell their products. And as marketing is most effective when aimed at specified groups, schools usually beef up their academic achievement statistics by targeting families of higher-achieving students, thereby contributing to increased student selectivity, sorting, and segregation.

Efficiency considerations aside, the real problem with championing marketized models in education and other areas is the damage it does to democracy. We should not be upholding a model based on turning citizens into consumers. Democratic citizenship does not simply involve an individual’s choice from a platter of options. Rather, it requires active participation in collective decision-making.

The problem with marketized models is that in the process of providing individuals with private “choice,” citizens are necessarily deprived of public choice – that is, the opportunity to discuss, deliberate, and act in concert with others. While advocates of marketization claim that it eliminates many of the protracted disputes that currently impede the effectiveness of schools, disputes aren’t always such a bad thing from the standpoint of democracy – especially when they deal with matters of genuine common concern like the education of future generations. Even if conflicts do arise, the opportunity to debate and engage in a democratic give-and-take with neighbors is a vital aspect of political education and empowerment. As Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the 1830s, it is only through participation in the exercise of power over collective outcomes, and the practice of thinking about and acting on public issues in public arenas, that people can develop the skills and commitments necessary to be citizens. Removing public education as a site for political education simultaneously removes yet another stake citizens have in our democracy.

You can read the entire article here.

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Filed under Charter Schools, Education Reform, Politics

Oakland school accused of abuse is overbilling taxpayers, records show (California Watch)

Given Louisiana’s history of responsible, accountable, and honest governance, I’m sure this would never happen with Louisiana education reforms involving vouchers, charter schools, etc </sarcasm mode off>:

A West Oakland church school that makes its students ask for money at BART stations appears to have vastly inflated its enrollment numbers to collect extra taxpayer funding, some of which goes to a teacher who former students say physically abused them and other children.

And for years, St. Andrew Missionary Baptist Church and private school has operated with virtually no government oversight despite repeated red flags. The K-12 school is run by Robert Lacy, 79, a pastor who pleaded guilty in 2007 to theft of government money for taking his deceased father’s Social Security payments.

Documents and interviews show St. Andrew has inflated its enrollment numbers, allowing school officials to reap tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funding they might not have deserved.

You can read the rest of the story here (hat tip to Hemant Mehta and the Friendly Atheist blog for posting this story).

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Filed under Charter Schools, Education Reform, Funding, Vouchers

Cheating runs rampant (Salon.com)

Diagnostic testing in education and hammers can be useful tools … both can be effective when used properly and damaging when used improperly:

“No Child Left Behind has created a culture in which people will do anything to keep their jobs,” says Diane Ravitch, an education historian at New York University and a leading critic of corporate-inspired school reform. “There are states that have gamed the systems, there are districts that have gamed the system, there are people who have gained the system.”

President George W. Bush signed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002, spelling out a reform movement blueprint and unleashing an escalating set of benchmarks compelling teachers to deliver ever-better student scores. NCLB mandates high-stakes standardized testing to monitor student achievement and aggressive intervention into schools that fall short: making Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, became a matter of a school’s — and increasingly teacher’s — survival.

Test results have been used as the pretext to fire teachers and force schools into becoming privately-managed charters, even though research has shown that corruption-prone charters are not, as a whole, better, and are often much worse than traditional public schools. And the testing mandates have proven to be a bonanza for for-profit education companies like Pearson and Kaplan (the latter is owned by the Washington Post Company), which produce tests and materials to drill students in preparation.

And the pressure to raise scores continues to build. NCLB requires districts to achieve the impossible goal of demonstrating that all students are proficient in reading and math by 2014. Unsurprisingly, school districts nationwide are set to fail this mandate. The Obama administration, meanwhile, isn’t offering much of a helping hand. Its Race to the Top initiative uses billions in federal dollars to encourage states to incorporate “student achievement” in evaluating teacher quality. And Obama has conditioned waivers for NCLB’s 2014 deadline on implementing more Race to the Top reforms — such as removing barriers to charter school growth and, once again, evaluating teachers based on student test scores.

This year alone, Washington, Colorado and Connecticut have passed laws requiring the inclusion of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations. In March, New York legislators acceded to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to base 40 percent of a teacher evaluation on “student achievement.”

In Los Angeles, one-well regarded teacher at a low-income school committed suicide after the Los Angles Times posted his low “value-added” score online. The New York Times, though it faced widespread criticism and acknowledged the data’s shortcomings, followed suit in February and published individual teacher test score data online. The New York Post, for its part, did what could be expected and personally attacked one teacher, by name and photo, as “The Worst Teacher in the City.”

And perhaps we should follow the money to see who benefits from ill-considered so-called “education reforms”:

Likewise, (almost) never before have so many private interests had so much opportunity to profit. Testing has — much like privately-managed charters (and certainly cyber charters such as the one owned by Mike Milken), vouchers and myriad unproven but expensive “learning technologies” that have proliferated over the past decade — alchemized an enormous pile of taxpayer dollars into generous contracts with private education firms that produce tests and prep students.

The profiteering from the high-stakes test regime is, it seems, also tinged with corruption: corporate education behemoth Pearson, Winerip has reported, pays for public school officials nationwide to attend lavish conferences in Helsinki or Rio de Janeiro, “meeting with educators in these places” and “with top executives from the commercial side of Pearson, which is one of the biggest education companies in the world, selling standardized tests, packaged curriculums and Prentice Hall textbooks.”

Testing companies even make money from trying to make sure that no one cheats on their tests: New York state has a $3.7 million contract with Pearson to examine test results for irregularities.

You can read the entire article online here.

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Filed under Charter Schools, Education Reform, Funding, Testing

“Grass-roots organization assembles ed reform protest” (Shreveport Times)

More press coverage of this week’s public action in the Shreveport Times:

Even though Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed sweeping education reforms, parents, teachers and community members say they will not be silenced from expressing their concerns.

The various Caddo Parish residents gathered in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse on Wednesday after to protest “the privatizing of education” under the voucher and charter school bill approved this legislative session and to announce the formation of a new grass-roots education group tasked with starting a new conversation for real education reforms.

Tamica Harley, a parent with two elementary-aged boys in Caddo schools, said she has been part of an organization that has been challenging its members to think differently about their communities.

“We were asked to look around and see what the issues are that are having an effect on our communities, and in Caddo, the biggest thing now is education,” she said.

Harley said it is easy for the state and districts to expect schools to perform above par when there is 100 percent parent involvement, but there must be more done to address the children whose parents aren’t active in a child’s education.

“Punishing the teacher isn’t the answer nor is privatizing the public education system,” Harley said. “We must come together to fix the problems that ail our communities.”

To read the rest of this article, click here.

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Filed under Charter Schools, Funding, Press Coverage, Vouchers

“Citizens gather to protest education reform bill” (KTBS coverage)

Here’s some local news coverage of today’s public action in response to the education laws affecting our schools:

SHREVEPORT, La. – A grassroots movement — urging lawmakers to take a closer look at Louisiana’s new education reform– is taking shape here in Shreveport.

Protestors gathered in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse this afternoon to voice their concerns.

The Louisiana Education Action and Reform Network, or “LEARN”, is behind the movement and they say they’re calling for a new conversation about public education.

The rest of the coverage including the video segment can be found here.

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Filed under Charter Schools, Press Coverage, Testing, Vouchers