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To My Readers on Thanksgiving 2014

First of all, let me wish all of my readers a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope that your day is one long string of happy moments.

Now, let me note that the remainder of this Thanksgiving post centers on living life via my faith in Jesus Christ. I realize that some may not wish to continue reading, so I offer this pause for you to decide whether you wish to proceed, complete with four minutes of high-quality elevator music:

 

 

This year, I am thankful for three lessons learned (and relearned, as the case may be):

First, I am thankful that Christ continues to cultivate in me an attitude of thanksgiving. One bible story that has made an impression on me is the situation in which Jesus fed the five thousand (five thousand men, plus women and children). When He asked what was available to feed the masses, all that His disciples could produce was one kid’s lunch– a few fish and loaves of bread– a clearly inadequate supply for thousands. But what was the first action Jesus took upon receiving the food? He gave God the Father thanks. He did not complain about what seemed inadequate on the surface. Instead, He turned to God in faith, glad for what was available in the moment.

If I stopped at considering how little I am actually able to contribute (in the grand scheme) toward the effort to fight the privatization of public education– to combat the exploitation– to try to right the utter wrongness of test-driven “reform”– I would become bitter from despair. But from my faith in Christ, I know to approach life with an attitude of thankfulness regardless of how inadequate my contribution appears to me on the surface. I offer my contribution, and I give thanks to God for how he will use it, which brings me to a second point of thanks:

I am thankful that I am not responsible to “make” my contribution in defense of public education “work.” I write; I publish, I speak, and I leave all outcomes in God’s hands. I do what I am able, and sometimes, I get to know how my advocacy helps others, but mostly, I do not. And that is okay with me. I must let it go; otherwise, I again run the risk of being bitter– and of becoming neurotic.

A final point of thanks for me is in the assurance I have that Christ will take me through the events of my life. He does not promise me that my life will be without trouble– indeed, He “promises” the opposite: “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” So, when I find myself in a tough spot, I have developed the habit, first, of giving thanks that He knows the end from the beginning, and second, of asking Him what I need to do next. And all of those “nexts” build into a “going through.” This is how I have learned to approach my life, and it makes for the smoothest journey no matter the particular circumstance. (I had a significant time of putting this lesson into practice in the spring of 2013 when I faced having a ten-pound tumor in my abdomen– the focus of last year’s Thanksgiving post.)

So, for these three healthy means of creating and preserving deep-seated joy in my life, I am thankful to God on this Thanksgiving.

Thank you for reading.

 

What Do We Really Know about Ted J. Morris, Jr.? An Update.

Ever since the Democrat and Chronicle published on November 23, 2014, its article praising the newly-NY-Regents-approved, 22-year-old Ted J. Morris, Jr., for the 2015 approval of his Greater Works Charter School, much Morris-induced (mis)information has been flying through cyberspace on this man.

Ted Morris

Indeed, with the new information that has come my way in the last 24 hours regarding Morris’ credentials and experience, my post dated November 24, 2014, has been updated numerous times, and still the information comes.

Even the Democrat and Chronicle (D&C) has attempted to straighten out the story on Morris. However, much of the information in that “update” lacks verification.

So, what do we know about this young man who persistently petitioned NY Regents beginning in 2010 to start a charter school?

First, even though he told D&C that he graduated from Rochester’s Schools Without Walls (SWW), one day after being called out on that inaccuracy, Morris changed his story:

He said Sunday that he graduated from School Without Walls in Rochester, but clarified Monday that he withdrew from that school in 2008 and graduated later that year from Penn Foster High School, a private online high school based in Pennsylvania.

Morris had previously stated that he graduated from Penn Foster in this charity bio.

As D&C notes, no one from Penn Foster could be reached to verify Morris’ statement. So, there is as of yet no clear word on Morris’ high school completion credential.

Next, on Morris’ Linkedin bio ( accessed here: http://i.imgur.com/xGohi4g.jpg), he states that he graduated in 2008 with a bachelors from Salt-Lake-City-based online school, Western Governors University (WGU). D&C also found this to be false. Morris attended online classes at WGU but did not graduate.

No WGU graduation for Morris. On that we are clear.

The November 25, 2014 D&C update states that Morris’ 2014 charter application “did not include a resume,” but this is not correct. Morris resume can be found on pages 146 and 147. It includes much of the same questionable information as the Linkedin bio I address in my original post. The D&C article apparently relies on Morris’ bio from the 2013 application for Greater Works Charter.

One notable point on which Morris’ charter application differs from the Linkedin bio involves his education. Here is his education from the Linkedin bio– one that he advertises as current on Twitter, where he refers to himself as “Dr.”:

However, here is his education experience as noted on the 2014 charter application signed and dated by Morris on July 24, 2014:

Recall that WGU confirmed that Morris did not graduate from WGU.

The second D&C article stated that Concordia University Chicago could not be reached for comment.

Also as part of his 2014 charter application is this contradiction about the “Dr.” title he openly uses on both Linkedin and Twitter. On the July 2014 charter application, Morris refers to himself as “Ted J. Morris, Jr., MSW” and includes the following (see page 40):

Ted has a B.S. in Human Services, an M.S.W. in Non-Profit Leadership and is finishing up his Ed.D. in Administration.

So, “Dr.” or no “Dr.”? In November 2014, Morris clearly refers to himself as “Dr.” The first identifier on his Twitter page is “Doctorate in Education.” Again, as I noted in my original post, neither ProQuest nor UMI has any record of a “Ted J. Morris, Jr.” as having written a dissertation.

In yet another education background contradiction, the second D&C article includes investigation of a former job application in which Morris listed both his bachelors and masters degrees as being from Idaho online school, Almeda University. When confronted by D&C, Morris response is that he “didn’t know why it was on his resume.”

The short of it: This guy is lying about his credentials, and NY Regents just approved him to run a NY charter school at $12,340 per student for the life of the charter (see page 56 of 2014 application), with 96 students approved for 2015-16. Morris admits in the second D&C article seeking his charter board “through posts on Craigslist, Linkedin, and websites for nonprofits” and has used their credentials to help dress up what is an impressive charter operation on paper.

D&C could not reach either of two NY Regents members for comment on Morris’ application approval.

If NY Regents really has students’ best interests in mind, it would seem that thorough checks on the references of charter applicants would be in order.

The credential shell game Morris is playing should have been a huge red flag waving pre approval.

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Update 11-25-14: I know, on Twitter, there has been word that Morris quit the board of his charter. (See the Tweet as part of Peter Greene’s update.) Also, D&C offered a slight modification to its second article to include a statement that Morris is no longer “lead applicant” for the charter school:

The 22-year-old founder of a recently approved charter high school resigned Tuesday after apparent misrepresentations about his educational and professional background came to light. …

He submitted his resignation Tuesday afternoon, according to Peter Kozik, a Keuka College professor and fellow trustee who now will take over as lead applicant.

However, do not be quick to assume that Morris is walking away from the charter he has been planning for since 2010 (and falsely advertising as an existing school on Linkedin).

On the already approved 2014 charter application, Morris labels himself as “lead applicant for an founder of GWCS (Greater Works Charter School)” (page 40). So, even though he might be replaced as “lead applicant,” he can still cash in on this “founder” title– and based on the content of this post alone, one can see that Morris is all about milking the title. Moreover, board members are limited to two consecutive terms of as much as three years per term– and they cannot be compensated (see page 41). In contrast, the CEO is as of yet an undeclared position– and CEO is a position that is compensated.

Will Morris be CEO? Who knows. But I find it difficult to believe that Morris will not use his “founder” status as a springboard for more lucrative ventures.

Update 11-26-14: D&C finally tells Morris to “grow up”:

Andreatta: Charter Founder Needs Growing Up 101

Update 11-27-14:

“Another lie became apparent Wednesday: Morris also claimed to have master’s and doctoral degrees from Concordia University Chicago, but a representative from that school said it had no record of him ever attending.”

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2014/11/26/merryl-tisch-regents-ted-morris-charter-school/19549033/

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Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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Who Is New York-Regents-Charter-Approved Ted J. Morris, Jr.?

On November 23, 2014, the Democrat and Chronicle published an article about a seemingly remarkable 22-year-old, Ted J. Morris, Jr., who had supposedly just received clearance from the New York Board of Regents to open his own charter school, Greater Works Charter School, in 2015.

However, there are a number of issues with Morris and his publicized credentials and accomplishments– lots of issues– all of which point to Morris as nothing more than a fraud– a fraud that NY Regents just granted the right to run a charter school.

For one, Morris apparently did not graduate from the Rochester, New York, School Without Walls (SWW), in 2008, as the D&C article says he did. In response to a post on Morris on her blog on November 24, 2014, education historian Diane Ravitch immediately heard from former SWW Principal Dan Drmacich, who emailed that Morris withdrew from SWW within a year to be home schooled and that Morris received no diploma from SWW.

In this self-gratulatory-albeit-contradictory charity bio, Morris declares himself a “natural born leader” who “broke through the chains of poverty” and graduated from Penn Foster High School.

But there is more.

Blogger Peter Greene researched Morris and discovered, among other elucidating information, that Morris first applied to open his charter in 2010, when Morris was only 18 years old.

In my own investigations of Morris, I came across this redacted 2013 application for Greater Works Charter. I used it to find out his official name: Ted J. Morris, Jr. And wouldn’t you know, I came up with a hit on Linkedin for one Dr. Ted J. Morris, Jr.

Ted Morris

Bingo.

(Note: Within hours of my publishing this post, Morris’ Linkedin bio was removed. A mystery, to be sure…. Here he is on Twitter. And a snapshot of Morris’ erased Linkedin page can be accessed here: http://i.imgur.com/xGohi4g.jpg)

Keeping in mind that “Dr.” Morris just lied about graduating from high school, note that on that Linkedin bio, he offers as his postsecondary education info alleged degrees from three institutions (links added): Western Governors University, Bachelors of Science (Human Services) 2008-10; Concordia College, Masters of Social Work (MSW), Non Profit Administration, 2010-12, (note: there is also the online, graduate-degree-offering Concordia College also tagged “university”, but it offers no MSW), and Concordia University Chicago, Doctor of Education (EdD), Education, 2012-14.

I found no evidence of a dissertation submitted by one Ted J, Morris, Jr., as recorded on ProQuest or UMI (both dissertation search engines).

Let us move on to Morris’ “experience”:

According to his Linkedin bio, Dr. (ahem) Morris “founded” Greater Works Charter in Rochester in June 2010, not the D&C-announced 2015. Also, since June 2012, Dr. Morris has been a “consultant” for the Morris Firm. Morris notes that the Morris Firm has him in the “Rochester area.”

There is a “Morris Firm” that specializes in criminal defense and personal injury and is located in St. Louis and Dallas, but not in Rochester, New York. There is a Morris and Morris law firm specializing in personal injury in Rochester, but it does not go by the name “the Morris Firm.”

From 2013 to 2014, Morris was supposedly the “director of operations and finance” of Sparq Rochester, which has a Facebook page identifying the organization as a nonprofit. However, according to the nonprofit 990 search engine, citizenaudit, there is no 990 filed for this “nonprofit,” and it is not identified on the nonprofit search engine, 501c3lookup.

Morris also lists himself as “assistant CEO” of Hikok Center for Brain Injury in Rochester from 2010 to 2013 (when Morris was 18 to 21 years old, mind you). However, this archived, May 2011, listing of key personnel for the Hikok Center for Brain Injury in Rochester and Newark– surprisingly– has no mention of a Ted J. Morris, Jr.

From 2003 to 2010– when Morris was only 11 to 18 years old– he was apparently “chief operating officer” of Christian Faith Centers in Rochester. I found no listing for such an organization in Rochester. It might have closed down once 18-year-old Morris left to begin the Rochester charter that was not yet approved but that his Linkedin bio claims he started anyway….

There is more on Dr, Ted J. Morris, Jr’s., Linkedin profile. Feel free to peruse. And here is Morris promoting himself “for charity.” However, allow me to note one more Linkedin tidbit for our edification:

Mr. Ted J. Morris, Jr., is seeking the “opportunity” to “join a nonprofit board.” I assume he means a profitable nonprofit– not just a Linkedin shadow.

A corporate reformer well on his way.

Looks like NY Regents intends to grant the fraudulent Ted J. Morris, Jr., his wish.

By the way, I emailed Morris using the address on his 2013 redacted charter application to ask him about his high school diploma. Here is the text of my email dated November 24, 2014:

Hi, Ted. My name is Mercedes Schneider, and I am a public school teacher, researcher and writer from Louisiana. I am interested in your application to open the Greater Works Charter School in Rochester.

Specifically, I am wondering about your declaring that you graduated in 2008 from Rochester’s School Without Walls. Former SWW Principal Dan Drmacich says you voluntarily left to be home schooled.

Did you graduate from high school or receive a graduate equivalency diploma? If so, what year and institution name are listed on your diploma?

Also, from which specific Concordia school did you receive your online bachelors?

Thank you–

–Mercedes Schneider

  deutsch29.wordpress.com

If I receive a response, I will add it to this post as an update.

I won’t even bill Regents for the investigation.

For a November 25, 2014, update, click here.

con artist

 

 

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Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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Obama’s USDOE: Appointed to Privatize. Period.

President Barack Obama pretends to be a friend of public education, but it just is not so. Sure, the White House offers a decorative promotional on K12 education; however, if one reads it closely, one sees that the Obama administration believes education (and, by extension, those educated) should serve the economy; that “higher standards and better assessments” and “turning around our lowest achieving schools” is No Child Left Behind (NCLB) leftover casserole, and that “keeping teachers in the classroom” can only elicit prolonged stares from those of us who know better.

All of these anti-public-education truths noted, the deeper story in what the Obama administration values regarding American education lay in its selection of US Department of Education (USDOE) appointees. Their backgrounds tell the story, and it isn’t a good one for the public school student, the community school and the career K12 teacher.

In this post, I examine the backgrounds and priorities of eight key USDOE appointees.  (Here is the complete USDOE list of senior officials, and here is the complete USDOE list of appointments.)

I just wanted a closer look. It’s what I do.

Of course, there is Obama appointee Arne Duncan, US secretary of education, who had his big education reformer break in 2001 when then-CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Paul Vallas had a falling out with then-Mayor Richard Daley. Duncan had been playing professional basketball in Australia until 1991 then decided to return home to Chicago. A childhood friend, John W. Rogers, Jr., gave Duncan the job of “director” of the Ariel Education Initiative (AEI) and education based upon an “investment curriculum” modeled after the stock market. What Duncan actually did in his AEI “director” role is a mystery. However, in 2001, CPS being under mayoral control, Mayor Daley appointed Duncan as CPS CEO, a role in which Duncan served until 2008. (Documented in my book, A Chronicle of Echoes.)

To read Duncan’s USDOE bio, one would think that Duncan’s focus on standardized test scores and on closing traditional public schools and opening charters created a Utopian, market-driven CPS. However, if such were true, there would have been no reason for another Obama pal and former Obama admin chief of staff, current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to slaughter CPS in the name of “reform.”

It seems that what Duncan had to most recommend him to Obama is Duncan’s willingness to do what the President requires.

Emma Vadhera, Duncan’s chief of staff, was formerly in charter management for Uncommon Schools. Prior to that, she was in USDOE as deputy assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development under Common Core State Standards (CCSS) clueless promoter, Carmel Martin, former assistant secretary at the U.S Department of Education in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development who “debated” in favor of CCSS in New York in September 2014 but did not even know CCSS was copyrighted.

Massie Ritsch, acting assistant secretary for communications and outreach, but who is leaving USDOE to help the glorified teacher temp agency, Teach for America (TFA) with (as Ritsch tweeted) the “vital work” of (in a Ritsch email) “communications, marketing, research and strategic partnerships.” TFA is trying to get complete control over its public image, which is suffering from exposure of its illusive success. Ritsch was previously USDOE’s deputy assistant secretary for external affairs and outreach, a position in which he directed “outreach to stakeholders, including education trade associations and the business community.” That’s what America needs: More business “stakeholder” involvement driving the American classroom.

Ritsch is to be replaced by USDOE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications Development Jonathan Schorr, whose background includes being a NewSchools Venture Fund “partner” in San Francisco and “director of new initiatives” for KIPP charter schools (KIPP was founded by TFA alums.)

Obama appointee Jim Shelton, deputy secretary of education, has previous connections to the Gates Foundation, NewSchools Venture Fund (whose current CEO, Stacey Childress, was also with the Gates Foundation), and McKinsey and Company. (Lots of ed reform folks originate with McKinsey and Company, including CCSS “lead architect” David Coleman, numerous individuals at the online education site, Khan Academy, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Read here for more info on McKinsey’s influence on public education.)

Tyra Mariani, chief of staff, office of the deputy secretary, is one of Eli Broad’s “academy trained” education reform-promoting “graduates.” She ended up in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in 2003, the time that Duncan was CPS CEO (and the same time that CPS happened to be doing business with David Coleman’s assessment company, Grow Network). Prior to her appointment at USDOE, Mariani was executive director of test-score-focused New Leaders for New Schools (NLNS) in New Orleans.  (The NLNS executive board has both McKinsey and TFA connections.) When Mariani was appointed to USDOE in 2001, she was congratulated by the corporate-reform-promoting PR group, the K12 Search Group, Inc.

Nadya Chinoy Dabby, assistant deputy secretary, Office of Innovation and Improvement, is a former Broad Foundation investment advisor.

One more.

Obama appointee Ted Mitchell, under secretary of education, is the former CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund. In an article entitled, Ted Mitchell, Education Department Nominee, Has Strong Ties to Pearson, Privatization Movement, The Nation writer Lee Fang notes:

[Mitchell’s] ethics disclosure form shows that he was paid $735,300 for his role at NewSchools, which is organized as a non-profit. In recent years, he has served or is currently serving as a director to New Leaders, Khan Academy, California Education Partners, Teach Channel, ConnectED, Hameetman Foundation, the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, Silicon Schools, Children Now, Bellwether Partners, Pivot Learning Partners, EnCorps Teacher Training Program, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the Green DOT Public Schools.

In addition, Mitchell serves as an adviser to Salmon River Capital, a venture capital firm that specializes in education companies. Mitchell sits on the board of Parchment, an academic transcript start-up that is among Salmon River Capital’s portfolio.

Salmon River Capital helped create one of the biggest names in for-profit secondary education, Capella University. …

Update: After publication of this blog post, Mitchell e-mailed a statement noting that he could not comment on gainful employment regulations because he is in the “midst of a confirmation process.” He added that he is on “an informal advisory Board for Salmon” and that Pearson sponsored a summit for his organization in May. 

Well. There we have it. Eight fine Obama-serving individuals in key USDOE positions whose priorities (and professional experience) lay far and away from the traditional American classroom but who have been appointed to carry out the work of condemning and supplanting the traditional K12 American classroom with profitable “ventures” and disposable teachers by relentlessly testing the traditional classroom, collecting unprecedented amounts of data on it; labeling it a failure; replacing it with under-regulated, philanthropic-padded, market-driven “reform” that is also supposed to channel students to serve the market, and all the while adding the USDOE padding to their corporate-favoring resumes and advancing their own careers in the process.

Have I missed anything?

obama duncan

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Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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Smarter Balanced: Lacking Smarts; Precariously Balanced

In this time of  “public-education-targeted boldness,” the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has made the American public one whopper of a “bold” promise:

The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live. [Emphasis added.]

There is neither now nor never has been any empirical investigation to substantiate this “bold” claim.

Indeed, CCSS has not been around long enough to have been thoroughly tested. Instead, the above statement–which amounts to little more than oft-repeated advertising– serves as its own evidence.

However, if it’s on the *official* CCSS website, and if CCSS proponents repeat it constantly, that must make it true… right?

Keep clicking your heels, Dorothy.

Now, it is one issue to declare that CCSS works. It is quite another to attempt to anchor CCSS assessments to the above cotton candy of a guarantee. Nevertheless, that is what our two beloved, federally-funded assessment consortia are attempting to do.

Let us consider recent proclamations by one of these CCSS assessment consortia, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

On November 14, 2014, SBAC published its lean-to efforts at creating a set of SBAC assessment cut scores for levels of achievement connected to an unproven CCSS. (Whew.) In a smooth dig on SBAC lunacy, Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss offers the actual SBAC text revealing and shakily explaining their cut score decisions (see this November 20, 2014 Answer Sheet post).

lean to

SBAC has purportedly anchored its assessment to empirically unanchored CCSS. How doing so is supposed to serve public education is an elephant in the high-stakes assessment room.

Regarding its assessment scoring, SBAC decided upon cut scores that divide individual student scores into four “achievement levels.” SBAC knows it is peddling nonsense but does so anyway, apparently disclaiming, “Hey, we know that these achievement levels and their cut scores are arbitrary, but we have to do this because No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is making us. But we want to warn about using the achievement-level results of this high-stakes test for any high-stakes decisions”:

Defining these levels of achievement (“Achievement Levels”) is a reporting feature that is federally required under the No Child Left Behind Act, and one that has become familiar to many educators. However, characterizing a student’s achievement solely in terms of falling in one of four categories is an oversimplification. … They must continuously be validated….”

Furthermore, there is not a critical shift in student knowledge or understanding that occurs at a single cut score point.

[Footnote] Additional research will be needed to validate the achievement level descriptors in relation to the actual success rates of students when they enter college and careers. 

The above SBAC interpretation explanation (see Strauss’ post) continues for several sentences about how these achievement levels “should serve only as a starting point for discussion” and “should not be interpreted as infallible predictors of students’ futures.”

Not going to happen.

The reality is that the media will publish percentages of students falling into the four categories as though the SBAC-created classification is infallible, and once again, schools, teachers, and students will be stigmatized.

Forget about any cautions or disclaimers. Offer a simplistic graphic, and the media will run with it.

SBAC itself offered several graphics explaining its cut score decisions. These can be found in Strauss’ post.  Two are line graphs showing the actual raw scores arbitrarily chosen as cut scores, and two are bar graphs, complete with the percentages of students whose scores fall into each from the SBAC pilot study (grades 3 through 11).

Based upon SBAC cut scores, most students “scored into” the bottom two levels. Imagine that.

Recall the SBAC disclaimer, published as a footnote:

Additional research will be needed to validate the achievement level descriptors in relation to the actual success rates of students when they enter college and careers. 

SBAC cut scores are not tied to “actual success rates.” Nothing about CCSS has been validated using “actual success rates.”

SBAC was tasked with figuring out how in the world to operationalize both “college ready” and “career ready.” It decided that “college ready” means CCSS content ready. In other words, the SBAC test assumes that CCSS will “ensure” college readiness simply because CCSS promoters say it will.

What we have here is a test that leads to no end other than CCSS for CCSS’s sake. American education on the hamster’s wheel.

SBAC states that its achievement levels “must continuously be validated” in the utter and complete absence of the most important validation evidence– pilot testing CCSS to see if it delivers on its “college ready” claim in the first place.

The reality is that before state adoption, CCSS should have been studied on at least one cohort of students from Kindergarten through grade 12. SBAC (and other supposed CCSS assessments) should have gone along for that ride for the purposes of testing CCSS itself, not students.

I realize that the above statement is not news to those with common sense. CCSS lacks empirical evidence to support its “college and career ready” claim, and that CCSS “college ready” evidence alone would take at least 14 years to gather.

Collect empirical evidence that CCSS actually delivers on a college and career ready promise before adopting CCSS and chasing it with costly, high-stakes assessments?? No, no, say the CCSS pushers. Not time enough for that. American education is “failing”; so, we need to be “urgent.”

Urgent, not really. Sloppy and irresponsible, absolutely.

(As an aside on “college ready”: Even higher education is expected to center on CCSS. Thus, CCSS continues as its own authority. Colleges and universities are expected to “get ready” for CCSS, which makes “college ready” whatever CCSS says it should be. Watch out, America. CCSS is being positioned as the authoritative, infallible center of education for the masses and is even being promoted as the center of state accountability systems.)

As it stands, SBAC’s flimsy defining of “college ready” as “CCSS-content-ready” is the high point of operationalizing the CCSS sales pitch. When it comes to trying to define “career ready,” SBAC admits being at a complete loss. As SBAC notes in its publicized Achievement Level Recommendations:

Smarter Balanced does not yet have a parallel operational definition and framework for career readiness.

SBAC tests are supposed to measure CCSS, which purports to “ensure” both “college and career readiness,” yet the multi-million-dollar SBAC effort can’t seem to get a handle on what “career readiness” actually is.

In Louisiana, the economy is so depressed that Louisiana Workforce Commission job projections for 2020 estimate that the majority of available entry-level jobs will require a high school diploma or less.

CCSS: So effective, it even makes Louisiana dropouts “career ready.” It’s just that good.

So, see, there is no way for CCSS to fail in the Bayou State. Even high school dropouts can be “career ready” in Louisiana. However, having to face state employment projections opens a real box of confusion for those trying to blanket-define “career readiness.” Career readiness must be defined in relation to careers, and careers are dependent upon state and local economies– none of which can be standardized to suit the likes of CCSS and its assessments.

Operationalizing “career ready” is not so easy to do (understatement), but it should have been done (or the white flag of surrender should have been raised) years ago.

Instead, CCSS and its assessments are propelled forward, awkwardly propped up by lots of Gates money, some of which has even been given to self-appointed standards arbiter, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, to evaluate SBAC and other CCSS assessments and publish a “report” come spring 2015.

balanced house

Fordham Institute will not be connecting CCSS assessments with any measurable “college and career ready” outcomes. To Fordham Institute, CCSS works, and it needs to have tests:

“The promise of the Common Core State Standards, implemented faithfully, is improved education and life outcomes for millions of American children,” noted Amber Northern, vice president of research [at Fordham Institute]. “We need tests that fairly reflect and honor the hard work that we are asking teachers and students to do under the Common Core.”

In 2010, Fordham Institute sold America an untested CCSS with the oiliness of promoting a preferred product, and rest assured, it will do the same for some or all of the CCSS assessments. All Fordham Institute has to offer is glossy-brochured sales manure.

Use it to fertilize your spring flowers.

For now, know that SBAC hasn’t a clue about what it is really offering the American public by way of its CCSS assessments. But don’t think that a crucial lack of an empirical foundation will hold SBAC back.

After all, testing an untested CCSS is urgent.

hamster wheel

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Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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The YES Prep Non-contribution to Texas Public Education

On November 4, 2014, the Katy (Texas) Independent School District (KISD) approved a $748 million bond referendum in order to accommodate the approximately 3000 new students entering KISD per year. The bond includes funding for 8,890 additional classroom seats, construction of six new schools (one high school, two junior highs, and three elementary schools, for $357 million); renovations to 43 existing campuses ($135 million); $50 million for technology upgrades; $21 million for a new agricultural sciences center, $13 million for safety and security upgrades, and $21 million for buses. (For details on plans for the KISD bond, including photos, click here.)

The rate of growth in KISD has required to district to petition the state for waivers from required student-to-teacher ratios.

KISD is apparently busting at the seams.

Whereas the bond issue passed, it did so by approximately 55%– a close vote. (For more details on concerns raised by the bond and addressed by KISD, click this link.)

It seems that part of the issue for those against the 2014 bond was the earmarking of $58 million for a second stadium. A 2013 KISD bond proposal did not pass. Included in that proposal was a $69.5 million stadium; furthermore, the stadium comprised approximately 70 percent of the 2013 bond proposal. (In other words, the 2013 bond proposal was mostly for a stadium.)

Though the 2014 bond was for over seven times the amount of the bond proposed in 2013, the inclusion of the new and renovated school facilities in the bond was enough to garner the votes for passage.

The advantage of improving the school district is the expected increase in property values associated with KISD additions and renovations. And the cost to taxpayers appears minimal: one-half cent per assessed $1000 of property value. Thus, a Katy homeowner with a house worth $200,000 will pay an extra $10 per year in property taxes to support the $748 million in improvements detailed above.

Only 78 cents of that extra $10 in the example above will be devoted toward paying for the stadium.

On November 15, 2014, YES Prep charter board member Justin Segal took issue with the “extravagance” of the KISD stadium, among other bond issues in Texas approved by voters to pay for traditional public school facilities. In his Houston Chronicle opinion piece, Segal alternately boasts and laments the lower cost per student for YES Prep school facilities– facilities unfunded by Texas state law.

In June 2012, representatives of Texas charter schools sued over the approximately $1000 less per student that the legislature allows to follow the student to a charter school. (See an “update” at the bottom of the link identifying the charter-friendly Walton Foundation as contribution of $425,000 to “cover a significant portion of the legal expenses.”) In short, the state is willing to contribute to community school facilities but not charter facilities.

The State of Texas– birthplace of the supposed testing miracles that opened up the rest of the nation to test-driven No Child Left Behind (NCLB) via former Texas Governor-become-President George W. Bush, including the replacing of “failing” community schools with charters–has a cap on the number of open-enrollment charters in Texas: 305 by 2019.

The charter lawsuit is also seeking to lift the cap on the number of Texas charters.

The Texas charter school lawsuit was combined with several other district lawsuits regarding funding inequities in Texas school systems. As is turns out, in August 2014, the judge did not agree with the lawsuit charge that the $1000 less in funding per charter student “creates constitutional harm.” He stated that both charter funding and the charter cap were left to the discretion of the legislature.

In other words, the judge ruled that the Texas legislature had a choice regarding charter funding.

The case is on appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.

In his November 2014 opinion piece, Segal assumes that the voters approving school district improvements and expansion “seem to be rooted in the mistaken belief that increasingly elaborate buildings will lead to increasingly good results.” Of course, to the test-driven charter proponent, “good results” are high test scores and other superficial quantification of school “success.” Segal complains about a new Houston high school, High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), which will cost $80 million for 750 students, “or $107,000 per seat.” He does not elaborate upon exactly what the students will have access to at this new facility. Instead, he focuses on “performance”– a euphemism for test score outcomes:

Even in its current cramped Montrose quarters, HSPVA is consistently ranked among the city’s top performers – as are multiple YES Prep campuses, where students learn in modular buildings, old warehouses and converted strip malls. These results confirm what parents already know: The quality of the teachers and programming are the most important factor in a student’s learning experience.

First of all, I am not sure how Segal reconciles the ideas of “cramped quarters” with “quality of teachers and programming.” As a teacher, my “quality” is surely influenced by adequate space and the number of students under my care. Second, if the goal is to create a school for performing arts, how is it that suitable “programming” is ignored and “top performance” is narrowed to the euphemistic test score?

Clearly, Segal is promoting YES Prep as a model that HISD should emulate– and fiscally support with a slice of facilities funding. After all, he notes that YES Prep and KIPP (another charter chain) “typically outperform their peers by wide margins.”

The question is, what does open-enrollment YES Prep offer students and parents in the name of “choice”? Well, a 2007-10 study Arnold performed by YES Prep supporter, the Arnold Foundation, found that 67 percent of YES Prep teachers hailed from the teaching temp agency, Teach for America (TFA). YES Prep’s dependence upon TFAers is no surprise given that YES Prep founder Chris Barbic is himself a TFA alum. YES Prep teachers also earned approximately $5000 less per year than did their Houston Independent School District (HISD) counterparts, with YES Prep evidencing a 30 percent teacher turnover rate as compared to HISD’s 11 percent.

So, it appears that YES Prep students are more likely to experience less stability in their YES Prep school career because of an almost one-in-three teacher turnover per year (based on 2007-10 stats).

According to one YES Prep student, the turnover is also evident in YES Prep administration. As noted in January 2014 on the YES Prep (Gulfton) link on the Great Schools website:

I am a student at YES Prep GULFTON and I have been a part of this family since 6th grade (I am currently a Junior). The school is amazing and the teachers really do care! We are currently on our 4th director but it is okay, the others have left to help improve schools. [Emphasis added.]

For the six years that this student has been at this YES Prep campus, the school has had four different administrators. Apparently the student has been told that the administrative turnover is good– just leader heroes moving on to save the day elsewhere.

Hmm.

Administrative and faulty churn cannot be good for students– even if students are being reassured that it is fine.

Still, on its Linkedin site, YES Prep boasts of some remarkable accomplishments:

YES Prep Public Schools is a free, open-enrollment public school system serving 8,000 students across 13 campuses in the Houston area, with plans to open schools in Memphis in 2015. YES has been ranked as the best public school in Houston by Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report and the Houston Chronicle. For the 14th consecutive year, 100 percent of YES Prep’s graduating seniors have been accepted into four-year colleges, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Rice and Stanford. YES Prep combines a highly successful 6th-12th grade model along with high standards for student achievement and parental involvement. [Emphasis added.]

Wow! For 14 straight years, YES Prep has had 100 percent of its graduates accepted into four-year colleges!

Here’s some more to that gimmicky-sounding statement:

From the outset, YES Prep enrolls notably fewer English language learners (ELL) than does HISD (the Arnold Foundation report has this stat at approximately 30 percent for HISD as compared to less than 3 percent for YES Prep). Also, from one grade to the next, YES Prep tends to lose low state test scorers and retain high state test scorers.

In all likelihood, back to Texas community public schools they go.

As for how many students fall by the YES Prep wayside, an August 2013 study by Penn State professor Ed Fuller examined the attrition from grade 8 to grade 11 at YES Prep and found it to be approximately 40 percent. Fuller observes,

Perhaps YES Prep would retain a greater percentage of lower-performing students if they actually retained a greater percentage of teachers.

Good point, indeed.

So, it seems that those “100 percent accepted into four year colleges” were at best the 60 percent who made it from grade 8 to their senior year.

But what of actual college success for these *100 percent who are really more likely 60 percent since grade 8*? Fuller found that over 40 percent of those entering a four-year university had GPAs below 2.0 in their first year. Nora Kern for National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) acknowledged that only 41 percent of those “100 percent accepted into four-year colleges” completed college in six years.

That is 41 percent of the approximately 60 percent (or less) who make it from grade 8 to their senior year at YES Prep, or roughly 24 percent of those who were once YES Prep eighth graders.

Not so phenomenal.

“100 percent of graduates accepted into four-year colleges” makes for a better news byte.

There is still more to this “100 percent of graduates accepted into four-year colleges”:

Acceptance into a four-year college is a requirement to graduate from YES Prep, as is taking and passing at least one Advanced Placement (AP) or dual-enrollment course. The YES Prep Student Handbook makes these conditions clear (see pages 4-5):

High School Advanced Coursework Requirement

Every YES Prep student, unless exempt from such requirements by the student’s ARD committee, must take and pass at least one Advanced Placement or dual-credit course for high school credit in order to be eligible to receive his/her high school diploma. …

College Acceptance Requirement

A student must be accepted to at least one four-year college or university in order to be eligible for a YES Prep high school diploma, unless exempt from such requirements by the student’s Admission Review Dismissal (ARD) committee.

 

Of course there must be allowances for exceptions, such as special education students. However, since YES Prep continues to advertise a 100-percent college acceptance rate, it seems that either no exceptions have been made or the YES Prep student body has been purged of such special needs students by the time graduation rolls around.

Making graduation from YES Prep dependent upon these two conditions works out beautifully for the YES Prep PR machine, for it makes YES Prep look like it works wonders with students when what it really accomplishes is a purging of students who can’t cut mandated college acceptance and AP passage.

What a game!

So, is there more to a school than its building? Certainly.

However, there is also more to a school than its advertising “100 percent acceptance rate into four-year colleges” when such is clearly a play on numbers designed to entice the public into “choosing” an illusion.

One more point about Segal’s November 2014 opinion piece:

He alludes to charters as “having to borrow or raise private funds.”

Don’t get the idea that YES Prep is skimping by on proceeds from car washes and bake sales. According to YES Prep’s 2012 990 (September 2012 to August 2013), its total end-of-year assets were $118 million, up from $100.5 million at the beginning of the year. YES Prep reported spending $63 million on 6,600 Houston-area students. It also stated that 79 percent of its funding comes from state and federal agencies– while at the same time noting that it received $61 million in government grants and $6.2 million in other contributions, plus $3 million in “other revenue” (fundraising) and $277,000 in investments, for a 2012 total revenue of $70.6 million.

The $61 million in government grants divided by the $70.6 million in total revenue equals 86.4 percent of YES Prep’s 2012 revenue as coming from government grants.

If the courts had ordered the state to hand over another $6.6 million to YES Prep in 2012 for the facilities funding, that would be nice for YES Prep and would have raised their 2012 total assets from $118 million to $124.6 million.

Better, state-funded facilities from which YES Prep administrators and temp teachers might turn over; facilities not housing a representative proportion of Texas’ ELL population; facilities from which lower-scoring students might leave and from which YES Prep might boast its misleading AP passage and college acceptance statistics.

Sure reads like an argument for Texans to support local community schools.

 

 

 

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Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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Gates Is at It Again: The Common Core-centered “Collaborative for Student Success”

Billionaire Bill Gates really wants the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for “mass” education.

bill gates smile

In 2008, two well-positioned individuals asked Gates to pay for “state led” CCSS supposedly “launched in 2009 by state leaders, including governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia”.

One was edupreneur David Coleman, who started the “silent partner” organization at the center of CCSS development, Student Achievement Partners (SAP), with pal Jason Zimba and who has since been promoted to president of one of two testing organizations at the center of CCSS development, College Board. Moreover, Coleman and his SAP co-founder Zimba have connections to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan dating back to 2002, when Duncan was CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Coleman and Zimba’s Grow Network rode the assessment wave created by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Here is Grow Network’s 2003 contract with CPS.

The other person who asked Gates in 2008 to pay for “2009 state-led” CCSS was CCSS co-owner organization, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) President Gene Wilhoit. Wilhoit joined SAP in 2013. Wilhoit is now with the University of Kentucky Center for Innovation in Education (CIE), which Gates paid one million dollars in February 2013 to help launch expressly “to advance implementation of the common core.”

In 2008, Gates agreed to pay, and he continues to do so.

But the Core is having its share of resistance.

It needs a Super Support Group.

Enter the Collaborative for Student Success (CFSS), a “grant making” mega-Astroturf group entirely centered on promoting CCSS.

CFSS was featured as an unquestioned authority on Politico’s November 11, 2014 Morning Education page. Here’s the clip:

COMMON CORE SCORECARD: The Collaborative for Student Success is circulating a memo today arguing that there’s no need for Republican candidates to run away from the Common Core to win over their base. Opponents of the standards may be loud, but they’re not mainstream, the memo argues. The evidence: Just six of the 44 governors in Common Core states have expressed interest in repealing the standards. The collaborative’s executive director, Karen Nussle, counts just four gubernatorial races where Common Core was a factor: Arizona, Colorado, New York and Pennsylvania. She also notes with satisfaction that pro-standards candidates won in all races but Arizona. “These statistics demonstrate quite conclusively that, far from being a political loser, support for the Common Core does not jeopardize a candidate’s political prospects,” Nussle writes. The memo: http://bit.ly/1EmcLX4

According to CFSS Executive Director Karen Nussle’s Linkedin bio, she is a “communications strategist” who once worked for then-Minority Whip, Republican Newt Gingrich, and who owns her own communications firm. CFSS has not been around for even a year yet– based on Nussle’s bio, it seems to have been established in January 2014– yet it has already been positioned as an organization worthy of national news for its “memo” cheering Republicans in their support of CCSS.

That’s exactly how grass roots reform works, don’t you know.

As noted on the CFSS “Get the Facts” page, here is the so-called CCSS story: “In 2009, state governors from around the country came together with state school chiefs to discuss education reform. … By early 2010, states began to voluntarily adopt the state standards. …There has been some confusion about Common Core, much of it based on misinformation and a misunderstanding of what Common Core is, and how much local control states retain after they voluntarily adopt the standards.”

No mention of Coleman’s dominant role, nor of SAP’s central role, nor of the Coleman-Wilhoit 2008 request that Gates bankroll an arguably-national standards effort that the state governors had not just happened to “come together” to create.

And certainly no mention of the hook that CCSS and its federally-funded assessments have become in securing Duncan’s state-led-castrating NCLB waivers.

Such facts would only interfere with the single CFSS mission of selling CCSS.

But where there is a shiny new, turfy CCSS organization, there is Bill.

The bottom of the CFSS home page includes the following statement:

© 2014 Collaborative for Student Success. All Rights Reserved. The Collaborative for Student Success is a project of the New Venture Fund © 2014 [Emphasis added.]

Photos throughout this site courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

CFSS cannot even fake independence from Gates by producing its own website photos.

Indeed, aside from his providing CFSS website photos, guess who is footing the New Venture Fund bill for this CCSS push?

You know it: Bill Gates– to the tune of $10.3 million for “comprehensive and targeted communications”:

New Venture Fund


Date: May 2014
Purpose: to support the successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards and related assessments through comprehensive and targeted communications and advocacy in key states and the District of Columbia [Emphasis added.]
Amount: $10,300,300

“Comprehensive and targeted communications” apparently includes Republican politicians following the November 4, 2014, elections. On November 11, 2014, CFSS issued this memo to “interested parties.” Here is an excerpt:

Even amidst a Republican wave, candidates elected to statewide governing positions largely resisted pressure to call for repeal of the Standards:

 86% of Governors in pro-Common Core states have not expressed interest in repealing the Standards (38 of 44 Governors)
 90% of state Superintendents in Common Core states have not taken steps to repeal the Standards (40 of 44 Superintendents)
 Among the 44 states with Common Core on the books, only six Governors and three State Superintendents have sought to repeal it

Target the Republicans. Be sure that they feel secure in supporting CCSS.

Never mind that the CCSS assessments have yet to hit most of the nation.

Never mind that CCSS cheerleader, Republican Jeb Bush is considering a 2016 presidential run– one that will follow the 2014-15 federally-funded, CCSS-consortium-assessment implementation deadline as such is entangled with Obama-Duncan Race to the Top (RTTT)– and one that could well discolor any previous Republican love affair for CCSS– especially since Republican resistance to CCSS appears to focus on federal overreach into state education affairs.

The CFSS memo does not discuss the as-of-yet looming CCSS assessments to be encountered in most CCSS states during the 2014-15 school year.

An aside: There are some who insist that CCSS can (and should) be divorced from the assessments. However, CCSS was never intended to exist without its high-stakes assessments.

Here is a question:

If CCSS is so safe, why is Gates paying CFSS $10.3 million to “target communications” on the issue?

He must still be unsure his CCSS purchase is actually in his Gates-monogrammed bag.

There is another Gates money layer to the CFSS story.

Numerous CFSS “partners” are already Gates-funded organizations, many with funding earmarked for pushing CCSS: America’s PromiseMilitary Child Education CoalitionStand for ChildrenStudent Achievement PartnersState Collaborative on Reforming Education (Tennessee), US Chamber of Commerce FoundationMassachusetts Business Alliance for Education (study), National PTA, Educators for ExcellencePrichard Committee for Academic Excellence, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Note that two strategic “partners” on this list are Coleman-founded Student Achievement Partners (SAP), which solely exists to promote CCSS, and Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “expert” promoters of CCSS nationwide.

A number of other CFSS “partners” include business organizations– a hallmark of  “economically driven education reform,” or the insistence that the chief purpose of education is to serve business.

us chamber of horrors

And you thought education had a loftier purpose.

The CFSS “about” page offers more details about other CCSS-friendly “philanthropy” supporting CFSS:

The Collaborative is supported by both regional and national foundations, including: Carnegie Corporation of New York, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Helios Education Foundation, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Other funders may soon be joining this important effort.[Emphasis added’]

More “funders may soon” push “state led” CCSS via this CCSS “grant making” machine. How novel in this age of Astroturf.

Though no Astroturfers could beat out Bill for his unrelenting, CCSS money-spew, a word on both Hewlett and Helmsley is surely in order:

First Hewlett: Like Gates, Hewlett also wants CCSS to drive public education in a manner unprecedented by any other set of “standards.” In October 2014, a Hewlett-funded, pro-CCSS group released a “report” modeling a CCSS-centered “new accountability” for states willing to take the CCSS-centric bait.

Former CCSSO President Gene Wilhoit is part of this Hewlett-funded group.

CCSS has turned out to be the economic gift that keeps on giving for the likes of CCSS insiders such as Wilhoit and Coleman.

Politico offers none of this fiscally-spider-webbed background on the amply-funded and -connected CFSS. Astounding.

As for Helmsley: In January 2014, Helmsley divided $1.6 million between both national teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) so that teachers could “review” items produced by the two federally-funded CCSS testing consortia, Smarter Balanced and PARCC, and also train other teachers on how to allow these tests to drive classroom instruction.

A corporate-reform-friendly byproduct of this Helmsley-funded effort is that it  enables test-driven reformers to advertise that teachers were “involved” in the two CCSS testing consortia.

Nice, huh?

Now, one of the best “facts” on the CFSS site is the hologram of “educator” support for CCSS. CFSS lists five national organizations as implied proof positive of teacher practitioner support for CCSS:

There is great support for the Common Core State Standards among educators – from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers…

No mention that CCSS part-owner, Gates-funded CCSSO sponsors the State Teachers of the Year; no mention of the Gates money paid to both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) expressly for CCSS; no mention that Gates dished out dough to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards for other issues so much so that NBPTS handed him the keynote spot at its March 2014 conference. (In 2010, AFT also handed over a keynote to Gates.)

Of the above five named organizations, only the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) appears to be free of ties to Gates Foundation money. However, let us avoid making the CFSS-induced assumption that since NCTM endorses CCSS, so do the majority of American public school math teachers.

All that CFSS existence has proved yet again is that CCSS is top-down, manufactured “reform.” And where there is manufactured reform, there must be “communications strategist”-led, manufactured support.

It’s all in the sale. Just ask Bill.

bill gates hands

 

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Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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