Yet another group has established itself as promoters of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and, of course, the group has a catchy, test-driven name: High Achievement New York (HANY).
HANY offered a press release on October 28, 2014. And marvel 0f all marvels, HANY has found that it is best for CCSS to stick around in New York State.
But who is this HANY, you ask?
HANY describes itself as “a broad-based coalition of teachers, parents, school administrators, civil rights advocates, community leaders, and some of NY’s biggest businesses….”
Let’s just stop right there.
In 2014, if “some of New York’s biggest businesses” are involved in advocating for their version of K12 education, then you must have stepped right into a steaming hot pile of corporate reform.
But let me not get ahead of myself.
Here is High Achievement New York’s mission statement, in full:
High Achievement New York is a broad-based coalition of teachers, parents, school administrators, civil rights advocates, community leaders, and some of NY’s biggest businesses who share a common passion for the importance of high quality schools in NY State, and a shared belief that the Common Core standards can help put every child on a path to success.
Education is the key to our children achieving their dreams. But for too many kids across New York State, a quality education is out of reach. Fortunately, the New York State Learning Standards – a rigorous, clear and consistent set educational standards created with input from our teachers, parents, principles and state leaders and adopted by New York State in 2011– will help ensure that every New Yorker can reach their potential, no matter their background.
What Brings Us Together
We share a common passion for the importance of educating New Yorkers by setting high standards and supporting schools, teachers, students and parents as they work to meet those standards. We believe the New York State Standards give all of our children the best chance at success.
Coalition members will work together to help ensure that opportunities for children are protected in New York State, including consistent assessments and a unified curriculum. The coalition acknowledges a great urgency and commitment to enact change and intend to present a targeted, strategic plan to support the New York State Learning Standards in a way that serves children best. [Emphasis added.]
Important to include Code Word: Urgency in this “unified” push for keeping New York saddled with CCSS and its Pearson-serving assessments.
Notice that the above mission lists “teachers, parents, and school administrators” as first on the list of its so-called “broad based coalition.”
Yet its “coalition” membership is business-driven. The HANY site lists 26 organizations as “coalition” members. :
Albany Colonie Chamber of Commerce
American Association of University Women
Association for a Better New York
Buffalo Education Reform
Buffalo Niagara Partnership
Buffalo Urban League
Business Council of New York State
Business Council of Westchester
Center for American Progress
Center for Hispanic Families and Children
Chautaqua Chamber of Commerce
Council for a Strong America
Educators for Excellence (E4E)
Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier
National Council of La Raza
New York Urban League
Ostego County Chamber of Commerce
Parent Power Project– Rochester
Partnership for Inner City Education
Printing Industries Alliance
Queens Chamber of Commerce
Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce
The list includes five chambers of commerce. In November 2013, billionaire Bill Gates paid the US Chamber of Commerce $1.4 million “to lead the effort to engage and educate state and local chambers to support Common Core State Standards.”
In October 2013, Gates paid the Center for American Progress $550,000 “to support Common Core implementation.” (I have written two posts about Center for American Progress’ involvement in pushing both CCSS and CCSS as the new hub around which states are supposed to construct their entire education systems.)
In July 2013, Gates paid Council for a Strong America $1.7 million “to educate and engage stakeholders about the Common Core and teacher development through a range of communications activities.”
As for StudentsFirstNY, I wrote about how it shares its physical address with two other charter-school promoting organizations– one of which is a hedge-funded PAC. New York charter vixen Eva Moskowitz is all over that arrangement.
So, now let’s return to HUNY’s October 28, 2014, press release promoting CCSS.
The release begins with the statement, “New Analysis: Common Core Repeal May Cost New York State Up to $280 Million.”
Let’s cut to the chase here: The $280 million that a CCSS repeal would supposedly “cost” New York State comes from the fact that New York State was roped into declaring CCSS as a condition of its Race to the Top (RTTT) funding. Yes, I know US Secretary Arne Duncan wants all to believe that RTTT does not require CCSS; however, the RTTT application did require “common standards” and “common assessments,” and the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) just happened to make a CCSS MOU (memorandum of understanding) available for governors and state superintendents to sign in spring 2009– and Duncan allowed the CCSS MOU as proof of a state’s intent to commit itself to those, ahem, “consortia-developed standards” for which he agreed to fund associated “consortia-developed assessments.”
In short, HANY opens its press release trying to convince New York State to hold fast to CCSS because if New York decides to be “state led” away from CCSS at this point, it will be federally docked.
Notice that the question of CCSS appropriateness is not in the forefront of this business-heavy-CCSS-pushing HANY press release. Money is– specifically, the loss of federal funding if New York “state” standards are not CCSS-faithful.
The fear-coated sales job continues. HANY then brings Oklahoma into the situation: If New York were to forsake CCSS, it must be willing to not only wrangle with Duncan over RTTT funds; New York must be ready to also have its No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver revoked, as well.
In 2011, President Obama bypassed Congress and introduced the NCLB waiver– and its shady CCSS-byline condition:
Under the new policy, only those states that have adopted new academic standards that the administration calls “college and career ready” will be eligible to receive the waivers, according to White House documents distributed on Thursday (09-22-11).
Yep. New York is roped into CCSS by the federal government twice– via both RTTT and the NCLN waiver– except that HANY does not use the term “NCLB waiver” even to refer to what what happened to Oklahoma following its June 2014 repeal of CCSS. Instead, HANY ignores Duncan’s overreach and lies by writing that Oklahoma “reverted to lower standards.”
Not if the reform-minded HANY values the also-reform-minded Fordham Institute– which in July 2010 graded Oklahoma’s standards as “too close to call” in comparison to CCSS.
Here are the words from the HANY press release:
…If Common Core is repealed, New York State could be at risk of having to return up to $280 million of the $700 million the Federal Government granted the state as part of its “Race to the Top” initiative. The forfeited resources could place New York on the path of other states, such as Oklahoma, where many schools will be labeled as “failing” because the state has reverted to lower standards.
Oklahoma’s schools are “labeled as failing” as a condition of not meeting the ridiculous “100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014″ stipulated in NCLB– a policy that Duncan referred to in August 2011 as a “slow-motion train wreck.”
It seems that in 2014, the wreckage is paying off for Duncan. He wants CCSS, and he wants to prevent states from any “state led” exit. And the Gates-supported, business-heavy HANY is here to help.
HANY continues its press release with some tricky language to disguise the fact that the CCSS MOU centers upon Achieve, ACT, and College Board for CCSS development– not current classroom teachers.
HANY doesn’t contradict CCSS’s Achieve-ACT-College Board (and undeclared, Student Achievement Partners presence– read a bit about SAP here). HANY simply twists words into that which might convey more than what is actually written.
Regarding teacher involvement in CCSS, here is what HANY writes:
…Despite the rhetoric, the Common Core standards were developed with local teachers and parents, and its implementation relies on local control by educators, principals, superintendents and school boards. [Emphasis added.]
CCSS was developed with teachers. That settles it for me– not. Teachers were in charge as much as my traveling in a car with another person guarantees I am the one driving.
Nice try, though.
Teacher practitioners were the CCSS window dressing. Read about it here. As for CCSS’ being developed “with” parents, that might mean the obscure public comment period that was soo widely recognized that even CCSS-promoting American Enterprise Institute (AEI) acknowledged on October 22, 2014, that the public is still pretty much in the dark when it comes to CCSS.
Near the end of its press release, HANY even references a teacher survey in which CCSS wins with high teacher support. It seems that this information comes from “statewide polling results over the last five years.” I do not have the actual report, so that ends that– and it also dulls the credibility of the press release results.
The last poll I saw on CCSS in New York was related to the September 9, 2014 Intelligence Squared CCSS debate. The public poll showed over 43,000 respondents, with 89% voting against CCSS. Of course, not all respondents were from New York. But that result, I did see–unlike the HANY-referenced CCSS teacher support.
And now, for that overused work-o-scapegoating to save CCSS:
HANY appears to try to lay the CCSS implementation mess on the “local” level, where CCSS implementation *must* happen. And according to HANY, CCSS implementation in New York must be doing well since “test scores are up” on the CCSS tests, with their capriciously-set cut scores.
HANY proudly showcases that New York has “raised the bar” to a whopping 35.8% “proficiency” rate– up from 31.2% in 2013. However, all that proves is that this Pearson CCSS test is useless for informing instruction.
HANY fails to consider information from the technical reports on New York’s CCSS tests. Those “achievement gaps” test-driven ed reformers like to say they will close widened on New York’s CCSS tests. It seems that the Pearson CCSS assessments might test ability to follow detailed procedures in answering questions rather than student mastery of content. Moreover, the math tests are reading comprehension-dependent– so students must master both reading and math in order to fare well in math.
However, the most important CCSS test has yet to be performed– a test of CCSS itself. Like all other CCSS pushers, HANY assumes that the very-high-stakes CCSS will work, and that any questioning of an untested CCSS is “status quo.”
In its “because we said so” vein, HANY also assumes that CCSS will raise graduation rates. Yessiree. HANY states that by 2020, most New York jobs will require a college degree, and that CCSS will surely work, just because HANY declares CCSS will work:
By 2020, nearly 70% of jobs in NY State will require a college degree, which the Common Core is designed to prepare students for. [Emphasis added.]
I envision a crazed HANY member stating these words and wanting to be correct because the alternative means that the State of New York must wrest its state autonomy over its education matters from the federal-fund-clutching grasp of Arne Duncan twice over– via both RTTT and NCLB waiver tentacles.
Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education
What now for the Common Core?
That is the question that the three hoping to Save the Core asked on the October 22, 2014, AEI panel.
Of course, their answers completely gloss over the fact that the Common Core (CCSS) is a bureaucratic attempt to frankenstein “success by standardization” out of a failed, high-stakes-test-driven No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
On October 26, 2014, I wrote my first post on this AEI panel, but there is just soo much nonsense emanating from them, I had to write a second post.
I haven’t even gotten to the actual panel discussion yet. The first post was on the event summary, and this second is on the video description.
In that description, AEI “scholar” Rick Hess rose tints his view of CCSS concoction, with his words being taken from another CCSS discussion:
In 2010, the Common Core State Standards were widely supported. But 60 percent of Americans now oppose them, and several states are rethinking their earlier stance. In a recent National Affairs piece, AEI’s Rick Hess argues, “The trouble with the Common Core is not that it was the handiwork of nefarious, anti-American ideologues or self-dealing, anti-teacher dogmatists, but that it was the work of well-meaning, self-impressed technocrats who fudged difficult questions, used federal coercion to compel rapid national adoption, and assumed that things would work out.” [Emphasis added.]
Love how Hess paints those “technocrats” as “well meaning.”
How kind. And how accountability-exempt of Hess: No problem. Let’s just organize a panel to promote the salvaging of their techno-crap.
Repackage the crap, and the flies will still buzz around it.
At least the public is not yet fully aware.
Indeed, even as panelists note that the public is not generally aware of CCSS (see the AEI panel event summary), they cite CCSS as being “widely supported.”
So, who has been responsible for all of that “previous wide support”? Well, in 2009, 46 governors and state superintendents signed on for a nonexistent CCSS, and US Secretary Arne Duncan was already cheering for the unwritten standards and even dangling federal money for future CCSS assessments. And billionaire Bill Gates was supporting CCSS because CCSS edupreneur “lead writer” David Coleman and CCSS “owner” organization, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) President Gene Wilhoit asked Gates to pay for CCSS. Then there were both national teachers union leaders endorsing the freshly-minted-though-unpiloted CCSS.
Let us also remember standards-grading Thomas B. Fordham Institute and its favorable “grading” of CCSS in July 2010– one month after the finished-and-never-tested CCSS product was birthed.
All of that “wide support” was outside of the school house and the local community.
In Fall 2014, Arne Duncan still pushes for CCSS, as do Bill Gates, David Coleman, Fordham Institute, and both national teachers unions. A Gates-funded survey notes that most state superintendents are still pro-CCSS. The governors, well, they’re a shaky bunch, with many having second thoughts about this marvelous CCSS that they signed on for before a CCSS existed and some trying to distance themselves from a CCSS they inherited.
In short, those originally Core-happy– who happen to be outside of the classroom and therefore untouched by *CCSS excellence*– tend to stay Core-happy.
The governors might be finding that CCSS to be a pain in their career paths.
Let us move on to another term Hess uses in the above defense of those responsible for CCSS: He declares them as not being the “hanidwork” of the “self- dealing.”
Consider David Coleman, a self-confessed non-teacher who had no background in standards writing and declared himself and others involved in the inner circle of CCSS writing as “that collection of unqualified people who were involved in developing the common standards.”
How did Coleman get in on this CCSS gig in the first place?
I answer that question in my CCSS book (due for publication April 2015). However, the short of it is that Coleman has connections to Arne Duncan that go back to 2002 and Duncan’s days as Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO. Coleman’s then-brand-new “data-driven” assessment company, Grow Network, was contacted with CPS for over $2 million in data-driven “consulting” in the heyday of NCLB.
Coleman rode the NCLB wave until 2007, at which time he created Student Achievement Partners (SAP)– the “silent partner” on the inside of CCSS development.
SAP is now a nonprofit exclusively dealing in CCSS– and for which all five CCSS standards-writing “leaders” work– Zimba, Pimentel, McCallum, and Daro– except for Coleman, who has moved on to the presidency of CCSS-insider organization, the College Board– where he has dumbed down the SAT to force-fit it to CCSS.
Already the stage is set for what I am certain will be an enlightening hour-and-a-half video.
Feel free to watch it. I will be writing about it soon.
I can hardly wait.
Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education
On October 22, 2014, the corporate-reform-friendly think tank, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), hosted a panel discussion entitled, What Now for the Common Core? Below is the description of the panel participants and the *implementation-focused* conclusion is actually what should have happened before the Common Core (CCSS) was adopted by any state and certainly before CCSS was ever proclaimed as “ensuring college and career readiness for all students:
Evidence that it works.
A profound revelation, no?
Here is AEI’s entire event summary spiel:
What is the current state of the Common Core, and what is its future? Moderator Michael McShane of AEI posed these questions to a group of experts at an AEI event on Wednesday. Frederick Hess of AEI, Chris Minnich of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Catherine Gewertz of Education Week largely agreed that districts and schools are at very different stages of the implementation process, that the public is still underinformed, and that the Common Core comprises more states and has been more federally driven than anticipated.
Hess and Minnich dove into the issue of federal involvement, with Hess emphasizing that the effort should focus on ensuring comparability and rigor across states, not on recruiting as many states as possible. Minnich agreed that governors and school chiefs must take the Common Core out of federal hands.
Gewertz said that most teachers focus on making the Common Core work in their classrooms, not on debating its political implications. One of the biggest impediments has been finding high-quality, Common Core–aligned materials.
To conclude, McShane asked panelists what must happen for the Common Core to be successful. All of the panelists focused on outcomes: there needs to be evidence that students are performing better and that this progress translates into greater college and career readiness. [Emphasis added.]
A couple tidbits: First, “moderator” McShane co-authored a CCSS-promo book with Hess in November 2013, entitled, Common Core Meets Education Reform.
That title is redundant.
Second, it is interesting that the above AEI panel summary includes zero discussion of the public rejecting CCSS because CCSS is a top-down, imposed product that teaching practitioners and parents, among other stakeholders, genuinely do not want. Period.
No, no. According to the three non-teacher-practitioner individuals on this panel, what CCSS needs in 2014– four years after it was rushed to its hardly-transparent finish in 2010– is “evidence that students are performing better.”
The horse continues to push the corporate reform cart.
Indeed, the CCSS Promise of College and Career Readiness as being “research and evidence-based” goes back to before CCSS was written. That term– “evidence based”– is a term that can easily serve as a bait-and-switch for what should have happened given the very-high-stakes nature of CCSS: a subjecting of the CCSS product to empirical testing.
Here is the full CCSS announcement from July 4, 2009:
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a joint effort by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in partnership with Achieve, ACT and the College Board. Governors and state commissioners of education from across the country committed to joining a state-led process to develop a common core of state standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. These standards will be research and evidence-based, internationally benchmarked, aligned with college and work expectations and include rigorous content and skills. The NGA Center and CCSSO are coordinating the process to develop these standards and have created an expert validation committee to provide an independent review of the common core state standards, as well as the grade-by-grade standards. The college and career ready standards are expected to be completed in July 2009. The grade-by-grade standards work is expected to be completed in December 2009. [Emphasis added.]
Yeah, the top-downers “jointing this effort” thought they would be done six months before they actually were– and even with the delay in completion until June 2010, this CCSS product has “rush job” stamped all over it.
In June 2010, America got a press release.
In place of empirical evidence, America received a short list of endorsements.
Endorsements are not evidence.
No readily available site or search engine to offer the public a comprehensive view of that supposed “research base,” and no empirical “evidence” because, well, there just isn’t any.
Now, this Hunt Institute set of CCSS talking points for governors to use in promoting CCSS– a doc that happens to be posted on the USDOE website (hmm…)– states that there is “evidence.” However, nothing listed includes any practical, real-world testing of CCSS to demonstrate the proclaimed “ensuring” of “college and career readiness.
What is offered is a lit review justifying the idea of CCSS, not its actual utility.
No evidence prior to the June 2010 proclamation that CCSS was a product ready to be used and guaranteed to deliver.
But in 2014, the AEI panel states that evidence is needed.
Meanwhile, the CCSS website continues to advertise the CCSS Guarantee. Here it is, on a page entitled, “What Parents Should Know”:
Today’s students are preparing to enter a world in which colleges and businesses are demanding more than ever before. To ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12thgrade. [Emphasis added.]
What complicates the “evidence is needed in 2014″ issue is that one month after CCSS was released, in July 2010, the standards-grading Thomas B. Fordham Institute proclaimed CCSS as “the winner” despite its own grading of CCSS as lower than or equal to existing state standards– a grading that is further complicated by an utter lack of any logical connection between state results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)– and a proclamation that CCSS were “clearly superior to those currently in use in thirty-nine states” based upon the *evidence* of “our observations.”
And when a state such as California had highly-esteemed standards in Fordham Institute’s view yet low NAEP scores– former Fordham Institute President Chester Finn blamed (go ahead and guess)– faulty implementation.
For any CCSS supporter, the “faulty implementation” card is the gift that keeps on giving.
But if California has great standards and poor NAEP scores, and other states have “poor” standards and above average NAEP scores, then is it possible that the entire standards-driven idea is too rudimentary to capture the education enterprise?
Here is another hard-hitting question: Is it possible that CCSS cannot be “properly implemented,” period?
Anyone who answers definitively that CCSS is fine and that “implementation is the problem” is only offering an opinion. It might be a fiscally-fueled, ego-stroking, well-publicized opinion, but no number of high-profile endorsements or USDOE talking points will transform it into empirical evidence.
Know who wins in the absence of empirical evidence to support a standards-to-promised-CCSS-results connection given that the nation is now in the middle of the CCSS mud?
For one, the peddlers of CCSS materials– tests, curricula, professional development, and (let us not forget) data collection.
AEI panelist and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) CEO Chris Minnich has Pearson connections… and his CCSSO is one of the CCSS owners.
A thought with which to leave readers.
There is much more that I can write about this AEI meeting of the pro-CCSS minds (yes, Hess, that includes you), but I will save it for another post.
Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education
I realize that I have not posted on my blog for an entire week, and that my readers might be wondering where I have been.
So, here is a brief update:
As I write, I am on a flight back to New Orleans from Maine (via Atlanta). This was my first trip to New England, and what a beautiful time of year to make the journey. The air was crisp, and the autumn colors were a delight to behold. Though my hosts apologized for weather that had taken down leaves earlier in the week, the scene remained a marvel to me, with my born-on-the-bayou self.
I traveled to Maine early Friday morning for the No Common Core Maine (NCCM) New England Fall-out Conference in York, Maine on Saturday, October 25, 2014. I spoke twice, which meant I had to prepare for two talks this past week, and such accounts for much of my absence from my blog. The NCCM conference amazed me—it was so well done. Approximately 120 individuals attended; from what I understand, this number is significant because the public in Maine has been slow to realize the implications of the nationwide, rigid, test-driven push to standardize American education.
I was one of several speakers representing a number of states (Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Louisiana). We spoke on a number of issues related to Common Core. My first speech was on the history of Common Core, and my second was on Common Core as it affects pedagogy. All speakers were video recorded and will be posted to the NCCM once ready for release.
I plan to also post all sessions to my blog, as well.
I will also post the video of my talk in Indiana at Manchester University (October 2, 2014), when it is available.
I had another unusual-yet-pleasant occurrence this past week, one that also accounts for my time away from my blog.
For four nights in a row, I slept eight hours a night.
I have not done so in the almost two years since I began writing my blog and my books.
It was like a vacation in the midst of all of my busyness.
It was wonderful, and I knew I needed the sleep given how much extra work it was for me to travel to Maine to speak twice during a weekend that is part of the regular school year—and that happens also to be around the same time that I needed to get some edits finished on one of my Common Core book chapters in anticipation of proofs that will arrive any day now and require my immediate attention in order to meet the requirements for April 2015 publication.
So, as I head home (and to full time teaching tomorrow morning), I am pleased to note that I return to a house that is mostly clean and in order; the grocery shopping has been done; the laundry awaiting me is reasonable; my grading is up to date; a car maintenance issue requiring my immediate attention this week has been resolved; my exercise schedule has not been seriously disrupted, and—of premier importance—I will have time for a nap this afternoon if I so desire.
For His assistance in helping me wisely and efficiently navigate my own life, I sincerely thank God. The circus music playing in the background does not surprise Him.
This morning, I read a post on education historian Diane Ravitch’s blog about an influential nonprofit in New York, Families for Excellent Schools (FES). It seems that nonprofit is wielding its influence to advance charter schools in New York City. As Ravitch writes:
Perdido Street blogger asks why it is impossible to find out who contributed to the lobbying group Families for Excellent Schools, which spent $6 million this year to prevent Mayor Bill de Blasio from regulating the charter school sector and won a law that forces the city to pay the rent of charters not located on public school grounds.
The blogger quotes extensively from the business magazine Crain’s New York, which described how this lobbying group exploited loopholes to avoid complying with state laws that require disclosure of donors to political action committees. “Group is visible,” the article’s title says, “but not its donors.”
FES became a nonprofit in April 2012. Between July 2012 and June 2013, it reported an “income” of just over one million dollars.
About those FES “donors”: It might appear that all FES donors are invisible, but they are not.
Not if they are using other nonprofits to support FES.
There is a wonderful, donor-supported search engine for nonprofit tax forms, citizenaudit.org. The search engine will allow the public 40 free views per year. (I just exhausted my free views.)
One of the beauties of this search engine is that it searches for terms within tax forms.
I searched for “families for excellent schools.” I found two nonprofits, a 501(c)3 named Families for Excellent Schools, Inc., and its accompanying lobbying arm, the 501(c)4, Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy, Inc.
501(c)3 nonprofits are limited in their lobbying, but donors may take a deduction for donating to a 501(c)3. In contrast, 501(c)4 nonprofits are free to lobby as much as the like, but donors cannot take a deduction for donating to them. Thus, a 501(c)3 may also run a 501(c)4, allowing donors to donate to the 501(c)3 for the work of the associated 501(c)4. It’s as easy as the 501(c)3 “donating” its cash to the 501(c)4. And it introduces an extra layer of money changing hands– one that makes it a little more difficult for the public to follow who is conducting the lobbying and who specifically is paying for it.
In my citizenaudit.com search of FES, I also found a listing of several other nonprofits that mention the organization as a grant recipient:
Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (see pg. 24)
Moriah Fund, Inc. (see pg. 14)
(Note: Once a viewer exhausts 40 views per year, a number of the links above default to the citizenaudit.com sign-up page. Not all, since I sough elsewhere for alternative links.)
WNYC reporter Robert Lewis captured much of the above FES grant information in his March 2014 article:
The Walton Family Foundation, of Walmart fame, has given more than $700,000 over the past two years. …
According to the records that are available, other large donations to the organization (FES) include $200,000 in 2012 from the Broad Foundation; $200,000 from the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation in fiscal year 2012-13; $100,000 in 2012 from the Moriah Fund; $25,000 from the Ravenel and Elizabeth Curry Foundation in fiscal year 2011-12; $19,000 in fiscal year 2011-12 from the Tapestry Project; $50,000 in fiscal year 2012-13 from the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program; and $1,000 in 2012 from the Dalio Foundation.
Lewis also notes the following:
Families for Excellent Schools shares an address with the New York arm of StudentsFirst….
This sharing of an address is strong evidence that FES is Astroturf reform from its outset. Yet there is a bossy center around which FES and its fiscal feeders appear to revolve. Consider a few board connections from among organizations listed above.
Tapestry Project’s executive director is attorney Eric Grannis.
And Eva Moskowitz sits on the StudentsFirst NY board.
And FES shares an address with StudentsFirstNY:
345 Seventh Avenue, Suite 501, New York, NY.
Eva at the bossy center. But that center is very much a collaboration involving Moskowitz, and StudentsFirst, and money from both philanthropies and hedge-fund managers.
Before I ended the post, I thought I’d see what organizations shared the Seventh Street address. I came up with the two expected:
I also found the 2012-2014 election spending reports for another group:
NYPSF is a hedge-fund, charter-school-promoting PAC. (One must pay to access the link to this Capital New York article. I did not pay, so I do not know if the NYPSF hedge funders are named, but I’m thinking at least some are.)
On September 5, 2014, NYPSF contributed $19,700 to “Friends of Kathy Hochul” Andrew Cuomo’s running mate.
There are numerous other detailed expenditures.
825 K Street, 2nd Floor, Sacramento, CA.
But back to New York.
A few final thoughts regarding 325 Seventh Avenue, Suite 501, and the organization that instigated this post, FES:
FES appears to be little more than a Moskowitz- and StudentsFirst-associated mushroom organization designed to offer the illusion of multiple (grass roots) organizations rallying behind “school choice.”
Though it might seem that it is not possible to know who is supporting FES, it is possible to make some telling connections via examination of 990s and physical addresses– especially shared addresses.
Those trying to hide from public view behind one organizational front might find themselves exposed via association with another.
The perils of layered corruption, eh?
In February 2012, then-new Louisiana Superintendent John White told Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) about how he planned to work a marvel of renovation and preservation for New Orleans’ McDonogh High School by allowing Steve Barr, CEO of Green Dot Charters in Los Angeles (a businessman with no vested interest in the New Orleans community) to assume control of the school and work hand in hand with the locals:
RH: Post-Katrina, there were concerns about outsiders invading New Orleans schooling. There have been intense racial politics. How did you negotiate that during your time at the RSD, and how does that shape your approach going forward?
JW: It’s extremely important as a leader to never give up on your ideals. But on the other hand, never give up on respecting everyone at the table. That gives you a baseline of credibility off of which to operate.
RH: Can you offer an example of how you do this?
JW: Yes, at John McDonogh High School. When I first came to New Orleans, the word on the Street was we were going to shut down the building of that 100-year-old high school. And now we’ve announced that we are spending $35 million to renovate it. Steve Barr [founder of Green Dot Public Schools] and teachers now are going to take over the school’s management…By staying at the table, by sitting through the discussion, by always insisting that this can be a college and career school, we had a compelling vision that attracted great partners, and are in a position to turn one of the lowest performing high schools in the country into a real beacon for change.
A compelling vision of attracting great partners to created a beacon of change? Teachers taking over school management?
Not if that “great partner” decides he wants out.
The short of it: No *beacon*. No renovation of McDonogh happened; California-based Steve Barr (of Future Is Now charters– formerly Green Dot) pulled out, citing a “facilities decision” as his reason. Never mind that New Orleans has a number of unoccupied school buildings that a money man like Barr could have renovated or even demolished in favor of moving in temporary buildings while a renovation of McDonogh happened. However, such effort would have been a mark of one invested in the community more than in himself.
I teach at a 100-year-old high school that was systematically renovated over the course of several years, and that while the school remained a functioning school of approximately 1800 students.
But such projects require investment in the community. Our school was not being long-distance “managed” by someone with a short-term, profit-focused commitment.
Barr’s principal concern is not in how his decision to bail on his commitment affects the community on the receiving end. It is on his “venture.”
McDonogh closed in June 2014. As a part of washing its hands of New Orleans, Barr’s ironically-named Future Is Now (FIN) left behind equipment that the Recovery School District (RSD) (another ironic name) is auctioning off in the aftermath of the FIN-RSD divorce.
On October 11, 2014, RSD auctioned off laptops that still had student information on them, including student social security numbers.
And so we have yet another example of the problems introduced by “charter churn”: the changing of hands of equipment and the opening of fresh doors by which the security of student data might be breached.
In his weak attempt to explain the breach Recovery School District (RSD) Superintendent Patrick Dobard offers the following to Danielle Dreilinger of the Times-Picayune:
Dobard said his office has trained charter staff on property-disposal procedures but not checked up on devices until now. “We relied on the operators actually following the protocol,” he said.
And there we have yet another problem with lack of oversight in the name of charter *freedom*: “Trusting” that those preparing for disposal the property from the school that “just didn’t make it” will actually “follow procedure.”
But why should the “charter staff” from a folded operation care about procedure? Barr’s chain did not care enough to invest in keeping the “100-year-old high school” open. In fact, Dreilinger could get no word from the FIN spokesperson other than an “it’s not my problem” response:
Former Future Is Now spokesman Gordon Wright said the organization had no response because it no longer exists. [Emphasis added.]
No more FIN in New Orleans for Gordon Wright to worry about. Moreover, as of June 2014, he is with Education Post, the new, well-financed corporate reform blog where Wright recently wrote a post “protecting” two teachers from education historian Diane Ravitch on a blog that worships US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. (Yeah, I know. Funny.)
But back to McDonogh, where students will not fall into new schools in the way that corporate reform promoters like Wright are able to fall into new, corporate-reform-promoting jobs.
In sum, we have a 100-year-old New Orleans high school that was supposed to be renovated; a California-based charter manager who decides not to follow through on his commitment because it was “too hard”; the haphazard liquidation of property that resulted in a breach of student data; no charter manager to answer for the breach because the charter manager is no longer the charter manager, and a textbook example of unforeseen problems associated with “charter churn.”
Nevertheless, Dreilinger’s article includes a strategically-placed statement that downplays this inevitable and ever-present churn:
The Recovery system oversees about 50 charters in New Orleans, plus more in Baton Rouge. Every year, a small number of charters have closed.[Emphasis added.]
If “every year” a “small number” close, that is a lot of churn. The result is a district that never stabilizes and remains forever open to the uncommitted, nonresident Steve Barrs to come and go relatively unscathed while critical property– not the least of which is student personal information– ends up sold on the auction block of apathy-birthed incompetence.
Before the proverbial ink is dry on the assessments to be given in 2014-15 by both federally-funded testing consortia wed to the never-piloted Common Core State Standards (CCSS), along comes yet another *philanthropic* organization with the Next Great Idea: To structure statewide accountability systems around CCSS.
The Hewlett Foundation *convened* a group of individuals, some of whom I readily recognize as key players in the CCSS-and-assessments game, to formulate this *new accountability system.* Though previously released in September 2014, on October 16, 2014, the group officially released its report, entitled, Accountability for College and Career Readiness: Developing a New Paradigm. The report is credited to Linda Darling-Hammond, Gene Wilhoit, and Linda Pittenger. Darling-Hammond is a Stanford education professor and senior research advisor for one of the two CCSS consortia, Smarter Balanced. Wilhoit is the former CEO of the CCSS copyright holder, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). It was Wilhoit and CCSS “lead writer” David Coleman who asked billionaire Bill Gates and his wife to fund CCSS. 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.” Pittenger, also formerly of CCSSO, is with Wilhoit as CEO of CIE.
There is also an extended group of individuals who contributed to the Hewlett-induced, CCSS-centered, statewide accountability discussion. Among them are Michael Cohen of Achieve (Achieve was the nucleus of CCSS development, along with ACT, College Board, and Student Achievement Partners); Carmel Martin of the Center for American Progress (Though decidedly for CCSS because it’s “better,” Martin, who participated in the Intelligence Squared debate on CCSS in New York on September 9, 2014, did not know CCSS was copyrighted.), and Phillip Lovell and Charmaine Mercer, both from the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE), a group dependent upon the Gates Foundation “for general operating support” to the tune of $6 million since 2012 for that purpose alone, plus multiple millions more since 2003.
Thus, it is no stretch to note that all of these folks are clearly motivated to promote CCSS and its attendant assessments as the center of a massive “accountability” push.
Nevertheless, their Hewlett-funded report includes this disclaimer:
The final product — authored by Linda Darling-Hammond, Gene Wilhoit, and Linda Pittenger — reflects the individual and collective insights of the participants, but it does not reflect an endorsement by any of these individuals or the organizations with which they are affiliated. [Emphasis added.]
Now that’s just over-the-top funny to me: “We took the money, we wrote the report, we are promoting the report publicly, but we aren’t endorsing the report.“
Here’s the knee-slapper: The report is a call to accountability, but the writers and contributors want an exit clause from being held accountable for promoting it.
I must say, before this group of influential individuals rushes ahead to promote the idea that states should construct complete accountability systems around CCSS, it seems that a report holding CCSS and its diehard promoters accountable should be issued.
Indeed, the CCSS assessments haven’t even been administered yet. How about focusing those “generous” philanthropic dollars on a report on the rollout of the PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests?
Or does educational research now bow to what those with the dollars state as “accountability-worthy”?
Let’s back it up even further: The Hewlett-purchased “new accountability” report hinges on the too-oft-repeated premise that CCSS *ensures* college- and career-readiness.
That CCSS “ensures” anything is only opinion.
This truth makes any proposal constructed on a CCSS center nothing more than crackers crumbling.
The October 16, 2014, version of the Hewlett-funded report is over 40 pages long. That’s how many pages it apparently takes to “get the conversation started” on the CCSS-centered, statewide accountability system. The authors state that “considerable discussion and debate will be needed before a new approach can take shape,” yet nowhere do they pause long enough to consider that “discussion and debate” are not justification enough for constructing a CCSS-centered statewide accountability system: Piloting is needed.
Forget all else that those 40-plus pages try to sell (for it s a sale).
Piloting was needed for CCSS, and it never happened. Instead, overly eager governors and state superintendents signed on for an as-of-then, not-yet-created CCSS. No wise caution. Just, “let’s do it!”
That word “urgency” was continuously thrown around, and it makes an appearance in the current, Hewlett-funded report. No time to pilot a finished CCSS product. Simply declare that CCSS was “based on research” and push for implementation.
This is how fools operate.
America has been hearing since 1983 that Our Education System Places Our Nation at Risk. I was 16 years old then. I am now 47.
America is not facing impending collapse.
We do have time to test the likes of CCSS before rushing in.
Darling-Hammond, Wilhoit, and Pittenger, how about an accountability report on CCSS?
Let’s go back a bit more.
How about an accountability report on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its strategic placement on a life support that enables former-basketball-playing US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to hold states hostage to the federal whim?
The Hewlett-funded report notes that between 2000 and 2012, PISA scores have “declined.” Those are chiefly the NCLB years and beyond, with the continued “test-driven reform” focus. It is the test-driven focus that could use a hefty helping of “accountability.”
And let us not forget the NCLB-instituted push for privatization of public education via charters, vouchers, and online “education.” An accountability study on the effects of “market-driven,” under-regulated “reform” upon the quality of American education would prove useful.
There is also the very real push to erase teaching as a profession and replace it with temporary teachers hailing from the amply-funded and -connected teacher temp agency, Teach for America (TFA). A nationwide accountability study on the effects of the teacher revolving door exacerbated by TFA would be a long-overdue first of its kind.
I will leave it to those willing to read the Hewlett-produced 40-plus page report. But know that it serves a practical purpose for those advancing CCSS:
As CCSS continues to falter, fail, and face rejection by both locals and the politicians who realize they are elected by locals, the Hewlett report provides CCSS proponents with the ultimate “faulty implementation” exit:
CCSS failed because it lacked complete system support.
But don’t you buy it.
Tell Hewlett et al. to back it with the first step in a true accountability system:
The pilot test.
Then, leaving “urgency” where it belongs– in the toolbox of manufactured panic– we can calmly and rationally take it from there.