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France to Ban Cell Phones in Lower Grades

An issue that poses major distraction in classrooms around the globe: Student usage of cellular technology.

And because of both the convenience and widespread usage of cell phones, contemporary teachers and admin are faced with student cell phone usage as both a distraction to classroom learning and a student safety issue (i.e., cyberbullying and potential student privacy liability issues).

In an effort to confront student dependence upon cellular technology, younger students, who attend French école or collège, students up to 15 years of age, are to be affected by a cell phone ban, not those attending lycée, or the three years of French high school.

French minister of education Jean-Michel Blanquer has confirmed that beginning in September 2018, students will be totally forbidden from using cell phones at the lower grades of school. As of the 2017-18 school year, French students are able to use their cell phones as the December 11, 2017, Telegraph notes, “at breaks, lunch times and between lessons.”

blanquer  Jean-Michel Blanquer

According to the December 11, 2017, Local Fr:

“These days the children don’t play at break time anymore, they are just all in front of their smartphones and from an educational point of view that’s a problem,” said Blanquer. …

“It’s important that children under the age of seven are not in front of these screens,” he added.

Blanquer is not calling for younger students to leave phones at home, which could present problems with parents and children keeping in contact. Instead, Blanquer’s “total ban” involves banning student access to cell phones during the school day by their being “locked away” and available during the school day, as Blanquer states, “for teaching purposes or in cases of emergency.”

In a September 13, 2017, interview with l’Express, Blanquer observes,

Il s’agit là encore de faire respecter les règles et le droit. L’usage des téléphones est déjà interdit en classe. Avec les principaux, les professeurs et les parents nous devons trouver le moyen de protéger nos élèves de la dispersion occasionnée par les écrans et les téléphones. En conseil des ministres, nous déposons nos portables dans des casiers avant de nous réunir. Il me semble que cela est faisable pour tout groupe humain, y compris une classe.

(This is again about enforcing the rules and the law. The use of telephones is already forbidden in class. With the principals, teachers and parents we must find a way to protect our students from the dispersion caused by screens and phones. In the Council of Ministers, we put our portable devices in lockers before we meet. It seems to me that this is feasible for any human group, including a class.)

Blanquer has not yet ironed out a specific plan for his total ban. He notes the possibility of collecting student phones at the beginning of the school day and returning at the end, but critics note that keeping track of the phones– and keeping them safe from damage or theft– could pose quite a challenge in schools with several hundred students.

As an American high school teacher, I do not allow students to use their cell phones in my classroom, and I collect phones from students who defy the rule. According to our school policy, I collect the phone, tag it with the student’s name, and turn it in to the office with an accompanying discipline referral.

To curb my liability for the cost of the phone, I do not keep the phone in my classroom, and I do not send the phone to the office by another student.

Even though Blanquer’s focus is on the lower grades and not high school, I think collecting phones at the beginning of the day would still present a great liability for the school/teacher and adds to the bureaucratic burden of the school, especially in returning phones “for teaching purposes” and recollecting them.

It’s not that I think student addiction to cell phones is not a health issue. (I believe modern addiction to technology is problematic for many adults, as well.) It is just an issue that is hard to combat.

And now, I see increasing numbers of students wearing Smart watches– which pose the same problems as cell phones but are even more difficult to monitor in the classroom.

My best to Blanquer as he details his plan for his lower-grades cell phone ban.

This battle promises to be a tough one.

cell phone ban


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Understanding the Magic that is BASIS Scottsdale, “The [Um,] Best Public High School in America.”

On December 06, 2017, Business Insider produced an article featuring BASIS Scottsdale (Arizona) charter school, “the best public high school in America,” as declared by US News and World Report, where BASIS charter schools frequently top the rankings.

Business Insider is generous enough to extend BASIS “success” as apparently meaning charter schools are better than traditional public schools, period:

Charter schools are public schools that are privately run. Their supporters see them as providing a leg up for underserved students who lack access to a personalized education, while critics say they snatch away limited resources from other public schools.

Polarizing as they may be, charter schools have a track record of success.

Business Insider continues as follows:

Business Insider spent the day at Basis Scottsdale to see what makes it the best in the nation.

I thought I’d see if I might find some concise info on the secret(s) in the sauce, so to speak, behind the BASIS Scottsdale marvel. What I discovered is this May 01, 2017, examination of BASIS Scottsdale following the 2017 US News and World Report declaration of BASIS Scottsdale bestiferousness written by retired school principal Jim Hall, who founded Arizonans for Charter School Accountability (AZCSA).

Some excerpts from Hall’s report:

BASIS Scottsdale charter school was named the best high school in the nation for 2017 by U.S. News and World Reports (U.S. News). The top three high schools in the country are BASIS schools and BASIS has the top five schools in Arizona according to the report. What is the secret?  What makes BASIS Scottsdale the best and what can public districts learn from the BASIS model?

BASIS Scottsdale’s statistics are very impressive.  According to U.S. News, Basis Scottsdale is 31% minority.  92.5 % of all students were proficient on the 2014-15 AZ Merit test and an amazing 92.3% of disadvantaged students were proficient on the test.  Students had a 97% success rate passing Advanced Placement Tests and averaged passing 11 AP tests.  They have a 100% graduation rate.

There are four major factors analyzed in the U.S. News rankings:

  • Step 1: The first step determined whether each school’s students were performing better than statistically expected for students in that state.
  • Step 2: For schools passing the first step, Step 2 assessed whether their disadvantaged students – black, Hispanic and low-income – performed at or better than the state average for the least-advantaged students.
  • Step 3: For schools passing the first and second step, Step 3 required schools to meet or surpass a benchmark for their graduation rate. This is the second year U.S. News has included this step.
  • Step 4: Schools that made it through the first three steps became eligible to be judged nationally on the final step – college-readiness performance – using Advanced Placement test data as the benchmark for success. AP is a College Board program that offers college-level courses at high schools across the country.

BASIS Scottsdale does not meet the U.S. News expectations for disadvantaged students or graduation rates. The 92.3% success rate for disadvantaged students on the AZ Merit test is deceptive and inaccurate. There is also a huge problem with attrition with all BASIS high schools. BASIS Scottsdale had 84% of 9th grade students in 2011-12 make it to the 12th grade in 2014-15, not 100% as indicated by U.S. News.  Overall, only 65% of the freshmen at the six BASIS high schools in 2011-12 were still at BASIS in 2014-15.  This is not the resume of the best schools in the U.S.

BASIS “Disadvantaged” Students

Educating all children, including disadvantaged and non-college bound students is central to the U.S. News vision of school excellence.  This is the opening statement from the 2017 Technical Manual: (Bold added for emphasis)

“To produce the 2017 Best High Schools rankings, U.S. News & World Report teamed with North Carolina-based RTI International, a global nonprofit social science research firm.

RTI implemented the U.S. News comprehensive rankings methodology, which is based on these key principles: that a great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college bound, and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show it is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators.”

U.S. News compared each school’s math and reading proficiency rates for disadvantaged students with the statewide results for these student groups and then selected schools that were performing better than their state averages.  U.S. News defines poverty and minority distribution as follows:

Poverty distribution: This is the percentage of a school’s 2014-2015 total enrollment that was eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, or the percentage of economically disadvantaged students (black and Hispanic).

Minority distribution: This is the percentage of a school’s 2014-2015 total enrollment made up of black students and Hispanic students.

An amazing 92.3% of BASIS Scottsdale’s disadvantaged students performed better than state average on the AZ Merit test.  There is just one problem:

There are less than 8 disadvantaged students at BASIS Scottsdale.

First, there are no free/reduced lunch students at BASIS Scottsdale.  There are no free/reduced lunch students at any BASIS school.

[Schneider’s note: Business Insider includes the following note in its BASIS Scottsdale feature: “Low-income families may be at a disadvantage for sending their kids to Basis because the school does not provide buses to campus. It only recently started a free-lunch program.”]

Secondly, black and Hispanic students made up only 3% of the total 9-12 enrollment at BASIS Scottsdale in 2014-15.  There were 281 students in grades 9-12 in 2014-15, so approximately 8 high school students at BASIS Scottsdale were Hispanic or black and could be considered “disadvantaged.”

The average household income in BASIS Scottsdale’s 85259 zip code is $155,756 while the average income in the City of Scottsdale is $113,277 and Arizona is only $54,229.  The median home value in 85259 is $615,500, the fifth highest real estate zip code in Arizona (see here and here).  …

There is a very good chance that the eight black and Hispanic students at BASIS Scottsdale are far from “disadvantaged.”

BASIS Scottsdale’s minority students are almost all Asian – there were 192 Asian students enrolled in grades 5-12 in 2014-15. BASIS Scottsdale is 97% White and Asian.  When U.S. News reports that 92.3% of disadvantaged students were proficient on state testing, they are talking about less than 8 students since the AZ Merit test is not given in the 12th grade.

BASIS Scottsdale does not have 100% graduation rate as presented by U.S. News.

The U.S. News definition of graduation rates:

“As with the assessment data used in the previous steps, high schools’ graduation rates were collected from each state. Although there is some variation in how states calculate graduation rates, the foundation of all states’ calculations is the percentage of first-time ninth-graders who were awarded diplomas four years later.”

Arizona calculates graduation rates based on the percentage of ninth grade students that graduate from 12th grade in four years, regardless of the schools they attended in 9th and 12th grade.  That means that a student who began at BASIS in 9th grade and then transferred to a public district and graduated in four years is counted as a graduate. …

BASIS Scottsdale’s graduation rate is actually 81% – 54 students were in 9th grade in 2011-12 and there were 44 left in 12th grade in 2014-15.  The overall graduation rate for all BASIS schools is just 65%. …

The attrition of students between 6th grade and 12th grade is far worse. BASIS Scottsdale had 125 students in 6th grade in 2008-09. Only 44 students (35%) of those students made it to 12th grade in 2014-15. There could never be a public district with this kind of failure rate.

The 44 BASIS Scottsdale seniors who survived the BASIS curriculum and testing requirements are in the top .4% of all students in the U.S. – and probably much higher if they passed 11 AP tests.


The question is:  Is the best school in America one where the only students finding success are?

Remember the goal of the U.S. News rankings:

“…a great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college bound…” 

Ask any BASIS parent if they believe their child is college bound…

There is more to Hall’s report, including a fascinating look at the sieve of academic requirements at BASIS middle schools.

Hall concludes as follows:

BASIS Scottsdale is only successful because they have no disadvantaged students and they eliminate all but the most gifted students in the country by the 12th grade.  You be the judge if they represent the best public education in the U.S.

Meanwhile, from the Business Insider feature:

Students I spoke with agreed that anyone can succeed at Basis if they put the work into it. …

When Bailey tells people she works at Basis, they write it off as a school for geniuses. “They’re normal kids– they’re not all brilliant,” she said. “They just want to learn.”

And in an ironic note on “the best high school in America,” Business Insider concludes,

With its aggressive curriculum, emphasis on testing, and mountains of homework, Basis Scottsdale isn’t for everyone.

It seems safe to conclude that BASIS Scottsdale isn’t for most.

Repeating Hall:

Remember the goal of the U.S. News rankings:

“…a great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college bound…” 

Perhaps “best” is better than “great.”

basis scottsdale


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Eva Moskowitz: Impressive Venom?

The January/February 2018 issue of The Atlantic is set to include this article on Eva Moskowitz and her Success Academies charter schools. The article, entitled, “The Charter-School Crusader,” written by Chalkbeat co-founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief Elizabeth Green, is a perplexing read.

In short, the piece reads as if it were written by two people: One who is impressed with Moskowitz and her schools (and who perhaps wishes to please Moskowitz with this article), and another who sees the problems of the likes of Moskowitz continuing to expand a hedge-funded, education empire that could buy its way to doing whatever it so desires– with the term, “whatever” holding dark and damaging overtones.

Green might have been trying to include both pros and cons of Moskowitz and a Moskowitz-styled education, but the concerns Green expresses cannot be reasonably reconciled with the language of admiration included in the selfsame article.

Consider the following spit-shine of Moskowitz’s Success Academies “empire”:

Empire has not killed quality. On the contrary, students at Success—where intensive test prep in math and reading goes hand in hand with a strong emphasis on science, art, and chess—regularly trounce their peers all across New York on state tests. Unlike other high-scoring charter schools, such as kipp, Success saw no dip in performance after the state adopted the tougher Common Core academic standards. The stellar scores helped Moskowitz open more schools, faster, than any other charter-school leader in New York.

A few paragraphs later is this:

Entrusting a person who has such an exceptional capacity for venom with the care of children can seem unwise. Which is just one reason I am more than a little terrified by the conclusion I’ve reached: Moskowitz has created the most impressive education system I’ve ever seen. And as she announces in her memoir, 46 schools is just the beginning. “We need to reach more students,” she writes.

If “the empire has not killed quality” in “the most impressive education system I’ve seen” (Green’s second usage of the term “impressive” to describe Moskowitz’s schools), then how does one then conclude (with “terror”), “Entrusting a person who has such an exceptional capacity for venom with the care of children can seem unwise”?

You got me.

Further along:

Moskowitz has realized that she can do more to change public schools as a private citizen than as mayor—by operating outside of democracy rather than within it. I agree with her, and that unsettles me.

Unsettled. Even so, Green (who as an education journalist cannot be unaware of the charter school fraud and mismanagement connected to removing public money from the public purview but who does not address these issues), concludes the following:

Of all the reforms that have set out to free schools from this [bureaucratic, priority shifting] trap, to date I’ve seen only one that works: the implementation of charter-school networks. Large enough to provide shared resources for teachers, yet insulated from bureaucratic and political crosscurrents by their independent status, these networks are creating the closest thing our country has ever seen to a rational, high-functioning school system. They have strengthened public education by extracting it from democracy as we know it—and we shouldn’t be surprised, because democracy as we know it is the problem.

If democracy is the problem, let’s get rid of it, right?

No. In fact, following the above statement, I notice that green uses the word, “worry” several times, mostly connected to Moskowitz success:

Worries about a lack of democracy could similarly be quieted by giving locally elected leaders more oversight of charters, an approach that reformers have adopted in Indianapolis and will try in New Orleans next year.

I want to believe in such an evolution. It would be the best of all worlds if the most efficient way to run great schools was also the most equitable, accountable, and parent-friendly. But I worry that’s hard to pull off. … Left to their own choices, parents could very well resegregate schools as effectively as zip-code-based systems of assigning schools have done. …

Charter boards, designed to sidestep the unwieldy directives of democratic school governance and focus ruthlessly on leading good schools, are the main reason charter networks operate so well—and also the main reason I worry as the networks grow. …

As these networks grow, overseeing them will become both more important and more difficult. Already networks in several states have rejected requests for documents, saying that public-records laws don’t apply to them. Once the Success empire includes 100, 200, or even 300 schools, will regulators feel comfortable exerting their ultimate authority to shut a school down? Or will charter networks become, like banks, too big to change?

We can’t know for sure. We can speculate, though, and when I do, I worry. [Emphasis added.]

Not only does the likes of Moskowitz seem to worry Green; possible consequences of the choices of the parents themselves also worry her.

I’m also unclear on the “ruthless” focus “on operating good schools”- and on this practice working “so well.”

How does one callously and cruelly operate “good” schools?

Again, you got me.

Green is aware that Moskowitz’s schools are backed by hedge funders– who have money to purchase a place above accountability. Nevertheless, for all of her “worry,” she offers as the closure to her article the stuff-and-fluff of  *hoping for the best*:

…The best-case scenario is that the bigger Moskowitz’s network becomes, the more responsibility she and her board take—not just for their students and for their network’s growth, but for all students and the civic community, too. But what if well-heeled activists like [hedge-funder Daniel] Loeb decide to push for state laws that weaken regulators’ power and strengthen the power of wealthy board members (and why wouldn’t they)? The best we can do is hope that the same dogmatic confidence that has fueled the most promising model we have for public education won’t also destroy it.

I am truly at a loss for how Green could possibly consider charter schools as “the most promising model” for education, particularly given some of the up-close-and-personal details she includes concerning Success Academies operations in the middle of the article.

Here’s a biggie: Moskowitz’s so-called “empire of quality” hinges on “narrow” test-prep-ed:

For all Moskowitz’s eloquence about the importance of rigorous academics and extracurricular activities, teacher after teacher has reported that at Success, test prep always comes first, narrowing the kind of work students do.

Another major issue: Actively (and selectively?) discouraging the very “parental empowerment” they supposedly advocate. (In other words, the exercising of the school making the choice, not the parents):

Similarly, however much Moskowitz aspires to make Success Academy inclusive, in practice she and her staff sometimes tell families to look elsewhere for a school, because Success just isn’t the right fit.

Finally, the school making the choice to control parent choice by refusing to backfill all grades:

Success backfills only in kindergarten through fourth grade. Any older than that, Moskowitz argues, and the students won’t be sufficiently prepared for the school’s rigorous academics. …

There is more to Green’s article than I present in this post. I invite my readers to read it in its entirety.

Given the negatives Green presents regarding Moskowitz and her Success Academies, the attendant positive press re: “empire of quality” just does not seem to fit.

eva moskowitz  Eva Moskowitz


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Study: State Takeover of Tennessee Schools Doesn’t Work.

The December 2017 issue of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (an American Educational Research Association–AERA– publication) includes a study entitled, “The Effects of School Turnaround in Tennessee’s Achievement School District [ASD] and Innovation Zones [iZones].”

Below is the TN ASD logo– which ironically represents “impossibility in its purest form.”

TN ASD logo

Interestingly, the study is funded by both Tennessee’s Race to the Top (RttT) grant from the US Dept. of Ed. and the Walton Family Foundation.

The principal finding is that state takeover of Tennessee schools in order to “turn around” such schools is a bust, and it is better to allow the schools to remain with the home district and provide additional resources to the district in order to “raise student achievement” (which, of course, means to raise test scores).

Below is the study’s abstract:

In recent years, the federal government has invested billions of dollars to reform chronically low-performing schools. To fulfill their federal Race to the Top grant agreement, Tennessee implemented three turnaround strategies that adhered to the federal restart and transformation models: (a) placed schools under the auspices of the Achievement School District (ASD), which directly managed them; (b) placed schools under the ASD, which arranged for management by a charter management organization [CMO]; and (c) placed schools under the management of a district Innovation Zone (iZone) with additional resources and autonomy. We examine the effects of each strategy and find that iZone schools, which were separately managed by three districts, substantially improved student achievement. In schools under the auspices of the ASD, student achievement did not improve or worsen. This suggests that it is possible to improve schools without removing them from the governance of a school district.

In their study, researchers examine student data spanning the 2010-11 to the 2014-15 school years. Test scores include the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) (grades 3 thru 8) and End of Course (EOC) exams (high school).

As for the ASD schools’ “not improving or worsening”: Close examination of the ASD schools yielded erratic results:

For the ASD schools, the story was more complex, with [student] cohorts in most years having no effect, whereas other effect estimates suggested a positive and statistically significant effect for particular cohorts, in particular years and subjects, and still other results suggested a significant negative effect in particular cohorts in particular years and subjects. It was also notable that the positive and negative estimates were generally large in magnitude….

Similarly, when the analysis was broken down for ASD schools by CMO-run and ASD-run schools… we again saw inconsistent results as we observed mainly statistically insignificant effects as well as four positive and five negative estimates that were mostly large and statistically significant with more positive and significant effects for the ASD-managed [ASD] schools [as opposed to the CMO-run ASD schools].

Therefore, we generally concluded that the results for schools under the auspices of the ASD, as a whole and disaggregated by management structure [ASD-managed vs. CMO-managed] have been somewhat inconsistent but mainly are not sufficiently precise to conclude that they are different from zero…. We also did not observe a consistent pattern of these schools improving over time.

I have a paper copy of the study (compliments of Laura H. Chapman, thank you, Laura). Thus, I have no free link to offer for the entire study. (This link allows one to purchase a downloaded copy for $36.00). However, for this post, I include pics of the conclusion section of the study (see below).

But first, a couple of conclusion highlights:

Given these results, a number of states currently considering an “ASD-like” approach (including Nevada, North Carolina, and South Carolina) should consider whether it is necessary for schools to be managed by outside providers to experience significant improvement.

And this commentary related to higher teacher turnover at the ASD schools:

Although our findings indicate that turnover among the ASD schools was higher than the iZone and other priority schools and that more effective teachers were more likely to leave the ASD schools, the reasons for the turnover could not be established with the data available for this study. Prior research indicates that particularly in charter schools, turnover appears to be associated with a decline in teachers’ trust in the principal, salary and benefits, and difficult working conditions such as the heavy workload and management of student discipline…. However, the prevalence of Teach for America teachers in schools managed by CMOs, their 2-year service commitment, and their associations with departing from teaching more quickly than most other novice teachers… may be another credible hypothesis.

The Waltons paid for this. Go figure.

Finally, the promised pics of the conclusion of the study:


asd 2


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Betsy DeVos’ Tough Spot: Trump Cabinet Member

On November 30, 2017, Betsy DeVos spoke at Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) annual meeting (Nashville, TN). I blogged about it on December 01, 2017.

In her speech to an audience of conservative allies, DeVos commented that she is “not going anywhere”:

Well, I do have a bit of bad news to share with you today…

Bad news, that is, for the teacher union bosses, the defenders of the status quo, the “education-expert” bloggers and muckrakers and many of our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle in Congress. Allow me to borrow a line from the great American author Mark Twain: The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated!

I’m not going anywhere! In fact I’m just getting started!

On November 01, 2017, I wrote a post in which I wondered whether DeVos would make it a year as US ed sec. I did not state that she is definitely on her way out, but I do wonder how long she will hold her fed-ed position.

I still wonder. DeVos says she is not leaving, but ultimately, the decision regarding how long she will remain in the post is not hers alone.

The Trump administration has had enough turnover for Reuters to refer to “the revolving door at the Trump White House” on November 30, 2017, which happened to be the same day as DeVos’ FEE speech.

Thus far, DeVos has not been the subject of any of Trump’s numerous Tweets of Disgruntlement. She pitches for his priorities; in the midst of her November 30, 2017, FEE speech pitching (what else?) school choice and condemning those who oppose it, DeVos included this blurb in support of the Senate’s GOP tax bill, a Trump priority:

Something else Americans know: our nation’s broken tax system is well overdue for comprehensive reform. And I am so encouraged that, with the President’s leadership, leaders in Congress are poised to finally do something about it! This Administration believes America succeeds when American workers and job providers keep more of their hard-earned money.

DeVos is an obedient Cabinet member.

There is something else that I initially believed played in her favor:

Trump isn’t into education. He has apparently borrowed and promoted the conservative Republican plan of private school choice/vouchers/tax credits, but he doesn’t pursue the issue in his favorite venue to pursue what matters to him: Twitter.

Thus, it seems that if DeVos continues to publicly pitch for Trump’s priorities outside of education (in language that also boosts his ego), and if she does not publicly say or do anything that appears to veer from complete devotion, she could well remain US ed sec for a full term based upon her ow choosing to do so.

However, there is a flip-side to Trump’s lack of genuine support for DeVos’ agenda: It stymies her efforts, and her FEE-attending allies recognize as much.

From the December 02, 2017, New York Times article entitled, “Betsy DeVos School Choice Allies See New Obstacle to School Choice Efforts: Trump”:

Ms. DeVos received a warm welcome here (at FEE in Nashville) on Thursday at the 10th annual convening of center-right education reformers hosted by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which was founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. But despite two standing ovations for Ms. DeVos’s impassioned calls to abandon systems that she said kept students trapped in unfit or misfit schools, it was not lost on audience members that their highest-profile surrogate had returned to her constituency empty-handed. Her promised actions have gone nowhere.

The culprit, they said, is the inflammatory president Ms. DeVos works for, who paralyzed efforts at cooperation and whose language and policies are seen as antagonistic toward low-income minority communities — the very families the secretary has spent 30 years championing. …

The one proposal that has made some progress, an expansion of tax-favored 529 savings plans in the Republican tax overhaul to allow families to put away savings for private school tuition, has divided conservatives, some of whom say the expansion will not reach the low-income families that the school choice movement was created for. The beneficiaries would be families with money to sock away at the end of the month. …

…in her remarks to the crowd of nearly 1,000, Ms. DeVos signaled her impatience. …

But education policy experts say they see little Ms. DeVos can accomplish. …

“She wasn’t set up to have power. She was set up to reverse everything,” said Chris Stewart, the chief executive of Wayfinder Foundation…. “She has a bully pulpit, but you can’t get much done talking.” …

“The fact that she’s in the Trump administration has not helped the parent choice,” said [Howard] Fuller… Marquette professor. “People who are on the ground, one of the things we now have to fight is guilt by association with Donald Trump.”

I find it interesting that her allies recognize that DeVos is “set up to reverse everything.” The New York Times article continues with some details on DeVos’ reversals, and it includes her allies’ saying that the reversals don’t fit DeVos’ school choice priorities.

But here is an issue that could land DeVos right smack in a Trump tweet: Public criticism of Trump, even slight criticism. From the November 29, 2017, Tennessean (referenced in the New York Times article):

The nation’s top education czar, Betsy DeVos, toured Rutherford County Schools’ career and technical education programs Wednesday in her first official trip to Middle Tennessee.

The visit by the U.S. secretary of education came a day before she will feature as a keynote speaker at former Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s ExcelinEd conference in Nashville. …

DeVos also fielded questions from reporters about Trump’s calling U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., “Pocahontas” during a White House event to honor Navajo World War II veterans.

There has been backlash for the comment.

DeVos was asked if Trump can be considered a good role model for children after his comment.

“I think the president continues to lead in an important direction in our country,” DeVos said. “And I think that we can all do well to reflect on the things we say before we say them.”

A response carefully poised on the edge of disapproval– and quickly picked up by the New York Times, TIME, Politico, USA Today, and Newsmax.

No Trump tweets on it yet.

devos trump  Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Turkish Gülen Schools in America: Interactive Map and More

In October 2015, the Republic of Turkey retained the London-based, international law firm, Amsterdam and Partners, “to conduct a global investigation into the activities of the organization led by the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.”

Another component of Amsterdam and Partners’ work related to Gülen concerns public awareness:

“We have been retained by the Republic to expose allegedly unlawful conduct by the Gülen network worldwide,” said Robert Amsterdam, founding partner of Amsterdam & Partners LLP, during a press conference held today at the National Press Club in Washington DC. “The activities of the Gülen network, including its penetration of the Turkish judiciary and police, as well as its political lobbying abroad, should concern everyone who cares about the future of democracy in Turkey.”

In my book, School Choice: The End of Public Education, I have a chapter examining Fethullah Gülen, the powerful Turkish iman who commands leadership of scores of charter schools on American soil. Indeed, Gülen himself has been residing in the Poconos (Pennsylvania) since 1999.

One can get a sense of concerns related to Gülen from this November 10, 2017, California NAACP resolution for Gülen school investigation:


WHEREAS, there exists over 200 schools in the United States operated by the Gülen Organization, teaching over 80,000 American students. This organization operates under the names Magnolia Science Academy (CA), Horizon Science Academy (OH , IL), Harmony Science Academy (TX), Sonoran Science Academy (AR), Coral Academy of Science (NV), Dove Science Academy (OK), as well as others.

WHEREAS, audits having been conducted in LAUSD, the State of Oklahoma, the State of Georgia (resulting in their closure), the State of New York, have resulted in a pattern of massive accounting irregularities involving without limitation the use of Gülen related landlords such as Terra (NY, NJ), the Sky Foundation (OK), Harmony Public Schools (TX), Concept Schools (IL, OH), the use of Gülen Related Management Companies such as Accord (CA), Concept Education Services (OH), Apple Education (NJ), Terra Science and Education (NY), as well as others.

WHEREAS, Gülen schools; such as Magnolia (CA) have targeted the African American and Hispanic communities as shown in the documentary film Killing Ed.

WHEREAS, all 200 Gülen schools recruit teachers from Turkey under the H – 1B Visa program thereby replacing fully qualified American teachers.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the California NAACP urges federal, state and local authorities to conduct forensic audits of both the schools, and the management organizations operating them.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the California NAACP further urges that these investigations be conducted by state and federal auditors as opposed to state boards of education, as well as other relevant investigations necessary to evaluate fully the apparent, suspect financial dealings, visa misuse, and highly suspicious conduct.

Regarding the California NAACP resolution, PR Newswire adds this statement from Amsterdam:

The organizations running these schools have not only been found to be pillaging taxpayers through real estate schemes and self-dealing to their own contractors, but they are also abusing the H-1B visa program to bring over foreign teachers often lacking in basic English skills and training. This has a devastating impact on the communities in which they operate.

In September 2017, Amsterdam published a 650-page book, Empire of Deceit: An Investigation of the Gülen Charter School Network, that “details how the nationwide charter school network controlled by the Gülen Organization enriches itself at the expense of American school children.”

Regarding Empire of Deceit, PR Newswire notes:

Amsterdam’s book reveals surprising facts regarding the Gülen Organization’s vast US network:

  • Misuse of taxpayer funds totaling at least $243 million.
  • More than 6,504 H-1B visas to import unqualified Turkish teachers at a public cost of as much as $26 million and lost jobs for American teachers.
  • Nearly 81,000 students enrolled at Gülen schools across 27 states and District of Columbia.
  • Widespread manipulation of state mandated testing, grades and attendance figures.
  • Lobbying and publicly funded trips to Turkey to influence politicians and local officials.

Amsterdam and Partners also sponsors an Empire of Deceit website, which promotes Killing Ed, “an independently produced documentary feature film that exposes a vast range of questionable academic, labor, and H1-B visa violations by schools tied to Gülen movement.” The site includes the following 11-minute director’s cut “to accompany the launch of Empire of Deceit“:

(Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is connected to a documentary on Gülen through his lobbying form, Flynn Intel Group; I’m not sure if it is Killing Ed.)

The Empire of Deceit website also includes an interactive US map, with the heading, “Gülen’s Footprint Inside of the United States.” One can search by state– or “by issue”:

  • States with Active Networks
  • HB-1 Hiring by State
  • States with Suspect Property Deals
  • Charter Bonds Procured by the Gülen Organization
  • Regional Hub and Member States Identified

Time for those state- and federal-level forensic audits of Gülen-run charter schools.

fehtullah gulen  Fethullah Gülen


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Betsy DeVos Belatedly Discovers the 1983 Report, A Nation At Risk, and Gallup

On November 30, 2017, US ed sec Betsy DeVos addressed Jeb Bush’s ed reform organization, Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), at its national summit in Nashville, Tennessee.

DeVos was on the FEE board of directors until she was nominated for US secretary of education, and according to the Orlando Sentinel, DeVos, who owns a home in Vero Beach, doles out the political donations in the Sunshine State: “Florida politicians are among the biggest recipients of her largesse.”  DeVos has an established history of donating thousands of dollars to politicians who support school choice, and she and Bush are two ed reform peas in a pod.

Both Bush and DeVos are connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which promotes model legislation in several areas, including education (for quick background on ALEC in general and its education agenda, click here). Jeb Bush holds a lot of sway over ALEC’s education agenda. It was Bush’s FEE that convinced ALEC to pull back on formally opposing Common Core, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s ed reform package serves as the centerpiece for much of ALEC’s model legislation in education– including charter schools, vouchers, and virtual schools.

So, it is no wonder that DeVos spoke at Bush’s FEE, and that she pulled out the stops in such a comfy environment, even recycling one of her unkinder phrases to describe those who do not bow to her school choice wishes, “sycophants of the system.”

What I was surprised to read, however, was her decision to focus on the arguably warmed-over 1983 US Dept. of Ed report, A Nation At Risk:

In April 1983, A Nation At Risk had just been released. Most everyone here has heard of it. Commissioned by then-U.S. Secretary of Education Terrell Bell, it took a hard look at education in America.

The conclusion, as the report’s title hints, was anything but rosy. This is from the summary:

“The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity.”

And further:

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

That was nearly 35 years ago. And what has changed?

In 1983, A Nation At Risk found that on international tests, America was, quote, “never first or second.” Today, the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, shows America stuck in the middle of our international peers. We are being outpaced and outperformed by countries like China, Germany, Vietnam and the U.K.

We are a nation still at risk. We are a nation at greater risk.

This is unacceptable.

This is inexcusable.

And this is truly un-American.

We can – we must – do better.

As one might expect, DeVos attempts to leverage A Nation At Risk to promote her pet cause: school choice. Further along in her speech (but obviously the point):

Millions of kids today— right now— are trapped in schools that are failing them. Millions more are stuck in schools that are not meeting their individual needs. And their parents have no options, no choices, no way out.

Now, the interesting truth is that Reagan apparently dismissed the report until he realized the public was interested and that the report– which does not mention his ed agenda, including school choice– and that the popular report was politically useful. In fact, US ed sec Terrell Bell, who was responsible for the report, was omitted from the Rose Garden celebration because of his omission of Reagan’s agenda in the report. As the April 1988 New York Times reports:

”A Nation at Risk,” the report whose fifth anniversary was observed here today in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, already ranks as one of the most significant documents in the history of American public education.

For a variety of reasons – timing, style, content or just luck – that report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education touched enough nerves among Americans to become the most visible symbol of the need to improve primary and high schools since the Russians put Sputnik into space. …

At 35 pages long, the nation’s ”open letter to the American people” was a blatantly political treatise, more legal brief than scholarly analysis. Indeed, the authors, eager to spread the word about the ”rising tide of mediocrity” in American schools, pointedly ignored evidence from their own files that standardized test scores had already been rising for several years.

Their language was full of apocalyptic rhetoric and military analogies. ”If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today,” the document states on its opening page, ”we might have used it as an act of war.”

As a call to arms, ”A Nation At Risk” was neither original nor unique. Before 1983, pioneering states like Florida and Tennessee had already begun school improvement programs. Other national commissions were also contributing to what one educator at the time termed a ”rising tide of reports about schools.”

It was ”A Nation At Risk,” though, that caught the public’s imagination. Since April 1983 the Government has sold or given away 220,000 copies, and five million to six million more have been distributed through reprints in newspapers and other periodicals. Foreign translations include Japanese, Korean and Chinese. …

There are some ironies in this. Former Secretary of Education T. H. Bell, who appointed the national commission, frankly concedes that he expected a much more bullish report, and President Reagan’s aides threatened to cancel the Rose Garden reception for commission members. The aides were upset that the report did not even mention the White House’s priorities for education: abolishing the Department of Education, tuition tax credits and allowing organized prayer in school.

In that ceremony five years ago, President Reagan, who reportedly had not read the report, angered members of the commission by praising them in his remarks for their ”call for an end to Federal intrusion.” But within a few weeks, when polls started showing that the report had struck a responsive chord with American voters, Mr. Reagan turned his attention to the real message of the document and began to make effective political use of the issue of education reform. …

Mr. Bell said that the changes in the last five years have helped 70 percent of American students, but ”not the remaining 30 percent who are low-income and minority students.”

Such thinking has led to what some see as a ”third wave” of school reform: One that seeks not to make incremental changes in schools as they now exist but rather to alter some fundamental structures. For example, some school systems have begun to follow the lead of some automobile manufacturers and turn the running of schools over to ”teams” of teachers and principals working together.

One issue that is being revived by the five-year observances of the report is the role of the Federal Government in promoting some of the forces unleashed by ”A Nation at Risk.”

In his report, ”American Education: Making It Work,” Mr. Bennett essentially argues that the nation already knows ”what works” in education and that, with the exception of a bit more money for specialized schools or alternative means of hiring and dismissing teachers, there is no need for increased Federal spending. ”I don’t think the Federal role has to be brought into the conversation,” he said in an interview.

But others argue for a more muscular Federal presence. Mr. Bell has promoted an educational trust fund that would channel Federal aid to states under tight spending guidelines.

”That way you can give the Federal Government a stronger role and responsibility but still leave control up to the states and localities,” he said.

Mr. Bell, who has been critical of the Reagan Administration’s education policies, was not invited to today’s ceremony.

DeVos, who normally does not mention international test scores in her speeches (she has publicly stated, “I’m not a numbers person”), has apparently resorted to them in this speech in order to do what ed reformers do when citing America’s scores on international tests: Incite the public to act on the promoted agenda (in this case, the school choice that Terrell Bell purposely omitted from a report that Reagan tried to leverage politically before he even read it).

DeVos, who also disdains teachers unions (in the FEE speech, she uses the cliched term, “union bosses”), should realize that according to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), AFT president, Al Shanker, “embraced” the report “at the time of the report’s release”– which puts her on the same side as the union given her decades-late embrace of the same report.

One more issue raised in DeVos’ FEE speech:

In her attempt to move the public toward school choice, DeVos mentions “a recent Gallup poll”:

A recent Gallup poll showed the majority of all Americans are dissatisfied with the overall education system in our country.

Indeed, in 2017, Gallup notes that 52 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with K-12 education nationwide. However, Gallup also reports that in 2017, 79 percent are satisfied with their own child’s education:

Parents of school-aged children are much more satisfied with their own child’s education than Americans are with U.S. K-12 education in general. Seventy-nine percent of parents with children in K-12 say they are completely or somewhat satisfied with their oldest child’s education; 21% say they are dissatisfied.

The large gap between parents’ satisfaction with their child’s education and Americans’ views of education in general has been present as long as Gallup has asked these questions. At least two-thirds of U.S. parents have been satisfied with their own child’s education since Gallup began asking this question in 1999. Satisfaction levels have grown since 2013 — when 67% said they were satisfied with their own child’s school — reaching 79% this year.

Anyone familiar with Gallup polling on ed satisfaction at the national level versus ed satisfaction at the local level knows that local-level satisfaction is always higher.

But DeVos does not mention higher levels of satisfaction at the local level, for it does not serve her school-choice-promoting purposes.

Regarding the disparity in public satisfaction with education nationally versus locally, Gallup offers this interesting “bottom line”:

Bottom Line

Satisfaction with K-12 education in the U.S. has edged up this year after dipping last year, largely because of an improvement in Republicans’ views. The bump in GOP satisfaction is likely related to Donald Trump’s election and to Republicans’ taking control of both houses of Congress, with a Republican appointee at the helm of the Education Department. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a longtime advocate of charter schools and education vouchers, signaling a shift from some of the priorities of the previous administration.

Generally, though, satisfaction with U.S. education is at the same level it has been for the past decade. A similarly stable trend is seen in U.S. parents’ overall satisfaction. Americans have been mostly satisfied with their own family’s schooling for the nearly 20 years Gallup has asked this question, underscoring the general tendency for Americans to rate things close to home more positively than they rate the same things on a national level — including local representatives as opposed to Congress more generally, crime levels, the economy and healthcare.

The disparity in this situation also may reflect media attention paid to national education developments, such as the debate over charter schools, education vouchers and public tax dollars used to pay for education expenses. Those headlines may contribute to a more negative view of the U.S. education landscape, while parents tend to see their own school’s influence at home and view its effects more approvingly.

By reviving the crisis rhetoric of A Nation At Risk, DeVos is promoting a more negative view of the national education scene. However, based upon the 20-year history of Gallup polling on education, she must contend with the close-to-home reality of majority satisfaction with American education.

Nevertheless, as she has done in the past, DeVos could simply publicly dismiss these numbers by stating that she is “not a numbers person.” Or she could just fail to mention them, just like she chose to do on November 30, 2017, at bosom-ALEC-buddy Jeb Bush’s FEE.

betsy devos 13

Betsy DeVos speaks at Bush’s FEE in TN


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.