Skip to content

Seeking Your Assistance

Hello, all. I am running a wee bit of a fundraising campaign to pay for renewal of my access to nonprofit tax information via the site, Citizenaudit.org. The annual fee is $350. My current membership expires May 05, 2017.

I often include nonprofit tax information in my blog posts– and I often link to the tax forms to enable public access.

In total, I am hoping to raise $380 (the extra $30 is for online fees associated with my campaign.)

Please visit my fundraising page at GoFundMe.com, and thank you for considering a contribution. 🙂

–Mercedes

Betsy DeVos Blindly Promotes Choice Without Considering Negative Fiscal Impact

On April 20, 2017, US ed sec Betsy DeVos and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten visited Van Wert City Schools, a small school district in Ohio.

Also on April 20, 2017, DeVos published this opinion piece in Cleveland.com. As one might expect, DeVos used her op-ed to pitch school choice.

Van Wert City Schools is a small district. How much “choice” can it support and still be fiscally sound?

DeVos offers no such advice on this front. Instead, she offers what she considers a fine example of a public school district incorporating choice: Miami Dade County Public Schools (Florida):

Many public school districts across the country already offer various forms of school choice. I saw this recently in Miami-Dade, Florida, where the public school district offers parents more than 500 choice programs, including magnet, charter and advanced curriculum schools. These in-district options help students excel and grow, putting them on paths to higher education and good careers.

Miami-Dade’s model demonstrates that more options foster collaboration, not conflict, between its schools, with students and parents reaping the rewards.

In DeVos’ mind, choice is simple: More options foster collaboration.

More choice is better. Period. Concerns about how much choice a school district can fiscally sustain don’t enter the DeVos pro-choice op-ed.

But let us consider a comparison of the Miami Dade County and Van Wert City school districts to venture at least a little way into concerns DeVos ignores.

First of all, note the sheer size of Miami Dade County Public Schools. From the school district website:

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is the fourth largest school district in the United States, comprised of 392 schools, 345,000 students and over 40,000 employees. Located at the southern end of the Florida peninsula, the school district stretches over 2,000 square miles of diverse and vibrant communities ranging from rural and suburban to urban cities and municipalities. A truly global community, district students speak 56 different languages and represent 160 countries.

Miami Dade County Public Schools: A district that spans over 2,000 square miles with an average of 173 students per square mile.

Too, on average, Miami Dade County has 880 students per school and an average of 102 employees per school.

Thus, with well over a quarter of a million students, Miami Dade County Public Schools can apparently support its almost 400 schools, many of which are charter schools.

Now let us consider size of Van Wert City: 7.61 square miles, with 1,959 K-12 students.

Van Wert City serves 257 K-12 students and has four schools already in place to do so.

That means on average, Van Wert City has 490 students enrolled per school.

Miami Dade, with all of its school choice, can still enroll almost twice as many students per school as can Van Wert City without it.

Moreover, keep in mind that when student enrollment drops, so does school funding. So, let’s turn this enrollment issue on its head:

In order for Miami Dade County Public Schools to have comparable average per-school enrollment to Van Wert City, Miami Dade would have to increase its number of schools from 392 to 704 (i.e., 345,000 / 490).

How would having 704 schools fiscally impact Miami Dade?

Now there’s a question, the answer to which might give Betsy DeVos some inkling of a clue as to the financial concerns faced by Van Wert City Schools.

______________________________________________________________

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?.

both books

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

Ohio’s Thomas B. Fordham Charter School Grades: Um…

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute (TBF) has been authorizing charter schools in Ohio since 2004– for 13 years now.

TBF currently has 11 schools.

Of course, the goal is excellence. The TBF web address is, after all, edexcellence.net.

From the TBF page on Ohio charters:

In 2004, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation was approved by the Ohio Department of Education to serve as a sponsor of community schools- making us the first nonprofit organization in the Buckeye State to acquire such a responsibility. For over a decade we have sought to improve school choices for needy families, provide individual grants to support the creation and improvement of charter schools, and support district wide school reforms in and around our hometown of Dayton, Ohio. …

We approach charter school sponsorship the way we’ve approached all of our endeavors nationally and in Ohio: dedicated to accountability, transparency, and responsiveness. As a sponsor, we believe that in exchange for the freedom to teach and operate independently, schools are responsible for producing results (accountability) and providing information about their activities to those who seek it (transparency). These are the keys necessary to ensuring that every student who comes to our schools makes the grade.

Ensuring that every student who comes to our schools makes the grade.

Now that sounds like EdExcellence.

Speaking of grades, let’s look at some info from the 2015-16 Ohio school report cards for the TBF-sponsored charter schools. The info below was obtained using the Ohio school report cards search engine.

Each report card includes two grades, one for “achievement,” and another for “gap closing.” The achievement grade is itself comprised of two grades, a percentage on the “performance index” and a percentage of “indicators met.” “Gap closing” is apparently tied to a percentage of “annual measurable objectives.”

Below are the definitions of these terms as they appear on the report cards (with my understanding of subcategories parenthetically inserted):

The Achievement component represents the number of students who passed the state tests (apparently the “performance index”) and how well they performed on them (apparently the “indicators met.”)

The Gap Closing component shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations for our most vulnerable populations of students in English language arts, math and graduation (apparently completely based on “annual measurable objectives.”

There is also a component grade for “progress,” or a “value added,” that is subdivided into four grades: “overall,” “gifted,” “lowest 20 percent in Achievement,” and “students with disabilities.”

The report card definition of “progress”:

The Progress component looks closely at the growth that all students are making based on their past performances.

Schools with lower elementary grade levels have a component grade for K-3 Literacy directly based on a percentage of K-3 literacy improvement:

The K-3 Literacy component looks at how successful the school is at getting struggling readers on track to proficiency in third grade and beyond.

Schools with high-school grade levels include a component grade for “graduation rate,” which is comprised of percentage of students graduating in four years and percentage graduating in five years. The focal graduating class is from the previous year (i.e., the 2015-16 report cards focus on the Class of 2015) and whether the students were freshman four years earlier (i.e., in 2012) or five years earlier (i.e., in 2011).

There is one final grade, “prepared for success”:

Whether training in a technical field or preparing for work or college, the Prepared for Success component looks at how well prepared Ohio’s students are for all future opportunities.

Clicking the “prepared for success” link at the top of a report card yields this additional information:

Number of students that earned a remediation free score on all parts of the ACT or SAT, earned an honors diploma, and/or earned an industry-recognized credential.

The number of “bonus” students that count an additional 0.3 bonus points each, because they did the above and also earned a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam; earned a 4 or higher on at least one IB exam; and/or earned at least three college credits before leaving high school.

And, for the 2015-16 report cards:

What Percentage of the 2013 Graduating Class Entered College within Two Years?

Columbus Collegiate Academy

  • Achievement: D
    • Performance Index: D
    • Indicators Met: F
  • Gap Closing: F
    • Annual Measurable Objectives: F
  • Progress: A
    • Overall: A
    • Gifted: NR (no result)
    • Lowest 20% in Achievement: A
    • Students with Disabilities: A

Columbus Collegiate Academy West

  • Achievement: D
    • Performance Index: D
    • Indicators Met: F
  • Gap Closing: F
    • Annual Measurable Objectives: F
  • Progress: B
    • Overall: B
    • Gifted: NR
    • Lowest 20% in Achievement: A
    • Students with Disabilities: C

Dayton Leadership Academies: Early Learning Academy

  • K-3 Literacy: D
    • K-3 Literacy Improvement: D

Dayton Leadership Academies: Dayton View

  • Achievement: F
    • Performance Index: F
    • Indicators Met: F
  • Gap Closing: F
    • Annual Measurable Objectives: F
  • Progress: F
    • Overall: F
    • Gifted: NR
    • Lowest 20% in Achievement: F
    • Students with Disabilities: F

DECA Prep

  • Achievement: D
    • Performance Index: D
    • Indicators Met: F
  • Gap Closing: F
    • Annual Measurable Objectives: F
  • Progress: D
    • Overall: D
    • Gifted: NR
    • Lowest 20% in Achievement: D
    • Students with Disabilities: NR
  • K-3 Literacy: F
    • K-3 Literacy Improvement: F

KIPP Columbus

  • Achievement: D
    • Performance Index: D
    • Indicators Met: F
  • Gap Closing: F
    • Annual Measurable Objectives: F
  • Progress: B
    • Overall: A
    • Gifted: NR
    • Lowest 20% in Achievement: A
    • Students with Disabilities: C
  • K-3 Literacy: C
    • K-3 Literacy Improvement: C

Phoenix Community Learning Center

  • Achievement: D
    • Performance Index: D
    • Indicators Met: F
  • Gap Closing: F
    • Annual Measurable Objectives: F
  • Progress: C
    • Overall: C
    • Gifted: NR
    • Lowest 20% in Achievement: C
    • Students with Disabilities: C
  • K-3 Literacy: D
    • K-3 Literacy Improvement: D

Sciotoville Community School

  • Achievement: F
    • Performance Index: D
    • Indicators Met: F
  • Gap Closing: F
    • Annual Measurable Objectives: F
  • Progress: B
    • Overall: C
    • Gifted: NR
    • Lowest 20% in Achievement: B
    • Students with Disabilities: C
  • Graduation Rate: C
    • %age of Students Graduated in Four Years: C
    • %age of Students Graduated in Five Years: D
  • Prepared for Success: D

Sciotoville Elementary Academy

  • Achievement: D
    • Performance Index: D
    • Indicators Met: F
  • Gap Closing: F
    • Annual Measurable Objectives: F
  • Progress: C
    • Overall: C
    • Gifted: NR
    • Lowest 20% in Achievement: NR
    • Students with Disabilities: NR
  • K-3 Literacy: F
    • K-3 Literacy Improvement: F

United Preparatory Academy

  • K-3 Literacy: D
    • K-3 Literacy Improvement: D

Village Preparatory School: Woodland Hills Campus

  • Achievement: D
    • Performance Index: D
    • Indicators Met: F
  • Gap Closing: F
    • Annual Measurable Objectives: F
  • Progress: B
    • Overall: C
    • Gifted: NR
    • Lowest 20% in Achievement: C
    • Students with Disabilities: A
  • K-3 Literacy: F
    • K-3 Literacy Improvement: F

Well. There you have it.

TBF has been in the Ohio charter school authorizing game for 13 years.

None of the 11 TBF charter schools have even a C in “achievement.” And “gap closing”? FFFFFFFForget about it.

Still, TBF seeks to expand the number of, uh, “high performing” charters. From the TBF Ohio charters web page:

Fordham Application for Sponsorship is Now Available

We are currently seeking to add new schools to our portfolio. Individuals or organizations with the capacity to start and sustain academically high performing schools in underserved communities are encouraged to apply. We also welcome applications from existing Ohio schools seeking a new authorizer. To learn more about the application process please visit our sponsorship application page.

Edexcellence, folks. Edexcellence.

_________________________________________________________

Want to read about the *edexcellent* 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?.

both books

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

Will Fordham Institute Tenure Die?

On April 19, 2017, former president and board member emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham (TBF) Institute, Chester Finn, published a piece entitled, “Will Teacher Tenure Die?”

Below is an excerpt:

Tenure arrived in K–12 education as a trickle-down from higher ed. Will the demise of tenure follow a similar sequence? Let us earnestly pray for it—for tenure’s negatives today outweigh its positives—but let us not count on it. …

It’s no secret that the HR practices of private and charter schools—neither of which typically practices tenure—work far better than those of district schools from the standpoint of both school leaders and their students. That’s because the leadership team can generally employ (and deploy) the instructors they deem best suited to their pupils and they’re not obligated to retain any who don’t do a satisfactory job. They can be nimble in regrouping, restaffing, and redirecting their schools—and everyone who works there knows that’s how it goes. Nobody has a right to continued employment untethered to their own performance and the school’s needs. The employer has the right to change the shape, nature, and size of the organization, to redeploy human resources, to substitute capital for labor, to replace elbow grease and sitzfleisch with technology, and to hire and fire according to shifting pupil needs and organizational priorities. …

Though often framed in term of “making it easier to fire bad teachers,” that’s not the main point of such reforms, nor should it be. The main point is to make it possible to run the kinds of schools that kids deserve to attend at a cost the taxpayer can afford to pay—and to bring the profession of school-teaching into the twenty-first century.

Finn’s piece is much longer. In it, he confuses K12 teacher due process rights with postsecondary tenure. In her April 20, 2017, post, education historian and former TBF board member, Diane Ravitch, addresses Finn’s confusion, including his error concerning K12 tenure copying postsecondary tenure. She also notes the following:

What Checker [Finn] doesn’t show is the alleged benefits of eliminating job security. …

At a time of a growing national teacher shortage, does it make sense to eliminate job security for teachers, the promise that they will not be fired capriciously?

The challenge today is how to recruit, support, and retain teachers. Checker offers no suggestions to answer these needs.

But Finn has his own tenure, 20 years of a handsome paycheck rolling in, from his TBF nonprofit.

  Chester “Checker” Finn

Finn is a (more than) double-decade think-tanker. As such, his fiscal well being is untouched by his own market-centered ed reform opinions.

He sits in a well-financed armchair calling football plays.

He advises on health and nutrition because he once took some vitamins.

He writes and promotes recipes simply based on his experience of once using an oven.

You see, Finn was once in a classroom. It was a brief “once”: Finn taught social studies as a full time intern teacher in Newton High School (Massachusetts) in 1965-66. He decided at that time that teaching was not for him. (See page 56 of Common Core Dilemma.)

Indeed, Finn decided he was much more suited to telling others how K12 education should be run.

He sits in the armchair.

He once took the vitamins.

He once used the oven.

So, let’s put him in charge of a remodeled,now-ed-reform think tank in 1997; keep him in charge until 2014, at which time Finn chooses to retire and hand the TBF presidency to faithful sidekick with zero classroom experience, Michael Petrilli (though Petrilli’s Linkedin bio reads as though he has been TBF president July 2005 – present”).

However, Finn did not leave TBF. No need. He is now emeritus. And in his TBF emeritus role, Finn continues to receive an annual income that no K12 public school teacher realistically expects to touch– and all for selling corporate ed reform, including writing opinion pieces like “Will Teacher Tenure Die?” and “studies” like this propaganda promoting Common Core.

Finn’s is a low-risk tenure, folks. He faithfully promotes the corporate reform agenda, and the philanthropic money continues rolling in.

According to the TBF funding and finances page, “recent funders” (not including individuals) are

Bloomberg Philanthropies/America Achieves
Brookhill Institute of Mathematics
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation
CityBridge Foundation
Collaborative for Student Success
College Board
Doris and Donald Fisher Fund
Education Reform Now
GE Foundation
Hertog Foundation
Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace
Kern Family Foundation
Laura and John Arnold Foundation
Leona B. and Harry M. Helmsley Trust
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
Nord Family Foundation
Noyce Foundation
Overdeck Family Foundation
Searle Freedom Trust
The Achelis and Bodman Foundations
The Bernard Lee Schwartz Foundation
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
The Houston Endowment
The Joyce Foundation
The Koret Foundation
The Kovner Foundation
The Louis Calder Foundation
The Lovett & Ruth Peters Foundation
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
The Randolph Foundation
The Searle Freedom Trust
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation

The TBF funding and finances page also includes TBF tax forms from 2011 to 2015, for two nonprofits: TBF Institute and TBF Foundation.

Note that TBF the Institute appeared in 2002. Prior to that, only TBF the Foundation existed. The Foundation still exists, but the primary TBF nonprofit is TBF Institute. Note also that TBF Foundation and TBF Institute share a board. The big funding for the Foundation came in 1995 when the founder, Thelma Pruett, died without an heir and $40-50 million went to the Foundation. Finn’s grandfather was Pruett’s attorney, and his father preceded him on the Foundation board. Finn’s father is a trustee on a number of the tax forms; also, one can read about this in chapter 22 of Finn’s book, Troublemaker.

For those who wish to peruse them, I include TBF tax forms from 2001-2015 (Foundation) and 2002-2015 (Institute) at the end of this post.

For now, let us briefly consider the money available to Finn and his think tank, TBF, with focus on both Institute and Foundation when it comes to some general revenue figures as well as both Finn’s and Petrilli’s compensation.

Both Finn and Petrilli have what one might accurately term “TBF tenure”: Soft, think-tank employment blissfully exempt from any negative outcomes related to the reforms they peddle.

Handsomely paid.

In for life.

TBF Foundation:

  • 2001: End of year total assets: $39.8 million ($32 million in corporate stocks)
  • 2002: End of year total assets: $32.5 million ($27.1 million in corporate stock)
  • 2003: End of year total assets: $40.8 million ($40 million in corporate stocks)
  • 2004: End of year total assets: $44 million ($40.3 million in corporate stocks)
  • 2005: End of year total assets: $45.3 million ($40.3 million in corporate stocks)
  • 2006: End of year total assets: $50 million ($39.7 million in corporate stocks)
  • 2007: End of year total assets: $58 million ($38.3 million in corporate stocks)
  • 2008: End of year total assets: $40.5 million ($21.2 million in corporate stocks)
  • 2009: End of year total assets: $45 million ($15.6 million in corporate stocks)
  • 2010: End of year total assets: $48 million ($15.8 million in corporate stocks)
  • 2011: End of year total assets: $45.9 million
  • 2012: End of year total assets: $48.3 million
  • 2013: End of year total assets: $50 million
  • 2014: End of year total assets: $52.8 million
  • 2015: End of year total assets: $49.8 million

TBF Institute gross receipts:

  • 2002: $7.8 million
  • 2003: $1 million
  • 2004: $903,000
  • 2005: $1.7 million
  • 2006: $2 million
  • 2007: $2.3 million
  • 2008: $2 million
  • 2009: $2.7 million
  • 2010: $2.8 million
  • 2011: $3.4 million
  • 2012: $2.9 million
  • 2013: $4.5 million
  • 2014: $3.7 million
  • 2015: $4.9 million

Finn’s compensation (Institute and Foundation):

  • 2001: $147,715: $128,000, plus $16,320 to employee benefits plan, plus $3,395 expense account
  • 2002: $215,272: $189,997, plus $21,428 to employee benefit plan, plus $3,847 expense account
  • 2003: $225,219: $200,000, plus $24,000 to employee benefit plan, plus $1,219 expense account
  • 2004: $226,683: $200,000, plus $24,000 to employee benefit plan, plus $2,683 expense account
  • 2005: $248,590: $224,590, plus $22,000 to employee pension plan, plus $2,590 expense account
  • 2006: $246,000: $224,000, plus $22,000 to employee pension plan
  • 2007: $248,000: $224,000, plus $24,000 to employee pension plan
  • 2008: $227,617: $203,106, plus $24,414 in “other compensation”
  • 2009: $224,000: $200,000, plus $24,000 in “other compensation”
  • 2010: $224,984: $200,000, plus $24,984 in “other compensation”
  • 2011: $222,368: $197,954, plus $24,414 in “other compensation”
  • 2012: $226,808: $201,954, plus $24,854 in “other compensation”
  • 2013: $236,235: $210,000, plus $26,235 in “other compensation”
  • 2014: $251,911: $223,958, plus $27,953 in “other compensation”
  • 2015: $214,169: $190,000, plus $24,169 in “other compensation”

Petrilli’s compensation (Institute and Foundation):

  • 2005: $67,416: $65,118, plus $2,298 expense account
  • 2006: $148,270: $134,260, plus $14,010 to employee pension plan
  • 2007: $163,120: $147,810, plus $15,310 to employee pension plan
  • 2008: $174,821: $150,000, plus $24,821 in “other compensation”
  • 2009: $182,200: $163,750, plus $18,450 in “other compensation”
  • 2010: $198,616: $168,626, plus $29,990 in “other compensation”
  • 2011: $205,775: $175,732, plus $30,043 in “other compensation”
  • 2012: $213,411: $183,956, plus $29,455 in “other compensation”
  • 2013: $237,375: $200,000, plus $37,375 in “other compensation”
  • 2014: $258,921: $220,833, plus $38,088 in “other compensation”
  • 2015: $316,984: $270,750, plus $46,234 in “other compensation”

So, here’s a question:

Will TBF tenure end?

Let’s borrow (and slightly modify) Finn’s words:

Tenure arrived at TBF Institute as a trickle-down from TBF Foundation. Will the demise of tenure follow a similar sequence? Let us earnestly pray for it—for the corporate ed reform think-tankery negatives outweigh its positives—but let us not count on it.

So long as there are funders, there will be a corporate ed reform market for authoritative emptiness and the corresponding ignorance that it breeds.

That’s all right.

I’m not planning on going anywhere.

I have public ed blogger tenure.

***

TBF Institute tax forms (2002 – 2015):

TBF Foundation tax returns (2001-2015):

_________________________________________________________

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?.

both books

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

James Kirylo: “That Time of Year: Spring and Testing”

Below is a guest post by my valued colleague, James Kirylo, who taught at Southeastern Louisiana University before accepting a position at the University of South Carolina. He has also taught at the University of South Alabama, Universidad Evángelica del Paraguay, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

  James Kirylo

As I read Kirylo’s post, I noted its timeliness.

The flowers are blooming and the lawnmowers are humming all over my neighborhood.

Must be testing season.

That Time of Year: Spring and Testing

by

 James D. Kirylo

It is that time of the year again.  The unfolding of nature with its brilliance in color, its sweet aroma, and the emergence of new life gives pause and illuminates all that is good.  It is also that time of year when public schools across South Carolina—indeed the nation—energetically announce standardized test “kick-off” time with pep rallies, balloon send-offs, and a host of other activities, further reducing what schooling has sadly become.  Spring is in the air.

Though spring and the birth of new life have had their way since the beginning of time, the intense association of testing and spring is a relatively new phenomenon.  Particularly since 1983 when a major document titled A Nation at Risk purported that public education was doing a mediocre job, which was followed by subsequent school reform efforts (e.g., No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and others), there has been a proliferation of standardized testing in American public education.

Whereas in 1950 those who completed high school took only approximately three standardized tests through their entire K-12 experience, and whereas in 1991 those who completed their K-12 experience took an average of 18-21 standardized tests, students today upon completion of their K-12 school experience can take anywhere between 60-100 standardized tests.  In short, more than 100 million standardized tests are administered yearly across the U.S., annually costing the states approximately 1.7 billion dollars.

This intense focus on testing and its results have moved into the realm of obsession, so much so that we now refer to “high-stakes” testing simply because they are becoming the sole criteria on how we assess and evaluate our children, teachers, administrators, and school districts.  In short, the “reform” movement provoked by A Nation at Risk can be characterized as one that is now controlled by the profit-making testing industrialized complex.

Truly, it has become disturbingly normalized in explaining reform efforts with detached terminology such as outcomes, ratings, scores, performance, monetary rewards, school takeovers, school closures, competition, and comparing and contrasting.  As a result we have created an educational system that is analogous to describing a for-profit corporation, which ultimately results in the creation of “winners” and “losers.”

This corporate-speak loses sight of the humanity behind this type of discourse, which works to objectify school-aged youth, fosters a constricted view of what is educationally important, and largely blames teachers if students don’t “perform” to some kind of arbitrary expectation.

Make no mistake, this testing environment has placed school-aged youngsters under unnecessary stress, where many are fearful, dealing with bouts of panic, crying spells, apathy, sleeplessness, and depression.  Therefore, it ought not be of any great surprise that droves of parents from around the country have opted-out their children from taking these tests, a number among which I include myself.

And perhaps ironically, this testing movement has yielded very little positive results in improving our schools.  In fact, one could argue that our nation is more at risk than it was 30 years ago, still leaving scores of children left behind. Indeed, illiteracy remains high, millions of children still live in poverty, and countless of youngsters are still attending classes with limited resources in schools that are old and dilapidated.

Of course, we aren’t able to constructively work on solutions unless we recognize that there is an awareness of the problem.  That is, unless policy-makers and other decision-making entities realize that a test-centric environment is ultimately unhealthy for our youth, we will continue down this spiral of alienating many of them from opportunity, equity, and a developmentally appropriate educational experience.

To that end, as we consider school aged youth during this time of year, perhaps the moment has come—this spring—that we rethink how we assess and evaluate our school-aged youth.  In fact, if we exert the same amount of energy, fervor, and expense on rectifying structural inequalities as we do on our testing fixation, and if we would celebrate schooling with pep rallies and balloon send-offs with which we genuinely recognize the individual gifts, talents, and uniqueness of all children through multiple fashions, I would argue we would see an emergence of new life in our schools.  Spring is in the air.

***

James D. Kirylo is associate professor of education at the University of South Carolina.  His latest book is titled Teaching with Purpose: An Inquiry into the Who, Why, and How We Teach (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).

__________________________________________________________

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?.

both books

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

La. BESE Member James Garvey’s School Grading “Lie”: Read His Full Speech Here

On March 29, 2017, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) held a 6 1/2-hour special meeting on the state plan to be submitted to the US Department of Education in April 2017 in compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Most attendees thought the plan was being rushed without having been properly vetted, including the Louisiana School Boards Association.

One of the components of Louisiana’s ESSA plan is a phasing out what White calls the school performance score “curve” in two years, and a raising of the criteria for school grading year by year until 2025. (In 2015, White called the school grading a “baseline year,” to be raised over ten years. That was when the state still used the term “Common Core” and when students took a “Common Core exam” that was PARCC-like.)

Despite school performance score/ letter grade modifying and phasing, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) unequivocally promotes school letter grades, including the measuring of “improvement,” on its school letter grades page:

SCHOOL LETTER GRADES

Since 1999, the state has issued School Performance Scores for public schools, which are based on student achievement data. To clearly communicate the quality of school performance to families and the public, Louisiana adopted letter grades (A-F). All schools with sufficient data receive school performance scores.

  • Elementary schools (K-6):
    • 100 percent of the school grade is based on student achievement on annual assessments in English language arts, math, science, and social studies

    Schools may also earn points for significant improvement with students who are academically behind.

  • Middle schools (7-8):
    • 95 percent of the school grade is based on student achievement on annual assessments
    • Five percent of the school grade is based on credits earned through the end of students’ 9th grade year.

    Schools may also earn points for significant improvement with students who are academically behind.

  • High schools (9-12): Half of the school grade is based on student achievement on state assessments and the other half on graduation performance.
    • 25 percent is attributed to student performance on the ACT or WorkKeys
    • 25 percent is attributed to student performance on End-of-Course assessments
    • 25 percent is attributed to the strength of diploma index, which rewards achievements like Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exam credit
    • 25 percent is attributed to the cohort graduation rate, or the percentage of students who started 9th grade and graduated on-time within four years

Schools may also earn additional points for significant improvement with students who are academically behind.

Note that BESE approves the school performance scoring system and associated school letter grading system.

Note also that bias and inflation in the Louisiana school grading system has been documented on this blog (e.g., here and here and here).

Note also that BESE member James Garvey promoted Louisiana’s school grading as he was campaigning in October 2015 for reelection to BESE– the same month that I wrote this post about the inflation in school grading and quoted former BESE member Lottie Beebe about the inevitable crash that will occur when the inflated-school-grade rug is pulled out:

Dr. Schneider, thank you for your continued efforts to educate the public and the education community, for that matter. (You get it; I get it; and I am certain a number of other folks get it! Often, White and his supporters state that parents understand letter grades. We get that, also!) However, does the general public understand the methodology used to award these letter grades? While I realize the hard work and dedication of those within many schools, this “celebratory success” will be short-lived! At some point, there will be notable declines in student achievement due to the “inflated grades” and a failure to maintain progress points, etc. This is when these very schools being celebrated today will be vilified for failing to maintain or increase student achievement. No argument can then be made due to the success celebrated today! …and at a later date—-bamm! I acknowledge it is a normal response to accept the “flowers” when they are presented; sadly, they are going to “wilt” at some point!

In October 2015, Garvey said nothing about school grade inflation. According to nola.com, Garvey only promoted Louisiana’s school grading:

When asked how the state could improve scores on the ACT exam, Barrios, a former gifted-student teacher, turned the question around. “First of all, the premise is completely wrong,” she said, adding that it was ridiculous to hang so much on a single test.

Garvey, a lawyer, responded by praising the board’s work to put in place a system of school letter grades that let parents see exactly how good a school is or isn’t.

A second October 2015 nola.com article featuring Garvey’s campaign positions includes the following:

Increase transparency and accountability for education results by maintaining our current letter grading system for schools and districts.

No word about any opposition, reservation, or even slight hesitancy concerning Louisiana’s school grading system as misinforming parents.

So, imagine the surprise of many, including members of the St. Tammany Parish School Board (Garvey’s district) when Garvey waxed contrary at the March 29, 2017, BESE special meeting in long-winded,  tones familiar in barrooms in the wee morning hours:

Garvey begins at time 4:24:55:

I’d like to say on this issue [Louisiana’s ESSA state plan]… it’s hard to pick a good place to start. I guess I will start by saying that we have been lying to our parents, and lying to ourselves, and lying to taxpayers, and, most importantly, we’ve been lying to the children of Louisiana.

We’ve been telling parents, taxpayers, ourselves, and telling children that their schools are A schools when a lot of those schools, if they were scored in other states or under higher accountability systems that other states are using, they would be B schools or C schools.

Similarly, we’ve been telling parents that their B schools are doing great because they’re B schools. In other states, they’d be C schools and D schools. And you can go through the same thing with the other grades.

One of the biggest controversies that I think this issue contains is the clarity and honesty that it will create  and give to the parents about how their schools are doing, how well they’re doing or how well the schools are not doing.

This “lie” as I called it, I called it a lie because I know that other states have higher accountability systems, more vigorous accountability systems. I believe that all of the BESE members [know] it. Yet we are putting these false letter grades out there. In fact, even under this plan that moves us to where we will be on a similar grading system with other states, we’re going to take eight more years before we stop this lie that we’re telling the parents and that we’re telling our children.

This lie really hit home when I got a phone call from a parent who was a friend of mine a couple of years ago asking me about one of the local schools in Metairie. It was an A-rated school, one of the top A-rated schools in the state. And the parent asked me, “Is this a good school? Should I send my child to this school?”

I could have taken the easy way out and told the parent, “Well, go look at the letter grade. It’s an A. Of course, it’s got to be a good school.” But what I knew was that that was a magnet school, and it was able to draw students from around the parish, the best from around the parish.

I told her, “I can’t tell you if that is a good school or if that is a good school for your child in particular because I don’t know what the school is doing with those students once they get there. I know that there are good students in this school, but I also know that there are good students that are enrolling in that school. I can’t tell you how much they’re growing while they’re in that school.”

This plan, a big part of this plan will fix a lot of that problem.

Garvey continues speaking about how “delay will hurt it,” with “it” being Louisiana’s ESSA plan. (Feel free to listen to that Garvey spiel at time 4:29:10). But let us maintain our focus on Garvey’s “I could have taken the easy way out” hammer-home-the-“lie”:

Garvey is apparently unaware that anyone could feel betrayed by his now calling a lie what he for years actively promoted.

He was wrong.

On Thursday, April 13, 2017, the St. Tammany Parish School Board passed the following resolution declaring “an irreparable breach of trust” between the school board and Garvey:

RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) Representative James (Jim) Garvey, who serves District 1, including all of St Tammany Parish, in a public meeting of the same board on March 29, 2017 stated that he and the other members of BESE have been “lying to parents” about the public school accountability system that BESE mandated all Louisiana public school districts use; and

WHEREAS, this accountability system that was publicly deemed a “lie” by BESE member Mr. Garvey was developed by State Superintendent of Education John White, who was appointed by Jim Garvey and other BESE members; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Garvey voted for and has actively promoted this accountability system as late as 2016 when he touted its successes in his bid to be re-elected to BESE; and

WHEREAS, if the current accountability system developed by Superintendent White is termed a “lie” as publicly stated by BESE representative Mr. Garvey, then the St. Tammany Parish School Board can only conclude the new Louisiana plan for the Every Student Succeeds ACT (ESSA), also developed by Superintendent White and his staff and rushed for approval by BESE members including Mr. Garvey, would be highly questionable; and

WHEREAS, despite widespread requests for delay from education professionals throughout the state, including numerous School Board members, the Louisiana School Board Association (LSBA), the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASS), and the Louisiana Association of Principals (LAP), the state prematurely submitted to the U.S. Department of Education Louisiana’s plan for ESSA, which was formed on the basis of the highly questionable accountability system that Mr. Garvey publicly called a “lie to parents”; and

WHEREAS, the St. Tammany Parish School Board sadly concludes that there is an irreparable breach of trust between the St. Tammany Parish School Board, many educational professionals, school boards across the state and Mr. Garvey, as demonstrated by his own public admission; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that if Mr. Garvey truly stands behind his statement that the current Louisiana accountability system, that he has supported for several years, is a “lie to parents”, then this Board believes Mr. Garvey should take responsibility for these actions by resigning his BESE position, and any other individual involved in developing this flawed and inferior accountability system that was mandated upon all Louisiana public schools systems should take responsibility for these actions by resigning his or her position, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that St. Tammany Parish School Board asks Mr. Garvey to appear in a public forum at a time and location of the Board’s choosing to explain his actions for supporting this flawed accountability system for so long; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution be to spread upon the official minutes of this Board, with copies being sent to Jim Garvey, BESE, District 1 Representative, all BESE members, State Superintendent of Education John White, LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard, LASS President Superintendent Hollis Milton, and LAP Executive Director Debra Schum.

When I first received the above resolution file, I thought it concerned the fact that in 2016, Garvey signed off on a falsified certificate granting John White ed leader 3 status even though White does not have the requisite five years of teaching experience.

Another Garvey-White “lie.”

 James Garvey

____________________________________________________________

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?.

both books

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

Easter 2017: Sometimes You Just Have to Leave Your Water Pot

Today is Easter.

Most of the posts that I write concern education reform. However, a handful are holiday posts– like this one.

Since it is Easter, in this post, I focus on Jesus Christ. It is certainly up to you to decide to continue reading. No coercion here.

I find that one of the most thought-provoking stories in the bible is Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well in the middle of the day (John 4). The story fascinates me on several levels. The first is that Jesus was a man, in a culture centered on men, and yet he held a full conversation with a woman, a conversation that he initiated.

Second, this woman was not even a Jewish woman. She was a Samaritan, and Jews hated Samaritans and vice-versa.

Third, the time of day that this woman came to draw water– noon, or the hot part of the day– indicates that she was an outcast among her own people. Notice that she also comes alone. No other women come with her, and no others are mentioned as being at the well during the meeting between Jesus and this woman.

Fourth, the likely reason that this woman is an outcast among her own people concerns her lifestyle. During her conversation with Jesus, the woman tells him that she has no husband, to which Christ responds, “You are right to say you have no husband because you have had five husbands, and the man you currently live with is not your husband” (my paraphrase of John 4:17-18).

Even in modern America, people do a double take when a person has been married five times– and not an affirming double take, at that.

So, if one considers the cultural norms in place at the time, the fact that Jesus holds a conversation with this woman is a profound statement about His character– and about his desire to help this woman find the real water for which she thirsts: a relationship with Him.

And He initiates.

All the while, Jesus’ disciples have been on an errand to find lunch.

When they return and see Jesus speaking to this nothing woman (in their estimation), they are shocked, but none are bold enough to ask him why he did so.

One could flip this disciple surprise around and note that Jesus was willing to risk what others thought of him in order to connect with a social outcast.

All He wanted to do was assure her that none of her failure mattered to Him and that to Him, she was valuable.

He told her that He is the Messiah.

It made such an impression on her that she left her water pot and ran home to tell others about her encounter.

Happy Easter.

____________________________________________________________