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Betsy DeVos’ USDOE Issues a Top-Down, Forged, “Collective Bargaining” Edict for USDOE Employees

On March 12, 2018, Betsy DeVos’ US Department of Education (USDOE) issued a “collective bargaining agreement” that affects the USDOE’s 4,000 employees– without actually negotiating the contract with the union that represents those employees, the American Federation of Government Employees Council 252 [AFGE].

The March 15, 2018, Intercept reports:

On Friday, management officials at the Education Department informed their workers’ union, the American Federation of Government Employees Council 252, that they would no longer be bargaining with them. Instead, management issued a 40-page document the department is calling a “collective bargaining agreement.” …

“AFGE did not agree to these unilateral terms,” said Claudette Young, AFGE Council 252 president, in a statement. “The agency has imposed an illegal document that we had absolutely no bargaining over. It’s a total attempt to strip employees of their collective bargaining rights and bust the union. This is an attempt to tie our hands.”

The 40-page, supposed “agreement” issued by USDOE includes language throughout that makes it read as if the terms were indeed negotiated and agreed upon by both parties. However, as the Intercept notes, not only was this alleged agreement not the product of a meeting between USDOE and AFGE; USDOE actually put AFGE’s name and seal on the cover of the agreement, and that without AFGE approval.

Thus, DeVos’ USDOE brazenly forged the document.

Included in the alleged “agreement”:  The union agrees to pay for its office space; to pay for more than 20 copies of any document; to pay for use of a USDOE email address, and to seek for permission from USDOE to post union info on USDOE bulletin boards, with the further condition that USDOE will provide bulletin board space “where available.”

What is at issue here is not so much the particulars of what USDOE provides for AFGE (though it is unlikely all such particulars would be scrapped via negotiation); it is the fact that the details were previously negotiated and that via this non-agreement, DeVos’ USDOE was attempting to forcefully modify those conditions without negotiation– even as USDOE falsely indicates in language throughout the document that this unilateral “agreement” is the result of recent negotiation.

No negotiation led to this “agreement,” which betrays the singular goal of union-busting.

Meanwhile, two days after the “agreement” supposedly took effect, DeVos began to dismantle USDOE’s centralized budget office– apparently even against the desires of Trump-appointee, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director, Mick Mulvaney. According to Politico, employees have not been fired, but reassigned. From the article:

A slew of changes for the budget office were announced during a staff meeting on Tuesday led by Kent Talbert, who is the acting No. 2 official at the department, and Frank Brogan, who was nominated to lead the K-12 education office and is currently in charge of the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.

They announced that the budget division responsible for cost estimation and analysis will be moved to the Office of Federal Student Aid, according to an official familiar with the meeting. Budget personnel overseeing specific programs will move to various program offices, according to the official. And other remaining functions and staffers in the budget office will be moved to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

The changes don’t officially take effect until January 2019, department staff were told.

Without collective bargaining, DeVos is more able to do what she truly prefers: Shrink the USDOE. From the November 08, 2017, Washington Post:

The reduction of the department’s workforce reflects… DeVos’s belief that the federal government should tread more lightly in U.S. schools. And it is emblematic of the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce the size of the federal workforce overall.

“Secretary DeVos has made clear since day one that her goal is to return control of education back to states, localities and parents,” said Nathan Bailey, a department spokesman. “The secretary is building a strong team of experienced leaders who will help America rethink school and focus on improving student achievement.”

But current and former officials with the department express concern that the loss of staff will compromise the department’s ability to perform key functions, such as enforcing civil rights law and aiding debt-burdened students defrauded by for-profit colleges.

In response to the above concerns come more concerns that DeVos isn’t interested in protecting vulnerable populations. From the February 07, 2018, Washington Post:

DeVos rolled back key regulations and guidance documents intended to protect transgender students, student borrowers and victims of sexual assault — all in the name of reining in a department whose role she said had grown too large. She used budget cuts and buyouts to reduce the size of the agency.

“Some of the most important work we’ve done in this first year has been around the area of overreach and rolling back the extended footprint of this department to a significant extent,” DeVos said Wednesday [February 07, 2018] in a far-reaching interview with The Washington Post and other news organizations.

As for that USDOE-issued, unilateral “collective bargaining agreement” that falsely indicates negotiation with AFGE:

In a March 15, 2018, press release, AFGE notes that it filed this complaint with the Federal Labor Relations Authority on March 12, 2018. In it, AFGE states that USDOE (“the Agency”) “failed to negotiate and bargain in good faith… in negotiations over ground rules and substantive contract proposals.” In addition:

The Agency refused the Union’s requests to negotiate over the proposed collective bargaining agreement. The Agency informed the Union of its plan to implement the proposal on March 12, 2018. The Agency did not comply with the Union’s request that the parties continue with the negotiations on the proposed collective bargaining agreement because the parties were not at impasse.

On or around March 5, 2018, the Union membership conducted a ratification vote on the Agency’s proposed agreement and voted to reject the contract. The Agency continued with its plan to impose the proposed collective bargaining agreement despite the fact that the Union membership had rejected the agreement.

On or around March 9, 2018, Samantha Cutler, Director of the Workforce Relations Division, Office of Human Resources of the Agency, sent a memorandum to Claudette Young, President of AFGE Council 252 informing her that the Agency was implementing its proposed collective bargaining agreement.

The Agency’s proposed collective bargaining agreement has stripped out most of the content of the parties (sp.) previous collective bargaining agreement and essentially removes all union rights.

DeVos is quick to peddle school choice in the name of “empowering” parents and students. However, her talk of empowerment stops when such involves those with less singular influence bonding together and putting the likes of her in a position to negotiate the reaches of their own power.

After all, DeVos fundamentally disagrees with empowering the collective. She would rather employ the flattering talk of “individual solutions” all the while distracting those individuals from the critical reality that their remaining individual ensures that wealthier, more powerful individuals– like DeVos herself– will continue to control the business-modeled game.

And as this so-called USDOE “agreement” demonstrates, DeVos certainly does not care for individuals pooling their limited power in a way that challenges plutocrats.

lesley stahl betsy devos  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.

Betsy DeVos Tries to Tweet Her Own Vindication after Terrible 60 Minutes Interview.

On March 11, 2018, US ed sec Betsy DeVos crashed and burned in her interview with Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes.

The kindest way to describe DeVos’ performance is to say she was woefully (shamefully?) unprepared. The less-kind way is to say that DeVos is a plutocratic ideologue who sees no reason to investigate any issue outside of the narrow sphere of her school-choice-advancing mission; as such, she set herself up for her incompetence to shine like the noonday sun.

DeVos’ bumbling under Stahl’s questions has made national news many times over in the 24 hours following the interview. One of the more insightful articles is this one in Esquire. An excerpt:

Things got significantly worse when Stahl asked about DeVos’ home state of Michigan. She and her family have spent huge sums of money to lobby for school choice in Michigan, but DeVos claimed not to know how the state’s public school system was doing.

Stahl: Now, has that happened in Michigan? We’re in Michigan. This is your home state.

DeVos: Michi–Yes, well, there’s lots of great options and choices for students here.

Stahl: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?

DeVos: I don’t know. Overall, I– I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.

Stahl: The whole state is not doing well.

DeVos: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this– the students are doing well and–

Stahl: No, but your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better, is not working in Michigan where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here.

DeVos: I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.

Stahl: The public schools here are doing worse than they did.

DeVos: Michigan schools need to do better. There is no doubt about it.

Stahl: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they’re doing?

DeVos: I have not– I have not– I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.

Stahl: Maybe you should.

DeVos: Maybe I should. Yes.

That’s right: when asked if she visits underperforming schools, the U.S. Secretary of Education’s answer was: never on purpose. This is an advertisement for what the Trump administration is all about. The data, the studies, even in-person observation—any way that we have of verifying whether a policy has worked or will work—are all irrelevant.

DeVos believes, deeply, that privatizing public education is the solution to all our problems. That she believes this, and is rich and influential enough to put her ideas into practice, is all that matters. The president’s thought processes are frequently an inversion of the scientific method, where his staff’s resources must be marshaled to find evidence to justify his ideology. It appears that ethos extends to his cabinet. DeVos championed school choice for years in her home state, and public schools there are now doing worse, but that has not impacted her calculus at all. The solution remains more school choice, just as the solution to gun violence is more guns.

Now, what is sad is that DeVos tried to vindicate herself on Twitter by tweeting the following about Michigan’s test scores.

Pay attention to the second sentence, which comically undoes DeVos’ vindicated-via-highlighting efforts, for it states that the DeVos-showcased charter schools are also bombing out:

Not sure how one would quantify “performing twice as well” as “still extremely low,” but surely for marketing purposes, it is better to say the also-extremely-low-scoring Detroit charter schools are *Two Times Better.*

The highest stat in her tweet is 23.6 percent.

Betsy says that “the reforms are helping,” yet she also says that she “intentionally” has not visited “underperforming” schools– which is apparently all of Detroit, about which she is keen on tweeting to try to repair her image but whose doorstep she intentionally avoids because these schools are not choice-showcase fodder.

Just remember: DeVos is not intentionally avoiding underperforming schools; she is intentionally avoiding individual students attending them.

lesley stahl betsy devos            Lesley Stahl; Betsy DeVos (The Daily Beast)


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.

Louisiana’s “Confidential” SPEDx Report: Available as a Texas Public Records Request(!?)

On March 04, 2018, I published a post about for-profit SPEDx (aka Avenir Education), an organization that was registered in Georgia in 2016 (and can sell its own stock) by former Teach for America (TFA) alum, Richard Nyankori.

SPEDx purports to analyze special education data. Nyankori has a sketchy background in special education; he holds no advanced degrees in either special education or research and statistics. But he does have access to the IEPs of entire states of students, including Texas and Louisiana.

I plan to write a number of posts related to SPEDx. In this one, I focus on SPEDx’s contract with the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE).

The LA-SPEDx contract (“data sharing agreement”) was signed on February 13, 2017, by Nyankori and Louisiana state superintendent John White, both of whom happen to be TFA alumni (and both of whom have the characteristic corporate ed reformer resumes thin on actual K12 classroom experience and heavy on admin-CEO positioning).

The Louisiana-SPEDx agreement is for SPEDx’s people to have access to IEP (individualized educational plan) data at LDOE for three years (January 23, 2017, to January 23, 2020) in order to produce a “customized analytical report.” (Note that the data access date of January 23, 2017, predates the February 13, 2017, signing of the contract.) It seems, however, that more than one report will be generated given that SPEDx has already created a Louisiana report and shared the results with Texas administrators in September – October 2017. (For info on key players associated with SPEDx and Texas Education Agency– TEA– see this SPEDx-promoting doc from TEA, and also google, “IEP Analysis Grant Opportunity Texas Education Agency.”)

According to the advocacy group, Texans for Special Education Reform (TxSER), TxSER obtained the Louisiana SPEDx report via a public information request (see Dec 4 and 6 on this TxSER timeline).

The Louisiana SPEDx report is marked “confidential; not for distribution,” but since it was shared in Texas, it apparently became available as a public document to Texas citizens.

So much for SPEDx’s adeptness at confidentiality.

But back to the LDOE’s data sharing agreement with SPEDx:

One key bit of information absent from the LA-SPEDx contract is the cost of this business transaction, so I contacted Kim Nesmith, who is named in the LA-SPEDx contract as LDOE’s liaison, for information on the cost of the study. In turn, Nesmith forwarded my inquiry to LDOE’s public records officer.

On March 08, 2018, I received this response from LDOE:

Dear Ms. Schneider,

On March 05, 2018, the Louisiana Department of Education received your email seeking information pursuant to the Public Records Act of Louisiana, R.S 44:1 et seq. and containing the following request:

I would like to know how much LDOE is paying AvinirEducation connected to the attached contract.

In response to that request, the Department provides that the attached file titled “avenireducation—march-2017” is a data sharing agreement between Aviniere (sp.) for a no-cost study of special education trends.

So. SPEDx (Avenir) is a for-profit that is doing the Louisiana study out of the goodness of its heart? Of course not.

It seems that a third party is footing the bill for this one, and the third party happens to also be a major supporter of TFA:

The Broad Foundation.

I hope to be able to produce the documentation to back my LA-SPEDx, third-party-payer statement, but the Broad Foundation has not even filed its 2016 tax forms yet, much less 2017, and it has not yet publicized its 2017 annual report. I did speak with individuals with information on the matter, and the best I can offer at this point for those who want more is to suggest they email John White and ask him directly if the LA-SPEDx study is being funded by the Broad Foundation.

Now, I realize that I haven’t even divulged specifics from that confidential-but-available-via-Texas-public-records-request, LA SPEDx report.

I’ll just leave examination of that report to my readers.

More to come on SPEDx, Texas, and Louisiana in future postings.

This is one deep ditch. Stay tuned.

confidentiality broken


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.

DeVos Rebukes State Chiefs for “Bare Minimum” ESSA Plans

On March 05, 2018, US ed sec Betsy DeVos spoke at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). It is the longest DeVos speech I have seen to date, and I have read many of her speeches.

DeVos spends much of her speech rebuking state ed commissioners for aiming for the bare minimum in their state’s ESSA plans.

Sounds like an average American classroom to me. I often confront students for making “passing with as little effort as possible” their apparent goal.

It seems that DeVos is having to push state chiefs for that excellence she insists will rise to the top via *choice.* And yes, her overall point in her speech is that state chiefs should pursue courses of action that produce more *choice.*

She cites Louisiana as an example of how to take advantage of ESSA via using letter grades to grade school, and she even concludes that F schools have “pretty clear consequences… including making other choices possible….” However, she does not address failure of the options, and how many years those “choice” schools are allowed to fail. Also, she does not acknowledge that Louisiana’s voucher program– which her American Federation for Children (AFC) Growth Fund advertises as an opportunity to help children “trapped in low-performing schools” to “attend a private school for free– is primarily utilized in almost-all-charter-via-state-control New Orleans, a district where the highest concentration of students qualify for vouchers because so many schools are graded D or F. And the greatest irony is that Louisiana’s voucher program is a failure itself. (For some background, see here and here and here and here and here.)

DeVos likes Louisiana’s school letter grades, which are chiefly based on test scores, but in her speech she decries “teaching to the test”– a fear-based byproduct of the corporate ed reform grading of schools and the primary basis of labeling a school as “failing.”

DeVos refers to Louisiana’s F-graded schools as “those schools” from which students need “other options.” But, but, but, she is willing for states to use other “performance” assessments– just so long as the likes of *clear* school letter grades remain in place to *inform* parents.

DeVos also showcases Louisiana for its Course Choice program, which has a history of being inadequately monitored, including generous access to student data without parental consent, as well as being a potential source of free labor. Nevertheless, for Louisiana’s choice options, DeVos offers no hint of a possible downside.

So, state chiefs, DeVos isn’t here to tell you how to run your states, but since you aren’t taking advantage of the *choice* angle to her liking, she’s willing to help you to see it her way. Rest assured, however: She says she is not going to “Arne Duncan” you into it. But she is going to dangle some “competitive grant” bucks in front of you to try to entice you to pilot a portability-of-funding program.

Oh, DeVos also refers to DC’s graduation scandal as “fudging the rules.”

From her speech:

Everyone wants students to be prepared for successful careers and fulfilling lives. And the truth is: we need that to be the case.

Except too many folks believe they should pursue that good end by centralizing federal power and wielding it aggressively.

As a result, you were threatened with inquiries, audits and even fines if you didn’t comply with the politics of the day in this town.

I’m committed to a different approach.

We won’t weaponize waivers to compel you to adopt this administration’s politics. If we wanted to dictate from D.C., I’d claim the mantle of our nation’s “choice chief” and reject plans because they don’t give parents more quality choices. But I haven’t done that. And I won’t. The Department is not the national school board.

This administration is committed to our Nation’s founding idea of separation of powers. The Department of Education doesn’t write laws, it implements them. Congress did its job. We’re doing ours. And now, you get to do yours.

ESSA was enacted partially in response to the widespread calls from state school chiefs – including many in this room — to give you the flexibility and opportunity to address your state’s unique challenges. Well, this law gives you that chance.

The trouble is… I don’t see much evidence that you’ve yet seized it. …

Whatever the reasons, I see too many plans that only meet the bare minimum required by the law. Sure, they may pass muster around conference tables in Washington, but the bare minimum won’t pass muster around kitchen tables. And I’m not alone in this view.

Some of your own governors – Republicans and Democrats — didn’t like your plans either and refused to sign off on them. Some were vocal about it. …

[A] governor lamented that his state’s plan “stymies any attempt to hold schools accountable for student performance and includes provisions aimed at preserving the status quo in failing schools.”

And by the way, I agree. …

Let’s start with ESSA’s “Annual State Report Cards,” one of the law’s calls for transparency. Parents need to know – and have the right to know — what is and is not working about their children’s schools.

Some parents want to be equipped to make a different choice for their child, and others want to know where their child’s current school needs to get better. …

We must do better for parents. For students. For our country. Louisiana, for example, uses an understandable A through F grading system with some pretty clear consequences for “F” schools, including making other options available to parents whose children are assigned to those schools.

We also should be able to clearly gauge the progress of all our nation’s students. That, too, hasn’t been a simple task over the years. Previous efforts focused on a goal – such as higher graduation rates — and if you didn’t meet it, you’d face the ire of “Big Ed.”

While that goal might have been laudable, we’ve seen what happens. Just look at the ongoing scandal right here in our Nation’s capital, where school administrators fudged the rules and graduated kids who otherwise wouldn’t have been eligible – all in response to top-down pressure.

Under ESSA, states must measure students annually in reading and math, but the law invites you to determine the standards, determine the instruments and find solutions for the rest.

Parents and teachers alike agree that education should move away from simply “teaching to the test.” We all know we need new solutions.

I’ve heard many complaints about how inadequate current testing regimens are, but only four states have shown interest in applying for ESSA’s Innovative Assessment Pilot – inspired by New Hampshire’s performance-based assessment.

The Granite State reduced standardized testing and enhanced locally-developed common performance assessments. They were designed to support deeper learning and to be more integrated into students’ day-to-day work.

Assessing the average assesses no one. Because there is no average student.

New Hampshire’s is but one new approach, but there are many other approaches that have yielded promising results for students. So, explore them!

Title I, as you all know, was established to assist students who come from low-income families. These students need your creative thinking, but too many plans are short on creative solutions.

“Direct Student Services” is one vehicle you can use to better serve these students. You have the option to set aside up to three percent of Title I funds to provide students with learning opportunities that would otherwise not be available. We actually asked Congress to raise that to 5 percent in our 2019 budget proposal.

But to date, only two states – New Mexico and Louisiana – have sought that flexibility.

Louisiana will use its 3 percent — nearly 9 million dollars — to expand its course choice program, offering new options to students. I’m encouraged that Louisiana is doing something, but ESSA encourages all states to use Title I funds creatively. Because today too many students are told “no.”

A student is bored in her math class and would be more challenged in an AP course? “Sorry, we don’t have AP here,” the system says. A student wants to learn a skill like welding because she wants to work for the advanced manufacturer in town? “Nope,” the system tells the student, “we don’t have that available either.”
I’m not comfortable with settling for those answers. I hope you aren’t either.

Course choice is but one way a state can embrace the law’s flexibility in the interest of students. States could also use their 3 percent to incentivize enrollment in public schools of choice. …

But I’d encourage you to go even further. Why not show how much money is being spent on each student and why? Is that different from the school down the street? And if so, why?

The student-centered funding pilot takes us in that direction. This competitive grant enables money to follow children based on their needs – not buildings or systems.

So as I’ve pointed out, there are some bright spots among the plans. But even the best plan is short on the meaningful solutions that the law encourages. Even the best plan doesn’t take full advantage of the law’s built-in flexibility. …

Because there is much work to be done. We must all do better to prepare our students for success in the 21st century and beyond.

Students need learning environments that are agile, relevant and exciting. Every student deserves a customized, self-paced and challenging life-long learning journey.

But when you picture most of today’s classrooms, does the word “agile” leap to mind? What about “customized”? “Relevant”?

What about “customized,” Betsy? And “relevant”? I spent much of the past three weeks meeting individually with my seniors about their work on a research paper that surely will equip them for the next step they have indicated they wish to take: four-year college.

And what experience does Betsy DeVos have with “most of today’s classrooms” except to criticize them for not being places from which students might escape to some nonexistent, *choice* utopia?

Near the end of her speech, DeVos tells her audience to “question everything.”

I await the speech in which she questions her unwavering allegiance to choice, including facing the fact that charter and voucher choice open wide the doors of exploitation.

I realize this speech might take some time in coming.

Take your time, Betsy. When you’re ready, you can find me in my classroom.

betsy-devos-10  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.

Relay Graduate School of Education’s Overwhelmingly TFA-Derived “Deans”

Relay Graduate School of Education (RGSE) is a corporate reform entity whose “deans” need not possess the qualifications that deans of legitimate graduate schools possess (i.e., Ph.D.s; established professional careers in education, including publication in blind-review journals).

In fact, the most common connection among RGSE’s 15 “deans” (each of whom becomes a “dean” by founding an RGSE campus) is their shallow classroom histories via Teach for America.

Of the 15 “deans,” 12 are connected to TFA. Many of them note their TFA connections in their brief bios:

Still some RGSE “deans” do not mention TFA in their RGSE bios but include it on their Linkedin bios:

That’s 12 RGSE “deans” with TFA experience.

And that leaves three more to consider.

One RGSE “dean” does not indicate a connection with TFA, but according to her Linkedin bio, she was definitely on the corporate reform fast-track of leadership top-heavy compared to classroom experience:

And here’s a snatch of James’ TFA-like, rapid-leader, Linkedin bio info:

Assistant Professor of Practice & Curriculum Designer

Relay Graduate School of Education
Aug 2011 – Jun 2013


District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS)
Jul 2007 – Jul 2011

My first two years in DCPS were spent as a social studies teacher and department chair at Columbia Heights Educational Campus. I taught high school social studies. I was named First Year Teacher of the Year for the 2007-2008 school year.

During the summer of 2009, I served as a Teacher Central to Leadership Fellow in DC Public Schools’ Central Office. As a fellow, I worked on the Teaching and Learning Framework that was rolled out as part of the IMPACT evaluation system.

From 2009 to 2011, I was a Team Leader and social studies teacher at Alice Deal Middle School. As a Team Leader, I led a cross-curricular team of teachers serving 100 students

So, even though James might not be a TFAer, her “assistant prof” label following four years in a classroom (and without a Ph.D. or any hint of fledgling contribution to the professional literature or involvement in any recognized professional education associations….)

But we do have this, from James’ RGSE bio:

In the six years that Brooke has been with Relay, she served as a founding assistant professor of practice of Relay, NYC, and led the research, design, and review of over 80 graduate-level courses used in Relay’s Master of Arts in Teaching program nationally.

Moving on.

It seems that only one RGSE “dean” actually has composed a vitae. However, he does not possess a Ph.D., and it seems that his vitae is devoid of publications in blind-reviewed, professional journals:

Verrilli’s beginnings as a teacher predate TFA, and he remained in the classroom longer (10 years total). That noted, Verrilli taught at a charter school for four years prior to having a teaching degree. (Verrilli has a bachelors in history and he returned to school for a masters in teaching.) He then founded a charter school.

One more.

To me, the most curious RGSE “dean” is

because her bio includes no info to indicate that she has any K12 classroom teaching experience– as in creating lessons and delivering those to a classroom of children:

Dean Shemanne Davis

As founding dean of Relay Philadelphia & Camden, Shemanne Davis oversees all aspects of teacher preparation in the region. Davis previously trained graduate students as a member of the Relay Newark faculty. She began her career at Stephenson Middle School in DeKalb County Schools, where she was selected as a Special Education liaison. Davis then earned her J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law and worked with the Georgia Legal Services Special Education Program. She was also an Education Pioneers fellow at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education and Dean of Students at Bedford Stuyvesant Collegiate Charter School. Davis earned her B.A. in history and women’s studies and her M.A.T. from Emory University.

There you have it: 15 “deans”; no Ph.D.s (but one almost); no bachelors degrees in education; no refereed publications, and not a one “dean” qualified for a tenure-track position in a legitimate college of education. But who needs legitimacy when you can franchise yourself into a deanship?

What a farce.

fraud ahead


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.

SPEDx: State SPED Data in the Hands of a Former TFAer?

If it touches the K12 classroom, ed reform can turn it into a business opportunity.

Consider SPEDx, a Georgia for-profit that describes itself as follows on its website:

SPEDx was founded by Dr. Richard Nyankori with the aim to help educators and others accelerate the progress of students receiving special education in our nation’s schools.

SPEDx was inspired by Richard’s brother Matthew and the many other students and adults with disabilities who enrich the lives of others with their own unique talents and abilities that contribute to vibrant families and communities across the nation.

Fueled by advances in data science, increased attention to improving outcomes for students with disabilities, and a unanimous US Supreme Court ruling in the Endrew F. case that would elevate achieving ‘appropriately ambitious’ goals as the new standard, SPEDx works with educators and others to realize a vastly improved success for students in special education.

Also according to its website, SPEDx offers two services (eyebrows up already): consultation to “move special education priorities forward” and IEP analysis– where it seems that SPEDx becomes an additional presence in students’ individualized education plans– which means that SPEDx would have access to those IEPs– access that a state or district could grant to SPEDx without parental knowledge. Below is SPEDx’s detailing of the consulting and IEP analysis services:


Our consulting services focus on helping our partners figure what could work best to move their special education priorities forward. Our approach is steeped in design thinking and understanding problems from the ground up, with empathy, and then quickly iterating potential solutions that can scale widely.

IEP Analysis

SPEDx offers IEP analysis to help educators identify individualized patterns for increasing progress towards a student’s intellectual and behavioral goals. We then use these patterns to understand what specific interventions accelerate progress. Through this analysis, educators ensure that each student can make ambitious progress inside and outside of the classroom.

But who is SPEDx founder, Richard Nyankori, and what is his experience with special education populations? To ascertain Nyankori’s professional background, I consulted his Linkedin bio.

photo (27)  Richard Nyankori

In 1992, Nyankori graduated from Emory University (Georgia) with a degree in sociology. For the next four years (1993 – 1997), Nyankori taught with the Baltimore City Public School system (which, incidentally, overlaps with two of the three years that TFAer-gone-DC-chancellor, Michelle Rhee taught in the same school system). Nyankori notes that he taught special education, math, science, and reading; however, he does not indicate if he taught some of each of these for all four years, or if he taught one for each of four years. He also does not include information about any special education training. And though his Linkedin bio does not mention Teach for America (TFA), this bio indicates that Nyankori is a former TFAer (1993); thus, one can conclude that his time in Baltimore City Schools was as a TFAer with the associated, limited, TFA training, with teacher licensure granted after two years spent in the classroom. As it stands, TFA began its Baltimore presence in 1992— the year Rhee arrived, only a year before Nyankori arrived, so any substantial, prior training in special education on Nyankori’s part is looking pretty sketchy.

His third year in Baltimore, Nyankori received a M.S. in curriculum and instruction/administrator certification from McDaniel College (1993 – 1996). According to the degree description, one need not have a bachelors degree in education first. The degree as currently listed is 34.5 credit hours, and one can choose from two specializations: generalist or administrator. There is no special education specialization associated with this degree as it is listed.

After Nyankori’s four years in a Baltimore classroom, he began working on a Ph.D. in education policy, planning, and administration through the University of Maryland, which he took eight years to complete (1997 – 2005). During those eight years, Nyankori held a total of four jobs, the last one reconnecting him to Rhee via her TFA-like spinoff, The New Teacher Project (TNTP):

  • Coordinator of Special Projects, Course Developer, PLS 3rd Learning (online education), 1997 -1999
  • Interim Principal, Baltimore City Public Schools, 1999 – 2000
  • Assistant Principal, Hartford County (Maryland) Public Schools, 2000 – 2001
  • Director of Training and Certification, The New Teacher Project, 2001 – 2007

Note that none of the above positions have special education as an emphasis.

In 2007, when Rhee was appointed DC Schools chancellor, Nyankori followed her there as her “special assistant” for one year, and it seems that for that one year (2007 – 2008), he also held another position simultaneously: Nyankori was put in charge of special education in DC for four years (2007 – 2011), including one year beyond Rhee’s remaining time as DC chancellor (she resigned in 2010):

  • Special Assistant to the Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), 2007 – 2008
  • Deputy Chancellor, Special Education, DCPS, 2008 – 2011

As is so often true with ed reformers, Nyakori’s bio has him on the fast track to administration with little certified, hands-on experience in that which he is supposed to oversee. In his case, this is true in his limited classroom experience (four years– which by TFA standards is extensive) and certainly more pronounced with his being appointed to oversee special education for all of DC when one cannot be certain from his bio that he even has a solid year of classroom experience in special education, much less a single year of certified, special education experience.

Following his time in DC, Nyankori once again bounced around professionally in the way that career ed reformers do: He spent five years in two different roles with Insight Education Group, an education consulting company; much of this time overlapped with his role as “advisor” to Goalbook (another education company), and, finally, in 2016, Nyankori founded SPEDEx, a company that offers no details on why anyone should trust Nyankori to advise on special education issues:

  • Vice President of Product Development, Insight Education Group, Inc., 2011 – 2013
  • Executive Vice President, Insight Education Group, Inc., 2013 – 2016
  • Advisor, Goalbook, 2012 – present
  • Founder and CEO, SPEDx, 2016 – present

What, exactly, would SPEDx feature regarding Nyankori’s credentials and hands-on experience in the special education classroom?

As it is, the SPEDx website misleads readers by identifying Nyankori as “Dr.” without also indicating that his Ph.D. is not in special education. As already noted, from the SPEDx website:

SPEDx was founded by Dr. Richard Nyankori with the aim to help educators and others accelerate the progress of students receiving special education in our nation’s schools.

Now, to the greater point in my writing this post: Texas Education commissioner Mike Morath entered into a $4M, no-bid contract with SPEDx, and I plan to examine this situation more closely in future posts. For now, here is an excerpt from the January 17, 2018, Dallas Observer:

[Former Texas special education director Laurie Kash] reported that the TEA illegally awarded a $4.4 million no-bid contract in May to the recently created, for-profit, Georgia-based company SPEDx to analyze private data about how students received special education services, the Austin American-Statesman first reported.

In her complaint, Kash claimed the TEA didn’t follow state law to publicize its justification for awarding a no-bid contract to SPEDx. …


Morath eventually shut down the $4 million data-collection program although the TEA had already paid Nyankori’s company $2.2 million in federal funds for students with disabilities.

More to come. Stay tuned.

money apple


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.

Armed Teachers’ “Negligent Acts” Not Covered by Florida’s School Liability Insurance Policy

The February 27, 2018, Tampa Bay Times reports that the Florida House Appropriations Committee voted for a new bill, which includes funding a “school marshal” program whereby classroom teachers are to be trained in the use of firearms that they will carry with them to school.

Proponents of arming Florida teachers note that doing so is “cost effective”:

The House and Senate program is mirrored after one implemented in Polk County schools by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who said that arming trained teachers is more cost efficient than the cost of hiring enough armed school resource officers in each school.

Funding that many school resource officers “would be a staggering amount of money,” Judd told the Senate Appropriations Committee.

So, once again teachers become the cheaper option. Note that for this profound commitment/responsibility/risk, teachers are offered a one-time $500 stipend. And no one is talking liability in this risky situation that makes teachers, schools, and districts astoundingly vulnerable. (More to come on the liability front.)

Add to the cons that not much is known about Judd’s fledgling program except that no K12 school has signed on. In fact, only a single private postsecondary institution has instituted Judd’s program, as the February 22, 2018, Tampa Bay Times reports:

…A program created by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd… allows teachers who want to be armed to go through specialized training, becoming partially deputized by sheriff’s office.

They would then be able to carry a concealed gun on K-12 campuses, and only top administrators would know who they are. Only a local private university has taken up Judd’s program.

It is unlikely that such news would be kept long from the students in a K12 setting– or free of social media exposure– or parental unrest/panic.

And let us return to the astoundingly increased liability of all involved, including the gun-toting teacher, the school, and the school district, all of which would be ripe for heretofore unknown litigation related to the presence of firearms in the classroom.

Note that in all of this, the Florida teachers must agree to 132 hours of uncompensated training– unless one counts the one-time $500 stipend as compensation.

That’s $3.79 an hour, before taxes.

What will districts kick in toward compensating armed teachers? And how much will it cost to maintain or replace an armed teacher?

Add to this the question of who supplies the gun. Not only is there a monetary cost associated with supplying the gun; the entity supplying the gun would no doubt assume a greater liability related to the weapon itself.

Where will the gun be stored after school hours? Will there be a gun cabinet at school? More liability. More and more liability.

Of course, there are the issues of purposeful targeting of armed teachers by individuals who might view it as a prize to force some sort of showdown with such teachers. Add to that the liability of a teacher’s drawing the gun on the wrong individual, or failing to use the gun in a crisis for which the teacher has been trained.

Is an armed teacher liable for failing to shoot an armed intruder? Is this a dereliction of duty, or will a teacher be excused, for example, for not having the heart to shoot one of her or his own students?

What if a student reaches for that gun, even if only out of curiosity?

What if a student gets possession of that gun? Don’t tell me it cannot happen.

Armed teachers become entangled in liability.

Who will insure them? Their school? Their district?

The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) uses AIX Specialty Insurance Company to provide its educators professional liability policy. According to that policy, armed teachers would not be covered if they make an error when using that gun. From the policy:


This policy does not apply to any claim: …

26. Alleging or arising out of:

a. any actual or alleged breach of duty, negligent act, error, omission, misstatement, or misleading statement committed by an INSURED while acting within the scope of their law enforcement activities for the educational institution; and

b. Any allegations of negligence or wrongdoing in the supervision, hiring, employment, training, or monitoring of a person whose conduct is included in Paragraph a. above.

For the purposes of this exclusion, “law enforcement activities” means activities, services, advice or instruction that is within the scope of the authorized duties of the educational institution’s law enforcement and security guard personnel. This exclusion shall also apply to any armed FULL-TIME INSTRUCTIONAL PERSONNEL.

So, armed Florida teachers, know that as of this writing, any negligent act associated with that gun is not covered by FDOE liability insurance. Supervisors connected to negligence of armed teachers are also excluded from the liability policy.

Better get that gun usage right, just like in the movies.

Will a Florida insurance company take on the risk of offering liability policies that cover negligent acts of armed teachers? If so, what would such a policy cost?

Arming Florida teachers might be legal, but it opens school districts up to a profound liability that makes the “school marshal” program a non-starter–

never mind that asinine, one-time, $500 stipend.

photo (26)


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.