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A Memorial Day Post by My Eight-Year-Old Niece

Last Memorial Day (2014), I wrote a detailed post featuring my father, who served in the army during WWII (1943-46).

This Memorial Day Eve, I was dissecting the Gates Foundation grants for “general operating support”; so, I asked my eight-year-old niece Camille if she would like to write a Memorial Day guest post on the topic of America, or school, or both.

Camille chose to write about America. Here is what she offers to my readers:

In America we need to celebrate our country by celebrating the military men and women that had died. America is a great country because we have freedoms and rights. We, the people, have the chance to participate in a democracy! Many people around the world don’t have that chance. America’s leaders help keep us safe. That’s why we should celebrate our country.

Camille mem day

Thank you, Camille.

God Bless America.

Camille

______________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

Who Does Gates Fund for “General Operating Support”?

On its website, the Gates Foundation makes it clear that it often initiates contact with organizations to apply for specific grants and that it does not fund what it does not consider a Gates Foundation “priority.”

The assertiveness of the Gates Foundation in funding its approved version of education reform takes on head-tilting meaning when one considers the organizations that Gates funds “for general operating support.”

That means that the Gates Foundation has decided to that it wants to keep such organizations in business. So, it gives them money to stay afloat, like Dad shelling out an allowance to the kids.

There is no greater opportunity for fiscal dependence on the Gates Foundation than for an organization to receive Gates money for general operating expenses– especially in the case of repeated operating support grants. Note also that the Gates Foundation pays its grants in installments, and it sure can become easy to get used to those regularly-arriving payments to help with salaries and other expenses.

Then comes the layer of dependence known as being part of the Gates-endorsed, corporate reform “in crowd”– an open door to additional fiscal and political opportunities for those willing to travel the route of test-score-driven education privatization.

On the Gates “awarded grants” search engine, the keywords “general operating support” yielded 1000 results. Some of these are duplicates (that is, multiple operating support grants to the same organization), and many are outside of the field of education.

Let us consider Gates’ grant payouts to education-styled organizations, especially those that have received more than one Gates-directed, operating-support grant or that have received the larger operating-support grants in the last few years.

Let’s start with Gates operating support to charter schools and related organizations.

Most recent on the Gates operating support payout list is the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) for $800,000 in April 2015. In March 2012 and September 2010, Gates gave CCSA $1 million for general operating support each time.

Two of the largest Gates grants toward charter schools were for $3 million each, one in June 2014 and one, in June 2012, to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (total $6 million).

The largest single grant was for $5.5 million, to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), in November 2007.

In October 2009, NAPCS received $500,000 that was more to the point: “to provide general operating support for continued growth of the charter industry.” NAPCS’s first Gates grant for operating support was for $50,000 July 2006.

In November 2014, Gates paid $199,767 to the Puget Sound Educational Service District “to support the development and implementation of and to provide back-office support and operations support services for public charter schools in Washington state.” Also in Washington state and receiving Gates money for operations was the Cesar Chavez Public Policy Charter High School ($9,700 in October 2008).

Other charter school entities receiving Gates money for operating support include the Texas Charter Schools Association ($250,000 in May 2009 and $650,000 in May 2010); the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools ($450,000 in April 2011 and $200,000 in November 2012); the Georgia Charter Schools Association ($250,000 in October 2012); the Illinois Network of Charter Schools ($600,000 in September 2011), and the New York City Charter School Center ($950,000 in September 2010). Also on the list: the Charter School Leadership Council ($800,000 in January 2006) and the Charter Schools Policy Institute ($200,000 in January 2006).

And now, moving beyond Gates charter school sustenance and expansion funding:

Other notable corporate reform entities receiving Gates money for operating support include Common Core State Standards (CCSS) mouthpiece, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, with an established Gates-money operating-support relationship in the form of three grants, and all after CCSS made its June 1010 debut: $500,000 in June 2011; $1 million in April 2013, and a fresh infusion of $1.1 million in April 2015.

The Fordham Institute is inextricably connected to the Fordham Foundation, which had $52 million in total assets at the end of 2013, according to the Fordham Foundation 2013 990. So, taking operating support from Gates for the Fordham Institute appears to be a matter of taking the cash because the cash was offered.

Political alliance cement in the name of “We’ll be able to do so much more.”

Then, there’s very pro-CCSS organization, Children Now, with an executive vice president hailing from education privatization strategic center, McKinsey and Company. Gates paid Children Now $700,000 toward operating support in March 2015.

Pro-CCSS-test-score-focused Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (TNSCORE) has also received its share of Gates operating support: $2.3 million in January 2015; CCSS-lesson conduit, the Teaching Channel: $2.5 million in November 2014 to follow a healthy $7 million in June 2013; and Teach Plus, a fine slice of general operating support pie, $7.5 million in October 2014.

In seven states and DC, Teach Plus actively promotes both CCSS implementation and the message to “opt in” with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test. It even has a survey showing that Massachusetts teachers want PARCC over the state MCAS.

Why, it would be quite the Gates oversight not to dole out multiple millions to keep Teach Plus going.

That noted, no organization comes close to receiving the amount of Gates funding just to keep the doors open as does Education TrustSince 2002, Ed Trust has received $31.4 million from Gates in the form of eight grants.

Ed Trust has been influential in such amazing test-score-driven reform wonders as helping to draft No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and, along with Fordham Institute and Achieve, promoting CCSS-and-common-assessments precursor, the American Diploma Project (ADP).

Gates also pays operating support to former West Virginia governor Bob Wise’s Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE). Interestingly, Gates did not send the big money to AEE until after there was a CCSS: $500,000 in July 2003; $2.5 million in October 2012 and $3.5 million in August 2014. On its site, AEE describes itself as “a respected advocate for the Common Core State Standards.”

An organization new to me on the Gates allowance gravy train is the Minnesota-based Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) Network. PIE Network is a Who’s Who of corporate reform; its board of directors includes Cynthia Brown from the Center for American Progress (CAP); Christine Brown from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) (in Gates’ backyard of Seattle, Washington); Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children (SFC); Kati Haycock of the Education Trust; Jeb Bush right hand, Patricia Levesque of the Foundation for Excellent Education (FEE); Deborah McGriff of NewSchools Venture Fund (NSVF), Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute, and Jamie Woodson of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE).

PIE Network executive director Suzanne Tacheny Kubach is a former board chair of KIPP Academy Minneapolis. Her husband, Doug Kubach, is the president of Pearson’s School division. (I reference Doug Kubach in this May 2015 Pearson post.)

On its 2011 990, PIE Network’s greatest expense was some “spring executive meetings” described as “candid, closed-door meetings that are held to connect leading innovators with their peers in other states, enabling the spread of ideas and information about school reform.” The description of PIE Network intention continues in another section:

The annual policy summit brings together the nation’s leading education innovators in an intimate setting designed to foster discussion and build relationships. Network members are able to bring several guests from their state, which allows them to build powerful teams that can tackle reform challenges. In 2011, guests included state department of education officials, including a state schools chief.

An effort to weave corporate reform into the fabric of state departments of education.

On its 2013 990, PIE Network includes no such “candid” details about its operations.

In July 2014, Gates funded PIE Network operations for $1.5 million.

Another curious Gates general operating support grant was this June 2014 grant for $24 million to the Bloomberg Family Foundation. What strikes me is that three months later, in September 2014, the Bloomberg, Walton, and Broad Foundations decided to finance pro-corporate-reform blog, Education Post– along with a mystery donor.

It may be nothing. Just noticing, is all: Education Post is trying hard to push the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and it might not look too good if the billionaire who agreed in 2008 to bankroll CCSS is also financially supporting a pro-CCSS blog that offers supposed “honest, straight talk” absent any “playing politics.”

If my thoughts are off base, Education Post CEO Peter Cunningham should feel free to set me straight with some of that “honest, straight talk” regarding the specifics on that mystery funder.

Next on the list of hefty Gates operating support money to education organizations is Lumina Foundation-founded, Maryland-based Achieving the Dream, a “national reform network” specializing in “institutional change,” “policy reform,” “sharing knowledge,” and “engaging the community” in order to “close achievement gaps and accelerate student success nationwide” for community college students.

In December 2012, Gates paid Achieving the Dream $646,000 toward general operating support, and in May 2014, Gates increased that amount by another $2.4 million.

That takes care of 2014-15 Gates operating support to education and “education-ish” organizations.

Here are some notable organizations that have received Gates operating support in 2013. (Note that a 2013 Gates grant could still be paid in installments in 2015):

Those interested in systematically investigating Gates grants for operating support paid out up through 2012 can start their investigation here.

For now, I am done.

However, allow me to offer this observation in closing:

In her defense of choosing to continue accepting Gates funding, National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia insinuates that accepting Gates money “is complicated” since Gates appears to fund “a spectrum” of education (or education-styled) organizations.

In my post dated May 18, 2015, I take issue with Garcia’s unabated plan to accept Gates funding for NEA despite her April 25, 2015, Network for Public Education (NPE) public statement indicating otherwise.

And in this current post, I close with an observation regarding Gates’ doling out millions to favored “education” organizations for general operating support:

On the Gates grants search engine, the keywords, “general operating support school” yielded 80 results.

Three times, Gates supported traditional public schools. All three grants were for Seattle Public Schools$500,000 in March 2001; $850,000 in May 2006, and $1000 in May 2013.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation does not consider general operating support to traditional public schools to be among its funding priorities.

Not at all complicated.

gates

________________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover

Huntington Learning Centers Keeps Sending Me ACT Score-Raising Ads

Over the past two school years, I have received numerous advertisements from Huntington Learning Centers (HLC), all geared toward ACT prep, and all advertising the following “testimonial”:

I just received my ACT scores a few days ago, and found I scored a 33, six more than my original score! I couldn’t have even come close to this if it weren’t for your help….”

–Will C.

Now, “Will C.” (I can’t help but think, “We’ll see…”) does not state that this 33 is a composite score. It could be one of four subject scores. One cannot know from this limited advertisement. However, a prospective HLC parent could surely read that 33 as an ACT composite and assume that Will C. would have had “only” a 27 (hardly an embarrassing ACT composite) had it not been for HLC– and that HLC has the power to move ACT scores and therefore, to open college acceptance and scholarship doors for all students.

I am concerned about parents being suckered into dumping money into some ACT jackpot mirage. So, I did a bit of investigating about HLC and offer it here for parents to read as part of making a more informed decision regarding retaining HLC’s services.

The first place I went in my HLC investigation was the HLC website. On its website, HLC offers a number of testimonials for exam prepacademic skills, and subject tutoring. Will C. is not among them.

HLC notes the following about its tutors:

All of our tutors are college-educated and are either state or Huntington certified and many hold advanced degrees, usually in education.

So, HLC tutors may not be teachers, but they will have some level of college education and will be “Huntington certified” (whatever that means). According to this same page, there is a “Huntington System and its teaching methods” and a “Huntington curriculum.”

When it comes to test prep, HLC is careful not to trap itself with any guarantee of a certain score but stays with a pretty general message:

Huntington helps students score higher on important college entrance and scholarship exams like the SAT, ACT, and PSAT, as well as high school entrance exams and other exams, such as the GED and ASVAB.

However, on the job review site, Glassdoor, HLC makes the same specific claims in response to more than one poor reviews by former employees. In short, one identified as “HLC senior manager of recruiting and employee relations” claims that students who use HLC will see math will increase 1.2 grade levels and reading, by 1.0 grade level over the course of three months, and that given two and a half months, HLC will have student SAT scores increase by 192 points and ACT scores, by 4.2 points.

It is important to note that these statements are not taken from the HLC website. A Google search of the above score increases only identifies the Glassdoor reviews, not any official HLC site.

An email accompanying the comments leads back to Jessica Rotino Dribnack, HLC Senior Manager of Recruiting and Employee Relations. So, parents, feel free to ask Dribnack about those claims.

Another HLC page that I examined was the one advertising “owning a franchise.” The link notes that for less than $100,000, I could “join the #1 revenue producing tutoring franchise.” In fact, according to this page, I could make “revenue 50% higher than our closest competitor,” which happens to be Sylvan.

HLC even offers in-house financing for that initial $100k. HLC will also help me choose a location for my franchise. HLC advertises that turning a profit with HLC is virtually guaranteed since tutoring is apparently immune to recession.

As an HLC franchise owner, I could make money.

As an HLC tutor, not so much.

My reading of the HLC salary reviews on Glassdoor has HLC tutors making roughly $11 to $15 per hour. And the work is chiefly part time– and highly unpredictable. In fact, if students don’t show up, the HLC tutor does not get paid.

There are no company benefits for this part time work. Tutor turnover is high. Many tutors/managers complain about the outdated curricular materials. The reviews I read are all from 2014-15, and the complaint of outdated or “stale” curriculum seems to contradict the HLC website claim that it has updated its curriculum to align with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Some full time employees note a lack of benefits and a lot of paperwork. A number note the discrepancy between the high fees charged to parents and the low pay for tutors.

Since HLC is franchised, the quality of the HLC centers is dependent upon the competence/business sense of the individual franchise owners– who apparently do not have to be college educated or even familiar with education before purchasing an HLC franchise.

Many suggest that the parents avoid the franchise-padding trap of HLC fees and simply secure a private tutor.

The letter I received today from HLC offers three test-prep packages for the ACT. One is for a 28-hour program. Based upon the Glassdoor review info, it seems that I could be required to commit to paying roughly $3000 for this ACT test prep package. The letter includes no fee schedule. For that, I must call the local HLC franchise advertised on the letter. The HLC website includes a number, 1-800-CAN-LEARN– and it even has a link for an HLC rep to “call me now.”

Sales tactics.

I think it would be very easy for a concerned parent to be taken for thousands of dollars by HLC. And I agree with the Glassdoor reviewers who suggested that parents not spend money on a franchise that underpays its revolving-door tutors and instead seek out a local tutor.

In closing, let me suggest that parents who are considering sinking thousands of dollars into HLC read the discussion on this 2005 discussion page. It begins with a parent asking advice about the HLC suggestion that his son needs $10,000-worth of help from HLC to “completely turn around” this “academically struggling” student. The parent would have to take out a loan to afford HLC. Among the commenters on this thread are some with HLC experience. Included is commentary about HLC bill-padding.

HLC can send me all of the ads it likes. I will not be recommending them to any parents of my students.

That noted, I understand how visions of marvelous ACT scores can draw parents in.  Some will enter into contracts with tutoring businesses like HLC.

As for following the enticement of paying money for the ever-increasing ACT score: Get it in writing.

When dealing with promises made by the likes of HLC, get every word in writing.

huntington

________________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover

USDOE Advertises Charter School “Competition” Reviewer Positions for Only One Day

The US Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), an office that Fordham Institute’s pro-privatization president Michael Petrilli supposedly helped to create, has decided that offering the public an opportunity to apply to review state recipients of federal charter school grant money was so important that it should be advertised for one day only– and right before Memorial Day weekend, at that.

obama shh

According to the USDOE blog on May 22, 2015, the information below was posted “one day ago” (May 21, 2015). It is supposedly an advertisement for peer reviewers for yer another USDOE grant “competition,” this one for state-level charter school planning, establishing, and advertising “success.” However, given the OII’s very brief publicizing of the ad, I’m thinking it already has all of the supposedly-solicited “entrepreneurs,” “funders,” and “venture philanthropy” experts in place and that this public ad is mere formality.

Charter Schools Program Seeking Reviewers for State-Level Grant Competition

The Office of Innovation and Improvement is seeking peer reviewers for the FY 2015 Charter Schools Program (CSP) State Educational Agency (SEA) grant competition. This is a competitive grant program that enables SEAs to provide financial assistance, through subgrants to eligible applicants, for the planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools and for the dissemination of information about successful charter schools.

Peer reviewers from various backgrounds and professional are needed, including:

  • State or district education officials
  • Charter school funders
  • Charter school and charter school management organization leaders
  • K-12, special education and English language learner researchers and evaluators
  • Experts in program evaluation
  • Practitioners from the social innovation and venture philanthropy fields
  • Social and education entrepreneurs
  • Strategy practitioners with experience in the charter sector
  • Education and public policy professionals
  • Grant makers or managers with experience in the charter sector
  • Professionals with knowledge of, and experience with, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, education reform, and education policy

Peer reviewers may have expertise in various geographies, including urban, suburban, rural and tribal communities.

Interested individuals can review full information on this reviewer opportunityhere. To be considered as a peer reviewer, please click here to complete the Peer Reviewer Application Form. After completing the form, you will be prompted to send your resume and contact information via email, with the subject heading “FY2015 CSP SEA PEER REVIEWER,” to the email address provided in the Peer Reviewer Application Form.

The deadline for peer reviewer applications is 5:00 p.m. (EDT) on Friday, May 22, 2015 to be considered as an FY 2015 CSP SEA peer reviewer. Please note that resumes cannot exceed a five-page limit.

Bummer. With my knowledge of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), I could have applied.

If only I had seen the ad sooner.

If only I had sold out public education first.

pigs fly 2

But wait… another USDOE page updated May 22, 2015, notes that the deadline for reviewer applications is now May 31, 2015, and includes the following expanded qualifications:

Requirements: Peer reviewers should clearly indicate having one or more of the following backgrounds:

  • Charter management organizations planning and operation
  • Social and education entrepreneurs with experience in the charter sector
  • Education professionals with significant experience in:
    • Charter school leadership and professional development
    • Charter School evaluation and monitoring experience
    • Charter school policy and research
    • Charter school planning, program design, and implementation
    • Charter school technical assistance and resources
    • Charter school authorizing
  • Charter support organizations
  • Education strategy practitioners with experience in the charter sector
  • Special education and English learner researchers and evaluators
  • Experts in charter sector program evaluation
  • Charter school funders
  • Practitioners from the social innovation and venture philanthropy fields
  • Education and public policy professionals
  • Other non-profit entities with experience in the charter sector …

NON-DISCRIMINATION: The Department solicits reviewers without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, age or disability. The Department will provide reasonable accommodations for a qualified individual with a disability so that individual might participate in the peer reviewer application process. If you require a reasonable accommodation to apply to participate in this review, please contact Brian Martin by phone, (202)205-9085 or email at brian.martin@ed.gov no later than 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 31, 2015 to ensure we can facilitate the application process.

An archived version of the above link (dated March 17, 2015) is an outdated call for charter grant applications (not reviewers) for the outdated deadline of July 21, 2014.

It seems that the extended deadline is to cover the USDOE as not being biased against individuals with disabilities. The extended deadline might only apply to such individuals; however, since USDOE has two active web pages on the matter, this entire effort appears last-minute.

Looks like an unprepared USDOE threw this grant together rather quickly.

Before it tries advertising any more “competitions,” perhaps OII should first “innovate” and “improve” on itself.

INFORMATIVE COMMENT BY LAURA CHAPMAN, MAY 23, 2015:

These seem to be annual competitions, promulgated through a USDE rule. The Federal Register shows that the FY 2015 grant competition “rules” were announced late in 2014.

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/11/19/2014-27264/proposed-priorities-requirements-definitions-and-selection-criteria-charter-schools-program-grantsn 2014

The call for reviewers appears to have been issued May 22, 2015…which suggests there is already a pool of reviewers, perhaps a clubby relationship –you scratch my back, I will scratch yours–enabling the very short turnaround in soliciting reviewers. The USDE website sports pix and text about KIPP, the winner of the latest Broad prize.

________________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover

To Education Post’s Peter Cunningham on His Common-Core-Promotion Effort

Peter Cunningham is in charge of what blogger Anthony Cody terms, “education’s only multi-million-dollar blog,” Education Post. In an interview with another blogger, corporate-reform bee charmer Jennifer Berkshire (“EduShyster”), Cunningham divulges the privatizing-reform origins of Education Post:

When I was asked to create this organization—it wasn’t my idea; I was initially approached by Broad—it was specifically because a lot of reform leaders felt like they were being piled on and that no one would come to their defense. They said somebody just needs to help right the ship here. There was a broad feeling that the anti-reform community was very effective at piling on and that no one was organizing that on our side. There was unequivocally a call to create a community of voices that would rise to the defense of people pushing reform who felt like they were isolated and alone. 

Twelve million Broad,Bloomberg, and Walton* Foundation dollars later, we have Cunningham doing as he was asked by billionaire Eli Broad. We have the pro-privatizing-reform blog haven, Education Post, a place for “a different conversation about public education.”

A $12 million blog surely is “different.” As for the “conversation”– well– that’s become all-too-predictable.

apple cash

On May 20, 2015, I read a piece on Cunningham’s amply-funded Education Post about a Louisiana third-grade teacher, Meredith Starks, who is “clinging to” the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and is “terrified that they will be taken away.”

Regarding her teaching capabilities with her students, Starks maintains that CCSS is what enables her “to push them further, to question them deeper, and to support them more than ever before.”  She simply cannot teach well without CCSS.

Those are some powerful standards.

Starks continues her CCSS defense by stating that CCSS will even be able to move Louisiana up in some nebulously-defined rankings if only they are implemented properly:

I advocate so our politicians know that our state can make this transition, but we need more time, and so they don’t vote to take us back ten years to standards that had Louisiana ranked 49th out of 50 states.

Louisiana was “ranked 49th out of 50 states” in something, and it was the fault of Louisiana’s state standards. Thank goodness CCSS is here to raise every state that adopts them in any and all undefined rankings.

Powerful standards, indeed.

But what happens if the 40-plus states that have adopted CCSS don’t all defy the characteristics of rankings by all rising in the rankings? Or, will CCSS do away with the need for rankings when all states that adopted them amazingly tie for first place?

And if those states don’t all astoundingly tie for first place in the whatever-rankings, will the convenient reason be “poor implementation”?

If only we had information from a field test to help inform us of the strengths and weaknesses of CCSS-in-practice. But we don’t. There was no testing of CCSS, just adoption and concurrently declaring that CCSS would work.

And here is Cunningham using Stark’s story on a pro-corporate-reform-funded blog to sell CCSS. The shame is that Ed Post’s Cunningham had to borrow this pro-CCSS story from another corporate-reform-funded group, Stand for Children, and recycle it on his blog.

Are there not two Louisiana third-grade teachers who could have written pro-CCSS posts that would have been original to both Stand for Children and Ed Post?

Better yet– and I know this might require some effort, but it’s not like Cunningham has another full time job to interfere with the task– Ed Post should pound the US pavement for a pro-CCSS teacher for each grade, kindergarten through 12, in both English language arts (ELA) and math, and have each teacher write a pro-CCSS blog post.

Now, with all of those Broad, Bloomberg, and Walton Foundation millions available, Cunningham might be tempted to offer any solicited pro-CCSS teachers a token slice of the walton-Broad Foundation pie for their pro-CCSS post-writing efforts. But don’t do it. It just looks bad, even if those teachers insist that their CCSS devotion is separate from a gift, a stipend, or– in the case of Starks– “contracts posted on social media.” It’s like a parent paying a kid to be friends with his kid– and the “friend” insisting he would have been friends anyway– but still pocketing the money.

I write against CCSS on my blog for free, and no one has any leverage in connecting my position with plump, so-called “reform” financing. I suggest that this K-12, ELA-and-math, pro-CCSS series of Ed Post blog entries be written by teachers in no way connected to any such funding.

After Ed Post produces such a series, we can continue with our “conversation” on the matter.

Meanwhile, my non-Broad-enticed, non-Walton-Bloomberg-Broad-funded book on the history, development, and promotion of CCSS, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, will be published by Teachers College Press on June 12, 2015.

CC book cover

 

*Eariler verison had Arnold Foundation as the Ed Post funder. This was an error. The Broad, Bloomberg, and Walton Foundations appear to be the chief Ed Post backers, though there is also an anonymous donor.

 

 

NEA’s Lily Eskelsen Garcia Remains Faithful to Gates Funding

On April 26, 2015, education historian Diane Ravitch moderated an hour-long discussion between National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten at the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education (NPE).

Only minutes prior to the conclusion of the session, Ravitch “Barbara Waltered” Garcia and Weingarten with the following question:

The Walton, Gates and Broad Foundations are at the forefront of the  privatization movement. Will you commit not to accept funding from them and not to collaborate with them? [56:56]

She then asked for their “yes or no” answers:

Lily?

Garcia: Yes.

Randi?

Weingarten: Yes.

A beautiful moment. The audience stood and applauded first for Ravitch’s question and then for the Garcia-Weingarten response.

The session soon ended, and Garcia wasted no time backing out of that one.

In fact, in a blog post  entitiled, “Gates Keepers” dated three days prior to her conference appearance (??) and categorized as , “I just had to say this,” Garcia defended her right to say “yes” and mean “no.” (NOTE: Garcia apparently corrected the date of her post as “May 15, 2015″ on May 23, 2015.)

In her oddly-dated post, Garcia attempts to set Gates apart from Walton and Broad. In reality, NEA has no problem with refusing money from Walton because the Waltons hate unions.

As for the Broad Foundation, Garcia criticizes it as “all charters all the time.”

But when it comes to taking cash from the Gates Foundation, Garcia states that Gates is “complicated.”

She might as well have noted that with “all charters all the time” Broad, it is also “complicated” since some NEA locals have accepted Broad funding in the past. But let’s just set that aside for now.

As supposed evidence that Gates can be trusted (and that accepting his money is fine), Garcia cites part of the Gates Foundation website that offers a brochured Gates sell:

We are focused on results. Those that can be measured. And those measured in ways beyond numbers. We see individuals, not issues. We are inspired by passion, and compassion for the wellbeing of people. Our methods are based on logic, driven by rigor, results, issues, and outcomes. Our innovation means trying new things, learning from our mistakes, and consistently refining our approach. Our strategies help us define our path to success, but our effectiveness is based in the aggregate power of our initiatives to impact holistic change.

That is enough for Garcia. She considers Gates trustworthiness as established.

She does not add that the Gates Foundation is clear about making grants “according to our funding priorities” and by directly contacting organizations to invite them to apply for grants under those Gates-determined priorities.

As evidence of Gates’ goodness, Garcia notes that Gates funds “the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (which the NEA helped found).”

Let’s talk about Gates money and National Board.

In March 2014, Gates shelled out $200,000 to help pay for National Board’s conference. Coincidentally, in March 2014, Bill Gates gave a keynote at that same National Board Teaching and Learning conference.

His speech focused on one of his pet investment priorities: the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Gates wants CCSS. He gives millions (billions?) to organizations to implement CCSS.

Gates wants it– he buys it.

That’s not so complicated. But it certainly does afford Gates some power-wielding influence. Indeed, the day before Gates’ speech to the National Board, he dined with 80 senators.

Think about that.

Billionaire Gates has the ear of scores of influential individuals. It’s a great exchange: You give us money; we give you an audience. Another example: in summer 2008, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) President Gene Wilhoit asked Gates to fund CCSS. In November 2010, Gates offered a CCSSO keynote on CCSS. Gates was listed as a CCSSO “co-chair and trustee.”

By way of his wallet, Gates is allowed time and again to voice his ideas on test-score-driven, market-friendly education “reform.”

Since 2003, Gates has given the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) $2.3 million. In 2009, NCSL “co-chair” Gates gave a keynote in which he said, “Without measurement, there is no pressure for improvement.”

Forget learning for learning’s sake. External pressure is required, says expert Gates.

He also urged legislators to lift caps on charter schools.

And of course, Gates did not want to miss an opportunity to plug CCSS as a hub for “measurable” reform:

We need to take two enabling steps: we need longitudinal data systems that track student performance and are linked to the teacher; and we need fewer, clearer, higher standards that are common from state to state. The standards will tell the teachers what their students are supposed to learn, and the data will tell them whether they’re learning it. …

Fortunately, the state-led Common Core State Standards Initiative is developing clear, rigorous common standards that match the best in the world. …

This is encouraging—but identifying common standards is not enough. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards.

It is no secret that NEA is all in for CCSS. So, the fact that Gates is all in is no problem for Garcia. As of May 2015, the Gates Foundation has paid the NGA Foundation $4.6 million for CCSS implementation.

Gates was asked to foot the bill for CCSS before there was a CCSS. Gates agreed. And in the following several years, NEA has raked in upwards $5 million for a CCSS that surely did not originate with NEA. Yet Garcia maintains, “Outside funders don’t drive our mission.We drive funders to our members and their ideas….”

Right.

Let’s do another keynote:

In February 2011, Gates gave a keynote to the National Governors Association. One of his suggestions was to lift caps on class sizes. He said that having the “more effective teacher” teach a larger class (from 20 to 26) would be better on the budget– and he said it would produce “better student outcomes.” (See video #2 on the playlist below.)

In addition, it is worth noting that in February 2011, the Gates Foundation gave NGA $1.3 million “to work with state policymakers on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, with special attention to effective resource reallocation to ensure complete execution, as well as rethinking state policies on teacher effectiveness.”

Gates is able to not only pay for his vision of American public education; his money provides him ample keynote addresses to speak his vision to influential individuals. This ability affords Gates a power over American education not to be underestimated.

But Lily Eskelsen Garcia is willing to defend NEA’s continued receiving of Gates funding on a technicality:

NEA doesn’t directly receive the Gates funding. The NEA Foundation does.

And she completely glosses over her verbal agreement at the NPE conference to no longer even collaborate with Gates.

Nothing doing.

Her version of Ravitch’s question is botched on her blog, but the point of her unswerving Gates allegiance is clear:

I was asked at the NPE conference to give a simple answer to a question that is not so simple: Would my union, the NEA, accept Gates grants? The fact is that, no, NEA does not directly take funds from the Gates Foundation. … Our union organized an independent foundation for the very purpose of connecting philanthropists with the creative work of our member practitioners in classrooms across the country. … And in service to those members and those students, we will continue to work with powerful partners, foundations and institutions dedicated to educational innovation, educator empowerment, student health, and parent engagement. Over the years, we’ve helped educators connect with many donors, including the Gates Foundation….

NEA and the NEA Foundation are two peas, same pod. The NEA Foundation is supported in part via NEA membership dues, and Garcia sits on the NEA Foundation board of directors.

Gates money to the NEA Foundation is Gates money to NEA. For example, consider these two July 2013 NEA Foundation grants:

Date: July 2013
Purpose: to support a cohort of National Education Association Master Teachers in the development of Common Core-aligned lessons in K-5 mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts
Amount: $3,882,600

Date: July 2013
Purpose: to support the capacity of state NEA affiliates to advance teaching and learning issues and student success in collaboration with local affiliates
Amount: $2,446,500

This $6.3 million was paid to the NEA Foundation but directed toward NEA members/affiliates.

And, to be clear, Garcia was not asked by Ravitch if her union, the NEA, would accept Gates grants. She was asked to “commit not to accept funding from” Gates “and not to collaborate with” Gates.

To this, she said yes.

But she meant no.

bill gates forbes

_____________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover

 

 

 

 

 

A Personal Word on the BAT-AFT Teacher Stress Survey

On May 12, 2015, the Badass Association of Teachers (BATs) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) produced the first of what will likely be many reports on information collected as part of an online survey on teacher stress.

The report linked above is posted on the AFT website and introduces the survey as follows:

After concerns of stress on the job were reported to the Badass Teachers Association, a survey on well-being, working conditions and stressors for educators was designed by a group of teachers who are members of the American Federation of Teachers or BATs, and it was reviewed and refined by a workplace stress expert and a professional pollster. Circulated via email and social media, the survey was posted online on April 21 and closed on May 1. The first of its kind, the 80-question survey was filled out by more than 30,000 educators.

The survey can be viewed here.

I plan to write about the survey results; however, I am waiting until the BATs are ready to release the actual response rates for each of the categorical questions on the survey. (Some questions are open-ended and thus are not tabulated by category. These open-ended responses must be analyzed using qualitative research techniques.)

For now, in this post, I would like to offer a teacher stressor response more like an individual case study:

My own.

What I write is my experience, and I offer it here in hopes that my experience might prove useful to those who read it. Though they are candid, my words are not intended to negatively reflect on the BATs’ noble effort to support teachers by publicizing the stress we currently face as a matter of course under test-score-driven, teacher-scapegoating, corporate “reform.”

What follows is simply my perspective on the matter of both the BATs survey and my own “teacher stress” experience.

I saw the invitation to take the survey on the BATs Facebook page, and I also received an email from AFT about the survey. I chose not to complete the survey. My immediate thought upon seeing the invitation was that one needs no survey to know that teachers are under tremendous stress to prove their worth in student test score outcomes.

tightrope closeup

However, I realize now that the survey was a chance for teachers to not only have a voice, 80 questions of brief catharsis, but also for BATs to preserve a record of teacher stress in an effort to combat it.

What sealed the deal for my deciding not to complete the survey was AFT’s involvement in the effort. In its 2013 survey on teachers perceptions of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), AFT manipulated the reporting of the result to make it appear that teacher support for CCSS was more solid than it actually was. This led to the fabricated-yet-popular media message that teachers are fine with CCSS and that it is only implementation that is the problem.

In her May 12, 2015, article on the BAT-AFT survey, Washington Post writer Lyndsey Layton draws attention to the idea that it is CCSS implementation that it the problem– as if teachers are automatically fine with there being a CCSS to begin with:

Teachers said they feel particularly anxious about having to carry out a steady stream of new initiatives — such as implementing curricula and testing related to the Common Core State Standards — without being given adequate training, according to the survey.

The BAT-AFT survey question to which Layton’s statement connects, number 28, makes no mention of CCSS. However, I have heard Layton jump to this “implementation is the problem” conclusion before in her March 2014 interview with billionaire Bill Gates. And regarding CCSS implementation, she refers to Weingarten.

CCSS is an undeniable part of the AFT agenda.

Concerning the BAT-AFT survey, I did not want my words on the stress in my professional life to be open to manipulation to suit some AFT agenda.

Indeed, AFT President Randi Weingarten’s decisions so often go against what one might call “teacher support” that I include her among the top stressors connected to my professional life. She supports CCSS and has even given as her reason that for her, CCSS support is “personal.” Moreover, she only reluctantly agreed to take no more Gates money when put on the spot by education historian Diane Ravitch in a session at the 2015 Network for Public Education (NPE) conference in Chicago. Finally, she refuses to take a public stand against Democratic governors who are horrible toward teachers (Cuomo of New York; Malloy of Connecticut), and she even engages in highly-questionable, back-door Cuomo support actions such as the September 2014 robocall for Cuomo running mate, Kathy Hochul.

Weingarten appears to be little more than a willing errand girl for the corporate-bent Democratic National Party. That stresses me, a teacher who regularly pays AFT dues from her frozen teacher salary. I expect I am far from alone on this one.

Moving on.

Other notable professional stressors on me include the top-down nature of corporate reform. Both the US secretary of education and Louisiana state superintendent are bent on destroying teaching as a profession and replacing it with the likes of turnstile temp teachers from Teach for America (TFA). Nevertheless, I am employed by a district that values career teachers and to date has refused to employ TFAers. The district is stable and has an established reputation among teachers as a desirable district in which to teach– the same as it had when I became a teacher in 1991.

As to local support, I know that my district or school-level administrators are not trying to get rid of me. That noted, I still must deal with my professional worth as being tied to student test scores. The criteria is ever-changing. This year, I have received a formal classroom observation rating of “effective.” Also, according to my students’ End-of-Course (EOC) tests, I have been rated “highly effective”– though I wonder the degree to which their high scores is evidence of their improving ability to take computerized tests.

The final measure was the most uncertain for me: It is a VAM-like concoction using the ACT series of tests (Explore for grade 9, PLAN for grade 10, and ACT for grade 11). Here’s how this game goes: I teach tenth grade. At the beginning of the year, I had to count the number of students who had a 14 or higher on Explore or a 15 or higher on PLAN. These students were considered to be “on level.” The rest were not. So, of those who were not, I was supposed to show that 10 percent “grew” to reach the acceptable scoring threshold on the next test in the ACT series in order to be rated “highly effective.” But here’s the catch: Any student who met the previous threshold but did not meet the next was added to the group of students whose scores counted against me.

As it turns out, the scores fell such that I can continue to be rated “effective.” I do not control these scores.

I do not control the scores, yet my livelihood rests on these test scores. And here is the key to my sanity: My faith in Christ is the cornerstone of my life. I know that most of life is out of my control. I do what I can with a thankful and respectful attitude, and I consciously and intentionally leave the rest to God.

One key element I can control is my advocacy. I blog. I speak publicly. I write books. And this regular, intellectual stimulation, this contributing to a greater purpose in serving others, these contributions God uses to strengthen and sustain me as I journey through the burdensome nonsense of test-score-driven “reform.”

Other assets contributing to my mental heath include listening to soothing instrumental music, watching my favorite comedy DVDs, regularly exercising, limiting my time around those who will complain and not act, and practicing a thankful attitude regardless of the circumstances.

Whether all of the above would have emerged in answers to the BAT survey I cannot tell, but I invite readers to take from my words what they find useful and encouraging.

My best to you all.

hope

_______________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

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