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Chicago’s Wrongly-ousted Principal, Troy LaRaviere: Still on the CPAA Ballot

On April 20, 2016, Blaine Elementary (Chicago) principal, Troy LaRiviere, was informed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointed school board that he (LaRaviere) was to be removed and “reassigned.”

troy laraviere 2  Troy LaRaviere

On August 26, 2015, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Forrest Claypool recommended to the CPS board that they adopt this warning resolution that maintains LaRaviere had “engaged in unsatisfactory conduct… that will result in the preferring of dismissal charges against Troy LaRaviere… if said conduct is not corrected immediately, and maintained thereafter in satisfactory fashion following receipt of the Warning Resolution.”

On August 28, 2015, LaRaviere offered explanation of the warning resolution in this post on his blog. LaRaviere prefaces his explanation with the following regarding his accomplishments at Blaine:

When I write and post, it is always about CPS policy; never about myself. However, it seems that it might now be helpful to tell you a few things about my record. After all, who am I to criticize CPS’ management, and why should anyone listen to me?

I am the principal of Blaine elementary school. When I arrived at Blaine in 2011, 79% of students were meeting standards—one of the highest percentages in the district among neighborhood schools. Just two short years later 89% we’re meeting standards—remarkable growth for an already high-performing school. Only 43% of African-American students were meeting standards on the ISAT test before I began my principalship. Just two years later almost 80% were meeting those standards (The ISAT was discontinued after two years).

Most importantly–according to criteria established by Rahm Emanuel himself, as a part of his principal merit awards–only three schools in the entire district have consistently met three or more of his four school excellence criteria—for three consecutive years.** That’s three schools out of more than 600. Blaine is one of those three schools. Although he calls it a “principals” award, Blaine’s progress has been the result of the collaborative work of a strong team of people. I lead that team.

One would think CPS and City Hall would pay more attention to the critiques of a principal whom their own criteria has identified as one of the district’s three most effective school leaders.

One would be wrong.

LaRaviere continues by noting the charges against him:

CPS is not interested in anything that contradicts its ideologically driven anti-public-school privatization agenda; an agenda which includes, among other things, over-testing students, and the diversion of public education funds away from students into the hands of private interests. It was action I took against both of these backward elements of the CPS reform agenda that led to the Board’s warning resolution against me. The resolution contains two warnings.

SUPPORTING PARENT CHOICE IN OPTING STUDENTS OUT OF TESTING
The first warning is in regard to actions I took in response to a PARCC testing Opt-Out movement initiated by Blaine’s PTA. It was the most successful elementary school opt out movement in Chicago, with more than 80% of our parents opting their children out of taking the test. It was a parent-driven effort and I fully supported their right to opt their children out.

Parents submitted forms directing us not to give the test to their students. CPS responded by telling principals that we must defy parents and sit the student down in front of a test—that only when the student refused it, could we allow him or her not to take it. …

CPS’ directive appeared to be a thinly veiled effort to pressure students into taking the test in defiance of their parents. It is blatant hypocrisy for a district that promotes itself as supporting “parent choice” to go to such great lengths to get children to violate the choices their parents make for them. I responded in an open letter to CPS stating:

“I will not be following ISBE’s ridiculous directives aimed at intimidating children and families into taking tests they do not want to take… No child under my watch whose parents have opted him or her out of the PARCC will be sat in front of any computer to take it, nor presented with any materials. The test wastes enough time on its own. We are not wasting even more learning time by engaging in CPS’ and ISBE’s test-driven political theater.”

This is the stance for which I was cited in the warning resolution.

Within the resolution the board plainly states that their reason for issuing the warning is because, “You publicly supported the Blaine PTA’s Opt Out initiative for the PARCC test.” …

INSUBORDINATION: VIOLATING THE NO-QUESTIONS POLICY
The second thing I was cited for was insubordination when I violated a “no questions” policy at a district principals budget meeting. I sat there at the meeting listening to CPS officials blame Springfield and teacher pensions for the budget woes, while they completely ignored their own well documented corrupt and reckless spending (e.g., $20 Million Supes Contract, $340 Million Aramark Contract, $10 million central office furniture purchase, etc. etc.). So I stood up and asked the question anyway, citing several questionable expenses. Then CEO, Jesse Ruiz, stood up and told me that I was being disruptive. It is a profound moment of truth and clarity when a CPS official gets up and makes it clear that he considers asking relevant questions “disruptive.” I have already written extensively about the details of this encounter in a post entitled, “Adding Insult to Injury: A Look Inside a CPS Principals Budget Meeting.” In the resolution, the board cites me for insubordination, in part, because Ruiz asked me why I worked for CPS if I were so unhappy with its leadership, and I responded, “To save it from people like you.” It is important to note that Ruiz asked me to come into the hallway where he called me a “loud-mouthed principal” and asked me that question. In essence, the board is attempting to discipline me for answering his question. If he didn’t want an honest answer, he should not have asked the question.

LaRaviere notes in this April 22, 2016, post, the details leading to his April 20, 2016, removal and advice for those who wish to assist him in fighting it:

Thank you to the thousands of people who have expressed support for me and my work. For those who plan on taking some kind of action, please ensure it is purposeful and well-informed. With that said, any action should take the following information into account.
I STILL HAVE NOT BEEN INFORMED OF THE CHARGES AGAINST ME.
At this point, this should be at the core of any effort to support my case. Any protest or other efforts should focus on forcing CPS to tell me what they’re charging me with. Here is some background information that should inform such efforts.
CPS officials claim I missed a “hearing.” The claim is misleading to say the least. On Tuesday—the day before the “hearing”—they sent me the following message in an email:
“We have scheduled an important meeting with you at 2pm tomorrow regarding ethics and other matters. Please come to the Law Department on the 9th floor at 1 North Dearborn.  Thank you.”
First–As you can plainly see–there is no mention of any possible discipline or misconduct violations. There is no reference to my “employment status” in this message or even any direct indication that I had violated any policy. Just a vague discussion of “ethics.”
Second—it was sent on short notice the day before the meeting.
Third—it was sent via email. No phone call. No letter. Just a vague email the day before the meeting.

Unfortunately I didn’t receive the email on time because I took a sick day on Tuesday to take care of my son who had a minor surgery scheduled that day. I therefore could not attend a meeting that I didn’t know about. Based on the last minute email-only notification, it appears this was the result CPS officials were hoping for.

Again, since we don’t know what the alleged violations are, I believe ANY EFFORTS TO SUPPORT MY CASE SHOULD FOCUS ON FORCING CPS TO TELL ME WHAT THEY’RE CHARGING ME WITH. After they reveal the charges people can then decide what next steps need to be taken.

Chicago Reader journalist Ben Joravsky notes that the ouster of LaRaviere appears to be an effort by Emanuel’s CPS board to thwart LaRaviere’s future election as the next president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association:

If you want to know why Mayor Emanuel picked this moment in time to punish Blaine Elementary School principal Troy LaRaviere, consider this: LaRaviere’s running for president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association [CPAA] and the election’s in a few weeks.

The last thing the mayor wants is to give this outspoken, fearless school critic—who knows a thing or two about the system—an even bigger platform than he already has.

If such were the Emanuel-CPS-board goal, their drawing such attention to LaRaviere in the weeks prior to the CPAA election seems, well, stupid. Though LaRaviere is not allowed to visit schools in order to campaign, the CPS board has effectively made LaRaviere both local and national news.

As Joravsky writes:

In 2014, LaRaviere criticized the $260 million janitorial contract that Emanuel’s handpicked school board doled out to Aramark, and the $80 million one they awarded to SodexoMagic.

LaRaviere was right to critique those contracts, as the schools have been filthy since the deals went down.

He also spoke out against the $20.5 million principal-consultation contract Rahm’s board forked over to Supes Academy back in 2013.

He said it was a waste of time and money. He was right about that too. In fact, LaRaviere was one of the few people who criticized the deal before the feds broke the news that Supes had given kickbacks to Barbara Byrd Bennett—Rahm’s handpicked schools CEO.

Imagine the problems LaRaviere could cause Rahm if he could rally Chicago’s public school principals against these kinds of privatization deals.

It would be like having two Karen Lewises in town. And you know Rahm can barely take one of her.

Indeed.

karen lewis 2 Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis

Moreover, in removing LaRaviere for a “reappointment” to nowhere, Emanuel’s CPS board not only placed LaRaviere squarely in the public eye, but it actually freed LaRaviere’s schedule so that he might become even more of an activist, as reporter Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune reflects:

I thought the headline “CPS Principal Troy LaRaviere Whacks Rahm — and Still Keeps His Job” over a column by Chicago magazine’s Carol Felsenthal earlier this month spoke well of the mayor’s ability to tolerate vigorous dissent in the education ranks. And that it was smart of Emanuel not to amplify LaRaviere’s influence and underlying points by turning him into a martyr.

Now LaRaviere is a cause celebre. Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders issued a statement from the campaign trail Thursday: “The only explanation for his removal appears to be Mayor Emanuel’s unhealthy obsession with taking revenge. It is absolutely unacceptable that a school principal is facing politically motivated retaliation because he dared to stand up to the mayor of Chicago. I condemn Principal LaRaviere’s reassignment and call on Democrats around the country to stand up against Mayor Emanuel’s pettiness.” …

By swinging the axe, Emanuel’s Board of Education risks elevating a man who was not particularly well-known outside of activist circles into a prospective 2019 mayoral candidate. …

This “reassignment” highlights LaRaviere’s complaints about CPS, and seems likely to land him in a position — with a think-tank or other organization — where he’ll be able to devote himself full time to coalition-building, networking and advocacy of an anti-Emanuel political agenda. It also makes the mayor look like a thin-skinned bully.

I wondered if LaRaviere’s being removed from his principalship might have affected his ability to run for president of CPAA. I found nothing definite in the CPAA constitution and bylaws; so, I spoke with CPAA office manager, Kent Lau to find out if LaRaviere were still eligible to become CPAA’s next president.

Lau confirmed that LaRaviere is still on the CPAA ballot, which is scheduled to be mailed to CPAA membership on May 02, 2016. Lau sad that the election results would be released on May 20, 2016.

In other words, LaRaviere could still become CPAA’s next president.

It would be like having two Karen Lewises in town. And you know Rahm can barely take one of her.

May it come to pass.

troy lariviere  Troy LaRaviere

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Coming June 2016 from TC Press:

 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Stay tuned.

 

***

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 a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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

Backhoe in Kansas Disrupts State Testing in Alaska

You read it right.

Alaska state testing was killed by a Kansas backhoe.

Alaska contracts with the University of Kansas’ Center for Educational Testing (CETE) for its state exams– but it looks like this will be the last year for that contract.

Alaska’s interim education commissioner, Susan McCauley, said that the state had already decided in February to shop for another vendor for its state tests.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, March 29, 2016, a worker operating a backhoe at University of Kansas cut a principal fiber optic cable connected to the CETE testing server– a cable that happened to be critical in delivering state testing for Alaska.

CETE serves Kansas as well as the testing of students with cognitive disabilities in 14 other states. CETE’s server was up for Wednesday, March 30, then giving trouble again on Thursday, March 31, and Friday, April 01.

On April 01, 2016, CETE tweeted, “We are down again and recommend no testing today. For additional information and updates: or .”

On Monday, April 04, 2016, CETE tweeted the following:

CETE Media ‏@CETEmedia Apr 4

12,000 students are simultaneously testing this morning with no issues. Thanks for your patience during service interruption last week.

CETE Media ‏@CETEmedia Apr 4

Based on the work that has been done this weekend, KITE indicates a go-ahead for schools to resume testing. Info: http://ksassessments.org/kite View conversation

CETE Media ‏@CETEmedia Apr 4

Our team worked throughout the weekend running diagnostics & making adjustments to the system to help ensure a strong testing environment.

However, by April 04, 2016, Alaska had called it quits on its 2016 standardized testing. McCauley noted that even though the federal government requires standardized testing to be administered as a condition for Title I funding, the federal stipulation is that the tests are to be reliable and valid. Given the chaos introduced by Kansas backhoe and exacerbated by CETE’s bungled efforts to resolve the issue smoothly, McCauley believes that test reliability and validity have been compromised.

For more on this story, read this WTOL news brief, this Washington Post article, and this Westport News article, as well as CETE’s Twitter page.

And for prices on backhoes, check out MachineryTrader.com.

backhoe2

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Coming June 2016 from TC Press:

 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Stay tuned.

 

***

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 a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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

The Multiple Occupancy Bathroom of the Future?

The bathroom has been a national hot spot of discussion, particularly since North Carolina’s HB 2 was signed into law on March 23, 2016.

In short, NC’s HB 2 maintains that “single sex multiple occupancy bathroom and changing facilities” in schools and public agencies are to be reserved for persons of a specific biological sex “as stated on a person’s birth certificate.”

The heated reaction regarding biologically separate, multiple occupancy restroom facilities in public schools and other public buildings appears to have two principal camps: Those who support individuals who identify as transgender as being able to use a public restroom of the gender with which they identify, and those who wish for safety/privacy issues to retain usage of multiple occupancy bathrooms based on biological sex.

My purpose in this post is not to discuss this profound reaction to HB 2. (Feel free to read  here, and  here, and  here, and  here— and also  here, and  here, and  here, and  here).

Instead, in this post, I turn my attention to the multiple occupancy public restroom facility of the not-so-distant future. Like, now.

Whether HB 2 is repealed or not, I believe that the national publicity surrounding the issue is going to alter public restroom design. That might sound funny, but I anticipate that architects and designers of public buildings are already trying to design a multiple occupancy restroom that is able to transcend concern.

I have seen multiple occupancy restrooms in some restaurants and truck stops in which the stall is designed like a little room– it is the size of a stall, yet it has a regular door with a door knob and solid walls. When the door is closed, there is no way for another person to enter by climbing over or under. I have seen some such stalls that have only a few inches of opening at top and bottom; still others are completely enclosed, like a room.

Privacy and safety for any and all individuals in their most vulnerable “I gotta go” moments– and in a multiple occupancy restroom capacity.

The bathrooms described above all had a common wash area that one enters and exits by a common door– the usual open area in a multiple occupancy restroom. This area the future-minded architects and building designers might retain. However, I also envision a design in which the common area for hand washing is actually an open area– no doors necessary to enter or exit.

And urinals– well, I think those could be on their way to extinction. (I once saw a men’s room converted to a women’s room and the urinals holding floral arrangements. Creative.)

I believe that America is able to conquer the bathroom, and our architects and building designers might just be the ones to help us move forward.

bathroom sign

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Coming June 2016 from TC Press:

 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Stay tuned.

 

***

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 a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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

Roughly 66 Percent of Juniors at an Oregon High School Opt Out

For the second year in a row, most juniors at Oregon’s Lake Oswego High School (LOHS) opt out of Smarter Balanced (SBAC) tests.

The LOHS principal even delayed testing by several weeks in order to try to win parents over. Apparently, the campaign didn’t work. Approximately two-thirds of LOHS juniors ditched the SBAC ELA tests scheduled for Monday, April 25, 2016.

The local superintendent likes SBAC and is concerned about sanctions arising from not meeting the federally-required 95 percent related to Title I funding. The 95 percent requirement was part of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and has been retained in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The spring 2016 testing is the last testing season to fall under NCLB.

The local superintendent is also concerned that LOHS’s ranking in US News and World Report will suffer. In other words, the LOHS public image could take a hit as its juniors actively resist being over-tested.

LOHS has an active student union that is not an officially recognized club. The student union purposely kept a low profile, avoiding activity on social media in order to dodge notice by school administration.

More details are available in this Lake Oswego Review article.

My favorite line is this:

LOHS did exceed the state’s expectations [on SB last year], despite its 29.6-percent participation rate.

The story continues by adding of those who did test last year (that fewer than one in three), they did a swell job, with 70 percent proficiency in ELA and 48 percent in math.

And even though in 2015, Oregon lawmakers passed an opt-out law that provides for opting out without having to justify the decision, it seems that some state officials are trying to “creat[e] systems to insure students take the tests to meet the new guidelines within the legislation” in order to meet that 95 percent testing requirement retained in ESSA.

That sounds fishy.

So does the SB adulation peppered throughout the article.

It’s worth a read.

opt out 2

___________________________________________________________

Coming June 2016 from TC Press:

 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Stay tuned.

 

***

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 a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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

Ed Post Is Really RIEF. Time to Look Closer at RIEF’s Board.

In mid-2014, four entities united in order to form (and fund) a nonprofit, the Results in Education Foundation (RIEF). These four entities were former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Emerson Collective. As reported on the RIEF 2014 tax form, all four donated money totaling $5.5 million for that year.

Broad and Walton are foundations; Bloomberg is not identified as a foundation on the 2014 RIEF tax form, so he might have donated individually, and the Emerson Collective is an LLC (“limited liability company.”)

The president of RIEF is Obama-Duncan Chicago associate, Peter Cunningham.

The sole purpose of RIEF is to support the corporate reform communications vehicle, Education Post.

Regarding its role in supporting Ed Post, the Emerson Collective wished to remain anonymous. Since Emerson Collective is an LLC and not a nonprofit, it is not required to publicize the organizations or individuals it supports. It seems that the Emerson Collective is known for wanting to conceal its funding from public purview, as noted in this May 2013 New York Times post: 

There is [a] story line… brought to light by the tale of Laurene Powell Jobs. She is the widow of Steve Jobs, one of the tech titans who received the most criticism for a lack of philanthropy. Yet for more than two decades, his family has been giving away money — anonymously.

“We’re really careful about amplifying the great work of others in every way that we can, and we don’t like attaching our names to things,” Ms. Powell Jobs said in an interview for a profile that Peter Lattman and I wrote in The New York Times last week.

One of the main ways she is able to do that is because of the way she has structured her organization, Emerson Collective. It is an LLC, like a small business, instead of a tax-exempt 501(c)(3), like a charitable organization or foundation. That means that Emerson can make grants, for-profit investments and political donations — and does not have to publicly report its donations as a foundation does. …

“Laurene is a private person, they are a humble family, and they have certainly been generous,” said Ted Mitchell, chief executive of NewSchools Venture Fund, where Ms. Powell Jobs serves on the board. “And I think that the fact that they’ve not needed to splash their name around speaks quite highly to their intense focus on the work.”

Five months after the above New York Times article was published, President Obama nominated Ted Mitchell as Under Secretary. Mitchell was confirmed in May 2014. Keep this in mind as you continue reading.

The Emerson Collective modesty narrative sounds appealing on the surface, but the reality is that Powell Jobs’ LLC is able to fly under the radar of public awareness regarding the causes it finances– and the people it allows to channel its cash and influence.

Thus, the Emerson Collective’s desire to remain anonymous could prompt an individual to try to conceal the official registered name of the nonprofit behind Education Post and instead promote the false message that Ed Post is the registered name of the nonprofit.

The Ed Post website falsely identifies Ed Post as a nonprofit even as it omits any reference to the legitimate name of the nonprofit behind Ed Post. I address this issue in this April 21, 2016, post in which I connect Ed Post to RIEF.

But now, RIEF has been discovered, and so, the public is able to see who is operating the actual nonprofit behind Ed Post.

In my April 21, 2016, post on RIEF, I note that the following individuals comprise the RIEF board:

For much of the remainder of this follow-up, I examine the RIEF board, which profoundly overlaps with Obama and USDOE.

The members of the RIEF board represent its four financial supporters– plus the Ed Post leader, Cunningham.

Kathleen McInerney is “an employee of Bloomberg’s longtime accountant, Martin Gellar.”

Bruce Reed was once president of the Broad Foundation (replaced in 2015 by Paul Pastorek)– and he has Obama connections:

Reed will remain as a consultant and senior adviser to the foundation until Aug. 31 and will continue as a member of the board of directors of the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems. Reed, a former assistant to President Obama and chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, was the foundation’s first president and was named to the position in November 2013.

Emma Bloomberg is Michael Bloomberg’s daughter.

Marc Sternberg is a Walton Foundation director, and he, too, has connections with Obama:

Marc Sternberg is director of the Walton Family Foundation’s Systemic K-12 Education Reform Focus Area, in which he leads the foundation’s initiatives to improve K-12 education by empowering parents with quality options. Before joining Walton, Mr. Sternberg served as senior deputy chancellor at the New York City Department of Education. Mr. Sternberg’s experience in education began with Teach For America, serving as a corps member at a South Bronx middle school. He later served as founding principal of the Bronx Lab School, one of the city’s top-performing open enrollment schools. In 2009, he was selected as one of 15 White House Fellows to serve a one-year post in the Obama administration with the U.S. Department of Education.

It is Sternberg who is quoted as saying, “we take no pleasure in this,” in this April 21, 2016, Catalyst Chicago article about the Walton Foundation’s “pulling out” of funding charter schools in Chicago. The article continues by noting,

Walton’s withdrawal is just one of the signs that Chicago’s once-rapidly expanding charter sector is facing a harder sell in an increasingly hostile political climate.

Next, there’s Russlynn Ali. Ali is the managing director of the Emerson Collective’s education fund. Ali is also connected to Broad. And guess what? She, too, has connections to the Obama administration. From Inside Philanthropy:

PROFILE: Russlynn Ali manages grant making at the Emerson Collective, LLC, an organization quietly established by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs, more than a decade ago. According to their website, Emerson’s concerns divide into three categories: Justice, Students, and Innovation.” Overseeing the “Students” branch of things is Ali, whose rightful claim to professional fame is her impressive stint in the Obama administration.

Ali earned her Bachelor’s from American University and a JD from Northwestern. She worked as an attorney at several California-based law firms and has also taught the subject at UC Davis and University of Southern California.

In the non-profit sector, she’s done policy research for the Broad Foundation, won the Broad Prize in Education, and served on several review boards of education programs such as College Track, Great Schools and Institute for College Access and Success. The Aspen Institute has awarded Ali their New Schools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellowship. She has also served as vice president of Washington, DC’s Education Trust, was the founding managing director of Education Trust West, and the president’s liaison at the Children’s Defense Fund.

Working in the government sector, Ali first served on former California Governor Schwarzenegger’s Advisory Committee on Education Excellence. Then the truly big guy came ‘a knocking.

President Obama appointed her as US Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in May of 2009. There, Ali worked as “US Secretary of Education [Arne] Duncan’s primary adviser on civil rights and [was] responsible for enforcing US civil rights laws as they pertain to education.” She made sure the “nation’s schools, colleges and universities [received] federal funding [that did] not engage in discriminatory conduct related to race, sex, disability or age,” according to the Department of Ed’s site. She also directed an army of around 600 attorneys to this end.

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education says that during Ali’s time at the Office for Civil Rights, she directed their focus more toward discrimination complaints, a topic that did not receive adequate attention under the aegis of former president George Bush. She also “issued new guidance for how colleges and universities should respond to incidents of sexual assault.”

Laurene Powell Jobs hired Ali to oversee grant making at Emerson Collective in 2012. In terms of what she’s funding there, the collective is discrete. Frying Pan News reported a recent donation of $1.2 million from Emerson Collective to Parent Revolution a parent organized group seeking to gain more leverage over the education policy that impacts their children. The LA Times says they gave $200,000 in the Coalition for School Reform, an organization committed to the improvement of public schools in the LA area. Contra Costa Times reported a donation of $40,000 from Emerson Collective to The Santa Clara County Schools PAC.

What all of these organizations share in common is that they strongly support charter schools. Ali also isn’t afraid to dive into the discussion regarding teacher tenure.

But Emerson Collective does not accept unsolicited requests. As they state it: “Actively seeking out individuals and organizations that are doing extraordinary work is a large part of our mission. However, only by discovering these people in the real world and seeing their ideas in their truest form, can we properly evaluate opportunities.”

As it turns out, Ali was the USDOE Office for Civil Rights (OCR) official who wrote the two controversial “Dear Colleague” letters that wrongly interpret OCR’s “guidance” for postsecondary institutions regarding bullying and sexual harassment as legally binding.

To round out the RIEF board, note that Cunningham is also connected to the Obama administration:

Peter Cunningham is the Executive Director of Education Post, a Chicago-based non-profit communications organization promoting education reform. He recently served as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama Administration’s first term. Prior to that he worked with Arne Duncan when he was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. Peter was President of Cunningham Communications, a Chicago-based communications company serving public, private and non-profit sector clients. He also is affiliated with Whiteboard Advisors, a DC-based education policy and research firm. For several years Peter worked with the political consulting firm Axelrod and Associates and also was a speechwriter and senior advisor in the administration of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Add to the above RIEF board Obama/USDOE connections this Ed Post’s former policy director, Ann Whalen, who has Chicago roots and is currently with the Obama administration:

Ann Whalen is senior advisor to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Prior to returning to the U.S. Department of Education, she served as the director of policy for Education Post.

Whalen has served more than five years in the Obama Administration with the U.S. Department of Education. At the department, Ann was director of the Implementation and Support Unit, providing technical assistance to states and school districts as they rolled out new reform programs to improve student results. In that role, she managed a 35-member team and a portfolio of over $50 billion in grant programs. She also served as a special assistant to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, helping shape administration policy across a range of issues. She also worked with Duncan at Chicago Public Schools for six years and served in the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development under the administration of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Whalen is the one who issued this warning letter to state superintendents on December 22, 2015, regarding delivering on federally mandated testing. In her letter, Whalen makes it clear that she plans to either withhold or redirect NCLB funding for states that did not have that 95 percent of students tested in 2014-15:

If a State with participation rates below 95% in the 2014−2015 school year fails to assess at least 95% of its students on the statewide assessment in the 2015−2016 school year, ED will take one or more of the following actions: (1) withhold Title I, Part A State administrative funds; (2) place the State’s Title I, Part A grant on high-risk status and direct the State to use a portion of its Title I State administrative funds to address low participation rates; or (3) withhold or redirect Title VI State assessment funds.

In her December 22, 2015, letter, Whalen suggests that states take action to penalize districts if they don’t deliver that 95 percent for spring 2016 testing.

And, finally, as noted in my April 21, 2016, post, according to this March 20, 2016, EdSurge article, RIEF funder, the Emerson Collective, has just hired former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as a managing partner to ostensibly round up the Chicago youth not attending school– youth that have fallen through the cracks of the Chicago schools disruption that Duncan helped proliferate in his time as Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO and from his Obama-buddy perch in the White House. (Note that the CPS chaos has been exacerbated by yet another Obama pal, Rahm Emanuel, who left his position as White House chief of staff in 2010 to become a Chicago mayor specializing in closing community schools and opening charters.)

No wonder the Waltons only donated $250,000. Given that Bloomberg is now Independent after being both Democrat then Republican, the Waltons are the RIEF, I mean, Ed Post token Republicans.

At its RIEF center, Ed Post is little more than enmeshed USDOE.

obama shh

_________________________________________________________

Coming June 2016 from TC Press:

 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Stay tuned.

 

***

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 a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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

 

 

 

 

 

More About “Education Post, the Nonprofit”–Including Its Anonymous Donor

On September 01, 2014, Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post officially introduced Peter Cunningham’s Education Post to the world. Below is an excerpt from Layton’s article:

Into the fray steps Education Post, a nonprofit group that plans to launch Tuesday with the aim of encouraging a more “respectful” and fact-based national discussion about the challenges of public education, and possible solutions.

Peter Cunningham, the former communications guru for U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is leading the organization, which is backed with initial grants totaling $12 million from the Broad Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Walton Family Foundation and an anonymous donor.

Layton identifies Ed Post as a nonprofit. So does Ed Post, as noted on its “about” page:

We are a non-partisan communications organization dedicated to building support for student-focused improvements in public education from preschool to high school graduation.

Thus, it seems logical that one might locate the nonprofit, Ed Post, when using a nonprofit search engine.

Not so. There is no nonprofit registered under the name, Education Post. Furthermore, the Ed Post website offers no indication that Education Post is associated with any otherwise-named nonprofit.

This sure makes it difficult for the public to examine the financial situation of this “nonprofit”– including possible identity of that anonymous donor.

If Education Post were a legitimate nonprofit established by fall 2014, then by spring 2016, it should have at least one 990 tax form on file. And so it does– but not under the name, Education Post.

In order to locate the Ed Post-related nonprofit, I used the Broad Foundation’s 2014 990 tax form. I knew from Layton’s article that Broad financed Ed Post in 2014. No Ed Post was listed among Broad’s 2014 grants, so I began to search Broad’s 2014 grants to organizations in Chicago. (The Ed Post website has a Chicago address.)

The first search result on the Broad 2014 tax form yielded a $1,000,000 grant to the nonprofit, Results in Education (RIE) Foundation. The memo for the contribution was, “Support startup of Education Post” (page 39).

Bingo.

RIEF (as it is abbreviated on its own tax form) received its nonprofit status in September 2014. It has one 990 tax form on file, for May 19, 2014 to December 31, 2014. That form was officially filed on November 25, 2015.

Under “name of foundation,” RIEF’s 2014 990 has “Results in Education Foundation (aka Education Post).” However, RIEF’s EIN (employee identification number) is filed under “Results in Education Foundation,” not “Education Post.”

Peter Cunningham is a communications guy, so he ought to have the nonprofit name, Results in Education Foundation, on the Ed Post website. Otherwise, it sure looks like his goal is to make it difficult for people to track the funding of Ed Post.

Calling Ed Post a nonprofit appears to underscore the intention to keep the public in the dark regarding Ed Post financing.

As for what is revealed on the RIEF 2014 tax form:

RIEF is “in the care of” Geller and Co., New York, NY.

The five highest compensated RIEF employees:

  • Tracy Barber, messaging and program director, $89,010
  • Michael Vaughn, communication director, $74,357
  • Antonia Whalen, policy director, $68,356
  • John Gordon Wright, social media director, $65,507
  • Christopher Stewart, outreach and external affairs director, $46,299

And, of course, there is Peter Cunningham, president, $190,700.

Note that the above compensation was for at most approximately 7 1/2 months.

As for RIEF board members (aside from Cunningham):

The address provided for Cunningham and the rest of the board is “C/O RIEF, 1360 N. Milwaukee, Unit 3, Chicago, IL 60622– the same address provided at the bottom of the Ed Post webpage without any reference to RIEF.

It is only right that Emma Bloomberg should be on the RIEF board. In 2014, her father, Michael Bloomberg, donated the largest grant, $3.2 million.

The second largest came from the Broad Foundation: $1.5 million. (According to the Broad 2014 tax form, the contribution was $1 million. Hmm.)

The smallest came from the Walton Family Foundation: $250,000. (That’s the same amount the Waltons pay for a charter startup.)

And that mystery donor?

The Emerson Collective, a “limited liability company” (LLC)  located in Palo Alto, California, founded by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs and that focuses on “education, immigration, and justice.” ( http://nyti.ms/1SUQt5i )

The Emerson Collective gave RIEF $500,000 in 2014. It has also made donations to a few other nonprofits: I Am Giving Foundation, PlusOnePlusOnePlusOne, and StudentsFirst.

According to the nonprofit search engine, CitizenAudit, Powell Jobs is also connected to the John and Lisa Pritzker Family Fund, Stand for Children, and Wendy Kopp’s Teach for All.

(The Chicago-based Pritzkers are close to Obama, as is Cunningham.)

The Milken Institute offers this 2013 bio on Powell Jobs:

Laurene Powell Jobs is founder and chair of Emerson Collective, which supports social entrepreneurs and organizations in education and immigration reform, social justice and conservation. Powell Jobs also serves as president of the board of College Track, an after-school program she founded to prepare underserved high school students for success in college. Started in East Palo Alto, Calif., College Track has expanded to serve students in Oakland, San Francisco, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Aurora, Colo. Its academic and extracurricular program aims to ensure admittance to and graduation from college. Additionally, she serves on the boards of NewSchools Venture Fund, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Conservation International, Next Generation and Stanford University. She also serves on the chairman’s advisory board of the Council on Foreign Relations. Powell Jobs holds a B.A. and a B.S.E. from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

And Teach for All offers this bio:

Laurene Powell Jobs is founder and chair of Emerson Collective, an organization that supports social entrepreneurs and organizations working in the areas of education, immigration reform and social justice.

Ms. Powell Jobs serves as president of the board of College Track, an after-school program she founded in 1997 to prepare underserved high school students for success in college. The program’s intensive academic and extracurricular program is designed to ensure admittance to and graduation from college. More than 90 percent of College Track high school graduates go on to college, and the program’s college graduation rate is more than double to that of low-income students.

In addition to her work with the Emerson Collective and College Track, she serves on the boards of directors of NewSchools Venture Fund, Conservation International, and Stanford University. She also serves on the Chairman’s advisory board of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ms. Powell Jobs holds a BA and a BSE from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Earlier in her career, she spent several years working in investment banking and later co-founded a natural foods company in California.

Why Emerson Collective’s fronting $500,000 to Ed Post should have been kept a secret seems odd. But here is some 2016 news that shows just how small the world of corporate ed reform is:

In March 2016, the Emerson Collective gained a new “managing partner”:

Arne Duncan.

Yep. According to this March 20, 2016, EdSurge article:

Last week, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he was joining the Emerson Collective as a managing partner, aiming to look for ways to help “disconnected youth,” kids ages 17 to 24 years old who are not in school, not working and may have criminal records, reports the LA Times.

Duncan and the Emerson Collective will “focus first on Chicago,” noted this release. The Emerson Collective is a Limited Liability Company (LLC) based in based in Palo Alto and focuses on education, immigration and social justice. It is supported by Laurene Powell Jobs, who serves as the organization’s president. “The immediate goal [of Duncan’s work] is to provide job opportunities for young people today in Chicago and to help forge a safer, surer path from home to school to work for at-risk kids,” said the release.

In addition, Duncan will support the XQ Institute and the XQ Super School Project, an Emerson Collective project that proposes to reimagine high school. The program includes a grant competition open to all communities; nearly 700 applications have been submitted. The first grants are slated to be announced in the summer.

Duncan is opening a Chicago office for Emerson and is already hiring.

Well. If Duncan’s new role is why Emerson Collective wanted anonymity in donating to close Duncan associate, Cunningham’s Ed Post, so much for that.

I look forward to dissecting RIEF’s 2015 tax info when it becomes available. At least now I know where to look.

magnifying glass

__________________________________________________________

Coming June 2016 from TC Press:

 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Stay tuned.

 

***

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 a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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

Reflections on the Edushyster-Cunningham “Conversation” at NPE

On Sunday, April 17, 2016, at the Third Annual Network for Public Education (NPE) Conference, my friend and colleague, Jennifer Berkshire (“Edushyster”), hosted a session with Education Post executive director, Peter Cunningham. I was ambivalent about attending the session but did so because it was Berkshire’s session.

Cunningham is a public relations guy. He has Chicago roots that extend as far back as writing speeches for former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and working for Arne Duncan, both when Duncan was Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO and when Duncan was US secretary of education (Cunningham was an assistant secretary in charge of PR during Obama’s first term).

So, as Cunningham told Berkshire in this May 2015 interview when billionaire Eli Broad was looking for someone to spearhead an organization to serve as an education reformer rest-and-rescue stop, he approached Cunningham. And why not? Cunningham is a PR man seasoned in the ways of Chicago-styled corporate reform still directly connected to the White House.

According to Cunningham:

When I was asked to create this organization [Education Post]—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. 

That “community of voices” began in September 2014 with a boost to the tune of $12 million in funding from Broad, Walton, Bloomberg, and a “mystery” contributor.

And indeed, Education Post, described on its website as a “nonprofit, nonpartisan communications organization,” is a haven for all things corporate reform, including standardized testing, charter expansion, Teach for America, and Common Core. That $12 million couldn’t have bought a “better conversation.” The site lists 355 network members, many of whom are notable names in market-driven, test-score-centered reform.

Most of the writing is a hooray-fest for corporate reform. If I did not have 16 full time years in the public school classroom, and if I were able to shed my research background and any exposure to mainstream media, and if I had not written three research-based books on corporate ed reform, and if I had no firsthand experience with the state-of-the-art lying and manipulation of Louisiana state superintendent John White (who happens to be one of those 355 Ed Post network members), then I should like it very much at Ed Post.

Sure, there are some pieces that acknowledge problems in the reform agenda, but such pieces are few, and none that I have read comes close to throwing any of those millionaire-bought-community members into corporate-reform, critical-appraisal shock.

Indeed, Ed Post does “rise to the defense of people pushing reform.” Cunningham is doing what he was hired to do.

But I did learn a little from attending the Berkshire-Cunningham “conversation” at NPE. First of all, Cunningham stated that parents believe that they or their children are the biggest factors on learning. Still, he is fine with focusing attention on teachers because “teachers are all we have to address problems.” His statement reminded me of a statement from economist Eric Hanushek’s 1968 doctoral thesis (which I discuss in my book, Chronicle of Echoes, on page 81):

Family backgrounds and attitudes exhibit a significant relationship with achievement. However, their role is generally deemphasized in the analysis since they are not very useful for policy applications.

Teachers are under the thumb of policymakers; thus, they should be “emphasized,” so to speak, and the weight of outcomes (chiefly test scores, of course) is on us.

Cunningham is fine with this.

A second issue that caught my attention was Cunningham’s statement to an audience member that “lots of people on your side are getting paid.” That’s funny to me, and funnier still is that Cunningham brought up the unions. But it doesn’t work that way. I am a union member, and I pay the union to belong to it. The union does not pay me (though I was once accused of collecting from the union by a woman who herself is funded by the Waltons).

Cunningham added that people with money can buy votes. This was not news to me. It is how his Ed Post network member John White became Louisiana state superintendent, and over the past several years, I have seen this in action as an indispensable component of advancing the corporate reform agenda.

One final lesson that I learned from the “conversation” took me a few days to process. It seemed to me that Cunningham operates in a bubble that stops short of any genuine critical appraisal of the reforms he espouses. He was given millions to “rise to the defense of those pushing reforms,” and he seems to readily deliver on that task.

Even so, I also know that he tries to have behind-the-scenes “conversations” with those opposed to the corporate takeover of traditional public education. He tried to have coffee with me when he was in New Orleans in June 2015. I said no because I sensed nothing genuine in him. In other words, a behind-the-scenes, non-corporate-reform conversation with Peter Cunningham would remain there– behind the scenes.

He has his funders to think about, and they would not want their PR guy to publicize my perspective and experiences (or the perspectives and experiences of other supporters of traditional public education with which he “converses”) on their blog.

A few days after NPE, I understood the Cunningham bubble. It all made sense:

Cunningham is a PR guy. It’s what he does. It’s what he has done for decades in the defense of corporate reform. End of story.

As such, Cunningham will likely never conduct any serious investigation into the problems of the agenda he is being paid to advance. He and his blogger network might skirt the issues, but that skirting will be inconsequential as it is washed in the wide sea of the majority of Ed Post writings that gently stroke the ego of corporate reform.

And if anything threatens that ego– say, Berkshire’s taking up Cunningham’s offer to post her decidedly non-corporate-reform writings on Ed Post– then, as Berkshire noted in her session with Cunningham, she had better be ready to “be pursued by Cunningham’s people for her adverse views”– and as she stated, she is not.*

I like being outside of the billionaire-approved thought bubble myself. Perhaps one day, Cunningham will join me.

Then we might be able to have a real conversation.

But not until then.

***

*UPDATE 04-21-16, from Jennifer Berkshire:

Just to clarify, while Peter Cunningham and I did have conversations about my writing something for EdPost, we never talked about my getting paid to contribute. Last year I approached Cunningham about funding an idea I had to record a series of podcasts in which I would chat with various reform advocates. The other funders included both teacher unions and another reform group. While I liked this idea in the abstract, the insanity of it became obvious last summer. For one thing, EdPost insisted on being very “hands-on” about their role in the project, including assigning me a minder who would help select guests for the podcast and ensure that they understood what they were getting themselves into by agreeing to talk to me (!) Then in August, my piece about New Orleans, and the resistance to the reform experiment among native New Orleanians, appeared in Salon. Since EdPost is one of the loudest boosters of the success of the New Orleans model, the “swarm,” as Peter Cunningham described them in the interview I did with him, EdPost’s angry hive of paid reform defenders, came after me. I told Cunningham “thanks but no thanks,” and ended up crowdfunding most of the money for the podcast instead.

 

conversation 2

___________________________________________________________

Coming June 2016 from TC Press:

 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Stay tuned.

 

***

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 a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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

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