A Chicago Teacher Questions Martin Koldyke’s “Golden Apples” Program
A few days ago, a Chicago teacher contacted me to make me aware of a program in Chicago, the “Golden Apple” program, one that supposedly rewards good teachers yet seems more like a front to supply a temporary teaching staff in schools that businessman Martin Koldyke has taken control of in the all-too-common corporate reform name of “turning them around.”
This teacher read my book, A Chronicle of Echoes, which has three chapters focused on the history of mayoral control in Chicago. She noted that I did not mention Koldyke, which is true. My book is a 24-chapter survey of corporate reform, and I had to cut information in order to limit its size. (Even with small font, the book is over 500 pages.) Plus, I ran out of both energy and summer vacation. (I wrote the body of the book in a single summer. It needed to be done before the fall and my return to teaching full time.)
In February 2013, I had written about Koldyke as part of my 17-post NCTQ series. In my post, I concluded that Golden Apple looked like a legitimate program but that Koldyke’s connections definitely put him in the category of “corporate reformer”:
Koldyke is also founder and chair of the Academy for Urban School Leadership(AUSL). It is here that I read Koldyke’s name in association with Arne Duncan. I read that this group “manages” 25 Chicago public schools and that AUSL’s partners include the Dell and Gates Foundations; the Walmart Foundation; theALEC-connected Boeing Corporation, and– yep– McGriff’s NewSchools Venture Fund.
Koldyke is a corporate reformer.
If only Koldyke’s AUSL could deliver. Alas, they cannot:
Since the latest Chicago Public Schools “reform” efforts began in 1996, Orr Academy High School in the West Side’s Garfield Park neighborhood has beensubjected to nearly every faddish attempt the corporate reformists have to offer. It has been reconstituted, reengineered, intervened, broken up into “small schools,” and combined into one large school all over again. The Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) has managed this newest iteration since the 2008-09 school year. [Written in Feb 2012]
When it took control of the school, AUSL promised an increase in student achievement, strong involvement with the community, and a new school culture—but the changes it has delivered are criminally short of these ideals.Some Orr teachers, worried for the safety and future of their students, shared their experiences with the Occupied Chicago Tribune. The picture they paint of the school is gruesome—complete chaos in the hallways, blatant sexual assault against female students and staff, open drug use by students in the lunchroom, bigotry so severe that LGBT students have stopped attending school, and the falling test scores and attendance rates that one would expect amid such havoc. [Emphasis added.]
Not the picture of reformer success, is it? There’s more. As one Orr teacher notes:
We’ve been through 15 administrators in three-and-a-half years, including principals, assistant principals, and directors of operation. In the middle of the last school year, our principal left. Our new principal [Tyese Sims—Ed.] was put in place. She brought with her two new assistant principals and removed our old assistant principals and directors. Since then, she has replaced one of the assistant principals she brought in last year and replaced her with a new one at the beginning of this year. So it’s constant turnover. And, there’s no real continuity in terms of initiatives, mission, vision, philosophy within the school… When AUSL has complete control over schools, and there’s no mechanism in place for oversight and raising objections or concerns about what is happening, it’s going to keep being the same thing—they’ll move into a school, establish a large presence for maybe a year or two, and then move out and on to the next batch of sick schools. [Emphasis added.]
The entire article is worth an eye-opening read.
The Chicago teacher who contacted me hoped that I would write more about Koldyke.
Since much of my time this summer will be devoted to writing a second book (this one on the origins of Common Core), I invited this teacher to write a guest post on her concerns about Koldyke and Golden Apple.
Below is her post, as she chose to write it.
I recently read Mercedes’ new book, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education. I am a Chicagoland area public school teacher who is observing and experiencing the dismantling of the public education system. I am a union leader as well. Mercedes’ book has an overwhelming amount of information exposing the corporate greed behind the reform movement.
As I read the three Chicago chapters, I noticed that a very influential reformer was not included. I contacted Mercedes to share this information, and she suggested I blog it on her site. I am happy to share this information, but I would like to remain anonymous. I am a regular person and I would like to keep my job teaching. With the new tiered evaluation system, teachers can be targeted for speaking out and fired. I have seen it happen in my own district this year.
The person I would like to tell you about is Martin “Mike” Koldyke. He is a wealthy venture capitalist that founded Frontenac Investment Firm in 1971. He is a list of other organizations he is connected to:
· Founder and chairman emeritus of the Golden Apple Foundation
· Founder and chairman emeritus of the Academy for Urban School Leadership(AUSL)
· Trustee of Chicago Education Fund
· Board member of the Golden Apple Foundation of New Mexico
· Board member of After School Matters
· Board member of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)
· Director of Chicago News Cooperative
· Director of Rasmussen College, Inc.
· Trustee Emeritus of Window to the World Communications, Inc.
· Trustee Emeritus of WTTW 11
· Board member of the New Mexico Highlands University Foundation
· Life Trustee of Northwestern University
· Life Trustee of the Ravinia Festival Association
· Former Vice President of Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors
· Former Director of Healthways Inc.
His son, Laird Koldykewas appointed Commissioner of Chicago Park District. He is involved in:
- Co-founder and Managing Partner of Winona Capital Management, LLC
- Board member of boards of Top Driver, LLC and Laird Norton Company, LLC.
- Worked for IBM Corporation in the National Marketing Division in Los Angeles, California and Chicago.
The Golden Apple Foundation, founded in 1996, is an organization that is multifaceted. The original mission of the organization is to acknowledge and award excellent teachers from Chicagoland. The organization awards 10 teachers a year. Each teacher receives $3000, a paid quarter sabbatical, and two semesters of free classes at Northwestern University.
The winners are surprised in their classrooms with members of the Golden Apple board, fellows, the school board, the school administrators, their family members, their students, and some lucky winners will be surprised by the mayor of Chicago or governor of Illinois. The winners then become inducted into the organization as fellows.
The fellows are expected to work within the organization to promote great teaching. I believe the fellows in the organization are honest, hardworking teachers. They care about their students and the integrity of education.
The scholars program started in 1989, as described on their website, “identifies talented high school seniors and college sophomores who have the promise and drive to be excellent teachers in high-need schools. We prepare them for immediate and lasting success in the most challenging teaching environments.” Scholars get their tuition paid for. I am not sure if it is full or partial scholarships. I am sure they must commit to teaching in a school of need for 5 years.
This year the Golden Apple awarded 175 scholarships. Next year they want to expand and double the number of scholars. The Golden Apple partners with many colleges and universities to traditionally train and license teachers.
The Academy of Urban Leadership, AUSL, was founded in 2001 by Martin Koldyke, who founded the Golden Apple. (For further interesting reading on AUSL, click here and here and here and here.) The city of Chicago turned over 19 schools to the AUSL. The AULS turnaround schools are still public schools that have a contract with AUSL. So the non-profit AUSL is profiting.
What I find interesting is that when AUSL takes over a Chicago school, they fire all staff and rehire their own staff. Could the Golden Apple scholars be the some of the new hires in AUSL schools? The GA scholars are required to work in schools of need for 5 years. Turnaround schools are schools in need.
The AUSL also has its own “Training Academies.” Anybody can get trained here, in new business model for education, and earn a license to teach. Resident teachers spend one year teaching in a training academy with a mentor teacher.
It is something worth investigating.