Skip to content

Arizona Charter Public Relations Manager Wants to Sell Me Common Core “Success”

October 31, 2014

On October 29, 2014, I received the following email from Taylor Bentall, Public Relations Manager at McFadden/Gavender Advertising (Rexburg, Idaho):

Taylor Bentall

 

Dear Mercedes Scheider,

I saw an article you wrote about the Common Core Standards and I thought our school story might interest you!

The Common Core Standards have been a hot topic all around the country. Heritage Elementary in Glendale, of the Arizona Charter Schools, has been implementing the standards and has gone from a D school to a B school in just one year! Our sister school in Williams, AZ has accomplished the same task!

Math and reading scores have been amazing! This year alone we have raised AIMS scores by 20 percent!

Since there has been so much resistance with the Common Core we wanted to share our story. We also have great tips to keep the parents involved throughout the whole process.

I would love to be able to schedule a time so you can interview the principal and learn how we are implementing the standards. I look forward to hearing from you!

Best regards,

Taylor Bentall
Phoenix: 602.732.7262
Cell: 603.801.9398

About Heritage Elementary School

Heritage Elementary School, founded in 2002, is one of Arizona’s fastest-growing charter school systems. The tuition-free, character-based charter school is home to two campuses, one in Glendale and one in Williams, and serves more than 1,000 students in preschool through eighth grade. Both the Glendale and Williams locations offer bus/van transportation. Raena Janes, an active, award-winning advocate for Arizona education and charter schools, is the founder and charter holder. Visit the school’s website at HESGlendale.org [Emphasis added.]

Let me begin with the comedy that is Bentall’s opening; namely, that he “saw an article I wrote about CCSS” and thought I would count “improved” charter letter grades as proof that “CCSS works.”

But Bentall only indicated that he saw an article I wrote on CCSS. He didn’t state that he actually read it.

No one who reads my writings on CCSS could possibly believe I would count “improved” school letter grades as directly connected to CCSS “success.”

And no one who reads my writings on charter schools and their many means of gaming a test-driven system could possibly believe that I would endorse them– especially given that the individual trying to impress me with Arizona charters is a PR guy in Idaho.

A word on the Arizona charters that Mr. Idaho is promoting:

Heritage Elementary School is one of five Arizona charters managed by Apex Charter Services, whose CEO, Raena Janes, founds the schools and then manages them using her own charter management company, Apex Charter Management.

In August 2012, education historian Diane Ravitch received a solicitation to promote Janes and her charter schools.

Needless to say, Ravitch found this opportunity worthy of unlamented dismissal.

Aside from Janes’ charter school business, as of February 2014, she is also CEO/managing director of Veebo, a mobile marketing company (see June 2014 press releases here).

And she really likes playing poker.

raena+Janes

Raena Janes in a poker tournament.

View Janes’ poker stats back to 2008 here.

But back to another Janes game: That of playing charter school founder and manager.

For those interested, here are the 2012 990s for Heritage Elementary School (K-8; 750 students), Liberty Traditional Charter School (K-8; 449 students), and La Paloma Academy (three schools, all K-8; 691 students860 students, and unknown, though Janes’ Linkedin bio states “over 2000 children at three campuses in Tucson”).

In 2012, Janes’ five charter schools received a total of $22 million in “government grants.” One of her schools (Liberty) also paid $265,000 in a “judgment against school.”

Apex Charter Management, noted on all three 2012 990s as “100% owned by Raena Janes, a [remitting charter school] officer & director,” collected over $1.8 million in “management fees” from Janes’ five schools.

The three 2012 990s also list Janes as only collecting a total of $88,000 by way of a salary, and that only from Apex Charter Management.

Hmm.

The poker issue gets me.

However, let me not veer too far from the point of Bentall’s email to me: He wants to convince me that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are successful, his showcased “evidence” being a “rise” in school letter grades.

The easy manipulation of school letter grading aside, according to the CCSS website, CCSS “success” is supposed to that of “college and career readiness.”

Thus, I responded to Bentall as follows on October 29, 2014. I did so before I researched his name and discovered he was a charter schools PR man. I first assumed he was Heritage Elementary faculty or admin. Nevertheless, even in the face of this additional knowledge on Bentall, my message below remains the same:

Hello, Taylor.

From the CC website: The CC Guarantee:

To ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12thgrade.

The standards …are designed to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs. 

No empirical evidence exists to support the above declaration.

Organize a study in which you track 100 of your students through CC, from grades k through 12, then provide evidence that all 100 of these students “are prepared for entry-level careers, freshman–level college courses, and workforce training programs.”

It will take 14 years– if CC lasts that long in any state.

Feel free to contact me with the results.

Sincerely,

–Mercedes Schneider

I have not yet had a response from Taylor Bentall of McFadden/Gavender Advertising in Rexburg, Idaho.

Allow me to extend the above offer to any school that is starry-eyed over CCSS, be it traditional public school or not-so-traditional, public-school-fund-siphoning, federally-subsidized, business-managed charter…

…poker-loving CEO or not.

__________________________________________________________

Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

previti chronicle pic

9 Comments
  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    “The individual trying to impress me with Arizona charters is a PR guy in Idaho.”

    and not very good at his job. I wonder who is paying him and what this pitiful effort brough him as a bonus?

    The spin is dumb and produced by a kid who is not career ready. Maybe he should try his hand at poker.

    You continue to amaze me.

    • Laura, I always appreciate your comments for the insight you offer.

      Plus, you make me feel clever.🙂

  2. Are you quite sure that Taylor has graduated high school? He looks a bit wet behind the ears to me…

    • Michael, he does look pretty young to me, as well.

      Then again, corporate reform makes CEOs of toddlers.

  3. ira shor permalink

    Great 14-year challenge to Mr. Idaho.

  4. I laughed all the way through this one.
    At least a few times a week I get something like this in email or someone on twitter engages me thinking I must be dumb.

    Take Dan Desai Martin here on Twitter:

    Dan Desai Martin
    @DanMartinTalks
    .@LadyLiberty1885 Actual data shows dramatic increases in test scores for kids. Parents probably happy about that.
    (https://twitter.com/DanMartinTalks/status/527542992870334466)

    OH REALLY? Data and test scores make parents happy about their kids. Got it.

    He then cited a VOX article to back that claim up. Uh…Fail? I wouldn’t cite Vox even in a punchline of a joke. Also, TN changed their tests to align to the Core, so of course their scores improved! That improvement was not so big either and started to flag in the 2nd year. (https://twitter.com/DanMartinTalks/status/527544843409821697)

    Then he cites the KY dept of ed, because… PROOF! (https://twitter.com/DanMartinTalks/status/527800815319515136)

    So wait, who are you Mr. Martin?
    Why, none other than the Director of Special Projects for Student Success.Org, a giant Gates money funnel for grants. I’ve noticed, Gates money flows through these grant outfits who then basically launder it and ship it in different directions for them. Good times.

    LL1885 – A.P. Dillon @LadyLiberty1885
    @DanMartinTalks So says the man behind a Gates funded common core propaganda outlet => forstudentsuccess.org/about/
    #StopCommonCore
    (https://twitter.com/LadyLiberty1885/status/527805606468399105)

    Looking back at this comment, I might have to blog this. Heh.

  5. Stewart permalink

    There’s an awful lot of sketchy things in those 990s, especially the nice little obfuscation of Janes’ salary. Sure, they only paid her $88,000, but (according to the Arizona Corporation Commission listing for Apex) since Apex Charter Services is a privately held LLC and she is the sole member of it (and its only employee), the entire profit of the LLC accrues to her as well. Given that a management company has no other expenses than to pay its employees and its legal representation (the firm of Warren and Banker PLC, Scottsdale, AZ) and whatever office space it may actually have (for its one employee, who is also the sole owner) it seems likely that a fairly large portion of the $1.8 they’ve been paid has made its way into Ms. Janes’ pockets.

    This is the great scam that lies behind so many charter schools, but that the general public never sees in the debate over charters and their management. Janes may be a bit more bald-faced in her exploitation of the situation, but she’s not really much different from a host of others who are just a bit better at hiding how they siphon off the public monies that should be going to public schools and the direct benefit of children.

  6. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    http://www.mcfaddengavender.com/specialties/education-marketing/

    A new specialty is education charter school marketing

  7. Ken Watanabe permalink

    It looks like this boy has communication degree from BYU, and some experience in PR jobs. He won’t disappoint reformers for PR stunt which they badly need. Except that he does not seem to be aware that his job has nothing to do with education or public policy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: