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Detroit Charter School Votes to Close, Gives Students and Parents Two Days Notice

Rather than assess its situation and make the decision to close during the summer break, the board of Detroit Delta Preparatory Academy for Social Justice decided to leave its faculty and students in a profound fix by voting on a Wednesday to close two days later– and the day before homecoming, to boot.

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Take a moment to process the ensuing shock among students, parents, and faculty.

According to the Detroit Delta Academy board, the cause of the closure is low enrollment, an issue that the Detroit Delta Academy board should have been aware of in the months prior to the 2018-19 school year.

From the September 26, 2018, Detroit Free Press:

Less than a month into the school year, a Detroit charter school is shutting its doors — leaving nearly 200 students and their parents in the lurch.

In a contentious, emotional meeting Wednesday, the board of education for the Detroit Delta Preparatory Academy for Social Justice voted 4-1 to shut down, effective Oct. 1.

The decision left many of the high school’s students in tears.

“Everybody was breaking down,” said Ajah Jenkins, 17, a senior at the school, which had just begun its fifth year of operation.

Ajah called her mother, Kelye King, “crying, hysterical, screaming, saying, ‘My school’s closing. How am I going to graduate,’ ” King recounted.

Saturday is supposed to be the school’s homecoming. It’s unclear whether it’ll still happen, said King, who is upset because she believes the school should have given parents a heads-up that this might happen.

“I’m just disappointed. I entrusted her education to a group of people — they’re making me feel like I failed her, like I didn’t do enough research.”

The last day of classes will be Friday, said Ronald Rizzo, director of the charter school office at Ferris State University. Ferris State is the school’s authorizer.

Rizzo said enrollment concerns prompted the board to close.

“It’s really unfortunate,” Rizzo said. “It’s a terrible time to have this happen.

“They opened this year … hopeful that with all the shuffling that occurs in the Detroit area,” enrollment would improve, Rizzo said.

At its peak, the school enrolled 344 students during the 2016-17 school year.

He said the board opted to close now rather than wait until November or December.

“They weren’t certain they were going to be able to be financially viable throughout the year,” Rizzo said. …

Jack Elsey, executive director of the Detroit Children’s Fund, was critical of Ferris State in a statement Wednesday.

“Authorizers have a responsibility to their students and their families first and foremost, and closing any school just a month into the new school year is, at best, problematic for families and at worst, could have a long-lasting negative effect on students.  Detroit Children’s Fund believes that authorizers need to be advocates for the children that attend their schools.” …

Renee Burgess, president of EQUITY Education — the school’s management company — said in a letter posted to the school’s Facebook page that she is troubled by the board’s decision. Burgess said the decision “was made in isolation, by the school board. It is neither the wish or will of EQUITY to close at this time.”

“It is wrong to educationally evict children from their school, particularly once the school year has started,” Burgess said. “The instability and trauma that is created when you close a school will remain with these children.” …

The school has struggled academically since it began. Earlier this year, the Michigan Department of Education identified it as among a few dozen new schools whose chronic low performance required state intervention. …

… [Parent Kelye King] said, there was no inkling the school was teetering on closure.

“I feel like they kept the parents in the dark,” she said.

The school’s website does not include the news of its closure; however, it does still feature a now-defunct enrollment application.

There is a closure message, dated September 26, 2018, on Detroit Delta Academy’s Facebook page:

Dear Detroit Delta Academy Parents:

As you may already be aware, the Board of Delta Preparatory Academy for Social Justice voted to cease operations as of Monday, October 1, 2018. Please know the Board reluctantly made this decision, but it was necessary for the best interest of the students enrolled in the academy, both academically and fiscally.

Moving forward, representatives from surrounding traditional public-school districts and academies will be available to assist parents in transitioning their students to another educational institution prior to the First Wednesday Count, Wednesday, October 3, 2018.

Two transitional meetings will be held at the school at 5:30 pm:

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2018

&

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2018

The Board of Directors regrets this major inconvenience, but the decision had to be made in the best interest of students who are currently enrolled at Detroit Delta Preparatory Academy of Social Justice.

Regrettably,

The Board of Directors,

Detroit Delta Preparatory Academy for Social Justice.

And here is the letter (posted on Facebook and mentioned in the Detroit Free Press article) from Equity Public Schools (Detroit Delta Academy’s management org), in which Equity CEO Renee Burgess likens the closure to an educational eviction (text first, then letter to follow):

Dear Delta Preparatory Academy families:

It is with great duress and sadness that I send this letter to you. At the conclusion of the September 26th special board meeting, the Delta School Board has decided to close the Academy.

I want to emphasize and clearly state for the record that this was a decision made in isolation, by the school board. It is neither the wish or will of EQUITY to close at this time. As an organization, and personally as a parent, I believe it is wrong to educationally evict children from their school, particularly once the school year has started. The instability and trauma that is created when you close a school will remain with these children. I am troubled by the decision the board has made. As an organization we are founded on the principle that inequitable education is the greatest injustice in our society and that choice and access is the only way to level the playing field for our youth. What has been done today by the school board reinforces this injustice and serves no benefit to children.

I take seriously the need to have every single student at this Academy in a quality school tomorrow. My team and I are here for you to immediately ensure all students are provided a quality education. Our network high school principals are available to discuss placement options with students and families. We want to assure all of the families at Delta, that while this decision was certainly not made by us, we are here to see you through this difficult and unnecessary transition. Below I have included the contact information for two EQUITY Public schools that are ready to accept your students so that they may transfer to an EQUITY school as early as tomorrow. Please feel free to call, email, or come to the schools listed below to enroll your child and know that we are here for you and your family during this transition.

Sincerely,

Renee Burgess
President, EQUITY Education

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Below is parent Kelye King’s response, in part, on Facebook to Equity’s letter:

There was a better way to handle this my child has attended this school almost four years. I have gotten a robo call, Remind app notification and voicemails almost everyday .Why was there not one notice sent home to parents? If this was a possibility why allow them to start the school year and buy uniforms. They are excited about school and moving on to college. My child is a senior and you have CRUSHED the belief that you had their best interest at heart. …

On the school’s Facebook page is a September 28, 2018, announcement that Detroit Leadership Academy Middle School/High (DLA-U) School (another Equity school) will accept all Detroit Delta Academy students:

The DLA-U Family is happy to welcome all of our Detroit Delta Preparatory Academy students and families on Monday, October 1, 2018. Below is some information to help the transition on Monday. Feel free to call the school at 313-769-2015 or come by with any questions we can answer prior to.

School Day Hours: 7:45 A.M. – 2:55 P.M.; Thursday (early release) 7:45 A.M. – 1:45 P.M.

Uniform: Dress Code w/Prohibited Items

Bag/backpack Rule: All bags/backpacks should be stored in student lockers.

Electronic Device Policy: All electronic devices (cell phones, headphones, earbuds, etc.) are not to be audible or visible except during lunch in the cafeteria.

DLA also included a bus schedule on Facebook.

The Equity letter does not mention the Detroit Delta Academy faculty, who found out only days ago that they are out of a job.

According to Detroit Delta Academy’s Facebook page, homecoming is still happening.

School choice:

Homecoming on Saturday; mandatory new school on Monday.

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Detroit Delta Academy homecoming– the day after the school closed down

__________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

“How about I not take this test and you give me a 50?”: More Grading Scale Discussion

On September 25, 2018, I posted about Florida teacher, Diane Tirado, losing her job because she refused to follow a “no zeroes” policy and award 50 percent credit on assignments that students chose not to hand in.

The next day, as I was preparing to give one of my students a make-up test, the student looked at me and asked, “How about I not take this test and you give me a 50?”

I did a double take. “Did you read my post?”

“What?”

“I just wrote a piece about this issue on my blog. A Florida teacher was fired for not giving 50s to students who did not turn in their work.”

He had not read my post (and had no idea I write an education blog). His timing just happened to be eerily spot-on.

Another student furrowed her brow and said, “Zero work, zero grade.”

My “no zeroes” post has generated much discussion on teacher groups on Facebook and some reaction in the comments section of my post. One idea that has emerged is the seeming unfairness of the number of percentage points whereby a student can receive and F compared to the limited number of percentage points for the remaining, passing, grades of A – D.  One commenter asked me, “An F is weighted 6 times as high as any of the others. Why would you want to do that to anyone?”

I take issue with the framing of the question. A student would have to work hard at not working in my class in order to maintain any F average, even a high one. I offer my students numerous opportunities to earn grades as well as variety in my assignments.

I also work with students experiencing extenuating circumstances.

And when they choose to forgo completing an assignment, they earn the resulting zero.

Even so, I understand the argument that the F category should not be so broad compared to other categories. However, I do not agree with awarding a 50 percent for no work.

There needs to be a true zero, in which no work receives no credit.

One could rightly argue that the commonly-used grading scales (i.e., the scale my district uses is 93 – 100 A; 85 – 92 B; 75 – 84 C; 67 – 74 D, and 0 – 66 F) are arbitrary and should be modified to offer a F-range that is more in line with other categories. Too meet this condition and include a true zero, for example, one might use the following:

  • 80 – 100 A
  • 60 – 79 B
  • 40 – 59 C
  • 20 – 39 D
  • 00 – 19 F

I see two immediate issues with such a scale. First of all, this scale, with its balanced grading categories, is a much more lenient scale compared to currently-used grading scales and arguably promotes grade inflation by comparison. Secondly, using such a scale in K-12 education (or K-4, or K-8) presents a problem at whatever point the scale is replaced by the currently-used, more stringent scale.

Even if K-12 education adopts the “new and balanced” scale above, I would do a disservice to my high school seniors to use such a scale if they plan to attend a postsecondary institution that utilizes the current, more stringent scale whereby, for example, 66 and below is a F.

In short, making drastic shifts to the grading scale will present some real problems unless the shift occurs in K-12 and postsecondary ed, at least for an entire state.

Such shifts would require major public support. I don’t see it happening.

As for 50 percent being the lowest grade a student can earn (even for doing nothing), many will take the 50 rather than face a challenging assignment. And kids are smart when it comes to cutting corners. A comment on my blog:

I am a parent in a district that does everything in its power to give kids good grades so that they don’t have to hear the parents. My own children know this and will calculate how many assignments they can miss without having it affect their grade OR how low a grade on a test so that it doesn’t affect their grade. This angers me as a parent! I want my kids to learn responsibility. I would rather my kid get a 50% for doing the assignment incorrectly than to get a 50% for doing absolutely nothing. How does this teach kids any kind of responsibility?

In my classroom, my student might have asked to get a 50 for doing nothing, but you best believe he did not really think I’d agree.

“Zero work, zero grade” puts personal responsibility at a premium.

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__________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

FL Teacher Fired for Giving Zeros When Students Did Not Turn in the Work

On September 25, 2018, WFTV reported that eighth-grade social studies teacher, Diane Tirado, says she was fired for refusing to assign 50 percent credit to students who did not hand in assignments.

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Diane Tirado

According to the Florida teacher certification website, Tirado was first licensed in 1999.

Tirado began teaching at West Gate K-8 School in Port St. Lucie, FL, in August 2018. She was terminated on September 14, 2018; apparently no details about the terminating event were included since Tirado was still in her probationary period for employment at West Gate K-8.

Upon being fired, Tirado left a message for her students on her classroom’s white board: “Bye Kids. Mrs. Tirado loves you and wishes you the best in life! I have been fired for refusing to give you a 50% for not handing anything in. Mrs. Tirado.”

Tirado posted a picture of her message on Facebook on September 15, 2018:

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Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

The West Gate CIO (chief info officer) denies that such a policy exists. From the WFTV article:

The chief information officer for West Gate said in a statement:

“There is no district or individual school policy prohibiting teachers from recording a grade of zero for work not turned in. The district’s uniform grading system utilizes letter grades a-f, numerical grades 100 to zero and grade point averages from four to zero.”

Compare that to Tirado’s response:

When several students did not turn in their assignments, Tirado said she found out about a “no zeros” policy, in which the lowest possible grade allowed to be given is 50 percent. The policy is reflected in the student and parent handbook, Tirado said.

So, the simple solution is to consult the West Gate 2018-2019-Student-Parent-Handbook— which I did.

And, sure enough, West Gate’s “no zero” policy is on page 25– and even highlighted in red:

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Lowest F: 50 percent.

So, Tirado refused to follow a school policy that the school CIO publicly denies.

Wrap your mind around that one.

If the school is so embarrassed by the policy that it would rather lie to the greater public than admit it exists (though the truth is easily verified via the West Gate K-8 parent and student handbook on the school’s own website), then it should forsake its hypocrisy, drop the policy, and reinstate Tirado.

oops

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

Who is Behind the Leaders in Education PAC?

In preparing for my presentation on “dark money” in purchasing elections for promoting ed reform (i.e., charters, vouchers), a presentation for the Fifth Annual Network for Public Education (NPE) conference in Indianapolis, IN, on October 20 – 21, 2018, I have been reviewing some campaign finance forms.

In reviewing 2015 relection contributions to Louisiana state ed board (BESE) member and Teach for America exec director, Kira Orange-Jones, I noticed on her February 2016 filing that a Washington, DC PAC named “Leaders in Education,” donated a total of $10,000. (Another out-of-state $10K came from former NY mayor, Michael Bloomberg.)

Of course, I wanted to know who was lurking behind that PAC. (Any readers interested in a deep dive on the oversized influence of the ueber-wealthy in the purchase of elections for the promtion of market-based ed reform, see the NPE report linked in this post.)

The site, Open Secrets, proved useful for the search. I like Open Secrets because it links to the original Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings for the PAC in question.

First, for some background:

Leaders in Education PAC is associated with the TFA-created lobbying nonprofit founded in 2014, Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE). (Associated 501c3: LEE Foundation.)

2018 LEE Board members include Walton grandson, Steuart Walton; former NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg‘s daughter, Emma Bloomberg; TFA CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Arthur Rock.

According to the LEE site, LEE membership is free to all TFAers. And why not? The purpose of TFA and its related orgs is to catapult those who taught for five minutes into positions of power and authority over the American classroom.

Such catapulting requires loads of money– which brings us to those financially-loaded, Leaders in Education PAC donors:

The PAC is primarily funded by members of the Walton family (note that Carrie Penner is Carrie Walton Penner) and by Arthur Rock. Michael Bloomberg makes an appearance, as does Purdue Pharma-OxyContin first son and venture capitalist, Jonathan Sackler.

Finally, details on contributions of $200 or more to Leaders in Education PAC compliments of Open Secrets:

2018 Contributions of $200 or More:

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2016 Contributions of $200 or More:

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2014 Contributions of $200 or More:

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There you have it.

When you see that a candidate receives contributions from Leaders in Education PAC, think Walton, and Walton, and Walton, and Walton, and Rock, and Bloomberg, and Bloomberg, and Sackler.

Then vote for that candidate’s opponent.

IMG_1258

__________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

Chicago’s Soon-to-Be Ex-Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, Pays the School-Closure Piper

Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has decided not to run for a third term despite absence of an obvious contender.

Election of the next mayor of Chicago is scheduled for February 26, 2019.

rahm emanuel 2

Rahm Emanuel

In the September 20, 2018, Washington Post, Duke University professor Sally Nuamah poses an intriguing reason: Emanuel’s role in closing Chicago’s public schools.

In 2013, under Chicago’s policy of mayoral control of schools, Emanuel closed 50 of them. A 2018 study released by the University of Chicago shows that the “brighter future” Emanuel promised instead “caused large disruptions without clear benefits for students.”

The time has come for Emanuel to pay the school-closure piper, and Emanuel knows it.

To support her claim, Nuamah has conducted statistical analyses of voting trends in districts affected by Emanuel’s school closure decisions. From Nuamah’s article:

Here’s how I did my research

To start, I collected the addresses of every school closed in Chicago in 2013. I then linked these data to a representative citywide survey that asked Chicagoans about their attitudes toward school closings before engaging in a statistical analysis of the results by race. Then, my colleague Thomas Ogorzalek with the Chicago Democracy Project and I linked the location of school closings in Chicago to precinct level turnout data just before the closure wave (2011 and 2012) and just after it (2015). In both analyses, we account for other factors such as income and education, as well.

The mostly black neighborhoods where schools had been closed turned against Emanuel

We found that the closer a neighborhood was to the school closures, the more Emanuel’s support dropped. In particular, we saw that in the precincts within 1.5 miles of a closing — populated largely by African Americans — Emanuel’s support fell by approximately 13 percent. In the precincts farther from a closing, the drop was about 3 percent.

What’s more, combining Cooperative Congressional Election Study opinion data on Chicago with local election data, our analysis reveals that those who lived closest to areas where the local schools were closed — again, largely African Americans — became increasingly likely to attend a community meeting, to advocate for an elected school board, and to turn out to vote in 2015.

Nuamah notes that in 2018, Chicago faced more school closures. She observes,

Citizens often vote based on policies that shape their everyday lives.

Indeed.

It seems that African American voters in Chicago have had enough of Emanuel’s school-closure “shaping.”

chicago school closure

To read Nuamah’s full article, click here.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

Richard Phelps’ Deep Dive Into the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation/Institute, and More

On September 16, 2018, researcher and consultant Richard Phelps sent me an email; in the subject line, he wrote, “your work is cited, referenced, and mentioned throughout.”

The body of the email included a single link, Common Core Collaborators: Six Organizational Portraits, which leads to the following five reports:

Since my research is referenced and I am “cited, referenced, and mentioned throughout” Phelps’ work, I am too close to his reports to formally review them. However, I wish to feature one in particular in the remainder of this post: The report in which Phelps examines the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Institute.

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The Fordham Institute (TBF) is a propaganda outlet for ed reform, including school choice and the Common Core, and a fine example of how a few well-positioned, unaccountable, and otherwise unqualified individuals have achieved the veneer of expertise regarding American education, also garnering for themselves amazing salaries from the cushy employment of promoting their propaganda as expertise.

Phelps offers much useful information about TBF in his 30-page report, much more than I am able to highlight in this blog post.  Still, what I feature here is important for the study of the exploitative potential of ed reform.

Let’s jump in. (Note that in my block quotes, I omit end notes for ease of readability.)

Below is much of Phelps’ TBF intro:

According to a recent publicly available filing with the Internal Revenue Service, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is “the nation’s leader in advancing educational excellence for every child through quality research, analysis, and commentary, as well as on-the-ground action and advocacy in Ohio.” The mission statement for the legally separate but commonly owned Thomas B. Fordham Institute uses exactly the same words. Moreover, the two organizations share the same board of trustees. All of which would lead one to believe that the two entities—foundation and institute—should be considered two parts of the same whole.

But, the perhaps confusing bifurcation of the Fordham organization only begins the proliferation of organizations run by a network of movers and shakers. To the untrained eye, there may appear to be separate organizations with different missions, points of view, and staffs. To the more patient observer, the same cast of characters cycles through the offices, web pages, and publications of a legally and financially related network of organizations. And, the Fordham principals can be found at the center of the web, deciding who (and who does not) gets to belong in the education reform establishment.

Fordham’s website mission statement reads

“… our primary role—both nationally and in our home state of Ohio—is
to frame the debate, occasionally in unconventional ways, and to
identify problems that are ignored or glossed over by the
mainstream.”

Notice it does not read, “foster a debate”, “inform the debate”, or “promote
a debate”. The active verb is “frame” or, in some documents, “shape.”

“Influence” seems to be a recurring, overarching theme in the work of the
Fordham organizations. Which prompts the question: for what purpose? Is
the influence used to make the world a better place for all, or just for those
wielding the influence? Is the influence a means to an end, or an end in
itself?

In “History and Governance,” Phelps offers some eye-opening facts regarding TBF former president, Chester (“Checker”) Finn’s self-elected “free hand” in running TBF:

Until 1995, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees consisted of (a perhaps naively trusting) [TBF creator] Ms. [Thelma Fordham] Pruett and the family lawyers, two members of the Finn family (Checker Finn’s father and grandfather). Ms. Pruett ran the foundation on a day-to-day basis from its founding until her death, 36 years later. At that point, according to Checker Finn, “because Thelma gave no clear guidance” regarding how to spend the foundation’s money, the foundation board, now comprised entirely of Finns, decided that they “had a free hand.” …

Scott Pullins, a writer for an Ohio online publication clearly suspicious of
Checker Finn and Fordham’s Ohio activities, dug up the original incorporation papers from 1959…. It includes statements such as:

Applying [the funds] exclusively to religious, charitable, scientific,
literary, or educational purposes or activities

No part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any
private shareholder or individual

No substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on
propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation

The members of this corporation shall not have any interest in the
property or earnings of this corporation in their individual or private
capacity, and prior to any dissolution of this corporation, all of its
property shall be applied and used and entirely consumed for the
purposes hereinbefore provided.

…Funds from the Thomas B. Fordham estate, under the supervision of Checker Finn, have been used frequently “to influence legislation”. As for the “inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual” one might wonder how the charitable Ms.
Pruett might regard the current quarter-million dollar compensation packages for Checker Finn and current Fordham president Michael Petrilli, and their unusual investments in rather sketchy partnerships in offshore tax havens. …

Assuming that, at this point, the Finns have “gotten away with it”, the more
relevant point now is that Chester A. Finn, Jr., arguably our country’s most
influential voice in US education reform, came by his influence purely by chance. The Fordham Foundation origin story might just as well involve his winning the Powerball Lottery or discovering a long-lost chest full of doubloons buried in his back yard.

The happenstance of Finn’s personal fortune might have suggested resisting any tendency toward a presumption of superiority in thought and deed, or any grand schemes to remake others’ lives against their will. No one elected him. His spending decisions have rarely been subject to any sort of public review. Moreover, unlike most foundation founders, he did nothing whatsoever to earn the funds he now selectively distributes to others. Finally, only rarely does Fordham pay to evaluate the programs upon which it bestows funds. And, on the rare occasions when it does, the evaluators chosen tend to be in-group reliables.

As for TBF’s involvements in Ohio, some excerpts:

…$35,000 of Fordham money went to Philips Exeter Academy, arguably the most prestigious and most amply endowed secondary institution in North America, for the “Finn Family Fund.” (Though Fordham money was donated, the donation was attributed to the Finns.) Checker Finn is a 1962 Exeter graduate. Another $50,000 went to Chaminade Julienne, a private school in Dayton. Fordham Trustee and Secretary Thomas A. Holton, Esq. served on its board. The Fordham organizations appear to have also paid Holton and his firm three-quarters of a million dollars or more directly in legal fees.

Other Fordham donations went to the University of Dayton ($230,000) and Parents Advancing Choice in Education ($1.2 million); Holton served on their boards, too. Holton, by the way, worked at the same law firm that had employed Checker Finn’s father and grandfather, the firm responsible for honoring Thelma Fordham Pruett’s wishes. Upon the retirement of another trustee from the Fordham Board, David Ponitz, and his fulltime position as president of Sinclair Community College, Fordham donated $25,000 to the Sinclair Community College Foundation.  …

By 2017, the Gates Foundation had transferred at least $12 million directly to Fordham.

In a related article, Pullins’ colleague Conner Brown describes closed-door negotiations from which one of Fordham’s own former staffers, Paulo DeMaria, was chosen as Ohio’s state superintendent. He remains there today. Notably, DeMaria neglected to mention his Fordham connection in his Ohio Department of Education bio, even though (as of July 26, 2017) the Fordham website sill listed him as staff. The new Ohio Education CEO, however, revealed his long association with the Common Core/Gates Foundation front organization, Education First. …

Fordham’s political triumph in Ohio, ironically, coincided with a steep decline
in its contributions to within-state causes….

And about the shift in the money coming to and going from TBF, centered on the Common Core golden goose:

Parallel to the decline in Ohio giving, Fordham’s outgoing contributions generally have declined over time. Over $1 million was distributed annually through 2004. By 2015, only $261,200 was given away.

The Fordham organizations seemed to undergo a major change in behavior and focus around 2004–2005, at the start of Checker Finn’s second decade at Fordham’s helm. While the amount of contributions going out declined, the amount of contributions coming in rose….

Fordham’s transformation from primarily donor to primarily grantee was set by 2005 with $2 million from …guess who? Prior to 2007, most Fordham funds emanating from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—about $2.6 million—were directed toward Ohio programs…. From 2008 on, however, virtually all of Gates $10 million Fordham largesse paid for Common Core activity. Checker Finn, who had strongly opposed President Bill Clinton’s much milder attempt at a national evaluation system several years earlier, signed on with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation specifically to promote the Common Core.

Once Fordham had tapped the Gates money spigot, other donor funds gushed in. The Fordham organizations accepted $200,000 in contributions or grants in 2002. By 2015, they were pulling in $4.7 million, most of it Common-Core related. …

Fordham became a giant Common Core advocacy grant-processing
machine. The tail now wags the dog.

And back to TBF leadership Looking Out for Number One:

About the same time that the Thomas B. Fordham organizations pivoted roles from primarily grant giver to primarily grant receiver, they found new places to stash (hide?) cash, in hedge funds and offshore tax havens…. Money formerly invested in ordinary US stocks and bonds now went to obscure holding companies…. Tax write-offs are just one incentive for investing in “distressed” firms and overseas shell companies. Your everyday stock and bond mutual fund typically does not offer such exotic financial instruments as the multimillion dollar interest rate swaps in which Fordham has participated for several years.

Hedge funds fees can be expensive, however. Fordham’s move to hedge funds started soon after Michael W. Kelly, a Wall Street expert in private fund management, joined the Fordham board. Fordham’s annual investment fees escalated from around $30,000 in the period 2008–2010 to $328,046 in 2014.

From Phelps’ section, “Education Reform Is Us,” info about some familiar ed reform “TBF spinoff” orgs:

From the beginning of the Finn-era Fordham Foundation, the beneficiaries receiving the largest proportion of outgoing funds represented steady customers and staunch political allies—organizations that Fordham worked with directly and continuously. In some cases they are spinoffs—entities that Fordham helped create and with which it continues regular working relationships. They include the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), the Philanthropy Roundtable, the now defunct Keys to Improving Dayton Schools (KIDS), and the publication Education Next, which Fordham personnel help edit and publish and which, in turn, frequently publishes the musings of Fordham staff.

And about that TBF-proclaimed “humility”:

In years of observing Fordham’s behavior I haven’t noticed much of the “humility, and … willingness to change our minds—and admit when we are wrong” claimed on its website. More common has been a proclivity to suppress dissent, shun or ridicule those who disagree, and promote their in-group as the only legitimate spokespersons for the “other side” along a wide range of education policy issues.

Checker Finn waxes nostalgic about the early days of Fordham’s predecessor, the Education Excellence Network, and Diane Ravitch’s key, co-founding role in both. But, now that she openly disagrees with them on some issues, Fordham President Michael Petrilli insults her as a “kook”, and her long-standing relationship with the Brookings Institution is revoked on an absurd technicality. An Education Next essay insults her personally and generally ridicules as an inferior intellect.

Agree with TBF and its positions; be characterized as  “thoughtful,” “serious,”
“sober,” and “principled.” Disagree, and, well:

Robert Pondiscio is “Senior Fellow and Vice President for External Affairs” at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. His Education Next essay, “Lessons on Common Core: Critical books offer more folly than wisdom,” typifies Fordham’s “humble” approach. Pondiscio “reviews” six books written in opposition to the Common Core Initiative. Throughout the essay, he liberally portrays himself as a cool, measured, reasonable fellow, with the public—“parents and taxpayers alike who simply want a decent education for their kids”—on his side. The Common Core-critical book authors, meanwhile, are “carping”, “spleen venting,” “fear mongering”, and “conspiratorially minded” “excitable enemies.”

Pondiscio’s essay is short on substance and long on selective and colorful prejudicial quotations, adjectives and adverbs. He characterizes Mercedes Schneider’s exhaustively researched Common Core Dilemma, for example, as “riddled with scare quotes and sarcasm.” Other descriptors employed for Common Core opponents include “bombast”, “overreach”, “dark mutterings”, “hyperbole”, “obsession”, “paranoia”, “folly”, “frets”, “paranoid conspiracy theories”, and “overreach.”

Individuals Pondiscio agrees with, however, are “thoughtful”, “serious”, “sober”, and “principled.” …

Pondiscio eases up a bit on his own “overheated” rhetoric for one book—the
Pioneer Institute’s Drilling Through the Core. Perhaps not surprisingly, Drilling happens to be the only one among the six books written by authors one might legitimately characterize as elite—people Pondiscio might suppose he may need to work with sometime in the future—including a few individuals sometimes found inside his education reform tent, such as Stanford’s Williamson Evers.

Early on in his Education Next essay, and frequently in other venues, Pondiscio prominently brandishes his classroom teaching experience to establish his bona fides as a front-line educator. Moreover, on its website, the Fordham organizations proclaim

… we see much wisdom in “subsidiarity”— the doctrine that important
matters ought to be handled by the competent authority that’s closest
to the action, which in education usually means parents, teachers, and
schools.

But teachers wrote the other five books Pondiscio reviewed, and he ridicules them mercilessly as ignorant rubes lacking the understanding that might qualify them to engage in a debate he believes to be beyond their intellectual reach.

One more thought:

Cronyism, Corruption, and Conflicts of Interest

Also unfortunately typical of Fordham essays on causes it is richly paid to promote: never once does Pondiscio mention his conflict of interest, nor those of Fordham.

Well. Enough from this “competent authority closest to the action.”

Do read the rest of Phelps’ TBF report (I hopped right over TBF’s Ohio charter school involvements), and feel free to peruse his four other reports linked above.

gadfly

TBF President Michael Petrilli

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

Gary Rubinstein Writes to the “Seven-Figure Success Academy Donors”

New York math teacher Gary Rubinstein has written a thought-provoking open letter to Eva Moskowitz’s “seven-figure Success Academy donors.”

flying money

Below are some of my favorite excerpts for their poignancy:

I believe that Success Academy, in various ways, obtains their high test scores through unethical behavior. By this, I don’t mean that I think they change their students’ answers on the state test. Instead they find other ways to dishonestly inflate their test scores.

I believe that their methods are not educationally sound. A few years ago I came upon about 500 videos they had published publicly on the web. Among those videos was one of a teacher reading the book ‘Caps For Sale’ to a group of Kindergarteners. Seeing the hostile way in which this story was read — the way the teacher forbade students from sitting comfortably as they read, making them sit as straight as they could at all times and admonishing them anytime one of them slouched — it was, in my estimation, a form of torture. After I wrote about what I had seen in this video and posted the link to it, Success Academy took down not just that video but all 500 videos. And it was not because they were afraid of anyone stealing their valuable secret methods, but because these methods are best kept secret since they were embarrassed by what they thought makes for appropriate childhood education. For your generous donation, perhaps you can get a copy of that video and you could show it to any childhood education expert from any university in the country. I’m quite confident that the expert will concur that the video reveals a teacher that has no understanding of the needs of small children as they first learn about literacy. …

But the biggest dirty secret of all (though everyone knows about this) is the way Success Academy wields the power of making a student repeat a grade. This is their secret weapon, and I do mean weapon. By one of my estimates, about 15% of Success Academy students are left back for one reason or another. Leaving a student back is something that should only be done in the most extreme circumstances — it has so many negative ramifications for students later in life. Yet Success Academy uses it recklessly. Here’s how it works: They call in the family of a student who has ‘got to go.’ They say that even though the student passed the state test, they failed to meet some other requirement. This leaves the family with two options: The first is for the student to repeat the grade they just completed. This means that they will be the ‘old kid’ in their class while all their friends (or around 85% of their friends — other kids get threatened with this too) move on to the next grade. This is a devastating consequence. But fortunately, there is one other option. The student can get promoted as long as that student ‘voluntarily’ transfers to a different school. If you want to have lunch some time with me and the father of a student who went through this to hear first hand about how the school did this for his special needs daughter after she finished fourth grade, I can arrange this.

The students aren’t the only group of people that Success Academy treats, in my opinion, abusively. Success Academy makes demands on families that they are not able to meet. The school knows how to make things especially rough on families whose students struggle with behavioral issues. They make parents repeatedly come and get their kids, even if it means the parent is jeopardizing his or her own job by having to leave the job frequently in the middle of the day. An education news site, Chalkbeat NY reported that at one of the schools Success Academy held a mandatory family meeting. For families that miss that meeting, they are told that the assumption is that the child will not be returning to the school the next year. In a pending lawsuit, some parents report that Success Academy has even resorted to reporting families to Administration For Children’s Services (ACS) for being unable to pick up their children in the middle of the day after the child apparently violated one of the many strict rules of the school.

The chaotic situation in the Success Academy high school is a huge red flag. If the Success Academy students peak in 8th grade and then have such poor results in high school, it means that their achievement through 8th grade (as measured by those state test scores) were illusory. The unusually high teacher turnover at their high schools is a symptom of this. When you are working in the most incredible educational experiment in the history of education, you don’t just quit after a year or two.  Yet over half of the high school teachers did not return this past year. …

Despite the fanfare surrounding these schools, from my perspective Success Academy excels most at abuse. They abuse their students through overuse of making them repeat grades, they abuse the families when they punish them — even call ACS on them — for not being able to meet their impossible demands, and they abuse the staff causing many of them to quit each year. …

Success Academy is built on a foundation of lies and it is only a matter of time before it comes crumbling down.

collapsing house

This is a powerful post. Be sure to read it in its entirety.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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