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College Board’s AP-botch Lawsuit: No “PR Stunt”

On May 19, 2020, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (“Fairtest”) and several individuals filed suit against the College Board, Educational Testing Service (ETS), and 50 individuals in a “nationwide and California class action complaint” related to College Board’s et al. botching of the 2020 administration of its Advanced Placement (AP) tests.

Via 13 “claims for relief,” including violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, gross negligence, unjust enrichment, and false advertising, Plaintiffs seek “compensatory damages in an amount that exceeds $500 million, with
the exact amount to be proven at trial.”

Washington Post reporting on the suit includes a response from Peter Schwartz, College Board chief risk officer and general counsel, calling the suit “a PR stunt masquerading as a legal complaint manufactured by an opportunistic organization that prioritizes media coverage for itself.”

In 2017-18, so-called “opportunistic” Fairtest reported an end-of-year fund balance of $17,551. Director Robert Shaeffer was paid $76K, and former executive director, Monty Neill, $91K, in total compensation.

In contrast, in 2018, Schwartz was paid $550K in total compensation as the chief lawyer for an educational testing nonprofit with an end-of-year fund balance of $1.1B and that paid its  CEO/president David Coleman $1.8M in total compensation.

Now that’s *opportunity.*

As for “media coverage for itself”: In 2018, College Board dropped a cool $4.3M for “advertising and promotion,” which was $4.3M more than shoestring-budget Fairtest, with its total 2017-18 revenue of $291K.

((Silence.))

Let us now take a gander at some of the details from Fairtest’s so-called “PR stunt” litigation against well-fed College Board.

Below are excerpts from Fairtest’s et al. 46-page suit. My goal in this post is to offer readers the opportunity to read portions of the document for themselves. As such, I include here excerpts from the first 18 pages of the suit. (I have highlighted a number of statements that particularly caught my attention.)

First, the backstory of the suit as is relayed in the full introduction:

Plaintiffs bring this suit against Defendants to recover the damages owed to them and others similarly situated and for injunctive relief as a result of the Defendants’ failure to allow access to and failure to administer its Advanced Placement (“AP”) program properly and without prejudice.

The College Board is involved at every level of the college preparation, testing, admissions, financial aid, and placement process. It is the leading player in the higher education industry responsible for the fates of millions of high school students every year, deciding who will be recruited, who will apply, who will be accepted, who will receive financial aid, and who will be able to afford college and other postsecondary opportunities. The Educational Testing Service (“ETS”) is responsible for the development, administration, and scoring of College Board’s assessments, including AP exams.

AP is a program offered by the College Board that offers college-level courses and examinations to high school students. Colleges and universities frequently grant placement and course credit to students who obtain passing scores on their AP examinations. The length of time each student will spend in college, their curriculum, and how much they pay to attend college are factors heavily influenced by College Board and the AP opportunities available to students. The College Board claims that AP courses and examinations also favorably impact college admissions decisions by demonstrating to admissions officers that a student is prepared for college-level work. AP courses strengthens a student’s high school transcript and help students qualify for scholarships.

In March of 2020, schools around the world moved to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The College Board was faced with the decision of cancelling its popular and profitable AP program for the year, postponing the exams, or offering them at home to students. The College Board made the decision to offer the AP exams to students at home but with significant structural changes.

The College Board was immediately made aware by numerous sources, including counselors, educators, advocates and families, that there were seriousconcerns that the at-home AP exams would not be fair to students who have no computer, access to Internet or quiet workspaces from which to work, or to underresourced students in general. Even as the test began, questions remained about the availability and applicability of legally required accommodations for students with disabilities, the fair access to connectivity for all students, test security, and score comparability.

Counselors, educators, advocates, and families immediately reached out to The College Board to make them aware of their serious concerns with the at-home AP format’s likely impact on students who have no computer, access to Internet or quiet workspaces from which to work, or on under-resourced students in general. Even as the test began, questions remained about the availability and applicability of legally required accommodations for students with disabilities, connectivity, test security, and score comparability.

The College Board acknowledged that these issues existed, but it did not change its policies to address them. On May 14, 2020, after 3 full days of at-home AP exams, the College Board admitted that there was a measurable failure rate in uploading exams, and it attempted to change its policies going forward. The College Board’s President, David Coleman acknowledged in an email that, “we can’t control the conditions in students’ homes.” Technical problems with the digital versions of the AP exams caused and continue to cause tremendous angst for high school students and their parents during this already stressful time.

Before this year, high school students took their AP exams at school during the regular school day hours in a controlled and regulated environment where they could ask for assistance if necessary. The College Board acknowledged that it knew moving the exams home may exclude some students from testing at all, stating that, “We recognize that the digital divide could prevent some low-income and rural students from participating.” The College Board moved the AP exams to students’ homes under the present conditions despite this acknowledgement. In doing so, the College Board knowingly discriminated against under-resourced students, disabled students, and students in remote locations, and it failed to honor its commitments to students and their families.

After one day of testing, it became clear that the College Board and ETS had failed to fairly, competently, or equitably administer the AP exams. The students who relied on AP scores for the financial benefits of college placement and credit experienced technical glitches, timing issues, and a heightened level of anxiety and distress. Reports of anywhere between 5% and 20% of examinees were unable to submit their responses through the at-home testing platform during the first three days of AP exams. One AP Coordinator reported a failure rate of 30%. Some students could only submit partial responses, and others could not even log on to take the exams.

Despite the fact that these are challenging times for families, The College Board offered no acceptable remedies to students whose lack of digital access prevented them from fairly testing. Nor did it offer remedies to students who experienced glitches with the AP platform. On May 15, 2020, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported, “AP Tests During Covid-19: Heartbreak, Technical Glitches, and Anonymous Intrigue.” On the same day, The Washington Post reported, “College Board Says New AP Test Online Going Well – But Students Report Big Problems.”

The College Board intends to move all of its assessments to an at-home format, including the SAT; however, this year’s AP exam administration makes it perfectly clear that until the technical issues, the digital divide and other inequities are adequately addressed, it cannot not do so.

The challenge of the at-home AP exam format is only the final hurdle for many AP students, and it is also one step that many students may never even reach. Some AP students are fully denied access to AP exams and others must overcome additional hurdles to obtain access to AP exams based solely on where they are enrolled in school. Access is particularly challenging for students enrolled in California public charter schools or homeschools.

Next, what amounts to the introductory portion of the suit’s section on “common factual allegations”:

The College Board claims that students who score a 3 or higher (out of 5) on an AP Exam typically experience greater academic success in college and are more likely to earn a college degree on time than non-AP students. As the only player in the education market with this level of influence over high school curriculum, college admissions, course placement, and financial outcomes, the College Board knows that access to its AP exams must be fair, reliable, and affordable.

To ensure that low-income students can access AP Exams at a reduced cost, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides funding for AP Exams and courses under the Title IV, Part A block grant. Additional funding is also available for states and districts to cover AP Exam fees for low-income students. In California, an increasing number of lower income students are enrolling in AP courses. Of the 58.7 percent of the state’s K–12 students eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program in the Class of 2017, 45.5 percent took at least one AP exam.

Each year, millions of high school students take 38 different AP exams at the end of the school year. In 2019, 3.1 million students took a total of 4.9 million AP exams at school. In 2020, 3.4 million students are registered to take over 5 million AP exams. During the first week of testing, students took or attempted to take over 2.2 million AP exams. The cost of an AP exam is generally between $100 and $150 per test.

In 2018, the College Board earned over $480 million dollars from its AP program alone. The College Board collected its exam fees in the Fall of 2019 for the Spring 2020 exams.

AP exams provide a means for high school students to earn college credit while in high school. Defendant College Board advertises that, “by taking an AP course and scoring successfully on the related AP Exam, [a high school student] can save on college expenses: most colleges and universities nationwide offer college credit, advanced placement, or both, for qualifying AP Exam scores… These credits can allow students to save college tuition, study abroad, or secure a second major.” College Board further advertises that, “[e]arning a qualifying score on the AP Exam can help you advance and avoid required introductory courses – so you can move directly into upper-level classes and focus on the work that interests you most.”

The AP program is the only widely available high program allowing students to earn college credits. Defendant College Board organizes and administers the AP tests. The AP program is the only means for high school students to test for college credit in dozens of subject matters. In order to obtain college credits, students are required to pass the AP test, as scored and reported by Defendants.

Passing scores (a 3, 4, or 5) on the AP exams can save students and their parents thousands of dollars in college tuition and costs. A successful student who take multiple AP exams can potentially finish college a year or more earlier than students who did not earn AP credit during high school. Some students understandably wanted an option to take their AP exams for college credit when COVID-19 forced their schools to convert to distance learning and they could no longer test at school.

However, the format of the at-home AP exams is different from the format students are accustomed to and different from the practice AP exams they have taken. The 2020 home-based AP exams are digitally-based instead of on paper as they have always been in the past. The new exams are scheduled to last only 45 minutes (actually 40 minutes with the required 5 minutes to begin uploading answers before the test ends) instead of 3 hours, and all tests in the same subject are given at exactly the same time. This means that some students in one part of the world could be taking an exam in the middle of the night, while others are taking it in the middle of the day. Students in Hawaii begin their first exams each day at 6 a.m., while students in New York begin the same exams at noon. The 2020 exams include material covered until the time of the COVID-19 breakout instead of the entire course curriculum. Most importantly, the exams are taken at home, where the testing environment can be unpredictable and distracting.

Some of the issues with the at-home format should have been anticipated. As soon as the College Board announced its plans to administer at-home exams, educators, students, parents, and AP coordinators voiced their concerns over equity and access issues. They also expressed concerns about timing and technical problems with the new format as well as score validity.

The College Board announced prior to the administration of the at-home exams that certain disability accommodations that were previously provided would be modified, eliminated, or were deemed “unnecessary” due to the new format.

Dozens of educators and counselors wrote an “Open Letter” to the College Board on April 22, 2020 outlining why the exams would not be fair to students who have no computer, access to Internet or quiet work spaces from which to work, or to students with disabilities who would not have their approved accommodations. Plaintiff FairTest announced that its concerns about the 2020 AP exams included computer equipment and technology, connectivity, the availability of legally required accommodations, security, and score comparability.

The College Board did not address these issues or change its policies prior to the administration of the at-home AP exams. In fact, on May 14, 2020, after 3 full days of AP exam administration, College Board’s President David Coleman acknowledged in an email that, “we can’t control the conditions in students’ homes.” He added, “Students may face technology or internet issues, need to tend to unexpected family obligations, or face other disruptions that will impact their testing experience. Like the virus itself, these disruptions will disproportionately impact low-income and underrepresented students.” Instead of changing the testing format to address the disparities among student testing environments, however, Mr. Coleman recommended that students explain their disadvantages to college admissions officers. In an admission that the tests are not valid for all students, Coleman said, “We’re working to ensure that students who take the exam in challenging situations can share context with admissions officers about their exam experience.”

The first week of the 2020 AP exams revealed the deep digital divide among AP test- takers, and it became clear how the revised exam format disproportionately impacted certain groups of students, including those who are underresourced, who lack access to technology or quiet workspaces, students with disabilities, and students testing in non-ideal time zones. A number of students suffered from technical glitches, timing issues, issues with their computer software, disability accommodation issues, and widespread panic due to the inability to reach anyone at the College Board for assistance.

After the first week of testing, The College Board reported a failure rate of only 1%, but AP coordinators and students told a different story. Schools estimated that anywhere between 5-20% of their AP test-takers were unable to submit their exam responses through College Board’s testing platform during the first week. Other students could not finish their exams or log into the platform at all despite practicing beforehand.

One AP Calculus teacher reported that 3 out of her 13 students, or 23% of her students, faced technical obstacles submitting their work during the AP Calculus AB examination. This Santa Barbara-area teacher reported that one of her students received an upload error message after the testing time had expired. A second student had issues with her devices, even though she had practiced logging on and taking mock exams with her teacher. A third student in the class reported that her screen froze, then went blank, and then logged the student out upon trying to submit her answers. This student was never able to get back into the exam to upload her submissions.

Another AP Coordinator reported that, “This whole thing was a mess. It was unprofessional and added more stress to the students, teachers, families, and coordinators.” Another AP coordinator reported a 10% failure rate on the AP Calculus exam. These reports from the ground to do not square up with the College Board’s statement that “the vast majority” of the 2.2 million students who tested last week successfully completed those exams, or its written statement that less than 1% technical of test takers encountered technical difficulties.

Students who experienced issues with the College Board’s platform emailed their time-stamped work to the College Board, but it was not accepted. They were told that their only remedy was to retake the exam over the summer, if they qualified for a retake exam. Students’ anxiety continued to grow as the week progressed due to legitimate fears that they would complete their work but not be unable to submit
it and would then have no remedy.

Students have not been able to confirm access to the retake exams despite
technical failures. Students have also reported that they have two AP exams scheduled for the same retake day and that they were told by The College Board that they would have to choose only one exam to take.

FairTest received an influx of reports about at-home AP exam failures and the lack of remedies. One parent reported, “We also had technical issues trying to sign up for a make-up exam. I spent over an hour on phone with CB. They refused to allow me to speak to supervisor and offered no reassurance that the problem would be fixed by a makeup.”

One student reported that, “Due to a technical malfunction on the College Board’s website during the APUSH exam (AP U.S. History), I was unable to submit by work. My dad has been critically ill and hospitalized for the past few weeks and despite this challenge, I persisted in preparing for my AP exams because I wanted to achieve my goals of earning college credits. Now, due to a technical issue on the College Board’s website, I am going to have to continue working during this incredibly stressful time in my life to prepare to re-take the exam in June.”

One parent said, “My son has time stamped images of his Physics AP answers. Why can’t college board find a way to accept those? We worry there is no make up for the make-up test. What happens if this glitch happens on the make up?” Another parent reported, “We also had technical issues trying to sign up for make-up exam. I spent over an hour on phone with CB. They refused to allow me to speak to supervisor and offered no reassurance that problem would be fixed by makeup.”

One student described the experience of carefully preparing for the exam but still being unable to submit his responses. “I took all precautions once I heard from some students that there were submission errors. I updated my computer, used chrome because it was recommended by the college board, sent my brother to my dad’s house so I wasn’t distracted during my test, and made my family get off the wifi so I could have the maximum potential my wifi could give me. . . Then, when I took Physics 1, my first answer submitted with no problem, but my second question wouldn’t submit.”

In response to the complaints, the College Board officials initially claimed that their systems did not malfunction, but the problems were instead caused by students. Students were instructed to update their browsers, disable plug-ins, and make sure their devices were properly set up.

Ultimately, in response to what some called a “tsunami” of complaints, the College Board made some adjustments to its policies, announcing on May 17, 2020 that it would provide a backup email submission option of browser-based exams for students testing between May 18 and May 22, 2020. Nonetheless, if the student is unable to upload responses through the exam platform or successfully transmit by email at the time of the exam, as in the case of a home connectivity problem, the student would still have to request a makeup exam. In addition, the College Board will not accept email transmissions from students who already tested between May 11 and May 15, 2020.

Students taking exams between May 18 and May 22, 2020 have an added safeguard, providing a slightly more desirable and less stressful testing environment for these test-takers. Students who experienced technical failures during the first week have still not received any confirmation that they will be eligible to take a makeup exam or that they will receive the added safeguard of email submission, even for their retakes.

Students who do not wish to retake their exams, and even those who do not wish to test at all, cannot receive a refund of their test fees directly from the College Board. Even though the College Board collected money for the AP exams at least six months ago, it will not directly issue refunds to students. The College Board has stated that after both the regular and makeup testing windows have passed, if students have not taken or attempted to take any exams, their schools will be refunded the cost of their exam fees. It is then up to the students to request fee refunds from their schools. The College Board’s website does not provide any instructions to students about how students can receive fee refunds. Its website says, “[L]ocal school policy determines the amount of the refund.”

These are challenging times for high school students and their families, emotionally and financially. Students are entitled to the valid and reliable exam they signed up and paid for, absent the severe stress and anxiety associated with the new format. Despite collecting what Plaintiffs believe to be approximately half a billion dollars in exam fees, The College Board has failed to provide students with an AP exam that is similar to the one they purchased.

Students have already reported issues with the time limits imposed by this year’s AP exams. The exams have not been properly piloted for time limits, and they are more speeded and abridged than the original versions. The College Board has acknowledged the timing issues. The 2020 AP Testing Guide states, “Don’t worry if you don’t complete all parts of the question before you need to attach and submit your response. To give students as many different chances to demonstrate what they know as possible, a question may have more parts than can be answered in the allowed time. You don’t need to complete the entire question to get a score of 5, but you do need to submit whatever work you’ve done.” While this could alleviate some students’ despair about not finishing their exams, it confirms the fears of other students that their scores will be seen as invalid or meritless.

Adding to the perception that the scores on this year’s exam may not be fair or consistent is the ability of high schools to review students’ scores and request score increases. The 2020 AP Testing Guide says that “AP teachers will have the chance to review your score and your exam responses this summer. If you don’t receive a score of 3 or higher and your teacher is convinced you should have, your teacher will be able to engage with the AP Program’s college faculty partners to review and confirm your score, ensuring it’s fair and appropriate.” This policy benefits students at schools with more resources, and it discriminates against students who are underprivileged or who attend under-resourced schools.

Moreover, there is no guarantee that the AP exam scores will count for anything in the collegiate landscape. While some colleges have said they will accept the credit, others have remained silent. Some colleges view at-home testing as inherently inequitable.

Defendants’ unlawful conduct has caused and will continue to cause substantial and irreparable damage and injury to Plaintiffs in ways that cannot be compensated with money, and Plaintiffs have no speedy, plain, or adequate remedy at law. Students pay for these AP exams but will have disadvantages due to the College Board’s restrictions and practices discussed herein.

The Fairtest et al. suit continues for an additional 28 pages and includes details about College Board’s choosing which schools/students have access to AP testing, the specific situations for individual plaintiffs, justification for class action status for several groups (e.g., “nationwide class, “fair access California subclass,” “disabled students California subclass), and more.

Not a PR stunt but instead a hefty underscoring of the bloated power testing wields over American education.

College Board is billion-dollar ineptitude.

money in safe

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Cade Brumley Is Louisiana’s New Superintendent. What LDOE Chaos Has He Inherited?

On May 20, 2020, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted 8-3 to appoint Jefferson Parish superintendent, Cade Brumley, as Louisiana’s next state superintendent.

Brumley was not a choice of ed reformers.  It seemed that their top choice was John White associate, Jessica Baghian, who currently serves as an assistant superintendent. Even so, some, like Sandy Holloway and Kira Orange-Jones, cast their initial votes for former St. James Parish superintendent Alonzo “Lonnie” Luce, who currently works for for-profit charter school management company, Charter Schools USA, as overseer of its Louisiana charter schools.

Brumley won the supermajority in a second round of voting. In the first round, all three candidates wound up with votes of 5-6. In Brumley’s case, the five voting for him included Ashley Ellis, Tony Davis, and governor John Bel Edwards’ three appointees, Doris Voitier, Belinda Davis, and Thomas Roque.

In a surprising move, Kira Orange-Jones, who headed the superintendent search committee, changed her vote in favor of Brumley in the second round, as did Holloway and Preston Castille.

Orange-Jones told the Advocate that Brumley is “a proven reformer.”

I don’t think so. Yes, Brumley attended the ed-reform Broad Superintendents Academy. However, Brumley has a steep history in the traditional classroom, as teacher, assistant principal, principal, and district superintendent, which is hardly the characteristic ed-reform catapult to a top post following a token teaching stint (i.e., Baghian).

Moreover, Brumley recently stated that he believes that charter schools should be locally, not state, approved, and this the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (LAPCS), led by Caroline Roemer, found “deeply concerning.”

In a May 17, 2020, tweet, Advocate reporter Will Sentell noted Roemer’s support for Baghian and Luce, but no mention of Brumley, despite his being a 2018 LAPCS keynote speaker.

The fact that John White diehards Holly Boffy and James Garvey voted no for Brumley says quite a bit about Brumley’s not fitting the John White mold. Garvey’s political shadiness is rooted in Jefferson Parish, and yet, he rejected the Jefferson Parish superintendent as the next state superintendent.

That makes me feel all the more confident in Brumley as one who will not engage in self-serving political games. Which raises another important point:

What kind of chaos and shady dealing is Brumley walking into by taking over a Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) opaquely operated by a John-White-shielding-and-enabling 2012 and 2015 BESE majority?

White began “muddying the narrative” in 2012 when he approved voucher schools without reviewing them first and was caught trying subsequently create an approval process post-approval. For years, White chose to be sued rather than to fulfil public records requests, and for years, he directed LDOE employees to only fill public records requests that were cleared by administrators, the plan being to release records to those sympathetic to White and his LDOE.

Another example: White withheld the Class of 2014 ACT scores until February 2015. On January 03, 2015, I wrote about his withholding the scores, and on January 31, 2015, I began releasing them on my blog after a concerned individual with access to the scores became upset enough about the scores being purposely kept out of public view allowed me access.

And what about money? Consider, for example, this 2015 detailing of LDOE misappropriation of federal funding for special education. Too, there’s the fact that White cofounded a nonprofit that started doing business in Louisiana while White was still superintendent.

In 2015, Governor Edwards said that he wanted White gone because LDOE under White’s leadership “has been fraught with controversy and accusations of wrongdoing.”

White is gone, and the remnant of career LDOE employees who were trying to hold onto their jobs under White’s corruption and mismanagement out of fear of losing those jobs under White (or under a subsequent, likeminded White crony) can now feel free to spill their secrets.

I also wonder if White’s cronies still at LDOE have already formulated their exit plans.

It’s a new day at LDOE. I wonder what Brumley will find, and who, exactly, will be implicated, and how long it will take before the filing of the first formal charges.

Congratulations, Dr. Brumley.

I look forward to your LDOE cleanup.

CadeBrumley

Cade Brumley

_________________________________________________________________

My latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, is now available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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The College Board COVID-Era AP Exam: Another Botch Job

The College Board is offering its Advanced Placement (AP) tests in an abbreviated, roughly-45-minute formats that students complete remotely and submit according to the College Board’s schedule. The first round of testing began May 11, 2020.

In keeping with the College Board’s established history of ineptness as a high-stakes testing entity (see here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here for examples), the organization once again has thousands of shocked and upset high school students and their parents suffering the consequences of having to rely on the College Board to competently deliver.

In the following tweet, the faceless College Board entity understates the gravity of those thousands of students who were unable to successfully upload their AP test responses to the College Board’s server.

The College Board assumed no responsibility and instead plays up a “99%” success rate as it vaguely blamed student browsers as “a primary cause”:

In 2018-19, 2.8 million students took 5.1 million AP exams. So, the hidden failure in that “99% success rate” is that the “unsuccessful,” College Board-donwplayed, one percent of AP student test takers translates to thousands of students.

thinker facepalm

The numerous student and parent comments to the above tweet underscore the College Board’s reputation for testing ineptitude. For example, a number of commenters noted that they were able to submit their responses for the first test item but not the second, or for one exam but not another:

Such is not a browser problem, but it sure reads like an overloaded server problem. Too, some students stated that they were able to complete the trial-run without a problem, only to face being unable to upload responses to the actual exam:

In other cases, students stated that they received a message that their responses were successfully uploaded only to receive a message to the contrary some time afterwards:

Again, sounds like a server issue– which some commenters also observed:

College Board’s “solution” to this traumatic problem is to offer students another chance to reexperience it by retaking the test:

Despite its high-stakes-exam incompetence and efforts to hold itself blameless for this testing chaos, the College Board appears to have had no problem processing its AP test fees:

In response to this AP fiasco, one frustrated test taker, Eliana Sisman, began this Change.org petition on May 11, 2020, to either allow AP test takers to resubmit work without having to retake the exam or offer those affected by the AP “malfunction” opportunity to complete an even shorter test:

My dear friend Natalie and I are two of thousands of AP students who weren’t able to submit our AP exams due to a malfunction in the College Board website. We’ve worked hard all year to learn and earn some college credit so we can have a head start and make sure we can graduate college on time or early. We’ve studied hard for the last few weeks and were looking forward to earning some college credit today. Now we might have to retake our tests several weeks from now or lose our chance to get college credit. This would cut into the free time we’d been looking forward to enjoying with our families and friends after all our hard work.

We, along with all our sisters and brothers in humanity, have already been having a hard time because of COVID and we were already tired and stressed out and a lot of us have been struggling with sadness and mental health issues. This will make all of that worse.

Fortunately, there’s a solution. Most of us still have our work and answers saved. The college board can give us time to re-submit after they fix their website. People might understandably worry allowing this will lead to cheating. But we already had opportunities to cheat because COVID has prevented College Board from implementing the strict anti-cheating policies they usually do. The vast majority of us didn’t cheat not because we couldn’t but because we’re honest. Those who do cheat can be caught with anti-cheating tech like Turnitin which is widely used and effective on take-home assignments.

People who don’t have saved work to re-submit should be given a very short and easy make-up test to make up for the added difficulty they’re enduring because of this malfunction.

As of this writing, the petition has over 12,500 signatures.

rottenacorn

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My latest bookA Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, is now available for purchase on Amazon anvia Garn Press!

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Louisiana’s Next Superintendent: Baghian, or Brumley, or Neither?

Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) expects to vote on Louisiana’s next state superintendent on May 20, 2020.

However, according to a May 07, 2020 tweet by Advocate reporter, Will Sentell, none of the six candidates has the necessary 8 out of 11 BESE member votes to be elected as the next superintendent:

 

I was not surprised by this behind-the-scenes polling of BESE members. Former state superintendent John White’s second-term presence in his position was never brought to a formal vote because behind-the-scenes polling had his reappointment deadlocked at 7 to 4, with the one elected BESE member not purchased by out-of-state billionaires/Louisiana Business and Industry (LABI), Kathy Edmonston, holding out, as did the three governor-appointed BESE members. So, John White’s second, four-year stint had him in his job as a month-to-month employee, which allowed the ed-reform, LABI/out-of-state billionaire-bought, 2016 BESE majority to keep White as state superintendent by default. The strategy: Just don’t bring the issue to a vote.

But now, we’re in 2020, and some deal was cut such that days prior to Louisiana governor, John Bel Edwards’ second, 2020, inauguration, White resigned. Prior to the November 2019 election of the 2020 BESE board, Louisiana businessman Lane Grigsby’s Empower Louisiana PAC disbanded, which I took as evidence that White might be moving along.

Despite not being able to funnel millions through Grigsby’s PAC in 2019 like they did in 2015, out-of-state billionaires managed to contribute to other PACs and have their ed-reform-friendly money amply flowing to the eight non-appointed BESE candidates elected in November 2019. So, one could argue that the game continued: A trade-off to let White go, but a security to purchase the eight votes needed to ensure that his successor would be just as ed-reform friendly as was White.

For me, the major surprise in Sentell’s May 07, 2020, tweet was the realization that the ed-reform purchase of those eight BESE seats may have hit a snag.

At least one elected BESE member could be holding out on a (the?) state superintedendent candidate favored by LABI and/or out-of-state, billionaire donors.

According to Sentell’s May 11, 2020, Advocate reporting, the issue chiefly comes down to two of the six candidates: State-level assistant superintendent, Jessica Baghian, who worked under John White; has two years of teaching experience, was never even an assistant principal, and who appears to be the preferred choice for ed-reform BESE members (the ones elected using loads of out-of-state cash), and Jefferson Parish superintendent, Cade Brumley, who has been a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and district superintendent (twice) across decades, and is the candidate seemingly preferred by BESE members appointed by the governor who wanted White gone years ago.

Then there’s this observation in Sentell’s May 11, 2020, article:

All eight of BESE’s elected members were backed by business groups, which would seem to favor Baghian….

But four panelists are new to the panel….

Ahh. “Four panelists are new to the panel”… meaning that one or more than one of these newly-electeds might not be making the Baghian shoo-in as smooth as expected.

This is great news. It means that someone whom Big Money intended to own is doing some independent thinking.

At least one individual. Maybe more than one.

Now, it is possible that some one or more BESE members are voting for candidates other that Brumley or Baghian as a first choice. But the possibility that intrigues me is that there might be one or more elected BESE members who refuse, period, to vote for Baghian.

Three BESE members have been staunch White supporters: James Garvey, Kira Orange-Jones, and Holly Boffy. I’m pretty sure (not definite, but pretty sure) they would vote for Baghian.

The governor’s three appointees (Belinda Davis, Thomas Roque, and Doris Voitier) likely support Brumley.

The remaining votes are a complete mystery to me.

In Sentell’s May 11, 2020, article, Garvey seems to believe all could just fall into place:

“I think as of today it is still fairly wide open,” Garvey said, adding that he thinks a consensus will emerge “pretty quickly” after all the background checks, review of public surveys and other steps are done.

“The attempt will be to go from six to one, which is fairly ambitious but not impossible,” he said.

As to the results of the public survey BESE conducted related to the superintendent search: Cade Brumley was mentioned five times more than any other candidate; “scan of comments suggests most are positive if not glowing.”

But you know who does not like Brumley because he prefers locally-authorized rather that state-authorized charter schools? Caroline Roemer and her Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (LAPCS). From Sentell:

The group (LAPCS) sent a clip of Brumley’s comments to members, and a letter to BESE members that said picking a leader who does not embrace state-authorized charter schools would be “deeply concerning.”

Caroline Roemer, executive director of the group, said Brumley’s comments appeared to confirm the view that district superintendents believe “the best charter is the local charter.”

Roemer’s brother, former BESE member Chas Roemer, was an avid charter school supporter. Caroline Roemer used to attend BESE meetings at which her brother presided. I wrote about it in March 2013:

The ethics board is apparently fine with Chas and Caroline’s connection, since Chas has been installed as not only a BESE member, but of late as BESE president, and is openly vocal in support of charters. Meanwhile, Caroline is still allowed to frequent BESE meetings, where one is allowed to use electronic devices to communicate during the meetings.

As for Garvey’s confidence in a “pretty quick” consensus:

For its entire last term (2016-20), BESE chose to hold no vote for superintendent to keep its inability to approve a second term for John White off of the public record.

BESE knew it had no supermajority vote to keep White. No “pretty quick” consensus– except to just nix voting altogether.

If no supermajority vote is the case come May 20, 2020, Louisiana’s next superintendent could remain its acting superintendent, Beth Scioneaux.

Such a situation should have Louisiana lawmakers revisit the idea of the state superintendent being elected by Louisiana voters.

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Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Network Needs 1,000 Hires. Don’t Bother Unpacking.

UPADTE 05-09-20: The post below has been updated to reflect that there is a second SA nonprofit directly related to its schools. In my original post, I used info for only one. Thus, I needed to update this post. Even so, SA still evidences notable turnover.

Thank you to Andy for bringing to my attention.

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Eva Moskowitz’s New York-based charter school chain, Success Academies (SA), burns through teachers and other employees. For 2020-21, the charter chain needs another thousand, a devouring that spins well into the “who’s hiring” announcement in the May 08, 2020, CNN Business:

Education

Success Academy Charter Schools

The New York City-based charter schools program told CNN Business it needs to fill 1,000 full-time positions at 45 schools for the 2020-21 school year.

The program is looking for 700 to 800 New York City teachers, including entry-level K-12 teaching positions in science, math, chess and debate. The company is also looking for assistant principals and school business operations managers in addition to filling associate roles in operations, assessment and special education.

“Our operations positions support schools and families and frequently candidates coming from the retail or hospitality industries do well in these roles,” a Success Academies spokesperson said via email.

SA’s goal of hiring 1,000 individuals was posted on Glassdoor on April 10, 2020, at which time SA advertised a “virtual information session” for April 14, 2020:

Company Updates

  • Success Academy Charter Schools

    29 days ago

    Join Success Academy Charter Schools’ on 4/14 for a virtual information session to learn about the 1,000 open teaching and school-based positions being offered for 2020-2021. #HiringNow

evamoskowitz

Eva Moskowitz

A pressing question is why Moskowitz’s schools have so many open positions at one time. One thousand hires is notably high given SA’s employment numbers across the years.

SA operates three nonprofits. One of them Success Foundation, was apparently created to supplement Moskowitz’s salary.

The remaining two are more directly related to SA schools.

The first, Success Academy Charter Schools, Inc. (EIN 20-5298861), (SA Inc.) was founded in 2006 and lists total number of employees as follows for FY2008 to FY2017:

SA Inc.’s Total Number of Individuals Employed in a Given Tax Year (FY2008-FY2017):

  • FY2017:  483
  • FY2016:  442
  • FY2015:  488
  • FY2014:  608
  • FY2013:  574
  • FY2012:  254
  • FY2011:  125
  • FY2010:  130
  • FY2009:  112
  • FY2008:  109

The second, Success Academy Charter Schools NYC (EIN 36-4629540) (SA NYC), was founded in 2009 and lists total number of employees as follows for FY2008 to FY2017:

SA Inc.’s Total Number of Individuals Employed in a Given Tax Year (FY2008-FY2017):

  • FY2017: 2,786
  • FY2016: 2,330
  • FY2015: 1,891
  • FY2014: 1,340
  • FY2013: 1,051
  • FY2012:  432
  • FY2011:  116
  • FY2010:   69
  • FY2009:   53
  • FY2008:   33

So, if we combine the total employees listed on both SA Inc. and SA NYC tax filings, we learn that in FY2017 (the most recent filings available), SA employed 2,786 + 483 = 3,269 individuals.

Let’s assume that in 2020, SA employs 4,000 individuals.

Given that SA is advertising for 1,000 new hires, that means it is possible that SA is losing one in four employees.

According to SA’s profile on Glassdoor, in 2020, SA presents itself as employing between 1,001 and 5,000 people.

Even if SA employs 5,000 individuals (let’s go with the upper bound), 1,000 open positions means that one in five SA employees bailed or were terminated.

But let’s assume that some of this hiring is due to grade-level expansion, especially at a number of SA’s middle schools (several have not yet expanded to the expected eighth-grade level). Even if SA needs 200 new teachers to satisfy grade-level expansion (and based upon info available on expansion goals for individual schools, 200 new teachers seems excessive), that’s still presumably 800 already-existing teacher/admin positions SA must fill for 2020-21 and, as such, is arguably a shaky picture of human resource stability.

SA appears to be experiencing some remarkable turnover, and that despite the pandemic. By seeking 1,000 new employees, perhaps Moskowitz is hiring in reserve, anticipating SA-brand, employee exodus in the face of a greater need to ensure social distancing at school.

Is working at SA so bad that teachers/admin would rather try to find another job in the face of COVID-19 rather than stay?

A Glassdoor review dated May 07, 2020, says that work so dominates one’s life that work-life balance is irrelevant because work takes it all. A May 05, 2020, review refers to the network’s mangement of students as “militant.” An April 19, 2020, review notes that working as SA is not sustainable as a career and also comments that school leadership teams notably lack people of color and that the staff does not resemble those they serve. An April 29, 2020, review notes that teacher attrition is obvious from week to week. And on it goes, which brings me back to my opening statement:

Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies network burns through teachers and other employees. If you get a job there, don’t plan on staying.

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No Need to “Imagine”: Bill Gates Interferes with Education.

On May 05, 2020, New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced vague plans to work with billionaire education interference, Bill Gates, to “reimagine” education. From the Daily Gazette:

“It’s not just about reopening schools,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “When we are reopening schools, let’s open a better school and let’s open a smarter education system.”

Cuomo said the state would work with the Gates Foundation “to convene experts and develop a blueprint to reimagine education in the new normal,” but didn’t specify how that process would work or who would be involved.

Cuomo decided not to turn to his own state ed department, which is doing what a state ed department should in the face of this crisis, forming its own task force to be comprised of local stakeholders.

Bill Gates is no local stakeholder. Bill Gates is a an unaffected purse who is able to shrug off as unpleasant and disappointing any and all highly disruptive and destructive outcomes of his funded whims.

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Bill Gates

Let us consider a few of those billionaire, money-toss whims.

In 2013, I wrote about Gates’ “small schools” initiative in the early 2000s. By 2006, the thrill was gone– which means Gates pulled out and left districts in a lurch. From my March 15, 2013, post, “Tom Vander Ark and the Business of Education”:

As John Roddy tells it, Milwaukee was turned upside down with the small schools experiment and then abandoned mid-project. I will offer only part of his story here, though the entire article is an insightful read:

It should have been a happy occasion.

Tom Vander Ark, the executive director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, had come to town in the summer of 2003 to finalize the details of a prestigious $17 million grant to create 50 new small high schools in Milwaukee. The foundation had been impressed with the wide variety of schools in the city, and the seemingly unanimous commitment of public and private school leaders to the new project. Optimism was high, both in Milwaukee and across the nation, that the fabled wealth of Bill Gates could help accomplish change in the thorny field of education.

But as Dan Grego drove Vander Ark back to General Mitchell International Airport, he was struck by his passenger’s reserve. Grego, a 30-year veteran of alternative education, had been chosen to lead the initiative in Milwaukee. He had fond hopes of ending the longtime war between public education and voucher advocates, and radically altering the traditional organizational model for high schools. He found himself waiting for something momentous, some words of wisdom from Vander Ark, a former business executive and former school superintendent who was now running this new national education project. But between the monotonous whining and whooshing of the I-94 traffic, Vander Ark wasn’t saying much.

Finally, just as he was leaving the car, he offered a rather ambiguous benediction. “I guess,” Vander Ark said with a chuckle, “you just got yourself in for a helluva five years.”

Grego was taken aback. “It felt a little chilling,” he recalls. …

Today, some seven years later, the extraordinary $2 billion initiative — which created 2,600 new small schools in 45 states and the District of Columbia — has been ditched by Gates and his foundation.School districts across the nation were left disrupted, with some charging that Gates had abandoned the successful good schools he created and Gates citing statistics showing the project failed. Gates has now moved on to funding a completely different approach involving teacher education, and Vander Ark no longer works with the foundation.

Tom Vander Ark is a businessman. Gates is a businessman.  If one business venture is failing, move on to the next. So what if it hurts people?

Gates offers no reparations for those he leaves hanging. He doesn’t need to, for he answers to no one.

“Gates has now moved on to funding a completely different approach involving teacher education….”

About that Gates shift to teacher education: In 2009, Hillsborough County Schools (Florida) won what appeared to be a $100M grant for “empowering effective teachers.” However, in 2015, the Gates Foundation left Hillsborough County Schools hanging after paying only $80M because Gates had “a change in philosophy.” From my September 23, 2015, post, “Hillsborough County Schools Loses Both Gates Money and Financial Reserves”:

In November 2009, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the Hillsborough County (Florida) Public Schools a $100 million grant as part of its “Empowering Effective Teachers” effort. …

On September 21, 2015, the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Gates Foundation has only paid $80 million of the $100 million.

The Gates Foundation maintains that it did not agree for certain to fund the entire $100 million:

…Records indicate the relationship between Gates and the district has had some bumps.

Late in the process, the foundation rejected several of the district’s funding requests for Empowering Effective Teachers, which involves evaluating teachers using specially trained peers and bumping their pay with the idea that it would boost student performance.

“Each of the proposals were robustly outlined and presented,” a district report said.

But Gates officials responded by pointing to language in the original agreement saying the foundation had promised “up to” $100 million, not necessarily the whole amount, according to the report.

The district picked up the unpaid costs. …

Much of the disagreement [about funding the entire $100 million] amounted to a change in Gates’ philosophy, Brown said. “After a few years of research,” she said, “they believed there was not enough of a connection between performance bonuses and greater student achievement.”

And then there’s Common Core.

Bill Gates has been a (the?) critical financial force behind the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) because he wants to bring education “to scale” (“scale is good for free market education”).

In June 2014, Washington Post journalist Lyndsey Layton informed America about Gates’ bankrolling CCSS at the request of CCSS key players (who were not teachers):

The pair of education advocates had a big idea, a new approach to transform every public-school classroom in America. By early 2008, many of the nation’s top politicians and education leaders had lined up in support.

But that wasn’t enough. The duo needed money — tens of millions of dollars, at least — and they needed a champion who could overcome the politics that had thwarted every previous attempt to institute national standards.

So they turned to the richest man in the world.

On a summer day in 2008, Gene Wilhoit, director of a national group of state school chiefs, and David Coleman, an emerging evangelist for the standards movement, spent hours in Bill Gates’s sleek headquarters near Seattle, trying to persuade him and his wife, Melinda, to turn their idea into reality.

In April 2014, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) interviewed Gates so that he could “explain” CCSS. From my April 27, 2014, post, “Video: Bill Gates ‘Explains’ Common Core”:

Gates opens with CCSS as “not a curriculum” and that CCSS does not “tell teachers how to teach.” Nevertheless, according to his 2009 speech to legislators, Gates anticipates that CCSS will lead to curriculum and assessments that set teachers at the mercy of “market forces”:

When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better. …

Why “common”?

Bill tells us why. It has nothing to do with students or teachers:

“You get more free market competition. Scale is good for free market competition. Individual state regulatory capture is not good for competition” (time 5:05).

Bill Gates paid millions to billions to scale CCSS because Bill Gates wants to scale what influences American education. With CCSS, there was no “pilot,” which in 2017 Gates said was one of his “guiding principles.” Gates went straight to CCSS scale and was in for the funding in 2008, two years before CCSS even existed. (For a deep dive on CCSS history/creation, see my book, Common Core Dilemma.)

Gates wanted CCSS for sameness— “electrical socket” sameness, as Gates said in 2014:

We don’t have 50 different kinds of electrical sockets—we have just one. And that standard unleashed all kinds of innovation that improved lives. The same thing will happen with consistent standards for what students should know.

Sooo, if American public schools have CCSS/electrical-socket (??) sameness, that will lead to innovation because Bill Gates Says So.

Gates money financed the political push that is CCSS, all for the sake of “unleashing powerful market forces” (which I do not support but which it did not even do, by the way. Just ask Pearson.)

So now, NY gov Cuomo is turning to Gates to “reimagine” education for NY in the midst of a pandemic. Why? Not based on Gates’ stellar history of funding ideas that improve American public education. Gates funds his preferences, his whims, and those whims have produced failure after failure. But Gates is a billionaire, and that is the qualifying factor for Bringing in Gates.

But know this, Andrew Cuomo: Bill Gates bails on his one-time funding priorities once he decides they aren’t going the way he would like, and New York could well be stuck with salvaging this “reimagination” using its own funding.

Know also that Gates is drawn to “sameness” ideas he thinks can be Brought to Scale and will push those ideas for the sake of the market. Parents and teachers know this full well from CCSS. Moreover, they are all too familiar with Gates’ record of purchased interference, and that is why you are already facing “backlash,” as the May 05, 2020, Daily Gazette documents:

Cuomo’s announcement, though, was widely panned by litany of teachers, parents and education advocates.

“Remote learning, in any form, will never replace the important personal connection between teachers and their students that is built in the classroom and is a critical part of the teaching and learning process,” New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said in a statement responding to the governor’s remarks. “If we want to reimagine education, let’s start with addressing the need for social workers, mental health counselors, school nurses, enriching courses, advanced courses and smaller class sizes in school districts across the state.” …

Jasmine Gripper, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, an organization that advocates for education equity, said Cuomo and the Gates Foundation both “have a history of pushing privatization and agendas that have the potential to destroy public schools.”

“This collaboration raises a red flag and real questions about what shape our ‘reimagined’ public schools will take post-pandemic, and whether they will be recognizable as public schools at all,” Gripper said. “We need to reimagine schools with smaller class sizes, where children will be able to thrive in a classroom environment that is safe and nurturing.”

Too, NYC Public School Parents blog carried this May 05, 2020, letter signed by the New York State Allies for Public Education, Class Size Matters, and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy:

May 5, 2020

To Governor Cuomo: 

As educators, parents and school board members, we were appalled to hear that you will be working with the Gates Foundation on “reimagining” our schools following the Covid crisis.  Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have promoted one failed educational initiative after another, causing huge disaffection in districts throughout the state. 

Whether that be the high-handed push by the Gates Foundation for the invalid Common Core standards, unreliable teacher evaluation linked to test scores, or privacy-violating data-collection via the corporation known as inBloom Inc., the education of our children has been repeatedly put at risk by their non-evidence based “solutions”, which were implemented without parent input and despite significant public opposition.  As you recall, these policies also sparked a huge opt-out movement across the state, with more than twenty percent of eligible students refusing to take the state exams. 

We urge you instead to listen to parents and teachers rather than allow the Gates Foundation to implement their damaging education agenda once again.  Since the schools were shut down in mid-March, our understanding of the profound deficiencies of screen-based instruction has only grown. The use of education tech may have its place, but only as an ancillary to in-person learning, not as its replacement.  

Along with many other parents and educators, we strongly oppose enabling the Gates Foundation to influence the direction of education in the state by expanding the use of ed tech.  

Instead, we ask that you fund our schools sufficiently and equitably, to allow for the smaller classes, school counselors, and other critical services that our children will need more than ever before, given the myriad losses they have experienced this year. 

There’s nothing to “imagine” here.

Bill Gates’s efforts do not improve education, and he has the record to prove it.

bill gates

Bill Gates

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Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies Lays Off During COVID Despite $60M in Reserve, AND She’s Hiring!

According to the April 21, 2020, New York Post, Eva Moskowitz’s New York-based Success Academy (SA) charter school network has laid off 90 staff and 25 central office workers amid the coronavirus pandemic. From the article:

Moskowitz said the none-core layoffs were triggered by a “significant cut” in state aid from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $177 billion, coronavirus-wrecked budget that was approved earlier this month.

“It was a reduction of $1,000 per pupil,” Moskowitz said, of funding in the budget.

Moskowitz also cited emergency costs stemming from the public health crises as justification — like expenditures to ship projectors and other supplies to teachers for remote learning. …

Success Academy relies heavily on private donations and philanthropies for funding and any extended financial plunge would likely harm their operations.

A Success Academy source acknowledged some unease but said that the network is getting out in front of looming financial strains with the layoffs.

So, Moskowitz’s justification for cutting loose 115 non-teaching employees in the midst of a pandemic includes a $1000-per-pupil reduction in funding. According to SA’s “about” page, SA has 18,000 students, which means a net loss of $18M. That’s a lot of money.

But you know what else is a lot of money? SA’s end-of-year fund balance across the years, which has been increasing rather handsomely (and which took no hit as a result of the 2007-09 Great Recession):

SA Fund Balance Across Fiscal Years 2006-2017:

  • FY2017:  $60.3M
  • FY2016:  $55.2M
  • FY2015:  $55.4M
  • FY2014:  $50M
  • FY2013:  $32.4M
  • FY2012:  $23.2M
  • FY2011:  $10.7M
  • FY2010:  $7.3M
  • FY2009:  $4.1M
  • FY2008:  $2.3M
  • FY2007:  $1.3M
  • FY2006: $226K

Based upon SA’s tax returns from FY2006 to FY2017 (the most recent available), I’m not seeing any indication of SA facing “looming financial strain.”

Note also that there is a second nonprofit associated with SA schools, SA NYC. From FY2013 to FY2016, its end-of-year fund balance has held steady between $18M and $21M. In FY2017, SA NYC reserves took a dip, to a paltry $12M.

Therefore, between the two SA school-related nonprofits, Moskowitz’s SA reports a $72M end-of-year fund balance for FY2017 (the most recent filing).

With $72M in reserve as of June 2018, SA can afford to lose $18M in public money in 2020 and still retain employees– if Eva Moskowitz wants to.

Apparently, she does not, as April 21, 2020, Chalkbeat NY highlights:

One network employee who was laid off and spoke on condition of anonymity said employees were not offered severance, though healthcare benefits would extend into the summer.

“Success Academy is an incredibly well-resourced organization,” the staffer said. “For them to offer no financial assistance for laid off employees in these economic conditions speaks to what the executive office values, which is certainly not its employees.”

Consider that if the 115 laid-off employees are each paid an average of $200K per year (not likely, but let’s err on the high end of SA payroll, here), then the cost of retaining these employees for one year would be $2.3M, not $18M– and based on SA tax forms, we already know that SA can afford to lose $18M.

If Moskowitz is concerned about cutting costs in the face of COVID-related budget cuts, she could always slice a bit off of her own salary to keep some of those otherwise-laid-off SA employees on the payroll throughout the COVID crisis:

Moskowitz’s total compensation:

  • FY2017:  $889K (55 hrs/wk)
  • FY2016:  $782K (55 hrs/wk)
  • FY2015:  $679K (55 hrs/wk)
  • FY2014:  $613K (55 hrs/wk)
  • FY2013:  $482K (50 hrs/wk)
  • FY2012:  $578K (60 hrs/wk)
  • FY2011:  $488K (60 hrs/wk)
  • FY2010:  $358K (60 hrs/wk)
  • FY2009:  $404K (70 hrs/wk)
  • FY2008:  $308K (70 hrs/wk)
  • FY2007: $333K (70 hrs/wk)
  • FY2006:  $187K (60 hrs/wk)

Now, I realize that $889K per annum does not go as far in NYC as it does where I live, in St. Tammany, LA, where a comparable standard of living can be purchased for $331K per year– more than that of any state superintendent in the nation (EdWeek’s 2017 reporting.)

Aside from laying off 115 staffers, the New York Post reports that SA also fired two dozen teachers “for low performance.” Again, this did not have to happen in April 2020. Moskowitz could have waited until the school year technically ended.

Regarding the 24 fired teachers, Chalkbeat NY observes, “It was not clear if those educators will be replaced.” But SA is most assuredly hiring, as its jobs page advertises:

Hiring Now!

We’re currently filling positions for the 2020-2021 academic school year for our schools and network office.

Search Jobs

According to SA’s jobs page, SA is hiring “elementary, middle and high school teachers– all subjects” for its schools in NYC, Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan and Queens.

The posting is dated “five days ago” as of May 03, 2020, which means this vast SA job posting was publicized on April 28, 2020– one week after the above-noted layoff/firing.

SA posted an ad for a “results driven” theater teacher on April 30, 2020.

Even if Moskowitz does not lay off teachers, SA reviews on Glass Door are replete with comments about high turnover, confusion/disorganization related to the high turnover,  and lack of balance between work responsibilities and personal life. SA burns through teachers, so even in the face of a pandemic, to hold steady, SA must have a ready stream of teachers at its disposal.

At SA, with its millions in reserve, faculty/staff disposal appears to be indispensable.

Think about that.

eva moskowitz

Eva Moskowitz

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DeVos’ “COVID Emergency” Competition Funding to be Awarded… in July(?)

US ed sec Betsy DeVos is having a COVID competition to *rethink education* for “states with the highest coronavirus burden.”

From the US Department of Education (USDOE) “new grant competition” press release, dated April 27, 2020:

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today more than $300 million in discretionary grant funds will be available for states to use to create adaptable, innovative learning opportunities for K-12 and postsecondary learners in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. The grants will be funded through the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF), authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.

“If our ability to educate is limited to what takes place in any given physical building, we are never going to meet the unique needs of every student,” said Secretary DeVos. “The current disruption to the normal model is reaffirming something I have said for years: we must rethink education to better match the realities of the 21st century. This is the time for local education leaders to unleash their creativity and ingenuity, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do to provide education freedom and economic opportunity for America’s students.”

The CARES Act provides $307.5 million for these discretionary grants, which the Department will divide between two competitions: $180 million for the Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant and $127.5 million for the Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant.

Note the following statement regarding the purpose of the K12 portion of DeVos’ competition:

The Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant is aimed at opening new, innovative ways for students to access K-12 education with an emphasis on meeting students’ needs during the coronavirus national emergency.

“An emphasis on meeting student needs during the coronavirus emergency.”

So, here’s the problem:

Money will not be awarded until mid-July, at best, because (dare I write it?) bureacratic process is *antiquated* (a favorite DeVosian term for poo-pooing the American classroom) and comes caged in yet another USDOE *competition*:

The competition is open to state educational agencies which can apply for funds in one of the three categories:

  1. Microgrants for families, so that states can ensure they have access to the technology and educational services they need to advance their learning
  2. Statewide virtual learning and course access programs, so that students will always be able to access a full range of subjects, even those not taught in the traditional or assigned setting
  3. New, field-initiated models for providing remote education not yet imagined, to ensure that every child is learning and preparing for successful careers and lives

The full Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) will be available online today. …

Application packages for these competitions will be available within two weeks. Applicants will then have 60 days to apply. As with most of the Department of Education’s discretionary grant competitions, applications will be evaluated by a panel of independent peer reviewers, and the highest-scoring applications will be funded.

What? Is yours a state with “highest coronavirus burden” now? In March-April 2020? Need emergency funds because of social distancing requirements related to coronavirus, schools?

Tell you what: We’ll have a contest and get back with you months down the road. Just in time for Not Now.

Oh, and we’re only funding the winners– those who go all-in the best according to DeVosian desire for this latest federally-funded, money-dangle hinged on the pleasure of yet another traditional-public-school-bashing, US secretary of education. The rest of you might be needy, but we can’t all be winners, now can we?

Even if your state is A Winner, it just might not be. If your school/district cannot maintain payment for major adjustments and ongoing costs related to the promises made to get a federal competition slice, well, bureaucracy.

Antiquated, not-so-hidden-agenda-driven, slowly-delivered, federally-driven, likely-fiscally-insufficient, bureacracy.

Here we go again.

betsydevos

Betsy DeVos

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Pearson and COVID-19: At Least We Have Connections Academy

The widespread cancellation of standardized testing across America during this COVID-19 pandemic had me wondering about Pearson Learning (PSO as it is known in the stock market), a mammoth education corporation located in the United Kingdom and with offices in the United States.

I have written about Pearson a number of times over the years (see here and here, also). Pearson planned to profit handsomely from the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). That didn’t go as planned. In January 2016, Pearson cut 4,000 jobs.

Pearson’s “restructuring” has continued over the years, and, as one might expect during the coronavirus crisis, appears slated to continue. From TheLayoff.com/pearson-plc:

Sigh…..

“We are, however, announcing today that over the next few months, we will start to move ahead with further plans to simplify the company and make it more efficient.”

  • CEO 4/24/20

(TheLayoff.com advertises itself as “a simple discussion board for all of us who would like to learn more about the rumors or possibility of job cuts in our company.”)

On January 17, 2017, it had its worst loss in a single day since 1986, closing at $7.23 per share.

On April 27, 2020, Pearson ended the day at $5.69 a share, making January 17, 2017 look like, “I wish.”

Time to once again “simplify the company.” However, according to Pearson’s 2020 first-quarter financial summary, “We have chosen not to furlough staff and are instead re-deploying people as much as we possibly can around the business to support the areas of greatest need and opportunity.”

As for that “opportunity,” at least in the short term, it seems that online learning is Pearson’s only area for increased revenue:

Highlights for the first quarter

  • Trading is in line with revised expectations, revenue declined by 5% versus prior year driven by COVID-19.
  • Global Assessment revenue declined 3% due to the closure of testing centres in our Professional Certification business, and a decline in Clinical Assessment attributable to school closures.
  • International revenue declined 10% due to test centre and school closures across many of our International markets and also the phasing of courseware sales in the UK.
  • North American Courseware revenue declined 10% due to the expected continuation of trends seen in US Higher Education in 2019, exacerbated by the closure of campus-based bookstores and a weaker performance in courseware in Canada as a result of school closures.
  • Global Online Learning revenue grew 6% with a strong performance in Virtual Schools driven by good enrolment growth and planned new school openings as well as growth in Online Program Management.

In Connections Academy, our Virtual Schools business, revenue grew strongly due to growth in enrolments and new school openings. We have seen a surge in applications in March compared to 2019 as many explore full time digital learning for the first time. Pearson is well placed to benefit from the increased interest in and appetite for online learning. We are seeing many administrators and educators reach out to discuss large scale solutions for virtual schooling as well as potential interest from new states which have not previously considered virtual schooling as a choice for students.

In recent years, Pearson experienced its highest stock price on January 07, 2019, when it closed at $13.16 per share, arguably the result of its years of “restructuring” between then and the last time it closed at $13.anything per share, in October 2015 (following a marked drop from $18.something per share).

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, on December 23, 2019, Pearson stock closed at $8.49 per share and was already headed downward.

Yes, there’s a pandemic now, and many US school districts are attempting to make the best of it with some sort of distance-learning option, which may include a “virtual school” component.

That noted, it seems quite the reach for anyone who can read Pearson’s 1996-2020 history of its stock price per share to believe that realistic fiscal hope rests with “virtual schools business” Connections Academy, if indeed that is how Pearson’s executives are trying to play it.

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COVID Stimulus Funds for Private School Vouchers?

On April 17, 2020, Oklahoma governor, Kevin Stitt, mentioned possibly using some of the education funding derived from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on Oklahoma’s private schools via the state’s “opportunity scholarship” program. (Specific block-grant, state allocation amounts can be found here.)

Well, Jeb Bush’s Excellence in Education (ExelInEd) organization apparently sees Stitt’s “maybe” as an opportunity to encourage other state governors to slice off a bit of that COVID federal relief to assist with tax credits for paying private school tuition to help save the private schools, as posted on April 23, 2020:

Because of the pandemic, many parents will be unable to afford tuition, and philanthropists may be less able to support scholarships that help low and middle-income children access private schools. Private schools are at risk of closure unless leaders act.

Now, lest you think that diverting money from public schools to potentially struggling private schools is not in the best interest of public schools, ExcelInEd argues on the contrary:

There are consequences when students switch schools. Mobile students are more likely to suffer from decreased academic performance and self-perceptionOne study found that children who switch schools even once between kindergarten and eighth grade are twice as likely to drop out of high school. If this isn’t scary enough, high student mobility impacts non-mobile students as well. States and school districts know that when schools have high a rate of students moving in and out of a school (known as a churn rate) teachers are less able to progress through curricula at a reasonable pace without leaving students behind. As a result, overall academic achievement suffers. Graduation rates decline, too.

If states don’t support private school students and families in the same way they support those who choose public schools, the reverberations of this failure will be felt far and wide.

Miami-Dade, one of the largest school districts in the country, provides an example. If just 10% of the students currently enrolled in private schools in Miami return to the district, Miami’s public schools would have to absorb 6,000+ new students. Schools would increase in size and classes might, too. Facilities could be strained. The state and city would have to find a combined $56 million dollars to support those students coming from private schools. Of course, these negative impacts pale in comparison the trauma that students will endure.

Note that ExcelInEd does not suggest that governors allocate CARES Act money in budgeting for potential increases in public school attendance for “strained facilites” as a result of parents deciding to forego private school in favor of public school. For ExcelInEd, the solution is to assist the private schools.

Moreover, ExcelInEd, which promotes public school churn in its advocating for school choice (which is fluid by nature as charter schools open and close and others open, and when private schools dismiss students for not meeting academic and bahvioral expectations, for example), does not want the particular churn of losing voucher students to public school– or of missing out on this opportunity to increase revenue to school voucher programs for those who can no longer afford private school tuition due to the impact of COVID-19.

It’s all For the Kids. That’s what out anti-public-school US ed sec, Betsy DeVos, says:

Stitt spoke with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos this week and said her advice was to “focus on the kids.”

“Governors have the opportunity to truly rethink and transform the approach to education during this national emergency and ensure learning continues,” DeVos said in a statement.

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Betsy DeVos

However, according to the April 24, 2020, Frontier, allocating federal relief money to Oklahoma’s school voucher tax credit program “may require more transparency”:

Oklahoma’s private school scholarship tax credit program lacks transparency about which schools receive the funding and how much. But if the governor decides to use emergency stimulus funds on the program, as he suggested last week, it might require more detailed reporting on where the scholarships go.  …

Stitt has not officially announced how he will spend the money but has floated the idea of the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship program….

In a letter to lawmakers on Thursday, Secretary of State Michael Rogers, who is also Stitt’s education secretary, said no decision has been made and that media reports of private school scholarship programs being considered “lacks context.”

“Significant portions of this $39.8 million will likely go to traditional public schools, career tech systems, and higher education institutions,” Rogers wrote this week in an email to state lawmakers.  …

Many public education groups immediately rebuked Stitt’s suggestion of using stimulus funds for the scholarship program, including the state Department of Education and the state’s largest teachers union.

“What we were really hoping is he would be looking for ways that he could use those dollars that would impact the most students,” said Erin Brewer, a leader with the Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee, a public school advocacy group.

“That (idea) didn’t really seem reflective of what most Oklahoma public school parents would be looking for, especially during a time when so many kids are struggling to do distance learning.”

Stitt has not committed to sending CARES Act relief money to Oklahoma’s private school voucher program. But Jeb and his people are leveraging Stitt’s “maybe” in order to call other governors to join in saving public private education.

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Jeb Bush

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My latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Liesis now available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Follow me on Twitter @deutsch29blog