Archive for June, 2013

Emanuel Not Wasting a Manufactured “Crisis”

June 28, 2013 Comments off

When he was Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahn Emanuel famously quipped “never let a crisis go to waste” when the economy went in the tank. Many Obama voters— or at least THIS Obama voter— thought that meant a second coming of the New Deal. Instead, we have the second coming of Milton Friedman!

Faced with a vacancy on the Chicago School Board due to billionaire Penny Pritzker’s appointment to Obama’s cabinet, Emanuel is recommending Deborah Quazzo, described in a Schooling in the Ownership Society blog post as a “white wealthy investment banker”. Here’s the chilling prospectus based on her firm’s view of education:

In the venture capital world, transactions in the K-12 education sector soared to a record $389 million last year, up from $13 million in 2005. That includes major investments from some of the most respected venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, according to GSV Advisors, (Quazzo’s) investment firm in Chicago that specializes in education.

The goal: an education revolution in which public schools outsource to private vendors such critical tasks as teaching math, educating disabled students, even writing report cards, said Michael Moe, the founder of GSV.

Like most of my Superintendent colleagues, I had no difficulty outsourcing snow plowing, groundskeeping, or bussing. Food services gave me some pause, but in smaller districts large food companies could get lower prices, offer healthy choices, and provide management expertise that I lacked. I was also willing to effectively outsource after school child care services: I wanted to offer child care in schools but didn’t want the headaches of assuming responsibility for hiring child care providers. In Maryland when we were mandated to provide nurses, I turned to the county health department to provide that service in our schools, reasoning that our staff knew how to operate an educational establishment but was not trained to run a medical operation. I never thought I’d see the day when my job, the job of Principals, and the job of teachers would be outsourced. Anything to save a buck for taxpayers and make a buck for shareholders.

Poverty Deniers

June 27, 2013 Comments off

For several weeks I’ve been working on the analogy between the climate change deniers who oppose any environmental regulation because they are convinced that the changes we are witnessing in our weather are natural and cyclical and the education reformers. I wrote a comment today on Diane Ravitch’s blog post that dealt with Arne Duncan’s recent address to newspaper editors. Here’s what I posted as a comment:

The “reformers” are poverty deniers who, like their kindred spirits the climate change deniers they don’t want to face the political pain and economic sacrifices that result when facts are taken into consideration. Tests and standards in public education’s version of fracking. Tests and standards are far cheaper and politically acceptable than addressing the issue of poverty comprehensively by, say, integrating our schools based on socio-economics or raising enough taxes to provide a bona fide safety net for the children being raised in poverty. And RTTT is every businessman’s dream come true! It incorporates competition, de-regulation, centralization, reduced compensation for workers, and ancillary earning opportunities. This is all possible because tests show that schools serving poor children “fail”. the whole scheme works effectively if you deny that poverty is the problem.

In a future post I hope to elaborate on this analogy. Oh, and here’s what I wrote as a comment to the transcript of Duncan’s speech that appeared in the Washington Post:

The Common Core is NOT the problem: the standardized tests tied to age-cohorts is the problem. If we ant proficiency we should measure for it when the students are prepared for it. We don’t allow drivers to take their tests behind the wheel until we are confident they can handle the car yet we’ve tested students on the common core before their teachers had teaching materials to prepare their students for the tests…. and then blamed the teachers. When standardized tests are administered to large groups of students based on age cohorts the results will always be the same: children raised in poverty will do worse than children raised in affluence.

Astonishing Finding on NYC Administrative Evaluations

June 26, 2013 Comments off

A few days ago Diane Ravitch included a link to this blog post from NYC Public School Parents reporting that after one year, the NYC Central Office responded to a FOIA request seeking copies of the evaluations of top administrators. This request was prompted when then Superintendent Joel Klein allowed the media to post the bogus teacher ratings. Here’s the astonishing response to the FOIA request:

“Diligent searches and inquiries for responsive records have been conducted as to any Chancellor (and his/her Chief of Staff) Chief Academic Officer, Senior Deputy Chancellor, Chief Schools Officer, Deputy Chancellor, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and General Counsel for the time period covered by your request.  It is my understanding that no such records were located, because no such records have been created.  Accordingly, there are no records to provide.”

If this happened on my watch in any of the districts I led over my 29 years as a Superintendent I would have been justifiably fired… and during that same time I cannot think of a single Board who did not provide me with a written evaluation. Why isn’t this splashed all over the front pages of the NYTimes? I know the Lewiston Sun, Exeter Newsletter, Fosters Daily Democrat, the Herald Mail, the Poughkeepsie Journal, and Valley News would have covered the news if the Boards I worked for reported that I had not completed evaluations of my direct reports or if the Principals who worked for me neglected to evaluate their teachers. And waiting over a year to respond to a FOIA request? I cannot imagine the news media I worked with sitting quietly if they waited that long… and I know at least one constituent in the NY district where I worked who would have gone straight to the Commissioner of Education if I failed to respond on time to a FOIA request.

Here’s why I think NYC schools get away with this kind of behavior: they think they are operating by the rules of the private sector. I hope someone in the MSM reminds the district that they are a publicly funded entity and, therefore, need to follow the same rules as public schools— or DO they? If the answer is “No” democracy just took another bullet.