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Archive for August, 2018

“Asian Americans” Suit Against Harvard Because of Reverse Discrimination Undercuts Diversity, Opportunity

August 31, 2018 Comments off

Today’s headline story in the NYTimes reads:

Asian-American Students Suing Harvard Over Affirmative

Action Win Justice Dept. Support

Once again our country is witnessing a desire to impose some kind of meritocracy based on testing, a meritocracy that flies in the face of the economic, racial, and skill diversity that makes our country great and makes post secondary education a rich and meaningful experience for all. I expect that not only Harvard but also every other college and university will push back against this effort to base admissions solely on “objective criteria”.

Over two decades ago, one of my daughters was accepted to two “elite” colleges. When we attended the weekends where the colleges invited prospective students to visit campus with their parents one of the points the admissions officers made at both schools was their intent to make the entering population both academically excellent AND geographically, economically, and culturally diverse. One of the schools made a point of emphasizing how many valedictorians and high SAT scorers were NOT accepted because of their efforts to create a class that was more reflective of the nation as a whole. In effect, these “elite” schools wanted to make it clear that their entry standards were NOT based “entirely on objective statistics”… they included other factors as well.

This reality was driven home in our initial visits to campuses as well where more than one school told a group of prospects that if the college orchestra needed an oboist or a strong tennis player that person might gain entry over someone with 1600 on their SATs. In order for colleges and universities to offer broad experiences for ALL students they need to be mindful of areas of excellence outside of the traditional “objective measures”. Indeed, I do not recall ANY school we visited in the mid-1990s who proclaimed they were identifying the “best and brightest” based solely on objective measures.

When objective academic statistics are the sole criteria for admission, music, the arts, and athletics will all suffer… and possibly endowments as well. But, presumably, that is a price worth paying to ensure “fairness” prevails.

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Stand Out: A Guide to “Charter School Marketing”

August 30, 2018 Comments off

After reading Mercedes Schneider’s post whose title is the same as this one, I re-blogged and offered the following commentary, which I also left as a comment on Diane Ravitch’s blog that incorporated the link to this post:

The whole notion of marketing a school and making a living as “…a strategic consultant in the field of education reform and philanthropy and specializes in collaborating with leaders and organizations to tell their story” is nauseating…. but in the emerging era of choice and charters public schools DO need to heed one piece of advice offered by the Colorado League of Charter Schools: they DO need to “Include parents on your list of those to be nurtured and recognized.” This was a sound practice in the era when I worked in public education (1970-2011), but it is even more important now! In states where choice is advocated by politicians, I think it is safe to assume that parents are getting bombarded with slick brochures written by “…strategic consultants in the field of education reform and philanthropy”. Public schools do not have the time or money to put out slick brochures, but we should have the time to praise and support parents. Failure to do so will increase the bleeding of students.

deutsch29

Where there is a charter school, there is a need to drum up some enrollment.

“It is not enough for parents to choose any seats,” saith the charter school; “we need for those parents to choose our seats.”

That’s where some nifty marketing assistance is helpful.

In 2015, the Colorado League of Charter Schools (CLCS) produced a publication entitled, Stand Out: A Guide to School Marketing, created by Lisa Relou Consulting:

Stand Out: A Guide to School Marketing was created in collaboration with Lisa Relou Consulting. Lisa Relou is the former Director of Internal Communications and Marketing for Denver Public Schools and has 15 years of experience marketing
schools in Colorado. She is currently a strategic consultant in the field of education reform and philanthropy and specializes in collaborating with leaders and organizations to tell their story. For information contact lisa.relou@gmail.com.

Some thoughts on how parents need help making…

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An Argument AGAINST Arming Teachers: Vermont School Locks Down When Umbrella is Mistaken for Rifle

August 30, 2018 Comments off

I cannot get the details on what transpired yesterday at Lyndon Institute in Lyndonville, Vermont because it is behind a paywall at the Caledonian Record, but the headline and the first sentence of the article gives me enough of a prompt to write this post. The headline reads:

Umbrella Mistaken For Gun Sparks Lockdown At LI

The first sentence of the article reads:

Lyndonville Police Chief Jack Harris is praising the response of Lyndon Institute officials and law enforcement for their response to yesterday’s report of a suspicious and possibly armed person on campus.

Based on the headline, the “…suspicious and possibly armed person on campus” was wielding an umbrella and not a gun… and based on yesterday’s weather forecast it would seem that the umbrella bearer was being prudent in bringing an umbrella to school since the possibility of afternoon showers existed… and based on the fact that schools across Vermont and across the nation are opening the year under the threat of school shooters, it is not at all surprising that a vigilant adult mistook an umbrella for a gun and, upon seeing something, said something.

But here’s what is sad: reports like these make headlines without taking into account how an understandable mistake like this impacts the lives of the hundreds of children in the school and reinforces the notion that school shooters abound.

But there is one good thing that comes from this: parents should be thankful that the teacher who mistook an umbrella for a gun was not armed.

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Primavera On-Line Program in Arizona Exemplifies Worst Elements of Deregulated Capitalism

August 29, 2018 Comments off

As I read these opening sentences from an AZCentral article by Craig Harris I wondered how ANY politician in Arizona could possibly support the idea of deregulated privatization of public schools:

By most academic measures, Primavera online charter school is a failure.

Its student-to-teacher ratio is 215-to-1 — 12 times the state average — allowing little or no individualized attention.

On recently released state standardized tests, less than a quarter of its students passed math and about a third passed English, both below the state average.

And 49 percent of Primavera students end up dropping out, 10 times the state average.

But by another measure, Primavera is an unmitigated success: making money.

Beginning in 2012, the school began shifting large shares of its annual $30-plus million allotment of state funding away from instruction and into stocks, bonds, mortgage-backed securities and real estate.

That year, 70 percent, or $22.4 million, of its state funding went into its growing investment portfolio — instead of efforts to raise test scores, reduce class sizes, or address an exploding dropout rate that is now the state’s third-highest.

Mr. Harris provides charts documenting this reality and then lands what I would hope would be a knockout punch:

Damian Creamer, the school’s 48-year-old founder and chief executive, later got an $8.8 million “shareholder distribution” from the for-profit company that now runs Primavera, according to an audit filed with the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools.

With the payout, Creamer’s compensation was 39 times the salary of the superintendent of Mesa Public Schools, the state’s largest public district. Primavera’s student body of 20,210 is less than one-third the size of Mesa’s.

It also would have made Creamer the ninth-highest-paid CEO among Arizona’s publicly held companies in 2017.

When I got to this point, I wondered how on earth ANY politician could support this blatant transfer of public funds into the pocket of a profiteering con-man. Then I read this:

Gov. Doug Ducey, who signed a bill this year removing a requirement that charters post their budgets on their websites, deflected when asked about Creamer’s pay. The focus, he said, should be on whether charter schools serve families and meet or exceed educational standards.

“I’m not concerned about the CEO,”said Ducey, a former Cold Stone Creamery CEO who received $8,000 in campaign contributions from Creamer and his wife. “That is of very little interest. I’m concerned about the child and the parent and what the child is equipped to do after 12 years of education.” 

SO, Governor, if you are so concerned about what the child is equipped to do after 12 years of education why aren’t you taking immediate action to close this travesty of school where “…less than a quarter of its students passed math and about a third passed English, both below the state average” and “49 percent of (the) students end up dropping out, 10 times the state average.” And for the life of me I cannot understand how the Governor could support a bill that allows charter schools to withhold information about how their money is spent— money that taxpayers raise to make sure that their children are well equipped after 12 years of schooling.

I found the next two paragraphs of Mr. Harris’ well researched article especially troubling and perplexing:

Curt Cardine, a former charter school executive who has become a watchdog with Phoenix-based Grand Canyon Institute, said he believes Primavera’s transactions are allowed under Arizona’s charter school laws. But, he added, they’re “not ethical.” 

“I think the public would think it’s wrong,” he said. “The whole philosophy behind this is that greed is good.” 

This is troubling because I think Mr. Cardine is correct: the pilfering of taxpayers funds by the likes of Primavera’s CEO IS legal… and perplexing because I fear that voters will not punish the legislators who passed this law that at its roots is unethical.

Arizona is about to have an election for Governor and for most of it’s State legislators. I hope that this bill passed in the last session is a political issue and I hope that both candidates support its repeal…. but after reading this article I am not optimistic. I encourage you to read it in its entirety… but to have antacids near at hand when you do so. It’s hard to believe voters are not up at arms over this.

The Roots of the Philanthropists Drive to Privatize Public School

August 29, 2018 Comments off

Diane Ravitch wrote a post yesterday titled Why Philanthropy is Bad for Democracy: An Interview with Anand Giridharadas. After reading this interview a few days ago in the Daily Intelligencer I read a New Yorker article by Elizabeth Kolbert titled Gospels of Giving for the New Gilded Age and began writing a three part post that will appear this weekend.

In reading Diane Ravitch’s post and the comments that accompanied it I was reminded of the roots of the anti-government movement that resulted in the privatization of public services that is underway today. As noted in earlier posts, the Powell Memorandum written in 1973 provided the impetus for businesses to engage in the affairs of government, an engagement that resulted in Ronald Reagan persuading voters that “Government is the problem” which, in turn unleashed deregulated capitalism on the world. In response to this anti-government and pro-business tilt, Bill Clinton and Al Gore promoted the idea that government needed to be “Reinvented” by introducing market theories into the operation of government at all levels.

Unfortunately, at tis juncture, the idea that government can actually HELP people is so noxious that the GOP uses the label “government schools” to run down public education, and no one in the Democratic party is running on a platform that “Government is Good”. MAYBE the Democratic Party will look at its name and at the very least run on a platform that DEMOCRACY is good and persuade the public that DEMOCRACY is being stolen from them by privatization and profiteering.

For the Umpteenth Time a Study Proves That Family Income Determines Academic Success

August 28, 2018 Comments off

For the umpteenth time a team of researchers examined academic performance and came to the completely predictable and unsurprising conclusion that family income matters more than anything when it comes to succeeding in school. WBUR’s Robin Young, in an interview with  Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and one of the authors of a recent study conducted by the university. The conclusion of the study appeared in the sidebar:

“It was the family factors that carried the day in determining the children’s performance in high school. It wasn’t the school that they went to.”

So in the end, the issue of attending a private or a public school doesn’t matter according to researchers. But, as noted in a post earlier this morning, that will not matter to the GOP faithful, for they believe that in the open marketplace where vouchers are issued parents will be free to choose their schools and EVERYONE will benefit. For the “reformers” who ultimately share the GOP’s faith in market forces, this won’t matter either.

As noted in several posts, this finding that family income matters most when predicting academic success is decades old. When Pennsylvania first administered a statewide assessment in the early 1970s they reached the same conclusion. We ignored the implications of the finding then, and 40+ years later I am confident it will be ignored again.

Texas: Time to Pay the Bill for Special Education

August 28, 2018 Comments off

This underfunding is unconscionable and will only be solved by increasing taxes.

In her closing paragraph, Diane Ravitch suggests tapping into a rainy day fund to help underwrite this gap in services, noting in the same paragraph other problems Texas faces. I do not think the rainy day fund should be used to solve this problem, and, given the impact of climate change on the Texas coast I can understand why the legislature might want to leave $11,000,000,000 untouched. But here’s the bottom line: Texans need to increase their taxes year-in-and-year-out if they want to ensure that all children get the education they deserve, all citizens get the health care they need, and retirees receive the pensions they worked to earn. As many commenters indicate, there’s plenty of money in the coffers of oil companies and billionaires in the state. It’s past time for some of that money to trickle down into the state budget.

Diane Ravitch's blog

An editorial in the Houston Chronicle brings up to date the story of Texas’ failure to pay the cost of educating students with disabilities.

“Imagine being a teacher and told not to bother trying to help a child who is having difficulty learning. That was happening routinely in Texas public schools before the legislature was shamed into eliminating an 8.5 percent cap the state had placed on special education enrollment.

“The federal Department of Education in January told the Texas Education Agency that the “target” it first imposed in 2004 violated federal laws requiring schools to serve all students. The cap wasn’t just illegal, it was morally reprehensible and shortsighted.

“The cap limited the aspirations of students with learning disabilities who didn’t get the help they needed, and shortchanged the state’s future by inadequately educating thousands of its children.

“The cap’s impact was reported last year in the Chronicle’s investigative…

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