Monday, July 25, 2016

All Aboard the Opt Out Bus - Day 4 Journal: "Let the Children See Us Trying" (Rev. Barber)

by Susan and Shawn DuFresne 7.16.16

originally published on the Facebook page All Aboard the Opt Out Bus:



Just prior to the time we needed to get packing for the #OptOutBus2016 Coast to Coast Free Books for Kids Tour, our nation was brought to its knees [again] by the back-to-back shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Then another tragedy in Dallas. The country's focus turned to racism once more for the time being.

I was torn. Do we go forward with the tour? I seriously considered painting the ‪#‎OptOutBus‬ and creating a ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ Bus. As I was packing, I looked at all the messages on the bus - the most recent being written predominantly by black and brown students and parents at Garfield HS.

I paused to reflect on 12 year old Asean Johnson's speech at the Save Our Schools and ‪#‎PeoplesMarch16‬ in DC...on Jesse Hagopian's speech there, Reverend Barber's speech, Jitu Brown's, Yohuru Williams', and Julian Vasquez-Helig's, to name a few.

Jesse said, ‘For black lives to matter, black ‪#‎education‬ has to matter.’…/for-black-lives-to-matter…/
Reverend Barber said, "Let the children see us trying."

Like I've said before, we aren't expecting the #OptOutBus to suddenly end high stakes testing. But as you can see - #BlackLivesMatter and corporate education reform are connected deeply. There was no need to start over on the bus, we simply needed to add on.

As a result of Philando Castile's life mattering to so many children - to so many public school colleagues of his, to so many in his community - it felt important to visit St. Paul, MN. Today was the day.

I worried about stepping into a sacred circle, as an outsider to be honest. We weren't coming as white saviors, but to demonstrate our compassion through a small act of kindness. How do I navigate this attempt - to what I know is to make a small gesture - towards demonstrating that black lives do matter to some of us whites? We wanted to "let the children see us trying"...

A stop at Subway enroute to Philando's school brought us to Jen. Jen was very receptive to our thoughts of giving books to the children from this neighborhood. She knew someone closely connected to Philando and immediately made a phone call. She said we had 3 options: 1) Philando's family was having a picnic at the neighborhood park and we could give books to children there 2) We could go to his school where he worked and see if kids were at the playground, and 3) There was an ongoing protest at the Governor's mansion and maybe some kids would be there.

Jen wrote out directions, we thanked her, and headed to the park. Turning into a parking lot we saw a small family picnic in action. I tend to be shy and wanted to be respectful. I approached, but not too closely - and chose to speak to what appeared to be the parent of the group of kids. I smiled and asked if I could ask her a question. She smiled and approached. I let her come closer to me. I told her we were on a cross country trip from Seattle and that we were looking for Philando's family picnic to give children books as is small token of our caring.

She said she was a teacher too - Special Ed for St. Paul Public Schools - and that she had seen a large group of people wearing R.I.P. tee shirts across Horton. She told me her name is Mary.

I listened intently as she told me how she was a block 1/2 away from the incident watching Diamond's narrative of Philando's murder unfold live on Facebook, as a friend of hers had been tagged by Diamond in the original post.

Mary said her husband too, is often pulled over for no reason and how he and her 7 year old very politically aware son said - "No, we are all Philando. This killed a little bit in all of us today."

We began talking about the bus and the connections of corporate reform to racism. As a teacher and a parent, she wholeheartedly agrees with the refusal of the state tests. She said, "My kids don't take the tests and neither do my principals', and you know, she's a black principal."

She talked about how she looks forward to looking up and how she hates having to comply with giving her students with special needs the computerized standardized tests, but she does it and follows the rules required of her.

Her 3 beautiful children each chose a book and began writing messages on the bus. Without a word - the Black Lives Matter became part of the messages written by Mary's children.

"Black Lives Matter"

"Love everyone."


"Be nice no matter WHAT."

"I Love YOU."

"Stop Bullying!"

"I love you, peeps!"

"Have a great education!"

"Love from St. Paul, MN.", they wrote.

She asked more about our trip and she talked about how upset her 7 year old son gets when he hears anything about Trump. We told her we'd be at the DNC protesting as well on our trip.

Mary and her children thanked us for the books and our work for both black lives and the ‪#‎optout‬ work.

Later we discovered Philando's family picnic had finished earlier in the day so we went on to his school, where we found a few families playing at the playground.

Again, strange white folks pulling up in a - shall we just say - strange looking bus might be off-putting. I gave them time to read a few things on the bus, approached, told her why we were there, and offered books to her children. She didn't give me her name. She talked about her feelings about the murder of Philando. She didn't know him, nor did her children as they had just moved into the neighborhood. She said, "These things have been going on for centuries, but now we just have cell phone technology so the police can't get by with it without the truth getting out." She wants a very organized group to step up and solve the root of the problem, which she believes is an economic problem. She said, "We live through this every day and have been for a long time."

She didn't want her, nor her children photographed, which we always ask and respect. She and her children thanked us for the books and wished us the best on our journey.

We didn't pursue the protest at the Governor's mansion and we didn't make any big changes with our small gestures. What we did do was take time to let two different black families in St. Paul, in Philando's neighborhood, that as white people, we care.

So what? Only by organizing other whites who are willing to do the work we need to do to create justice, will black lives matter.

We know we have so much more to do. We encourage other white activists to join us, because it is us who need to educate, activate, organize, and make these changes happen. Whites constructed the oppressive power structure - including the corporate colonization of our schools - and we need to dismantle it. What are you willing to do to create a just world?

Remember - in all of our work - in all of our organizing, follow Reverend Barber's advice: "Let the children see us trying."

We landed at the KOA just off I-94 East in Hixton-Alma Center in the garden spot. We'll be in Chicago tomorrow. We are almost out of books for kids so we need to stop at a local independent book store, then on to Boston area to meet with activists and our family.

Good night!

In solidarity,

Susan and Shawn


We have 2 different fund raisers going so you have transparency about where your money is going.

Gas for #OptOutBus 2016 Tour

This one goes toward the Free Books for Kids, here:

Thank YOU!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

BATs Recommendations to USDOE on ESSA Accountability Regulations

The Every Student Succeeds Act was written with the intent to recognize that the Federal Government has had a recent history of overstepping their authority in regard to the oversight of public education.  The spirit and intent of ESSA is to return control of education BACK to the states because they know what is best for the children in their care.  

It is the job of the USDOE and Sec. John King to implement and write regulations that meet the spirit of the law.  As we suspected, Sec. King is doing just the opposite with some of the regulations.  The USDOE is taking public recommendations on the regulations they plan to write according to ESSA.  We have done the best we can, as public school teachers, to go through these regulations and advise what WE should recommend.  

YOU NEED TO SEND IN YOUR COMMENTS TODAY (They are due August 1). Go to this website    You can copy and paste our suggestions below on a word document (the box only allows 5000 characters so use an upload document).  After you are done attaching your document, fill out your info, press continue, and submit.  We will guarantee you that all the corporate reform organizations have submitted their comments that seek to dismantle public education and deprofessionalize the teaching profession.

After you submit your comments to the USDOE you can also submit comments to NEA about how they should frame their response to the Department of Education.

Here are the USDOE regulations recommendations if you would like to read them

We also invite you to use the recommendations of NPE here

Our HUGE concerns are:  Punishing districts that have HIGH opt out rates, making sure that teachers/states understand CLEARLY that test scores DO NOT have to be used for rating teachers, massive over-identification of schools by the USDOE, the USDOE is rushing this and needs to slow down, and the USDOE is not holding to the spirit of ESSA which is to return education BACK to the states.    

HERE ARE OUR RECOMMENDATIONS YOU CAN COPY AND PASTE ONTO A WORD DOCUMENT. If you see anything we missed or did not clarify ADD IT TO YOUR DOCUMENT! Save the document and upload for submission. Once again go here to submit your recommendations


Elimination of § 200.7.  We feel this will  take away the ability of the states to individually identify the subgroup size for identified students. The removal of such ability neglects the fact that our state's deal with different populations of students and a norm subgroup size should not be arbitrarily assigned for all states.

Recommendation:  Do not eliminate § 200.7.  States deal with different populations of students and the federal government should not arbitrarily assign one for all states.

§ 200.12
These proposed changes deny the responsibility that a school has towards responding to the needs of all students in areas other than academic achievement.

Recommendation: This regulation needs to be amended. Regulatory language needs to include language that incorporates all subject areas.

§ 200.13
The proposed interim progress requirements for all subgroups of students indicate a reporting of progress in the academic areas of mathematics and language arts. This language needs to be removed and other areas of academic learning need to be included in reporting. Emphasis on only two academic areas will create a system in which it no longer becomes feasible for all students to have access to all learning, especially the arts and music. The result of such a narrowing of focus will not assist schools with the well-rounded development of children. Proposed recommendations also include the provision that identified subgroups are expected to show growth improvement at a greater percentage relative to all students over that time frame. This narrative negates the fact that education is not a cure for a disability or that all students progress at individual learning rates.

Recommendation: This recommendation should be amended. Reporting systems for academic areas that incorporate subject areas other than just language arts and math should be included. Growth percentage rates for identified subgroups should not have the expectation of being higher than any other subgroup.

§ 200.13

Recommendation: This recommendation should be amended. Timelines for goals for English Language Learners need to be extended to accommodate the validated length of time necessary for mastery of a language, seven years at a minimum and up to ten years at maximum.   

§ 200.13

Proposed recommendations speak about reporting of students performance at grade level indicators. We maintain that all children learn at different rates and a better indicator should be inserted instead of grade-level. The individual growth rate of a student is a better measure and helps schools identify what areas need to be addressed with a holistic whole-child approach. Additionally the use of graduation rates as a cut-off limits the responsibility that a school needs to develop towards implementing programs that work towards a student’s ability to remain in college or career training beyond the first year.

Recommendation: This recommendation should be amended. The use of grade-level indicators should be substituted with growth indicators that remain consistent at an individual level to accommodate learning needs. A recommendation for states to implement programs that build a student’s ability to remain in a college or career training program should be made for states.

§ 200.14
The proposed regulatory changes lack mention of holding schools accountable for providing access to programs that address additional needs of students, access to creative arts programs, music, and World Language programs. The proposed amendment mandates a specific number of indicators that must be measured, once again overstepping the authority of the federal government.

Recommendation: This regulation needs to be amended. The USDOE needs to include language that will hold states accountable for including accountability language that will hold schools accountable for providing access to services to improve whole child development.

States should not be held accountable to the 95% participation rate as directed by proposal  Parents have the right to refuse the test for their children, as directed by the 14th amendment. To punish schools that do not meet this participation rate is to deny the rights of parents as well as falsely hold accountable schools that have no right to dictate these choices. Furthermore, language that emphasizes the push for improved academic achievement neglects the responsibilities that schools have to facilitate and coordinate services that will work towards meeting the needs of students and families in other areas. Once again, this will strengthen the current test and punishment system that governs our schools today. The system that the intent of ESSA sought to condone.The statutory requirement that outlines the provision that public charter schools will be governed under state charter school law upholds the segregation that is occurring with our charter school systems and does nothing to call for the equality in transparency and accountability that is necessary to ensure that charter schools become responsible for educating all students.

Recommendation: The USDOE allows states to determine their own system for informing parents of their right to refuse the test for their children and how those students will be provided with alternative educational opportunities.  This regulations should be deleted.

§ 200.18
Proposed regulatory changes overemphasize the use of academic measures that will again force schools to allocate resources to subject areas that are measured by the testing accountability system.

Recommendation:  This recommendation needs to be amended to include all subject areas; including the arts.

§ 200.34
The proposal to standardize criteria for children with disabilities, English Language Learners, Homeless children, and children within foster care. These subgroups of students all deal with individual circumstances that prevails over the application of any standardization. To ignore that fact negates the intent of IDEA as well as denies research that shows how trauma can impact learning.

Recommendation:  This recommendation needs to be amended so that it recognizes the individual nature of children, their circumstances, and respects the intent of IDEA   

Friday, July 22, 2016

AFT BAT Caucus and NEA BAT Caucus Support Florida Parent Lawsuit Against 3rd Grade Retention

The members of the AFT BAT Caucus and NEA BAT Caucus would like to express their solidarity with the Opt Out Florida Network and the brave parents who are filing a lawsuit on against the Florida Department of Education. The families of third grade students in several Florida counties have received notice that their children will be retained, based not upon past classroom performance, but solely because they opted these students out of the Florida Standards Assessment. The ultimate goal of this lawsuit is to have the statute that claims 3rd grade retention is allowable under these circumstances deemed unconstitutional and unenforceable.

From Opt Out Florida Network:

Accepted research has shown that:

  • Retention is one of the most powerful predictors of high school dropout.
  • Retained students are 2 to 11 times more likely to drop out of high school than peers.
  • Retained students have lower levels of achievement in 11th grade.
  • Retained youth receive lower educational and employment status ratings.
  • Retained students are paid less per hour at age 20.
  • Retention may cause permanent or long-term psychological harm.
  • Short-term improvements in test scores following retention are outstripped by long-term damage from ensuing deficits resulting from retention.
  • The cost of retaining a single third grade student in Florida is $11,000 in tax dollars.
We stand in solidarity with The Opt Out Florida Network and the brave parents who are standing up for their children.  We strongly support their efforts and will be donating to their cause.  Please join us in doing the same. You can donate here

Becca Ritchie, Chair NEA BAT Caucus

Marla Kilfoyle, Chair AFT BAT Caucus


By:  Sergio Flores, BAT Board of Director Member

Despite the delight expressed by teachers’ associations’ leaders and other stakeholders about President Obama signing ESSA on December 10, 2015, I do not share that cheerfulness. Chiefly, ESSA keeps the unwarranted premises that schools are failing because teachers are typically underperformers; and that in order to correct that systemic problem a comprehensive accountability system is required. No less important, it keeps the neoliberal frame that validated NCLB and justified the arbitrarily punitive accountability system that has overworked, confused, and demoralized teachers to the point where many have left the profession; and that in the process has arbitrarily closed hundreds of public schools while allowing the unjustified multiplication of charter schools. Moreover, ESSA’s provisions on accountability and testing opens the public education coffers even more widely to corporations and profiteers. In short, public education is even more influenced by external agents while teachers and their profession continue being debased and demoted. 
The rhetoric of significant differences with previous laws and the actual application of ESSA do not seem to correspond. For one thing, ESSA keeps the mandate to use standards like CCSS and compulsory testing aligned to it. The only superficial change is that ESSA demands states and districts to carry on a project to develop innovative tests to substitute the federal mandated ones. Another superficial change is on testing. Now states, not the federal government, will have to spend even more resources to comply with ESSA’s demand to design and sustain a valid testing system. Testing and the use of scores to judge will continue! 
In this context teachers’ ability to raise scores and an accountability system based on those scores remain as the factors for evaluating schools and districts. States have to identify and intervene in the bottom 5 percent of performers, and be identified at least once every three years. States have to identify and intervene in high schools where the graduation rate is 67 percent or less, and where subgroups of students are struggling. Keeping with the same failed punitive approach in dealing with low performing schools, districts will work with teachers and school staff to come up with an evidence-based plan. ESSA will keep public school teachers and their schools trapped in an inescapable race where their arbitrarily and unsoundly calculated scores will determine their worth in an unproven system. 
Just as with NCLB, states will monitor the turnaround effort. If there is no improvement, after no more than four years the state will be required to step in with its own plan --it could take over the school if it wanted, or fire the principal, or turn the school into a charter. Districts could also allow for public school choice out of seriously low-performing schools, but they have to give priority to the students who need it most. Just as during NCLB, complete schools will have to endure the shame of being signaled and judged. Why repeat what did not worked? 
Overall, the neoliberal view of competition and choice that justified NCLB’s and RttT’s punitive measures stays. In this way, disregarding socio-economic context or human factors, ESSA’s provisions fall short of providing the necessary change to improve the quality of public education. Arbitrary and relentless accountability continues for public schools and teachers while external agencies such as corporations providing a variety of services, consulting, testing, or tutoring will have even more access to public education funding. It would be enlightening to find out how much of the public school budget ends in private hands.
Unsurprising, ESSA requires states to continue a monitoring and reporting of all schools and teachers using standardize testing. But cleverly, the complaint of testing being federally mandated and administrated is eliminated by giving this task to each state. States can choose their own goals -- a big long-term goal, and smaller, interim goals. These goals must address: proficiency on tests, English-language proficiency, and graduation rates. As expected before, scores resulting from those evaluations will be used to determine school funding. A trivial matter –who administers the national tests?—became the focus of debate. I would like to focus the debate on the usefulness of that testing!
Like NCLB, ESSA sets impossible and arbitrary goals –having all students ready for college or a career as a mantra. Only this time, states are in charge to determine their own goals and means to evaluate success. Just like the previous laws, ESSA maintains the neoliberal vision including the privatization process that serves no educational purpose. In essence, ESSA is not too different from NCLB or RttT-- the problems, solutions, and new policies come from the same neoliberal frame that produced NCLB and RttT. 
ESSA’s goals and policies are just or more ambitious and convoluted than previous laws. With the arbitrary goal of having everyone, including minorities and underprivileged students, college and career ready, ESSA continues “to measure progress against that goal and maintain a critical focus on educational equity and excellence for all. The law maintains provisions that require states to administer to all students annual statewide.” To do it properly ESSA requires states to incorporate at least four indicators such as proficiency on state tests, English-language proficiency, plus some other academic factor that can be broken out by subgroup, which could be growth on state tests into their accountability systems. Have we not done this? I believe we know enough. What we need is more intelligent interventions.
Not satisfied with the number of factors assessed as it was during NCLB, ESSA makes the process even more complicated. ESSA requires states to choose at least one additional indicator such as: student engagement, educator engagement, access to and completion of advanced coursework, postsecondary readiness, school climate/safety, or whatever else the state thinks makes sense. In this respect ESSA turns the old accountability system into an even more time consuming, convoluted, and expensive process. Without valid reasons, ESSA asks states to devote even more human, logistic, and financial resources. Thus, ESSA overhauls this unnecessary, expensive, tried and failed, and unwarranted massive accountability scheme. With states and districts lacking departments to develop such system, one can only wonder who will provide such service and at what cost. 
Is there going to be less or better testing? The law says it supports flexibility for states and districts while keeping high expectations for all students. However, ESSA requires states to test students in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, and break out the data for whole schools, plus different “subgroups” of students (English-learners, students in special education, racial minorities, those in poverty). Very importantly, ESSA maintains the federal requirement for 95 percent participation in tests. The only examples of less testing are for individual cases such as dealing with eight graders’ math, the new regulations “permit a district to use a single, locally-selected, nationally recognized high-school assessment across the district in place of the statewide high school assessment. That is supposed to “reduce the amount of time students spend on assessments, allowing more time for teaching and learning. There are no indications of having less testing. The pattern shows that testing is evolving and becoming more computers based. 
ESSA regulations ask states to develop computer adaptive tests. These are supposed to provide a “more precise estimate of a student’s ability with fewer questions than traditional tests.” The results, which will be reported, would have to be based on academic achievement standards. Who will develop these tests? How much money will it cost? What type of accountability would be in place to ensure these tests are reliable? As anyone can infer, states and districts will have to pay for testing companies’ services. 
The end goal is for all states to develop or adopt a high-quality, viable, and sustainable innovative assessment system to evaluate their schools against adopted standards. This is quite a huge mission. Although it seems a good idea to give five years and an extra two more as extension, the overall goal does not seem to warrant such an effort. A key fact is that the pilot process states and districts to devote a serious amount of money and effort to this task. In addition, this overcomplicated process will keep states and districts busy and worried about monitoring rather than on focusing energy and resources on delivering quality education. If NCLB and then RttT with similar demands of measurable accountability did not leave anything to build on, what evidence or research supports continuing with this practice? 
Since teachers’ ability to raise scores will continue being the key factor around which the successful implementations of this new wave of policies depend, ESSA takes the competitiveness to the teachers’ preparation market. From now on, agencies other than universities will be granted the right to give teachers accreditations. As a result, corporate reformers will have their hands on the last factor they were not controlling: teachers’ accreditation. With this new power granted by ESSA, corporate reformers now define what teaching is and what a good teacher looks like. With that corporate reformers control everything: the teaching profession and teachers themselves. With that kind of authority and power, teachers will have neither hope nor recourse. From determining requirements to become a teacher, to hiring, keeping, or firing, corporate reformers will have a tremendous influence and control. 
As presented ESSA does not bring any new approach to anything done in public education since NCLB was enacted. Indeed, ESSA continues the neoliberal path. The law validates the premises that schools and teachers are failing and at fault; that competition and choice are necessary conditions to correct the chronic systemic problems; and that comprehensive monitoring and an accountability system that punishes and rewards based on scores are necessary tools for improvement and excellence. Evidently, the process of privatization continues unchallenged as seen with the imposition and implementation of CCSS, the new versions of standardized testing, and the unstoppable multiplication of charter schools. There is more influence on public education affairs by corporations and billionaires than ever before; and in this neoliberal frame teaching and teachers are perceived more as commodities --factors in a free-market process, than as public servants with a mission other than improving scores. 
Who wins, who loses, who cares?
In solidarity,
Sergio Flores

Irony Alert: The Founder of Trump University Is Selling School Choice

By:  Steven Singer, Director BATs Blogging/Research

Donald Trump is in favor of school choice.
Well of course he is! After all, he made a lot of money scamming poor suckers out of their hard-earned cash with Trump University.
He knows how privatized education benefits the corporations who run the schooland not the poor schmucks who want to learn.
If he gets his way, our national education motto will be caveat emptor.
He is betting the American public is so stupid they’ll give a man caught in a scandalfor cheating people out of an education the power to set all education policy for our nation’s children.
And it’s all right there before the public.
In fact, the parallels between Trump University and school choice policies are apparent to anyone who looks. Here are just a few of the similarities:

1) False advertising
First of all, Trump University was never an actual university!
The New York State Education Department warned administrators when the institution was founded in 2005 that it was operating without a license. So what did the “school” do? It changed its legal name to The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.
See? We’re not saying it’s a university anymore. I mean we still call it Trump University colloquially and in advertising brochures and so on. But on legal documents we never make that claim.
It’s a classic bait and switch scheme.
But the same could be said of many charter schools.
They don’t claim to be private schools. They claim to be public schools. However, they aren’t subjected to nearly the same transparency and accountability standards.
Public schools are run by an elected school board. Most charters are run by appointed boards.
Public school board meetings are held in public. Any taxpayer can attend, comment on the proceedings and demand access to public records such as its budget. Many charter school meetings are held behind closed doors. Taxpayers have no access or input in the decision-making process nor access to records that should by all accounts be public record.
Charter schools are public schools just like Trump University was a university.

2) Choosing Students
So who could attend Trump University?
Not just anyone. According to the “Private and confidential” playbook obtained byThe Atlantic, the one essential qualification listed all in caps was “ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED IN FULL.” In other words, Trump’s school would accept anyone who could pay the entrance fee.
That same playbook, by the way, admonished staffers not to talk with reporters and “If a district attorney arrives on the scene, contact the appropriate media spokesperson immediately.”
Similarly, charter and voucher schools get to choose their students, too.
Advocates pretend school choice means parents get to choose where their kids go to school. Wrong! It means school administrators get to choose who they’ll accept.
At private schools that accept vouchers, the amount of taxpayer money spent at a traditional public school and given to the private school in the form of the voucher israrely enough to pay for the full tuition. So voucher programs often make it impossible for poor kids to attend private schools. They just reduce the cost for rich kids whose parents can afford to pay the difference.
At charter schools, administrators are infamous for picking students based on the ease with which they can be taught. Sometimes they don’t accept students having academic difficulties or who are in special education programs. Other times they kick them out before state-mandated standardized tests. That way they can falsely inflate their own test scores and pretend like they’re doing a great job teaching all students when they’re not.

3) Quality of Services:
Former Trump University students are suing the reality TV star and Presidential candidate because they claim they paid tens of thousands of dollars for nothing.
You got a free 90-minute seminar that promised enrolling in the school would teach you everything you need to know about real estate investment. Then you were told to enroll in a $1,495 three-day seminar where you were told to enroll in increasingly more expensive additional seminars even up to an Elite Gold package costing $35,000.
However, very little attention was spent to actually teaching students much of anything. Each seminar was basically an advertisement for the next seminar.
Prospective students were told they would be “mentored” by “handpicked” real estate experts showing them Trump’s own real estate strategies.
But no one has yet been able to produce a single instructor handpicked by Trump. Moreover, many of these instructors didn’t even have any knowledge of real estate, They came from other academic fields.
Trump never reviewed the school’s curricula. It was developed by a third party for motivational speakers and timeshare rental companies.
Moreover, Trump never attended any of these seminars personally. Attendees were often told that he was in the building or on his way, but he never showed up. At one seminar, attendees were told they’d get to take their pictures with Trump but ended up getting pictures with his cardboard cutout!
Similarly, many of our nations charter schools provide a substandard education.
When compared with traditional public schools, no evidence has been found that they do a better job. In fact, the evidence says charter do no better and often much worse than traditional public schools.
One reason is that many charters don’t require their teachers to be of the same quality as traditional public schools. Charter often skimp by hiring uncertified teachers or Teach for America trainees who have no degree in education and have only passed a six weeks course.
Also, cyber charter schools, in particular, often use third party companies to create their entire curriculum. This is usually just taking a text book in a given subject, digitizing it and having students answer the questions that used to be in the back of the book.

The parallels are clear. Perhaps that’s why Trump feels comfortable championing choice in education.
He is, after all, an expert on how it works and how it cheats the public.
Creating one excellent education system for everyone is both cheaper and more efficient than dividing children up so they can be monetized. But such a system doesn’t allow corporations and investors to turn a profit. Let’s be real – that’s why Trump is advocating for it.
Several lawsuits have been filed about the Trump University scam and will continue haunting Trump well past the November election.
However, he still maintains it was “a terrific school that did a fantastic job”.
His son, Donald J. Trump, Jr., even gave a speech touching upon school choice at the Republican National Convention this week.
Young Trump never attended public school, but he knows his dad’s business model.
His comments came under fire largely because he repeated several passages written by conservative writer and law professor F. H. Buckley. However, the campaign defended the move saying Buckley helped write Junior’s speech.
It may not be outright plagiarism, but it shows the thinking of the Trump campaign.Rehash old ideas that have failed in the past and hope the voting public buys it.
And maybe they’ve got a point. As H. L. Menken wrote -“Nobody every went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
That’s what the Trumps are doing. And if their education policy becomes a reality at our nations schools, they’re going to do everything they can to ensure that stupidity continues for generations to come.
For them education isn’t about making America great again. It’s about providing an endless stream of suckers to be taken advantage of by the predators of big business.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Corporate School Reform for Rich Kids: A Modest Proposal

By:  Steven Singer, Director BATs Blogging/Research

Screen shot 2016-07-19 at 8.37.14 PM
America’s wealthy children are in a crisis.
They’re better in math. They’re better in reading. They’re better in science. Heck! American students just won the International Math Olympiad for the second year in a row! They beat heavy hitters like Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, North Korea, Russia, the UK, Hong Kong, Japan and 90 other countries!
Yet our media still refuses to acknowledge their accomplishments by lumping our wealthiest students in with the middle class and poor. They say American students are failing when it’s just the poor kids. And even when you add them all together,we’re in the middle, and we’ve always been in the middle since these international tests began.
It’s just not fair that our wealthy students don’t get recognized for their accomplishments. The media takes their exceptional scores and mixes them in with those of children living in broken homes going to under-funded schools in high crime neighborhoods. Obviously those kids are struggling. It’s not fair to make the wealthy look bad by mixing their scores in with these “ghetto” kids.
But that’s not the worst part. All this negative publicity is actually starting to force lawmakers to do something about it. There is a policy movement in our country that’s been around for nearly 20 years made to combat this exact problem. It’s calledcorporate education reform, and the rich kids are being left out!
Just look at all the programs being aimed at improving education for poor kids. I mean, sure, more than half of public school children live in poverty these days. But why should they get all these innovations?
If things keep up this way, the rich kids will get totally left behind. In the interests of fairness, we must make some of these same reforms available for the wealthy.
For instance, why is it only the poor kids who get the benefit of being taught byTeach for America recruits? These are idealistic youngsters who have a college degree – but not a degree in teaching – who get to come into an underprivileged environment and educate the masses. What about those from privileged upbringings? Shouldn’t they get the benefit of this program, too?
Think about it! These are young adults with lots of knowledge about the world and a real desire to help kids learn! Sure they don’t have enough desire to go out there and learn how to actually teach, but that’s just liberal indoctrination. You don’t need a degree to do that. A six weeks training program is fine!
Their enthusiasm makes up for any shortcomings in pedagogy. It’s like someone who loves medical dramas volunteering to do your surgery. Or maybe someone who watched every season of Law and Order volunteering to defend you in court. The attention to detail of a Trekkie at a Star Trek convention tops the knowledge of an astrophysicist any day!
Why is it only the poor kids that get that!? Rich children are being robbed of this opportunity. It’s time we furlough all their fancy teachers with their PhDs and Masters degrees and replace them with Teach for America.
But of course that won’t be enough.
The poor kids also have a huge leg up when it comes to academic standards.
Many wealthy families send their children to private schools with the best of everything. They have a wide curriculum, extracurricular activities, arts and music – everything impoverished public schools lack. But what they don’t have are universal standards.
That’s right. In most states, only our public schools have been forced to enactCommon Core State Standards. These are a set of academic standards for all school children to ensure every student will be ready for college and/or a career by graduation.
Where are these standards for our rich kids? They’re being left behind! We let their private school teachers make up their own standards! How can we trust them with that? Despite their manners and good breeding, these are just teachers we’re talking about! What do they know about education?
Common Core standards were created with hardly any input from classroom teachers or child psychologists. Instead we relied upon self-appointed experts from the standardized testing industry. They decided what should be taught so it will line up exactly with their state-mandated tests.
Just imagine! Rich kids don’t get that benefit! No one teaches them to the test! Their teachers just guess and – still they get good grades – but imagine how well they’d do if they had the same benefits of the poor kids! If impoverished children fail, these same test corporations provide the remedial material! What better way to improve?
And that’s another thing! Why are the wealthiest kids who go to exclusive private schools exempt from taking state-mandated tests? How do we know they’re getting the best education possible if they haven’t demonstrated it on a multiple choice exam? These private schools could be totally faking it! We don’t know they’re providing a world class education without the proof standardized testing affords. Rich parents need to demand their kids be tested just like the poor kids.
One way they could do that while still reaping all the benefits of private schools is by enrolling in charter schools.
Rich parents rarely take advantage of that if they can afford the prestigious preparatory academies. But why? Choice is great and even more choice is greater!
Charter schools are really just private schools paid for with taxpayer money. They’re often run by private companies or unelected boards and in many cases expected to turn a profit. This also means they don’t have to do the same things as traditional public schools though for the most part they are subject to giving state-mandated tests.
In fact, they have very loose transparency requirements. We don’t really know much of what they do. But everywhere they’re touted as a massive improvement to the public school system.
They’re so good we don’t even demand that they prove how good they are. It’s just that obvious! (Pay no attention to peer reviewed studies that show them to be no better and often much worse than traditional pubic schools. That’s just scientific method mysticism.)
So why can’t there be more charter schools just for rich kids? Administrators get to pick which kids attend these schools anyway. Why not select just the upper crust, thecrème de la crème, a better class of students? In fact, in many cases they already do. They select the students who already do the best academically and boot those with sub par skills or who are in need of special education. That’s how they inflate their test scores. But they also could select for economic factors instead of just academic ones.
Now you have to be careful. There have been a couple charter schools (actually quite a lot of them) that have been found to be scamming the public. Think Trump University for K-12. These schools steal taxpayer money, cut services, increase profits, disband and sneak away in the night. But there are many… well… a few high quality ones out there. And since choice is always good, shouldn’t rich families roll the dice on these institutions just like poor families?
Yes, there’s a chance rich kids educations will be ruined at charters – a big chance – but shouldn’t the wealthy have the same opportunity to gamble on their children’s futures that the poor do?
The point is this: there are plenty of shiny corporate education reforms out thereaimed almost exclusively at the poor. If these reforms are so great, shouldn’t the rich get them, too?
Otherwise, these reforms are just opportunities for private industry to get rich quickoff the backs of impoverished children! That can’t be right, can it?
The fact that the rich almost never take advantage of these reforms has to be a coincidence, right? Maybe they just don’t know how great these corporate school reforms are. I just can’t understand why no one is telling them, selling it to them.
After all, many of the people who create and propose these reforms have children who go to educational institutions that don’t use them. Arne Duncan was U.S. Secretary of Education, and his kids don’t experience the very policies he imposed on impoverished youngsters. Neither do Bill Gates’ and President Barack Obama’s kids. It’s just so unfair to them.
So I’m asking, please, let the children of the rich and powerful experience these same corporate educate reforms. Every child deserves the right to be taught by an untrained instructor. Every child should have an education devised by non-experts making huge profits off the results. Every child’s success should be determined through mass marketed, standardized, A,B,C exams. Every child should get to go to a school where the administration can reduce services and maximize profit.
Only then can we finally compare test scores between rich and poor. Only then will be one America!
Only then will no rich child be left behind.
(Or we could just give the poor kids all the benefits of the rich ones and throw away this corporate education crap, but no. That’s too radical. This is only a modest proposal.)