Saturday, September 7, 2019

Blaming Schools for Student Absences is Like Denouncing Doctors for Disease by Steven Singer

Originally posted at: https://gadflyonthewallblog.com/2019/08/25/blaming-schools-for-student-absences-is-like-denouncing-doctors-for-disease/?fbclid=IwAR1LVoEzc5LkC_ZB_BduvzyaPe_IlOwzIBMBzfk6sT7CG4jhcUUCZVgsKi4


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If something is wrong with children, it must be the school’s fault.

Right?

If kids can’t read, write and do ‘rithmetic, the teachers must not have taught ’em right.


Except that it almost always does.

Inextricably.

None of that is under the control of teachers or schools, but a focus on high stakes standardized testing, school privatization and dangerously unregulated ed tech hides the problem.

It’s not that teachers don’t teach. Inequality, prejudice and privatization – these are the root causes and the reason we do nothing about them generation after generation is that we have an easy scapegoat in the public schools in general and public school teachers in particular.

It’s a huge problem.

When kids don’t show up to school, they learn less. It’s a simple concept.

Yet just four years ago when we had a chance to rewrite the federal law governing public education to actually DO SOMETHING about the problems we’re facing, we dropped the ball. Again!

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to include five indicators measuring school performance: four based on academic achievement, and a fifth, “non-academic” measure of student success.

Most states have adopted chronic student absenteeism as this “fifth indicator.”

So we take those five indicators, weight them and combine them together to get overall school scores that are used to sort and rank educational institutions. That way we can prioritize funding to the highest performers and withhold it from the lowest.

It’s the same supply side nonsense we’ve been doing for years with a few numbers moved around and given a different name.

Schools overflowing with resources serving rich white kids get a sticker. Schools starving for resources serving poor brown kids get a kick.

And somehow that’s supposed to help things get better.

Don’t get me wrong. Absenteeism is important.

Nearly 8 million students missed 15 or more days of school in 2015-16 — an increase from the 6.8 million who missed the same amount in 2013-14, when the federal Department of Education began tracking the data. And there’s a mountain of research that links chronic absenteeism with poor academic performancedelayed graduation, and increased dropout rates.

But putting it all on neighborhood schools and local districts is a huge abrogation of responsibility.

By and large, public schools do not cause students to be absent. Nor do they have the resources to ensure these students start attending.

But we’ve found someone to blame and that’s really all this whole exercise was about in the first place.

It’s like denouncing your doctor for your disease. It won’t cure you, but it might make you feel justified as you die.

The reasons students are chronically absent have little to do with individual schools.

According to Attendance Works, a non-profit focusing on ways to improve student attendance, the main causes of chronic absences are:

•Chronic disease or lack of health care and/or dental care.

•The need to care for siblings or other family members.

•Unmet basic needs: transportation, housing, food, clothing, etc.

•Trauma.

•Feeling unsafe getting to school.

•Academic or social struggles.

•Being teased or bullied.

•Poor school climate or unsafe schools.

•Parents had negative school experience.

•Lack of engaging and relevant instruction.

•Peer pressure to be with peers out of school vs. in school.

•No meaningful relationships with adults in school.

•High suspension rates and disproportionate school discipline.

Certainly some of these things are under the control of school directors, administrators, and teachers.

Schools can and should provide safe ways for students to get to and from school. They should work to reduce bullying and make school a welcoming place for all children. They should provide engaging instruction, fair discipline policies and reach out to parents and the community.

But most schools are already doing that – or certainly trying to do that within the confines of their budgets.

My own Western Pennsylvania district has been flagged by the Commonwealth for increasing chronic absences. In the state, this is defined as students with 10 or more unexcused absences. We’ve been put on an improvement plan – which basically means an employee at the state Department of Education wagging his finger and telling us to get better or else.

However, the overarching problem and solution are easy to see. We are a district without busing.

The high school and middle school sit on top of a hill. Students who live in the poorer sections of town at the bottom of the hill have to walk or take public transportation daily to get to school.

It’s no wonder that some of them don’t do that every day and stay home instead.

However, we serve a mostly impoverished population. Decades ago, school directors decided it would be more cost effective to save money on busing so they could provide greater services for students. Yet as the economy has continued to stagnate and funding has become even more hard to come by, attendance has worsened.

So what are we to do? Cut services and add buses?

Doing so would mean we’d have to bus students to local charter schools as well, increasing the burden on taxpayers and the amount of muscle and bone we’d have to cut from our own academic programs.

It’s all very well and good to have the federal government tell us that attendance is important – but where is the help to improve it?

As with everything else in education, we get threats and the promise of economic sanctions but nothing in the way of assistance, aide or intervention.

We could be working together to try to solve this and other social issues. We could pool resources and construct social programs to help parents get jobs, set up stable homes, fund robust systems of public transportation, and a host of social services for students and their families such as tutoring, counseling, child care, and continuing education classes. We could end discriminatory policies such as school segregationschool privatization and high stakes standardized testing.

But doing so would mean abandoning the blame game and nothing has worked better to shield the rich from paying their fair share than pointing fingers at the less privileged and those who dedicate their lives to help them.

In truth, the problems with public schools are rarely the teachers.

It’s that society has written them off and refuses to take responsibility for its own role in supporting the next generation.



Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to theBadass Teachers Association. Check it out!
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Broad’s Academy and Residencies Fuel the Destroy Public Education Agenda by Thomas Ultican

Originally posted at: https://tultican.com/2019/08/29/broads-academy-and-residencies-fuel-the-destroy-public-education-agenda/?fbclid=IwAR2raK3Rr7iycPp8olua4gHdwwdvlk3ZkzfCdsO7dwuO84mLWrQJRjk1ohU

By T. Ultican 8/29/2019
In 2002, the billionaire, Eli Broad, established his own education leadership training program. Although he is the only person ever to create two Fortune 500 companies, Broad, who attended public school, has no other experience or training in education. However he is so rich, he can just institute his opinions such as his belief that education knowledge is not needed to run large urban school systems; consultants can be hired for that knowledge.
Peter Greene, the author of the popular blog Curmudgucation, framed this absurdity in his own snarky fashion:
“But Broad does not believe that schools have an education problem; he believes they have a management problem. School leadership does not need an infusion of educational leadership– they need business guys, leadership guys. And so Broad launched the Superintendent’s Academy by ignoring completely the usual requirements for Superintendent certification or program accreditation. The Board Superintendent Academy exists by its own force of will. It’s kind of awesome– there is no external governing or certifying board of any sort declaring that the Broad Superintendent’s Academy is a legitimate thing, and yet, it exists and thrives.
“I myself plan to soon open the Curmudgucation Academy of Brain Surgery, or maybe a School Of  Fine Art Production. I have everything I need to make these highly successful, with the possible exception of enough power and money to get people to listen to me whether I know what the hell I’m talking about or not.”
In Pasi Sahlberg’s and William Doyle’s new book Let the Children Play, there are many anecdotes that demonstrate the fallacy of Broad’s education opinions. They describe the growing crisis developing especially in the lower grades and pre-school caused by a lack of play. School leaders frequently have no training in early childhood development leading one teacher to comment, “So often the people who have the most power to affect your teaching have no idea what appropriate, best practice looks like.” Another teacher reported sitting on the floor in a circle and singing “The Farmer in the Dell,” with a group of kindergarteners when the superintendent walked by and said, “You are going to stop singing and start teaching, right?”
School is a much more complex endeavor than running a business. A CEO at Honeywell can successfully transition to running House Hold Finance, but would find running Houston ISD beyond their scope. They wouldn’t even be aware of what they didn’t know.
Broad (rhymes with toad) is one of the billionaires driving a neoliberal agenda focused first and foremost on privatizing public education. Hastings, Arnold, Bloomberg, Walton, Rock, Fisher and Broad are all spending huge money for the cause. In the last LA School Board election, just this group spent more than $5,000,000 to capture the board. They all lavishly support both Teach for America and charter schools.

The Broad Fellowships for Education

The Fellowships for education were established in 2002 and has had 568 Fellows participate, including the 64 in the 2018-2020 cohort. The Broad Center statesBroad Residents attend eight in-person sessions over two years, taught by practitioners who know firsthand about the issues faced by urban school systems.” Residents will study among other topics:
  • “Theories of action”
  • “Budget and finance”
  • “Accountability, transparency and data-driven decision making”
  • “Labor-management relations”
  • “Innovative school models”
The following table lists the present Broad Fellowship trainers.
Broad Fellowship Leaders
Every “Broad Fellowship for Education Leader” is a member of an organization working to privatize public education. Joan Sullivan who served Antonio Villaraigosa as LA’s Deputy Mayor for Education is not a neutral voice.  In 2007, after failing to gain control of LA’s schools, Mayor Villaraigosa was able to arrange for about a dozen schools to be moved from LAUSD into a newly created non-profit Partnership for LA. The elected school board no-longer had jurisdiction over Partnership schools. When Marshal Tuck resigned as leader of Partnership, Villaraigosa appointed Joan Sullivan to replace him. Joan is also credited with the 2003 founding of a Bronx charter school before she moved to LA.
One of the highest profile Broad Fellows is Neerav Kingsland from the Broad Residency Class of 2009-2011. Last year, Kingsland was named Managing Partner of The City Fund. This new fund was founded when Billionaires Jon Arnold and Reed Hastings each pledged $100 million to promote the portfolio model of public school privatization. Before going to work at the Arnold Foundation in 2015, Neerav and two other law students formed the Hurricane Katrina Legal Clinic, which assisted in the creation of the privatizing organization New Schools for New Orleans. Kingsland became its chief executive officer. He is joined at the City Fund by Chris Barbic, first failed Superintendent of the Tennessee Achievement School District, Founder of YES Prep charter schools and alumni of Broad Superintendents Academy 2011.

The Broad Superintendents Academy

Broad Leadership Academy
Austin Beutner with the Broad Academy Cohort 2019-2020 – (Tineye.com no result)
Not sure where the picture above originated. However, the people shown all do appear to be in the new 2019-2020 Broad Academy cohort with the exception of Austin Beutner. There is one correction. Caprice Young, the founder of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), is no longer a mouthpiece for Fethullah G├╝len. In 2018, she became the National Superintendent for the Learn4Life, cyber school (home schooling) organization that is lucrative for operators but has terrible academic results.  This summer a San Diego Judge closed three Learn4Life centers because they were not authorized to be where they were operating.
There was a shift in focus at the Broad academy around 2012. When the operation first started in 2002 an attempt was made to bring new leadership into education including recruiting retired military flag officers. From 2002-2010, 21 retired military members attended the academy. From 2011-2019 there was one. During this later period, people working in the charter industry became dominate in academy cohorts. There have now been 243 people in the Broad Superintendents academy. Recently pro-privatization leaders like Tom Torkelson founder of IDEA Charters (2015-2016 cohort), Diane Tavenner founder Summit Charters (2015-2016 cohort), and Cristina de Jesus President of Green Dot Charters (2016-2017 cohort) feel it is important to participate in the Broad Academy. This year Sonar Tarim, founder of Harmony Charters, and Caprice Young, founder of CCSA, have continued the trend.
In 2012, the Washington Post reported about a leaked Broad Center memo that outlined a new “invitation-only group that will collaborate to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the education sector, help shape policy agendas, influence public opinion, coalesce political forces, and advance bold reforms on the ground.” The group would meet twice a year in Washington DC and “would accelerate the pace of reform.” The memo stated the following list of deliverables:
  • “It will create a powerful group of the most transformational and proven leaders.”
  • “It will become the go-to group for reform leaders to engage and move the most cutting edge work forward.”
  • “It will help create a more supportive environment and change the national landscape to make it easier for superintendents to define policy agendas, influence public opinion, coalesce political forces, and advance bold reforms on the ground.”
  • “The participants’ personal reform agendas and peer pressure from their colleagues will solidify their commitment to do whatever it takes to drive their systems and the education reform movement forward.”
When it comes to placing academy graduates, sometimes Eli Broad gets directly involved. In January 2009, Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan turned to what was then a little-used state law, Public Act 72, to appoint an “emergency financial manager” charged with addressing Detroit Public School’s ongoing financial troubles. She chose Robert Bobb, a 2005 Broad Academy alumni. No doubt influencing the decision was the fact that Broad and the Kellogg Foundation agreed to pay $145,000 a year toward Bobb’s $425,000 a year salary.
Bobb’s history of failure in Detroit is well documented.
John Covington is a 2008 Broad Academy alumni. He became Superintendent of Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) in 2009. During his first year, Covington claimed that diplomas from KCPS “aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.” His solution for this situation and a looming budget deficit was to close 29 schools and layoff 285 teachers. This was in exact accord with the new Broad Academy School Closure guide whose first line reads, “While school closures can be an important component of any right-sizing plan to address a budget shortfall, properly executed closures require time, leadership attention, and money.”
Covington suddenly and mysteriously resigned from Kansas City in August of 2011. Local elites were stunned and blamed a school board member for hounding him out of town. It was years later before people there learned what happened. A contact at the Broad Center told Covington to be on the alert for a call from Eli Broad who happened to be in Spain at the time. When the call came Broad said, “John, I need you to go to Detroit.” Two days later, on Aug. 26, 2011, Covington was introduced as the first superintendent of Michigan’s new Education Achievement Authority.
Covington’s reputation was so harmed by his time in Michigan that he never got hired again to lead a school system.
Broad trained Superintendents have a history of bloated staffs leading to financial problems like John Deasy in Los Angeles (Ipad fiasco) or Antwan Wilson in Oakland. They also are notorious for top down management that alienates teachers and parents. Jean-Claude Brizard was given a 98% no confidence vote in Rochester, New York before Rahm Emanuel brought him to Chicago where the teachers union ran him out of town. Maria Goodloe-Johnsonbecame Seattle’s superintendent in 2007. She was soon seen as a disruptive demon by teachers and parents. There was great glee when a financial mismanagement issue brought her down.

Conclusion

No school district trying to improve and provide high quality education should even consider hiring a candidate with Broad training on their resume. Neither the Residency nor the academy are legitimate institutions working to improve public education. Their primary agenda has always been privatizing schools and ending democratic control by local communities. That is why the founding billionaire, Eli Broad, is one of America’s most prolific financers of Charter Schools and organizations like Teach For America. He believes in markets and thinks schools should be privately run businesses.

Inside Bill Gates’ Hubris: Propaganda to Make America Neoliberal Again by Steven Singer

Originally posted at: https://gadflyonthewallblog.com/2019/09/01/inside-bill-gates-hubris-propaganda-to-make-america-neoliberal-again/?fbclid=IwAR0kkUnzfdWT496tVM5iRCh-p37vGNmU6hcbozYYNI7xqu12j0pDsdqNdjg



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Once upon a time, the world was run by rich men.

And all was good.

But then the world was conquered by other rich men.

And that is something the first group of rich men could not allow.


The three-part documentary goes live on Sept. 20. But the film’s aims are clear from the trailer.

It’s a vanity project about Bill Gates, the second richest man in the world.
By examining his mind and motivations, director and executive producer Davis Guggenheim will show us how Gates deserves his billionaire status and that we should allow him to use his philanthrocapitalist ventures to rule the world.

After all, shouldn’t the best and richest among us make all the decisions?

It’s a cry for oligarchy in an age of idiocracy, a love letter to neoliberalism in a time of neofascism.


But instead of showing the world why we need to return to democratic principlesstrengthen the common good and empower the people to govern themselves, some would rather continue the same plutocracy just with a different set of plutocrats at the wheel.

In the days of Obama, the Bushes and Clinton, it wasn’t membership in the same political party that defined the ruling class. It was holding the same ideology.

It’s not that neoliberals were so much wiser, ethical or empathetic than Trump. They just kept their greed a secret or tried to make it seem a virtue. They told better lies and didn’t incite as much violence on our shores, and they were better at manipulating markets to make themselves richer while keeping the rest of us relatively poorer.

The MAGA insurgents are also rich men, but their greed is transparent. They lie and no one expects them to tell the truth. They can freely dismantle the social safety net because they stoke our prejudices and keep us fighting over race, gender and abortion so much we forget they’re robbing us blind. And when the market crashes, they don’t have to care because they’ve stolen everything of value and can weather the economic depression that will destroy the nation.

Neofacism is certainly worse – but it’s only a difference of degree, not of kind.

It’s no wonder then that the neoliberals want to make us nostalgic for their brand of simmering destruction instead of Trump’s rapid boil disasters.

And Gates is the perfect poster child for old style neoliberalism.

He’s the former CEO of Microsoft and – together with his wife – the founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In the trailer, Gates confides that his deepest fear is that one day his brain will “stop working.”

Gates is a “multiprocessor” says his wife Melinda. “He will be reading something else but then processing at the same time. It’s chaos!”

Gates “thrives on complexity,” Melinda says. “He makes a framework in his mind, then he starts slotting in the information. If something doesn’t line up, he gets really frustrated.”

“It’s scary,” says Melinda. “But when Bill stills himself, he can pull ideas together that other people can’t see.”

Thus we gain a picture of a brilliant man striding over a world populated by intellectual inferiors. How foolish we would be to question his authority!


It’s truly one of the most patronizing, paternal and insulting pieces of propaganda I’ve ever seen in my life. And that includes Guggenheim’s previous movies.

Guggenheim is, after all, the man behind the most notorious propaganda film of modern times, “Waiting for Superman.” Back in 2010, he popularized the school privatization of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He made charter schools cool until Betsy DeVos came along and made them uncool again.

More recently, he tried to pull the same sleight of hand for education technology firms in 2013 with the film “Teach,” but by then no one was really paying attention to him.


And for all that time his ventures have been backed by the richest neoliberals out there – Netflix CEO Reed Hasgtings, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, eBay founder Jeff Skoll, and Salman Khan of Khan Academy.


Sure these folks are usually identified as Democrats, but their philosophy is completely in line with The Walton Family Foundation, Charles Koch, Walden Media (run by creationist Philip Anschutz), and lobbying groups such as the Lumina Foundation, the New American Foundation, and others.

Oh! And let’s not forget Bill Gates, himself, who has bankrolled a number of Guggenheim’s projects including “Waiting for Superman.”

It’s no wonder Guggenheim is making a fawning tribute to Gates. He owes the man!

It’s time to pay back his sugar daddy with what he does best – agitprop public relations.

Yes, Gates is a very intelligent person.

But he is also a very stupid one.

When it comes to computers, few people can beat him. But like so many overprivileged people, he takes excellence in one area to mean excellence in all areas.

And that’s just not how things work.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates famously bragged that he was the wisest person in Athens – not because he knew so much more than everyone else but because he was the only person who knew that he didn’t know anything.

Gates could have learned something from that humility, because it’s the trait he is most lacking.

Take public education.

No one has had a greater negative impact on public schools than Gates. With his so-called philanthropic contributions, he has steered the course of education policy away from research-based pedagogy to a business-minded approach favored by corporate raiders.

He didn’t come up with Common Core State Standards, but he did bankroll them. He bribed the state and federal government to force their schools to adopt the same or similar academic standards for all students. Not good standards. Not standards developed by classroom teachers, psychologists or experts. But standards created by the standardized testing industry.


The result has been more high stakes standardized tests, narrowing the curriculum, shrinking education budgets for the poor and minorities, and an increase in developmentally inappropriate approaches to education. Nearly every parent with a school age child will tell you horror stories of attempting to do homework with their children and having to relearn basic math and English skills just to untwist the needlessly complex knot that children are expected to unsnarl in order to grasp the bare basics of academia.


Gates poured billions of dollars into that failed initiative, spent hundreds of millions of dollars for development and promotion and influenced trillions of taxpayer dollars to be flushed down the drain on it. All to no avail.

But it’s not his only education policy failure.

Gates now admits that the approximate $2 billion he spent pushing us to break up large high schools into smaller schools was a bust.

Then he spent $100 million on inBloom, a corporation he financed that would quietly steal student data and sell it to the corporate world. However, that blew up when parents found out and demanded their children be protected.


He also quietly admits that the $80 million he spent pushing for teachers to be evaluated on student test scores was a mistake. However, state, federal and local governments often still insist on enacting it despite all the evidence against it. Teachers have literally committed suicide over these unfair evaluations, but it hasn’t stopped Gates from continuing to experiment on the rest of humanity with his money.


And he’s still at it.

His new plan has been to spend $1.7 billion over five years to develop new curriculums and networks of schools, use data to drive continuous improvement, and give out grants to high needs schools to do whatever he says.

There’s nothing wrong with someone wanting to help improve public schools. But the best way to do that is to listen to the people most knowledgeable and invested and then give them the tools they need to succeed.

But Gates doesn’t play that way. He reads up on a subject and then comes up with his own harebrained schemes.

“It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade,” he said during a speech at Harvard in 2014.

Lots of people know, Bill. Teachers, students, parents, psychologists, professors. You just won’t listen to us.

You just insist the rest of us listen to you despite the fact that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

You’re rich and you think that makes you better than us.

And Guggenheim’s documentary purports to support this position by reference to Gates’ incredible brain.
He is a smart guy. No one would really contradict it.

He was a National Merit Scholar who scored a 1590 out of 1600 on his SATs. But he also comes from a very privileged upbringing.

He didn’t grow up on the mean streets of urban America while attending a neighborhood public school. He went to an elite preparatory school since he was 13.

At Harvard he wasn’t a polymath. He excelled in subjects he cared about, but neglected others that weren’t immediately interesting. According to a college friend:

“Gates was a typical freshman in many ways, thrown off pace by the new requirements and a higher level of competition. He skipped classes, spent days on end in the computer lab working on his own projects, played poker all night, and slept in a bed without sheets when he did go
 to bed. Other students recall that he often went without sleep for 18 to 36 hours.”

Gates was no genius. He earned good grades in the subjects he liked and significantly less so in classes he didn’t. Nor was his heart in his studies. Gates joined few college activities unless someone dragged him off to a party.

School was of little interest to him. He dropped out of Harvard before getting a degree to start his computer software company.

Imagine how privileged you have to be to feel empowered to do that!

Nothing much was at stake for him at school so he could do whatever he liked with little to no real life consequences.

You want to decode Bill’s brain? Look at his family’s wealth. Look at his upbringing. Look at his medical records.

But the moral of the story of Bill Gates is not that rich elites should rule the world.

It is that everyone – EVERYONE – should practice humility and not deign to think they have all the answers.

It is a paean to the need for collaboration to solve problems, the need to listen to all voices and decide the best course together.

And more than anything it is a desperate cry for democracy and social goods – not to defeat Trump through Gates’ example – but to lead to real human flourishing by smashing through the fallacies supporting Trump and Gates together.





Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!
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