Thursday, August 23, 2018

If You Give A Man A Tackle Paul Hartzer

If you give a man a tackle box…

There’s a famous adage: “If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.”
The origin of this appearsto be Anna Isabella Thackeray Ritchie’s novel “Mrs. Dymond,” in which characters are discussing the theft of some lilac branches. One character thinks that lilacs should be free to everyone anyway; another complains that, if everyone took what they wanted, then “there will be only broken stalks for you and me.”
The point of the discussion is that people of privilege can either give away material resources (like lilac branches or fish), or provide spiritual gifts (like knowledge of how to fish). But this comparison misses the key issue of the scene.
The issue isn’t that the peasant girl who steals the lilacs doesn’t know how to grow a lilac tree. It’s that she lacks the current resources of land, time, and a lilac tree.
The adage is used to suggest that poverty can be solved by teaching people how to succeed. It creates a false dichotomy: That the two options for overcoming poverty are to provide instant-gratification handouts of food and other goods and to train people to succeed. That training typically comes from the outside, from an assumption that the underprivileged don’t know how to succeed.
One place where this issue is prevalent is in education reform. Organizations like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Walmart Foundation offer significant donations to improving educational opportunities.
I heartily encourage benefactors to be generous. I do believe that Bill Gates is sincere in his claim of being an “impatient optimist working to reduce inequality.” That Microsoft has benefited from the positive exposure should not cynically overshadow his intent.
At the same time, though, one of the prime complaints that educators have about the Common Core State Standards, which Bill Gates championed, is that teacher input wasn’t as significant as it could have been.
They were seen as externally-imposed guidelines, and as such, even if they were absolutely perfect, they were subject to rejection by the people they were designed for.
The non-profit organization Excellent Schools Detroit, which was formed to address the persistent problem of education in the City of Detroit, dissolved this summer, having fallen short of its goals. As Chastity Pratt Dawsey explains, seven years and $32 million wasn’t enough to fix the identified problems.
According to Dawsey’s report, Excellent Schools Detroit learned two major lessons. According to Tonya Allen, CEO of Skillman Foundation, “We needed a ground game that understood how parents were making choices.” And Shirley Stancato, CEO of New Detroit, said, “I don’t think we were as collaborative as we could’ve been…. We didn’t realize until we were in the middle of it that there were other people doing some of this work.”
With due respect to these individuals and their organizations, neither of these lessons are earth-shaking. They are both obvious to most educators on the ground. They could have saved a lot of time and money if they’d talked to some teachers and truly listened to responses.
The implication present in the approaches often taken by well-intentioned philanthropist groups focused on education reform is that the problem is that teachers and administrators don’t know what they’re doing.
Most professionals involved in the daily grind of public education, though, wouldn’t put adeptness of the educators high on the list of problems to be fixed.
To be sure, low wages continue to drive many competent would-be educators to other fields (), and there are teacher shortages around the country. However, the majority of teachers that I interact with daily are competent, passionate, and committed.
We know how to fish. We don’t need someone from the outside telling us how to hold our rod and reel.
To switch metaphors for a moment, Eddie Murphy relates a joke in the credits for “Coming to America.” <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> A customer has a complaint about his soup, and tells the waiter to try it. Rather than trying the soup, the waiter posits what could be wrong with it. After repeated demands from the customer, the waiter finally agrees to try the soup and asks for the spoon. “Aha!” is the entire punchline.
Teacher morale is a consistent problem, and drivers of this include a lack of resources and excessive pressure from outsiders, particularly legislators who devise rigorous teacher assessment models. One of the most widely used teacher assessment models is the Charlotte Danielson rubric, even though Danielson herself has asked that it not be used for that purpose.
If I were going to devise a national organization for education reform, my first step would be to speak directly to a wide swath of teachers, and really listen to what they have to say. Luckily, there’s no shortage of educators who maintain blogs about their profession, but many teachers are justifiably concerned about speaking up publicly.
My second step would be to speak directly with parents in the communities I want to target, and again, really listen to what they have to say. Parents and teachers are the key stakeholders in the education of youth (other than the youth themselves), and yet conversations with them are often lacking in depth or understanding.
A major part of the problem, though, is being truly open-minded. Earlier, I wrote about the White Savior complex: I originally approached urban teaching, some six years ago now, as if the problem was something that could be solved by a savvy outsider.
The reality is far more complex.
Imagine you saw a person standing in a river, trying to catch fish with his bare hands as they swim by. You adjust your rods and your tackle box on your shoulder and offer to teach him how to fish. He glares at you and says, “I know how to fish.” So you put your rod and box in the bushes by the river (you wouldn’t want them to get stolen) and join him in the river, hands at the ready.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to lend him a rod?
There are certainly problems in public education right now, even if some of them have been exaggerated to justify rechanneling funds to other things. And they can’t be solved by money alone, but that doesn’t mean money won’t be a help.
The money and other resources need to be spent wisely. Instead of assuming that teachers are incompetent until proven otherwise (often with arbitrary assessment methods), assume that teachers are competent but lack resources and support.
This article has been about education because as a teacher that’s the arena I understand the best. However, the metaphor can be applied to other areas as well. For instance, Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback, has been handing out suits to parolees. Because getting a job as an ex-convict is hard enough, but getting a job as an ex-convict without a suit is even harder. Meanwhile, former President Jimmy Carter continues to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity into his 90s.
Maybe the problem with the hungry man isn’t a lack of knowledge, it’s a lack of tools. If he already knows how to fish, give him a rod and reel and a spot on the riverbank, and then get out of his way.

Why We Need To Be Members Of Our Unions And Participate With Grassroots Groups by Cheryl Gibbs Binkley


Originally published at:

As a lifetime member of my Union and a coordinator for at least 2 grassroots groups which work with
both teachers’ Unions, I often get questions or viewpoints volunteered that speculate on the relative
value of each.
-- Some not so complimentary of either. 

Questions like: Why should I belong to a union, if I can do activism through a grassroots group?
Or, Why should I get involved in a grassroots group when I’m already a union member?  
These questions are daily fuel for thought and often affect my ToDo list.

The answers are fairly complex, but simply put, it is critically important for us All to both join and
work through our Union/Association and to participate in current grassroots actions like
Virginia Educators United.

Here are a few of the reasons we need both: 

We need a Grassroots movement because 

1. There are 93,000 teachers in Virginia. Roughly half of them are not currently represented by an
Association or Union, and in some districts the number of members is small enough to seriously
limit the power they can wield. Only a grassroots, statewide movement can offer an opportunity for
those 40,000 unrepresented teachers to speak up and speak out- Now!  And those 40,000 or so
additional school employees offer the Unions large enough numbers to have the impact we all need.

2. This year, six other states, many surrounding Virginia, have taken action. There are several reasons
for that; among them are that we have reached a critical point for saving our schools which includes
multiple crisis issues - extremely low funding of salaries, continuing erosion of benefits and degenerating
working conditions, aging schools whose repair, renovation, or additional classrooms have not been
funded, and lack of consideration from even friendly legislators for raising funding levels back to
pre-recession levels. 

3. Grassroots movements in other states have worked. Besides including employees and workers,
they welcome allies, parents, and community groups who will stand with us.They have changed
awareness, challenged the messages from public school enemies, and given a face to all the people
who serve our children. 

4. This year Virginia is seeing a freeing up of dollars that had remained unreachable in prior years.
Now is the time to speak up that those dollars (hundreds of millions)  are needed and necessary to
create the schools our communities and families require. 

We need our Unions because

1. Our Education Associations and Locals provide the on-going monitoring and legislative advocacy
that we need. Every year VEA and AFT provide direct advocacy on bills that are aimed to undermine
our schools further, and they turn back the tide of attack bills anti-schools forces bring year after year.
Our Unions do the tracking of legislators, and provide the information to localities about which
policymakers support schools.  They guide pro-school bills through the labyrinth introduction,
committee, and voting processes. And locals provide similar tracking and monitoring of policies at
district levels.

2. Our Unions represent individual employees whose careers are attacked each year.  Through
representation and challenges to unfair practices, the Unions defend many teachers every year
against personal attacks, inaccurate accusations, and -isms of many varieties from sexism, to racism,
to able-ism, to ageism.  A Union defense is often the game changer that saves good teachers' careers. 

3. Our Unions link us to other educators across the nation. Having NEA and AFT at the national level
enables us to see and defend against attacks launched in multiple states or from the federal level.
In recent years, this has been a critical need because the pro-privatization forces have been better
funded, well-organized, and well-connected for their anti-school agenda.  Through solidarity, we
can compete with the access massive money and its power provides anti-school forces.

Right now, with Janus having turned the whole nation into a Right to Work and Learn/Earn Less
environment- Those of us who have lived and struggled against that environment for years can lead
the way.  No, we don’t live in a perfect workers’ environment right now, but that is why

  • We need Virginia Education Association, and
  • We need AFT’s Federation of Teachers and 
  • We need Virginia Educators United grassroots coalition

 Every one of them, growing 
stroking on all cylinders, 
building connections with other community groups, other workers’ groups
and developing relationships with our policy makers that are fair, honest,
and forthright,
supporting All our Schools, our Communities and our Co-Workers without reservation or restraint.

If we join together, we can create an Education Commonwealth for the ages,  a point of destination
for all who want to live in a place that values healthy Learning, and Thinking, and Understanding. 
Through our combined efforts Virginia can be the kind of place we all want to live and work.  

So, Join your Union, and become part of Virginia Educators United. You are needed in both, right now. 
There is much to do, and much to be gained. 

DPE 2.0 The City Fund by Thomas Ultican

Billionaire Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, has joined with billionaire former Enron executive, John Arnold, to launch an aggressive destroy public education (DPE) initiative. They claim to have invested $100 million each to start The City Fund. Neerav Kingsland declares he is the Fund’s Managing Partner and says the fund will help cities across America institute proven school reform successes such as increasing “the number of public schools that are governed by non-profit organizations.”
Ending local control of public schools through democratic means is a priority for DPE forces. In 2017, EdSource reported on Hastings campaign against democracy; writing, “His latest salvo against school boards that many regard as a bedrock of American democracy came last week in a speech he made to the annual conference of The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in Washington D.C., attended by about 4,500 enthusiastic charter school advocates, teachers and administrators.”
When announcing the new fund, Kingsland listed fourteen founding members of The City Fund. There is little professional classroom teaching experience or training within the group. Chris Barbic was a Teach for America (TFA) teacher in Houston, Texas for two years. Similarly, Kevin Huffman was also a TFA teacher in Houston for three years. The only other member that may have some education experience is Kevin Shafer. His background is obscure.
The operating structure of the new fund is modeled after a law firm. Six of the fourteen founding members are lawyers: Gary Borden; David Harris; Kevin Huffman; Neerav Kingsland; Jessica Pena and Kameelah Shaheed-Diallo.
Ready to Pilfer Community Schools and End School Boards
In a 2012 published debate about school reform, Kingsland justified his call for ending democratic control of public education writing,
“I believe that true autonomy can only be achieved by government relinquishing its power of school operation. I believe that well regulated charter and voucher markets – that provide educators with public funds to operate their own schools – will outperform all other vehicles of autonomy in the long-run. In short, autonomy must be real autonomy: government operated schools that allow “site level decision making” feels more Orwellian than empowering – if we believe educators should run schools, let’s let them run schools.”
This is a belief in “the invisible hand” of markets making superior judgements and private businesses always outperforming government administration. There may be some truth here, but it is certainly not an ironclad law.
The City Fund has distinct roots stretching back to early 2016. On April 4 that year, Kingsland announced on his blog, Relinquishment, “Very excited about this update: Ken Bubp and Chris Barbic are joining the combined efforts of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and Hastings Fund.”
In January of 2016, Philanthropy News Digest reported, “Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings has announced that he has created a $100 million fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) that will be focused on education.”
SVCF is a donor directed fund, so Hastings’s fund is dark money with no way of tracking where its tax-free spending is directed. The SVCF 2016 tax form shows Neerav Kingsland earning $253,846 as a Managing Director of the Hastings fund. He was also simultaneously serving as Senior Education Fellow at the Arnold Foundation and was on the board at the California Charter Schools Association.
The SVCF was founded in 2006 and has grown to be one of the largest non-profit charities in America. The tax form cited above shows a total income in 2016 of $4.4 billion and end of year assets of $7.2 billion while making grants totaling to $1.9 billion.
SVCF Grants
A March 2018 article in Chalkbeat reported,
“Eleven years after founding a nonprofit that has dramatically reshaped Indianapolis schools, David Harris is stepping down to help launch an as yet unexplained national education group.”
“The national group is in the early stages of development, said Harris, who declined to provide more details about his co-founders or their plans. A release from The Mind Trust said the new organization aims to ‘help cities around the country build the right conditions for education change.’”
Much of the description of The City Fund sounds like the activities of the national DPE organization, Education Cities. At the end of July, the Education Cities web-site disclosed,
“Today, we are announcing that Education Cities is undergoing an evolution that we think will better support local education leaders.
“Several staff from Education Cities – including our Founder and CEO, Ethan Gray – are partnering with colleagues from the philanthropic, non-profit, district, charter, and state sectors to create a new non-profit organization called The City Fund.”
The City Fund has not shared a web-address, but they have clearly started work. Four of the announced members have updated their LinkedIn profiles indicating they started working for The City Fund in either June or July.
The City Fund’s central agenda is promoting the portfolio model of school reform. Schools scoring in the bottom 5% on standardized testing are to be closed and reopened as charter schools or Innovation schools. In either case, the local community loses their right to hold elected leaders accountable, because the schools are removed from the school boards portfolio. Even Jay P. Greene of the University of Arkansas wrote an open letter to John Arnold warning about what a bad idea the portfolio model is. He began, “The Arnold Foundation invests heavily in another initiative that promotes rigorous science for medical and policy decision-making, yet they do not seem to apply that same standard of proof to their own education strategy.’
A Brief Introduction to The City Fund Staff
The Founding City Fund Staff
All but two of the City Fund staff photos were taken from LinkedIn. Gary Borden’s photos is from his Aspen Institute bio. Doug Harris’s photo was clipped from a Chalkbeat article.
Chris Barbic founded one of the first miracle charter schools, YES Prep of Houston, Texas. Based on the claim that 100% of YES Prep’s students were accepted at four-year colleges, Oprah Winfrey gave them a check for $1,000,000. In an open letter to Barbic, his former Teach for America (TFA) colleague, Gary Rubinstein made it clear that there was no miracle.
Chris left Houston and YES Prep to become Superintendent of the state of Tennessee’s Achievement School District. He would be working under his old Houston TFA buddy Kevin Huffman. He accepted the challenge to turnaround the bottom 5% of schools in Tennessee (about 85 schools) so that they are, based on their test scores, in the top 25% in five years. This was a fool’s errand, but politicians and amateur educators did not know it.
Barbic earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Vanderbilt University. His only formal training in education was as a member of the class of 2011 at Eli Broad’s unaccredited school administrators’ academy.
By 2014 while staring at one bad set of standardized test results after another and making no progress toward lifting the bottom 5% of schools into the top 25% of schools, Chris had a heart attack. The following summer (2015), he revealedhis resignation for health and family reasons.
In 2016, the Arnold Foundation reported Chris was going to be a Senior Education Fellow at the foundation.
Gary Borden is Senior Vice President for charter school advocacy at the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). Earlier this year he traveled the state supporting Anthony Villaraigosa’s failed campaign for governor. Borden asserted, “Any sort of an artificial pause on growth of charter schools is really detrimental to what parents have ultimately said they want and need in their public education system.”
Gary was appointed Deputy Executive Director of the California State Board of Education by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is on the board of two charter schools, Fenton Charter Public Schools and East Bay Innovation Academy.
Borden has undergraduate degrees in Economics and International Business from Pennsylvania State University, and a law degree from Georgetown University. His only  training in education is as a Fellow of the 17th class of the Pahara – Aspen Education Fellowship and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network – fundamentally a study in privatizing schools.
Ken Bubp says he is a Partner at The City Fund. Ken earned a Bachelor of Arts in History form Taylor University and an MBA from Indiana University – Kelley School of Business. He shows no training or experience in education.
From 2011 to 2016, he held various executive positions at The Mind Trust where he worked for Doug Harris. John Arnold made him a Senior Education Fellow at his foundation in 2016.
Bubp is a board member at New Schools for Baton Rouge working to expand charter school penetration and institute the portfolio model of school management.
Beverly (Francis) Pryce earned a degree in Journalism from Florida International University, a master’s certificate in Non-Profit Management from Long Island University and Accounting Management certification from Northeastern University.
After a brief period as a journalist at WINK-TV News, Beverly went to work for the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).
Ethan Gray reports he will be a Partner at The City Fund. He was the Founder and CEO of Education Cities, a national nonprofit that supports the privatization of public schools. Before his role at Education Cities, Ethan served as Vice President of The Mind Trust where he helped develop the “Opportunity Schools” which are another type of school organization that ends democratic control.
Ethan holds an MA from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in education policy and management. He is a past member of the Board of Directors for the STRIVE Prep network of charter schools in Colorado, as well as the National Advisory Boards of Families for Excellent Schools, EdFuel, and Innovative Schools in Wilmington, Delaware.
David Harris: During his first run for Mayor, Bart Peterson invited David Harris a 27-year old lawyer with no education background to be his education guy. Harris became the director of the mayor’s new charter school office. In 2006, Harris and Peterson founded The Mind Trust.
The Mind Trust is the proto-type urban school privatizing design. Working locally, it uses a combination of national money and local money to control teacher professional development, create political hegemony and accelerate charter school growth. The destroy public education (DPE) movement has identified The Mind Trust as a model.
He is a founding member and served as chairman of the Charter Schools Association of Indiana. He also has been a board member of the National Association of Charter Schools Authorizers.
Kevin Huffman: After serving three years as a TFA teacher in Houston, this 1992 graduate of Swarthmore returned to New York to study law. After a brief stint as a lawyer he rejoined TFA as Executive Vice President. He also married Michelle Rhee.
In 2011, Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee selected Huffman to be Education Commissioner. By 2014, the Tennessean’s lead read, “Polarizing Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is stepping down from his position, leaving a legacy that includes historic test gains as well as some of the fiercest clashes this state has ever seen over public schools”.
Former Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, reported one such clash, the effort to force Nashville to accept Great Hearts Academy. She wrote,
“This is the same Arizona-based outfit that has been turned down four times by the Metro Nashville school board because it did not have a diversity plan. Because of its rejection of Great Hearts, the Nashville schools were fined $3.4 million by Tennessee’s TFA state commissioner of education Kevin Huffman.”
Noor Iqbal has a Bachelor of Arts in History and Economics from Harvard University and studied at the London Schools of Economics and Political science. She has been working at the Arnold foundation since 2017.
Neerav Kingsland says his title at The City Fund is Managing Partner. Before going to the Arnold Foundation in 2015, Neerav and two other law students formed the Hurricane Katrina Legal Clinic, which assisted in the creation of New Schools for New Orleans. Kingsland would become the chief executive officer of this organization dedicated to privatizing all the public schools in New Orleans.
Mark Webber from Rutgers University made an observation about this Kingsland statement,
“This transformation of the New Orleans educational system may turn out to be the most significant national development in education since desegregation. Desegregation righted the morality of government in schooling. New Orleans may well right the role of government in schooling.” [emphasis by Mark]
Webber’s observation,
“You know what’s astonishing about that sentence? The blatant refusal to acknowledge that the most significant transformation in NOLA’s schools has been the reintroduction of segregation.”
Jessica Pena is a lawyer and was a Partner at Ethan Gray’s Education Cities. Prior to her role at Education Cities, Jessica spent six years with the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP), an Education Cities member organization. Jessica was a founding PSP team member.
Liset Rivera shared that she is the Event Manager at The City Fund. Previously she was the Event Manager for Stanford University and for KIPP schools. She has a degree in marketing from San Jose State University.
Kameelah Shaheed-Diallo is a lawyer. She will be a Partner at Education Cities. Kameela was a senior executive at David Harris’s The Mind Trust. She studied Law at Indiana University and Sociology at DePaul. She has a biographyat the Pahara Institute.
Gabrielle Wyatt earned a Master’s in Public Policy Social and Urban Policy from Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Well known New Jersey journalist Bob Braun reported on Gabrielle in Newark,
“Until last August, Wyatt was only making $75,000 a year but Cami gave her an 80 percent raise from $75,000 to $135,000 for what the Christie administration calls a “promotion—normal career progression.”  Like so many of Cami’s cronies, Wyatt was imported from the New York City Department of Education, that nest of educational entrepreneurs that gave the world Christopher Cerf.”
Kevin Shafer: Little is known about Shafer. He might be the Chief Innovation Officer at Camden City Public Schools. That Kevin Shafer is on the Jounce Partners advisory board and he attended the Strategic Data Conference that Rick Hess was speaking at. He was listed as an organizer.
One Last Point
Regarding non-profit spending, the IRS rules state that tax-exempt funds, “may not attempt to influence legislation.” The Silicon Valley Community Fund, The City Fund, and many other funds spending to change how education is governed are breaking this rule with impunity.