December Comments 12/28/17

Charter Schools, Voucher, and Privatization Tribulations

A new government report shows major deficiencies in academic, administrative, and financial accountability in voucher programs.  and

Graduation rates for Ohio charter schools substantially lag their public school urban counterparts. Diane Ravitch reports that Texas charter schools have a graduation rate 30 percentage points below the counterpart public schools

Indiana Virtual School, one of the state’s largest on-line schools, graduates few, suffers from low scores and F grades, and high teacher/student ratios. It has raked in over $20 million  while its head pays himself millions for  management fees from a . The governor says this must cease, but proposes no action.

A survey finds strong skepticism about school choice such as vouchers among teachers, principals, and superintendents which include many Trump voters.

Charter school head in lax oversight Arizona steals money from his school for fifteen years.

A coach embezzles hundreds of thousands of dollars at North Carolina’s largest voucher school and keeps his job.

The owner of the politically connected ECOT school has cheated Ohio out of millions of dollars. The state finally clamped down, he sued, and the case is before the Supreme Court of Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch editorializes that it is time for ECOT to be shut down.

The Florida Sun-Sentinel reports another in a long line of Florida  charter school scandals. This one involves a charter school which cheated the state by submitting false enrollment numbers and then transformed itself into a private schools is under investigation again.

Diane Ravitch reports on how a low-performing charter school in Pennsylvania received a 9 year renewal while bankrupting the local school district.

Rebecca Klein has found that millions of tax dollars have been given to private religious schools in states with voucher or private tax credit policies which teach hate and a narrow world view. Klein’s title: Voucher Schools Championed by Betsy DeVos Can Teach Whatever They Want. Turns Out They Teach Lies. These Schools Teach Racism, Creationism, and Sexism. They Are Also Taking Your Tax Dollars. She also found many religious schools that discriminate against LGBT students

A similar finding that public funds are supporting Scientology schools. The result of wide-open vouchers which Betsy DeVos advocates and many  Republicans are supporting.

The Arizona ACLU issued a report demonstrating how Arizona charter schools discriminate against low performing students. School Choice; How Arizona Charter Schools Engage in Illegal and Exclusionary Student Enrollment Practices and How It Should Be Fixed

The much hyped Success Academy of New York City doesn’t backfill students who leave or are pushed out after the 4th grade greatly decreasing that cohort by later grades. Then it uses that rarified remnant to compare their scores against public schools who have to accept all entrants and claim success. Gabor points to instruction geared to test preparation, harsh discipline, large teacher turnover and the threat to public education by wholesale charter expansion with little oversight.

An investigation by AP shows that charters increase segregation

In some good news, South Carolina has just clamped down on virtual charter abuse and low performance.

Diane Ravitch reports on a paper 18 years ago by the Heartland Institute, a font of radical conservative ideas, on how privatization should be advocated to kill public schools.


Reform Blues

Rick Hess, a noted reformer, has serious second thoughts about the “reform” movement.

The business magazine Forbes published an article by Ethan Siegal How America is Breaking Public Education which argues that the “reform” movement violated a cardinal rule of effective enterprises—treat your employees like professionals.

Confirming the previous point a report shows teachers are leaving the profession because of lack of educational, financial, and public support and political hostility

Performance in New Orleans, one-time poster child for charter school districts, has disintegrated. and

Peter Greene rebuts the idea that “market=based competition” should apply to public schools.

Similarly, Steven Singer finds fault with the privatization movement.

Brett Murphy tells the story of how reform efforts failed in various schools from the perspective of teachers In those schools. The Profession Speaks: Educator Perspectives on School Reform.

Bruce Baker and Mark Weber examine the failure of “reform” efforts in Newark in the National Education Policy Center report. ; The Zuckerberg, Christie, Booker “reform” project in Newark showed no growth in math and trivial growth in reading. In addition, causation is questioned. The evaluations of the project did not measure the considerable community disruption that occurred.

Diane Ravitch reports on Laura Chapmans takedown of the harm done to public education by billionaire “reformers”.

A similar finding by Thomas Tultican worries about the plot to destroy public schools in Indianapolis.

In the state of Indiana as a whole, Carol Burris tells the sad story of Republican decimation of the state’s public schools.

Thomas Tultican reviews the powerful Network for Public Education report Charters and Consequences. Charters and Consequences Tultican refers to NPE’s Executive Director Carol Burris who characterized charter schools as currently organized,  a failed experiment. To quote: “… nearly every day brings a story, often reported only in local newspapers, about charter mismanagement, failure, nepotism or outright theft and fraud.” About the report she writes, “This report … is the result of a year-long exploration of the effects of charter schools and the issues that surround them.” “Everyone I spoke with accepted that charters have a place in the state, and in many instances, they acknowledged that charters serve children well.  However, all had deep concerns about the lack of charter transparency, accountability, and their fiscal impact on public schools.”

Matt Barnum slams the growing trend to disrupt urban public schools by the “portfolio” scheme.  Privatizers who were booted out several years ago in Kansas City, are now back with a portfolio proposal.

John Merrow debunks NPR’s report on a “miracle school” in Washington DC, which turns out to be bogus.

Jeff Bryant, writing in Salon, warns democrats to back off the corporate reform movement and become much more supportive of public education if they want to win elections.

Diane Ravitch reviews an article by Rob Meiksins writing in the Nonprofit Quarterly, entitled What Happens When You Bust Public Unions; Nothing Good.


Civic Engagement and Participation

An interesting article about civic engagement and participation especially among immigrant children.

The Education Commission of the States has produced a framework for civic education policy.

Diane Ravitch reviews a comment by Tom Birmingham, making fervent plea to revitalize the teaching of history.


Quality Instruction, Collaboration, and Continuous Improvement

Daniel Koretz penned a follow-up with specific suggests for improvement to his book The Testing Charade; Pretending to Make Schools Better with specific suggestions for improvement in the latest American Educator entitled Moving Beyond the Failure of Test-based Accountability. His recommendations cover measures and strategies to improve student achievement, quality of instruction, and classroom climate.

Dan Willingham argues that after foundation reading skills the build-up of  content knowledge is key to reading comprehension.  and

The Evidence Base for How Learning Happens; A Consensus on Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning by Stefanie Jones and Jennifer Kahn in the American Educator reviews the latest research on the topic based on a report from the Aspen institute. A quote: Compelling research demonstrates that the success of young people in school and beyond is inextricably linked to healthy social and emotional development. Students who have a sense of belonging and purpose, who can work well with classmates and peers to solve problems, who can plan and set goals, and who can persevere through challenges—in addition to being literate, numerate, and versed in scientific concepts and ideas—are more likely to maximize their opportunities and reach their full potential.

Cathy Davidson reports that an in depth study by Google found the soft skills more predictive of employee quality than the hard Science, Technology, and Math skills.  Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both brilliant computer scientists, founded their company on the conviction that only technologists can understand technology. Google originally set its hiring algorithms to sort for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities. In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998. Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

A New York Times article which listed which urban districts beat the odds by achieving more than a year’s growth per year over several years.

The Learning Policy Institute issued a report on effective community schools.  The authors also wrote this summary in the Washington Post.

A website devoted to teacher-powered schools.

An evaluation system aimed at teacher engagement and growth—curriculum, collaboration, and feedback.

Many high performing jurisdictions use the strong curriculum for students as the basis for teacher preparation. Is a focus on curriculum the missing ingredient in teacher preparation?

The New Teacher Center TELL program (Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning.



Sophie Linden warns of the dangers of overzealous selling of technology to public schools especially Chromebooks for which she says there is no evidence they help student learning.


International Comparisons

The US receives an award for the most growth in early reading and improvements in the lowest quartile.

In a similar vein, Diane Ravitch quotes David Berliner on the US international literacy scores which look below the top ranks (but still high)  When you measure Asian-Americans versus Asian students, whites or schools with less than 10% poverty, however, our scores would be in the top ranks which means that for those students reading instruction is working well. The US has much larger poverty levels, which brings down overall scores.

Ten things you need to know about international comparisons by James Harvey.

Another article by James Harvey showing that despite flat scores in a recent literacy assessment US students still rate near the top.


School Finance

Study shows the states which pay teacher’s the most (and least)

The GOP/Trump tax bill and budgets harm public schools. The tax bill also gives a windfall to private school parents. The Republican congress and president are essentially diverting funds from public schools to finance private education which is in keeping with their often expressed hostility to our public schools. The North Carolina News Observer editorialized against the GOP/Trump tax bill as harmful to public education.

For a FAQ sheet on the GOP/Trump tax cut bill see

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