In Pursuit of Truth: Bill Gates & Education Reform

Education reform leaders like Bill Gates have disrupted our public schools without considering how their plans disturb the education of children and upset the lives of families. Repeatedly, political and philanthropic leaders force change on our schools without any meaningful open exchange of ideas with parents and educators.

They are in control of education policy. Education policy controls how our public dollars are spent. How our money is spent does matter. Policy — coming down from above — matters. The education reform oligarchs driving their agenda into our laws are the ones ultimately governing our schools.

So it behooves us to look closer at Mr. Bill Gates’ perspective.

Bill Gates’ Views On Public Education Compared To My Perspective — As Just A Parent

Mr. Gates…

From what Mr. Gates said, he sees the philanthropic role as being “to shake things up” and fund pilot programs. He says he sees philanthropy as having a “super-narrow role” because the reality is that the public is footing most of the costs.

But what Gates sees as a primary role for philanthropists I saw, beginning in the mid to late 90’s, as a primary problem.

No one had clarified the concept of what exactly a “pilot program” meant.

In this case, the use of the word “pilot” means that children serve as a “trial unit for experimentation.” … The big question becomes: how many were set up for future failures because of pilots gone wrong? From Education’s Missing Ingredient: What Parents Can Tell Educators

The people piloting failed programs didn’t send in cleanup crews. There were no “Super Fund Site” signs going up at my neighborhood schools. But if a person thinks that little learning is actually going on in schools before they step in, they might consider any harm done as insignificant. That may be the case with Mr. Gates.

“K to 12 is partly about babysitting the kids so the parents can do other things.” Source: The Hill, 2010

Wow! Really!?! And I thought that educated mothers around the world wanted their children to get a good education. I believe that is the major reason parents send children to school.

Parents want their children to enter classrooms where the teachers are happy about doing their job and they are enabled to do it well. … Parents want to have a say in how and what their child is taught. From The Crucial Voice of the People: Education’s Missing Ingredient, 2nd edition

So how do we view the school improvement problem?

Bill Gates believes “The key problem is political will.”

What I believe can’t be so simply stated. I believe in “the political principle” as an ideal that politics has failed at miserably.

The political principle is the belief that when decisions are made affecting you or your possessions, you should have a role, a voice in the process of that decision-making. …

And time and again, politics has proven itself to be an irresponsible driver of educational progress.

That quote is based on statistical analysis of the rigor of standards and their lack of correlation to student achievement.

And while standards-driven, outcome-based education reform was not Bill Gates’ brainchild, he hs become the political and financial driver of the movement. He believes “that stronger standards will help more students live up to their potential.”

For decades, the faith in setting standards as a reform is what politicians and much of the nation agreed to spend education reform dollars on — “ever – higher” standards and the tests to determine achievement outcomes. On this topic, I believe in the historical evidence uncovered through my own research and the facts provided by people a whole lot smarter than I.

But ignoring all that, federal and state policies cemented the idea that standards are the necessary first step in education reform without considering the historical and statistical evidence demonstrating that the standards/outcome-based theory is incorrect.

So when did Bill Gates jump into the education reform arena? Exactly? Well, that’s hard to pin down but what is important to know is that by 2006, Mr. Gates had become the most influential person in education reform policy in America.

What probably matters more is who influenced the influencer?

Here’s a brief look at a few major players…

  • 1986 National Governors Association (NGA) meeting, Chaired by then Governor Lamar Alexander, Marc Tucker (from Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy) made his case for “the necessary revolution in school policy” (p82)
  • 1989 Marc Tucker (National Center on Education and the Economy – NCEE) reached out to President H. W. Bush promoting the restructuring of schools, setting of national goals, and focusing on workforce training “To Secure Our Future: The Federal Role in Education.”
  • 1990 Tucker’s NCEE publication “America’s Choice” continued the push for benchmarked standards in order for the U.S.A. to remain competitive in the global economy. Marc Tucker clearly urged leaders to focus on output measures at the Task Force on Education Workshop chaired by then Governor Bill Clinton (Tucker minute 33:30).
  • 1992 Marc Tucker penned his infamous “Dear Hillary Letter” that became part of Congressional Record (p353) submitted by Representative Bob Schaffer in 1998. (Here is an easier to read copy.)

With political figures including Bill and Hillary Clinton on board with the Outcome-Based Education Reform Movement and then Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander cheering the first federal funding earmarked for World Class Standards/Academic Achievement Tests (p93), the federal role in education expanded.

  • 1996 The Education Summit brought together governors and business with education and community leaders. Their mission: To start a national effort to establish high academic standards, assessments, accountability and improve the use of school technology as a tool to reach high standards. As the story goes, this meeting gave birth to Achieve, Inc.
  • 1997 Lamar Alexander & Bill Gates address the NGA Lamar Alexander mused about how it could be that, after all the years of trying, with the governors “leading the charge” and pouring money into “their plan,” charters and standards had not improved education. Alexander’s answer: “We have been too timid.”
  • Bill Gates talked about “digital nervous systems” able to improve the quality and efficiency of public services and provide citizens with access to more knowledge in the “Information Age.”

In Steps Bill Gates, Officially

1999 Gates co-founds the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Among many other things, they provided funding for Achieve, Inc.

The Gates Foundation became a continuing financial supporter of Marc Tucker’s projects at NCEE.

2001President George W. Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law.

2005 Bill Gates co-chaired the National Education Summit on High Schools. Gates emphasizedthere is crisisour schools are obsolete—and a new design is required.

Influence & The Gates Foundation Agenda

One author put it this way…

The Gates agenda is an intellectual cousin of the Bush Administration’s 2002 No Child Left Behind law.

In 2006, with Bill Gates viewed as more influential in education policy that President Bush, the only two government institutions on equal footing with the Gates Foundation were the U.S. Department of Education and Congress…..NOW?

Some players have changed. Who governs is the question.

For Gates to amplify his philanthropic influence, all he needed to do was gain control of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education. … With Marc Tucker as one collaborator, education leaders were trained and placed in the U.S. and many State Departments of Education.

Influencing Congress? It only requires the multiplication of think tanks, organizations and their lobbying efforts.

Now, if you look back at the video clip at the top of this blog (minute 3:18), Mr. Gates chuckles about philanthropy being “so big we could take” over.

  • 2006 The Data Quality Campaign Launched at the Data Summit — supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The campaign promoted their “ten essential elements” of a longitudinal data system, which included the ability to match student records between the Pre-K and post-secondary systems.
  • 2009 Bill Gates explained at the National Conference of State Legislatures that a thorough data collection system is the best way to track student success. And people, like Parkway, Ohio school board member, Ryan Thompson believe…

“It would be very hard to identify a particular student.”

You be the judge. The following screen shots come directly from documents about data collection and sharing pilot programs put in place simultaneously with Common Core Standards. 

SOURCE Department of Labor: It clearly states (middle of 2nd paragraph), “Ultimately, databases developed through WDQI should be linked to education data at the individual level.”

The years between 2009 and 2014, the Common Core years, created murky waters in the swamp.

Exactly when and how the Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) arose is probably a story for another time. What is important to know is that real concerns exist for all citizens, particularly for parents wanting to protect their children’s data.

Is the Department of Education addressing parent concerns? How about Congress?

The bill before Congress known as the “Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking” (FEPA, H.R.4174) was pushed through the House without debate. The foundation it puts in place is a mega federal database without mention of education data — but that is the plan. Next up will be the College Transparency Act (CTA) which overturns the ban on a federal student record system.

This is the Gates agenda. But go back and read the Dear Hillary Letter. This is the Marc Tucker plan. Is this America’s choice?

“It is not unfair to say that the Gates Foundation’s agenda has become the country’s agenda in education.” Michael Petrilli

To date, leaders have brushed citizen concerns aside and done what they want. That leaves me wondering; is it too late to regain control of schools through civil disobedience? Will that work against an oligarchy?

One thing is certain; our representatives are driving policy while under the influence.

The Data Monster Ate Your Baby

Will we one-day look back and wonder why we let Big Data devour our children’s lives in bits and bytes?

Will we scratch our heads in confusion over why we let data become a major driver in so many aspects of our lives?

Surely we can see that the tech giants are profiting while the greater society suffers? Maybe not.

But we do know that Americans care about their own right to privacy.

“The issue of who is gathering information and what information is being gathered is considered to be an important dimension of privacy control by nearly all American adults.” Pew Research Center  (Views About Data Collection and Security)

But I wonder, why don’t Americans care about protecting children from the BIG DATA Monster?

When the biggest concern directing the nation is the workforce/military supply-chain for the global economy, it makes perfect sense to allow the tech industry to have access to all education, health, employment, and income records. And what could go wrong with that?

What the data breaches mean for children and families may not be immediately apparent. SOURCE of statistics: Data Breach Statistics

But the economy — the development of a global workforce — isn’t what we people see as our most important problem. Actually, dissatisfaction with government is the problem most important to us.

So Americans are not sacrificing children to the Big Data Monster because of the economy. …  We just don’t care enough about education. Honestly, we care more about other things. And in way too many towns and cities, schools have become distanced from the communities in which they are located. Education may not be seen or treated as “a community cause.” This is what we care about…

So let me put it to you this way.

We are a nation up to our eyeballs in debt. State financial situations vary.

“Nationwide, state governments collectively spend almost 30 percent of their budgets on education.” Washington Examiner

When money is spent that profits an education industry rather than individual children, it’s a double whammy. That money cannot be used for the things that Americans do care about and lack of money for essential educational resources does negatively impacted children. But politicians and business leaders see things differently.

This was a meeting of the nation’s governors (NGA) and business leaders. Source: Achieve archives

To say back then that technology is a great education equalizer was pure speculation. Now it is propaganda.

Decades ago, those seeing the “standards, testing, accountability, and technology” package as a costly ruse were seen as conspiracy theorist. But since then, two major theories became reality: children in the public education system are being looked at as  the human capital for supplying our military and workforce AND the technology industry is driving up the cost of education.

From Insidious To Obvious

The talk of human capital development for the global workforce is commonplace.

Source: Missouri Education Watchdog, Childhood Lost: Schooling a Workforce

Sure, it happened slowly at first. But bit-by-bit laws and rules moved us to adopt the idea that using the public schools for the sole purpose of workforce training was the best thing “for those kids.”

But when did tightly monitoring the workforce pipeline become the primary and acceptable function of the pre-K to college-or-career education system?

******SOURCE: SLDS [State Longitudinal Data System] Issue Brief: Building a Centralized P-20W Data Warehouse 

 

And when did it become the federal government’s duty to centralize and control the sharing of every citizen’s “data” from birth to career?

Just take a look….

“Too many voices can slow progress…” SOURCE: State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Best Practices

Once the country invested BIG MONEY in propping up Wall Street during the Great Recession, then it simply became a matter of working quickly by making damn sure the public didn’t hear what was happening.

Without regard for Americans wanting to know who is gathering information and what information is being gathered,” officials felt it was more important to rush information gathering systems into place. To hell with the Family Educational Rights and Student Privacy Act (FERPA). And a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), a written agreement to share personal information between departments of government was good enough and quick enough to put the pieces in place. ….. No outcry from parents? Who knew?

FERPA was NOT changed for the better as anticipated in 2011. So where FERPA once required parental consent to collect student data, now this “Privacy Law” allows sharing of data with THIRD-PARTY PRIVATE PROVIDERS and researchers — without parental consent OR notification. FERPA is not protecting students from digital data collection and sharing. Are we to believe that any of us will fair better?

The Plan Moved Forward Aided By Multiple “Organizations”

“Ten national organizations have signed on as Founding Partners in the [Data Quality] campaign…”

The Data Quality Campaign is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by the National Center for Educational Accountability (non-profit, business-minded, TX group). … Add in Common Core National Standards, the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) and the Workforce Data Quality Campaign. … and the education/labor system “links” together without our consent … through the use of MOU’s.

And data was further exchanged between states in various programs across the country.

But Don’t Stop at Linking A Few States Together: Go Big!

Bring in the feds! Just like our federal government was used to push through the state longitudinal data systems, a Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) went forward “for customers and stakeholders of the workforce system.”

WDQI funding is made available through competitive grants administered by DOL [Department of Labor]  in support of a parallel and much larger effort, the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) grants administered by the U.S. Department of Education. … Ultimately, databases developed through WDQI should be linked to education data at the individual level.

SOURCE: Council of Chief State School Officers recommendations for ESEA (NCLB) reauthorization.

“Ultimately”? Well, ultimately the plan was always to centralize all student data.

But when it didn’t work to get Big Data collection into education law (ESEA), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray (possibly with a little push from the Tech Giants?) devised another way. They started with authorizing a commission to study how the feds should collect, secure, and share “evidence.”

Three years later, the commissions report is final. The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act is written, sponsored, co-sponsored and being fast-tracked through Congress. Speaker Ryan appears to be following the conventional wisdom of “Do not engage in large-scale, open forums.” He doesn’t think it even needs a roll call vote. Just pass it.

Supposedly this move to collecting, sharing, and linking massive amounts of data at the federal level is required in order for Congress to make good policies. And they have plenty of swamp land for sale also!

Do they need more data to know WE ARE IN DEBT? Do they comprehend what it means to the federal BUDGET to require ….

Improve data quality, integrity, and security by updating laws to require risk assessments for data releases, embracing cutting-edge technologies, and prioritizing data stewardship and the public trust. SOURCE: The Promise of Evidence-Based Policymaking, final report of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking….?

We think it is essential RIGHT NOW to push for more data centralization so more data security is required from the federal level?

I think we can all see how some people might benefit.

BIGGER the data base, BIGGER the risk. …. but BIGGER the profits in the tech industry to fix a problem of our own creation. And the reason for the law makes no sense.

Congress has not demonstrated any ability to use the evidence we already have. And they have broken the public trust repeatedly.

Maybe society doesn’t care about parents and children’s privacy rights, but this law is set to affect us all. And, we will never fix our BIGGEST problem if we continue to allow lawmakers to make laws without our knowledge and therefore without our consent.For the sake of all Americans, contact your House representative today (after 11/15 could be too late). Tell them to vote “NO” on H.R. 4174. Phone 202-224-3121 for the main switch board or find your House members direct phone number here.

Tell Congress that privacy matters and for the sake of children, FERPA needs to be restored. Childhood needs to be preserved. Children need to be protected.

Top Education Expert Has A Question for Betsy DeVos

Having begun his career in education in 1952, Marion Brady’s professional life spans not only the decades but also the rungs of the ladder of educational success. Having taught at every level as well as contributing to serious academic thought as a consultant and writer, Marion Brady IS an education expert. The following words are some of his most recent thoughts on the state of education reform in America. The addition of my own remarks will be noted in brackets [VMY]…Please consider his thoughts and the question he has for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos…

The Darwin Award is an annual tongue-in-cheek honor recognizing individuals who’ve contributed to human evolution by removing themselves from the gene pool—doing something stupid enough to kill themselves.

If there was a comparable award for countries, the United States would be in the running. I’ll explain.

Photo of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ. [DeVos rose quickly to national political power over education reform through the authority given her by Congress in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). VMY]

Worldwide, the rate of environmental, technological, and demographic change is more rapid than it’s ever been, and is accelerating. If we want to maintain our way of life, we must understand the changes, manage those that can be managed, and adapt to those that are beyond our control.

Because problems can’t be solved using the same kind of thinking that created them, understanding, managing, and adapting to change require an ability to think in new ways.

Education expert Marion Brady. [Marion climbed the ladder of success as most of us do, one rung at a time, gaining the valuable insight only experience provides. VMY]

In the 1960s, thoughtful federal education legislation and funding for research encouraged educators to think freshly, and new instructional materials in the physical and social sciences and humanities began to appear that emphasized “learning by doing” rather than merely trying to remember secondhand, delivered information. The materials went by various labels—“inquiry,” “discovery,” “active learning,” and “constructivism.”

Traditional schooling had emphasized a single thought process—the ability to recall secondhand information delivered by textbook text and teacher talk. The new “inquiry” instructional materials required kids to use dozens of thought processes—to analyze, categorize, infer, hypothesize, relate, synthesize, imagine, predict, sequence, extrapolate, value, and so on.

Unfortunately, that departure from traditional expectations generated a “back-to-basics” backlash. Leaders of business and industry high-jacked the backlash and used their clout with federal and state politicians to engineer a souped-up version of traditional schooling. No Child Left Behind, the Common Core State Standards, Race to the Top, and high-stakes standardized tests, brought back traditional schooling’s emphasis on learner ability to merely recall (and sometimes) apply existing information.

The business and industry-initiated reforms didn’t just bring back an emphasis on memory work to the neglect of all other thought processes. Progress, today’s policymakers say, has to be “measurable.”
Kids, teachers, administrators, schools and school systems must be sorted and ranked based on standardized test scores.

The “measurable” fad has made meaningful education reform impossible. The measuring is done by machine-scored standardized tests that can’t evaluate complex thought, can only count correct or incorrect answers. Questions that appear to require thought are really guess-what-the-writer-of-the-test-item-was-thinking. That’s a skill, but not a particularly useful one in the real world.

Today’s test-based “reforms” are preparing the young for what was, rather than the world as it is and is becoming. That isn’t just stupid, it’s a recipe for societal disaster.

*Those responsible* for the reactionary policies that continue to block the use of teaching materials requiring the continuous use of complex thought processes owe America a satisfactory answer to a question:

The pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness requires the routine use of myriad interdependent thought processes too complex and idiosyncratic to be evaluated by standardized tests.

Given this fact

—given the cost to taxpayers of those tests—

—given the time devoted to preparing for them—

—given the life-altering consequences of their scores for learners, teachers, and schools, and

—given their role in perpetuating intellect-limiting conceptions of learning—

why is it not morally unacceptable, ethically indefensible, and practically unwise to continue their use?

If a satisfactory response isn’t forthcoming, those who take seriously the responsibilities of citizenship will encourage and support the “opt-out-of-testing” movement.

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*To begin a much longer list*: Lou Gerstner; Edward Rust, Jr.; Bill Gates; Jeb Bush; Arne Duncan; Mike Bloomberg; Joel Klein; Kati Haycock; Bob Wise; Betsy DeVos; the officers of the Business Roundtable; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Education Trust; Democrats for Education Reform; the American Legislative Exchange Council; the Gates, Walton, Broad, Bradley, Dell and other foundations; members of Congress, and most state legislators.

[ Traditional versus “Inquiry”: Was it possible for those camps to coexist within a more balanced system? What if? But now, now we must stop the bleeding. ASK for your representatives to ANSWER the question. If you get no response, refuse to allow your child to be part of the test-based “measurable” fad. Refuse all forms of commercially developed standardized testing. Opt Out.)

Charter School Moratorium Makes Sense

In a world where very little has made sense recently, a charter school moratorium makes sense. That is, it makes sense if you base the decision on facts.

Facts? That’s the problem. Charter schools have been in existence in this country for 26 years. But when I did a Goggle search on “chart school facts” —as I was writing this—on the first page of results there was only one organization that I didn’t recognize as a pro-charter group. So that is where I went, to Niche. (You’ll see their graphs at the bottom.)

Even without all the facts, most people have heard the accusations. Privatization. Segregation. Fraud. Corruption. Accountability? Quality?

Why wouldn’t we call for a charter school moratorium— stop their expansion — to fully evaluate their worth before continuing to fund them as a public service?

It makes total sense to stop expanding a duplication of public services especially when there has been no reliable accounting of funds, no certainty of the quality of service, and documented discriminatory practices. It’s not right to fund expanding unproven (potentially detrimental) educational practices for our school children — in the name of reform!

There are plenty of reasons to question moving forward with multiplying these schools.

The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) called for a moratorium on charter expansion. Here is what people told The Nation about the NAACP resolution:

  • It began as “a bottom-up revolt against years of corporatization of public education.”
  • The criticism that “public institutions managed by corporations with minimal regulation—[are] both unethical and socially damaging.”
  • We are being “warned that further expanding the charter sector would fuel institutionalized segregation, particularly under Trump’s shadow.”
  • “The question of who controls schools, and for whose benefit, is at the core of the debate.”
  • “Charters perform no better and in many cases do worse compared with traditional neighborhood schools, and often at great public cost.”
  • There have been “a barrage of scandals involving fraud and incompetent management.”

At the NAACP’s hearings on charter schools…. a rare consensus on the issue: Ideology aside, privatization cannot be seen as a solution in itself, and ensuring every child gets the schooling they deserve requires comprehensive public investment.”

STOP RIGHT THERE! Go back. Ignore the photo and click-baited words. There is some “consensus”? Yes! That’s right.

We know we need “comprehensive public investment” in quality public education. We need fair and equitable funding…We are working with limited resources!!!!!! Every penny counts!

As the states are still trying to figure out how to judge the quality of their schools, how is the federal government defining “high-quality” charters? Is it the Secretary’s decision?…..You are looking at ESSA.

So with the new federal education law (ESSA) being given “appropriations” by Congress (H.R. 3358) to fund more charter schools (and less to magnet schools) PLUS the fact that the Secretary is given the authority to “support” charter start-ups, now is the opportune time to call for a charter school moratorium. Please support this effort. The NAACP and their supporters on this issue have waited long enough. Let’s stop and examine the facts.

As was stated in this October 15, 2016 Press Release, the NAACP clarified the long-standing problem…

“Additionally, in 1998 the Association adopted a resolution which unequivocally opposed the establishment and granting of charter schools which are not subject to the same accountability and standardization of qualifications/certification of teachers as public schools and divert already-limited funds from public schools.”

(Read the full resolution and official press release for more information.)

How long are we going to allow corporate rulers to trump reasonable requests by reasonable people? Please, make the charter school moratorium a reality. Call your representative and voice your support. It’s that easy.

What harm is there in actually taking the time to fully vet and address the problems that have been brought to light in the charter school system?

The education system is not going to fall apart tomorrow if we put a hold on any new federal charter school spending in this upcoming budget (currently called H.R. 3358 but that could be changed).

This country should not only support a moratorium on federal charter school expansion, but must clearly demand a HALT TO ALL NEW SPENDING on the Federal Charter School Program AND the NEW CHARTER SCHOOL SPENDING grants in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

We need to be clear; no more games.

ESSA is slated to fund not only start-ups but also new charters’ first year transportation costs, online charters with their related overhead technology costs, new pre-school (early childhood) charters, consulting and planning of new schools and the newest scheme — Pay for Success grants that are further fueling the unrestricted flow of public funds into private pockets.

Privatizing public education is not a solution. There is a better way.

Before more money is forever lost in failed attempts to start new schools, demand your federal representatives call for a charter expansion moratorium immediately. It will not affect already existing charters and the children in them. This is a reasonable request. This is a “do no harm” demand.

What each state does is their right but as a nation we need transparency, an accounting of funds and programs, and clarification on the role of the federal government in pre-K –12 education. We can’t afford to keep doing what we are doing. A moratorium makes sense.

No children will be harmed by this action. And given that expanding charter schools will “divert already-limited funds from public schools,” inaction will harm the public system.

“Historically the NAACP has been in strong support of public education and has denounced movements toward privatization that divert public funds to support non-public school choices.”

Help the NAACP to help all our public school children. Contact your representatives NOW!

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P.S. In pursuit of truth….remember that facts vary depending on where you live….but, at a glance, there is reason enough to question Congress: why did they cut funding for magnet schools, upped funding for charters (repeatedly over the years), and why is the federal government making these decisions to begin with?

DeVos Distractions & The Pursuit of Truth

Betsy DeVos joins the Lamar Alexander D.C. charter/voucher/privatization team. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Anticipating the Title IX speech by Secretary of Education DeVos, the media last week was abuzz .Their verbiage included words like “overturn,” “roll-back,” “scrap,” “rescind.” They stirred it up and the protests grabbed our attention. But, does that help direct us towards solutions, or create distractions? What’s the truth of the matter?

In pursuit of the truth, please consider this. DeVos is a shrewd political operative, more so than our typical political appointee. She has the means to create distractions.

POLITICO 2016 A Look at Betsy DeVos Charitable Giving (Campbell Brown needed “charity”?) The Partnership for Educational Justice joined forces with 50CAN who previously merged with StudentsFirst (Michelle Rhee’s original anti-teacher/pro-charter organization). The organization’s names are changing quickly as their power grows!

DeVos’ Title IX speech was impressively delivered. But the reporting that followed, some of her words, and the relative scarcity of facts within her speech fueled controversy.

The real controversy?

Those unfamiliar with Title IX, and the 2011 Office for Civil Rights (OCR) directives under the Obama administration, would be hard-pressed to find the time necessary to piece together the truth. Before last Friday, I felt under-informed on the issue.

So Friday morning, I spent 40 minutes before work searching for information. On Saturday, between putting up tomatoes, baking cookies, cleaning house, fixing dinner, and walking my dog, I spent hours reading a variety of news sources, listening to DeVos’ speech, and reviewing its transcript.

Can we really expect most people to have the time to dig for enough facts about public education to make a thoroughly informed decision? … Anyway…

Let me be clear at the onset: Title IX federal anti-discrimination law, which includes protection from sexual harassment and violence, is a serious matter. By insinuating that DeVos is creating distractions, using Title IX  in the process, is not to say that the issue isn’t important or deserving of the media’s attention.

But the public needs less hype and more facts. Here’s what I can now tell you.

During the Obama administration, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) sent out a letter requiring colleges and universities to use a “preponderance of the evidence” to determine innocence or guilt in sexual violence or harassment cases. As the FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) explains…

…a “preponderance of the evidence”…merely requires that it is “more likely than not” that someone is responsible for what they are accused of…it is our judiciary’s lowest standard of proof…50.01% certain that the accused person is at fault….a “more likely than not” standard…

…in a real court for any crime, no matter how minor, the more familiar “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard must be used, which means that the judge or jury must be virtually certain of your guilt.

So the question becomes, do the directives sufficiently protect the accused person’s right to due process as well as the victims’ rights?

The letter also resulted in creation of situations where  …

…a judicial process …[could result in]…a student found innocent in a hearing [being] retried, even if the charges against him or her had already been proven baseless.

At the time, this letter was also criticized for failing to clarify free speech rights as previous OCR letters had done.

Did Betsy DeVos’ speech clarify those issues?

Well, yes, but…in all honestly, if I hadn’t read the FIRE article before listening to DeVos I would have been distracted by the stories she told. They were stories gathered from DeVos’ listening sessions with people. Listening is good. But it was the number of stories she told that I found distracting from the issues.

Was this DeVos’ best attempt at informing the public?

If clarity of the issues and swift resolution were the secretary’s main objectives, her inflammatory language and anti-Obama, anti-government rhetoric sprinkled into the speech certainly didn’t help. They were added distractions.

Truth be told. The problems aren’t that difficult to explain (explain, not solve) especially if your job depends on understanding the laws. Yet, they weren’t clearly explained. Reason enough to question whether or not there is something more to this story. Betsy DeVos isn’t stupid.

So what is the bigger picture? 

As Frederick M. Hess & Grant Addison wrote,

“The balance and tenor of her remarks was just right.”

That’s EXACTLY right. DeVos did appear “just right.” She appeared “re-framed.” She was delivering her new image!

The secretary softly spoke well-chosen words. And her actions on the Title IX topic thus far —listening sessions, collecting opinions and stories—were the right way to go. She used the process just right.

But keep in mind; this is exactly what we experienced with President Obama’s secretary of education and the president himself — the promise to listen yet their actions only furthered the political agenda of the ruling elite.

The agenda is privatization of pre-K-12 public schools.

The truth: If you follow today’s Orwellian nature of the media and politics, you can feel the school choice movement advocates drooling over DeVos’ speech. People like Frederick M. Hess want the Trump/DeVos school choice agenda to appear dead. All distractions are welcomed.

They want the media talking about anything other than vouchers, charters, and the federal funding of them through ESSA (the Every Student Succeeds Act) and tax laws.

After all, creating distractions is standard operating procedure in American politics.

And all too often, what the country is hearing about education reform is scripted talking points, not the truth.

Now, that leaves the long-standing reform agenda in the hands of Trump, DeVos, and Congress. And America seems willing to follow these leaders.

As stated in Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools. That’s a Mistake…

Our secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has repeatedly signaled her support for school choice and privatization, as well as her scorn for public schools, describing them as a “dead end”…

and claiming that unionized teachers …“care more about a system, one that was created in the 1800s, than they care about individual students.”

The agenda hasn’t changed. The following is one of the most succinct and accurate description of the agenda that I’ve ever read.

New Directions, Federal Education Policy in the 21st Century, 1999.

Note the reference to funding portability, vouchers, charters, testing, and the lack of respect for preserving the system. And there is always the promise “to educate children.” But what is the truth here? Do we think we can deliver on the promise of education as a public service — absent a public system? That IS privatization. Is that what we want?

1986 to today, the agenda remains the same.

Clearly we have not taken a better way forward.

In total, we’ve had 30 years of propaganda behind this never wavering political agenda.

There is a better way. It starts with refusing to blindly follow the leaders. It begins when we quit taking a wait-and-see attitude about ESSA — the law DeVos will execute.

ESSA was pushed through congress by Lamar Alexander without open public debate. This is the same man who proposed the first federal voucher legislation in 1992 as then Secretary of Education. He’s leading us full circle. It’s time to stop the spin.And thanks to the same media I am lambasting in broad strokes, I can connect some dots. My apologies to honest hard-working reporters who I am dumping into the same barrel as a bunch of bad apples (astroturf).

But our general lack of trustworthy media coverage of education issues is leaving America inadequately informed on KEY ISSUES. It has left us ill-equipped in the propaganda war being waged on public schools.

The truth: Betsy DeVos came into this politically appointed position with no intention of strengthening and improving the system.

Her history is one of disrupting already struggling public schools, dismantling them —and the system (community) surrounding them— and supporting privately run charters instead. That’s what she did in Michigan. Are we going to wait and see if she does the same to the country?

Many “school choice” proponents, who themselves write for the media, want you to believe that the Trump/DeVos/Alexander funding for school choice initiatives are going nowhere this year. Well, guess what is already in ESSA? Betsy knows. Alexander knows.

HERE’S THE KICKER!

If Congress fully funds ESSA —without restrictions on charter expansions—they fund the way forward for the Trump/DeVos/Alexander school choice/privatization plan.

If Congress includes tax credits —under any variety of names – opportunity, scholarship, tuition, etc. —as part of tax “reforms,” they fund the Trump/DeVos/Alexander de facto voucher/privatization plan.

What say you, Betsy DeVos?

“…we live in a country where an open debate of ideas is welcomed and encouraged.

But good intentions alone are not enough. Justice demands humility, wisdom and prudence.

[Justice] requires a serious pursuit of truth.”

Hear, hear; let’s do THAT!

Renegade Researchers: In Education Hell

Education hell has nothing to do with the afterlife. The hell created in our schools, in the name of education reforms, is a result of the fight between rhetoric and reality.

A living hell is created when the same empty rhetoric is used on the public over and over and over again. And it works!

It’s crazy! If you aren’t part of the education oligarchy —those who make the rules creating this education hell— your facts don’t count. It doesn’t matter what you know; it is who you know. Throw in who has been bought and what media is manipulated and you have created the hell on earth called education reform. And it isn’t reform!

But in education hell, the truth doesn’t matter.

Here’s an example from 1992.This is an article with the message to readers framed from the beginning with the words “Renegade Researchers.” And as you read, it sets up the false scenario of The Renegades versus The Scholars.

The word “renegades” implies “traitors” yet they are referred to as “the defenders of America education” (as if that is a bad thing?).

“I’m interested in a focus on the worst kids in the worst schools. Given the fact that everyone agrees that the bottom third of our kids are awful, they get very little spent on them.”

Was that the voice of a renegade?

Yes, a pesky researcher named Harold Hodgkinson (then director of the Center for Demographic Policy). And the counterattack from “the scholars”?

“The critics are wrong in saying the schools are just as good as they ever were. That is deeply damaging; it inspires complacency and a false sense of self-esteem.” A quote from then Assistant Secretary of Education, scholar, Diane Ravitch

The scholars were fighting for reforms based on developing “higher standards.”

Those ever-changing but “higher” standards formed the theoretical foundation of our education reforms for the last 30 years. Marc Tucker, the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), has been the “unofficial consultant to the cadre of officials” who coerced the nations’ schools into using this reform theory.

Tucker is the artful dodger. He claims to be a researcher but is counted as a scholar. (It’s a bit murky if you haven’t read the script and don’t know the actors.)

But as the news article goes on to explain, “Many scholars argue that the researchers are right to say that schools have NOT gone downhill, but are drawing the wrong conclusions.” (?)

It’s true, but it’s irrelevant,” said Tucker. “Doing as well or slightly better than we used to do is doing appallingly badly relative to the rest of the world.”

From the Sandia National Laboratories – The Sandia Report.

How is “appallingly badly” defined? In the case of Mr. Tucker and his education and the economy argument, his scholarly opinion was NOT based on solid statistical analysis.

The late, great statistician Gerald Bracey, as well as the Sandia National Laboratories researchers and others, demonstrated the flawed thinking of “the scholars.” Did the public know that? Nope.

Financed by the Department of Energy in 1991, Sandia research engineers ( not professional educators) were given our education statistics and asked to provide an “outsider’s’ look at the status of education in the U.S.” They did; those damned renegade researchers! They gave us their honest opinion.

The condition of education? Buried as quickly as possible! And the game continues, hide the truth and put out the spin. But the Sandia Report is not forever buried and forgotten. Gerald Bracey, for one, tried to keep the truth alive. He wrote.

David Kearns, former CEO of Xerox and then deputy secretary of education, said something along the lines of, “You bury this or I’ll bury you.”

And Bracey continued to point out the role of the media…

In February 1992 an international comparison in mathematics and science appeared. With enthusiastic help from Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander and Assistant Secretary Diane Ravitch, the media gave it a highly negative spin. (The 10th Bracey Report on the Condition of Education, Page 2)

Vouchers and tuition tax credits were being pushed then. Vouchers and tuition tax credits are being pushed now.

This was all happening under the Bush administration —the first Bush administration under which Lamar Alexander served as secretary of education. Yes, the same Lamar Alexander that now controls the Senate Education Committee.

Was the manipulation of the media effective?

“The debate, both sides say, has crucial implications for education policy. The revisionists argue that exaggerating the crisis in all American schools distorts policies that should be focused on poor schools where children are really failing.”

So looking back at the Renegade Researchers article, by prefacing the above statement characterizing the renegades as “revisionists,” the author taints our view of what is said next — policies “should be focused on poor schools.”

That targeted focus is what the education venture capitalists — those looking to make a profit off of school children— never wanted the public to focus policy (or resources) on. REAL reforms would focus on the smaller number of schools needing attention. It’s a smaller market share. REAL public policy solutions wouldn’t have us restructuring the whole system like we are.

It looks like the media manipulation produced the desired results.

So What Can We Do?

Don’t take it anymore! Fight back against the lies. In his own way, Gerald Bracey did. He didn’t take being called a “revisionist” lying down. He continued to speak up.

Proudly remain, or become, a renegade researcher.

Few researcher are in the same class as Gerald Bracey, but, we are living in the same education hell.

Unfortunately when this debate was going on in 1992, I was just a public school parent unaware of the political shenanigans interfering with the progress we were making in my high-poverty schools. It was a living hell because schools and teachers were being asked to do things that made no sense! Way back then!

This problem isn’t going away on its own. As another parent researcher recently asked, “what new hell is this?”….. More rules, regulations, policies all promoting “higher” standards, different tests, altered accountability mechanisms, and technology to track a child’s every move…on the keyboard…..yes, all reality.

Anyway, I now have an answer to her question, what “new” hell is this? It’s not new; it is the same education hell where politically driven rhetoric overshadows reality. The lies have “crucial implications for education policy.” We are wasting money by doing the same wrong things over and over and over again.

So, as Duane Swacker reminds us in his book, Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractice in American Public Education,

“…truth is ‘the control of belief by fact.’… Yes, truth matters!”

What we can do is insist that this never-ending political tit-for-tat debate ends NOW. Enough of the lies! Demand the truth be told and that our reality now guide education policies.

The education law of the land right now—the Every Student Succeeds Act—is based on decades of lies. If truth matters, let’s demand the facts be made transparent.

With standards-based education “reforms” in place since 1992, what have we got to show for having lived through, and paid for, this education hell? I honestly don’t know.

I do know one thing. It burns my ass to think that not one person involved in the lies surrounding the Sandia Report has ever worked like hell to set the record straight —for the public.

Oh, and speaking about truths, how are we doing with “closing the achievement gap”?

If education reform was really about closing the achievement gap, why did we change policies when we were making progress? Was it about something else?

FACT: We aren’t talking about what we were doing right in the 70’s and 80’s.

Orwellian Education Reform: Postmark 1985

George Orwell, author of “Nineteen-Eighty-Four,” was only off by a month when it comes to the rise of Orwellian education reform. As to the method that brought on this madness, he was right on.

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words,” says a character in 1984.

Gayle Greene chose that quote for “In the public schools, it’s been 1984 for quite awhile. It describes the intentional, well-financed war of words used to discredit, undermine, and destroy the U.S. institution of public education.

“In Orwell’s dystopia,…

The Ministry of Truth spawns lies and propaganda, the Ministry of Love supervises torture and brainwashing, and the Ministry of Peace promulgates war and atrocity.

Turn the words on their heads, and you get a glimmer of the truth.

And the Ministry of Education? There is no Ministry of Education. So now we have a Secretary of Education who’s a dedicated enemy of public education…. Betsy DeVos…”

No Ministry of Education? … Truth be told.

On February 6, 1985, President Reagan swore in Bill (William) J. Bennett as the United States’ third Secretary of Education. Then, the saga of Orwellian education reform began in earnest.

Bill Bennett is the first Secretary to understand the ideological and political possibilities of the office that were there from the beginning. In Bill Bennett we’re getting our first Minister of Education.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Bennett used his appointment to accelerate the political agenda of standards, assessments, accountability, flexibility, and choice. All those words, all those concepts, were turned on their heads. Orwellian education reform hatched and grew.

The Minister brought in his Three C’s —content, character, and “choice.” But we weren’t asking for “choice.” Almost 80% of parents were satisfied with their schools. And notably, we were saying smaller classes would make a difference to each and every one of our children.No! The Minister says we need “accountability.”

AND, we need “higher standards.”

Only 17% of us thought “higher standards” would improve public education. Then WHY? Why push the theory of outcome-based (standards/testing) reforms on the nation? WHY transform our whole system?

BOTTOM LINE: Do “higher standards” increase student performance? …  In time that question is answered.

Because the public didn’t know the truth, the public didn’t fight the changes. Plus, Bennett said he cared about our students.

But at the time not everyone believed the Minister was sincere about his concerns for ALL our children.

“‘I think he [Bennett] still might be the subject of hearings if we had known during the [confirmation] hearing of his insensitivity toward the needs of students, particularly low- and low-middle income students who can only go to college because of federal aid,’ [Senator Robert] Stafford [R] said in a telephone interview from Burlington, Vt.

While time marched on so did the Orwellian education reform movement. As Ms. Greene explained,

“A handful of billionaires and their foundations bankrolled and orchestrated a multibillion-dollar PR campaign to convince people that public education is broken and private interests can do it better….

A billionaire snatch and grab passed off as a push for racial equality, the destruction of public education… passed off as a civil rights issue.

The confounding of language at its most basic level reduces us to a state of civic catatonia: we can’t think about these issues, let alone discuss them or act against them, when they’ve been so obfuscated, when words have been so twisted.”

Thus, the “information age” hatched the “knowledge economy” which multiplied technology profits at every turn. And the first Minister of Education took full advantage of being in on fronting technology and choice as “reforms.”

Co-founder Bennett & The Truth About K-12, Inc.

“K-12’s spread across the U.S. is due in large part to its lobbying prowess and its political connections. Enabling legislation, written by the American Legislation Exchange Council (ALEC), has been introduced in nearly every state. “ALEC, … coordinates a fifty-state strategy for right-wing policy. How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools, The Nation, December 5, 2011″

Ohhhhh…., too bad the D.C. revolving door of Orwellian education reform didn’t hit Mr. Bennett in the rear and knock him out of the circle of influence. The country was making real progress prior to being told we weren’t. ALL our children would have benefited from true education reform. But that isn’t how the story goes…Oh, so much truth to be told!

It is no secret that William Bennett and Lamar Alexander (Chairman of the Federal School Board) are buddies. They brought the Orwellian education agenda to exactly where it is today.

“Jack F. Kemp, William J. Bennett, and Lamar Alexander — All have been waiting in the wings as co-directors of Empower America [now called Freedom Works], the Washington think tank that promotes ‘progressive conservative policies….

After the [Bob Dole] campaign, Empower America plans to continue promoting school choice, and Mr. Alexander is expected to take a lead role.

‘We’re planning on [Mr. Alexander] coming back and being a part of a big school-choice initiative,’ said spokeswoman Nicole Fluet.”

And Alexander landed where he sits today —chairing the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee…..Yes, HELP. … Talk about Orwellian. But alas, the plot thickens as the characters multiply.

“We should remember that it was George Bush, Lamar Alexander, Chester Finn, Diane Ravitch, Bill Bennett, the Hudson Institute, and the Committee for Economic Development that got the America 2000 ‘reforms’ rolling. And it was George Shultz in the Reagan Administration who signed the Carnegie-drafted U.S.-Soviet education agreements with Gorbachev. That was in 1985, the same year Carnegie brought Marc Tucker on board.”

“If we are to succeed in radically transforming schools, we must alter attitudes outside the schoolhouse door. …

The system we are about to describe is one interwoven fabric.  Each part is necessary for all the others to function properly.  But if there is a centerpiece, it is, without question, standards and assessment.” Marc Tucker

WHY? Why did we need higher standards, fewer-better tests, outcome-based accountability, (the undefined) flexibility, and “choice”?

Doublespeak? Absolutely. Marc Tucker doesn’t believe in fewer tests (as he now writes). He believes in “national” mastery tests in every subject and certification tests for everything. He believes in a tracking system that creates the perfect workforce-development system all under the guise of education and economic needs.

We were told our businesses asked for these reforms.

Sandia Report, 1993

NO! Employers asked that we improve the work ethic and social skills of our students —back then. Now, we also need to repair the damage done through standardization of curriculum and instruction….Oh, and the damage technology has done.

We asked for one thing; we got another.

Parents didn’t ask for this transformation towards a computerized, standardized, non-personal (but “choice”) education system. There was never any proof that any of it “worked.”

“Trust a billionaire to have the public’s interest at heart [?] …

Put kids in front of computers, increase screen time, increase class size – and call it personalized.” Gayla Green

Now “personalized” has a whole new meaning. And politicizing everyday language continues confusing the public.

But the BOTTOM LINE: This was to increase student achievement, right?

Truth. “Higher” standards don’t matter when it comes to increasing student achievement. As much as the truth is hard to believe, it’s harder to swallow. But after over 18 years of standards, testing, and data collection, the only good that has come out of this is the statistical proof of the truth.

Reading Achievement – States are listed on the bottom. Red represents how “high”/ rigorous the standards. Blue is the outcome for each state.


Reading – Grade 4 or 8, it doesn’t matter. The standards don’t predict the outcome. No direct correlation.

This is the outcome after well over a generation of students in a standards-based education system.

 

Look.

 

 

 

See the Relationship between the Rigor of a State’s Performance Standard and Student Achievement in your state and our nation…..There isn’t one.

 

The statistician/author is a retired NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) expert.

 

Math – same findings. There is no evidence that the standards make the difference.

 

The title of the researchers’ site indicates this is Idaho research (his location) but this is national data, nationally relevant.

Reading or math, 4th or 8th grade, it doesn’t matter. Standards don’t correlate to student achievement. They never deserved the attention NOR THE MONEY we focused on them.

Theory has been proven wrong.

Math 8th grade? The patterns are all over the place because the truth is in the numbers that the education oligarchy wanted collected.

 

So — now given the truth — to continue mandating an irrational political concept is government sponsored educational malpractice.

With the truth proven by the very measures we were forced to use, test scores, our duty to stop the Orwellian education reform movement should be clear.

.

Flipping the words of the new Minister of Education, they spell education tax credits and vouchers. They spell the destruction of our public education system.

And clearer yet is the fact that this has been “their” education revolution and they don’t care about ALL our children. Look at the push for excessive technology in schools. The pushers have no regard for what technology is doing to children, or even their test scores!!!!!….

…The public and lawmakers in my state of Idaho put technology ahead of teachers at a huge cost to taxpayers with an unknown cost to children and families.“[Albertson’s supermarket heir Joseph B.] Scott’s investment company, Alscott Inc., has brought in more than $15 million by selling part of its stake in Virginia-based K12 Inc., which was founded in 1999 by former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett.

But it isn’t just luck on Scott’s side. His family’s tax-exempt foundation has helped develop customers for K12. And Idaho’s taxpayers have been paying for it.”

….It is a familiar story across our great nation…. Those fooling the nation are calling themselves “philanthropic venture capitalists.” Do you know who they are in your state?Please join the struggle.

How to Identify an Enemy of Public Education

How the Democratic Party Became an Enemy of Public Education” explained how both Republicans and Democrats are selling the idea that private-sector education reforms have the best interests of all our children at heart. They don’t.

Advocates for private entities controlling the public schools have completely ignored facts, research, and us. The consequences their policies have on our schools, communities, and children are harmful. The leaders of this private-sector education revolution know what they are doing. And they don’t care about the harm being done. They aren’t accountable to any of us.

And never forget, both Republican and Democratic leadership have no faith in the idea that We, the People, have enough brainpower and manpower to fix our own problems, in our own schools. Those in power trust Washington D.C.’s think tanks and education industry corporations to come up with “innovative” education reforms to sell to us.

Bull roar. These influential people pushing the levers of power are destroying our public education system. Their latest innovation? The claim to be proposing “progressive” or “centrist” education reforms for the Democratic Party. The truth; their agenda is neither. And they are paying the “grassroots” to advocate for them. It’s being done through confusion, propaganda, and indoctrination.

Progressivism supports making progress towards solving social problems.

Progressives advocate for the best solutions based on the latest information.

Progressives expect the political system to respect the scientific method of problem solving.

Progressivism is hard to define because progressive principles change based on evidence.

Important to discussing this further are the following points from “How the Democratic Party Became an Enemy of Public Education”:

  • President Clinton focused on “education and the economy,” and put standardized testing and federal money for charter schools into federal law.
  • Billionaire Eli Broad supported the Clinton’s agenda.
  • Bruce Reed, co-founder of the (“centrist”) Democratic Leadership Council, was advisor on education policy for Presidents Clinton and Obama before becoming the head of the Broad Foundation education efforts.

 

Here’s where the story really picks up steam.

After George W.’s election, the Democratic Party felt the need to seek a stronger focus and more money. At that time, the view of Democrats was…

“They don’t put big corporate America first.” LINDA NECOCHEA

And…

“the Republicans, on the other hand, seem to favor big business.” JUNE BRINES

Meanwhile, key Democrats complained.

”We don’t have the money [to compete with the Republican Party].”

Al From and Bruce Reed of the Democratic Leadership Council stepped in to redefine the Democratic Party. They had help.

An ally of Mr. From and Mr. Reed, Will Marshall, leader of the Progressive Policy Institute (think tank), said the party must…

”show that we can make progressive government work.”

The Democratic Party leaders went with the Clinton mantra to — ”develop a strong economic message.” Message. Not strong policy for the middle-class. Message. We got messaged.

Democratic Party leadership went after the money. In the process, they played politics with our lives, just like the other party. The people have been wronged— from both sides of the aisle.

Democratic leadership sold their souls….or more accurately, they sold our children’s neighborhood public schools. The policy pushers?

The Progressive Policy Institute …

“a Democratic Party-aligned policy shop that promotes…“market-friendly” economic policies. It claims to advocate “a philosophy that adapts the progressive tradition in American politics to the realities of the information age.”

Progressive tradition? The realities of The Information Age? What? The age when we no longer trust any information without first following the money? And, the money flows to both “sides.” In a money-driven system, R or D doesn’t matter.

Every organization on this list is an enemy of public education. Their actions speak of standardization, privatization, and they are dismantling the public education system under the guise of “reform.”

What is important is knowing the main players in private-sector education reforms.

That’s how you know the enemy, by the company they keep.

Unfortunately what started with single individual enemies of public education became multiple well-funded armies of advocates.

“We outline the many overlapping connections in this echo chamber of advocacy groups, think tanks, and media outlets that are increasingly funded by a handful of conservative [and neo-liberal] billionaires and for-profit education companies — often without proper disclosure. These groups are driving the education privatization movement forward by co-opting the education reform mantle.

Time Magazine, 2010.

And no story about the battle over education reform would be complete without this out-sized, outspoken enemy of public education — former D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Knowledge of the funding for her organization, StudentsFirst, was under wraps for a long time. Why is $he important?

“At long last, Michelle Rhee’s funders revealed.” Rhee “received $500,000 [half a mil!] in startup funding from philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad’s Broad Foundation….”

Oh, the Billionaires Boy’s Club. Broad is connected to Rhee. And the replacement for Rhee at StudentsFirst, Jim Blew, previously  (still?) worked for the Walton (Walmart) Family Foundation. Now, StudentsFirst has merged with 50CAN. Blew explains the arrangement,…

“50Can is stronger in advocacy.”

The plan is set. 50CAN is hiring. And just to clarify how this all works…

Blew said, “We need to always assure our donors that we’re using their money as effectively as possible. We’re completely dependent on these donors.”

So the man in charge of 50CAN is Marc Porter Magee. He’s connected every which way. It’s an all-in-the-family deal with his wife, Common Core proponent, Kathleen Porter Magee, and brother Michael Magee, CEO of the non-profit Chiefs for Change.

Photo of Marc Porter Magee provided by the Walton Family Foundation (an enemy of public education).

Brother Michael Magee sees

“turnover in education leadership is a problem” [he] hopes to address in his new role.”

That should be easy enough with Eli Broad (through Bruce Reed) already in the leadership building business.

Win, win —for them. What about us — the public?

Marc Magee’s 50CAN organization will be training advocates to push their agenda for education reform throughout our nation. How important is this? That’s for you to decide.

This is what the education gadfly reported.

Marc Magee “cut his teeth doing D.C.-based think-tank work.” The think-tank?

“Progressive Policy Institute, the think tank that tried to create policies for the ‘new’ Democratic Party.”

And Magee had plenty to say for himself. He spoke of…

the real problem we need to solve. It’s not that our urban schools and traditional districts are ‘failing.’ It’s that our traditional approach to education plateaued around the 1970s, and we’ve struggled to make meaningful progress since then.”

——–THAT IS A LIE. A distortion of facts. Our public education system was on a steady trend of improvement with a significant narrowing of the achievement gap that extended well into the 1980’s. THEN political leaders became the drivers of education “reforms.” THAT is when dissatisfaction with public schools began trending up (along with the cost$). They used us!

The truth? None of the private-sector education reforms —not standards, assessments, accountability, technology, charters, or vouchers —were ever based on facts. It was all about the information age, the knowledge economy; it was all about the money. It was never about all “our” children.

The enemies of the public education system aren’t reforming schools; they are dividing and destroying. They aren’t looking for a centrist position. They aren’t making progress on education reform. They don’t even accurately define the problem.

Real reformers understand that the battle for the soul of our education system is the battle for the belief —the promise— that we will constantly fight to overcome “separate but inherently unequal.” Only an effective continuous school improvement process can do that —within a responsive and responsible PUBLIC system.

How the Democratic Party Became an Enemy of Public Education

Perhaps the title “WHO influenced the Democratic Party into becoming an enemy of public education?” would more accurately represent the subject here.

But the reason for the title came from an article in my “To Read” file. “How to Destroy a Public-School System,” a 2014 article, describes a scenario we should all be familiar with by now. Perhaps that is why I had set it aside, thinking I knew it all. I don’t; we don’t.

We know all about —

“the designation of neighborhood schools as ‘failing’ under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)…” followed by the “turnaround” or take-over by charter schools.

But do we know the depth of the intentional under-funding of public schools in order to create a market for private-sector education reforms?

Private sector — for-profit (like Edison) charter schools or non-profit (like Mastery) charters — it doesn’t matter. They are private entities. And privatization is crushing the chance for more effective public-sector education reform to be utilized.

The private-sector reforms are politically and financially driven. The public has little input or recourse when those reforms are harmful to our schools.

So here’s how it went in Philadelphia as described in 2014.

December 21, 2001, Philadelphia, State takeover of Philly’s schools went into effect … “at the time, the largest experiment in privatization—in the history of US public education. The message was clear: public management, not underfunding and segregation, was the problem.

Never mind that school financing was

“rigged to benefit privately managed companies” including a loophole that provided charters with an extra “double-dip” pension payment.

Or that

Mastery [charter school] is “not doing more with less,” says Michael Masch, the school district’s former chief financial officer and a progressive fan of Mastery’s work, “They’re doing more with more.

How did that largest privatization experiment of its time turn out?

By 2007,… “despite additional per-pupil resources,” privately managed schools like Edison’s “did not produce average increases in student achievement that were any larger than those seen in the rest of the district,” while “district-managed restructured schools outpaced the gains of the rest of the district in math.”

What say the supporters of private-sector education reforms? Same thing we still hear said today…

“We just don’t have enough of them yet,” said Edison CEO Chris Whittle, according to PBS’s Frontline.

The problem is not enough charters? You think.

The problem was that Philadelphia was under Republican rule? It was, but remember there has been plenty of bipartisan agreement. The Democratic Party approved of all of this.

The problem is THEY (and it’s a big “they”) don’t work for US. Enough Republicans and Democrats alike have fallen for the idea that private-sector advocates for education reform have all of our children’s best interests at heart.

Look, many in the country see and understand the connection between conservative organizations like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and Republican privatization policies. Many object. But there is another side. Look again.

It’s time for the country to see and understand the New Democrats and their “progressive” “neoliberal” agenda that we know to be a “bipartisan” agreement on education reform. It is now the Democratic Party reform philosophy based on and driven by advocates for private-sector reforms.

In the words of Helen Gym, a leader of Parents United for Public Education, the reform movement

“has been singular in its focus in dismantling previously stable, strong institutions like public education….”

In other parts of the world, some clearly see what has happened. Those fighting against private-sector education reform are Battling for the Soul of Education.

“George W. Bush bought in the “No Child Left Behind” strategy with its emphasis on high-stakes testing, data-driven decision making, choice, Charter Schools, privatisation, regulation, merit pay and competition amongst schools. Incredible as it might seem, by 2008 this had been taken up by the Democrats.”

Incredible? I guess.

But is this author right in that by 2008 the private sector reform movement had been taken up by the Democrats?

Fully engulfed” the Democratic Party by 2008 might be a better way to state it. But much earlier than that key “Democrats” not only took up this private-sector reform strategy, they helped create and perpetuate it.

1989 -President George H.W. Bush, U.S. Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos, center, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, right, and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, behind right, arrive for ceremonies concluding Mr. Bush’s 1989 education summit with state governors in Charlottesville, Va.
—Doug Mills/AP-File

As president, Bill Clinton essentially used an “education and the economy” theme to drive education policy. His reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA/IASA/ Improving America’s Schools Act) brought Standards-Based education and school choice (charters) into federal law. Education costs have risen dramatically ever since.

But to quickly march this story forward, I’ve taken some facts from Ken Derstine of Defend Public Education! I encourage readers to explore the wealth of information he has provided on his website. Look into the power and control created by the corporate and political elites. Here’s a glimpse.

Billionaire Democrat and philanthropic venture capitalist, Eli Broad is invited by President Bill Clinton to spend the night at the White House. [What do these men have in common?] They work under the “guise of a progressive agenda” while advancing “a neoliberal agenda.” The agenda continuing to be advanced today.

“Playing a central role in promoting Clinton’s neoliberal agenda was the Democratic Leadership Council.” … It became the think tank for many of the rightwing neoliberal policies promoted by Clinton. …A key player shepherding the neoliberal agenda during the Clinton Presidency and after was Bruce Reed who became head of the Democratic Leadership Council in 2001.

The Clintons & Broads

All their plans are on display. They have to be. They are using our government to put their agenda in place. 

With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.” Eli Broad Foundation, 2009/2010 Annual Report of the Broad Foundation (page 6)

Bruce Reed (second to left) spent eight years at the White House under Bill Clinton. | REUTERS Politico story Bruce Reed to Head Biden Staff

Bruce Reed is the common education reform denominator between the Clinton and Obama administrations.

“Reed boasts of helping shape education policy on the national stage for three decades.”

Teaming up with Eli Broad may just be the creation of the perfect storm that finally destroys the institution of “public” education.

Lauren Cioffi/KPCC | Eli Broad, left, has appointed Bruce Reed, former CEO of the influential Democratic Leadership Council, to lead his foundation.

 

“Broad is somewhat happy with the progress of education reform. He takes credit for influencing the signature changes nationwide in the past 20 years.”

‘Between No Child Left Behind, which wasn’t perfect, between Race to the Top, we’ve changed a lot of laws in a lot of states, allowing teachers to do a better job in the classroom,’ he said.”

Have the laws helped teachers do a better job? This man’s organization wrote the book on school closures — really! Literally! And his group directed the spending of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars. We invested in their agenda while our schools struggled!!!! Nice, huh? They titled it Smart Options. They are smart.

“Broad has known all along he needs allies in public office to carry out his vision. He’s generously donated to elections — from school boards to the U.S. presidency. He leans Democrat in Washington but anti-union on school boards.”

That’s what they wrote in ELI BROAD APPOINTS BRUCE REED AS HEAD OF BROAD FOUNDATION EDUCATION EFFORT.

And the story doesn’t end there. There’s more to come.

The “how” is a familiar story of money and political corruption. The “who” is a web of deception still being fully untangled….if we must.

The Slippery Slope of Standards-Based Education

The Standoff in Idaho Over Science Standards Reveals The Slippery Slope of Standards-Based Education

Co-authored by Idahoans Mary Ollie, Mila Woods, and Victoria M. Young

The uproar over Idaho’s proposed science standards is a grand demonstration of ideology blinding us to our reality. And the push for headlines and sound bites trumped technical aspects of standards design. The process became an exercise in frustration that could easily have been avoided by making a distinction between a standard – what students should know and do— and content— what is taught.

The art and science behind writing standards matters also.

Why is the difference important? At the beginning of the standards-based education craze, Idahoans were sold on the idea of “Standards of Excellence” (then known as “exiting” standards).

The promise was that state standards would not infringe on local control of curriculum (subject content and how it is taught). State standards were to serve as minimum educational requirements, not an all-encompassing system of control.

Due to lack of legislative and administrative oversight and accountability, the outcome-based (standards) movement spawned a series of word changes that has gradually closed the door on local control.

“Exiting” standards became “achievement” standards (corresponding to the foundation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB)) and were eventually labeled in Idaho Code as Idaho “Content” Standards. With our focus on federal NCLB overreach, we couldn’t see our own State overstepping their bounds through a flawed administrative rule approval process.

Why is this discrepancy between standards and content just now surfacing? Only the proposed science standards contain language that clearly describes content. Idaho “Content” Standards for other disciplines do not include supporting content. They are a set of performance targets — true standards.

Our 2017 proposed administrative rules for the science standards included supporting content. That inclusion is problematic. That’s where the discussion went south.

Think before you step on the slippery slope.

Supporting content does not belong in a legislated standards document. Legislative overreach occurred. And lacking an understanding of the nuances of standards and content, state and local control, and a proper process for standards development, the public couldn’t adequately sort out and debate the topic—or see the truth.

The reality? The Idaho Legislature did not reject five science “standards.” Only one performance standard was rejected. Four of the items were supporting content. They went beyond being just a standard. Content was at the heart of the controversy.

Scientific knowledge is ever-changing. What we know today may change tomorrow.

Education content should not be subjected to our politicized lawmaking process.
A state entity defining supporting content is micromanaging education. The Legislature needs to step back and look at what has been done. In a country where liberty is a founding principle, legislating education content puts us on the slippery slope sliding away from local control — towards State control.

If school districts and teachers need supporting content for resources or inspiration; sources are easy to find. Content should conform, locally, to meeting the needs of students, not to complying with a too-often politically motivated mandate.

Limit the role of the State to defining performance standards and leave successful achievement of and beyond standards to the local districts.

Until the light goes on and the public sees that standards-based (aka outcome-based) education has not definitively reform a single school, we will continue to waste time and resources on arguing over and implementing new standards rather than investing fully in our schools and their students.

Being able to see the slippery slope is the first step to doing no further harm, to the public education system of Idaho and the nation, due to the deceptive nature of standards-based education.