Mixed Blessings: Corporate Training Programs

Most of us are looking for answers about how best to help children learn.  The latest approach is to focus on Career and Technical Education (CTE).  Not all students are college-bound.  Few middle schoolers, however, are ready to plan the rest of their lives. Knowing that, many corporations decide to run campaigns with firms such as The Marketing Heaven to bring middle schoolers closer to the programs they offer in order to pursue a satisfying career. Some of these CTE options expect exactly that.

Big corporations like Amazon, CISCO, and Ford are implementing CTE programs in schools.  In this article, Jeff Bryant explains why.  He also interviews parents who initially were excited and then concerned about the control over the K12 curriculum that these companies exercised.  Were students being trained for specific jobs in particular companies that may or may not exist when they graduate?  

In this thoughtful article, you can follow the logic and the money involved.  It is worth the time to read it carefully.  Florida has already implemented changes to high school graduation requirements for CTE programs. Beginning in middle school, students can point toward a job right out of high school,
see temecula facial oral surgery.  In some cases, those students may graduate from high school with at least a community college degree.  In others, credits for graduation are reduced from 24 credits to 18 if they enroll in a CTE program.  

Public/private partnerships may have some real advantages.  The bottom line, so to speak, is always the issue need AC installation in riverside.  Whose interest is being served, and what is the impact of corporate controlled education on communities?  What happens to the students who complete a specific training program and find that there are fewer jobs than there are students who have trained for those jobs?  

Passion to Teach Revisited

Remember the posts about Bart Nouse’s film ‘Passion to Teach’? Friday, I saw this project based approach to learning in action. It was like a science fair, but not like one in important ways.

A Community School in a local lower income area held a poster session for its seventh grade students. Last fall, groups of three or four students selected a science or medical problem to investigate. The studies defined a similar investigative process across groups but no ongoing experiments. There were poster displays and T-shirts and prizes for the most well thought out ideas.

Essential differences between this activity and the usual science fair were:

  1. The students did their studies at school and in groups during the fall semester.
  2. The groups combined regular program and magnet program children.
  3. There was no project cost to the students.
  4. Teachers contacted every community group to request mentors for each project. The response was overwhelming. Each mentor spent at least an hour each week with a group, visit oasisnaturalcleaning.com.
  5. As the projects advanced, forty University of Florida faculty members were recruited to respond to content and process questions.

It does not matter who won or who lost in this competition. As I walked around and spoke to the students, I could see their pride and recognize their learning. These students from different abilities, backgrounds and races learned together for the benefit of everyone. The teacher who coordinated the activities said, “None of this was about testing.” It showed. There was so much learning in so many ways.

There was an uneasy undercurrent to this joy of learning.  As I spoke with administrators, I learned the school had been in lock down that morning.  No guns were involved but threats by a homeless person had been made.  I saw the rigorous screening of visitors to the schools.  I learned about the unmet mental health needs of many children.

The contrast between what could be and what is becomes obvious on a day like this.  If schools were balanced by income and race and threats were minimized,  learning can flourish.  When fear and failure become the norm due to the impact of school choice and economic segregation, everyone pays the price.  There is a better way; it is a choice communities must make.

For Tools for the Resistance, Read ‘Slaying Goliath’ by Diane Ravitch

This book is timely. It is personal. It describes real events led by passionate people who have made a difference. It gives hope.

Who is David and who is Goliath in the battle over public schools? The ‘Disrupters’, as Diane Ravitch calls them, are the corporate giants behind the move to destroy public schools. Ravitch devotes an entire chapter to those who seek to dismantle public schools and profit from public tax dollars. David is the ‘Resistance’, or the millions of parents, teachers, and students whose interest public education serves.  They are the ultimate winners in this war for the heart of our democracy. It is a classic David vs. Goliath tale.

Ravitch asserts that David is triumphing once again. She backs up her assertions by dismantling claims that testing, rewards and punishments, and school choice will result in better educational opportunities for children. She underscores her points with examples of the failure of the Disrupters in Chicago, New Orleans, New York and Washington D.C. among others. She cites evidence to underscores how Disrupters shift course as each of their assertions fails. No meaningful achievement gains have been realized. Teachers have voted with their feet as teaching vacancies mount nationally. The greed and corruption of the movement to privatize schools can no longer be hidden. Communities and even states have put on the brakes. Choice has stagnated as charters close as often as they open, and parents remove children from ineffective private schools.

Ravitch credits the many volunteers who advocate for public schools and galvanize unease into action. Parents now understand that ranking students and schools on test scores creates few winners and a plethora of losers. They recognize that students who do not ‘fit In’ are excluded. They are uncomfortable about the lack of equity among increasingly segregated charter and private schools. They are angry about how money is siphoned off as public schools struggle to repair roofs and air conditioners.sikisxxx arap pornoZ

Perhaps the strongest message from Slaying Goliath is the power of ideas. In this arena, the corporate giants become small people with limited goals. The greatest strength of The Resistance, says Ravitch, is citizens who are motivated by “a passion for children, a passion for education, a commitment to their community, a dedication to democracy, and a belief in the value of public schools”.

This is no time for complacency. The power of the purse is undisputed. No doubt major propaganda campaigns will be launched by the Corporate Disruptors to regain their edge. It reminds me of the Franklin D. Roosevelt quote: …the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Slaying Goliath documents the assumptions and strategies of fear mongers. It provides hope that the nation is turning its attention to resolving inequities and restoring the joy of learning.
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Let’s Put Florida Public Education Advocacy on the National Stage

Have you registered for the Network for Public Education conference in Philadelphia March 28? If you are an advocate for public education, you will want to be there. This is a time for Florida to get reinvigorated. The NPE conference is the place to do it. Organize some of your colleagues to join Pat Hall, Robin Jones and me as we present our panel on Florida charter school business practices. It is eye opening!! There are many other thought provoking panels as well.

Please share this post with your groups and encourage them to join us. Let’s be sure that Florida shows up. 😀

Register here.

Florida wastes $37 million on charters that never opened or soon closed

The federal grants awarded between 2006-14 for 186 Florida charters were wasted.  Forty six of these charters never opened at all.  Others closed.  You can see the list of federal charter startup grants with the amount of funds lost for each here.  A few received $25,000 planning grants and then decided not to open; others received hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch a charter and either did not open or shut down.  The Florida Times Union calls for better oversight.

The big money went to charter management organizations.  For example:

Charter Schools of Excellence received $2,911,355

Life Skills Centers received $1,608,844

Newpoint received $2,479,612 (and the owners have gone to jail).

The most recent closure data includes even more failed charters…410.  Some of these did not receive federal start up grants.  Put it all together, and there is nearly a forty percent chance that a charter school will fail.

Charters tend to target big population centers, but even there charters close at a high rate.    Thousands of children and their families have been  disrupted.  The counties with the most closed charters are in:

Broward:  59 charters closed

Dade:  53 charters closed

Hillsborough:  35 charters closed

Orange:  18 charters closed

Palm Beach:  42 charters closed

Some in the charter industry argue that high closure rates are good; they show the market economy works.  Others argue that parents are being fed false promises.  Children are not commodities to be discarded if they are not profitable.

Disappearing Dollars in Florida: Still Asleep at the Wheel

The Network for Public Education’s (NPE) latest report Still Asleep at the Wheel gives a state by state listing of charters that received federal dollars and pocketed the money. These charters either never opened or shortly closed after opening. In Florida, $33,896,485 in federal start up money for 187 charters was lost between 2006-2014. This amounts to 37% of all federal funding to start charters in Florida. You can see Florida’s list of charters that received funds but did not open or quickly closed here.

During this same period, approximately $500 million was lost nationwide. Curiously, nationwide between 1995-2005, an additional $500 million cannot be accounted for at all. No records exist for which charters received this funding. It is a lot of money to just disappear.

Florida Pension Plan Shortfall

There are rumblings that the 2020 Florida Legislature may revise funding for the Florida Pension Plan.   There is no question that the retirement system revenue has declined; it has not been 100% funded since the 2008 recession. The current rate is about 84% of the cost if all people retired at one time. Of course that is an unlikely scenario, but there are now more people vested in the system than are contributing to it. One million public employees participate in the system, about half are teachers and the others are local and state government employees. As retirees increase and new participants decrease, covering costs becomes more problematic.

While there is no immediate crisis, the problems cannot be ignored in the longer run. There are four basic reasons why the funding has declined:

  1. Expectations that the stock market will do well are not always met. Average earnings across years are about 1% below expectations.
  2. The state is not making sufficient employer contributions to the retirement system.
  3. How the state calculates the value of promised retirement benefits increases risk and makes real debt larger.
  4. The switch to 401(k) accounts in 2017 did not require sufficient contributions from employees and employers to cover costs. It may benefit new teachers who leave the profession but not the profession as a whole.

Pensions are not the problem..The real question as always is whether funding pensions is mostly a political, not a financial issue.  The National Association of State Retirement Administrators cited a report stating that an 80% funding level is the federal benchmark for financial stability of state pension systems.  Florida’s level exceeds that benchmark. Nevertheless, there is a political divide over providing pensions, and it is closely tied to those supporting school privatization.  Florida charters and private schools typically do not contribute to retirement systems, and the resulting high teacher turnover keeps salaries lower.   Thus, there is more money available for management companies in the private sector.   This is not a recipe for a high quality educational system.

This issue may have a strong impact on the growing teacher shortage. Pensions help retain teachers.  Kentucky’s teachers’ complaints about pension revision strategies were partially responsible for the recent defeat of their governor.  Yet, there are those who advocate replacing teachers with technology.  The motivations of those who attack the teaching profession whether they are political or financial in origin, need to be considered.

Florida 2020 Education Legislation Priorities

The 2019 legislative session focused on moving money and managing guns. The laws that emerged funded Schools of Hope vouchers for private schools and shifted funds from public schools to charter school privately owned facilities.   A lawsuit against the Schools of Hope vouchers is expected.  Funding increases for teachers and students were minimal, but teachers were allowed to carry guns.

The Florida Educational Association (FEA) reached an agreement to end a lawsuit against the ‘Best and Brightest’ bonus system that discriminated against minority and older teachers.  A signature from a federal judge will provide compensation to some teachers.

Teacher Recruitment. The focus of the 2020 legislative session may shift to teacher recruitment  and what is taught. FEA reported 4,000 teacher vacancies in the fall of 2019, and months later 2,000 positions remain unfilled.  In response to significant teacher shortages, Governor DeSantis is calling for a higher starting salary for beginning teachers. The impact may be mixed. Teacher recruitment may improve, but teacher retention may decline. New teachers may earn more than many experienced teachers.  At least half of these teachers did not graduate from college level education programs and will need mentoring and professional development that typically is not a legislative priority.

Curriculum Standards.  The Governor also called for a revision to the Florida curriculum standards that determine what is taught at each grade level. Draft standards have been released, and a summary of the results of public comment has been released. There was relatively little support indicated for eliminating the Common Core elements that have been in effect for the past ten years. More concerns were reported about the age appropriate level of standards particularly for children in K-3 but also in grade nine mathematics. As content taught in higher grades is pushed down to lower grades, the expectations for reading and math readiness for six to nine year old students become inappropriate for many children.

Where these concerns will lead the legislature is uncertain. Politically, the Governor has promised to end the Common Core skills that confuse parents. Practically, yet another change in standards not only changes what skills teachers must focus on, it also mandates that the state tests, school grades, and teacher evaluations  adapt. Teachers’ frustration are due to more than inadequate salary levels.  What are the expectations they must meet?

Adding fuel to the fire is the release of the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results and the SAT and ACT test results for college admission. Scores are down yet again. Achievement gaps between white and minority students are higher. Choice based on competition and test scores is not working within public schools or among public, charter, or private school voucher-type programs.

Parents from all walks of life are questioning the system that pressures students to enroll in advanced courses e.g. AP English, math and science in order to improve school grades or admission to college. For a few students, these courses are a good option. For most, it results in an unrelenting pressure to chase test scores. Once they enroll in college many retake the same course in part because the passing standard of ‘3’ is too low for success in subsequent courses. Some colleges, like the University of Florida, require a ‘4’ on AP exams to earn credit.

It is a conundrum. Students need challenging courses that stimulate their interests, and Florida ranks third in the nation in the number of students who take and pass an AP exam. Yet, less than half of Florida students who take AP pass the exam with a score of ‘3’ or higher. This score represents a ‘C’ grade at the college level. The University of Florida requires at least a ‘4’ in many subjects in order to earn college credit.  Many students would prefer advanced courses geared toward alternative career options rather than the basic college track.

How will the Florida Legislature respond to the stalemate in student achievement? More of the same test-driven competition for scores does not work. Dividing funding among public, charter, and private schools is neither less expensive nor more effective.  Teacher recruitment and retention and quality facilities are an even bigger problem for charters and most private schools.

2020 legislative priorities for professional education associations are listed below.

Florida School Board Association.

Florida Association of School Administrators.

Florida Education Association.

What We Know and are Afraid to Hear

“Fixing” education solutions run the gamut…except for the basic issue which is segregation. Most students are segregated by race, economic status and test scores in cities even though all students must have access to high quality programs in schools with diverse enrollments in order to succeed.

New York City has tackled the issue based a new study released by the School Diversity Advisory Group. The angst in the city is palpable, but the determination to reduce segregation is real. Gifted and talented programs will no longer be targeted to the top 4% of elementary students. These children were identified by test scores when they were four years old. Admissions to kindergarten, middle and high schools based on scores also will be reexamined.

The October 2019 issue of the Atlantic includes an article titled: The Culture Wars Devours the Children written by George Packer. Packer is a parent and well known author who shares progressive values but questions the zeal with which they are being implemented in NYC. He recognizes the value of project based education, but he is concerned about political ideologies from the right or left that are imposed upon all students.  Carol Burris, CEO of the Network for Public Education and Leonie Haimson from Class Size Matters discuss the NYC integration plan in NPE’s new weekly radio broadcast called Talk Out of School.

Alachua County Schools in Florida have recognized this equity problem. They have taken some steps to broaden participation in magnet schools and offer advanced learning programs for a broader range of students. It is a step in the right direction to remove labels from students and improve school culture. There is always concern that too much integration will compel more parents to resort to charter and private schools which are prone to increase segregation.

Parents recognize that the stakes are too high when a child’s future is dependent upon test scores in preschool. Parents worry that education opportunity has become so competitive that minor differences in talent and achievement loom large. The problem is real for all families. It is time to listen to the whispers and make our voices heard.