Slippery Slope or Steady Course for a Better Future?

President-elect Biden has kept his promise to hire an educator. He found a good one in Miguel Cordona. Cordona was Connecticut’s Principal of the Year in 2012. His career path has been meteoric. He went from being an assistant superintendent of a small school district to state superintendent within two years. Cordona has not entered the wars over the privatization of public schools. He is, however, a strong public school supporter. He has opposed tying teacher evaluations to test scores. He fits Biden’s image as one who governs from the middle. Where will this lead?

All we know now is that federal K12 education funding goes primarily to the Title I program to support underserved students. Biden has stated that this funding will increase substantially. How states must account for these funds has yet to be determined. This matters. Education policy has been driven by a focus on test scores. Turning children into numbers has not improved learning. It has prompted many educators to leave the classroom. It has also fueled ineffective charter and school voucher programs that divide people and resources.

Education has been asked to solve the problems of poverty and inequity. There are no easy answers, but how this issue is approached is the test for Biden’s administration. Will accountability for federal dollars prompt state leaders to think about where and how children learn best? Or, will it keep children glued to computer screens that the pandemic has shown to be problematic?

Who will replace Betsy DeVos?

President-elect Biden has narrowed his choices for Secretary of Education. There are two finalists. Both are strong advocates for public education. One, Leslie Fenwick, has publically focused on the need to keep public schools public. You can help influence this choice. Read about the former dean of Howard University Leslie Fenwick. The other choice is Miguel Cordona, the Connecticut Secretary of Education. Take action:

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.