Friday, November 20, 2015

Petition To Rescind the Teach for America Contract. Please Sign

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The following is the link for the petition to rescind the Teach for America contract for special education:

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Carl Petersen
Working to make the LAUSD accountable to the students it serves

Thursday, November 19, 2015

How to Destroy Education While Making a Trillion Dollars | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

How to Destroy Education While Making a Trillion Dollars | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

How to Destroy Education While Making a Trillion Dollars

The Vietnam War produced more than its share of iconic idiocies. Perhaps the most revelatory was the psychotic assertion of an army major explaining the U.S. bombing of the provincial hamlet of Ben Tre: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." If only such self-extinguishing claims for intelligence were confined to military war.

The U.S is ratcheting up a societal-level war on public education. At issue is whether we are going to make it better — build it into something estimable, a social asset that undergirds a noble and prosperous society — or whether we're going to tear it down so that private investors can get their hands on the almost $1 trillion we spend on it every year. The tear-it-down option is the civilian equivalent of Ben Tre, but on a vastly larger scale and with incomparably greater stakes: we must destroy public education in order to save it. It's still early in the game, but right now the momentum is with the wreckers because that's where the money is. Whether they succeed or not will be up to you.

Here's a three-step recipe for how to destroy education. It maps perfectly to how to make a prodigious profit by privatizing it. It is the essential game plan of the big money boys.

First, lower the costs so you can jack up the profits. Since the overwhelming cost in education is the salaries of the teachers, this means firing the experienced teachers, for they are the most expensive. Replace them with "teachers" who are young, inexperienced, and inexpensive. Better yet, waive requirements that they have to have any training, that is to say, that they be credentialed. That way, you can get the absolute cheapest workers available. Roll them over frequently so they don't develop any expectation that they'll ever make a career out of it.

Second, make the curriculum as narrow, rote, and regimented as you can. This makes it possible for low-skilled "teachers" to "teach." All they need do is maintain order while drilling students in mindless memorization and robotic repetition. By all means avoid messy things like context, nuance, values, complexity, reflection, depth, ambiguity—all the things that actually make for true intelligence. It's too hard to teach those things and, besides, you need intelligent, experienced people to be able to do it. Stick with the model: Profitable equals simplistic and formulaic. Go with it.

Finally, rinse and repeat five thousand times. Proliferate franchised, chartered McSchools with each classroom in each McSchool teaching the same thing on the same day in exactly the same way. So, for the math lesson on the formula of a line, you only need develop it once. But you download it in Power Point on the assigned day so the room monitors, i.e., the "teachers," know what bullets to read. Now repeat this for every lesson in every course in every school, every day. In biology, chemistry, geometry, history, English, Spanish, indeed, all of a K-12 curriculum. Develop the lesson literally once, but distribute and reuse it thousands of times with low-cost proctors doing the supervision. The cost is infinitesimal making the profit potential astronomical.

This is the essential charter school model and the money is all the rationale its promoters need. Think about it. There's a trillion dollars a year spent on public education in the U.S. and enterprising investors want to get their meat hooks on it. Where else in the world can you find a $1 trillion opportunity that is essentially untouched? Not in automobiles. Not in health care. Not in weapons, computers, banking, telecommunications, agriculture, entertainment, retail, manufacturing, housing. Nowhere.

Oh, to be sure, you have to soften up the public with a decades-long PR campaign bashing teachers, vilifying their unions, trashing schools, and condemning public education in general, all the while promising the sun, moon, and stars for privatization, which is the ultimate charter goal. Voila! You've got your chance.

But to really make a killing, you need not just revenues, but profits. That's why the low cost delivery and "build it once but resell it millions of times" model is so key. It was that very model that made Bill Gates the richest man in the world. It is what earned Microsoft 13 TIMES the rate of profit of the average Fortune 500 company in the 1990s and persuaded the Justice Department to declare it a "felony monopolist". Gates recognizes the model very well, which is why his foundation is pouring tens of millions of dollars into charters. And you thought it was his altruism.

Of course, anybody who actually knows education, indeed, anybody who is simply intelligent, knows that intelligence does not come from rote repetition or parroting Power Point slides at the regimented direction of a room monitor, no matter how perky or well intended. It comes from an agonizingly complex, intricate, sustained set of challenges to the mind that are exquisitely choreographed over the better part of two decades, all intimately tailored to the specific needs of an individual, inquisitive, aspiring student.

That is what real teachers do. And it is precisely what a cookie-cutter, low-content, low-cost, high-turnover, high-profit money mill cannot do. Because it's not intended to do that. It's intended to produce profits. Real education, real intelligence, real character are agonizingly slow, dazzlingly complex, maddeningly difficult things to create. You can't make a profit off of it, unless you destroy it in the process. That is why not one of the nations of the world that surpass the U.S. in education performance operate charter-based or privatized educational systems.

If America wants better education, it needs to fix the greatest force undermining education, which is poverty. The single most powerful predictor of student performance is the average income of the zip code in which they live. But one out of four American students now live in poverty, and the numbers are growing. One out of two will live in poverty sometime during their lives. Forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps. Is it any wonder American school performance is faltering?

But poverty is a hard and expensive problem to fix. We prefer easy, painless fixes, or even better, vapid clichés about the "magic of the market" and such. Why, look what we got from the deregulation of the banking system: the greatest economic collapse of the last 80 years and the greatest plunder of the public treasury in the history of the world.

This is the essential neo-liberal agenda which Obama enthusiastically supports: privatize and deregulate everything, especially public services, so that the money spent on them can be transferred to private hands. This is how Arne Duncan, Obama's Secretary of Education, earned his bureaucratic bonafides: he converted more than 100 of Chicago's public schools to charters while the city's school superintendent. It's unbelievable how credulous we are but obviously, propaganda works. That's why the likes of the Gates Foundation keep pouring money into the cause.

The problem with charter schools is that they simply don't work, at least not for delivering high quality education. Of course, given their formula, how could they? The most thorough research on charter schools, by Stanford University, shows that while charters do better than public schools in 17% of cases, they actually do worse in 37%, a more than 2-to-1 bad-to-good ratio!

If your doctor injured two patients for every one he cured, would you go to him? If your mechanic wrecked two cars for every one he fixed, would you go to him? Yet that is literally the proposition that charter school operators are peddling. And that 2-to-1 failure rate is after charters have skimmed off the better students and run what can only be called ethnically cleansed schools, counseling out poor performers, special needs cases, and "undesirable" minorities, leaving them for the public schools to deal with. For the data show they do that as well.

The irony of all this, indeed, the hypocrisy, is that America is at least nominally a capitalist county. You would think it would be ok to be honest about your intentions to make money by pillaging children's futures while looting the public purse. God knows the weapons makers, the banks, the oil companies, the pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness and others aren't bashful about it. But that doesn't seem to be true here, in education.

Here, it's all about "the children," about "streamlining" education, boosting scores, uplifting minorities, making America competitive, and just about every other infantile fairy tale they can invoke to convince the country to hand over the loot. For that's what it's really about. The trillion dollars a year to be made by turning "the children" into intellectually impotent dullards but profit producing zombies? Well, that's just a lavishly fortunate coincidence. Right?

Remember, you can't save something by destroying it. Which isn't to say that swashbuckling entrepreneurs aren't willing to try. All they need is the liberating impetus of that essential American ethic: "I'm getting mine, screw you." But the cost of this plunder will be incalculable, for it will ripple through the economy for decades. And the damage will be irreversible for, while public education is the most powerful democratizing institution in the world, it only works when the schools work. When they cease to work, it's over.

So watch out. A destroyed educational system, a desiccated economy, and a debauched democracy are coming soon to a school district near you.

The Education-Industrial Complex - Taki's Magazine

The Education-Industrial Complex - Taki's Magazine

The Education-Industrial Complex

The Education-Industrial Complex

John Deasy

During the Vietnam War, a famous protest bumper sticker read:

It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

But these days, spending on quick fixes for education is approaching levels similar to the military-industrial complex. For example, Los Angeles school superintendent John Deasy plans to pay Apple a billion dollars to furnish every student with an iPad and software (some of which hasn't gone through the formality of existing yet).

While the Air Force's notoriously expensive B-2 Stealth Bomber program cost $45 billion from 1979 to 2004, the LAUSD iPad rollout, if scaled up to the entire country, would total about $75 billion.

That's a lot of Rice Krispies Treats.

A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon we ought to be talking about real management. Unfortunately, the education industry approaches aerospace-sized projects with more starry-eyed optimism than is prudent for a bake sale, much less a war.

In an age when Silicon Valley trumpets "disruptive technologies," it's hardly surprising that the education reform establishment is addicted to the concept of magic bullets that will finally Fix the Schools. Who doesn't love the allure of a revolutionary technological, doctrinal, or organizational fix for all that ails us?

To get some perspective on what it takes for a radical innovation to actually work in the real world, I recently reread Ben Rich's Skunk Works, the tale of Lockheed's invention of the revolutionary F-117 Stealth Fighter, which was really a small bomber invisible to Soviet air defenses.

"The education industry approaches aerospace-sized projects with more starry-eyed optimism than is prudent for a bake sale, much less a war."

Flight-tested at Nevada's Area 51, the radar-deflecting Nighthawk was so alien in aspect that it looked like it had been designed by those UFO pilots the government keeps locked up there. (Just kidding. [I think.])

In the 1991 Gulf War, the F-117 led the blinding of Iraq's Soviet and French-made air defense system, flying approximately 1,300 missions without suffering a bullet hole.

Seven months later, the technologically outgunned Soviet Union gave up.

Now, that's a magic bullet!

And yet the tale of how stealth technology helped win the Cold War turns out to be much more complicated than just Lockheed building a plane that bounced away radar beams. The full story contains a lesson for school reformers. The key turned out to be not just having a warplane with what seemed like a comic-book heroine's superpower—a cloak of invisibility—but the most boring phrase imaginable: system integration. It's a concept almost completely unknown in the excitable world of education reform.

Skunk Works is perhaps the best of the as-told-to autobiographies by Cold War military-industrial figures such as Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, and Chuck Yeager. It didn't sell as well as those bestsellers in part because its subject, the boss of Lockheed's advanced projects division from 1975-1990, was a civilian pencil pusher. Who wants to read the memoirs of Dilbert's boss? Moreover, Rich couldn't do a prolonged book tour because he was dying of cancer when Skunk Works came out in 1994.

Still, ghostwriter Leo Janos, who had earlier scored with Yeager: An Autobiography, did a remarkable job of making a life spent sitting behind a desk or standing on a runway enthralling. Skunk Works remains a model for how to construct a nonfiction book for maximum readability.

Since the Battle of Britain in 1940, radar had been the keystone of air defense. From the 1950s into the 1970s, Lockheed's Skunk Works designed three planes that each embodied one of the three main tactics against radar-controlled surface-to-air missiles: height, speed, and, ultimately, stealth.

Skunk Works' founder, legendary aircraft designer Kelly Johnson, built the U-2 spy plane in the mid-1950s to fly too high (70,000 feet) for existing Soviet missiles. It provided President Eisenhower with crucial information on what the Reds were up to and, perhaps more importantly, what they weren't: They weren't massing to launch WWIII.

After the Russians finally shot down CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers's U-2 in 1960, Skunk Works delivered the imposing SR-71 in the 1960s to fly too fast (well over 2,000MPH). The SR-71 Blackbird was the most awesome airplane ever to enter service. Besides, the US had—as far as I know—never risked it overflying Russian airspace for fear of interceptor SAMs, which could be tipped with small nuclear bombs.

Still, the Blackbird so galvanized the male imagination that Congress forced the Air Force to reactivate it in the 1990s, even though it was extravagantly expensive to operate and no role besides reconnaissance had ever been worked out for it.

Ben Rich didn't invent Stealth. Shortly after he had taken over Skunk Works from Johnson in 1975, an employee named Denys Overholser brought him an old article in a Soviet scientific journal extending James Clerk Maxwell's electromagnetic equations. Overholser proposed turning Petr Ufimtsev's equations into software that could predict how large any shape would appear on the radar screen. With this tool, they could design a plane that would be undetectable at night: at last, a magic bullet!

The emerging high-tech threat to Soviet air defenses in the early 1980s inspired the Soviet air force to back the energetic young reformer Mikhail Gorbachev to shake up the stultified system. Instead, Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost brought down the Soviet empire.

If you read Skunk Works carefully, you'll notice that the men at the top of the Pentagon, secretaries of defense Harold Brown, Caspar Weinberger, and William J. Perry, emphasize that the amazing innovation they sponsored was not good enough by itself. Brown, a brilliant technocrat who was Jimmy Carter's secretary of defense while the F-117 was being developed, pointedly notes:

[Stealth] was a remarkable achievement and excited the imagination of operational planners who finally had the good sense to come up with a workable doctrine and operational concept, combining the airplane's invulnerability with high-precision bombs.

In other words, even an invisible bomber (much less an iPad) only works in the right system. The Pentagon also needed a carefully thought-out and tested plan for using the F-117. They eventually concluded it worked best as a first-strike penetrator against radar installations, allowing less exotic planes to do the bulk of the fighting once the enemy's sensors were demolished.

On the defensive side of combat control, the US protected its radar and computers by miniaturizing them enough to be sent aloft in airliners, which couldn't be blown up by bombers. The entire offensive/defensive system required getting millions of lines of software code to work together—a gigantic investment of money, brainpower, and time. The Soviets eventually came to the depressing realization that they couldn't match American system integration.

While the search in education for a magic bullet is never-ending, the energy put into integrating systems to support teaching is paltry.

The junkyard of school solutions includes the 2002 No Child Left Behind act that mandated that every student in America be above average by next May.

And who can forget "Small Learning Communities?" Actually, who can recall this organizational fad that convulsed public schools a decade ago? The only thing memorable about it was Bill Gates's 2009 speech announcing that the two billion dollars he'd spent on this and other panaceas had been wasted.

Lately, 45 states have signed on to junk their current curricula and tests in favor of the "Common Core," a series of guidelines concocted by a former McKinsey consultant named David Coleman, whose only teaching experience is some tutoring of New Haven urban youth while he was buffing his Rhodes Scholarship application.

In Los Angeles, spending a billion bucks on iPads was seen as a Stealth-like breakthrough. But nobody bothered to think through the issues. The Air Force formerly employed veteran pilots to fly Soviet MiGs in war games, but the LAUSD brain trust didn't put themselves into the shoes of their students and ask, "What's the first thing you'd do if handed a new iPad: Do all your extra-credit homework ahead of time or download porn?"

Touchscreen tablets are a promising tool for multiple-choice tests. Unfortunately, the LA administrators forgot that the equally trendy Common Core they were adopting is on the warpath against multiple-choice tests. So to allow students to write lengthy essay answers for the upcoming Common Core tests, they belatedly realized they needed to spend more than the billion-dollar budget because they also had to buy keyboards for the iPads. (Eventually, they may also realize they'll need to pay for typing lessons, because otherwise the vaunted new essay examinations might prove to be mostly measuring the wide variation among students in typing skills.)

The iPad fiasco could have been foreseen by anybody familiar with military history, which is full of magic bullets that weren't fully thought through. It's not coincidental that Murphy's Law–if anything can go wrong, it will—was coined at Edwards Air Force Base, the military's desert test track. (Even though it sounds almost too good to be true, the phrase "Murphy's Law" emerged from an Air Force experiment involving a rocket sled and chimpanzees.)

Consider the Battle of the Crater in 1864. Ulysses S. Grant, stymied by Confederate trenches protecting Petersburg, VA, agreed to have coal miners dig a tunnel under the enemy lines, then pack it with 8,000 pounds of gunpowder. The Union troops rushed into the 30-foot-deep hole. Not having been issued ladders, however, they found they had no way to climb out. Eventually, the stunned Rebels wandered over to the lip of the crater and began what they described as a "turkey shoot."

For want of a nail…

Sadly, there's no meta-magic bullet that makes magic bullets work instantly. The only solution ever found has been sustained managerial effort.

The education business has a short memory that keeps it from getting discouraged but also prevents it from learning from its mistakes. One reason fads are so common in public schools is that the incentive structure pays more to administrators with Ph.D.'s. A doctorate in education means you came up with some gimmick and then spent a few years documenting it. Education schools are thus novelty generation machines. Nobody gets to call himself "Doctor" for being good at making old ideas work together.

Outside of Ed schools, however, novelty isn't enough.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015





4LAKids - some of the news that doesn't fit: Pop Quiz: WHAT'S WRONG WITH L.A. UNIFIED'S LEADERSHIP? Answer: JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING:



School rally

Teachers and children rally at Stevenson Middle School in East Los Angeles against a proposal, spearheaded by the Broad Foundation, that would move half of L.A. Unified students into charters over the next eight years. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

14 Nov. 2015 | 10:00 AM  ::  The more you hear about attempts to improve the nation's schools, the sorrier you have to feel for the kids.

After years of "No Child Left Behind" and "Race to the Top" initiatives, national test scores dived deeper into failure and mediocrity in the last reading. In a stunning reversal, the Obama administration, a tireless champion of more and more testing, is now whistling a different tune.

There's too much testing going on out there.

Arne Duncan, Obama's education secretary, said his conversations with countless educators have made him realize "how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction."

Translation: Instead of testing, let's try teaching.

It couldn't happen too soon in test-oppressed California, where recent headlines tell a sobering story about achievement, or lack thereof.

"California test scores in the cellar," said one. "California test scores among worst in U.S.," said another.

Recently released statewide Common Core test results were no better, and L.A. Unified students scored below California averages in disturbing fashion. In math, three-fourths of LAUSD students did not meet state standards. In English, two-thirds were underwater.

So what's wrong in Los Angeles?

The first problem, which never gets enough attention in the school-reform debate, has nothing to do with schools. LAUSD is a district made up primarily of poor children, and to be fair to district administrators and teachers, this presents daily challenges that are unknown to more affluent districts.

The second problem is that in L.A. Unified, it's rarely clear who's in charge, and that's certainly the case now.

The last superintendent, John Deasy, was shooed out of office in part because of his own blunders and the unresolved question of who was captain of the listing ship — Deasy or the school board. And there are signs that board members, terrorized by Deasy for so long, never recovered from their PTSDeasy.

The current superintendent, Ramon Cortines, is a temporary fill-in and lame duck who wants only one thing for Christmas: his retirement papers.

And the search for a replacement is a peculiar and naturally contentious spectacle, part public but mostly private, involving a private consulting firm. Because you can never hire too many outsiders while schoolhouses deteriorate and bean counters warn of a projected $333-million deficit in a district with a shrinking enrollment.

Complicating the search for a new boss is a lack of consensus as to what kind of superintendent the district should go after.

A visionary?

A crusader?

A baby sitter?

You'd almost have to scratch anybody naive enough to want the job, especially if a flak jacket and Humvee are not part of the package. The new superintendent will be rolling straight into the crossfire of a raging war between charter school champions and charter school foes.

That's not a new conflict, but the stakes got higher when The Times' Howard Blume broke the story of a massive $490-million plan — mapped out in secret — by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad and other self-anointed saviors of the American way. They'd like to funnel no less than half of LAUSD's schools into charters, rescuing them from the rusted machine of district bureaucracy and politics.

The teachers union, which would lose busloads of its members and much of its clout, is militantly aggrieved and philosophically opposed to what it calls the corporatization of public schools. The union contends with reasonable logic that a dramatic multiplication of charters — not all of which are necessarily a better alternative — would drain money from non-charters, leaving many of the district's poorest students in the lurch.

Broad, I should note, isn't the only local billionaire making headlines for claiming to know what's missing from local school options. David Geffen, apparently unimpressed with the public and private school offerings in West L.A., last week pledged $100 million to establish a private middle and high school on the UCLA campus for the children of UCLA staff and others, with financial aid for 40% of the students.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The cop isn't the only problem in the Spring Valley High video. How we treat students is too.

The cop isn't the only problem in the Spring Valley High video. How we treat students is too.

The cop isn't the only problem in the Spring Valley High video. How we treat students is too.

Yesterday, the world saw shocking footage of a young African-American girl being grabbed across the neck, aggressively yanked to the ground under a flipped desk, and dragged across the room by a white male police officer.

The disturbing clip went viral along with calls for justice and the hashtag #AssaultatSpringValley.

The response was swift. This morning, Deputy Sheriff Officer Ben Fields was fired.

In a press conference today, Richmond County Sheriff Leon Lott stated that the girl had not been a danger or posed a threat to anyone and that Fields clearly did not use proper protocol. The Justice Department and the FBI will also be looking into the case to see if further action is needed as some are calling for Fields to now be prosecuted for assault and his use of excessive force.

But something Lott said during the press conference exposed a troubling problem that has nothing to do with police brutality.

Lott admitted that maybe this case provides a good opportunity to evaluate (emphasis added) "the role of the [Student Resource Officer] and what schools are using us for. Should [Officer Fields] have ever been called? Maybe that's something that the administrator should have handled without ever calling the officer."

So why was the cop called in the first place? What was the student doing that was so "disruptive"?

She had her cell phone out in class. According to a classmate, it was only "for a quick second," so when the teacher told her to leave because of it, she refused, stating that she hadn't done anything wrong. For that, she was ultimately grabbed around her neck and dragged across the floor by a cop.

The police action taken in response to what sounds like no more than a stubborn student shines a spotlight on the real issue: An alarming culture of control and punishment within our education system.

Under the guise of "discipline," our schools have become a place where students are made to follow an excessive number of rules and then harshly punished for breaking them.

Princeton University's Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies and faculty associate of law and public affairs Dr. Imani Perry addressed the issue head-on in the following Facebook post yesterday. If you want to read it in its entirety, here it is. But I'll break down the key stuff below.

Dr. Perry begins by saying that "Punishment has become the dominant logic in so many arenas in this society, especially [in] schools for poor and working class Black and Latino students."

The military-like school rules that demand that children be still, sit for long periods of time in uncomfortable positions, not use the bathroom without permission or stretch when they need to, stand in single file line, be silent, sit on the floor to "earn their desks," and other similar restrictions can make school feel less like a place of growth and learning and more like boot camp.

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates described his memories of attending an urban public school in this way in his autobiography "Between the World and Me":

When children break these rules, the punishment is often harsh and excessive.

In her Facebook post, Perry calls the logic behind these harsh punishments both "developmentally inappropriate and pedagogically unsound." In other words, child specialists and education experts alike know that the type of discipline is neither healthy nor productive.

And to make matters worse, this harsh punishment is disproportionately doled out to students of color.

Photo via iStock.

Just last year a report on school discipline in the nation's public schools was released by U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and the results were disheartening, to say the least. Across all age groups, black students are three times more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled.

It starts early, too. According to the report, black children only make up 18% of preschoolers but make up nearly half of all out-of-school suspensions. Because black 4-year-olds are so uniquely out of control?

Those punishments often quickly escalate to police engagement.

Photo by Ringo Chiu/AFP/Getty Images.

With the increased presence of student resource officers in schools, student actions are much more likely to be labeled criminal. According to Think Progress:

Thousands of officers across the country — many of whom are armed — are more involved in the disciplinary process than ever and exacerbate the school-to-prison pipeline. Kids are more likely to be suspended and expelled for minor offenses. More children are arrested for nonviolent, school-related offenses, such as violating a dress code or walking in the hall without a pass.

The DOE report also found that while black students make up about 16% of enrolled students, they make up more than a quarter of all students who are referred to the police.

It is what experts call the school-to-prison pipeline — and it's what we saw play out right in front of our eyes in the Spring Valley High School clip.

This is the culture that not only allowed an officer to physically assault a young girl for being "disrespectful" but one in which the teacher stood idly by and watched it happen.

My heart aches not just for her but for the countless children who are treated every day with far less humanity, love, and compassion than they deserve — for the children who are treated more like military recruits than precious minds and more like caged animals than daughters and sons.

Are some rules necessary and helpful? Sure. And is discipline also sometimes necessary to create an environment that is conducive to learning for all students? Absolutely.

But theoretically, we send our children to school to learn not just reading and writing but also how to be responsible, creative, thinking, self-governing adults in the real world. Does being kicked out of class and ultimately arrested for looking at a cellphone really accomplish that goal?

The result of this punitive culture and police engagement in classroom discipline was on display, front and center in the #AssaultatSpringValley video. And while Fields has already been fired for his excessive use of force, it's up to us to demand better for all students, especially our most vulnerable, each and everyday.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fwd: 15 Years of Bill Gates's Meddling

Action Network Email

by Carol Burris and Anthony Cody

Dear Rene ,

The Gates Foundation recently marked its fifteen-year anniversary of involvement in education reform. For those of us who view those fifteen years as a decade and a half during which one of the richest men in the world Inserted himself and his fortune into education policy, thus undermining the democratic control of our public schools, there is nothing to celebrate.

The Network for Public Education is marking the 15 years of Gates's involvement with a two-part, special report on the man and his Foundation.

Part 1, which follows, presents Anthony Cody's and my reflections on Bill Gates's recent speech and the Bill and Melinda Gates interview with Gwen Ifill. We provide Anthony's transcription of the speech and a link to the interview as well.

Our next edition of the NPE newsletter will have a fifteen-year timeline of Bill Gates's involvement, including short commentaries by NPE members and friends.

Recently, Campbell Brown endorsed the British prime minister's call to replace British public schools with charter schools called "academies". As you listen to Bill and Melinda Gates, you will hear them gush over charters as well.

Make no mistake—their agenda is not the improvement of public schools, but rather their elimination. Do your part to fight back. Share this newsletter and feature report far and wide. Make sure the public understands that the existence of democratically-controlled public schools are at risk.


Part One: 15 Years of Bill Gates's Meddling

Anthony Cody's take on Bill Gates's speech

On October 7th, Bill Gates gave a speech providing a comprehensive review of his Foundation's K12 education strategy. This arena is their number one domestic priority, and a place where they have invested billions of dollars over the past 15 years. As we approach the end of the Obama administration, which has served as their close ally, we might expect some serious reflection on lessons learned.

The Common Core is struggling along on continual life support from Gates and the US Department of Education; the charter school illusion is less sustainable every day, and in his own state of Washington, the charter school ballot measure Gates helped get passed was recently declared unconstitutional. In spite of these setbacks, serious reflection was not in evidence. While Gates acknowledged some missteps in the rollout of the Common Core – blamed on their "naiveté", the emphasis was on advances made, with a pledge to continue pushing in the same direction.

Their confidence notwithstanding, I think their direction is severely flawed, in several respects. In the first place, they continue to believe that test scores and the Common Core "define excellence." In the second, they have created a fatal error in attempting to embed teacher professional growth into an evaluative framework – harming both.

Read the rest of Anthony Cody's analysis, which contains a link to the speech, here.

Carol Burris's take on the Gates's interview

Last week, Bill Gates gave the keynote speech at his U.S. Education Learning Forum that celebrated the fifteen years that the Bill & Melinda Gates have influenced the educational policies and practices of an entire nation. Later, he and Melinda sat down with Gwen Ifill of PBS for a 30 minute interview.

Gates's introductory remarks are best characterized by the phrase, "stay the course.".

What was far more interesting than his speech, however, was the couples' conversation with Gwen Ifill, which you can watch here.

From that interview, three things are clear.

  • Bill and Melinda do not understand teaching and learning, yet they comfortably assume an air of expertise.
  • They view victory as the implementation of their reforms, and while they claim to be all about the metrics, they only select examples that suit their purpose.
  • The first couple of reform neither appreciate nor respect the role democracy plays in the governance of public schools.

The self-anointed expertise of Mr. and Mrs. Gates is apparent in Bill's professorial gush about the educative value of testing, which he referred to as "one of the most important things in the whole education process." He began by citing an unnamed study—"they did a thing—it's one of the most dramatic results in education ever" which, he claimed, showed that you learn more if you are tested.

For Bill and Melinda, progress is what they say it is, and it has far more to do with the implementation of their corporate reforms than student achievement.

They identified one state, Kentucky, and two cities, Denver and Washington DC, as examples of the efficacy of their reforms. Even as they cherry pick their research, so they cherry pick their results—ignoring "reform" states that are not improving and citing spurious data "trees" in the places they highlight, while ignoring the forest.

Most disturbing, is how the couple views democracy as an impediment to their agenda. As Bill Gates wryly observed at the end of the interview, "The work can go backwards....nobody votes to uninvent our vaccine". Melinda Gates told Ifill that she is disappointed by the "apathy of parents where schools are working for their kids, they happen to be in the honors classes or they happen to go to a good suburban school…those parents are trying to keep the school in check but they are not helping us think about the rest" (minute 23:35).

Clearly, she assumes that those who do not go along with their agenda are terribly selfish. That parents might resist the Common Core, testing and charter schools because they believe they are not in the best interest of all children—rich and poor, suburban and inner city—is not something she accepts.

And so from the only foundation that can be seen from outer space, we can expect not self-reflection, but more of the same. They certainly will not take a long and hard look at a harsh economic system that benefits the mega-rich on the backs of the poor--a system in which losers are needed in order to create the unimaginable wealth and power that we see today in the hands of Bill 

Gates, and the other billionaires he praised. That is because what matters in the end to Gates, is the embedding of his ideas and corporate practices into schools, not public school improvement.

You can read my entire piece here.

To read more about the impact the Gates Foundation has had on public education, see Anthony Cody's book, The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation.

Thanks for all you do,

Carol Burris

NPE Fund Executive Director

Next Week: A Timeline of the Gates Foundation's Education Interventions


Bill Gates heavily funded the promotion of a referendum in the state, Initiative 1240, to allow public charter schools in Washington State. It narrowly passed, only to be struck down by the State Supreme Court, which found it to be unconstitutional.

Read about what happened here.


The Gates Foundation heavily funded a teacher evaluation program in Hillsborough, Florida Public Schools. This year the Foundation pulled out, leaving the taxpayers holding the bag for costs associated with the program. Learn more by reading here.


The Gates Foundation has had its impact on schools in Boston. Learn why this parent is not pleased with Gates's meddling in Boston schools by reading here.


In 2014, the Gates Foundation gave 5 million dollars to the East Lake Foundation to expand charter schools in Atlanta. You can read more here.

Washington (again)

Teachers led a protest at the Gates Foundation in Seattle to express their displeasure at the Gates-led reforms. Read about it here.

NPE recently announced the location for our 3rd Annual National Conference, which will be in Raleigh, NC the weekend of April 16th - 17th. Mark your calendars now to hear keynote speaker Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II.

Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.

You can read more about Rev. Barber and #NPE16NC on our website.

The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve, and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society.

Over the past two years, donations to The Network for Public Education helped us put on two National Conferences, and the first PUBLIC Education Nation. In the coming year, we will hold more events, and work on the issues that our members and donors care about the most!

To make a tax deductible donation, go to the NPE Fund website. We accept donations using PayPal, the most trusted site used to make on-line payments.

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Are you an injured teacher? CALL (818) 981-9960

Are you an injured teacher?  CALL (818) 981-9960