With money from Walmart’s Walton Foundation – They call themselves Democrats for Education Reform

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Today’s CT Mirror includes a deceitful and extraordinarily misleading commentary piece entitled, “This legislative session, let Connecticut children win for a change.”

Shavar Jeffries, the mouthpiece for a corporate funded, New York based, charter school advocacy group that calls itself “Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)” uses the space to urge Connecticut legislators to DEFEAT a bill that, if passed, would require Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration to develop an honest and effective teacher evaluation system rather than continue with Malloy’s present program that is dependent on the results of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Jeffries, who is the founding Board President of Newark’s Team Academy Charter Schools, a board member of the charter school front called Students for Education Reform (SFER) and a Director for Eva Moskowitz’s infamous Success Academy charter school chain, instructs Connecticut’s elected officials to “stay the course” with Dannel Malloy’s failed anti-student, anti-parent, anti-teacher and anti-public school agenda.

In the face of overwhelming evidence that reveals that the SBAC testing scam is not an appropriate measure of student academic achievement or an effective tool for evaluating teachers, the highly paid spokesman for the charter school industry opines,

“Will Connecticut beat back the progress it made in adopting a modern educator evaluation system in 2012? That system recognizes great teachers for a job well done, while providing support to struggling teachers. Or will lawmakers cave to a power structure that wants to keep things the same?”

The charter school fan’s incredible statement speaks volumes. 

The truth is that it is Malloy’s shameful corporate education reform initiative of 2012, and his utter failure to properly fund public education that is taking Connecticut in the wrong direction.

Malloy, who has proposed record-breaking cuts to Connecticut’s public schools while diverting more and more scarce taxpayer funds to privately owned and operated charter schools has become a poster-boy for the insidious and devastating impact that the education reform and privatization effort is having on public education in Connecticut.

The negative consequences of Malloy’s actions are particularly evident when it comes to the absurd teacher evaluation system that he has championed.  To better understand the problems with Malloy’s teacher evaluation program start with the following Wait, What? posts;

Wendy Lecker explains – Again – Why the Malloy-Wyman teacher evaluation system is a terrible farce

Speaking out for decoupling Common Core testing from the teacher evaluation process

Why Common Core SBAC results SHOULD NOT be part of the teacher evaluation process

New York Superintendents call for an end to evaluating teachers on standardized test results

However, when it comes to DFER and its allies, the truth has no value.

In fact, it is the truth that serves as the most serious impediment to their goals.

DFER and their plan to “transform” public education by handing it over to Wall Street investors, the elite hedge fund owners, and the private companies that seek to make money off the backs of our children, teachers and public schools require a political and public policy environment in which the truth is not allowed to get in the way.

Speaking of that dystopian approach to governance, George Orwell summed it up sixty-seven years ago writing in his once fiction – now non-fiction – epic titled 1984;

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Of course, when it comes to the real actors behind the effort to undermine public education, Shavar Jeffries is but a two-bit player.  His commentary piece in today’s CTMirror is a reminder that he is just someone who will carry the water for those that would prefer to remain hidden in the dark.

It is the dark and it’s associated “dark-money” where DFER flourishes.

Much has been written here at Wait, What? and elsewhere about DFER and those behind the charter industry.

An early description of the group appeared in December 2010, when the UFT’s Michael Hisrch wrote;

Among the group’s eight-person board is hedge-fund manager John Petry of Gotham Capital, who with Eva Moskowitz co-founded the Harlem Success Academy Charter School. The board also includes Tony Davis of Anchorage Capital, the board chair of Brooklyn’s Achievement First East New York school; Charles Ledley of Highfields Capital Management; and Whitney Tilson, chief of T2 Partners and Tilson Funds and vice chairman of New York’s KIPP Academy Charter Schools.

[…]

Of DFER’s seven-person advisory board, five manage hedge funds: David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, LLC; Joel Greenblatt, founder and managing partner of Gotham Capital and past protégé of fallen junk-bond icon Michael Milliken; Vincent Mai, who chairs AEA Investors, LP; Michael Novogratz, president of Fortress Investment Group; and Rafael Mayer, the Khronos LLC managing partner and KIPP AMP charter school director.

Orbiting the group is billionaire “venture philanthropist” and charter school funder Eli Broad, whose foundation gave upwards of $500,000 to plug advocacy related to the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” and another charter-touting film, “The Lottery.” Though not himself a DFER board member, Broad is a major funder of Education Reform Now, DFER’s nonprofit sister organization, also headed by Joe Williams.

Meanwhile, Andrew Rotherman, recently retired DFER director and EduWonk blogger, is co-founder of and a partner in for-profit Bellwether Education, described as “offering specialized professional services and thoughtful leadership to the entrepreneurial education reform field.” Rotherman sits on the Broad Prize Review Board, while DFER board member Sara Mead is a senior associate partner at his Bellwether Education and sits on the Washington, D.C., Public Charter School Board.

DFER is actually part of a much larger multi-headed beast that also includes Education Reform Now and Education Reform Now Advocacy, two tax-exempt entities that allow the billionaires and corporate elite behind the charter school industry to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into political, lobbying and advocacy efforts.  (For an example of their approach see Wait What? post, Figures that the super-rich would turn privatization of public schools into a game)

As noted previously, DFER is also a key player behind SFER – Students for Education Reform.  The SFER story explains a lot about just how far the corporate education reformers are willing to go to corrupt the system.

For more on SFER read;

SFER – The $7 million+ “student run” Corporate Education Reform Industry Front Group

MORE ON SFER – Corporate Money in the 2015 Denver Board of Education Election

Perhaps most telling of all is that when it comes to Malloy’s disastrous SBAC tests and his dangerously warped teacher evaluation program, the only entities supporting it are the groups and individuals funded, directed or at the beckon call of these hedge fund managers and corporate elite.

NOTE:  Who else has taken Walton money?

Governor Dannel Malloy and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

No evidence standardized testing can close ‘achievement gap’

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In a commentary piece entitled, No evidence standardized testing can close ‘achievement gap’, and first published in the CT Mirror, Connecticut educator and public education advocate James Mulholland took on the absurd rhetoric that is being spewed by the corporate funded education reform industry.

Collecting their six figure incomes, these lobbyists for the Common Core, Common Core testing scam and the effort to privatize public education in the United States claim that more standardized testing is the key to improving educational achievement.

Rather than focus on poverty, language barriers, unmet special education needs and inadequate funding of public schools, the charter school proponents and Malloy apologists want students, parents, teachers and the public to believe that a pre-occupation with standardized testing, a focus on math and English, “zero-tolerance” disciplinary policies for students and undermining the teaching profession will force students to “succeed” while solving society’s problems.

Rather than rely on evidence, or even the truth, these mouthpieces for the ongoing corporatization of public education are convinced that if they simply say an untruth long enough, it will become the truth.

In his recent article, James Mullholland takes them on – writing;

In a recent commentary piece, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, praises the Connecticut State Board of Education’s support for using student SBAC results in teacher evaluations. He claims, “The absence of such objective data has left our evaluation system light on accountability.” He further contends, “Connecticut continues to have one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation, the SBE appears committed to continuing to take this issue on.”

Contrary to Mr. Villar’s assertion, there is little, if any, evidence to support the idea that including standardized test scores in teacher evaluations will close the so-called achievement gap.

In some ways, it is a solution looking for a problem. Mr. Villar writes, “recently released evaluation results rated almost all Connecticut teachers as either proficient or exemplary. That outcome doesn’t make much sense.”

Other education reform groups express similar disbelief that there are so many good teachers in the state. In her public testimony during Connecticut’s 2012 education reform bill, Jennifer Alexander of ConnCAN testified that too few teachers were being dismissed for poor performance: “When you look at the distribution of ratings in those systems, you again see only about two percent of teachers, maybe five max, falling at that bottom rating category.” (Transcript of legislative testimony, March 21, 2012, p. 178.)

Education reform groups seem dismayed that they have been unable to uncover an adequate number of teachers who are bad at their jobs and continue to search for a method that exposes the boogeyman of bad teachers. But that’s exactly what it is: a boogeyman that simply doesn’t exist.

Regardless of the methodology that’s used, the number of incompetent teachers never satisfies education reform groups. They see this as a flaw in the evaluation system rather than a confirmation of the competency of Connecticut’s teachers.

However, Connecticut isn’t alone. After both Tennessee and Michigan overhauled their teacher evaluation systems, 98 percent of teachers were found to be effective or better; in Florida it was 97 percent. The changes yielded only nominal differences from previous years.

Mr. Vallar believes that including SBAC scores in teacher evaluations will decrease the achievement gap. There is no evidence to support the belief that including SBAC scores in teacher evaluations will lessen the differences in learning outcomes between the state’s wealthier and less-advantaged students.

In 2012, the federal Department of Education, led by Secretary Arne Duncan, granted Connecticut a waiver from the draconian requirements of No Child Left Behind. To qualify for the waiver, the results of standardized tests were to be included in teacher evaluations.

However, the policies of the secretary, which he carried with him from his tenure as Superintendent of Schools in Chicago to Washington D.C., never achieved the academic gains that were claimed. A 2010 analysis of Chicago schools by the University of Chicago concluded that after 20 years of reform efforts, which included Mr. Duncan’s tenure, the gap between poor and rich areas had widened.

The New York Times reported in 2011 that, “One of the most striking findings is that elementary school scores in general remained mostly stagnant, contrary to visible improvement on state exams reported by the Illinois State Board of Education.”

Most striking is a letter to President Obama signed by 500 education researchers in 2015, urging Congress and the President to stop test-based reforms. In it, the researchers argue that this approach hasn’t worked. “We strongly urge departing from test-focused reforms that not only have been discredited for high-stakes decisions, but also have shown to widen, not close, gaps and inequities.”

Using standardized test scores to measure teacher effectiveness reminds me of the time I saw a friend at the bookstore. “What are you getting?” I asked. “About 14 pounds worth,” he joked. Judging books by their weight is a measurement, but it doesn’t measure what is valuable in a book. Standardized tests measure something, but it’s not the effectiveness of a teacher.

To read and comment on James Mulholland’s commentary piece go to:  http://ctviewpoints.org/2016/04/20/opinion-james-mulholland/

OPT OUT: What would Kurt Vonnegut do? By Ken Previti

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Ken Previti is a retired Illinois teacher, public education advocate and a fellow education blogger.

Among the most outspoken education advocates in the nation, Ken Previti is known for his hard-hitting, truth-telling blog posts about the ongoing efforts to undermine public education and the issues surrounding the legal and contractual rights of active and retired teachers.

Ken’s blog is titled, “Reclaim Reform,” because, as he puts it, we must “’Reclaim Reform’ from the Corporate Industrial Education Complex which is attempting to dismantle public education and attempting to raid public pension (deferred income) funds for the profits of multinational investors.”

His blog posts are always informative, witty and powerful.  His latest is entitled, OPT OUT: What would Kurt Vonnegut do?.  Ken writes,

Kurt Vonnegut, the writer and seer, was famous for seeing right through the fallacy of blind acceptance. Anything presented as progress that wasn’t actual progress was repeatedly exposed by Vonnegut for the destructive stuff it actually was.

State mandated high stakes tests for children are the latest for-profit craze that monetizes and dehumanizes children.

But, hey, that’s progress and we can’t go backwards, can we?

UnitedOptOut Vonnegut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“And a step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.”  Kurt Vonnegut

How can you opt out for your child?

Go to United Opt Out for sample letters for each state. The letters work, but it’s up to you to take “a step backward, after making a wrong turn” to make “a step in the right direction.” Your children will know that that is true progress for children.

A previous piece Ken asked, Does Don DeLillo support Opting Out ?

You can read Ken Previti’s work at: https://reclaimreform.com/

A Lone Teacher Talks Back: An Educator on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation (By Poetic Justice)

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Educator, poet and fellow education blogger, Poetic Justice, addresses the insidious and damaging impact of the corporate education reform industry’s notion that standardized test results should be a part of a fair, appropriate and effective teacher evaluation system.

In Connecticut, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the “education reformers” have devoted themselves to ensuring that the children, parents, teachers and public schools of the Constitution State are saddled with an absurd and damaging teacher evaluation system that utilizes the Common Core SBAC testing scam results to evaluate teachers.

More recently, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) has proposed swapping the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC test results with the equally inappropriate MAP test which would produce a system equally unfair and discriminatory.  Public Education Advocate, Wendy Lecker, addressed the problems associated with the MAP in Connecticut – A failed application of standardized tests by Wendy Lecker.

The only reasonable approach is a teacher evaluation system that actually appropriates measures and evaluates the impact teachers are having.  Such models exist.

Here Poetic Justice lays out the situation in a way that even Malloy/Wyman and the education reformers could not misunderstand…

A Lone Teacher Talks Back: An Educator on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation (By Poetic Justice)

As far as Poetic Justice is concerned, all metrics need to be eliminated from the evaluation process. This may be a radical thought in this age of teaching reform, but it is not a radical idea to those who are pure educators.

This is what a valid teacher evaluation checklist would look like if I were in charge of my own building. This is what my own personal self-evaluation looks like:

  1. Are the children safe?
    2. Are the children the focus of the classroom?
    3. Does the teacher recognize and respond to the individual needs, strengths, and giftings in the class?
    4. Is the teacher helping, not harming her students?
    5. Is each student regarded as more than a data point?
    6. Is the teacher connecting content to the life experiences of his students and their collective situations?
    7. Is the teacher sensitive to the backgrounds and cultures of her students?
    8. Is the teacher striving for synthesis of content into her students’ learning schema?
    9. Is the teacher doing much more than just delivering prescribed content to a prescribed time table?
    10. Is the teacher using her own teacher created lessons and materials?
    11. Is the teacher respecting and cherishing student voice?
    12. Are writing and reading considered a joy by the teacher and by the students?
    13. Is there present a pedagogy based on love, joy, and compassion?
    14. Is the teacher actively growing in her own professional development?
    15. Is the teacher sharing and contributing to her colleagues’ successful practice?
    16. Is the teacher aware of her craft as an art as well as a science?
    17. Are ALL assessments used to help the student and to inform instruction?
    18. Is there a holistic dimension to assessment taking into account cognitive as well as affective domains of learning?
    19. Is creativity regarded by both students and teacher as the highest form of learning?
    20 Are the children safe?

This checklist is in direct opposition to the findings at this weekend’s Network for Public Education convention report and is in opposition to current evaluation systems. Poetic Justice is not saying all data is irrelevant; I am saying that data is only one small part of a teacher’s toolkit.

I left a career in the business sector expressly because I wanted to help children. I wanted to devote my life to the welfare of humanity not to some corporation’s bottom line. Today’s approach to teaching and learning is far more dehumanizing than even the approaches I experienced in business. At least in the business sector, the customer was always considered and any harm to that customer could result in litigation.

My plea is for those in educational power positions, to please consider the harm being done to children and teachers when only metrics are considered important.

 

teachers are most than tests scores

Please join a FaceBook page that Poetic Justice administers with the Walking Man – Dr. Jesse Turner.

FB page is located at – Teachers Are More than Test Scores.

 

Connecticut – A failed application of standardized tests by Wendy Lecker

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Connecticut – A failed application of standardized tests is another MUST READ piece by education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker;

One of the most damaging practices in education policy, in Connecticut and nationwide, is the misuse of standardized tests for purposes for which they were never designed. Standardized tests are being used to measure things they cannot measure, like school quality and teacher effectiveness, with deleterious results; such as massive school closures, which destabilize children and communities, and the current troubling shortage of students willing to enter the teaching profession.

Connecticut policy makers engage in this irresponsible practice constantly. They jumped on the bandwagon to adopt the SBAC as the statewide accountability test, despite the complete lack of evidence that it the SBAC can support reliable or valid inferences about student performance, let alone school quality or teacher effectiveness. After abandoning the SBAC for 11th graders, our leaders hastily approved the mandated use of the SAT for accountability purposes, despite, again, the absence of evidence that the SAT is either aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements or valid or reliable for use a test to measure student performance, school quality or teacher effectiveness.

Connecticut’s political leaders also blindly adopted the use of standardized tests in teacher evaluations in 2012, despite the evidence, even then, that standardized tests are inappropriate for this use. Since that time, every reputable statistical and educational research organization has repudiated this invalid practice; because a mountain of evidence proves that standardized tests cannot be validly or reliably used to rate teachers.

If only our leaders would examine evidence before adopting a policy, our state would not only save millions of dollars, but it would guide education policy in a direction that is good for students and teachers. Engaging in thoughtful educational policymaking requires a more nuanced understanding of what happens and should happen in schools. It demands an acceptance that in this very human endeavor, objective measures are not always possible and even when they can be applied, they can only measure a fraction what we want schools to accomplish.

Although four years late, the legislature seems to be finally heeding the substantial evidence on teacher evaluation and is considering SB 380, a bill to decouple state standardized tests. This bill, though it only covers state standardized tests, is a step in the right direction.

There are those, however, who cannot seem to let go of the idea that we need standardized tests to measure teachers, even if those tests are wholly inappropriate for this use. They want a measure that looks “objective” no matter how scientifically invalid that measure is.

Thus, some Connecticut groups advocate replacing the invalid use of SBAC and SAT for teacher evaluation with an off-the-shelf, commercially produced test never proven to be valid for teacher evaluation: the NWEA MAP (“MAP”) test.

The MAP test is a standardized tests some districts use to measure progress during the year. In other words, it is used to measure students, not teachers. Some teachers find the MAP test helpful, although a study from the national Institute of Educational Sciences found that the MAP test has no impact on student achievement.

There is only one study on the use of the MAP for teacher evaluation. An urban Arizona district interested in using the MAP for teacher evaluation engaged a well-known expert, Professor Audrey Amrein Beardsley, and her team, to determine whether this use of the MAP would be valid. Unlike Connecticut officials, these Arizona district officials wanted to be sure of its validity before imposing it on their teachers. Thus, they requested the study before beginning implementation.

The MAP test is closely aligned with the Arizona state test. However, despite the close alignment, the study revealed that the MAP test is unreliable for use in teacher evaluation. Consequently, the district decided against this use of the MAP.

The study’s authors stressed that measuring “growth” is not as simple as policy makers think it is; and “it is certainly unwise for states or school districts to simply take haphazard or commonsense approaches to measure growth. While tempting, this is professionally and (as evidenced in this study) empirically misguided.”

This paper is the only study on the use of MAP in teacher evaluations. And it proves that it is invalid to use MAP for this purpose. It is irresponsible for Connecticut policy makers to accept the use of MAP in teacher evaluations unless and until there is empirical evidence to prove its validity.

Connecticut teachers and children do not deserve an easy, but invalid, solution to the complex task of measuring teacher quality. They deserve the right solution.

Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.

You can read and comment on this piece were it was first published in the Stamford Advocate – http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-A-failed-application-of-7251515.php

What is the truth worth? Please support Wait, What? during this fundraising appeal

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“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Blogger

Wait, What? is dedicated to shining the light of truth on the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s efforts to privatize public education and to speak out on the political and policy issues that threaten the people of Connecticut.

With the assistance, participation, and financial support of many readers, Wait What? has attracted well over 2 million visits and produced nearly 30,000 comments since its inception in January 2011.

Wait, What? commentary pieces have regularly appeared on Diane Ravitch’s blog, as well as, in the Washington Post, Progressive Magazine, Truthout and dozens of national, regional and state publications.

The Wait, What? platform has also served as an important platform for other education advocates to add their voices to the battle to promote public education and fight for our students, parents, teachers and public schools.

And at a time when many in the media and politics run and hide from the serious problems and challenges that face Connecticut, Wait, What? has become a vital vehicle in the effort to speak the truth and hold our elected officials accountable.

With your help, Wait, What? will continue its role.

In addition, as the blog’s creator, I’m beginning a series of in-depth, long-form investigative pieces on how the wealthy and corporate interests behind charter schools, the Common Core, the Common Core testing scam and the anti-teacher agenda are undermining our democracy at the state and local level.

Without the financial backing of big corporations, foundations or interest groups, Wait, What’s support comes from reader donations – financial support that is extremely important and greatly appreciated.

For those who have been so generous in the past, your continued support is needed.

And for those who have not donated, but read the posts or believe that Wait, What? is helping raise awareness and drive the political debate, please do what you can to help the cause.

On-line donations can be made via the following link;

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Or, if you would prefer, donations can also be made by check.

Checks should be made out to Wait, What? and sent to

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Contributions are not tax-deductible, but they go a very long way toward help with the maintenance of Wait, What?

As always, thanks so much…

Words cannot convey my gratitude.

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New York’s “New Visions for Public Schools” is coming to save Connecticut

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Brace yourselves … Yet another New York corporate education reform organization has decided to open up shop in Connecticut.

What is that line about robbing banks because that is where the money is…?

In this case, the group is calling itself “Connecticut RISE School Partnerships” but it is really a New York based organization that is known as New Visions for Public Schools.

This latest Connecticut education reform savior is hiring staff in order to “partner” with the East Hartford, Meriden and New Haven public schools systems.

What the “partnership” is or even how the deal to “partner” with an out-of-state entity was cut hasn’t been revealed, but a series of Freedom of Information requests have been sent to the various school districts in an attempt to find out exactly what is going on.

Some of the funding for the endeavor appears to be coming from the Ray Dalio Family Foundation.  Ray Dalio is the billionaire who Governor Dannel Malloy showered with scarce taxpayer funds in a failed effort to help subsidize Dalio’s desire to move his company, Bridgewater Associates – the world’s largest hedge fund from Westport to Stamford.  In the end, Dalio decided to stay in Westport, for the time being, although he did keep in the range of $52 million in public money to cover some of his costs.  (See Yes, you heard right…CT taxpayers give $115 million to Bridgewater, world’s biggest hedge fund, Slam-Dunk! Touch-down! Goal!!!! Taxpayers come through for American’s highest paid CEO and To Hell with Connecticut’s Middle Class – Someone needs to subsidize the Billionaires.)

While details are scarce, New Visions for Public Schools’ website suggests that students, parents, teacher and public schools in East Hartford, Meriden and New Haven will benefit from “partnering” with them because the New York entity is;

“Dedicated to ensuring that all New York City public school students, regardless of race or economic class, have access to a high-quality education that prepares them for the rigors of college and the workforce. Further, we are committed to sharing innovative tools, strategies and lessons learned in New Visions schools with others in New York and throughout the country to prove that meaningful change is achievable at scale and success is possible for every child.”

[As a side note – never trust an education group that uses the words rigor or grit.]

New Visions for Public Schools further reports that the core of their work is to,

“Promote data-driven, peer-to-peer learning to support continuous improvement.”

The entity’s Board of Trustees includes Founder and Co-Chairman Richard Beattie who is the Chairman of Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., Chairman and Partner of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, a large New York law firm,  and a leading member of the Harley Davidson Board of Directors.

According to Bloomberg News, Beattle, “concentrates on mergers and acquisitions; leveraged buyouts; and corporate law and finance. He has counseled numerous boards and non-management directors on governance issues, investigations and litigation involving corporate officers and other crisis situations. He has also participated in some of the larger and more complex financial transactions, including the merger of America Online and Time Warner, the merger of WellPoint Health Networks with Anthem Inc. and the merger of J.P. Morgan Chase with Bank One.”

New Visions for Public Schools’ other Co-Chairman is Roger C. Altman, the founder and executive chairman of Evercore. (He is the same Roger Altman who served as President Carter’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and President Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of the Treasury until he resigned amid the “Whitewater controversy”).

Until recently the President of New Visons for Public Schools was Robert Hughes, who has since left to become the Director of K-12 Strategy for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In addition to the money from the Ray Dalio Family Foundation, major supporters of New Visions for Public Schools include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and a long list of other charter school industry and corporate education reform foundations, companies and donors.

The job postings associated with New Visions for Public Schools and their Connecticut RISE School Partnerships report that the organization will;

  • Collaborate with RISE district teams comprised of the district superintendent, school supervisor, district data administrator, high school principal, high school teacher, and other school and district staff.
  • Cultivate strong partnerships with RISE schools and districts, building strong relationships with teachers and leaders.
  • Develop a nuanced understanding of district strengths, priorities, and growth areas.
  • Provide embedded and consultative support in RISE schools and districts aligned to the Network common aim.
  • Support each school and district on its unique path to advance student outcomes.

Claiming particular expertise in “Data-Driven Innovation,” East Hartford, Meriden and New Haven should prepare to “benefit” from a program that will;

  • Support districts in designing and implementing local RISE Innovation Grants, piloting unique local initiatives designed to advance the Network’s common aim.
  • Facilitate quarterly Learning and Innovation Cycles, convening RISE teams to discuss Innovation Grant undertakings, review progress data, and refine/strengthen implementation.
  • Support the roll-out of new collaboratively-develop RISE data dashboards, providing school and district leaders with access to real-time and user-friendly data visualizations.
  • Build staff capacity around the use of data to systematically drive decision-making.
  • Focus intently on creating school and district systems, structures, and protocols to allow for regular data-driven learning cycles.
  • Support districts in implementing data tools and strategic data check-ins around college and career readiness indicators.

In addition to a the RISE Program Coordinator and the RISE School Partnership Manager, Connecticut’s newest corporate education reform industry group will also be adding a RISE Director Of Data Strategy, whose job will be to “play an integral role designing and leading RISE’s data strategy, overseeing research, development, and capacity-building functions.”

Check back for more information about New Visions for Public Schools’ Connecticut RISE initiative as it becomes available.

Figures that the super-rich would turn privatization of public schools into a game

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Attention all charter school and education reform advocates! 

It’s not too late to get your tickets to the Seventh Annual Take’em to School Poker Tournament, a major fundraiser for Education Reform Now, a member of the charter school advocacy conglomeration that includes Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now Advocacy (and indirectly Students for Education Reform.)

Together, these corporate-funded education reform groups have spent tens of millions to push their anti-student, parent, teacher and public school agenda that includes support for the Common Core, the Common Core testing scam and the privatization of public schools through the massive expansion of privately owned, but taxpayer funded, charter schools.

Education Reform Now and its affiliated entities have also bankrolled anti-union, anti-teacher ads in Chicago, New York and elsewhere, as well as, funneling massive amounts of money to support or oppose candidates based on their position on education reform issues.

With Education Reform Now’s “Seventh Annual Take’em to School Poker Tournament” coming up on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 at Gotham Hall in New York City, charter school owners and their funbders and allies have a plethora of sponsorship opportunities to choose from.

For $250,000 you can nab 10 seats at the poker tournament, 10 rebuys (a technique for expanding your winnings), 10 cocktail tickets for non-poker players and the honor of having not one, but two, “special guests” sit at your table.  [Education Reform Now hires famous people, usually sports stars and actors, to attend the event and sit and play with the wealthy donors]

For $100,000 you get the same benefits, but alas, the company of only one “special guest.”

Other Sponsorship levels include a $50,000 package, a table of 10 poker seats for $20,000 or a single poker seat for $1,000.

Last year’s Education Reform Now Event Chairs were education reform extraordinaire hedge-fund managers, John Sabat (SAC Capital Advisors LP), Michael Sabat (Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.) and Whitney Tilson (Kase Capital).  Other members of the event committee included John Petry and Joe Williams.

Petry is the co-founder of Democrats for Education Reform, the co-chair of Education Reform Now and a founding board member of Eva Moskowitz’s notorious Success Academy charter school chain.

Like Petry, John and Michael Sabat are closely associated with the Success Academy charter schools and both are members of the Education Reform Now Board of Directors.

Whitney Tilson is another co-founder of Democrats for Education Reform and has been a board member of the KIPP and Academy Charter Schools Chains.  In addition, Tilson has been a leader of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Joe Williams served as the president of Education Reform Now and Education Reform Now Advocacy.

In an article entitled, Inside A Big Poker Tournament With Hedge Funders, Poker Pros, And Legendary NYC Athletes, Business Insider reported that the event raises “funds for Education Reform Now, an advocacy organization that’s committed to making sure all kids can access high-quality public education.”

The article conveniently overlooks that fact that the charter school industry fails to provide equal educational opportunities for children who require special education services, those who aren’t fluent in the English Language and those who are forced out of charter schools for failure to survive the abusive disciplinary policies.

According to published reports, in addition to raising money for Education Reform Now, the education reform industry group sponsoring the poker tournament also provides a variety of prizes for tournament participants including seats at the World Series of Poker Main Event, vacations, golf outings, and “power lunches” with hedge fund managers like David Einhorn (Greenlight Capital), billionaire Seth Klarman, Leon Cooperman (Omega Advisors) and Bill Ackman (Pershing Square Capital Management.)

As Bloomberg News has reported, the Education Reform Now Poker Tournament also includes,

 “Blackjack tables, a putting hole, a silent auction offering a Joe Namath football jersey signed by him, models in cocktail dresses, and masseuses, clothed primly in what looked like hospital scrub tops. For food: hamburgers, fries, fajita bar, macaroni and cheese. Also John Allan’s, a salon for men, provided manicures and shoe shines for male guests.”

Over the years, some of the corporate sponsors of this boondoggle event include Eagle Capital Management, Capstone, Goldman Sachs Group, Tiger Global Management, Visium Asset Management, Hutchin Hill Capital, Magnitude Capital, SAC Capital Advisors, First New York Securities, Tricadia Capital Management, EcoR1 Capital, AB Bernstein, Point 72 Asset Management, Murdick Capital, Morgan Stanley, Magnitude Capital, Kase Capital and Greenlight Capital.

Regular sponsor and participants also include Charles and Rebecca Ledley.  Charles Ledley has been on the Board of Education Reform Now (former chair) and Democrats for Education Reform, while Rebecca Ledley has been on the board of a Massachusetts charter school chain and the board of Students for Education Reform. (See Wait, What? posts, SFER – The $7 million+ “student run” Corporate Education Reform Industry Front Group and MORE ON SFER – Corporate Money in the 2015 Denver Board of Education Election)

For additional background on Education Reform Now and its related organizations  see the 2013 Salon article, Wall Street is designing the future of public education as a money-making machine,

  • Democrats for Education Reform: Since its inception in 2006, this PAC has opened chapters in 13 states, funneling millions of dollars to candidates who support charter schools, vouchers, performance pay, parent trigger laws, and other neoliberal “reforms.”DFER’s board members are mostly hedge fund managers with vested interests in charter schools. Boykin Curry, whose portfolio is valued at $20 billion, co-founded Public Prep, a network of charters in Manhattan and the Bronx. Whitney Tilson, also a hedge fund manager, sits on the board of KIPP-NYC, a cluster of schools in a national charter franchise founded by TFA alumni. It’s no surprise then, that one of their first projects as members of DFER was to successfully push to raise the cap on charter schools in New York City.
  • Education Reform Now: The nonprofit arm of DFER that advocates for the same “reforms,” with a budget of over $6 million. ERN was the face of DFER’s push to increase charter schools in New York, and has funded similar campaigns everywhere that DFER has peddled its influence. ERN has also proselytized market-based education reforms through projects like DoneWaiting.org, a campaign to promote the documentary Waiting For Superman. (That domain name now leads to a spammy-looking blog about gambling.)DFER and ERN share an executive director and two board members, one of whom, Charles Ledley, is married to Rebecca Ledley. She sits on the board of a charter school management organization in Massachusetts, as well as the board of Students for Education Reform.
  • Students for Education Reform: Founded in 2009 by two Princeton undergrads who made the Forbes 30 under 30 list—possibly because their organization’s revenue skyrocketed from $30,000 to $1.8 million in one year. SFER purports to be a “student-led movement to end educational injustice.” But their work seems to come down to shuttling politically ambivalent students around to lobby against teachers’ unions. SFER is also connected to Teach For America: Its latest tax records list TFA CEO Matt Kramer as a board member, though according to a SFER representative, his term has ended. Other board members of note include Jonathan Sackler, who sits (along with Dave Goldberg) on the board of New Schools Venture Fund, which invests in charter schools and education technology companies.
  • Education Reform Now Advocacy, Inc.: This outfit is a shell of a nonprofit created by the same folks who started DFER and ERN in 2006. The organization seems to have been dormant for awhile, perhaps in part because its name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Interestingly, its 2008 tax return contains a pointed statement of purpose that diverges from the feel-good rhetoric espoused by its more active sibling organizations. This shady quadruplet does not aim to “return the Democratic Party to its rightful place as a champion of children,” as DFER’s website claims. It is concerned simply with, “Promoting policies and state and federal level [sic] to increase the number of charter schools and strengthen teacher evaluations in K-12 public schools.”

Fellow education blogger Peter Greene has also written about Education Reform Now’s poker extravaganza.  See Reformster Poker Benefit

DFER NEWS: Adam Goldfarb, former Chief of Staff to Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, lands COO post at Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)

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Having become a great weight around Democrat Dannel Malloy’s desire to serve a second term as Connecticut’s governor, in the run-up to Connecticut’s 2014 gubernatorial election, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, announced that he was leaving his post in search of new opportunities.  (See Wait, What? post –Commissioner Pryor and entourage are the biggest threat to Malloy’s Re-election…)

Pryor quickly announced that he was headed east to become Commerce Secretary for his friend, the newly elected Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo.  Pryor, Raimondo and her husband, hedgefund executive Andy Moffit, all attended Yale together.  Moffitt was roommates with Cory Booker and Pryor ended up serving as Booker’s economic adviser for five years until joining the Malloy administration as Commissioner of Education in 2011.

While at Yale, Pryor co-founded Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that owns and operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

As Governor Malloy’s point person on education, Pryor led the effort to undermine Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.

It was Governor Malloy, with the help of Pryor and a series of no-bid contracts with out-of-state corporate education reform industry consultants, which produced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education bill of any Democratic governor in the country.

In addition to the millions of dollars that Commissioner Pryor wasted on out-of-state consultants and his successful effort to divert hundreds of millions in scarce taxpayer funds to Connecticut’s charter school industry, another one of Pryor’s controversial actions was to hire his close personal friend and former Newark aide, Adam Goldfarb, to serve as his chief of staff.  (See Wait, What? post –IMPORTANT UPDATE: Oh, it’s good to be King, or at least Commissioner of Education.)

In order to get around the State of Connecticut’s hiring rules, Pryor actually hired Goldfarb under one job classification and then immediately bumped up his salary and made him chief of staff.

Goldfarb’s credentials?

Like Pryor, Goldfarb went to Yale.

Like Pryor, Goldfarb worked on economic development issues in Newark for then mayor Cory Booker.

Like Pryor, Goldfarb had no real public education experience.

And like Pryor, Goldfarb was a big fan of charter schools despite their unwillingness to provide equal educational opportunities to students who require special educational services, those who aren’t proficient in the English Language or those who fail to adhere to the abusive and degrading harsh disciplinary policies that are the staple of charter school operations.

In Goldfarb’s case, he has served as the Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of People’s Prep Charter School in New Jersey since the privately owned, but publicly funded charter school opened. (See Wait, What? post – What is Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff doing as the Vice President of a Charter School Board of Directors?)

While Goldfarb’s boss, Stefan Pryor, has spent the last year hiring even more out-of-state consultants and plunging Rhode Island’s governor into one controversy after another (Check back soon for more about that), Goldfarb has been treading water as a consultant for Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies and America Achieves project.

However, although no official announcement has yet been made, it appears that Adam Goldfarb has recently landed the job of Chief Operating Officer for the education reform and charter school advocacy group known as Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

DFER is the corporate and elite funded pro-education entity that serves as the political wing of Education Reform Now and its sister organization, Education Reform Now Advocacy.

DFER is used as a political action committee and a “dark-money” bundling group that has poured millions of dollars into political campaigns on behalf of candidates who support the Common Core, the Common Core testing scam and the privatization of public educations through the massive expansion of charter schools.

A darling of the education reform industry, DFER’s new National President, Shavar Jeffries, joined DFER after a stunning defeat against Newark councilman and community activist, Ras Baraka, for mayor of Newark when Booker became a United States Senator.

Jeffries has now brought in Adam Goldfarb to so serve as DFER’s Chief Operating Officer.

As for DFER, The Center for Media & Democracy’s Executive Director, Lisa Graves, recently published a investigative piece entitled, How DFER Leaders Channel Out-of-State Dark Money, in which she wrote;

DFER is actually the more well known PAC arm of Education Reform Now, Inc. (ERN), a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit, and Education Reform Now Advocacy, Inc. (ERNA), a 501(c)(4) social welfare group. Their acronym not only sounds like the word “earn,” but also it has the backing of some really huge earners.

DFER co-founder (and founder of the T2 Partners hedge fund) Whitney Tilson explained the hedge funders interest in education noting that “Hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital.”

The Board of Directors for ERN consists almost entirely of Wall Streeters who made their fortunes through financial groups and hedge funds, such as Sessa Capital, Gotham Capital, Covey Capital, Charter Bridge Capital, Maverick Capital, Cubist Systematic Strategies, and Sanford C. Bernstein.

As the New York Times reported: DFER’s supporters have included “the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.”

However, ERN and ERNA do not disclose who its major donors are and how much those big donors give to fund its operations and ambitions.

It is known, though, that FOX‘s Rupert Murdoch gave at least $1 million to ERN. Murdoch has expressed his desire to get in on education “reforms,” stating “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone….”

The most recent federal tax filings of ERN/ERNA show that it had more than $12 million available to push education reform ($7.4 million for ERN and $5 million for ERNA) in 2013. Its non-profit filings from the most recent major election year, the 2014 mid-terms, or last year are not available.

What is known from the 2013 is filings is that, in that year, ERNA disclosed that it spent $1.7 million in political expenditures, nearly all of which went to DFER. These funds were used for expenditures, like mass mailings or ads supporting particular politicians but that were “independent” and not to be coordinated with the candidates’ campaigns.

ERN/ERNA’s leader Joe Williams has been paid a for-profit like salary as its executive, with $398,500 in total annual compensation in 2013. He’s also listed as “Executive Director Emeritus” for DFER and on DFER’s board. Williams stepped down from his staff position at DFER in 2015 and also became a director at the Walton Education Coalition that year. That’s Walton as in Walmart’s Walton family.

Because nonprofits like ERN/ERNA do not have to disclose their major donors to the public, even when ERNA is active in supporting electoral activities the public is left in the dark about which hedge funder is actually helping to fund state and local ads and mailers during the election.

Even though privately held corporations and hedge funders do not have to disclose their donations to operations like ERN/ERNA, a CEO’s charitable foundations does have to disclose to whom they give grants.

That’s how it is known that the Walton family, of Walmart fame or infamy, has backed such efforts. In 2011, for example, ERN/ERNA received $1.1 million from the Walton Family Foundation. The total amount from all such CEO-controlled foundations given to ERN/ERNA to date is not known.

As Matthew Fleischer noted in the Frying Pan News (reprinted by the Huffington Post) that hedge funder Tilson has followed the Waltons’ lead: “in a 2010 documentary, A Right Denied, Tilson suggested that DFER was created because of Walmart patriarch John Walton’s support of vouchers and “school choice.'”

It has been investigative journalists who have helped expose the billionaire network behind ERN/ERNA/DFER, despite the opacity on the surface, as noted by George Joseph in the Nation:

“[A]ccording to Steven Brill in his book Class Warfare, around this time [in 2010] the hedge-fund alliance for education reform really began to take off. That April, for instance, Education Reform Now’s Joe Williams and Bradley Tusk schmoozed over drinks with Paul Tudor Jones II and other hedge-fund billionaires at Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone’s Five Avenue apartment, where they planned a successful campaign to secretly spend millions through a 501(c)(4) political action fund and win the charter cap increase [in New York]. As with Families for Excellent Schools’ mostly secret financing today, Brill notes that Education Reform Now’s donations never became public, and that in May a room full of eager billionaires was able to push the legislature to authorize increased charter-school expansion.”

(The Nation‘s exposé on ERN/ERNA/DFER in New York includes emails and a slide deck about the billionaires and foundations behind such efforts that were leaked to the magazine.)

Despite or perhaps because of this reality, the DFER arm in a state where ads are run merely discloses to the state authority that it received contributions from ERNA, not the hedge funders.

So, the ERN/ERNA/DFER operation is like a shell game when it comes to the public being able to pierce through the layers of nonprofits to find the name of a particular billionaire or uber-rich hedge funder whose money is propping up a particular electoral candidate being backed by DFER.

Similarly, DFER in the states has been known to partner with other groups that have similarly murky or occluded funding sources.

Most recently, DFER and its related entities have been particularly involved in campaigns and political activities aimed at supporting politicians committed to privatizing public education and promoting charter schools in California, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York and in other targeted states and cities.

When Eva Moskowitz speaks, only the elite are privileged enough to listen…

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As part of her new public relations campaign, Eva Moskowitz, the infamous and controversial CEO of the Success Academy Charter School Company, will be addressing a group of the super-elite at New York City’s Harvard Club tomorrow – March 29, 2016.

Moskowitz has turned her charter school chain into a taxpayer-funded, multi-million dollar business.  A business in which she collects a significantly larger salary to run a “school system” that manages 11,000 hand-selected students than the amount that is paid to the Chancellor of New York City’s Public Schools.

However, Moskowitz’s abusive “zero-tolerance” discipline policies and her total unwillingness to provide educational services to her fair share of students that require special education services or need additional help with the English Language has generated a significant amount of negative news stories and calls for independent investigations.

In a recent blog post entitled, Eva’s Offensive, nationally respected journalist John Merrow wrote;

After many months of intense scrutiny and criticism, Dr. Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of Success Academies Charter School Network, has gone on the offensive.

[…]

The recent criticism began last October, when the PBS NewsHour exposed her practice of multiple out of school suspensions of 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds. (My last piece for the NewsHour before I retired.)  Later in October Kate Taylor of the New York Times revealed that one of her schools had a ‘got to go’ list of students to be dropped. Moskowitz did not fire the principal.   In an electrifying report in February, Taylor wrote about a video of a Success Academy teacher humiliating a child. After many months of intense scrutiny and criticism, Dr. Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of Success Academies Charter School Network, has gone on the offensive.

With her overwhelming political arrogance and deep financial pockets in full display, Moskowitz hired Mercury LLC, the same public relations company that is trying to help Michigan Governor Rick Snyder lie and spin his way out of responsibility for poisoning the children of Flint, Michigan.

As Merrow explains:

[Moskowitz] mailed her staff accusing the New York Times of a ‘vendetta’ against her. On Monday, March 14, the Wall Street Journal published her op-ed, “Orderliness in School: What a Concept”. “Over the past year the Times’s principal education reporter has devoted 34% of the total word count for her education stories, including four of her seven longest articles, to unrelentingly negative coverage of Success,” Moskowitz wrote.

What Wait?

Wow, so Moskowitz is the victim?

One thing is absolutely sure and that is there is no doubt that the fancy PR strategy to “re-make” Moskowitz’s image and that of her charter school chain will be in full swing tomorrow night when she addresses a closed door meeting of the New York City Harvard Club, a private club whose website explains;

“Appropriate dress is required throughout the Club for Members. Members are responsible for ensuring that their guests are aware of, and comply with, the dress code.”

And just to make sure her effort to revise history and bury the truth goes over successfully, the woman whose company relies on public funds to pay her excessive salary is making sure that there is no opportunity for those impacted by her policies to be able to raise questions at the event.

Late last week, Fatima Geidi, a former Success Academy Parent and one of the most outspoken critics of Moskowitz’s abusive approach to education asked the Harvard Club to allow her to attend the meeting and counter any misinformation that Harvard Club members may hear from the Success Academy’s CEO.

The response from the Harvard Club was classic.

They wrote;

“The lecture tomorrow by Eva Moskowitz is only open to Harvard Club members.  The event is also currently sold out.”

In other words, as far as New York City’s exclusive Harvard Club is concerned, when it comes to important issues of public policy and the apparent widespread abuse of children who attend Success Charter Schools, ensuring that the truth is told is of little to no concern.

Or as George Orwell observed,

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

The issue is a simple one.  The very last thing that Eva Moskowitz and those who support the charter schools and education reform industry want is The People having access to the truth.

For more read,

Peter Greene: The Secret Memo That Success Academy Does Not Want You to See

Parents Call on Governor Cuomo to Increase Oversight of Success Academy Charters

John Merrow: Eva Goes on the Offense

 

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