The corporate education reform industry “thinking” behind privatization

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Privitization Infor #1

Washington – First mandate annual testing, then allocate $9 Million to reduce the “Assessment Burden.”

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Call it the American Way!

President Obama and a bi-partisan coalition of Republican and Democratic members of Congress used the Every Child Succeeds Act to mandated that no child go untested each and every year, despite the overwhelming evidence that the Common Core standardized testing scheme is unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory, not to mention a waste of hundreds of millions of dollars.

But now, in a yet another blatant effort to be as two-faced as possible, the Obama administration has announced a new $9 million “Enhanced Assessment Instruments Grant program” to assist states in efforts to “reduce the assessment burden.”

Mandate everyone gets tested, then allocate a few dollars to promote alternatives…

The school technology publication called, The Journal, reports that,

The Enhanced Assessment Instruments Grant program is the next step in the president’s action plan to improve the quality of academic assessments.”

The article adds;

The grant program builds on President Obama’s Testing Action Plan released last year. The plan aims to reform redundant standardized tests that are administered too frequently and fail to effectively measure student outcomes. As the next step in the plan, the Enhanced Assessment Instruments grant program, also called the Enhanced Assessment Grants (EAG) program, offers financial support for states to develop and use more effective assessments.

“The President’s Testing Action Plan encourages thoughtful approaches to assessments that will help to restore the balance on testing in America’s classrooms by reducing unnecessary assessments while promoting equity and innovation,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a news release. “This grant competition is the next step as part of that plan, and will help states and districts improve tests to allow for better depiction of student and school progress so that parents, teachers and communities have the vital information they need on academic achievement.”

The press release goes on to inform State education agencies and state education consortiums that;

Applicants that address these program objectives “by producing significant research methodologies products or tools, regarding assessment systems, or assessments,” will be chosen to receive funding for their projects, according to the department’s website.

Applications are available on Aug. 8. Applicants must submit proposals for the EAG competition by Sept. 22 and winners will be announced in January.

Chauk one more up for the greed and deceptiveness of the education testing industry and their corporate education reform allies in and of government.

The Malloy administration’s failed “school turnaround” program

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Since taking office, Governor Dannel Malloy’s pro-charter school, anti-teacher, anti-public education initiatives have done tremendous damage to Connecticut public education system.  Few governors in the United States have implemented such a short-sighted, mean-spirited and down right stupid approach to education.

Among Malloy’s worst “accomplishments” has been his “school turnaround” program that has undermined the local involvement of students, parents, teachers and public schools.

Not only has the Malloy administration undermined the very people public schools were created to help, his efforts have cut deep into the fabric of Connecticut’s historic system of local control.

In her

latest column, education advocate Wendy Lecker takes on the Malloy administration’s failure school turnaround strategies.  In Policy can foster positive relationships for kids, a commentary piece that first appeared in the Stamford Advocate, Wendy Lecker writes;

Current education policy focuses on a failed strategy of school and district “turnarounds;” characterized by staff shake-ups and pedagogical practices that focus narrowly on raising test scores. This reform has been the Malloy Administration’s approach to school “improvement” since 2012. The evidence demonstrates that turnarounds produce at best temporary small increases in test scores, but at the high cost of destabilizing schools and communities in the long run.

While policymakers stubbornly pursue this dead end, they ignore evidence from science and educational practice pointing to methods that result in long-lasting improvements in both academic and life outcomes, especially for at-risk children.

A recent article in the science magazine, Mosaic, described a longitudinal study of children in Hawaii that examined why some at-risk children develop significant problems while others do not. The researchers found that for the one-third of at-risk children who did not develop problems, positive relationships, whether in the context of a community or one adult, were key. Even those who engaged in risky behavior as teens were able to turn their lives around with the help of a personal connection.

One of the researchers observed that resilience, often described as a trait, is instead an adaptive process; one that is helped by relationships.

Education reformers misread resilience as a trait they like to call “grit,” and consequently develop misguided policies such as the recent announcement by the federal government that the National Assessment of Educational Progress will create a standardized test to determine whether children have “grit.”

Understanding resilience the way these scientists have come to understand it would lead to a focus on more successful educational policies. Consistent with what science has discovered, it turns out that school programs and policies that promote the development of relationships are the ones that provide long-term educational and life benefits, especially to disadvantaged children.

It stands to reason that school mechanisms promoting a personal connection improve learning as well as social development. Neuroscientists have found that the brain does not recognize a sharp distinction between cognitive, social and motor functions. Consequently, research has shown that feelings of social isolation impair key cognitive abilities involved in learning.

Though they require substantial initial investments, educational policies that foster relationships save money in the long run.

Developmentally-appropriate preschool, with an emphasis on play, enables children to acquire the skills necessary to form healthy relationships. There is near universal consensus that quality preschool benefits children, increasing the chance of graduation, higher earnings, and decreasing placement in special education, involvement in the criminal justice system and the need for other social services. It also can save society as much as $16 for every dollar spent on preschool, by avoiding the costs of these later interventions.

Small class size, which fosters closer relationships between children and their teachers, has been proven to provide similar benefits, increasing graduation rates and earning potential, and decreasing the likelihood and cost to society of risky behavior. Research also shows that increasing class size has detrimental and costly long-term effects on at-risk children.

Now, new evidence from the Colorado Department of Education shows that increasing guidance counselors in secondary schools saved $20 for every dollar spent. Colorado implemented a grant program enabling 255 high schools across the state to hire more counselors and reduce their student-counselor ratio to a ratio of 216:1; a level below the 250:1 ratio recommended by the American School Counselors Association. As a result, the schools’ drop-out rates decreased, saving the state over $319 million dollars.

The program benefited low-income students of color the most. This result is consistent with research examining why students leave high school. As detailed in an earlier column, many students at-risk of dropping out or who have already left high school are more likely to remain or return if they can develop a relationship with a caring adult. Increasing the number of counselors increases the likelihood that at-risk high school students develop a relationship with such an adult.

Preschool, small class size and counselors are among the educational resources the plaintiffs in Connecticut’s pending school funding case, CCJEF v. Rell, seek for Connecticut’s most disadvantaged children. Educational programs and services that foster positive relationships are proven to pay off for society, by preventing more costly social and academic interventions later on; and most importantly for our children, by increasing the chance that they develop into capable and productive adults.

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 Wendy Lecker’s piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Policy-can-foster-positive-9125538.php 

 

Charter School Political Action Committees target Connecticut legislative races

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Look out, here they come again…

Outside groups have begun a campaign to persuade voters in New London and Bridgeport to support Democratic candidates committed to diverting even more scarce public funds to privately owned and operated charter schools.

As a result of Governor Malloy’s budget and corporate education reform agenda, while Connecticut public school students, teachers and schools are reeling from their deepest cuts in state history, charter school companies in the state will collect more than $110 million from Connecticut taxpayers, this year.

A massive amount of money considering these entities refuse to educate their fair share of students who face English Language challenges, children who need special education services, and students who have disciplinary issues.

But these schools simply aren’t satisfied with skimming off more than $110 million that should be going to help fund public schools and keep a lid on property taxes.  Charter schools want more and now they are trying to buy up candidates who will be loyal to their cause.

A national, pro-charter school, anti-teacher, corporate-funded group called Democrats for Education Reform has formed a new political action committee in Connecticut called Change Course CT.

Another New York based pro-charter group called Northeast Charter Schools Network has formed a second political action committee in Connecticut called Charters Care.

And these two big money groups are coming into Connecticut to add even more fire power to the existing pro-charter, anti-teacher groups that are already trying to influence public policy and elections.  ConnCAN, New York based Families for Excellent Schools and their political action committee, Connecticut Forward, are only three of a growing number of groups that are spending millions of dollars to persuade Connecticut legislators and candidates to turn their backs on Connecticut’s real public schools.

According to the CT Mirror’s story entitled, Charter school advocates playing in General Assembly primaries;

Change Course CT, a PAC associated with Democrats for Education Reform, a national group Gov. Dannel P. Malloy addressed during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week, has polled voters on two primaries in Bridgeport and one in New London.

“We just want to know what the dynamics of the races are,” said Amy Selib Dowell, the Connecticut director of Democrats for Education Reform.

She declined to say what they are doing with the polling data gathered in three districts: the 39th House, where Rep. Ernest Hewett of New London is challenged by Chris Soto; the 23rd Senate, where Sen. Ed Gomes of Bridgeport is challenged by Dennis Bradley; and the 126th House, where Rep. Charlie L. Stallworth of Bridgeport is challenged by Maria Pereira.

Charters Care is spending their money on “literature and T-shirts promoting Stallworth over Pereira, an outspoken opponent of charter schools, and Rep. Terry Adams of Bridgeport over Dan Dauplaise.”

As noted, these pro-charter groups are closely aligned to Governor Dannel Malloy’s and his anti-public school agenda.  The groups have spent more than $9 million lobbying Connecticut public officials since Malloy rolled out his corporate education reform agenda in 2012.

The timing could not be more suspicious.

Malloy may be on his way out, but one of his key life lines for his aspirations in Washington D.C. is the charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies.

Or, as the CT Mirror noted;

Malloy, the co-chair of the DNC’s Platform Committee, was a featured speaker at a Democrats for Education Reform event in Philadelphia…”

“Payment” to be collected later…

For additional background on these groups and their antics in Connecticut read the following Wait, What? posts;

Connecticut Charter School Industry spends another half a million dollars on lobbying elected officials

The Bevy of Billionaires undermining public education

Charter School Industry “invests” more than $9 million in Connecticut lobbying

Education reformers and charter school industry are jacking our legislature.

How The Common Core Hurts Kids As Readers And Writers by Ann Policelli Cronin 

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Educator, public education advocate and fellow education blogger takes on the notion that the Common Core is good for children in her blog entitled, P.S. How The Common Core Hurts Kids As Readers And Writers.  She writes;

The New York Times, whose writers have seemed to lack knowledge about the Common Core, has been a PR firm for those misbegotten and ill-conceived educational standards. But finally on Sunday, July 24th, the newspaper published, ”The Common Core Costs Billions and Hurts Students” by Diane Ravitch that is critical of the Common Core.

Diane Ravitch, Assistant Secretary of Education under George H. W. Bush and the author of The Life and Death of the Great American School System and Reign of Error, pointed out that the Common Core has accomplished nothing that it promised and does not meet the educational needs of children. Ravitch explained that, as a country, we have spent billions to implement the Common Core, to prepare students to take the Common Core aligned tests, and to buy the technology to administer those tests online. The results are that math scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress  declined for the first time since 1990 and reading scores are flat or decreased, the achievement gaps based on race and income persist, teachers are demoralized, causing teacher shortages, and, most tragically of all, children are receiving an education which harms them.

I would like to add a P.S.

Diane Ravitch writes about the damage that the Common Core does to children with disabilities, English language learners, and children in the early grades. I know that to be true. My Post Script focuses on the damage that Common Core is doing to all students because, with Common Core, they are not taught to be thoughtful readers and effective writers and to develop as creative and critical thinkers and increasingly independent learners.

There has been false advertising about the Common Core, calling those standards “rigorous”. They are not at all rigorous. If they were, the National Council of Teachers of English would have endorsed them. After careful review, NCTE did not endorse the Common Core due to the content of the standards and the way they require reading and writing to be taught. It is preposterous to think that English language arts standards have been mandated for all k-12 students without the endorsement of the professional organization representing all elementary, middle, high school, and college teachers of reading and writing in the country.

And what is the objectionable Common Core content?

First of all, the amount of literature is restricted. We are the only country on the planet that specifies limits on reading literature. That means we not only limit the range of ideas with which students become familiar but we also reduce their opportunities to think divergently and create individual meaning in ways that only reading literature provides. Secondly, the kind of writing taught with Common Core severely limits the thinking students do because Common Core prescribes formulaic, impersonal writing. All Common Core writing assignments, according to David Coleman, the chief writer of the Common Core English Language Arts Standards, must let students know  that ” no one gives a **** what they think and feel”. And thirdly, the volume of the grammar to be taught at each grade level requires that grammar be taught separately, not as part of the writing process, even though all research for the past 30 years says that is a waste of time. Worst of all, none of the standards are about teaching students to be engaged, active, thoughtful readers or effective writers for a wide range of purposes and audiences.

And how must teachers teach the Common Core?

Common Core teachers are purveyors of information. They teach as if the meaning of any piece of literature is “within the four corners of the page”. That outdated and discredited approach to teaching literature is called New Criticism- but “new” was the 1930’s. With it, Common Core teachers do not teach students to make personal connections, create their own interpretations, evaluate the ideas, or consider the cultural assumptions in what they are reading. The Common Core teacher requires students to dig out the one meaning from what they are reading, a meaning the teacher already knows. Since there is only one answer, there is no point in teaching students how to discuss their initial thinking with others, question the perspectives of others, and reconsider their original thinking, maybe even changing their minds because of questions or ideas offered by their classmates.

Also, writing is not used as part of the learning process to foster individual thinking because that thinking is not sought. And revision is, as the standards state, only “as needed”, not as a mandatory part of the writing process although revision always strengthens a writer’s thinking and makes the writer more effective.

And why is all this so bad?

Well, first of all, kids are not receiving an education that sparks their minds and touches their souls. Secondly, students are not learning the skills they need for their future. Tony Wagner, lead scholar at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, has written two books (The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators), which discuss the skills students will need in the workplace. Wagner says that our future as a nation depends on our capacity to teach students to have the curiosity and imagination to be innovators. He says the competencies that students must learn in school are:

  • To approach problems as learners as opposed to knowers
  • To ask provocative questions
  • To engage in dialogue which explores questions with diverse people
  • To deal with ambiguity instead of right answers
  • To trust oneself to be creative and take initiative
  • To communicate orally and in writing by expressing ideas with clarity and personal passion
  • To analyze information and identify a path forward
  • To be curious, to be engaged with and interested in the world

You can’t get there from here when “here” is the Common Core.

Diane Ravitch is right.  We must stop hurting students. The Common Core must go.

You can read and comment on her commentary piece at: https://reallearningct.com/2016/07/29/p-s-how-the-common-core-hurts-kids-as-readers-and-writers/

Ann Policelli Cronin is a Connecticut educator. She currently is a consultant in English education for school districts and university schools of education.

Koch Brother’s American Legislative Exchange Council pushing for more charter schools

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Thanks in no small part to Donald Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the right-wing, corporate-funded, pro-privatization, anti-public education, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is meeting this week in Indianapolis.

At the top of their privatization agenda — More unaccountable charter schools.

The Center for Media and Democracy reports that at the meeting, “where corporate lobbyists sit side-by-side with state legislators in luxury hotels to vote as equals on ‘model bills’ that then get pushed to become law in states across the country,” a key issue will be the continued expansion of charter schools.  CMD explains;

The for-profit education companies that help fund ALEC, like K12, Inc., have a track record of poor results that tends to result in a high rate of school closures. K12, which was founded in part by junk bond fraudster felon Michael Milken, has a seat and a vote on ALEC’s corporate board.

Two new bills being considered by what ALEC now dubs its “Education and Workforce Development Task Force” could help poorly performing charters stay open without having to improve.

Under the Assessment Choice Act, instead of using a uniform assessment for students statewide, charters’ authorizers would take their pick from a “menu” of tests, unlike traditional public schools.

If propping up test scores isn’t enough to save a charter from closure, the “Student and Family Fair Notice and Impact Statement Act” promises to add new hurdles. Before closing or restructuring a charter school, this act would not just require that families be notified. It would also create a public hearing process in which parents, teachers, and “experts” could give testimony about the school, and the charter board would be allowed to suggest a response plan.

So, the corporate education reformers who taught standardized testing as the mechanism to rank order children, teachers and schools is now proposing legislation that would allow charter schools to exempt themselves from the use of the Common Core testing scheme.

Meanwhile, Trump’s running mate, one of the most anti-public education, anti-teacher governors in the nation is ALEC’s keynote speaker and was also scheduled to speak at an evening reception on school “reform” hosted by some of the biggest names in the corporate education reform industry.

While Hillary Clinton has unfortunately been a major supporter of the charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies, Trump-Pence are proving, yet again, that they would be a hundred times worse for the students, parents, teachers and public school of the nation.

K12 Inc – The Pride of Wall Street

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Writing in their 2015 Annual Report, K12 Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel Davis said;

Our strategy is simple: optimize student success, support market expansion in collaboration with current and future partners, and pursue targeted revenue growth.

Hyping their status as the leader in the for-profit corporate education reform industry, the company reported added;

The U.S. Market for K-12 education is large and online learning is gaining greater acceptance.

The notion that the country’s public school children are little more than lucrative profit centers for Wall Street investors has been growing since Rupert Murdoch famously called America’s public schools, a $500 billion untapped economic opportunity.

And by way of explaining the pro-charter environment and their ongoing success collecting public money, K12 Inc. explained;

Many parents and educators are seeking alternatives to traditional classroom-based education for a variety of reasons.  Demand for these alternatives is evident in the expanding number of choices available to parents and students.  For example, public charter schools emerged in 1988 to provide an alternative to traditional public schools and, have seen enrollments grow by 225% over the past 10 years….and there are approximately 6,400 public charter schools operating in 42 state and the District of Columbia with an estimated enrollment of over 2.5 million students.

While much of the attention related to education reform has focused on charter schools, the Common Core and the Common Core testing frenzy, Internet based, online virtual charter schools have become a significant part of the corporate education reform industry.

According to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), as of 2013, all 50 states “had established a significant form of online learning initiative, adding that, “1.82 million students participated in a formal online learning program.”

It was with this burgeoning sense of opportunity that a former Goldman Sacks executive and President Ronald Reagan’s former US Secretary of Education formed K12, Inc. in 2000.

With $40 million dollars from Wall Street investors, including $10 million from the infamous junk-bond dealer Michael Milken, Ronald Packard, a former Goldman Sacks executive and William Bennett, a former Secretary of Education, formed K12, Inc. so that they and their investors could profit off the children of the United States.

Other initial Wall Street investors included Andrew Tisch (Loews) and Larry Ellison (Oracle and Knowledge Universe), as well as Milken and his brother.

William Bennett, who by the 2000s had become a right-wing talk show host, served as the chairman of K12 Inc.’s board of directors until he resigned in 2005 following a series of racist comments that he made about African-Americans.

However, despite the controversy surrounding K12 and Bennett’s role in the company, the corporation’s profits have grown exponentially over the years, earning hundreds of millions of dollars for K12’s executives and shareholders.

K12 Inc. began by creating an online “education program” for children in Kindergarten through 2nd grade in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

Today, a decade and a half later, K12 Inc. owns, operates or manages virtual schools in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the District of Columbia.  In addition, the company sells online products to schools in all 50 states and around the world.

The company has been so successful that in 2007 it owners decided to take the company public, raising millions in capital as it joined the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: LRN).

By 2015, the company’s revenue exceeded $948 million, a 5.1 percent increase over the preceding year.   Since its inception, K12 Inc.’s revenue has exceeded $5 billion dollars, almost all of it paid for by American taxpayers.

The policy landscape supporting virtual charter schools has grown substantially over the years K12 Inc. has been in existence.  In just the last eight years, more than 157 bills passed in 39 states and the District of Columbia, all expanding the online school juggernaut.

In many cases, the anti-public school, pro-cyber school legislation was a result of aggressive lobbying and political involvement by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the member of its Digital Learning Subcommittee, a group of education reform entrepreneurs that includes K12 Inc.

Explaining an important aspect of its success, K12 Inc., its board of directors and staff have been especially active when it comes to political donations and lobbing activities at the federal and state level.

Federal Election Commission reports reveal that since its inception, individuals directly connected with K12 Inc. have donated well in excess of $1.5 million dollars to federal candidates and political action committees, helping to ensure that the company and cyber schools, in general, received a place of honor in both the administrations of President George W. Bush and Barak Obama.

The virtual school industry has received consistent and bi-partisan legislative and administrative support.

In fact, the No Child Left Behind Act, the Race to the Top initiative and the recently adopted, Every Student Succeeds Act, all make room for the significant expansion of virtual schools.

In addition to the company’s work at the federal level, the Center for Media and Democracy reports;

Since 2004, K12 Inc. and its employees have pumped almost $1.3 million into state-level politics in 23 states (as of 2012), including contributions to candidates for office, party committees, and ballot initiatives.

On top of K12’s direct involvement in political campaigns, K12 Inc. has also focused on direct lobbying activities, spending more than $120,000 spent on federal lobbyists in the last two years, all while hiring more than 150 lobbyists in 28 states between 2003 and 2012, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

A prime example of K12’s involvement in state politics can be found in the role it played in Georgia’s referendum to amend its state constitution in order to make it easier to open charter schools in that state.  K12 was a major supporter of the effort, donating at least $300,000 in 2012 to “Families for Better Public Schools,” a Georgia political action committee behind a constitutional amendment that would further the charter school industry by bypassing the legislature and state board of education to create a new, politically appointed commission that would have the authority to independently override state and local control and approve new charter schools and online virtual schools.

With additional financial support from the Koch Brother’s  Americans for Prosperity StudentsFirst, the Walton Family Foundation and other major corporate education reform players, the amendment passed with proponents outspending the opposition by about ten-to-one.

In yet another example, the Center For Media and Democracy reports,

In Pennsylvania, where ten percent of its revenue is generated, K12 Inc. has spent $681,000 on lobbying since 2007, according to the New York Times.  It registered 11 lobbyists in the state from 2007 through 2012, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

K12 Inc. has also used ostensibly benign front groups to lobby and organize protests on its behalf. The K12 Inc. funded group Pennsylvania Families for Public Cyber Schools spent $250,000 on lobbying in the last five years, according to the Times.

The paper also reports that K12 Inc. is connected to My School, My Choice, a group that organized protests in Ohio against reforming the state formula for financing charter and online schools. The protesters turned out to be paid temp agency workers. Tim Dirrim, the founder of the organization, is the board president of the K12 Inc. managed Ohio Virtual Academy.

In states across the country and at the national level, political donations, lobbying, public relations and advocacy and extensive marketing campaigns have served as the building blocks of K12’s lucrative online schools.

However, perhaps the most telling points about how K12 Inc. and other online charter school succeed in the present economic and political climate can be found in the narrative that the company lists as “Risk Factors” in their most recent quarterly report to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), factors that make it clear that the for-profit education reform industry has become an active part of the advanced capitalist system.

Warning Wall Street and its investors, K12 Inc. outlined the potential barriers to its success, noting;

  • From time to time, proposals are introduced in state legislatures that single out virtual or blended public schools for disparate treatment.
  • We have been, and will likely continue to be, subject to public policy lawsuits filed against virtual and blended schools by those who do not share our belief in the value of this form of public education.
  • Opponents of virtual and blended public schools have sought to challenge the establishment and expansion of such schools through the judicial process. If these interests prevail, it could damage our ability to sustain or grow our current business or expand in certain jurisdictions.
  • Beyond academic performance issues, some virtual school operators have been subject to governmental investigations alleging the misuse of public funded or financial irregularities. These allegations have attracted significant adverse media coverage and have prompted legislative hearings and regulatory responses.
  • As a public company, we are required to file periodic financial and other disclosure reports with the SEC…The disclosure of this information by a for-profit education company, regardless of parent satisfaction and student performance, may nonetheless be used by opponents of virtual and blended public schools to propose funding reductions or restrictions.
  • As a non-traditional form of public education, online public school operators will be subject to scrutiny, perhaps even greater than that applied to traditional brick and mortar public schools or public charter schools.  (A claim that is blatantly false considering there is little to no federal or state oversight of virtual charter schools.)

And finally, in what may be the most telling and honest observation of all, K12 reports;

  • Parent and student satisfaction may decline as not all parents and students are able to devote the substantial time and effort necessary to complete our curriculum.

While these “risk factors” paint a picture of potential problems facing K12 Inc. and other virtual schools, the supposed legitimacy of the virtual school industry has allows them to expand operations and continue to rake in the cash, all at the expense of taxpayers and real public schools.

The on-line scam called K12 Inc.

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While children play in the summer heat, parents in Massachusetts and 31 other states across the country are being bombarded with advertisements for the online “learning” giant, K12 Inc., a for-profit virtual school system that is part of the ongoing movement to divert public funds away from traditional schools and give the taxpayer money to privately owned and operated charter and on-line entities that supporters claim are the future of public education in the United States.

But the truth surrounding these corporate education reform strategies fall far short of their advertising claims, a fact that is especially true when it comes to the growing online or virtual charter school industry.

As California’s Mercury News explained in a major investigative series this past spring,

The TV ads pitch a new kind of school where the power of the Internet allows gifted and struggling students alike to “work at the level that’s just right for them” and thrive with one-on-one attention from teachers connecting through cyberspace. Thousands of California families, supported with hundreds of millions in state education dollars, have bought in.

But the Silicon Valley-influenced endeavor behind the lofty claims is leading a dubious revolution. The growing network of online academies, operated by a Virginia company traded on Wall Street called K12 Inc., is failing key tests used to measure educational success.

Fewer than half of the students who enroll in the online high schools earn diplomas, and almost none of them are qualified to attend the state’s public universities.

In fact, a series of academic studies have revealed that despite collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money, most virtual schools are utterly failing when it comes to actually educating children.

Reporting on a major study conducted in 2015 by Stanford University, the Washington Post wrote,

Students in the nation’s virtual K-12 charter schools — who take all of their classes via computer from home — learn significantly less on average than students at traditional public schools, a new study has found.

The online charter students lost an average of about 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math during the course of a 180-day school year, the study found. In other words, when it comes to math, it’s as if the students did not attend school at all.

In addition to outright corruption, the widespread academic failures plaguing virtual charter schools are leading to numerous state investigations into a significant number of the on-line schools, including some owned and operated by K12 Inc.

For example, earlier this month California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that the Bureau of Children’s Justice and False Claims Unit of the California Department of Justice had reached a settlement agreement with K12 Inc. and its 14 affiliated California Virtual Academies over the company’s “violations of California’s false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws.“

Covering the settlement agreement, the Mercury News reported;

Facing a torrent of accusations, a for-profit company that operates taxpayer-funded online charter schools throughout California has reached a $168.5 million settlement with the state over claims it manipulated attendance records and overstated its students’ success.

The deal, announced Friday by Attorney General Kamala Harris, comes almost three months after the Bay Area News Group published an investigation of K12 Inc., a publicly traded Virginia company, which raked in more than $310 million in state funding over the past 12 years operating a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” schools for about 15,000 students.

[…]

Harris’ office found that K12 and the 14 California Virtual Academies used deceptive advertising to mislead families about students’ academic progress, parents’ satisfaction with the program and their graduates’ eligibility for University of California and California State University admission — issues that were exposed in this news organization’s April report.

The settlement could help spur legislation that would prevent for-profit companies like K12 from operating public schools in California.

The Attorney General’s office also found that K12 and its affiliated schools collected more state funding from the California Department of Education than they were entitled to by submitting inflated student attendance data and that the company leaned on the nonprofit schools to sign unfavorable contracts that put them in a deep financial hole.

“K12 and its schools misled parents and the State of California by claiming taxpayer dollars for questionable student attendance, misstating student success and parent satisfaction and loading nonprofit charities with debt,” Harris said in a statement. “This settlement ensures K12 and its schools are held accountable and make much-needed improvements.”

K12 Inc. and its 14 “non-profit” virtual charter schools enroll about 13,000 students in California.  According to the Attorney General’s investigation, only about one in three students in the K12 Inc. schools actually graduate. The statewide graduation rate for California’s public schools is close to 80 percent.

The California controversy is just one of many surrounding K12 Inc.

Overall, about 315,000 students in the United States attend “virtual” schools and like those in California, the vast majority aren’t getting the quality education that the taxpayers are paying for.

But that doesn’t even slow down the cash flow.

In 2015, K12’s revenue exceeded $948 million, a 5.1 percent increase over the preceding year. Since its inception, K12 has collected over $5 billion dollars for its investors and executives.

K12’s false claims may have cost it money in California, but it continues to make similar claims of success in advertising that is presently running in a number of states.

If there was real truth in advertising, the K12 and other virtual charter schools would be using the tag line,

“America’s Virtual Schools – Ripping off the taxpayers, not even coming close to providing children with an adequate education.”

Check back for more on K12 and the virtual charter school industry.

Connecticut Charter School Industry spends another half a million dollars on lobbying elected officials

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According to the latest lobbying reports filed with the Connecticut Ethics Commission, the charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies spent another $555,000 during this year’s legislative session in their ongoing effort to support Governor Malloy and persuade Connecticut legislators to divert even more public money to the privately owned and operated charter schools in the state.

While Governor Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly instituted the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools, Malloy and the Democrat’s new budget actually increased the amount of scarce public funds going to the charter schools.

At the same time, the charter school front groups were working with Malloy to fight off efforts to fix Connecticut’s flawed teacher evaluation program.

Malloy and the charter schools are intent on keeping the scores that student receive on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC standardized tests as a prominent factor in determining teacher quality, despite the fact that every major academic study has revealed that individual teachers have an extremely small impact on how individual students do on standardized tests.

Rather than develop a teacher evaluation system based on how well that educator is actually doing, Malloy and the education reformers want to stick with a faulty system that will unfairly judge teachers on factors beyond their control.

Meanwhile, as Wait, What reported earlier this year, the charter school industry and their corporate funded front groups have spent in excess of $9 million on lobbying since Governor Malloy took office in 2011.  See: Charter School Industry “invests” more than $9 million in Connecticut lobbying

The latest ethics reports indicate that, once again, the New York based Families for Excellent Schools continue to spend the most on lobbying in Connecticut, having reported an additional $300,000 in lobbying expenditures since the beginning of this year’s legislative session.  The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) took the 2nd and 3rd spots on the charter school lobbying chart.

While Families for Excellent Schools and the entire charter school industry continue to expand their lobbying efforts, Neil Vigdor, of the Hearst Media Group, reports that Families for Excellent Schools and other so-called education reformers have set up another Political Action Committee that they will be using to reward and punish candidates who support or oppose their agenda.

In Charter schools step up political action Vigdor reports;

The charter school movement — backstopped by a billionaire club that includes Michael Bloomberg, Paul Tudor Jones and Ray Dalio — wants to put its stamp on the Legislature in Connecticut.

CT Forward, a newly launched nonprofit advocacy group, will survey House and Senate candidates across the state on their support for public charter schools. The litmus test will determine which candidates receive financial and grassroots support from the group’s dues-paying members, who will be made up heavily of parents.

Families for Excellent Schools, which has wrangled with Bridgeport administrators over education reform, is behind the election-year initiative.

[…]

For giants of the hedge fund industry such as Jones and Dalio, both Greenwich residents, charter schools have become a favorite cause. Each has contributed to Families for Excellent Schools, which reported $17.6 million in contributions and grants for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, to the IRS. [FES Director] Kittredge’s compensation was $222,297 for that time period, more than Connecticut’s state education commissioner and New York City’s schools chancellor.

A spokesman for Jones declined to comment. Multiple requests for comment were left for Dalio, whose Westport hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, is the largest in the world. Bloomberg has not contributed directly to FES, but has been strongly linked to the charter school movement.

Lobbying legislators, handing out campaign cash…it is all part of the effort to privatize public education in Connecticut and across the country.

BREAKING NEWS – Trump goes with anti-public education running mate

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As expected, the most unqualified candidate to be President of the United States has chosen a running mate who is equally unprepared, ill-equipped and incapable of representing the people of the nation.

Not only is Indiana Governor Mike Pence the most anti-choice governor in the country, he is nothing short of a puppet for the charter school industry and its corporate education reform allies.

As Indiana’s governor, Pence has driven an anti-teacher, anti-public education political and legislative agenda that has included dramatically expanding charter schools and diverting scarce public funds to voucher programs that, in turn, have allowed private individuals to use taxpayer money to send their children to religious schools.

As a gubernatorial candidate Pence has used his anti-public education agenda to raise massive amounts of money from wealthy corporate education reform donors both in and out of his state.  Many of the most prominent anti-public school big donors appear on Pence’s fundraising reports.

As the Indianapolis Star and other Indiana based newspapers and blogs have reported, Pence has been collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from charter school owners and voucher supporters.

Pence’s education donors include;

  • Fred Klipsch, founder and chairman of Hoosiers for Quality Education, “a leading pro-voucher organization. Klipsch boasted in 2012 that he had put together the campaign funding to overcome teacher opposition and push through legislative approval of the Mitch Daniels-Tony Bennett education agenda, including vouchers and charter schools.”
  • John D. Bryan, founder and director of Challenge Foundation, “which operators several charter schools, including the Indianapolis Academy of Excellence. He has given nearly $600,000 to Republican campaigns in Indiana, including $145,000 to Pence’s campaigns for governor.
  • Roger Hertog, of Success Academy infamy.  Hertog, a major right-wing donor has also given pro-charter school governor Andrew Cuomo at least $30,000.
  • Robert L. Luddy,  “who runs a group of private schools and who provided much of the campaign financing for school board candidates who overturned a model school desegregation program in Wake County, N.C., schools.

In July 2012, the education blog, In School Matters led with an article entitled, More on the money behind the Indiana school-voucher law.  Pro-public education blogger Steve Hinnefeld wrote;

Hoosiers for Economic Growth chairman Fred Klipsch explained recently how his organization and several affiliated groups spent $4.4 million to push through the education policies that Indiana adopted in 2011, including a huge voucher program, expansion of charter schools and anti-union measures.

Klipsch spoke in May at a national policy summit in Jersey City, N.J., hosted by the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice, organizations that promote taxpayer funding of private schools.

You can download a PowerPoint of Klipsch’s presentation from the website of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options. You can also watch a video of Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett receiving the John T. Walton Champion of School Choice Award at the summit.

Hoosiers for Economic Growth spent almost $1.3 million during Indiana’s 2010 election cycle, most of it targeted to producing a Republican majority in the Indiana House. Organizations like School Choice Indiana and Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Aiming Higher also contributed to the effort, according to Klipsch’s presentation.

The goal was to overcome what Klipsch referred to as “the problem” – the Indiana State Teachers Association, which his presentation calls “the most powerful political force at the Statehouse and at the ballot box” and “the biggest spender by far” in Indiana politics.

The ISTA’s political action committee, the Indiana PAC for Education or I-PACE, spent $792,683 in 2010, according to campaign finance reports.

Hoosiers for Economic Growth gets much of its money from the Indiana PAC of American Federation for Children, a pro-voucher outfit headed by Michigan Republican activist Betsy DeVos. The PAC’s money comes from Philadelphia and New York hedge-fund managers and Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton.

More about Pence in the coming days

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