CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

A Better PARCC/SBA Test Prep Program

You may recall the old SAT vocabulary lists. Dozens of test prep lists that promised to get you ready for the SAT because their creators had pored through and broken down dozens upon dozens of old SAT tests, and here they were– the 50 or 100 or 500 words that most commonly appeared on the test.

Of course you remember these lists, because they totally worked. While the SAT allegedly tested reasoning, mostly what all those analogies and other nifty word puzzles tested was your vocabulary, and having a list of the most likely vocabulary on the test ahead of time was a great way to make your studying more direct and efficient. Cheating…? Well, that’s quite a philosophical conundrum, isn’t it– if someone creates an artificial obstacle between you and a goal, and the obstacle is not only artificial, but rather unfair and designed mostly to serve their needs at your expense, is “cheating” even really a possibility? If the game is rigged and somebody else is forcing you to play it, do you have an ethical obligation to follow their rules to the letter?

But I digress.

The point is, Amplify is offering just that sort of test prep for the PARCC and SBA.

Amplify, you will recall, was going to be Rupert Murdoch’s big shot at hoovering up some of those sweet sweet public education tax dollars. Instead, it limped its way to being bought by Joel Klein and other big whoopdie doo education privateers who had been brought in to run the place. Their most spectacular disaster was the Los Angeles ipad fiasco, but mostly they’ve been a company of high-rolling education amateurs.

So they’ve been doing their homework, including poring through and breaking down old PARRC and SBA reading tests.

These new-generation tests have always pretended to be two impossible things. 1) A test that is impervious to test prep, so don’t even try, just go about regular educating stuff and we will accurately measure that. 2) A test of reading skills that are somehow divorced from any sort of content knowledge.

The second is a deeply impossible thing– divorcing reading from content is like divorcing kissing from touching. It can’t really be done, and so every reading test is inescapably a test of prior knowledge.

With that in mind, wouldn’t it be helpful to know what prior knowledge would be helpful? Sure it would– and the folks at Amplify know. They even have a nifty graphic:

There’s your top ten content areas–  US History, Folk Tales, Human Biology, Historical Fiction, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Classic Children’s Fiction, Immigration, Astronomy and Space, Engineering, Animals & Ecology. But not sports. This is what your K-5 students should be reading about to get ready for the test.

Oh, and Amplify wants you to know one other thing:

We also found that students who had studied our K-5 Core Knowledge Language Arts® (CKLA) curriculum would have prior knowledge relevant to more than 75% of passages reviewed on summative tests like PARCC and SBAC.

I’m sort of impressed by their honesty. No “CKLA provides for excellent development of language skills that will better prepare your students for college and career by meeting high standards etc etc blah blah blah.” Instead, just a plain and simple “Buy our program. It’s excellent test prep, because it teaches the content they’re likely to be tested on.”

It’s not quite selling an early peek at the test, so I suppose it’s not exactly cheating. It’s just not exactly education, either.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: A Better PARCC/SBA Test Prep Program

CURMUDGUCATION: Choice and Guarantees


The slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Choice and Guarantees

You are visiting friends, and at suppertime, they give you two options. “We can go to Restaurant A,” they say, “and there will be only one choice on the menu, but I can guarantee you that it will be awesome. Or we can go to Restaurant B where there will be plenty of choices, but it’s entirely possible they will all be pretty lousy.”

Which restaurant would you select?

Some reformy choice advocates insist that Restaurant B is the better option. These choicers insist that what parents want is choice. I think not. I think what parents (and students and neighbors and taxpayers) want is secure knowledge that public tax money s being well-spent, and that when a student walks into a classroom, that student is being met by a well-trained, capable professional educator who is going to meet that child where the child is, and do their best to lift that child up.

Rick Smith, in a recent conversation with Jeff Bryant, makes the point by talking about health care. If I’m sick or, say, my wife is about to give birth, I don’t want a bunch of choices of various hospitals and doctors. I want to know that the hospital I go to will be great. And then Bryant used a word that jumped out at me.

When it comes to schools, people want a guarantee.

Not choice. Not a bunch of bad options. They want a guarantee.

Guarantee is a strong word. We often talk about the promise of public education, and that’s a nice word, but a promise leaves an awful lot of wiggle room.

But guarantee. That’s strong stuff. No matter who you are. No matter where you live. No matter what your child brings to the table. We guarantee we’ll provide whatever is needed to do the job.

A guarantee isn’t just a promise that I’ll do the job right. It is a promise that if I fail, I will make it right.

There is absolutely no question that there are places, districts, schools that have failed to honor their guarantee. I don’t want to minimize that for a second. Some school “failures” have been manufactured by rigging the game and cooking the books (looking at you, test-centered “accountability’). Some school failures have been manufactured by deliberately starving public schools. Some school failures have been deliberate choices to deny Those Children their guaranteed education. And some schools have managed to fail all on their own, through some unfortunate combination of bad leadership or terrible management.

Those failures have provided an opening, a business opportunity, for champions of choice. “Instead of a renewed guarantee for the school you already have,” is the pitch, “how about a choice of other schools.” And many folks have bit on that offer because 1) their old school really has failed to live up to the guarantee and 2) they hear the word “school” (or in some cases, “public school”) and they assume that the choice school comes with its own guarantee. But many charter-choice schools come with no guarantee at all. No promise that the school will do its best to provide a great education to every single child, and definitely no promise that if the school fails, the family has an avenue to demand that the school make it right.

So instead of making a promise good, fulfilling the guarantee of a public school, choicers just offer other unguaranteed, buyer beware, good luck with that options. If the school fails a student, well, there’s the door. Except, of course, voting with your feet does not make things right.

To me it is one of the central mysteries of the choice argument– if a school is bad, why would you start to open other schools instead of fixing it?

I know one answer, which is “we tried and it just didn’t work” followed, usually, by blaming that failure on unions or teachers or deficit models of how Those People’s Families behave. No. If what you tried didn’t work, the most likely explanation is that what you tried was a bad idea, implemented by someone who didn’t know what the hell they were talking about (see also, test-centered accountability).

The other answer, which generally arrives in more coded language, is “fixing schools would cost money, not make money, and why would we spend money on Those People”?

What do we need in education?

We need to issue a clear, unequivocal guarantee to every parent, every child, every taxpayer, every citizen, that they will have a locally-run school in their community fully funded, well resourced, staffed with quality trained professionals, and well-maintained, and that every child who walks into that school will be met by caring professionals who will meet the child where she is and help guide her toward her best possible future. And if the guarantee is not being met, there will be a means to make things right.

Yes, it would be expensive. And yes, it would be most expensive in communities where there are the fewest local resources which, yes, means that you’d have to spend a bunch of tax dollars on Those People’s Children. Yes, a guarantee would require a commitment. A big commitment. A real commitment. And while that may seem hopelessly huge, we have certainly found the will– and the money– for everything from walking on the moon to grin ding away for decades of Middle Eastern military adventures.

Choice isn’t about replacing the guarantee or honoring the guarantee. Choice is about masking the unhappy truth that our leaders don’t have the will to make the guarantee and stand by it. Choice is about masking the unhappy truth that too many of us don’t really think Those People’s Children deserve any such guarantee (just like poor people don’t really deserve health care). Choice is not how we find our way to a Great American Education Guarantee; it is what we do instead.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Choice and Guarantees

What you need to know about accountability, tests, and music | Eclectablog

In the past couple of days I’ve seen a number of troubling statements about education and policy-related issues, like standardized testing, from a variety of political leaders.

And I keep coming back to the same word to describe how I feel after reading their ideas about the state of public education.


One of these statements was from a hopeful for governor of our state, and although there were some encouraging bits about “supporting teachers” scattered throughout the piece, the overriding concerned seemed to be a focus on increased “accountability.”

In an era in which teachers are scrutinized, measured, prodded, and poked like pieces of meat, it is simply beyond comprehension that any reasonable person would suggest that what’s need to make things better is…wait for it…more “accountability.”

Even worse, this “accountability” is only ever available in one-size-fits-all standardized tests–tests that do not provide any sort of meaningful feedback to students so they can…

READ THE FULL BLOG POST HERE: What you need to know about accountability, tests, and music | Eclectablog

CURMUDGUCATION: Is DeVos Misunderstood?

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Is DeVos Misunderstood?

On a certain level, I feel just a smidgen of sympathy of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

There has been a steady drumbeat against her, and she has drawn more negative coverage– heck, more coverage of any sort– that any education secretary in memory. Nobody made jokes about Arne Duncan on late night television. And some of it is not entirely fair. When I heard the line about the bears and guns in school come out of her mouth, I suspected it would stick to her like a big rotting albatross, and that has turned out to be true. While it captures her level of disconnect, I’m not sure it’s a fair or substantive criticism. And I think folks like the late-night comics who mocked her as stupid are just off-base. DeVos may be many things, but
I don’t for one moment imagine that she’s a dummy. And as anyone who has even the slightest public profile knows, it’s one thing to be criticized for what you actually say and do, but it’s really annoyed slammed for things that aren’t even accurate. That’s a lesson teachers have been learning for at least the last decade as reformers have attacked us for everything from failing to fix students with special needs to turning students into lesbian socialists.

But a week ago, prior to her Ohio visit, DeVos issued a statement that seems meant to adjust public perception of her fledgling bureaucratic career, and it mostly reminded me of all the levels on which I have no sympathy for her at all.

DeVos opens by noting that nowadays, it can be hard to discern the truth. Despite being a member of the truth-impaired Trump administration, she appears to mean this un-ironically. At any rate, she wants to present two facts:

I believe every student should have an equal opportunity to get a great education.

And I believe many of those great educations are, and will continue to be, provided by traditional public schools.

These are not new views for me. You may just never have heard them if you only read about my views in the press.

Of course, when someone enters into a post without any experience that would prepare her for that post, she also enters the post without any previous track record. If DEVos had ever held a single government post or held a single position of responsibility related to public education, we would have known a great deal more about her policy preferences. As it was, because she entered the post eminently unqualified to hold it, journalist, bloggers and educators were reduced to sifting through her statements and behavior in the past. And because the billionaire heiress never really felt the need to explain herself to anyone, we’ve been reduced to looking at decades-old quotes and deductions based on the actions of the groups she has bankrolled.

So Betsy DeVos does not get to blame the press for pubic perceptions of her views on education.

I intend to visit schools of every type to see firsthand what’s working – and what’s not – for students across the country.

Well, that’s a nice thought. But we’re talking about a woman with a huge learning curve, because this is an adult woman with no previous experience at all with public schools– or, for that matter, with the part of the world where people weren’t born rich and didn’t marry rich and so have to scramble and work for a living. I am not not NOT suggesting that she is automatically bad or evil because she’s rich. I am suggesting that when you make someone who has never left Alaska the governor of Texas, that person will need to do more than just visit a couple of rest stops on the Texas interstate to get ready for the job.

DeVos has already demonstrated the problem with her ill-fated visit to Jefferson Middle School where she found the teachers, somehow, to be in “receive mode.” Which is not only an insulting judgment  but an insulting judgment based on meeting the teachers briefly for a tiny part of one day on which those teachers were meeting the freaking Secretary of Education. And– again– into what frame of reference could DeVos have put that brief interaction?

DeVos hung more of her policy philosophy on the hook of her visit to Van Wert City Schools– nice schools and all, but a whole bunch of students in their district chose to go somewhere else, which is fine, because every parent should have the option of school choice, says DeVos.

School choice is pro-parent and pro-student. It isn’t anti-public school. 

And let me be clear– I agree that being pro-charter doesn’t have to be the same as being anti-public school. But under current law, it absolutely is. Because no lawmakers have the guts to insist on funding a public-charter system fully, we’re left with the two types of schools engaged in a zero-sum death match over crumbs.

But pro-choice and pro-parent? No. School choice is mostly pro-business, pro-entrepreneur. It is only pro-parent if you believe, somehow, that would parents would rather have options instead of assurance of quality. I don’t believe that’s true. Furthermore, DeVos’s construction suggests that parents and children are the only stakeholders in education. That is not true– but it is a great assumption to push if you also want to push the idea that choice does not need any accountability measures.

In other words, if we conceive of a school as a business with parents its only customers, then we can argue that accountability-by-feet (the ones parents can use to walk away) is the only accountability we need. However, if we assume that schools need to be accountable to all the taxpayers who are paying the bills, then we might start thinking that some sort of accountability to those taxpayers might be called for– the kind of accountability that frowns on tax dollars going to enrich scam artists and frauds and self-dealing greedhounds and people who just plain don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

School choice isn’t about elevating one type of school over another – it’s about trusting parents to choose the best fit for their child.

Nope. School choice is about turning education into a product, a commodity to be sold– and that means that it’s about marketing. And if we know anything about marketing, we know it’s about targeting particular business-chosen customers and making them selectively informed about the “best fit.” Virtually no business has as its marketing model “We’ll just lay out the unvarnished facts and let customers make the best choice” * The only time a business says to a customer, “You know, this other company might be a better fit” is when the business does not want that particular customer.

Put another way, I trust parents just fine, for the most part. But I don’t trust them all to have the time and resources to do deep research that will arm them against the tidal wave or marketing lies they will be bombarded with by various edu-flavored businesses. Put yet another way, I trust parents, mostly, to be motivated to make good decisions. I don’t trust unregulated edu-busnesses to tell those parents the truth.

DeVos then holds up some Florida choicey programs as a model of excellence, which if nothing else shows once again that DeVos has not done her homework. But her praise of the Miami-Dade system shows, again, where her heart is. She does not praise it for providing excellent education; she praises it for providing lots of choice. This is the greatest danger we face from Choice True Believers– given the options of a no-choice system that provides a great education for every child, and a super-choicey system that delivers lousy educational results, they would choose the latter because when it comes right down to it, they value choice more than they value education.

DeVos calls public schools the backbone of the system, which is, I suppose, better than calling them the spleen, but not as good as recognizing that they are the education system, and modern choice is just a flock of leeches.

Then DeVos throws in a line straight out of 2010– “What we will not do, however, is accept the status quo”– which is a hilarious line because the status quo is, of course, a bunch of public schools being undercut and gutted, strapped to bad standards with the bungee cords of toxic testing, while charter- and voucher-privatizers hold positions of high office that they use to further attack and dismantle public education so that they can sell off the parts. The more typical reformster stance is to rail against schools that haven’t existed for decades, but since DeVos has no real frame of reference for public schools, she can cast back even further. DeVos throws out the old saw about public education being stuck in the 19th century which only makes sense if you’re someone who has spent no real time in a public school.

Technology! she declares, and you might think that this is, again, because she hasn’t been in public schools to see that we actually have them new-fangled computer machines, but it turns out that she has particular tech in mind:

Today, it’s possible for every student to learn at their own pace, with responsive technologies advancing them through topics they’ve already mastered and delving deeper into areas where they’re struggling.

So, competency based education, or personalized learning, or computerized training modules for the underclass, or whatever we’re calling it this week.

She also thinks it’s foolish to assign schools based on where you live, which is another way of saying that’s it’s foolish to let a community organized, maintain and run its own schools. Having previously failed metaphorical framing by suggesting that education should be a Uber, DeVos now compares schools to banks and video rental stores, neither of which need bricks and mortars any more, and both of which are totally like public education. Also, a bicycle, because a vest has no sleeves.

DeVos frames these ideas as necessary because (again harkening back to the 2010 reformster playbook) we are falling behind our economic competitors in the world, because having students who score better on standardized tests would totally make up for having someone in the White House who keeps discovering that governmenty things are hard.

My mission is to unleash a new era of innovation in education to drive unprecedented achievement.

Sure. Might help if you had any idea what the precedents in actual student achievement were, or what the precedents in public education were so that you could spot the difference between an educational innovation and a new business launch. But hey– she totally loves public education and she supports it and she doesn’t want to replace it– she just wants it to function in completely new and different ways consistent with how a private edu-business works (at least, she thinks she does, though if you don’t know who things work now, it’s kind of hard to conceive of something “new”). She has nothing against public schools but “our obligation isn’t to any type of school.”

No, it all comes back to DeVos’s embrace of the most classic reformster line of them all.

It’s all about the students. “It’s time we put them first.”

It’s all about the kids. The money and power and union crushing and erasure of local control and silencing of local voices and dismantling of a foundational American institution and the imposition by an unelected official of an ideological stance on an entire nation– well, all of that stuff is just gravy. It’s all about the kids.

As I said– any shred of sympathy I might have felt for DeVos is pretty much shredded when she starts talking. Is she occasionally criticized unfairly? Yes, I think she is. But is she misunderstood, with her policy goals unfairly maligned and misrepresented? I think not. We have a person in charge of our national public education system who does not value that system and would happily preside over its destruction, a dismantling she has worked for her entire adult life and never disavowed.

DeVos may feel that we just aren’t seeing and hearing her properly, or she may just be experiencing some frustration because her attempts to control the narrative are being thrown off by, you know, facts and accurate perceptions and people not being dopes. We do see and hear her, and I think we see and hear her pretty clearly and accurately, and she is pretty clearly an enemy of pubic education.

*With, yes, the possible exclusion of Progressive Insurance, which has chosen this approach precisely because it is an approach so unusual and unheard of that it makes the brand stand out from the pack.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Is DeVos Misunderstood?


CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

NPE Privatization Tool Kit

The Network for Public Education has created a useful toolkit for spreading the basic information about the school privatization network. 

The kit is a series of thirteen pdf files, suitable for creating a two-sided one sheet explainer for some of the central questions of the privatization movement. The sheets are loaded with footnoted facts and not simply rhetorical gnashing of teeth. The thirteen questions addressed are:

Are charter schools truly public schools?

Do charter schools and school vouchers “hurt” public schools?

Do charter schools get better academic results than public schools?

Are charter schools and vouchers a civil rights issue?

Are charter schools “more accountable” than public schools?

Do charter schools profit from educating students?

Do school vouchers help kids in struggling schools?

Are charter schools innovative?

Are online charter schools good options for families?

Do “Education Savings Accounts” lead to better results for families?

Do education tax credit scholarships provide opportunity?

Are tax credit scholarships vouchers by a different name?

Do charter schools and vouchers save money?

There’s also a link for downloading all thirteen in one fell swoop, if you are a one fell swoop kind of person.

These are quick, simple, handy tools for getting the word out and educating folks. Fact-based, sourced, and all on one piece of paper, these are just the thing to leave in the lounge or hand to people when you really want them to understand how privatization is hurting public education, but you just don’t have the words.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Arne Duncan’s Newe$t Gig

Seems safe to say that Arne Duncan is far busier in his post-government life than he ever was a Secretary of Education. His latest gig is working with “mission-aligned private capital”at something called the Rise Fund.

“I can’t believe it either. People just keep throwing money at me.”

The Rise Fund is “a global impact fund led by private equity firm TPG in collaboration with a group of renowned stakeholders.” TPG (which stands for Texas Pacific Group) is one of the biggest damn private equity investment firms in the world. Found in 1992, they have about $50 billion kicking around at this point. There’s a long list of various businesses they have glommed up or invested in, from J. Crew to PetCo. Oh, and in 2002 they teamed up with Bain and Goldman Sachs to perform the leveraged buyout of Burger King, which I can respect because a Whopper Junior with Cheese is my guilty pleasure. Later on they also snagged all or some of Neiman Marcus, Univision, Sabre, Alltel, Midwest Air Group, etc etc– you get the idea.

Anyway, they whipped up the Rise Fund in December of 2016 Bill McGlashan, founder and managing partner of TPG, and Bono, lead singer of That Band You’re Supposed To Like and an always-useful prop for capitalists who want to look socially conscious, and also and Jeff Skoll, a global entrepreneur, film producer, and impact investor– also the first president of ebay. Skoll’s film company had a piece of An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman, and Spotlight. Presumably Bono and Skoll are among the “renowned stakeholders,” a list which also includes Richard Branson and Laurene Powell Jobs.

The Rise Fund has seven areas targeted for their global impact fund (spoiler alert:  plain English is not one of them)– Agriculture, Finance, Information, Healthcare, Infrastructure, Energy, and Education. And that’s where one of their hot new hires comes in.

Arne Duncan is one of three new bright lights, along with John Rogers and Rick Levin. Rogers was a founding partner with Bridges Ventures US Sustainable Growth Fund, which in turn worked on social impact investment as well as Springboard Education, a provider of “extended learning programs” for “public and charter” schools (every time someone tacitly admits that charter schools are not public schools, I get a little bit of a warm glow inside). Levin is CEO of Coursera, the big name in online courses for the university crowd. Oh, and he used to be president of Yale.

Duncan’s bio is properly puffed, pumped full of hot air, and shows what qualifications TPG was looking for:

During his tenure, Duncan created the $4 billion Race to the Top program to invest in reform and innovation and worked with Congress to secure additional investments in early learning programs and interventions to raise standards at lower-performing schools. Prior to his role as Secretary of Education, Duncan served for eight years as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, where he boosted test scores and built consensus across the district’s many stakeholders.

He handled a lot of money, made his numbers and got stakeholders on board and– hey, wait a minute. Duncan “boosted test scores” in Chicago? All by himself!? Do you mean to tell me all those years Duncan knew the secret of boosting test scores, even had the magical power to do it himself, and he let all of America’s teachers twist in the wind?!

“A quality education” is the secret of success for everyone, said the man whose success has pretty much been built on being basketball buddies with an up-and-coming future President. “Creating quality takes innovation, partnership – from teachers, students, officials, and business stakeholders alike – and a strong commitment to building better outcomes. I’m eager to help and support The Rise Fund as it works to drive impact across the education sector.” Man, driving impact across a whole sector is hard, like some kind of corporate high impact Iditarod.

The Education Sector team is the first of the seven to be formed, but you can be sure the other six will be along to help achieve “measureable, positive social and environmental outcomes alongside competitive financial returns — what we call ‘complete returns’.” So “complete” means you make the world a better place while getting filthy rich. There’s a moral conundrum buried in all this somewhere, but it’s hard to make it out among the “evidence-based impact investing” and whatever rig one uses to “harness the power of the market to drive sustainable social and environmental change, which means that profits are not only possible, they are necessary to fulfil the mission.” Yes, you actually can’t do good works without turning an big profit. I believe both Jesus and Buddha both taught that.

Garbled blather used to dress up a pretense of social awareness and good works all in the service of wealth and wealth and gathering more wealth. Seems like a perfect fit for Duncan.

NC: The Company School

North Carolina (Motto: “We won’t let Florida beat us to the bottom of the barrel”) is considering some cool new charter school bills.

Some are the usual charter-flavored pork, like the bill that will raise the unregulated cap on charter enrollment growth from 20% to 30%. That is, any charter, including ones that demonstrably suck, can grow enrollment by 30% without having to ask anyone’s permission. This is in keeping with North Carolina’s rich history of making charter operators historically rich. Previous laws have also removed any accountability or oversight for charters that want to add grades.

Charter enrollment in North Carolina has doubled over the last five years. Charter fans might say, “See! That huge demand for charters tells you how awesome they are.” I might respond that it could also be a sign that the legislature has systematically driven its public school system into a corner and made it increasingly unattractive. But that’s a discussion for another day.

But the special new innovation is the concept of reserved charter seats for donors.

That’s right! If your company donates land or buildings or equipment to a charter school, up to half of the seats in that charter could be reserved for the children of the company’s parents. Employees of your company could also sit on the charter board of directors. Hand over a chunk of ground or a building, and your corporation can have its own school– and be in charge of running it.

Rep. John R. Bradford III (R-Mecklenburg) says this is an “economic development tool” with companies locating in rural areas offering a perk to employees, pretty much like paying for employee meals. “This creates a vehicle where a company can create an employee benefit,” he says.

Sure. A benefit. The first thing I’m thinking of is an employer saying, “Y’all come to work at our Podunksburg plant and we promise your kids won’t have to go to school with, you know, Those People’s Kids.”

But hey– haven’t we had a system like this before, with companies providing schools and housing and stores?

Or the old coke town of Shoaf. Charming place.

Maybe I’m too quick in thinking of a company town with a company store and company school that is run by the company and which helps to fully control the fate of its employees.

Maybe what North Carolina has in mind is a elite private school that is available to select corporate elite, answerable to nobody in particular, and not only outside the realm of public education, but actually in the side the realm of corporate control. Maybe this is simply flat-out privatization, a means for corporate chieftains to both enrich themselves and protect their offspring from contact with Those People’s Children.

Or maybe, having pushed the frontiers on charter schools and already started down the voucher path, North Carolina is trying to break new ground by presenting the fully-privatized in-house corporate charter school.

It’s not a law yet, but congratulations, North Carolina, on finding bold new ways to assault public education. Your move, Florida!


Rockford Construction receives more state and local welfare to expand their control of land on Grand Rapids westside

New post on Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Rockford Construction receives more state and local welfare to expand their control of land on Grand Rapids westside
by Jeff Smith (GRIID)
On Tuesday, it was announced that the Michigan Strategic Fund board approved the Brownfield project receiving a $13.2 million tax break and a $6.3 million low-interest loan, according to an article that appeared on MLive. —

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On Tuesday, it was announced that the Michigan Strategic Fund board approved the Brownfield project receiving a $13.2 million tax break and a $6.3 million low-interest loan, according to an article that appeared on MLive. 

CEO of Rockford Construction, Mike VanGessel said of this news:

“A project of this scale requires a high level of collaboration at the local and state level. We are thankful to the City of Grand Rapids and the State of Michigan for their support in making this vision a reality for our neighborhood. This is a key approval for this transformational project, and it couldn’t move forward without it.”

What VanGessel is really saying is that unless public money is redirected to Rockford Construction for this project, they would not be able to make the kind of profits they want from such an endeavor.

Rockford Construction and other developers would have us all believe that…

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Grand Rapids Cosecha Movement holds Press Conference to draw attention to May 1st Day Without Immigrants

New post on Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Grand Rapids Cosecha Movement holds Press Conference to draw attention to May 1st Day Without Immigrants
by Jeff Smith (GRIID)

Earlier today, three people who were arrested on April 20 for taking action in solidarity with the undocumented community, all plead not guilty to misdemeanor charges at the Kent County Court House. —

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Earlier today, three people who were arrested on April 20 for taking action in solidarity with the undocumented community, all plead not guilty to misdemeanor charges at the Kent County Court House.

Gema Lowe, who is a volunteer with the Grand Rapids Cosecha Movement, spoke first at the press conference, to provide some context for the April 20 action and the upcoming May 1st march themed as Un Dia Sin Immigrantes.

Gema spoke about this movement being about the dignity, respect and permanent protection of immigrants, particularly of undocumented immigrants. “When our families members die in our country of origin, we often can’t go, because we would never be able to get back in the US. This means we often don’t get to pay proper respect to family members who have died.

After Gema, an immigrant shared her story about coming from the Dominican Republic and becoming a foster parent…

View original post 61 more words

Which Voices Matter: Local News Coverage of the GRPD and Community Responses

Which Voices Matter: Local News Coverage of the GRPD and Community Responses
by Jeff Smith (GRIID)
Two weeks ago we wrote about the outcome of the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting that took place shortly after the GRPD, at gun point, falsely accused 5 young African Americans of instigating a fight.

The community once again showed up in numbers at the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting to once again challenge city officials around the recent traffic study, the racism within the GRPD and the lack of affordable housing in the city. — READ THE FULL BLOG POST HERE –

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Two weeks ago we wrote about the outcome of the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting that took place shortly after the GRPD, at gun point, falsely accused 5 young African Americans of instigating a fight. 

The community once again showed up in  numbers at the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting to once again challenge city officials around the recent traffic study, the racism within the GRPD and the lack of affordable housing in the city.

Dozens of people spoke during the public comment period. Some read statements, while others shed tears because of the anger and sadness they feel based on the lack of action from the city. There were several representatives from community-based organizations that spoke, but what was most powerful were the comments from those who have been most impacted by the racist practices of the GRPD and the lack of affordable housing in Grand Rapids.


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CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Betsy DeVos Is Not Entirely Wrong about This

Hey, it had to happen. Even a blind shooter occasionally hits something. And on Fox News America’s Newsroom, she said this:

…there really isn’t any Common Core anymore

Breitbart reported on this as a means of whipping up some conservative high dudgeon about the Core, and correctly note that her observation that the Core is no longer out there in classrooms stands “in sharp contrast” to Trump’s assertion “Common Core very bad, and although I have no idea what the hell it is, I think we should kill it with fire because many people not like bad thing end it good somehow whatever it is have you seen my ratings.”

Now, yes– DeVos is wrong in the sense that Common Core in some form or other is in many classrooms. In some states it’s no longer called Common Core, but it’s still out there, sort of.

The “sort of” is important, because as I’ve noted numerous times, the original vision of the Common Core is absolutely, completely dead.

Remember? The idea was that every state in the union would operate under exactly the same standards, and that while everyone was free to add a measly 15%, the heart of the Core could not be touched. We would all study the same stuff, using our Common Core aligned materials, and a student who moved from Iowa to Georgia could do so without missing a beat. And we would all take one of two assessments, so that every teacher and student in the country could be compared to every other teacher and student.

That did not happen.

The Core-aligned materials turn out to be a hodge-podge of textbooks aligned more to publisher’s desires than Common Core Standards. Huge chunks of the standards have always been ignored because they aren’t on the test (anybody seen a Common Core Speaking Unit lately?). And the Big Standardized Tests (the actual drivers of reformy curriculum)– way more than two of them and not much beloved by anyone– are themselves only loosely aligned to the Core.

Of course, as Valerie Strauss points out, what DeVos probably meant by “Common Core” was not the actual content of the standards, but the idea that the federal Department of Education [insert evil music cue here– dun dun dunnnnnnn] can impose its control on state and local school districts. This remains a complicated point because the feds never directly imposed the Core; they just extorted states into adopting it of their own free will. ESSA now removes many of the department’s extortion tools, though some of the mouth-frothing quotes at Breitbart note that ESSA is still filled with the language of “college and career ready,” which is what we’re saying instead of “common core” these days.

The feds couldn’t impose the standards before, and they can’t impose them or un-impose them now. It is up to states to decide what to do, and many have already made decisions about that issue.

The standards do have inertia on their side, as some form of the Core is the status quo in most states. But nobody particularly cares. In high-accountability states, schools aren’t following the standards– they’re following the BS Tests. And classroom teachers, after an initial period of trying to be good soldiers, have long since “adapted” the standards to match their own best practices, even as administrators around the country created their own personal version of the standards (and some rebels even mostly ignored the whole business and went back to worrying about actual education).

But the original vision of an entire nation united behind one cramped and narrow vision of what education should be, with one unified set of standards enforced from sea to shining sea– that didn’t happen. What has happened is that the US education system is now clogged with the various fragments, mutant chunks, and toxic detritus of the Core. David Coleman and his buddies meant to build a beautiful, sleek silver spear, but what we have now is a disintegrated, splintered, corroded mess of pieces parts. Instead of one large spear stuck into the body of education, that body is riddled with Common Core shrapnel and buckshot, and instead of a quick and direct extraction, we’re faced with a complicated and messy operation to improve our educational health. And ESSA says that the feds, who were already trying to perform surgery with mittens on, now must be handcuffed to the floor.

I’m not sure that Betsy DeVos understands any of that. But when she says there isn’t any Common Core any more, she’s not entirely wrong– even if she doesn’t understand why.


Women’s access to family leave is not improving, but men’s is 

Access to maternity leave after the birth or adoption of a child is not improving for women, though the number of men on leave is growing. Fathers are also more likely to receive paid leave.

Source: Women’s access to family leave is not improving, but men’s is – Journalist’s Resource