Add another to the list of former Trump campaign staffers lobbying for foreign clients

Former Trump campaign officials haven’t exactly been bashful about cashing in on their ties to the president in the lobbying sphere.

Former Trump campaign officials haven’t exactly been bashful about cashing in on their ties to the president in the lobbying sphere. Take Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager. Shortly after the election, he cofounded a lobbying and consulting firm, Avenue Strategies, boasting to domestic and foreign clients of his administration ties.

Now another name on the Trump campaign’s payroll, Healy Baumgardner-Nardone, will be representing a foreign client, the government of Malaysia.

 … read more

by Ashley Balcerzak

Source: Add another to the list of former Trump campaign staffers lobbying for foreign clients

Next election still 18 months away, but it’s never too early to collect cash from colleagues

Both Republicans and Democrats are making moves to strengthen their most vulnerable incumbents for the 2018 midterm elections.

Even with the 2018 midterm elections still 18 months away, both Republicans and Democrats are making moves to strengthen their most vulnerable incumbents.

One way they’re doing it: By contributing through their candidate committees and leadership PACs. Already, more than $3 million changed hands this way in the first three months of 2017 — nearly $2.6 million in the House and $769,000 in the Senate.

read more.

by Sara Swann

Source: Next election still 18 months away, but it’s never too early to collect cash from colleagues

CURMUDGUCATION: Slate Series Unmasks Cyber School

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

Slate Series Unmasks Cyber School

Slate, for whatever reason, teamed up this week with Columbia Journalism School’s Teacher Project, to take a look at on line education. Much of their work is focused on on line courses as a means of credit recovery– the quick-and-easy method of letting students replace credits for courses they failed. But the series tells us a great deal about what on line “education” is really like– and it is not pretty. This is just how bad cyber schooling is.

As always, I will include the preface that A) cyber school doesn’t have to be as awful as it is and B) it is a real boon to certain students.

The series ran through eight articles, and you should not miss any of them, but here are links and blurbs for each article in the series so you can make your choices (and so that they don’t disappear entirely once Slate moves on to other things). Read these:

The New Diploma Mills

Zoe Kirsch digs deep for this opening article. While focusing on how Florida has used on line courses to boost graduation rates “many school districts, including several of the nation’s largest, have seen graduation rates soar”), Kirsch also looks at the policies boosted cyber-schooling and just how bad it looks on the ground to actual cyber students. This piece gives a good overview– with well-sourced specifics– for the problem issues of virtual schooling, like cheating and content that is far less than rigorous.

Fast. Isolating. Superficial.

After she failed English her junior year at Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania, Virginia, 17-year-old Amelia Kreck had to retake the class. It took her two days.

The title of Stephen Smiley’s article comes from the answer to the question, “What are on line courses like for students?” Short reading excerpts, simple questions, work without any depth– these themes turn up throughout the interviews with many on line course students. That and missing the interaction of a classroom, not just for social purposes, but because it helps with the learning.

I Am an Online Credit Recovery Dropout

Smiley also tried some on line courses as a student– and found them so boring and superficial that he didn’t complete them. “Boring and lonely” was his characterization. A look at how just how bad these courses are to work through.

Take These Students, Please

Francesca Berardi takes us to Chicago to look at how cyber-credit-recovery can morph into full-time cyber school for students who are far behind and at risk of not graduating and ruining a schools graduation rate numbers. It’s a sad picture:

Daniel has had a lonely high school experience for the past two years. He spends four hours a day at Bridgescape, usually four days a week, and he seldom interacts with peers and teachers. When he struggles with an online test, his “best friend” is Google—something he is not discouraged to use—while teachers are a last resort. His main companions are his smartphone (for listening to music) and his Galaxy smartwatch (which helps him kill the time and stay in touch with his friends). “I can spend an entire day at school and not talk with anyone,” Daniel told me. Sometimes, he returns to visit his old teachers and classmates solely because he misses the warmth and bustle of a traditional high school.

Bottom of the Class

Berardi and Kirsch take a look at which cyber-schoolers are really awful. Odysseyware, Study Island, and A Beka Academy emerge as the bottom of the heap. Read why.

Online Education Doesn’t Have To Be Isolating

Sarah Carr takes us to Bronx Arena for a look at some methods for making cyber school less isolating and awful. You’ll have to decide on your own whether or not you’re convinced.

Why Bad Online Courses Are Still Taught in School

Kirsch and Smiley take a look at the politics behind cybers. Florida, for instance, rates cybers, but does not do anything with the ratings. In many places, even though a cyber is rated a failure by the state, local districts can and do continue to use their services.

Why are the laws so toothless? Lobbyists and money. Cybers like K12 have dropped a bundle, and it turns out that ALEC is instrumental in making sure that the Right Connections are made to keep the laws favorable to the cyber school industry.

Just Take It Again

How easy are on line tests to game? Skipping over flat out cheating (like giving someone your login to take the test for you), the answer is “Pretty easy.”

Meet Jeremy Noonan, who discovered that students doing cyber credit recovery through Edgenuity were getting roughly 37 out of 50 questions repeated on retakes of a major test. It’s no surprise– developing a larger question bank costs money. But particularly if a school district is enjoying the numbers boost that easily gameable tests provide, it’s one more sign that actual education isn’t really happening.

The entire series of articles is worth your attention. Read them in whatever order you like, but read them. This is the reality of cyber school.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Slate Series Unmasks Cyber School

CURMUDGUCATION: DeVos Still Anti-Accountability

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

DeVos Still Anti-Accountability

As she’s spent time in the public eye this week, Betsy DeVos may have enraged, but she hasn’t surprised. She continues to be what we always thought she was– and that includes her attitude about accountability.

She’s against it.

Here’s a critical CNN clip from today’s hearings:

If a school wants to use federal money to discriminate on the basis of race or religion or sexual preference or gender orientation, DeVos thinks that’s between the parents and the state. She literally refuses to imagine a scenario in which the federal government would hold a school accountable for the way it used federal dollars. The issue is perfectly captured in this exchange. DeVos is dodging a question about whether or not she would allow federal dollars to go to a school that was discriminating against African-American students:

DeVos: But when it comes to parents making choices on behalf of–

Clark: This isn’t– this isn’t about parents making choices. This is about use of federal dollars.

At another point in the day, similarly pressed on whether or not she would require voucher schools to comply with IDEA, DeVos took a similar stance.

Her long answer is thank you for asking that question about [insert good standardized testing technique of restating the question–sort of–in your answer] and  states should get to set the rules and parents should get to make the choices.

Her short answer is, no, she’s not going to hold anybody accountable for anything.

If a state wants to bring back Jim Crow schooling and funnel federal dollars to a school that only accepts white kids, she’s okay with that. If a state wants to funnel federal dollars to schools that refuse to adequately serve students with special needs, she’s okay with that.

No reframing of the issue budged her in the slightest. DeVos really does bear an infuriating resemblance to Dolores Umbridge, except that J. K. Rowlings ultimately gives audiences the pleasure of seeing cracks in Umbridge’s self-righteous calm. DeVos shows no such cracks. It’s the kind of calm that comes from absolute righteous True Belief, of knowing that your enemies can’t hurt you because you are armored in Righteousness and Truth. It’s also the kind of calm that comes from an empathy deficit; you don’t feel sympathy or empathy for your Lessers because they have chosen their path. You can watch the world burn because you know the fire will never touch you, and the people who burn are people who are lesser beings who deserve to burn.

But enough armchair analysis. What we know is what we’ve known since the days that DeVos beat back attempts at accountability measures in Michigan– she opposes anything that might in any way tie the hands of the Right Kind of People, the people who deserve to set policy and create schools and profit from all of it.

I can understand how liberals are bothered by this policy. What I don’t quite understand is where the conservatives are. Where are all the people who built up the education reform wave in the first place with rallying calls for teacher accountability and school accountability and don’t just trustingly throw money at schools and where the hell are our tax dollars going, anyway? Oh wait– they are off in the corner, counting up all the money they aren’t going to pay in taxes under the GOP plan.

As my college ed prof told us in the seventies, the accountability needle keeps swinging back and forth– but this time it has gone so far in the accountability direction that it has come out the other side in a place so unaccountable that the federal Secretary of Education cannot imagine a situation in which she would deny federal dollars to any voucher school, ever, for any reason. This isn’t just throwing money at schools– it’s lighting the money on fire and throwing it off a cliff. This is wrapping all the money around a big club that will be used to beat anybody who’s not white and wealthy and healthy.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: DeVos Still Anti-Accountability

A closer examination of what Betsy DeVos said about the Education Budget cuts yesterday

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On Monday, we posted a critique of the proposed budget cuts that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed. These budget cuts amount to roughly $10.6 billion and would negatively impact students of color, working class children, public schools and children with disabilities. 

Yesterday, DeVos spoke before Congress about these proposed budget cuts. Here is a link to her opening statements made before the House Appropriations Committee. 

One thing about DeVos’s comments is that she uses rhetoric that most politicians use, claiming that, the budget lays out a series of proposals and priorities that work toward ensuring every student has an equal opportunity to receive a great education.”

Such platitudes are repeated over and over again, yet there is no evidence that this is currently the case or has ever been the case when it comes to guaranteeing that every student receives a great education.

In her comments, DeVos…

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Defeated Grand Rapids City proposal attempted to further manage public dissent

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Yesterday, activists and organizers discovered that the Grand Rapids City Commission was going to vote on a proposal to further limit the ability of people to dissent.

The language of the proposal (read pages 231 – 241) referred to the growing dissent as, “Expressive Activity.” The proposal put forth at the City Commission yesterday states in part: 

As has been the case in cities across the country, Grand Rapids has seen a steady increase in the numbers of parades, rallies, marches and other activities. Since November of 2016, Grand Rapids has hosted at least 40 such events, averaging more than six per month.

The proposal goes on to say:

A “Notice of Intent to Engage in Expressive Activity” is required for groups of fifty (50) or more persons. The notice includes the date, location and a contact person, who shall be the “Receipt Holder” for the activity. The City will…

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Guest post by Bill Cobbs: It’s Truth Time!

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TRUTH TIME
We must decide who we really want to be. Do we want to be a nation of people forever focused on concentrating wealth in the hands of a select few or do we want to we want to make sure that the least of us is also provided for.

The Mad hatter proposed a national budget that took direct aim at every program that provides a safety net for our citizens. At the same time, he proposed massive tax cuts for the wealthiest American’s who don’t need them.

We absolutely need a national infrastructure program but proposing that it be a public/private partnership shifts the burden of paying for it on to the backs of citizens already living from paycheck to paycheck while the private partners stand to reap billions by transferring public assets into private hands.

The truth is we must recognize that trickle down does not work. It doesn’t create jobs or stimulate the economy. Increasing military spending benefits only the military industrial complex not the poor. Not the members of our military forces.

The people who call themselves conservatives and call for smaller government only want to limit government that stands in their way of profiteering at the expense of the poor and weak.

Rome (America) is burning and we are ignoring it to our detriment.

I’m drawing a line here in Michigan. I’m running to be Michigan’s next Governor and so that we can stop this trend towards denigrating the least of us.

We can do better.

We can create opportunity for all our citizens.

We can strive to be that bright shining star of what is possible when people work together.

Join me in returning to the us that is the backbone of American exceptionalism.

Together we can!

Footnote –

As I meet people across the state, I am amazed how similar we are. They say our nation is divided, but from barbershops to coffee shops, Michiganders I meet share many concerns.

Citizens express their concern for our future, for our infrastructure, for the people of Flint, for our Great Lakes, and for our schools. I have heard stories of citizens’ triumph over adversity, speaking up in the face of retaliation by Emergency Managers, and teachers standing up for students who have no one else. I am encouraged and strengthened by you. We can take back our state.

If you’d like me to speak to your circle of friends, community or political group, service club, civic organization or county Democrats chapter feel free to send an email to my scheduler, Jeffrey Salisbury at JeffreyLSalisbury@gmail.com .

No group is too large or too small. I hope to meet you soon.

– Bill Cobbs for Governor 2018

Email: billcobbsppf@gmail.com

Phone: 248-331-3275

Facebook – www.facebook.com/billcobbsforgovernor

 

CURMUDGUCATION: Education’s Existential Crisis

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

Education’s Existential Crisis

No, it’s not the possibility that Betsy DeVos’s DeVoucher program may gut public education with the goal of replacing it with privatized school by and for the People Who Matter. Nor is it the policy goal held by some that the whole concept of “school” can be replaced with an array of modules geared to different competencies that can be accessed and completed on line at the time and place of the student’s choosing. It’s not even the steady clamping shut of the pipeline that provides actual trained professional teachers, without whom a school is difficult to put together.

No, the biggest existential threat strikes at the very foundation of education, the foundation of knowledge itself.

Plenty of bytes have been burned discussing a post-fact society, a culture where truth no longer matters. And that nibbles at the edges of what we’re talking about.

This Vox piece by David Roberts (Vox’s climate and science reporter) is long and thorough, but here’s the key idea. He sets it up by recapping a classic Rush Limbaugh rant from 2009, in which Limbaugh claims that we live in two universe, and one is a universe of lies (he was talking about climate science, but at this point, it could be just about anything):

Over time, this leads to what you might call tribal epistemology: Information is evaluated based not on conformity to common standards of evidence or correspondence to a common understanding of the world, but on whether it supports the tribe’s values and goals and is vouchsafed by tribal leaders. “Good for our side” and “true” begin to blur into one.

“Epistomology” seems like a scary word, but it’s actually pretty simple– what does it mean to know something, and how does that knowing something happen?

Over the course of human history, we’ve had many different answers for how we know things. Because the approved priests told us so. By way of divine revelation. Because some currently-dead guys once wrote it down. We don’t all know things, because only people with power and money are entitled to know things at all. Or even, we don’t, we just make shit up.

But eventually we arrived at some collective standards, some shared agreements that pieces of knowledge would be written down and presented as Known Things once they had been tested and certified. New knowledge would be gleaned by some version of a scientific method, bolstered by some agreed-upon techniques of proof.

It hasn’t been perfect, but it has worked pretty well for a while. And we teachers and our schools had our place in that, working at the job of passing on a solid core of widely accepted Truths on to young humans. And public education added the notion that all citizens should be given access, early and often, to the same shared body of knowledge.

But if we submit to tribal epistemology– if we slide into a world where people are, Daniel Patrick Moynahan notwithstanding, entitled not only to their own opinions, but only to those facts that their tribal leaders certify, then what job is there for public education or teachers?

If the only thing that’s true is what my Beloved Leader says is true (and only what he says is true today, because the past carries no weight in such a system), then what is there for a teacher to do except pass on the latest reports from the Truth Bureau? Well, there would be one other task– to help students erase the sharp edges of their own intellects that want to perk up and say, “Hey, wait a minute—”

Another effect– and this one you’ve probably already noticed– is that when the world runs on tribal epistemology, everything– everything– is political.

If Beloved Leader and the tribe say that the sky is green, then making an observation about the color of the sky is a challenge to Beloved Leader, a political act. If Beloved Leader says that we ate soup yesterday, then digging through the trash to find yesterday’s lunch scraps is a political act. If Beloved Leader and tribal elders define truth in all matters great and small, then any attempt to search out truth on your own, great or small, is a political act. And teaching, which we’ve come to see as apolitical, an act where it’s “inappropriate” to impose your own political views on your students– in the land of tribal epistemology, teaching is the most political act of all. Like many teachers, I have always avoided being overtly political in my classroom, and yet that seems increasingly impossible.

What is the role of teachers and education in a society that does not know how to know, a society led by a man who, as George Will put it, “does not know what it is to know something.”

The most useful thing I learned in college (and what many of my professors  explicitly copped to teaching) was how to teach myself, how to learn things. But in times of tribal epistemology, the very act of believing that one can construct meaning and understanding using impersonal, objective standards and techniques– well, that’s just crazy radical stuff.

This is the most existential crisis we face. It may not be the most immediate, and I can certainly see many opportunities to turn back the tide. But we are living intermixed with a great tribe of people who think all wisdom is received from Beloved Leader and not by inspection, reflection, logic, reason, or just plain using your brain to consider evidence. Human beings are sloppy enough about this stuff as it is– we do not need to have the prevailing winds shift against knowing. So, no– I don’t worry that this is going to wipe us out tomorrow, or the next day. But it is still a terrible thing to contemplate– a world in which a “teacher” has no job but to pass on the tribal “facts” of the day, and squelch all independent inquiry and thought.

It’s not that we’ve been perfect on this issue, but we have at least maintained the means of finding better paths. Maintaining, building, nurturing and supporting such means of finding one’s own way to a truer understanding is then most important job of a teacher, and the mission we must defend at all costs

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Education’s Existential Crisis

Lost your LHS class ring? It may have been found!

Superintendent's Notes

One rarely knows what you’ll find in file drawers, especially since I have used primarily technology and hardly ever looked in the drawers of my office. But as I begin sorting through things getting ready in just over a month to relinquish my role as superintendent to some else, I came across two apparently lost Lee High School class rings.

The oldest is from the Class of 1981 and appears to be sized for a girl. It contains the initials “J M B” and there were two such members of that class: Either “Joan Marie Bieber” or “Jeanne M. Bouley.”

The other ring is from the Class of 1992 and is inscribed with the name “Angie Gilland.” An Angela Gilland is not listed in the 1992 yearbook but she does appear as a junior in the 1991 yearbook. From other yearbook info, she may have had a brother named Bob Gilland.

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