Larry Miller's Blog: Educate All Students!

December 18, 2014

Teach For America Falling on Hard Times

Filed under: TFA — millerlf @ 11:04 am

(Note: TFA is reportedly closing its “training center/office” in New York.)

Teach For America could miss recruitment mark by more than 25 percent

By Valerie Strauss December 15 Washington Post

Growing criticism about Teach For America and a polarized education reform debate is affecting recruitment of new corps members and the organization “could fall short of our partners’ overall needs by more than 25 percent” next year, TFA officials say.

A note that co-Chief Executive Officers Matt Kramer and Elisa Villanueva Beard are sending out to the organization’s partner organizations (see text below) cites several reasons for the decline, including “polarization around TFA” as well less interest in teaching and public service by college graduates.
It says in part:
Today’s education climate is tough—fewer Americans rate education as a “top 2” national issue today, and teacher satisfaction has dipped precipitously in recent years—down from 62% in 2008 to 39% in 2012. Additionally, an increasingly polarized public conversation around education, coupled with shaky district budgets, is challenging the perception of teaching as a stable, fulfilling profession; in turn, we’re seeing decreased interest in entering the field nationwide. (You can read analysis of this trend here in Education Week.) We’ve felt some of this same polarization around TFA. At the same time, the broader economy is improving and young people have more job options than in recent years. Having experienced the national recession through much of their adolescence, college graduates today are placing a greater premium on what they see as financially sustainable professions. Teaching and public service have receded as primary options.

Critics of TFA are likely to read that paragraph and say that TFA itself is partly responsible for a perception that teaching is not a stable profession. TFA, which has received millions of dollars from the Obama administration, has come under increasing criticism in the last few years for its longtime practice of recruiting new college graduates, giving them only five weeks of summer training and then placing them in classrooms in some of America’s most needy schools. Furthermore, TFA only requires a two-year commitment from its corps members to stay in the classroom — which some corps members don’t meet — creating a great deal of turnover in classrooms with students who most need stability. TFA says it has filled an important need by placing teachers in hard-t0-fill positions, though critics note that in many cases TFA corps members have replaced veteran teachers. TFA has successfully lobbied Congress to define a “highly qualified teacher” — as required by the No Child Left Behind law — as a student eacher which, of course, covers its own corps members.

After enjoying enormous popularity among school reformers and elected politicians, TFA has been feeling growing pushback. Pittsburgh schools decided to drop its ties to TFA last year, citing as one reason TFA’s close relationship with charter schools, and early this year Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a line item inserted into state legislation that would have given $1.5 million to Teach For America over two years.
Chalkbeat New York reported last week that TFA is closing its New York training site “in anticipation of declining numbers” of recruits. That, Winfield noted, comes after TFA has in the last four year added 11 new regional sites across the country.

To beef up its recruitment this season, she said that TFA is doing more outreach to prospects and “rallying our regional teams, corps members and alumni” to generate referrals.

Here’s the text of the note that is being sent to TFA partners:
Dear Colleagues,
With a few months to go in our recruitment season, we’d like to share an update on our work, including the patterns we’re seeing among the college seniors, graduate students, and professionals we’re working to recruit. As always, we’d welcome your advice and collaboration.
At this point, we’re tracking toward an incoming corps that may be smaller than the current one, and because demand for corps members has grown in recent years, we could fall short of our partners’ overall needs by more than 25 percent. We understand that this has very real implications for you and your students, and though we’ve still got nearly half our recruitment season to go, we wanted to keep you in the loop.
Today’s education climate is tough—fewer Americans rate education as a “top 2” national issue today, and teacher satisfaction has dipped precipitously in recent years—down from 62% in 2008 to 39% in 2012. Additionally, an increasingly polarized public conversation around education, coupled with shaky district budgets, is challenging the perception of teaching as a stable, fulfilling profession; in turn, we’re seeing decreased interest in entering the field nationwide. (You can read analysis of this trend here in Education Week.) We’ve felt some of this same polarization around TFA. At the same time, the broader economy is improving and young people have more job options than in recent years. Having experienced the national recession through much of their adolescence, college graduates today are placing a greater premium on what they see as financially sustainable professions. Teaching and public service have receded as primary options.
Against this backdrop, we’re committed to holding our same rigorous bar for admissions in order to provide candidates who have the potential to have a tremendous positive impact with kids. Through our first four deadlines, we’ve received 26,000 applications. While this is fewer than we had last year at this time, we are on track to receive more than twice the number of applications we received each year between 2005-2007, the last time we were in a strong economy. Our recruiters are meeting with more people than ever, and those they meet with are applying at similar rates to prior years, but we’ve seen a drop in the number of individuals who submit applications without meeting with us directly.
We think part of the solution lies in finding more great people to sit down and talk with. To that end, we’re reaching out to members of our network to get suggestions of individuals (including many former students!) they think are ready for this work for students. Additionally, we’re redoubling our efforts to share how important it is that this generation chooses to fight for educational equity and helps create the change we need for children in our country today.
We hope you’ll consider lending your voice to this effort, too. We’ve provided sample social media, newsletter, and email listserv language below, and would be happy to support you if you’re interested in writing an op-ed on this topic, or joining one of our recruiters on a local campus. We’re finding that college seniors want to hear personal perspectives from those immersed in this work. They want to interact directly with professionals in the field in order to learn about Teach For America.
As always, we remain optimistic. The quality of our applicant pool is strong, with applicants from a diverse set of backgrounds, institutions, and professional sectors. The candidates we’ve accepted to date reflect the excellence you’ve come to expect from Teach For America. We’re committed to doing all we can to enlist additional high-quality candidates in the months ahead and we’re certain that whatever the size of this year’s corps, we’ll bring a large group of leaders into this work, each with the potential to make meaningful, positive change in the lives of the students they teach and inspire. Members of your local regional team will be reaching out soon to follow up, and please also let us know if you have questions or ideas for other ways you can help.
Sincerely,
Elisa & Matt

Major Charter Research Exposes Free Market Based School Reform

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 10:59 am

The newest report by CREDO (the Center for Research on Education Outcomes)is on charter schools in Ohio, and it finds that charter school students in the state are learning less than students in traditional public schools, the equivalent of 36 days of learning in math and 14 days in reading. Margaret Raymond, CREDO’s Director, said recently since releasing the report, “I actually am kind of a pro-market kinda girl. But it doesn’t seem to work in a choice environment for education.”

Major charter researcher causes stir with comments about market-based school reform

By Valerie Strauss December 12 Washington post

Margaret Raymond is the founding director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, known as CREDO, which is part of the Hoover Institution located at Stanford University. CREDO’s mission is researching and evaluating educational policy and is best known for its research studies on charter schools in the United States.
Raymond this week made some remarks about charter schools that are causing a stir in the education world. First, some background to put those remarks in context.

CREDO’s unique studies of charter schools around the country – which collectively conclude that sometimes they perform better than traditional public schools and sometimes they don’t — are widely cited in the education world by both pro- and anti-charter activists to support their different points. CREDO’s newest report is on charter schools in Ohio, and it finds that charter school students in the state are learning less than students in traditional public schools, the equivalent of 36 days of learning in math and 14 days in reading.

What gets often lost in these discussions is that the studies are based on reading and math standardized test scores. Even if you think that high-stakes standardized test scores reveal something about how much a student knows in the tested subject — and many researchers and educators don’t — it is a different thing altogether to judge an entire school on the results of narrow tests in two subject areas, however important they are. If the education world were not as test-obsessed as it has been since the advent of No Child Left Behind a dozen years ago and Race to the Top in 2009, such a metric for important conclusions would probably be given short shrift. But not today, so the CREDO studies are considered big news.

Another reason that the CREDO studies are of interest to both pro- and anti-charter activists revolves around CREDO, Hoover and Raymond. CREDO says on its Web site that it “has become a leading independent voice in the discussion of how to improve education in America, with an emphasis on rigorous program and policy analysis as the means of informing and improving education decision making.” Critics have questioned the “independent” part.

The Hoover Institution is a conservative think tank that is squarely pro-charter and a believer in using market forces to reform the U.S. educational system. CREDO accepts funds from pro-charter and pro-market foundations, including the Walton Foundation. Raymond’s biography on the Web site of the Hoover Institution, where she is a research fellow, says in part:
“In partnership with the Walton Family Foundation and Pearson Learning Systems, Raymond is leading a national study of the effectiveness of public charter schools. The public-academic-private partnership helps public charter schools adopt information technologies as a means to both support their operations and generate information required by the study design. More than 250 public charter schools have joined the study to date.”
Pearson is the largest for-profit education publishing company in the world.

Raymond is married to Eric Hanushek, a Hoover economist was a pioneer in creating systems that evaluate teachers by student standardized tests, a method that many assessment experts say should not be used in the high-stakes ways that school reformers are using them. He is often cited in CREDO studies as a “principal investigator.”

Raymond and Hanushek sometimes are given data that other researchers aren’t. In 2013, the 19th Judicial District Court ruled that the state Department of Education could pick and choose which researchers it provided with raw data that would help them determine if school reform efforts are working. A watchdog group called Research on Reforms, Inc., which had been critical of Louisiana school reform, was denied the data and had sued to get it. Who was given the information? A data-sharing agreement was signed by Raymond, as CREDO director, and Hanushek, as “principal investigator,” and Ollie Tyler, acting state superintendent of education at the time the memo was signed in 2011. It runs through 2016 and provides CREDO with detailed Louisiana information.

Given that background, anti-charter activists have been eager to cite CREDO reports that show no benefit to charter schools or negative results as much because of the data itself but because of who was doing the reporting.

That all leads us to this week, when Raymond spoke at a City Club of Cleveland event about the Ohio report (you can listen to the podcast here), which was funded by the Thomas B., Fordham Foundation, which is distinctly pro-charter and pro-reform. She made the following comment, as first reported on the 10th Period blog by Stephen Dyer, education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio, a former congressman and school funding expert and Policy Fellow at Innovation Ohio. She said:
This is one of the big insights for me. I actually am kind of a pro-market kinda girl. But it doesn’t seem to work in a choice environment for education. I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career. That’s my academic focus for my work. And it’s [education] the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to expect parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state. I think there are other supports that are needed. Frankly parents have not been really well educated in the mechanisms of choice.… I think the policy environment really needs to focus on creating much more information and transparency about performance than we’ve had for the 20 years of the charter school movement. I think we need to have a greater degree of oversight of charter schools, but I also think we have to have some oversight of the overseers.

Dyer wrote that he found these comments, coming from Raymond, to be somewhat remarkable:
Considering that the pro-market reform Thomas B. Fordham Foundation paid for this study and Raymond works at the Hoover Institution at Stanford — a free market bastion, I was frankly floored, as were most of the folks at my table.
For years, we’ve been told that the free market will help education improve. As long as parents can choose to send their kids to different schools, like cars or any other commodity, the best schools will draw kids and the worst will go away. The experience in Ohio is the opposite. The worst charter schools in Ohio are growing by leaps and bounds, while the small number of successful charter schools in Ohio have stayed, well, a small number of successful charter schools.

Raymond made the point too that parents are not informed enough to be true market consumers on education. Websites like Know Your Charter can help with that educational aspect of the parental choice, better arming parents with the necessary information to make a more informed decision. But to hear free market believers say that 20 years into the charter school experiment its foundational philosophy — that the free market’s invisible hand will drive educational improvement — is not working? Well, I was stunned to hear that.

Raymond also made the point that the states that are seeing the best charter school performance are states whose charter school authorizers are focused on quality and have robust accountability measures — in other words, well-regulated…. When the CREDO report was released, it was discovered that if online and for-profit charter schools are taken out of the equation, Ohio charters don’t perform all that bad. Problem is that more than 57 percent of Ohio charter school kids are in those schools. In fact, at Know Your Charter, we found that less than 10 percent of Ohio’s charter school kids are in schools that score above the state average on the Performance Index Score or have an A or B in overall value added.

I asked Raymond to further explain her remarks and this is she what she wrote in an e-mail:
In other industries, real markets are able to develop and function because suppliers and consumers get to meet each other in an unfettered set of offers and demands for goods or services. There are no intermediary agents who guard access to supply or who aggregate demand and thus sway the free exchange of supply and demand. Part of that free exchange relies on complete transparency about the attributes of the goods on offer and their prices, and the transactions are “known” by the participants in an open and complete way.

I think you can see that as currently organized, public K-12 education does not meet those conditions. States and LEAs [local education agencies] act on behalf of students and parents, often with imperfect information, and supply is controlled by interests that have agendas other than free exchange.

The remark today was about “early adopter” charter states that built charter laws on the faith that a little bit of competition from charter schools would a) function entirely on parental choice (free and transparent information about the range of options and their “prices”) and b) a rapid response from the rest of the suppliers in reaction to expressed demand for “something different.”

That is not to say that a market orientation COULDN’T EVER work, I was just saying that the early period of the charter movement was a bit optimistic and premature to think that decades of controlled monopoly conduct would be influenced quickly by small numbers of consumers.

Key Ferguson Witness Testimony Unravels

Filed under: American Injustice,Racism — millerlf @ 10:42 am

“Witness 40″: Exposing A Fraud In Ferguson
“The Smoking Gun” unmasks witness who spun fabricated tale

William Bastone,Andrew Goldberg, Joseph Jesselli 12/15/14 The Smoking Gun (Web News)

Following the publication of this story, Sandra McElroy acknowledged to TSG that she is “Witness 40.” Voicing concerns for her minor children, McElroy said that she directed them to delete their Facebook accounts, adding that she has done the same. “After I speak with the prosecutor, attorney, and Police if they say its alright I will call you,” she said. McElroy subsequently asked to have an off-the-record conversation, a request to which a TSG reporter agreed.
DECEMBER 15–The grand jury witness who testified that she saw Michael Brown pummel a cop before charging at him “like a football player, head down,” is a troubled, bipolar Missouri woman with a criminal past who has a history of making racist remarks and once insinuated herself into another high-profile St. Louis criminal case with claims that police eventually dismissed as a “complete fabrication,” The Smoking Gun has learned.
In interviews with police, FBI agents, and federal and state prosecutors–as well as during two separate appearances before the grand jury that ultimately declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson–the purported eyewitness delivered a preposterous and perjurious account of the fatal encounter in Ferguson.
Referred to only as “Witness 40” in grand jury material, the woman concocted a story that is now baked into the narrative of the Ferguson grand jury, a panel before which she had no business appearing.
While the “hands-up” account of Dorian Johnson is often cited by those who demanded Wilson’s indictment, “Witness 40”’s testimony about seeing Brown batter Wilson and then rush the cop like a defensive end has repeatedly been pointed to by Wilson supporters as directly corroborative of the officer’s version of the August 9 confrontation. The “Witness 40” testimony, as Fox News sees it, is proof that the 18-year-old Brown’s killing was justified, and that the Ferguson grand jury got it right.
However, unlike Johnson, “Witness 40”–a 45-year-old St. Louis resident named Sandra McElroy–was nowhere near Canfield Drive on the Saturday afternoon Brown was shot to death.
Though prosecutors have sought to cloak the identity of grand jury witnesses, a TSG investigation has identified McElroy as “Witness 40.” A careful analysis of information contained in the unredacted portions of “Witness 40”’s grand jury testimony helped reporters identify McElroy and then conclusively match up details of her life with those of “Witness 40.”
TSG examined criminal, civil, matrimonial, and bankruptcy court records, as well as online postings and comments to unmask McElroy as “Witness 40,” the fabulist whose grand jury testimony and law enforcement interviews are deserving of multi-count perjury indictments.
McElroy did not reply to an e-mail seeking comment about her testimony. Messages sent yesterday to her three Facebook pages also went unanswered. Also, a message left on a phone number linked to McElroy was not returned.
Since the identities of grand jurors–as well as details of their deliberations–remain secret, there is no way of knowing what impact McElroy’s testimony had on members of the panel, which subsequently declined to vote indictments against Wilson. That decision touched off looting and arson in Ferguson, about 30 miles from the apartment the divorced McElroy shares with her three daughters.
* * *
Sandra McElroy did not provide police with a contemporaneous account of the Brown-Wilson confrontation, which she claimed to have watched unfold in front of her as she stood on a nearby sidewalk smoking a cigarette.
Instead, McElroy (seen at left) waited four weeks after the shooting to contact cops. By the time she gave St. Louis police a statement on September 11, a general outline of Wilson’s version of the shooting had already appeared in the press. McElroy’s account of the confrontation dovetailed with Wilson’s reported recollection of the incident.
In the weeks after Brown’s shooting–but before she contacted police–McElroy used her Facebook account to comment on the case. On August 15, she “liked’ a Facebook comment reporting that Johnson had admitted that he and Brown stole cigars before the confrontation with Wilson. On August 17, a Facebook commenter wrote that Johnson and others should be arrested for inciting riots and giving false statements to police in connection with their claims that Brown had his hands up when shot by Wilson. “The report and autopsy are in so YES they were false,” McElroy wrote of the “hands-up” claims. This appears to be an odd comment from someone who claims to have been present during the shooting. In response to the posting of a news report about a rally in support of Wilson, McElroy wrote on August 17, “Prayers, support God Bless Officer Wilson.”
After meeting with St. Louis police, McElroy continued monitoring the case and posting online. Commenting on a September 12 Riverfront Times story reporting that Ferguson city officials had yet to meet with Brown’s family, McElroy wrote, “But haven’t you heard the news, There great great great grandpa may or may not have been owned by one of our great great great grandpas 200 yrs ago. (Sarcasm).” On September 13, McElroy went on a pro-Wilson Facebook page and posted a graphic that included a photo of Brown lying dead in the street. A type overlay read, “Michael Brown already received justice. So please, stop asking for it.” The following week McElroy responded to a Facebook post about the criminal record of Wilson’s late mother. “As a teenager Mike Brown strong armed a store used drugs hit a police officer and received Justis,” she stated.
On October 22, McElroy went to the FBI field office in St. Louis and was interviewed by an agent and two Department of Justice prosecutors. The day before that taped meeting, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a lengthy story detailing exactly what Wilson told police investigators about the Ferguson shooting.
McElroy provided the federal investigators with an account that neatly tracked with Wilson’s version of the fatal confrontation. She claimed to have seen Brown and Johnson walking in the street before Wilson encountered them while seated in his patrol car. She said that the duo shoved the cruiser’s door closed as Wilson sought to exit the vehicle, then watched as Brown leaned into the car and began raining punches on the cop. McElroy claimed that she heard gunfire from inside the car, which prompted Brown and Johnson to speed off. As Brown ran, McElroy said, he pulled up his sagging pants, from which “his rear end was hanging out.”
But instead of continuing to flee, Brown stopped and turned around to face Wilson, McElroy said. The unarmed teenager, she recalled, gave Wilson a “What are you going to do about it look,” and then “bent down in a football position…and began to charge at the officer.” Brown, she added, “looked like he was on something.” As Brown rushed Wilson, McElroy said, the cop began firing. The “grunting” teenager, McElroy recalled, was hit with a volley of shots, the last of which drove Brown “face first” into the roadway.
McElroy’s tale was met with skepticism by the investigators, who reminded her that it was a crime to lie to federal agents. When questioned about inconsistencies in her story, McElroy was resolute about her vivid, blow-by-blow description of the deadly Brown-Wilson confrontation. “I know what I seen,” she said. “I know you don’t believe me.”
When asked what she was doing in Ferguson–which is about 30 miles north of her home–McElroy explained that she was planning to “pop in” on a former high school classmate she had not seen in 26 years. Saddled with an incorrect address and no cell phone, McElroy claimed that she pulled over to smoke a cigarette and seek directions from a black man standing under a tree. In short order, the violent confrontation between Brown and Wilson purportedly played out in front of McElroy.
Despite an abundance of red flags, state prosecutors put McElroy in front of the Ferguson grand jury the day after her meeting with the federal officials. After the 12-member panel listened to a tape of her interview conducted at the FBI office, McElroy appeared and, under oath, regaled the jurors with her eyewitness claims.
McElroy’s grand jury testimony came to an abrupt end at 2:30 that afternoon due to obligations of some grand jurors. But before the panel broke for the day, McElroy revealed that, “On August 9th after this happened when I got home, I wrote everything down on a piece of paper, would that be easier if I brought that in?”
“Sure,” answered prosecutor Kathi Alizadeh.
“Because that’s how I make sure I don’t get things confused because then it will be word for word,” said McElroy, who did not bother to mention her journaling while speaking a day earlier with federal investigators.
McElroy would return to the Ferguson grand jury 11 days later, journal pages in hand and with a revamped story for the panel.
* * *
Sandra McElroy was born in 1969 to a 17-year-old Tennessee girl. Her father was a 27-year-old truck driver married to another woman. McElroy was subsequently adopted by a Missouri couple, and she has mostly lived in St. Louis since she was a child. According to her grand jury testimony, she was diagnosed as bipolar when she was 16, but has not taken medication for the condition for about 25 years.
According to court records, McElroy was divorced in 2009 from Michael McElroy, a National Park Service employee with whom she had three daughters. She is also the mother of two sons, both in their early 20s.
In 2004, the couple filed for bankruptcy protection, ultimately listing debts in excess of $152,000, and assets totaling $16,575 (the pair valued the family’s guinea pigs at $20). The McElroys’s court petition reported that Brenda was disabled and received $564 monthly from the Social Security Administration.
The McElroy liabilities included two dozen unpaid medical bills dating to 2002, the year the couple filed a personal injury lawsuit in connection with a February 2001 auto accident in St. Louis. “Witness 40” told grand jurors that she was seriously injured in a car crash on Valentine’s Day in 2001. The witness, who said she was catapulted through the windshield, testified that she has struggled with a faulty memory since the accident.
The lawyer, Tracy Brown, sought court permission to withdraw from the bankruptcy case due to Sandra McElroy’s behavior. Brown advised the court that McElroy had frequently called her office and berated a secretary. McElroy, Brown wrote, “repeatedly used profanity when speaking with Counsel’s secretary,” adding that the diatribes “escalated to the use of racial slurs.”
Brown’s withdrawal motion was immediately approved by the federal judge handling the McElroy bankruptcy.
An examination of McElroy’s YouTube page, which she apparently shares with one of her daughters, reveals other evidence of racial animus. Next to a clip about the disappearance of a white woman who had a baby with a black man is the comment, “see what happens when you bed down with a monkey have ape babies and party with them.” A clip about the sentencing of two black women for murder is captioned, “put them monkeys in a cage.”
McElroy’s YouTube page is also filled with a variety of anti-Barack Obama videos, including a clip purporting to show Michelle Obama admitting that the president was born in Kenya. Over the past year, McElroy has subscribed to three channels devoted to mystery and video channel.
McElroy has rarely used her Twitter account, though she did post a message in late-October in response to a news report that several Ferguson drug cases had to be dropped because Darren Wilson failed to show up for court hearings. “drug thug will be arrested again who cares,” wrote McElroy.
Her inaugural tweet came in October 2013 in reply to an Obama swipe posted by Senator Ted Cruz. “Keep fighting, I am a government employee on furlough and I say keep it shut down. NO obama care please don’t stop,” McElroy tweeted to the Texas Republican.
* * *
A review of court records shows that McElroy’s legal history is filled with a variety of civil lawsuits–often for failing to pay rent and other bills–as well as a 2007 criminal case. McElroy was arrested that year on two felony bad check charges. She pleaded guilty the following year to both counts and received a suspended sentence. The files on McElroy’s case have been sealed, a St. Louis court clerk told TSG.
During her grand jury testimony, “Witness 40” revealed that she pleaded guilty to a pair of felony “check fraud” charges in 2007. She recalled being sentenced to three years probation as part of an “SIS” (suspended imposition of sentence). “Witness 40” explained that she accidentally passed the bad checks after “I grabbed a black checkbook instead of a brown checkbook or a blue checkbook.” She copped to the charges, “Witness 40” added, because her father “taught me before he passed away regardless, you always tell the truth and you always admit to whatever, if it’s the truth.”
McElroy’s devotion to the truth–lacking during her appearances before the Ferguson grand jury–was also absent in early-2007 when she fabricated a bizarre story in the wake of the rescue of
McElroy, who also lived in Kirkwood, told KMOV-TV that she had known Devlin (seen at left) for 20 years. She also claimed to have gone to the police months after the child’s October 2002 disappearance to report that she had seen Devlin with Hornbeck. The police, McElroy said, checked out her tip and determined that the boy with Devlin was not Hornbeck.
In the face of McElroy’s allegations, the Kirkwood Police Department fired back at her. Cops reported that they investigated her claim and determined that “we have no record of any contact with Mrs. McElroy in regards to Shawn Hornbeck.” The police statement concluded, “We have found that this story is a complete fabrication.”
Undeterred by that withering blast, McElroy peddled another story to police in nearby Lincoln County, where Charles Arlin Henderson, 11, went missing in 1991. According to news reports, McElroy claimed that Devlin had given her photos he took of young boys, one of whom she knew as “Chuck” or “Chuckie.” Those images were shown to the missing boy’s mother, who said that while one of the boys in the photos resembled her son, “I’m keeping my emotions in check. I’m not going to be hurt anymore.”
A law enforcement task force investigated Devlin’s possible involvement in other missing children cases, but concluded that his only victims were Hornbeck and a 13-year-old boy who was abducted four days before Devlin’s arrest. Henderson, who has never been found, would now be 34-years-old.
* * *
When Sandra McElroy returned to the Ferguson grand jury on November 3, she brought a spiral notebook purportedly containing her handwritten journal entries for some dates in August, including the Saturday Michael Brown was shot.
Before testifying about the content of her notebook scribblings, McElroy admitted that she had not driven to Ferguson in search of an African-American pal she had last seen in 1988. Instead, McElroy offered a substitute explanation that was, remarkably, an even bigger lie.
McElroy, again under oath, explained to grand jurors that she was something of an amateur urban anthropologist. Every couple of weeks, McElroy testified, she likes to “go into all the African-American neighborhoods.” During these weekend sojourns–apparently conducted when her ex has the kids–McElroy said she will “go in and have coffee and I will strike up a conversation with an African-American and I will try to talk to them because I’m trying to understand more.”
As she testified, McElroy admitted that her sworn account of the Brown-Wilson confrontation was likely peppered with details of the incident she had read online. But she remained adamant about having been on Canfield Drive and seeing Brown “going after the officer like a football player” before being shot to death.
McElroy’s last two journal entries for August 9 read like an after-the-fact summary of the account she gave to federal investigators on October 22 and the Ferguson grand jury the following afternoon. It is so obvious that the notebook entries were not contemporaneous creations that investigators should have checked to see if the ink had dried.
The opening entry in McElroy’s journal on the day Brown died declared, “Well Im gonna take my random drive to Florisant. Need to understand the Black race better so I stop calling Blacks Niggers and Start calling them People.” A commendable goal, indeed.
Near the end of her testimony, McElroy was questioned about a Facebook page she had started to raise money for Wilson. McElroy corrected a prosecutor, saying that the page was “not for Darren Wilson,” but rather other law enforcement officers who have “been dealing with all the long hours” as a result of unrest in Ferguson.
McElroy’s group purports to be a “non-profit organization,” though Missouri state corporation records contain no mention of the outfit, which launched its Facebook page two weeks after Brown’s killing. In donation pitches posted on other Facebook pages, “First Responders Support” claimed that money raised through an online fundraising campaign would be used to pay for care packages and gift cards for cops “that have been dealing with the riots here in St Louis MO.”
In an October 25 Facebook discussion thread on the web site of a St. Louis TV station, McElroy–using one of her personal Facebook accounts–posted a link to the “First Responders” fundraising page, along with a call to action. “How about support the LEO instead of these thugs,” she wrote. Two minutes later, a similar link to the YouCaring web site was posted from the “First Responders” Facebook account.
It is unknown how much money McElroy’s Facebook gambit has raised, or how the money was spent. But in a December 5 post, the “First Responders” page offered a fundraising update. Since “Officer Wilson’s attorney has made it clear there are to be NO online donation excepted,” McElroy wrote, “I purchased a money order and mailed it” to the “Darren Wilson Trust Fund.”
A TSG reporter last week sent a message to the “First Responders” Facebook page asking how much money the group raised and donated to Wilson. While that inquiry was ignored, the fundraising post was subsequently deleted.
Perhaps McElroy did not want to get caught telling a lie. (18 pages)

December 16, 2014

Another Milwaukee Voucher School Exposed

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 8:33 am

Ceria M. Travis Academy Inc., a voucher school, is featured in an MJS article. Travis Academy’s operation and failings are not the exception for Milwaukee’s voucher program. The article exposes nepotism, questionable finances, unqualified teachers, dismal academic performance, and a fundamental lack of transparency.
What is the Republican answer? More vouchers.

Erin Richards Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 12/16/14
The operator of one of Milwaukee’s longest-running private voucher schools says her organization strives to give disadvantaged children the best shot they can get in life, even when they’ve been left behind by other schools.
But new documents and former employees have raised concerns about the internal workings at Ceria M. Travis Academy, a private school that’s received more than $35 million in state voucher payments through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program since 1996.

Complaints filed with the state in 2014 and obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel through an open records request allege that the school has violated state law by employing people without bachelor’s degrees to teach students.
And former and current staff members say the close-knit family business has crossed a number of other lines that, while not illegal under state statutes governing private voucher schools, may be holding children back from getting the kind of education they deserve.

They say Dorothy Travis Moore, the founder and CEO of Ceria M. Travis Academy Inc. employs an unusually high number of family members and that it’s hard to tell where the money for education goes, as classrooms lack adequate resources.
School officials counter that a recent review of the schools by an independent accrediting organization found the programs to be operating in accordance with state law.

That review was requested by the Department of Public Instruction as it sought to follow-up on the claims made via email about unqualified teachers at the school.

Double-checking the review’s conclusion is difficult.

Travis Moore and Wilnekia Brinson, her daughter and vice president of the organization, declined to provide the Journal Sentinel with staff rosters from 2014-’15 and 2013-’14, as well as a current list of individual staff titles and salaries.

Because voucher schools are private, they do not have to make such information public.

As for salary data, voucher schools are required to provide DPI with only a lump sum of what they paid staff the previous year, as part of their annual financial information report.

Federal nonprofit tax filings list the individual compensation for Travis Moore and Brinson, whose total compensation packages totaled $213,000 and $118,000 respectively, in 2012, according to those federal documents.

Brinson said five family members are employed at the organization, which has 67 employees. Travis Moore confirmed that Brinson’s husband, Robert Brinson, works for the organization in a student support and security role.
They declined to disclose other family members’ job titles and salaries.
A video from a celebratory dinner for the organization at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2011 revealed that Travis Moore’s son worked for the organization, as well.

School history

The nonprofit Ceria M. Travis Academy Inc. operates Ceria M. Travis Academy, a K-12 school at 4744 N. 39th St., and Travis Technology High School at 8350 N. Stevens Road. The academy had 437 students enrolled this fall, and the high school had 179 students, according to state records.
The two schools this year stand to receive at least another $4.6 million in voucher payments if enrollment holds.
Travis Moore, a former Milwaukee Public Schools administrator, said she serves some of the city’s toughest-to-serve children.

“We are trying to get them interested in staying in school, and then trying to meet them where they’re at, as they are approximately two to three years behind (grade level),” she said in an interview.
She said her total compensation reported on the organization’s most recent federal 990 tax form includes her retirement and investment income. She also said she’s made substantial personal donations to the school this year.
“This is the kind of stuff you have to do when you run a school,” she said.

Low academic performance

Academic performance at the schools is very low.
Last fall at the academy, only 2% of the students could read on grade level. Only 3% could do math on grade level.
The average rates of proficiency for voucher schools that year was 12% in reading and 15% in math.
Former Ceria M. Travis first-grade teacher Jacqueline Sperling worked at the school during her first year of teaching in the 2011-’12 school year. Sperling said her salary was $31,000 that year, and that she started with 38 children in her class and no textbooks or any other books.

“We had to submit lesson plans,” she said. “But there was no rule over what we had to do or how much we had to do.”
Teachers without degrees?
State law requires voucher-school teachers and administrators to have at least a bachelor’s degree, though it does not have to be in education.

This fall, the DPI received complaints via email from a former Ceria M. Travis employee who named several staff members teaching in 2013-’14 who did not have bachelor’s degrees.
She said the academy had sent DPI degree credential information for employees who weren’t actually the ones teaching.
“The teachers in K4-1st grade don’t have a bachelor’s degree,” the former employee wrote to the DPI. “Instead they lied and said that staff members who do have degrees were teaching the class.”

Another former employee said she once witnessed an on-site visit by the accrediting team where employees with degrees, such as a security person, were ushered into a class to act as a teacher while the person teaching, who didn’t have a degree, was told to act as an assistant.

As part of a settlement agreement signed by DPI officials and the school in October, the DPI ordered the school to submit all future financial reports on time, and also to submit to an additional in-person review by its accrediting organization.
That most recent review was conducted in October.

According to Beatrice Weiland, executive director of the Wisconsin Religious and Independent Schools Accreditation, the staff rosters matched the names of teachers in classrooms during an on-site visit this fall, and all the teachers had bachelor’s degrees.

She said it would be impossible for accrediting organizations to come on multiple days of the year to make sure all the teachers in front of children were legitimately qualified.

December 15, 2014

A Must See 2-Minute Cartoon Video on Public Education

Filed under: American Injustice,Privatization,Public Education — millerlf @ 3:49 pm

Watch the following youtube cartoon. It says it all.

Will Corporate Titans Destroy Public Education?

Filed under: Corporate Domination — millerlf @ 3:36 pm

Will Corporate Titans Destroy Public Education?
By dianeravitch
December 15, 2014 //

Film-maker Brian Malone of Malone Media has completed a documentary about the corporate assault on public education. the film is called Education, Inc.

Please take a look at the trailer and let Brian know what you think. His email is brian@malonetv.com

Find it here:

https://www.facebook.com/edincmovie

Baraboo School Board to Weigh Transgender Policy

Filed under: LGBT — millerlf @ 3:34 pm

Baraboo News Republic 12-15-2014

The Baraboo School Board is scheduled to take a final vote Monday on a new policy that would establish guidelines for including transgender students in co-curricular activities.

More than a dozen community members voiced opposition to the policy at the last board meeting, and people on both sides of the issue plan to speak out during Monday’s public comments.

All board members except Ed Mortimer approved the policy on its first reading Nov. 24.

School officials said the policy, introduced to the board last month, is based on a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association policy passed last year, and similar guidelines developed by other states and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Deputy WIAA Director Wade Labecki said the association approved its policy to ensure member schools had guidelines for transgender students’ participation in sports.
“We felt that we needed to be proactive,” Labecki said, citing U.S. Department of Education guidance that transgender students are protected under Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded activities and education programs.
School districts in Oshkosh and the Milwaukee area already have established their own transgender student athletics participation policies.
“It’s a question that comes up probably three to four times a year, on how to address that issue,” Labecki said, adding that he has fielded questions from rural and urban districts across the state.

Denying transgender students equal access to sports and activities could have legal ramifications for schools, he said. Labecki said some people want to debate what they believe to be the moral implications of such policies.
“We don’t debate that,” he said.

More discussion sought

Ginny Maziarka, of Baraboo, said she attended the Nov. 24 school board meeting because she believed community concerns had been disregarded by board members.
Maziarka said she didn’t learn about the policy until it was going to be up for a final vote. She said she believes that the board should initiate a forum for community dialogue about the policy.
“Most everyone, everyone I talked to about it didn’t know about it,” said the grandmother, whose grandchildren do not live within the school district.
Maziarka said that as a taxpayer, she doesn’t believe the district has developed an adequate plan to implement the proposed policy.
Maziarka said she believes the policy would contribute to a breakdown of “the natural inhibitions of students,” ignore differences between the sexes and compromise student privacy.
She said she’s also concerned about the issue from a facilities standpoint, including the cost of any modifications that might need to be made to locker rooms.
“What has the district determined to be an equitable facility?” Maziarka asked.
Maziarka said she’d like to see Monday’s vote on the proposal tabled until a community forum can be held.
Concerns about facilities
The official second reading of the policy was delayed last month when former school board member Scott Frostman, who spoke during the public comments section of the Nov. 24 meeting, said he didn’t believe the policy had been appropriately read aloud.
Frostman, whose son attends Baraboo High School, and daughter attends a local religious school, said he recently asked board members and district officials for a copy of a written plan for implementing the participation policy but received no materials.
He said he is concerned about how the district will ensure a safe environment for students regarding facilities and provide competitive equity. Frostman said he believes possible “inappropriate environments” could be created by transgender students’ use of locker rooms aligned with their birth sex or with their gender identity.
The issues could be further complicated as teams travel from school to school, Frostman added.
“I think that needs to be specified,” he said of a protocol for facility use.
Frostman said he has concerns about how the policy could affect spring sports.
“I think the district would be premature to adopt the policy at this point without an accompanying plan,” he said, adding that he believes the district also opens itself up to legal concerns should the board adopt the policy without a plan in place.
Policy in practice
Labecki said WIAA’s and similar policies prevent people from presenting themselves as transgender when they do not identify as such, one concern mentioned by critics of Baraboo’s policy. The guidelines establish medical documentation requirements for students to privately certify with the district that they identify as transgender in order to play on the teams with which they identify.
The policy aims to provide competitive equity, ensure equal access to sports, and maintain the privacy of the students, Labecki said.
“I know people have concerns,” he said, adding that he understands that many haven’t been exposed to the issue before.
“I think there are a lot of questions from the community, and legitimate questions in terms of, ‘What would this policy look like in practice?’” said Baraboo’s Director of Special Education and Pupil Services Dani Scott.
The day-to-day implementation of the policy will need to be handled on a case-by-case basis, Scott said, adding that all students have the right to privacy and to feel safe in district facilities, teams and activities.
“We want to provide facilities that respect the rights and privacy of all students,” she said. “And so we would work with the transgender students as well as non-transgender students to make sure they have access to facilities they feel safe and comfortable in.”
There are students in the district who identify as transgender, she said. “This is not an issue that hasn’t touched our community.”
Scott said the district has received messages in support of the policy in addition to comments from those who are opposed.
Some local school staff members recently attended a presentation put on by the district’s Gay/Straight Alliance club to help them better understand some of the issues at hand.
Right to participate
The Rev. Marianne Cotter, pastor of Baraboo’s First United Methodist Church, held an information session on the policy Wednesday night. She plans to speak at Monday’s meeting along with several church members.
Cotter, who joined the Baraboo community this summer, said she’s heard that the school district has done a good job of promoting a climate that addresses bullying and makes sure all students feel safe. The transgender participation policy implements several of the district’s stated core beliefs, she said.
“I believe it’s important to speak up and to be an ally for those who don’t always find it easy or safe to speak up for themselves,” she said.
Involvement in sports is an important part of life for many young people, Cotter said, adding that she believes all students should have access to such opportunities.
“Every person is a child of God and worthy of respect, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity … ” she wrote in the statement she plans to share Monday.
“My church is clear that every person is a person who is of sacred worth,” she said.

Barbara Miner on Rocketship

Filed under: Charter Schools,Rocketship — millerlf @ 3:25 pm

Below is a link to the recent article written for the Progressive magazine by Barbara Miner on Rocketship charter schools.

Rocketship_Progressive_Miner

December 5, 2014

What Happens in a Recovery School District?

Filed under: Recovery District — millerlf @ 8:32 pm

Rumors of a New Orleans-style Recovery School District (RSD), aimed at Milwaukee Public Schools, are swirling around the Wisconsin political arena once again. The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce has been lobbying for this for some time. In 2013 the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute proposed the same idea in a report titled “Pathway to success for Milwaukee schools.” (See at http://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/-pathway-to-success_170815996739.pdf).

Right now there are RSD’s in New Orleans, Tennessee, Michigan and Virginia. In New Orleans it is called the Recovery School District. In Tennessee it is called the Achievement School District. In Michigan it is called the Education Achievement Authority. In Virginia it is called the Opportunity Educational Institution.

From the practice of these 4 states, the following outcomes have become evident:
• “Low performing” schools are removed from their school districts.
• Administration and teachers are removed from those schools. (In New Orleans 7500 teachers were fired. A large majority were African American.)
• Schools are turned over to charter management organizations (CMO’s).
• Schools operate independently, answering to the state with little accountability.
• Parents are disenfranchised without elected school boards for recourse. Large percentages of families leave these schools.
• Special education and “behavior problem/low testing” students are “counseled out.”
• Teach For America becomes a major source for teaching staff. Unions are not allowed.
• School districts continue to be responsible for past debt accumulated.
• Academic performance is stagnant.

December 1, 2014

Milwaukee Recovery School District: Let’s replicate another thoughtless, failed “reform” for our students and communities

Filed under: Recovery District — millerlf @ 9:23 pm

Milwaukee’s “ed-reform” movement is elated with the Wisconsin election outcomes. They feel they have a green light to carry out their privatization wish list. Milwaukee Public Schools and public education state-wide are on the butcher-block. It doesn’t matter what the outcomes will be. All that matters is dismantling public education.

Following is an op-ed that ran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last year. It followed a secret meeting held by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. I bet they will not be so secretive in the future.

Look closely at school reform initiative

By Larry Miller July 29, 2013 MJS

There’s talk of a new education “reform” initiative directed at Milwaukee Public Schools, based on the experience of what’s been done in New Orleans. We are being told it’s a miracle — a claim we should take with a large dose of skepticism.

For the past two years, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce has been talking about introducing a New Orleans-style Recovery School District (RSD). Recently, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute proposed the same idea in a report titled “Pathway to success for Milwaukee schools.”

WPRI’s proposal describes this as an independent school district, made up of schools identified as underperforming, chartered directly by the state and answering to an independent superintendent, who would in turn report to the state Department of Public Instruction.

The WPRI claims huge success over the past 10 years for the Louisiana Recovery School District. The data I’ve reviewed shows a different picture.

Academic performance for Louisiana schools is based on School Performance Scores (SPS) that lead to a letter grade for each school from the Department of Public Instruction. The RSD saw a one-year improvement in its SPS scores. But progress looks very different if one goes by the grade given to each school, based on the SPS scores. None of the 72 RSD schools received an A this year. All but 10 received an F or a D. Five got a B, and four a C. One was not given a grade.

Before last year, the RSD was 70th out of the 70 Louisiana school districts. It moved to 69 last year. This year saw a jump of six SPS points.

For those of us who follow education policy, the lack of clear incremental improvements since the RSD’s inception in 2003, and the individual school grades co-existing with the one-year jump for the district overall, is always a moment for caution.

Take what happened in Chicago when test scores increased significantly under Arne Duncan on Illinois standardized tests. The results from students taking the NAEP test (a test generated by the U.S. Department of Education) showed no improvement over the same period of time. The reason for the improvement in state testing? A change in the state test itself; it had been dumbed down. The same thing happened in New York.

To claim that a “miracle” is occurring in New Orleans is, to say the least, premature. Even if this year’s jump in scores is verifiable and valid, it is wrong to claim victory just because there is a yardage gain. There has not been enough of a track record with the Recovery School District to take the show on the road.
The New Orleans education landscape is mired in questionable practices and outcomes. Critics point to the lack of transparency. A watchdog group called Research on Reforms has filed a lawsuit just to be able to get reliable raw data from the RSD and the Louisiana Department of Education.

In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a class action suit against the Louisiana Department of Education and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for failure to provide appropriate access to special education students. Charters in New Orleans have been accused of “counseling out” special education students both to save money and to increase high-stakes test scores.

The rate of suspension for the 2008 school year for the RSD was twice the state average and four times the national rate. In that same year, the expulsion rate was twice the statewide rate and 10 times the national rate. Such harsh discipline creates the impression that increases in student achievement are accomplished in part by forcing out low achievers.

Much criticism has been raised about what appears to be exorbitant amounts of money spent on security, consultant fees and property mismanagement. The New Orleans Inspector General recently said the Louisiana Department of Education wasted nearly $33 million in taxpayer money by overpaying the company overseeing the city’s $1.8 billion school building master plan, largely serving the RSD.

In 2011, a coterie of wealthy national contributors and supporters of the RSD turned the races for unpaid positions on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education into the most expensive in the state’s history. Seven “reform” candidates for the BESE spent $2,386,768, more than 10 times their opponents’ spending ($199,878).
There has been no shortage of money spent to make the Recovery School District appear as a model for success. But the only way that many of the national charter schools can show sustained academic progress is through a large infusion of dollars and clear access to a system of selection/de-selection and the ability to “counsel out” low-performing, special ed and students with behavioral problems. Many critics on the ground in New Orleans are arguing that both are true there.

The New Orleans education experiment with thousands of children from low-income families and communities is a “failed model” for reform under any standard.

Larry Miller is a Milwaukee School Board member.

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