The Occupy Chicago movement prevented Scott Walker from speaking at a business breakfast November 3rd in Chicago. Take a look.
To view Walker’s humiliation go to:
The Occupy Chicago movement prevented Scott Walker from speaking at a business breakfast November 3rd in Chicago. Take a look.
To view Walker’s humiliation go to:
A Retro-Rocketship to the Future: Corporate Education Reform Blasts Off in Silicon Valley
Written by Adam Bessie The Daily Censored, Nov 18, 2011
Rocketship is blasting off in Silicon Valley, with great fanfare – and no, it’s not a new tech start up, propelled by the genius of another 22-year old wunderkind who has invented the latest, most innovative way to virally spread videos of silly cats playing pianos. Yet, looking at the applauding coverage of Rocketship, you’d be hard-pressed to not think you’re watching a business profile of a rising star: Rocketship’s facilities are freshly-designed, modernized, and color-coordinated, the team members enthusiastic (and color-coordinated), and team leaders (managers) use the words “innovation” and “leveraging” at least once per well-polished, color-coordinated sentence. That, and it has a stellar brand name – Rocketship – which sounds both innovative and familiar, reaching towards the future, while at the same time, harkening back to childhood fantasy, creating the sort of futuristic nostalgia that could only have been designed by a team of professional marketers, focus groups, and meetings, upon meetings, upon meetings – in which “innovation” and “leveraging” were the take away points.
Rocketship, however, is not a new viral cat video start-up, but rather a charter school born of the same Silicon Valley corporate culture that brought us those cat videos (at rocket-speeds). Rocketship – applauded for its high scores on standardized tests in impoverished Latino communities – was spotlighted as part of NBC’s Education Nation extravaganza for its “innovative” methods, which seem steeped in that same futuristic nostalgia implied in its brand name. The elementary school chain is hybrid, incorporating tutor-led computerized instruction– two hours a day – into the curriculum, which allows for the schools to hire fewer teachers, and thus, have less “overhead”. At the same time as Rocketship “innovates” for the digital future, the remaining human teachers can focus not only on critical thinking, but good old-fashioned discipline, as the children walk down the halls – on the yellow line, only – with their hands behind their backs, with their mouths closed, filing into the computer lab “one hundred at a time”, blasting off silently into their retro-rocket ship to the future.
Rocketship sounds like a “miracle school,” one perhaps able to “rocket its students to success,” as NBC’s San Francisco Bay Area affiliate suggested. “[See] these test scores: you’re going to be impressed,” gushed host Jessica Aguirre of the local NBC education program “Class Action”, as she points out that one of Rocketship’s schools outperforms the local school district on standardized tests – 925 to 920 points. (The “Chief Achievement Officer” attributes their success to, in part, “leveraging.”) With Rocketship’s success, it’s now going viral, much like its Silicon Valley sister-start-ups. The chain has plans for 20 more schools in the area, with three more already approved by the Santa Clara County School Board, and is planning to spread nationwide, in “50 cities across the US.”
Rocketship’s success, like the charter school movement in general, might also be better characterized as a triumph of branding, cross-promotion, synergy, and – of course –leveraging. More specifically, the Rocketship chain is at the center of a nexus of power, incredible financial resources and political influence leveraged to highlight its strengths, and downplay potential drawbacks or limitations, making it appear a “miracle.”
Rocketship is another important experiment in billionaire Bill Gates’ quest to update what he considers to be an outdated Public School Operating System, so that it better interfaces with the needs of 21st century global corporatism. Rocketship’s “National Strategy Board,” includes a representative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; advisors and directors of the school include other Silicon Valley tech business leaders also associated with Gates’ Microsoft: NetFlix’s CEO (who sat on Microsoft’s board of directors); Skype’s Chief Financial Officer (Skype was recently purchased by Microsoft); and the Managing Director of Menlo Ventures (who invested in Microsoft’s popular Hotmail program). Also, Gates has donated money to nearly all of the education organizations which have representatives on the board: Bellwether Education Partners; Charter School Growth Fund; New Schools Venture Fund; KIPP schools; Teach for America. And if that’s not enough, a star-studded opening of a Microsoft store in Santa Clara – with Joe Montana, one of the Jonas Brothers, and special performance by rock band the Black Keys – raised money, which went in part to Rocketship.
Now, that’s what I call leveraging.
Gates has also been very successful in leveraging the corporate media to favorably cover his philanthropic investments, like Rocketship. Gates – who has invested nearly 80 million in favorable PR for his reforms –was a major sponsor and star of NBC’s Education Nation series, cross-promoted on the major NBC franchises and properties (Meet The Press, Nightly News), and affiliates, like NBC 11, in the San Francisco Bay Area.  “NBC is looking at what’s working in our schools, and sadly, what isn’t,” Aguirre said during the Education Nation synergistic extravaganza, holding Rocketship aloft as an example of “what’s working”. The report, unsurprisingly, acts as a PR piece for Rocketship: the reporter questions none of the claims made by the representatives of the school, nor does she explore or allude to legitimate questions about charter schools, nor does she air any dissenting opinions or perspectives whatsoever.
In other words: NBC is promoting a school sponsored by a sponsor of NBC programming.
Now, that’s what I call a conflict of interest.
This conflict of interest has hidden from the public some serious concerns about not just the Rocketship model, but charter schools in general. As Rocketship prepared to launch into Milwaukee, school board representative Larry Miller exposed that the chain – like many charter schools – has a problem with attrition, with a high rate of students leaving the schools. While Miller could not find attrition data from the Department of Education, he claims that:
“Rocketship Si Se Puede Academy, now in its third year of operation, had a 79% loss of students in the cohort moving from fourth to fifth grade in 2010-2011. Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary had a 20% loss of students for the cohorts going into fifth grade for both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years… In San Jose districtwide, the loss of student population is less than 1%.”
Much more simply, what Miller found is that many more students were leaving these schools than the regular public schools, suggesting that the miraculous numbers are less a product of excellent instruction, and more a function of culling. Especially concerning, Rocketship schools – like many charter schools, as Diane Ravitch observed in “The Myth of Charter Schools” – serve a disproportionately small population of special needs students, which would, of course, drag down the scores.
In short: is the miracle really a mirage?
Rocketship says no, that the success is real, responding to Miller, claiming that this low number of special education students is not, in reality, out of line with the district in general, and further, that they are open to all students. More broadly, their “fact sheet” points out that there is no problem with attrition, that many of the students left Rocketship for the next step in their academic career, KIPP, a charter with a similar mission.
Yet, KIPP – the star of the charter movement, another recipient of Gates’ leveraging efforts, and no doubt a model for Rocketship – has also been leveled with the same criticism, that their success is more about culling the best students with the best chance to succeed, and leaving the rest behind. A March 2011 study of the KIPP program found that “KIPP schools have substantially higher levels of attrition than do their local school districts,” and, between grades 6 and 8, three of ten students leave the schools. “The dropout rate for African-American males is really shocking,” one author observed, pointing out that four of ten African-American boys leave the program in grades 6 through 8. Further, the study chastised the schools for not serving more students with disabilities, and those learning English. And, finally, KIPP schools are “considerably better funded than their surrounding school districts,” which are required to work with all students, not just those who are chosen, and willing/able to submit to the rigorous KIPP method. And while the authors acknowledge that the KIPP model is wonderful for some students, KIPP is only able to serve a “limited range of students,” the rest, left to return to their poorly-funded public schools.
The KIPP study found what all teachers already know – that with a motivated population of engaged and capable mainstream students, with parents that are equally motivated and engaged in that child’s education, and with healthy funding that provides students a clean, safe school with up-to-date facilities, that test scores will rocket, and that students, far more importantly, learn.
This is not an innovation, but common sense.
After over a decade of failed free-market reforms, the real innovation in education reform will be in returning back to our common sense, recognizing that all students – not just the chosen few, who have motivated, capable parents and luck on their side – deserve access to clean, safe and vibrant public schools, and as importantly, critical public services, which address the struggles students face outside of the classroom. Unfortunately, as Rocketship takes off – fueled by Gates, and other corporate elites – public education is being buried alive, with schools closed, teachers laid off, essential support services diluted and discontinued, cut in order to balance budgets destroyed by the very same corporate, free-market ethos on which these very same elites profited.
Louisiana Charter Law on Expulsion
Charters in Louisiana operate under different rules than traditional public schools. They can expel students for minor infractions or simply expel those students who might contribute to lowering test scores. If “behavior problem” students and special education students, who often are challenged by standardized tests, are taken out of the equation, test scores for the school rise.
Critics say New Orleans charter schools are selectively admitting and retaining students based on academic performance and behavior. For example in the table below a student in “KIPP Central City Primary School” can be permanently expelled for absences, being tardy and for “repeatedly committing minor behavioral infractions.”
|RSD Charter Schools||Grade||Behaviors Possibly Leading to Expulsion|
|Lafayette Academy Charter School||PreK-7||
|Nelson, Gentilly Terrace and Capdau: UNO Charter Schools||K-8||
|KIPP Central City Primary||K-2||
(Research on Reforms)
To view school handbooks that spell out expulsion policies go to the following pdf:
National Public Radio by Larry Abramson November 15, 2011
New Orleans has become the center of an education revolution, where more than 70 percent of students attend a charter school.
The number of students taught in traditional district-run schools is shrinking fast. That’s because parents in post-Hurricane Katrina can pick and choose from a smorgasbord of schools with different approaches and cultures.
By many measures, this educational marketplace has improved student achievement. But as this experiment moves ahead, it’s led to questions about whether the district is truly open to the most challenging students.
One Family’s Story
When Kelly Fisher and her family moved to New Orleans in 2009, they expected her son Noah would need the same kind intensive help that he got at his old school in Indiana. Noah, who’s 10, is blind, autistic and has a variety of developmental delays.
For help in finding the right school, they turned to the Recovery School District (RSD), the state-run agency that is the closest thing New Orleans has to a traditional district.
“Because I came from a traditional program, I thought, ‘Oh, that’s my local special ed coordinator. That’s the person who knows what’s in the city and can direct me toward the schools that would be best for Noah,” Fisher says.
New Orleans Schools: Some Background
In 2003, Louisiana created the Recovery School District (RSD) to take over failing schools in New Orleans and elsewhere in the state. After Katrina, the RSD took over nearly all of the badly damaged schools in Orleans Parish.
The RSD runs a number of schools directly, like a traditional school district. But it is also charged with overseeing a growing number of independently run charter schools. This school year, more than 70 percent of New Orleans schoolchildren attend a charter, and some officials say they can see a day when all New Orleans schools might be charters.
New Orleans is also a district of choice: Families are free to apply to schools anywhere in town, and schools must provide transportation to any student. That also means that families might have to apply to a number of charter schools, in the hopes of finding a space. The RSD is working on developing a unified application to simplify the process and ensure fairness.
But Kelly and her husband, Bob, say that New Orleans’ open choice system left them totally on their own when it came to finding a school for Noah. In theory, New Orleans parents can choose from any school, whether it’s a charter or one run directly by the RSD. But most schools are charters, and the best charters are full.
So the Fishers ended up on waiting lists. Bob Fisher says that the central district seemed powerless. “The director was just scrambling around, making phone calls. Actually, he says, at one point he remembers she ran out in the hallway, grabbed someone and said, ‘Hey, do you have an opening at your school?'”
The Fishers say they kept looking for a school that could help Noah. Finally, they ended up at Lafayette Academy, a charter school. Lafayette is housed in a former district school building not far from where the family lives, in the Mid-City neighborhood.
At Lafayette, the Fishers say, Noah has the help he needs: He has a full-time aide named Daniel Thomas.
The Fishers suspect that other schools simply did not want to spend the money needed to hire an aide and were not interested in accommodating Noah. Lafayette Principal Mickey Landry admits that it is challenging for any school to cover the costs of special ed resources.
“The state tops out its financing for special needs students at about $18,000 a year. But some students cost us significantly more than that — sometimes as much as $40,000,” Landry says.
A Class-Action Suit
Landry says that through clever budgeting, he simply found a way to give Noah the support he needs. According to many parents, other schools do not work as hard to follow the law, which says all schools must be open to all students. The Fishers have joined a class-action lawsuit, charging that the New Orleans school system excludes special-needs students.
Eden Heilman, a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, is suing the Louisiana Department of Education, which set up the post-Hurricane Katrina school system. “The state kind of abandoned their responsibilities to students with disabilities in New Orleans,” Heilman says.
Superintendent John White admits that there have been problems. But he insists that things are improving. White, who just took over as superintendent for the RSD a few months ago, points out that test scores for special education have improved dramatically since Katrina, and that these children were terribly neglected before the storm. But, he admits, those scores are still much lower than they should be. White says it can be tough for his agency to oversee a system of independent schools.
He is putting a series of reforms in place that are supposed to show whether some schools are experiencing high turnover because they are turning students away. He’s also implementing a systemwide application process so parents don’t have to search for an open spot among the city’s schools.
‘Be A Part Of This With Us’
Many educators in New Orleans say that the parents’ complaints ignore the other side of this unique education system: the creativity that charters have brought.
At the KIPP New Orleans Leadership Primary School in the city’s French Quarter, the special ed enrollment is about 9 percent, similar to the city average. KIPP has posted some of the most impressive gains in the city. The school says its mission includes kids like Benjamin Camp, who’s 8.
Benjamin is sweet, but he has had behavior problems for years and was recently diagnosed with autism. His grandmother, Carmella Camp, says some nursery schools turned Benjamin away as too challenging. But this charter school never suggested he go elsewhere.
“Never, never, never, ever! Still haven’t heard it,” Camp says.
But KIPP has also faced charges that it pushes some students out. The school has a firm discipline policy that can be tough for some students to follow. Families must agree to a “commitment to excellence,” which includes getting their kids to school on time and becoming part of the education process.
Rhonda Aluise, executive director of KIPP New Orleans, insists this approach doesn’t exclude anyone. “So there is not this requirement, or, ‘If you come to KIPP you must do this.’ This is, ‘Here’s our vision for what a school can do. Come be a part of this with us,” Aluise says.
Still, this is a promise that traditional public schools seldom require.
Beyond New Orleans
The stories of the 10 families in this suit raise questions that go well beyond New Orleans.
Detroit is using New Orleans as a model for reform. That system has moved to citywide school choice and hopes to open dozens of charters. Many Detroit teachers have reacted like Ivy Bailey, who spoke to NPR this summer.
“As a public institution, we take any and every child. We know children learn at different levels. But charter schools, they can pick who they can take,” Bailey says.
Whatever happens with the New Orleans lawsuit, charter groups will have to wrestle with a continuing perception they are not open to all.
The opening session of the conference, with a speaker followed by a panel, is basically a pep rally for the New Orleans “reforms”. The panel includes Howard Fuller, a key architect of the MMAC plan. There is no speaker with a critical perspective on education in New Orleans.
I will be posting information about the New Orleans model and the MMAC plans over the next few days.
To view the day’s activities and to register for the conference go to:
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction New Release 11/10/11
Survey data shows effects of cuts to education
With 83 percent of school districts responding, survey data gathered this fall shows the vast majority of students are attending schools that cut staff, meaning there are fewer adults in Wisconsin public schools helping children learn.
Conducted this fall, the survey by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA) found a net reduction of 3,368 kindergarten through 12th-grade staff members in responding districts. This figure matches a recent report by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development that estimated a loss of roughly 4,000 jobs in K-12 education. Half of responding school districts reported they buffered staffing cuts with one-time federal stimulus money through the federal Education Jobs Act, funding that will not be available next year. Two-thirds of responding districts said they expected to make the same or greater cuts next year.
“Budgets have consequences and the 2011-13 state budget made sweeping changes to funding for public schools,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “It’s no surprise that school districts balanced their budgets; they always do, even under 18 years of revenue limits. It is clear this year that districts had to cut staff, eliminate vital support services, and reduce course offerings, narrowing educational opportunities for Wisconsin’s school children.”
The WASDA data showed that
“The 2011-13 biennial budget has already had a profound effect on the services delivered to public school students,” said Miles Turner, WASDA executive director. “A majority of Wisconsin students attend a school district with fewer teachers, larger class sizes, fewer support programs, and fewer course offerings. Most districts expect next year’s budget will be worse.”
Additional information, including links to the survey and analysis of results, is available in the complete news release.
To see Walker’s spin on this report go to:
To see the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article go to:
There was a report on WUWM radio today, by Ann-Elise Henzl, on the MMAC takeover proposal. She interviewed:
Tim Sullivan, MMAC Chairman
Adam Gameron, UW professor
Larry Miller, MPS board member
To hear the report on WUWM radio, go to:
|When the chairs of the Wisconsin senate and assembly education committees spoke before a state school board conference, they knew they were going to get tough questions.Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Representative Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake) limited their remarks to the impact of the new state budget. They told members of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) that cuts were necessary because previous state budgets were balanced through onetime monies, raids on other funds, and accounting tricks. There were no magic tricks left. Both recognized the “tools” given to school boards didn’t solve all the school boards’ financial problems. The cuts to schools were real, acknowledged the legislators.
Then they waited for the questions. I doubt they got what they were expecting.
The questions quickly turned to school vouchers, and the questions weren’t just from Green Bay, Racine, or Milwaukee. No, the voucher questions came from rural, suburban and small town board members.
The legislators assured the school board members that vouchers would not be expanded to districts like Green Bay in the near future. But the voucher questions just kept coming.
Kestell told the school board members that the voucher program in Milwaukee saved state money that benefited school districts around Wisconsin. When I stated that the voucher program actually costs the taxpayers of Milwaukee more money because we get no state aid for the voucher children, Kestell responded that most school districts would love to get the kind of money Milwaukee gets in state aid. But the audience was not buying, and they may have been insulted by Kestell’s attempt to appeal to the self interest at the expense of Milwaukee.
So why did school board members from around the state react so negatively to the school voucher program?
Smaller Wisconsin communities are beginning to look a lot more like Milwaukee with increased minority student populations. The poverty rate has risen dramatically across this state. Schools are beginning to face levels of homelessness, mobility, unemployment, and families in crisis never seen before. The problems cannot be ignored.
So the attacks on Milwaukee are becoming attacks on all of them as well. They have seen vouchers go to Racine. They know there are conservative legislators that want to expand vouchers statewide. The proposal to create a state board to authorize charters for any school district with more than 2000 students is simply an expansion of the voucher program by another name.
I didn’t know how strongly my fellow school board members felt. Their interest went beyond their own individual districts and embraced every child in every community. I’m only sorry I didn’t print up a sign for the meeting which simply said-
“We are Milwaukee”
I know a lot of Wisconsin school boards members would have held those signs high.
(For more blogs by MPS School Board Director Terry Falk go to: http://www.insidemilwaukee.com/Author/Terrence_Falk)
I want to thank all of the education activists who called their Alderperson this week asking for more discussion concerning the charter proposal for “Rocketship Milwaukee Public School” (actual school’s name.) The vote on the Common Council was 10 to move forward with the proposal and 5 to hold for more public discussion. The 5 Aldermen who voted with us were Kovak, Bohl, Murphy, Dudzik and Zelinski.
Common Council President Willie Hines made it personal by attacking me and questioning my motives.
The truth in what Hines said was that we should have been paying attention because there is a process. The fact of the matter was that I did not become aware of the Rocketship proposal until Erin Richards wrote that it had passed committee and was going to the full Common Council. I then wrote the op-ed, called my Alderperson and asked for more discussion. Others did the same by calling their Alderperson.
At the Common Council meeting Alderman Robert Bauman suggested to the education community that we carefully watch the proceedings of the City’s Charter Review Committee and the Steering and Rules Committee in the future. I agree and suggest that we put the education work of the Common Council (and UWM chartering of schools) under the same level of scrutiny that MPS receives.
I find it curious that the number of students with special needs, in all 3 schools, is below the NCLB minimum for constituting a “subgroup”. Is it just a coincidence that in all 3 schools the numbers fall below 20 students identified for special services? If any of 10 subgroups do not make “adequate yearly progress” on a state’s standardized test for 2 years in a row, the school becomes “identified for improvement” and may be subject to sanctions. 20 students must be identified to constitute a subgroup. Commonly throughout the nation, the subgroup that has the most difficulty meeting “adequately yearly progress” is students with special needs.
To see the California Department of Education documentation for special education AYP for the 3 model Rocketship schools go to the following:
Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary:
Rocketship Si Se Puede: http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/Acnt2011/2011GrowthSch.aspx?allcds=43104390113704
Rocketship Los Suenos: