Posts Tagged ‘corporate education reform’

The Sorrows of Empire and the Cult of Eva Moskowitz

May 12, 2016

a - success_7

Another day, another scathing article about Eva Moskowitz and Success Academies, her would be charter School Empire beloved by billionaires and hedge fund managers. According to leaked documents, SA’s damning teacher turn over rate is mirrored in the upper echelons of Eva Land. There is, states the document, an “exodus from the organization’s top ranks.”
Apparently, even those attracted to the snake oil Moskowitz has been peddling for years, even those benefiting form the millions and millions of philanthropic hedge fund dollars, can not stand working for this person.
“We don’t have a qualified talent pool to fill the spots left by the departing school leaders,” said one executive in the risk assessment”, in one of the documents. “We are already in the territory of putting people in leadership role[s] who are not quite ready yet.”
Yikes!
Then there is the matter of Moskowitz, currently garnering a salary of $567,000 ,attempting profiteer on yet another student data system scam.
“As consequential as any of those exits was the departure of the Success’s chief technology officer, Steven Gittleson, which followed a period of internal recrimination over the network’s floundering $20 million student data system, called SMS.
That system-wide data tracker was created internally and budgeted for a minimum cost of $20 million as of August 2015, according to an internal budget document.
The broader hope was that SMS — like other aspects of Success’s operations — could set a standard for student data systems and a model for charter schools across the country, and possibly become an additional source of revenue through licensing deals.
Moskowitz and Gittleson signed a profit-sharing agreement in 2014, according to a copy of the contract obtained by POLITICO New York, that would have allowed the network to commercialize the product and eventually sell it to other educational organizations.”
Sweet!
Then there is this kind of stuff:
“I am concerned, “ said one writer of the report,” about high-performing employees and executives being ‘poached out’ of this organization as we become more prominent in our branding,” said one senior leader. “It also leads to loss of tribal knowledge, creating a high stress environment.”
“Branding?”
“Tribal knowledge? ”
What is this stuff ?
Is this the language of the public school system that Moskowitz and her supporters, despite all evidence to the contrary, claim SA to be.

Then there is the moral degeneracy of spending $700,000 on a rally.

$700,000. On a rally.

“The documents reveal uneven returns on political spending, including more than $700,000 on a pro-charter rally last year in Albany…”

Finally, there is the matter of Eva herself.

“CEO ( Moskowitz ) possesses unique knowledge of and insight into the Success Academy pedagogy,” a description of the issue in the risk assessment reads. “Absent the CEO, the organization may struggle to achieve outstanding scholar outcome.”
Please ponder again.
“Unique knowledge of and insight into the Success Academy pedagogy.”
“Absent the CEO, the organization may struggle to achieve outstanding scholar outcome.”
If this is not a description of the leader of a cult, I don’t know what it.
Spooky.
And the public is paying for it.

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Obama Administration Appears To Change Tune On Endless Testing

October 24, 2015

So after seven years of reckless and ignorant force feeding tests to millions of American school children at the cost of billons to American taxpayers;
seven years of increasingly emaciated education, stressed out students, outraged parents, and the systemic degradation of teaching and teachers from coast to coast, the Obama administration arrive at the same conclusion that sane and sensitive people instinctively knew must occur the moment they grasped the intentions behind Race to the Top: this is a mistake.

That is to put it very diplomatically.

Yet even as I am happy to read that the Obama administration seems to be beginning to come to grips with reality in terms of its radical neo-liberal education policy, I cannot help but take a serious wait and see attitude toward today’s surprise announcement. The historical disconnect between what Obama has said he would do and what Obama has done is too consistent to give the man’s words any credence. Even assuming the Obama administration means what it says — an assumption, I, for one am not prepared to make — the potential billions to be made by testing companies will insure that their servants in Congress and state houses across the country will fight to keep this gravy train going as long as they possibly can.

That said, I must hope that this marks the beginning of the end for this sorrowful and sick period in American education which has produced almost nothing for students but suffering and a cheap facsimile of an education at the same time it has demonized teachers, exculpated a predatory economic system and provided endless distraction from a political system in an advanced stage of complete moral and intellectual degeneracy.

Of course, given this state of degeneracy, this announcement could also be nothing more than a ruse intending to deceive a battered public while allowing those who forced this madness on this nation to appear responsive and reasonable as they plan their next move in the privatization of the public school system.

King To Replace Duncan in DC Insuring that the Campaign to Privatize Public Schools Will Continue Unabated

October 2, 2015

BN-KP322_DUNCAN_J_20151002173711

Today it was announced that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, he who has used the awesome power of the federal Government to wreak layered and relentless havoc on the entire public school system, will resign in December.

Duncan said he was resigning to spend more time with his family and stated, in what appeared to be complete seriousness, that he expected to find work “expanding opportunity for children.”

Duncan was the longest serving education secretary in U.S. history and easily the most appalling.

Even as candidate Obama campaigned with Linda Darling-Hammond, in a bait and switch maneuver that can now be seen as characteristic of his presidency,
President–elect Obama named non-educator Duncan Secretary of Education. The appointment, made at the insistence of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a group made up almost entirely of hedge fund managers, signaled that under Duncan the Department of Education would serve in essence as a conduit to the whims and wishes of private foundations, most prominently and disastrously, the Gates Foundation. These private interests,it must be said, Duncan has served with complete fidelity.

Tragically, Duncan will be replaced by former New York State Commissioner John King, whose obsequiousness in the face of wealth and power is equal to Duncan’s, likewise their shocking arrogance if not outright disdain for the public they nominally serve. Having taught three years in a classroom, two in a charter school, King has infinitely more teaching experience than Duncan who has zero. Not that this will make an iota of difference.

In essence, in terms of policy, Duncan will be replaced by Duncan or perhaps Duncan on steroids.

King was last seen on tour in New York condescending or dissembling to parents on stages in Poughkeepsie and New York City in a failed attempt to sell them the miserable and increasingly loathed Common Core. I caught his act in Manhattan where even shills from Students First and Educators For Excellence could not rescue King from his well-earned pathos.

Soon thereafter King resigned as Commissioner in New York only to emerge as an extremely well paid something-or-other in Duncan’s Department of Education where he has hung out ever since.
King’s appointment insures that the Obama administration’s signature education policies of high stakes testing linked to insane and immoral teacher evaluations, mandated charter schools, union busting and ultimate privatization of the public school system will continue until Obama leaves office. And that,in turn, insures not merely massive teacher shortages as teachers flee the profession, but student misery and parental outrage; above all it means billions of dollars in public money to testing companies and millions more to a multitude of other “education reform” parasites. Lastly, it also insures Barack Obama’s standing as the worst education president in the history of the public school system, far more effective in the destruction of public schools than Reagan, Clinton, and both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush combined.

Battle of the Base and Vulgar: Trump’s Immigrants Are Christie’s Teachers

August 3, 2015

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If there is any up side to the cynical media orgy surrounding Donald Trump’s entry into the Republican presidential race, it is that Trump threatens to take the wind out of the sails of fellow vulgarian, blowhard and presidential hopeful Chris Christie. Indeed, this is already in process.
Both Trump and the corpulent governor of New Jersey are heroes for the same demographic, appealing to the same level of baseness, ignorance, pain, desperation and resulting nastiness. Christie, unquestionably crude, but not stupid, is no doubt aware of this. No doubt, too, he is running scared. In what can be seen as a desperate attempt to regain his mantle as the king of straight talking, tough guys, (Christie enjoys the public spectacle of telling anyone who dare disagree with him to shut up, much to the delight of his fans) Christie delivered what may well be his most vulgar and base statement to date. And with Christie that’s quite a feat.

To wit: “ In an interview that aired on Sunday, CNN’s Jake Tapper reminded the New Jersey governor that he had advised people to punch bullies “in the face” during his first term as governor.
“At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?” Tapper wondered.
“Oh, the national teachers union,” Christie replied without hesitation. “They’re not for education for our children, they’re for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members.”
“And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America,” he added. “I’ve been saying that since 2009. I’ve got the scars to show it, but I’m never going to stop saying it because they never change their stripes.”

To repeat: Teacher unions, according to Christie “are the single most destructive force in public education in America.”

A few facts: In the past decade teachers unions, of which I am a member, to their shame and possible self destruction, have made concession after concession to the billionaire and corporate “education reform “ nexus bent on privatizing public education as a major step in privatizing all aspects of American public life. So successful have they been in imposing their endless failed policies on teacher unions across the country, that the job I began a mere decade ago bares almost no resemblance to the job I will resume in September. Indeed, as teacher shortages around the country attest, I would never have entered it had I known the outright degradation that was coming. Moreover, in terms of benefits and pay, teacher unions have been back pedaling for years.

Christie knows this — even as he knows that most Americans, fed a steady diet of anti teacher propaganda for over a decade, do not. Christie also knows that, outside of blighted, grossly impoverished near Third World cites like Camden and Newark, by any standards unionized New Jersey teachers have consistently maintained a public school system that can rival any in the world. But no matter. Christie is keenly aware that there is an enormous and ever increasing number of justifiably enraged if politically ignorant Americans who are desperately seeking some one or something ( other than the forces that are at fault ) to blame for their manifest immiseration, wage stagnation, ever increasing work hours and absolute absence of anything remotely resembling job security. In short, for all the logical results of a neo liberal economy. Christie also knows that many such people dwell in a state intellectual and spiritual degradation that they understand equality as the place where all working people are as debased as they are. What they have been stripped of, they reason, all must be stripped of. It’s only fair. Why should you have what I don’t ?
It is to these people that Christie is appealing to with crude and violent desires to “punch the national teachers’ union in the face.”

Demagogues like Trump and Christie have nothing to offer but national bogeymen. For Trump, it is immigrants; for Christie, teachers. Such is their political lifeblood. Where a man like Lincoln appealed to the “better angels of our nature,” men like Trump and Christie appeal to the darkness that waits dormant in all of us. Just as their economic policies create a race to the bottom for American workers, so do their rhetoric create a race to the bottom for American politics.
Trump’s media saturated arrival — based exclusively on the outrageousness and ugliness of his statements — has upped the ante for Christie.
I can’t imagine, even a man with as little self control as Chis Christie, making as ugly and idiotic a statement as he did yesterday if Trump, however ephemerally, were not in the increasingly shameful picture.

Good. Let them engage in their battle of the tough guys hoping to be nothing less than the president of the United States. In the process may their supporters awaken and come to see how truly and deeply both men despise them.

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Where “All About the Kids” Must Lead

April 4, 2015

Allow someone who is trying to hurt you to define the argument and you will be hurt. Allow the same to someone who is trying to trap you and you will be trapped.

This unwitting allowance, as much as the limitless funding of billionaires and the spinelessness of the corporate media, has been one of the reasons teachers from coast to coast have been backtracking, guilted into silence and paralyzed by their own rhetoric for years now. We have allowed ourselves to be both hurt and trapped.

I speak specifically of the endlessly repeated and utterly cynical declaration of the reformers, “it’s all about the kids.” I have heard or read this or some variation thereof ad nauseum for years now. I have read versions of it in the names of billionaire backed fronts like Students Matter and StudentsFirst, whose very appellations are themselves accusations against teachers.

I have heard it from ( yet another ) sociopathic principal who announced to the staff that conversation in the school be limited to “what’s good for the kids.” Worst of all, I have heard it from the mouths of teachers even as their students are more degraded by the day and their profession is being stolen from them by the hour by ed reformer mandates. This even as the demands on them grow exponentially; this from those who do not seem to realize that if you allow such words to define your profession, you will very soon be stripped of your professional status.

That process is well under way.

In a world full of weasels, no more-weasel worded trope exists in all of the Kingdom of the Reformers . And none is more effective. It is a rhetorical trick of the “when did you stop beating you’re wife” variety.

Once you are in you cannot get out.

Such declarations are designed to silence teachers by making them feel guilty and selfish anytime their concerns turn to feelings of self worth, of professional value, or concern for their non-professional lives such as the well being of their families. In other words, teachers are meant to feel selfish any time they concern themselves with what every other parent in the country deals with on a daily basis and what all must do to protect their own in an increasingly savage world.
In no other profession have I ever heard anything even remotely like the “ all about the kids” meme. Doctors are not repeatedly admonished, “It’s all about the patients”. Firefighters do not have an army of mercenaries screaming at them “It’s all about the people in the burning buildings.” No, the rhetoric is singular to the teaching profession.
The fact is that unless you’re talking about an education system staffed by devotees of a religious order or a cult, such a declaration is way beyond unreasonable. It is cruel and, unless you intend teaching staffs to be composed of childless 23 year olds who span a year or two before moving on to their real jobs, wholly unsustainable. A good school system must, without question, be primarily concerned with properly educating kids. But anyone who actually knows what they are talking about and is not engaged in teacher bashing or union busting, also knows that properly educating kids means insuring that the needs of the teachers who are educating them are respected and their profession honored. It requires balance.

The “all about kids” rhetoric reached its logical conclusion a few days ago in the following astonishing statement by Bronx Assembly person, Carmen Arroyo of the 84th District commenting on Governor’s Andrew Cuomo’s radical and savage new education bill.

Carmen Arroyo Unfit for public office.

Carmen Arroyo
Unfit for public office.

“Those teachers that are responsible and are doing their job, those teachers that sacrifice their families and themselves for the children they serve are going to be protected. Those that are not good, better get a job at McDonalds.”

I do not know if Arroyo is dumb, horrifically cynical or just desperately trying to please her masters in the new oligarchy in which we dwell. But I will say this: in no way do I find the kind of viciousness and absurdity bellowed by Arroyo coincidental to the rise and entrenchment of oligarchy. Every member of the New York State Assembly knows very well that they face the wrath of and loss of access to the limitless bank accounts of the super rich if they stray from the latter’s script calling for the privatization of the public school system.

Arroyo, in fact, does not seem to have even a fundamental understanding of the bill she has voted for — and in this, she is far from alone. She does not seem to understand, that is, that even if a teacher moved a cot into his or her classroom and saw their family only on weekends, in the bill she voted for nothing can “protect “ them from being fired because of their students’ test scores or a poor rating from a drive -by “independent evaluator.” Cuomo’s barbaric proposals, essentially a greatest hits of failed or unproven reformer schemes, were designed to insure maximum teacher firing.

Arroyo’s perverse and grossly insulting statement, however, does serve a purpose. It brings the reformer rhetoric to its logical conclusion. If teaching is “all about the kids”, it stands to reason that the teacher is there as a kind of an idiot’s version of a saint: an egoless creature without needs or cares or concerns of this world, willing and able to work endless hours and accept endless abuse for the good of their charges. That such an idiot saint would not be a member of a union goes without saying. It also highlights, to any one who hears it, how sick we have become as a people and a body politic and how urgently we need to unite and change the course of this horrific campaign now.

Any system that demands the sacrifice of a person’s family is deranged and any public official who demands such is unfit for public office. Any people who stand for such deserve what they get.

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Thanks to the ever vigilant and excellent Perdido Street School (perdidostreetschool.blogspot.com) for bringing Arroyo’s vulgar statement to light.