All animals are equal…

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Though the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in schools, and ordered school districts in the U.S. to take steps to assure integration, the question of the legality of affirmative action programs by universities remained unresolved until 1978. Proponents argued such programs were necessary to make up for past discrimination. Opponents believed they were illegal and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On June 28, 1978 The Supreme Court ruled affirmative action constitutional, thus allowing race to be one of several factors in college admission policy. In the so-called  Bakke decision – Justice Lewis Powell ruled affirmative action was constitutional as a “mechanism to achieve diversity(Britannica.com).

On July 3, 2018 Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded seven Obama-era guidance documents involving race and school admissions. These guidelines were created to promote racial diversity in higher education and end the growing racial isolation in K-12 classrooms. The rescinded documents supported affirmative action, stating in one, that colleges and universities were free to “voluntarily consider race to further the compelling interest of achieving diversity.”

A joint statement was released from the Justice and Education Departments. In it, Sessions said, “When issuing regulations, federal agencies must abide by constitutional principles and follow the rules set forth by Congress and the President. In previous administrations, however, agencies often tried to impose new rules on the American people without any public notice or comment period, simply by sending a letter or posting a guidance document on a website. That’s wrong, and it’s not good government.”

Dennis Parker of the ACLU said DeVos’ statement “signals a dangerous hostility from this administration towards the idea that promoting racial diversity is in the best interest of America” (ACLU.org).

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said, “Affirmative action has proven to be one of the most effective ways to create diverse and inclusive classrooms. But by telling schools and universities that they should not use affirmative action to achieve inclusive classrooms, the Education Department has again failed our students (ACLU.org).

Even more frightening, said Eskelsen García  is that “Trump has indicated he intends to appoint a nominee to the Supreme Court who will declare that affirmative action is unconstitutional in our schools” (CNN.com).

Mark Bauerlein said, Fifty years of affirmative action in college admissions hasn’t led to anything like a critical mass of African-Americans in the higher reaches of academia, but it has aggravated group tensions on campuses and throughout the country. Equal protection gives Americans confidence in their nation and their place within it (Weekly Standard).

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Follow the pattern. DeVos has dismissed hundreds of civil rights cases, she advocates for charters and vouchers which do not support students of color, and now the affirmative action decision. The view of race through the white lens of government does not show the wide angle views of who we are in this country.

Equal protection under the law. I am reminded of the proclamation by the pigs who controlled the government in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

These are my reflections for today.

07/13/18

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Results of Bill Gates’ Investment in Education

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The partnerships for effective teaching initiative, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was a five year effort to “dramatically improve student outcomes by increasing students’ access to effective teaching” (RAND.org). According to a report by the RAND Corporation and the American Institute for Research (the largest organization in the US representing statisticians and related professionals) Bill Gates’ $575 million investment in education failed. RAND researcher Brian Stecher, lead author of the report, told EdWeek, “The initiative itself tried to pull a bunch of levers to have a big impact on student performance. The sites did in fact modify all of these levers, some more than others, but in the end, there were no big payoffs in terms of improved graduation [rates] or achievement of students in general, and low-income and minority students in particular” (NonProfitQuarterly).

EdWeek also reported Gates invested $700 million, with a majority of the money allotted to changing schools’ approach to teacher evaluations, “tying them directly to measured student learning outcomes and using the data to guide in-service training programs and staff retention decisions” (NonProfitQuarterly). Convinced that linking teacher ratings to student standardized test scores would solve America’s educational problems, Gates wanted to demonstrate that his approach worked, so he engaged three large, traditional public-school districts (Memphis, TN, Pittsburgh, PA and Hillsborough County, FL) and four charter-school networks as partners in a large-scale field test that would affect the educational experience of thousands of school children over many years (NonProfitQuarterly).

The RAND report titled “Improving Teacher Effectiveness: Final Report,” found:

Overall, the initiative did not achieve its stated goals for students, particularly LIM [low-income minority] students. By the end of 2014-2015, student outcomes were not dramatically better than outcomes in similar sites that did not participate in the IP [Intensive Partnerships] initiative. Furthermore, in the sites where these analyses could be conducted, we did not find improvement in the effectiveness of newly hired teachers relative to experienced teachers; we found very few instances of improvement in the effectiveness of the teaching force overall; we found no evidence that LIM students had greater access than non-LIM students to effective teaching; and we found no increase in the retention of effective teachers, although we did find declines in the retention of ineffective teachers in most sites.

Wendy Lecker wrote, “Since 1989, courts across this country have understood that schools require a complete array of staff, services and programs to ensure students learn. Thus, courts have ordered states to ensure adequate funding not only for teachers but for preschool, small class size, adequate facilities, adequate social, language, health and educational support services, adequate supplies, books, technology and security, and a rich curriculum” (The Advocate).

The Gates initiative was purported to result in greater equity in education for minorities from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, however, the RAND study concluded the disparity actually grew. Teacher ratings remained more or less the same. And educators rated “highly effective” were less likely to stick around than teachers rated “less effective”–the complete opposite of one of the policy’s stated goals (Heidt, 2018).

Recommendations from the RAND corporation: “A near-exclusive focus on teaching effectiveness might be insufficient to dramatically improve student outcomes. Many other factors might need to be addressed, ranging from early childhood education, to students’ social and emotional competencies, to the school learning environment, to family support. Dramatic improvement in outcomes, particularly for low income minority students, will likely require attention to many of these factors as well” (RAND.org).

Martin Levine wrote, “The disappointing outcomes didn’t come from implementation failures but as indicators that the underlying idea was flawed” (NonProfitQuarterly).  Matt Barnum suggested the Gates initiative did not lead to clear gains in student learning and did nothing to ensure  poor students of color had more access to effective teachers (Chalkbeat.org).

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Levine also said of the Gates initiative, “…the leadership, responsible only within the structure of the foundation itself, continues to wield the power of great wealth with little external control. Their investments mirror those of venture capital funds, looking for home runs and willing to accept many strikeouts along the way. But, as we can see from their work in education, their failures aren’t felt just by the Gates Foundation—they can deeply affect children, parents, teachers, and the future of our communities”  (NonProfitQuarterly).

What if Gates spent this money on resources actually proven to help children learn successfully? Teachers, administrators, countless court cases, and research studies would have provided solid evidence he was looking for an outcome many others had already determined.

These are my reflections for today.

07/06/18

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Headlines in Education

I troll various sites during the week to find topics for my blog. This week I found several I wanted to write about – some good news and some bad news. I decided to post a few (with links if you want to read more).

~At its annual meeting in Chicago, the American Medical Association came out strongly for a ban on assault weapons, and made a firm stance against arming teachers as a way to fight what they say is a “growing health crisis” (AP News). They agreed to:

Support any bans on the purchase or possession of guns and ammunition by people under 21.

Back laws that would require licensing and safety courses for gun owners and registration of all firearms.

Press for legislation that would allow relatives of suicidal people or those who have threatened imminent violence to seek court-ordered removal of guns from the home.

Encourage better training for physicians in how to recognize patients at risk for suicide.

Push to eliminate loopholes in laws preventing the purchase or possession of guns by people found guilty of domestic violence, including expanding such measures to cover convicted stalkers (AP News).

~Michigan State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Patrick Colbeck (R) this week proposed changes in what is taught in social studies in the state. Colbeck’s proposed curriculum removes all references to gay rights, Roe v. Wade and climate change  (CBSlocal.com).  It also slashes the word “democratic” and replaces it with “republic” and reduces references to the Klu Klux Klan.

Colbeck claims these changes were brought on by concerns that, “…some standards are not politically neutral or factually accurate, and to ensure students are “exposed to multiple points of view” (CBSlocal.com).  Crowds of people have gathered at the state capitol to protest these changes. **In researching for this story, I found an article titled    “11 Most Ridiculous Things Done By State Senator Patrick Colbeck”   Changes to the Social Studies curriculum in Michigan seem to be on par with some of his other decisions.  In other news, Colbeck seems to be behind in the polls in the race for governor.

~Cynthia Nixon, gubernatorial candidate for governor of New York outlined her education policy this week, promising to “tackle what she called the ‘unholy trinity’ of racial segregation, underfunding, and over-policing in schools (chalkbeat.org). Nixon said, “We have two different education systems in our state – one that sends wealthy white children to college, and another that sends poor children of color to prison (chalkbeat.org).

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A spokesperson for current Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke against Nixon and her education policy, saying she was acting as a front for parent advocacy groups. As Diane Ravitch said, “Cuomo’s education policies are controlled by hedge fund managers, billionaires, and Wall Street advocacy groups.”

~The California Teachers Association is calling for support AB 276, which would set the standards for charter schools across the state.  “AB 276 requires all charter schools to be transparent and accountable to parents and to disclose how they spend taxpayer money, including budgets and contracts. It prohibits charter school board members and their families from profiting from their schools and requires charter schools to comply with California’s open meetings, open records and conflict of interest laws (CTA.org).

~Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (R) was not able to seat a state board of education because he couldn’t get his appointees approved. The new governor, Mike Parson (R), has already seated his board. The bad news is the board immediately renewed the charters for several under-performing schools in St. Louis and Kansas City despite their weak performance. The good news is the new president of the board, Charlie Shields said that it was time to review charter school laws.

Shields argued the charters in question “do not convincingly outperform St. Louis Public Schools. He said the state Legislature allowed charter schools to operate in Missouri on the premise that charter schools would be easy to open, but poor-performing charter schools should be easy to close(St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

~In a huge defeat to charters in New York, this week a judge ruled against allowing certain schools to certify their teachers. The ruling ends Success Academy’s plan to hire teachers at their discretion and removing the master’s degree requirement. Success Academy is the largest charter chain in New York.

“The regulations, approved by the State University of New York in October 2017, were designed to give charter schools more discretion over how they hired teachers. They eliminated the requirement that teachers earn master’s degrees and allowed charter schools authorized by SUNY to certify their teachers with as little as a month of classroom instruction and 40 hours of practice teaching (Chalkbeat.org).

~The Seattle Education Association voted this week for moratorium on standardized testing.  This movement began in 2013 when high school teachers refused to administer MAP tests. The superintendent threatened teachers with a 10-day suspension without pay, but teachers would not back down.  “At the end of the year, because of the overwhelming solidarity from parents, teachers, and students around the country, not only were no teachers disciplined, but the superintendent announced that the MAP test would no longer be required for Seattle’s high schools (Iamaneducator.com).

The movement in Washington has continued. In 2015, Nathan Hale High School had a 100% opt out rate on the test given to all high school juniors. As many as 60,000 families opted their children out of common core testing as well.

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~To end on a positive note, here’s an inspiring graduation speech. Dr. Louis Profeta, MD, an emergency room doctor who spoke at his alma mater, North Central High School in Indianapolis of his failure in schools, only to become a successful doctor.

These are my reflections for today.

6/29/18

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In an old Walmart in Texas

This blog was written earlier this week and the story has changed several times. I’ve provided some relevant background information and added updates at the end.

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Over the past two weeks, 658 children have been separated from their parents at the border, according to recent data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (AAP.org). From April 19 through May 31 of this year, 1,995 minors traveling with 1,940 adults who said they were the children’s guardians were separated due to the Trump policy on immigration (CNN.com).

Under Trump’s policy, parents are being prosecuted for crossing the border illegally and are placed in a detention center while they await a hearing. At this time, children are rendered “unaccompanied” and are transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The responsibility of the children taken into custody is under the guidance of HHS. Children are held until they can be placed with a caregiver or sponsor (often thousands of miles away from where the parent is being detained) (AAP.org)

The Washington Post reports:

“The pictures and descriptions of terrified children and anguished parents have produced a rising backlash, to which the president, the attorney general and other officials have responded by essentially arguing that they have almost nothing to do with their own policy.”

The Daily News editorial board said:

“The only thing worse than the nauseating cruelty of President Trump’s immigration policy — captured perfectly by the agonizing stories of young children forcefully being separated from their parents at the border — is the craven dishonesty with which he attempts to sell it to the American people.”

Trump’s response is disgusting.

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The Washington Post quickly responded to Trump’s tweet:

“There is no “Democrats’ law” that necessitates separating children from their parents. As people familiar with the rules regarding the handling of young people at the border made clear in interviews on Friday, the separation policy is a function of decisions made by Trump and his team” (Washington Post).

Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama had policies whereby those seeking asylum and caught crossing for the first time were not prosecuted and never separated from families.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) responded to Trump’s lies, saying…“you say, ‘I hate the children being taken away.’ But YOU ended the Family Case Mgmt Program that kept families together. YOU are intentionally ripping families apart. YOU created this problem. YOU can resolve it.

Merkley who was denied entry to the facility initially, was allowed a glimpse of the insider of the old Walmart facility in Brownsville. Federal officials and the operator of the shelter, Southwest Key Programs, led a tour of the facility.

The shelter, called Casa Padre, is a world all its own, much of it invisible to outsiders. The few windows are covered in black mesh; in the parking lot, yellow-painted wooden barricades read, “Keep Out.”  Inside, it is clean, massive and brightly lit. Not far from the entrance, there is a large mural of President Trump, an American flag and the White House, with a quote from Mr. Trump: “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war” (CNN.com).

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According to the New York Times, the shelters in Texas have “become big business, employing hundreds of residents and bringing abandoned stores, schools and other buildings back to life in a county where the median household income is $34,578 and the percentage of those living below the federal poverty line is 29.1, far higher than the national poverty rate of 12.7 percent.

After visiting one of the shelters in Texas where children are held after being separated from their parents, Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics said “So many of these parents are fleeing for their lives. So many of these children know no other adult than the parent who brought them here. They can be as young as infants and toddlers. As a pediatrician, as a parent, as the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), I am appalled by a new policy… that will forcibly separate children from their parents(AAP.org). Kraft wrote after her visit that she saw the impact on so may children- many infants and  toddlers. She noted its  “sweeping cruelty” 

“Separating children from their parents contradicts everything we stand for as pediatricians – protecting and promoting children’s health. In fact, highly stressful experiences, like family separation, can cause irreparable harm, disrupting a child’s brain architecture and affecting his or her short- and long-term health. This type of prolonged exposure to serious stress – known as toxic stress – can carry lifelong consequences for children(AAP.org).

On Sunday Melania Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham  said the first lady believes “we need to be a country that follows all laws,” but also one “that governs with heart.”  Grisham said Mrs. Trump “hates to see children separated from their families” and hopes “both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform” (Time.com).

Also on Sunday, former first lady Laura Bush spoke against this atrocity calling it shameful, cruel, and immoral. She compared the images of children detained behind chain link fencing to those of Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. “Americans pride ourselves on being a moral nation, on being the nation that sends humanitarian relief to places devastated by natural disasters or famine or war,” said Bush. “If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents — and to stop separating parents and children in the first place” (Boston Globe).

Rosalynn Carter, the wife of former President Jimmy Carter, called family separation “disgraceful and a shame to our country” (Vox).

“When I was first lady, I worked to call attention to the plight of refugees fleeing Cambodia for Thailand, I visited Thailand and witnessed firsthand the trauma of parents and children separated by circumstance beyond their control,” Carter said.

Hillary Clinton also denounced Trump’s “horrific” policy. She cited the images of children in cages and the Honduran woman who claims her child was taken from her while she was breastfeeding:

This is a moral and humanitarian crisis. Every one of us who’s ever been a parent or a grandparent, an aunt, a big sister, any one of us who’s ever held a child in our arms, every human being with a sense of compassion and decency, should be outraged (Vox).

Michelle Obama tweeted an endorsement of Laura Bush’s op-ed, saying “sometimes truth transcends party.”

Last weekend, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) tweeted;

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Only 43 senators? Where are the other 57?

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Appalling.

Joe Scarborough said, “More troubling is the harsh reality now staring Americans in the face: Their president is a brutish political boss who has cheapened conservatism, sullied the office of the presidency and called into question the very character of a country once seen as the envy of the world. That so many Republicans still support this depraved man and his malignant movement could be the most damning element of this tragic American tale(Washington Post).

Here is an update to this horrific Trump policy.

“President Trump and his aides for days denied that he had the power to do anything to alleviate the suffering inflicted on asylum seekers by his own policy. On Wednesday, he used his executive power to end mass child separations brought on by his “zero tolerance” immigration policy. Now Congress needs to do what it has consistently refused to do under this president — conduct serious, aggressive and thorough oversight concerning the children in custody at the border and others who surely will come” (Washington Post).

According to the executive order, the U.S. Border Patrol will no longer refer parents who cross into the US illegally with children to face criminal charges. Most disturbing in Trump’s executive order was it did not include a plan to reunite children already separated from their parents.

Trump’s solution to this crisis he created for himself is to create new detention camps for families. However, it has also been reported that ICE lacks the capacity to increase the detainment of the number of families it holds in detention. Many migrant parents and children will likely be released from custody while they await court hearings (Washington Post).

Catherine Rampell, a columnist for the Washington Post wrote that Trump has invented a narrative that America has been “ infest[ed]” with hordes of crime-committing, culture-diluting, job-stealing, tax-shirking, benefits-draining “aliens.

Rampell said, “No part of that description is remotely true. Yet the Trump administration seems to have successfully shifted the national dialogue away from ‘Do we have a border immigration problem?’ to ‘What’s the right way to fix our border immigration problem?’ Unauthorized border crossings have been falling over time. In fact, apprehensions of unauthorized immigrants along the Southwest border last fiscal year declined to about 300,000, the lowest level since 1971, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They’ve risen in recent months, though year-to-date they’re still below historical levels.

Critics accused Trump of solving the problem by ordering entire families to be incarcerated. Bernie Sanders responded by saying, “When you have the most powerful nation on Earth saying that it is acceptable to detain families indefinitely, you are sending a signal to countries around the world that this is how they can treat immigrants and minorities,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont (CNN).

At a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday, Trump told the crowd, “The media never talks about the American victims of illegal immigration.” ...What’s happened to their children, what’s happened to their husbands, what’s happened to their wives — the media doesn’t talk about American families permanently separated from their loved ones.”

This is a classic example of whataboutism. Whataboutism  is a form of defensive propaganda used to counter criticism – usually on blatant human rights abuses – with a “What about…?”—question vaguely, if at all, related to the original issue. It is a specialized red herring version of the tu quoque fallacy.

One final note, as Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post said, “To the extent that we’re willing to dehumanize them {migrants} so that we may inflict suffering upon children without the burden of conscience, we have far greater problems than illegal immigration”.

These are my reflections for today.

6/22/18

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Charter scandals continue

COLORADO – In the past two years,  Stargate Charter School for gifted and talented children has been slapped with eight civil rights complaints. The complaints were related to sexual discrimination and disability discrimination. Complaints include the school’s mishandling of allegations that a former coach groped students and the school’s treatment of students with disabilities. According to Attorney Jacque Phillips, “Many of the problems faced by Stargate are because it does not take seriously its responsibility as a public school to educate all its gifted-and-talented students, including those with disabilities”(Denver Post).

In response to the most recent charges, administrators say they have “learned their lesson and are making changes to better address allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination against disabled students” (Denver Post).

CONNECTICUT – Path Academy in Windham is in fear of losing its license for defrauding taxpayers of $1.6 million dollars. According to papers filed in court, the school could not provide documentation for 128 students enrolled at Path. This represents a potential overpayment of $1,573,000 over a two year period. “The failure to maintain records establishing that students who were reported as enrolled in the data used to determine the per pupil grant payment were actually enrolled and attending school constitutes, at a minimum, failure to manage state funds in a prudent or legal manner” (EdVotes.org).

FLORIDA – Fearing a failing grade from the state, Palm Harbor Academy charter school transferred low-performing students to a recently opened private school on the same campus just before the charter students were to begin their state assessments.  Those transferred included 13 third graders, and 5 fifth graders. According to the Palm Coast Observer, “Many of the children were multiple grades behind grade level. Another five students in other grades, all at least two grades behind grade level, were also transferred out of Palm Harbor and into the private school at around the same time.”

Palm Harbor Academy governing board chairman the Rev. Gillard Glover said, “First and foremost, we did not move the students,” Glover said, noting that the parents had requested the move. School Board member Andy Dance said Glover was blaming the parents.

“I’m not blaming the parents. We did not talk to the parents at all about moving their children. … We did not in any fashion conduct any kind of campaign, solicit, try to induce parents to take their kids out of Palm Harbor(Palm Coast Observer).

Dance responded, “But you accepted them(Palm Coast Observer).

Additionally, students with disabilities who were moved into the private school no longer had access to  state-mandated speech and language services. “I’m going to tell you right now there is nothing that can be produced to us to show that those third-grade students’ rights were not violated by moving them,” School Board Attorney Kristin Gavin (Palm Coast Observer).

NORTH CAROLINA – School board members along with local clergy in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are standing together in opposition of HB 514, a recently proposed bill that would contribute to re-segregation of schools because a town-run charter would allow admission preference for children who live in the four towns. Opponents of HB 514 compared it to Southern education policies of the 1950s – implemented to keep schools segregated. In the 1950s these schools were called segregationist academies, created to have a school for white families who refused to allow their children to attend school with black children.

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HB 514 was introduced last year by Republican Bill Brawley. He has criticized the Charlotte Meckeinburg board for not providing students with a quality education—one reason he says township parents want their own charter (WFAE).

“Roslyn Mickelson, a professor of sociology at UNC Charlotte says studies have not shown that charter schools are better academically. A report she co-authored this year on state and local charter schools did find that charters are becoming less diverse(WFAE).

Additionally, Mickelson said of HB 514, “If this bill passes it will be a driver of segregation in public education. It’s not even subtle… The freedom of choice plans were drawn in such ways that they replicated the segregated schools. What we have today is not freedom of choice but charter school choice and the way it is being designed will have the same effect” (WFAE).

PENNSYLVANIA – A Philadelphia attorney, David Schulick, has been convicted  of embezzling $800,000 from the Philadelphia School District using a charter school he ran intended to help at-risk students. Instead, Shulick and Chaka Fattah Jr. falsified documents and faked student enrollments to inflate the school budget. “Federal prosecutors said Shulick faked business expenses to cheat on taxes and listed nannies and housekeepers as employees of the school, while using the profits to renovate his vacation home on the Shore and installing a $9,000 set of speakers in his Gladwyne home” (Metro). Shulick may face a prison term at sentencing. At the very least he is expected to be ordered to pay significant restitution to the School District (Metro).

COLORADO – At least four administrators at Wyatt Academy in Denver were recently put on administrative leave after a video captured the school’s justice coordinator encouraged students to throw punches. The elementary school principal, assistant principal, school psychologist along with the justice coordinator were suspended. One source reported Wyatt Academy administrators learned of the fight the same day yet no action was taken until the group released the video. The school board has hired an outside investigator (Seattle Times).

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TENNESSEE – New Vision Academy charter school in Nashville is under investigation by the school district for financial irregularities and failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  According to a report filed by teachers, English language-learning students and students with learning disabilities were not receiving required instructional time. The report also noted students were charged for textbooks even though the school earmarked thousands of dollars for classroom supplies (Tennesseean.com).. The top two executives at New Vision, who are married, make a combined $562,000. Executive director Tim Malone made $312,971 in the 2017,  and his wife, LaKesha Malone is New Vision’s second highest ranking executive. earning $250,000 during that same period,(Tennesseean.com).

There were so many scandals in the news from the past few weeks, I found it difficult to choose for the blog. The bottom line is as the charter movement grows, scandals continue to grow exponentially as well. There are patterns, repeats, and new offenses. The underlying theme is misappropriation of funds and faculty and administrators behaving inappropriately and/or illegally.

It’s important to know about the scandals plaguing charter schools, and to be aware of the current administration’s drive to create more.

Deplorable.

These are my reflections for today.

6/8/18

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Striking teachers, low pay, and a recent national poll

Over the past year frustrated teachers have gone on strike in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina. One of the primary reasons for the strikes is low pay. In some states teachers have to work two and three jobs to pay their bills, as their salaries are not enough to cover basic living expenses.

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The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an intergovernmental economic organization with 37 member countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade. In a 2015 OECD study, teachers salaries in the United States ranked 27th out of 29 countries: #1 was Portugal, and #29 was the Czech Republic (OECD, 2015).

In a survey conducted in May, the New York Times found that nearly three in four adults — 71 percent — considered teacher pay too low, while just 6 percent felt it was too high.   Additionally, this survey found strong support for teachers.  A recent NPR survey also reported 75% of Americans agree teachers have the right to strike. Notably, that number includes 66% of Republicans, 75% of independents and nearly 90% of Democrats (NPR).

“Our teachers have not been able to have raises for the last several years and I’m certain it’s the same issue that’s going on around the country,” said Marla Hackett of Queen Creek, Ariz., who responded to the survey and said she has a daughter who is a teacher. “They are underappreciated, underpaid and they work ridiculously long hours”  (NPR).

In another survey conducted by The Associated Press NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago, 78% of Americans say teachers in this country are underpaid. However, in the same poll fewer of those polled approved of walkouts by teachers to demand pay raises and increased school funding (Associated Press).

Only 50 percent of the survey participants “would support a plan to increase their taxes in order to increase teacher compensation and funding for their local public schools, while 26 percent would oppose such a plan, and 23 percent neither favor nor oppose”(Associated Press).

The majority of polled Americans agreed teachers are underpaid, and most agreed teachers have a right to strike. All good, but what’s the solution? While the AP study found half of those polled opposed to a tax increase for higher teacher salaries, the New York Times study found a majority of Americans would agree to a tax increase to increase teachers salaries.

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Dana Goldstein of the New York Times reported in May there are so many districts struggling to fill their classroom with teachers, they are recruiting from overseas.  Goldstein reported an example in Arizona where Pendergast Elementary School District has “recruited more than 50 teachers from the Philippines since 2015. They hold J-1 visas, which allow them to work temporarily in the United States, like au pairs or camp counselors, but offer no path to citizenship. More than 2,800 foreign teachers arrived on American soil last year through the J-1, according to the State Department, up from about 1,200 in 2010″ (NY Times).

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The national average for teachers salaries is $59,000, but in Arizona it is roughly $40,000. This explains the need to provide J-1 visas for overseas recruitment. What Filipino teachers earn in the Philippines is less than the paltry $40 K offered in Arizona.

One teacher who came from the Philippines took two years to pay back the recruiting organization the fees incurred to get to the US. His first year in Arizona he shared an apartment with five other Filipino teachers.

In response to the recruitment of teachers from overseas, Randy Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers said, “Rather than increase salaries, districts may once again resort to recruiting internationally as a way to solve the teacher shortage” She added that the AFT “will fight for everyone working in our communities and educating our kids to have fair wages, rights and workplace protections regardless of where they’re from, the use of the J-1 visa program to fill long-term shortages is an abuse of an exchange program” (NY Times).

Lora Bartlett, an education professor at the University of California Santa Cruz said, “There are people who have a vested interest in not finding a long-term solution. There is a whole industry that makes money every time a new teacher comes into the country. They don’t make money when a teacher stays”  (NY Times).  Bartlett has written a book called Migrant Teachers; How American Schools Import Labor.

This brings up an issue of sustainability for students when every two years the revolving door brings in new teachers.  This also brings up concern for different cultural norms internationally trained teachers bring to high poverty areas that may affect classroom management, teaching styles, and discipline.

There are plenty of qualified, licensed teachers who graduated from accredited institutions in our classrooms who are committed to students, and are only asking for living wages. I agree with Weingarten that recruiting teachers from overseas is not a solution. If recent data shows a majority of Americans support an increase in teachers salaries, then our elected officials need to make this happen. That’s a viable and necessary solution.

*One final note, the Times reporter who wrote about the overseas recruitment came upon this story accidentally. You can read Dana Goldstein’s account here.

These are my reflections for today.

6/8/18

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DeVos shows ‘astounding ignorance’

Last week Betsy DeVos came under fire for comments she made to Congress regarding US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Her statement suggested “schools should decide whether or not to report undocumented students and their families to federal immigration authorities” (ABC News).

DeVos shifted the responsibility of reporting undocumented students from ICS officials to principals and teachers, saying “It’s a local community decision and again I refer to the fact that we have laws and we also are compassionate and I urge this body to do its job and address and clarify where there is confusion around this” (ABC News).

The confusion was clearly DeVos’.  Rep. Adriano Espaillat, (D-NY)  rebuked the secretary’s statement, “Let me just remind Madam Chair that immigration law is federal law. It’s not a local law. It’s not governed by a municipality. You cannot have immigration law for one state be different for another state and it applies to everybody across the country” (ABC News).

Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy at the American Civil Liberties Union said, “Let’s be clear: Any school that reports a child to ICE would violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court has made clear that every child in America has a right to a basic education, regardless of immigration status. Secretary DeVos is once again wrong” (Washington Post).

The Supreme Court made clear in Plyler v. Doe that public schools have a constitutional obligation to provide schooling for children, regardless of immigration status. That means schools also cannot enforce measures that would deter undocumented children from registering. They cannot ask about immigration status. And according to the American Civil Liberties Union, they cannot report students or their families to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Washington Post).

Thomas Saenez, president and general counsel of The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said, “The Court determined in 1982 that the Constitution requires all public schools to provide a free public education, from Kindergarten to 12th grade, to every child, regardless of immigration status. Her testimony today about reporting students to ICE stems either from an astounding ignorance of the law or from an insupportable unwillingness to accurately advise local school districts. Any public school or school district that denies an education to any undocumented child — whether by refusing to enroll, by limiting access to the programs and benefits provided to other students, or by reporting a child to ICE — has violated the United States Constitution” (Washington Post).

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After the Parkland FL shooting, DeVos was appointed by Trump to be the chair of the school safety commission. Upon her appointment to the commission, DeVos said, “There are best practices that are working today in communities across this country, and our commission will spotlight them and disseminate them to every school,” she wrote. “This will not be another 18-month Washington commission that yields an unreadable and unactionable report” (CNN).

There have been 10 school shootings since Parkland, including the most recent in Texas where 8 students and 2 teachers were killed (Huffington Post).

Last Thursday the commission was  to have only the second meeting. According to one source, invitations were sent out Wednesday evening- with such short notice, very few participants attended. Education organization representatives were among those who could attend, but “they were not asked to participate, and the commission only heard from experts, survivors, and parents (The Daily Beast).  Those in attendance were only passive listeners, and much to their frustration, not invited to speak.

Since her appointment as Secretary (remember Mike Pence voted the tie-breaker) DeVos has made contentious and incorrect statements about many things, including school safety, HBCUs, public schools, teachers, guns.

In her highly contentious confirmation hearing, DeVos stirred up vehement objections to her nomination after conceding that guns might be needed in schools in states like Wyoming to defend against “potential grizzlies.”

DeVos said HBCUs “started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education.”  She said HBCUs are “living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality” (Washington Post).

Last year DeVos touted Excel Academy in Washington DC as a “shining example” of the success of charter schools. Excel is preparing to close this June. Excel is an example of the failure of yet another charter school to turn students around academically as it showed little evidence of improvement. Since 2012, DC has shuttered nearly two dozen charters because of poor performance.

In March, she said arming teachers “should be an option for states and communities to consider” during an interview after a visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

In a conversation about charters in her home state of Michigan, she admitted on 60 minutes, “I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.” In fact, when Lesley Stahl asked if schools in Michigan have gotten better thanks to the charter-school experiment, DeVos responded, “I don’t know. Overall, I—I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.”

In May, she visited New York, the home of the nation’s largest public school district, without visiting a single public school.

She has one of the most expensive security details of anyone in Washington- costing taxpayers almost $6.5 million a year.

She has dissolved the office of civil rights, a body tasked with investigating claims of civil rights abuses in schools.

She has effectively eliminated a team within the Department of Education charged with investigating for-profit college fraud and malfeasance. (The New York Times).

Now she is supporting principals and teachers to serve as ICE agents.

This is the Secretary of Education.

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As Moira Balingit of the Washington Post said, DeVos has “Astounding ignorance of the law” (Washington Post).

She is uninformed and incompetent.  She goes to work every day to ensure our public schools have armed teachers and staff, immigration officers, unlicensed teachers, white children or are converted to charter schools.

And we continue to pay her salary.

These are my reflections for today.

6/1/18

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