Monday, September 30, 2013

Shelby County's Mayor, Mark Luttrell, Leading Public Effort to Privatize Head Start in Memphis

In 2010 State Democratic Chairman, Chip Forrester, said this about Shelby County mayor,  Mark Luttrell:

"He's a right-wing ideologue whose two planks are to build a bigger jail [now #10 in the U.S.] and to out-source county jobs. He's attempting to cozy up to Democrats, and he's not clear about his Republican pedigree. There's a sense that Mark Luttrell is a moderate, somebody who stays in the middle. That's not the case."

The bigger jail, Luttrell got as sheriff.  A really big one.  Forbes, in fact, lists Shelby County Jail as #10 largest in the nation.  Luttrell is now leading the charge in Shelby County to have the county school board take over the annual $23 million federal Head Start grants in order to find "someone who can enhance and expand this program to meet the needs.”

"The needs" that Luttrell refers to obviously have something to do with further chopping of public employess to benefit a corporation headed up by a Luttrell crony, John Threlkeld, who is not only President of the Chamber of Commerce in Bartlett, a Memphis suburb, but who is also President of the Board of Directors of Porter-Leath, a tax-sheltered corporation that is standing by to take over early childhood education in Memphis.  Oh yes, one of Porter-Leath's corporate partners is KIPP Memphis, Inc.:

The mission of KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools is to provide high performing schools in the Memphis area that will equip all students with the necessary academic and life skills needed to succeed in college and the competitive world beyond. Porter-Leath partners with KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools to provide pre-school services to 100 children in North Memphis.

From the Daily-News on September 23, quoting Mayor Luttrell:

“I would hope this school system, through the leverage they have, that they would certainly tie into the pre-kindergarten program as well as early childhood and elementary education programs,” Luttrell added. “We’re not nimble.

Things don’t move fast in government by design. When you are talking about Head Start … you need to consider that.”

Yes, nimble, that key corporate term for being able to turn an intentional disruption and manufactured crisis into immediate corporate profit.

We shall see how nimble taxpayers are, who are facing a second referendum (the last one failed miserably) to increase the sales tax by a half-cent to almost 10 percent.  With Luttrell and his ilk planning to collect almost $50 million if the referendum passes, want to guess where the money is intended to go?  

That's right--$30 million will go to a privatized early childhood program run by Luttrell's cronies, and $17 million to reduce property taxes for those who can afford property--not those people who will pay 10 cents on the dollar for milk and eggs.

More from the Daily News (my bolds):

The seven commissioners in committee last week agreed on the idea of the school system taking over Head Start. But beyond that they had different opinions about other options including alternatives, such as Porter-Leath getting the contract. 

Luttrell said he is open to a Porter-Leath plan or another private provider. 

“I certainly think the school system is very qualified to do this, and Porter-Leath has a very convincing package to sell,” he said.

Now was that a convincing package, or an impressive bundle?  Semantics.

Monday, September 23, 2013

ASD Follows Up Its Follow-Up

The ASD remains in response mode to this story and its follow-up (with comments), and as long as they are, we will remain responsive to them.  Jeremy seems to remain confused about what a corporate charter school is:
1. if by "corporate" you mean the literal definition of a group of people authorized by law to function as a single entity, then i'll submit to your definition. however, the conspiracy theory that you're suggesting simply isn't true and hinders the effectiveness of your subsequent points. 
The literal sense of "corporate" here, Jeremy, includes the legal sense as well, and the non-profit charter corporations like Rocketship, KIPP, Aspire, Uncommon Schools, as well as the cornered Cornerstone Christian Academy, Green Dot, etc., may collect and bank as much non-profit cash as they can. And they can bank a lot with their 501 (c) (3) tax status, which allows hedge funds and those who call themselves philanthropists to contribute millions to these segregated abuse factories that they call schools, while collecting dollar for dollar tax breaks for shutting down Tennessee public education.  This is why they are referred to as corporate welfare schools.

Back in the early 1990s when AFT President, Albert Shanker, smelled what was coming down the road with corporate-run charters, he withdrew his support of them in 1993.  What might have been conspiratorial thinking then has since become realized prophecy, and the charter privatization scam has replaced the voucher scam as the preferred mode of school privatization among anti-public ideologues, corporatists, and the self-serving bottom feeders who aspire to nothing more than getting rich at the public's expense.   
2. with your second point about charters not being able to raise proficiency, well, perhaps you're right. perhaps this won't work, but to stand around and not do anything when in one feeder pattern in Memphis (Frayser High School) has 11 of 14 schools in the bottom 5% in state. The average ACT score of Frayser High sits around a 15, an astounding 7 points below what many colleges deem the minimum bar. to do nothing is dastardly, needless to say immoral. i dont want to live in a world where this status quo persists and think we need to act urgently to fix it so that our kids have a fighting chance. Add to this, TN performs near the bottom nationally in proficiency. One might make the case that our schools are among the worst in the country. I believe that our students and our families deserve better and I, as working as a school leader each day supporting our teachers and building relationships with our students, think the most bold action is necessary to provide world class schools. 
Jeremy, if you look at this map, you will see some contributing factors to why your fanciful notion of raising test scores in the poorest parts of Memphis to match those in leafy suburbs won't be realized.  In many areas of the country where racism, separation, and opportunities are the worst (as in Memphis), zip code is, indeed, destiny for huge numbers of the poor.  We have known that Frayser is among the lowest scoring schools in the state for as long as we have known it is among the poorest, but it only recently, with the coming of the corporate welfare missionary schools where you work, that the need to "act urgently" got underway.

The urgency arises from the need to get the school conversions to corporate chain gangs done before the public figures out what is going on.  If they could see beyond the smoke and mirrors and ridiculous promises that you, Mr. Michelle Rhee, and Governor 1Percent are making, then you might be forced to get a real job, rather than the one you have as cheerleader, mouthpiece, and local overseer for the corporate school empire in Tennessee.

You are right that disadvantaged students and families deserve better.  Your preferred solution of No Excuses tunnel vision focused on fixing the inside of kids' heads, rather than working to fix the unsafe and unhealthy communities that guarantee future generations of failure, represents a version of social justice in blackface.  As long as you and Governor 1Percent in Nashville can pat each other on the back for your "bold" action, while destroying a public education in Tennessee that has taken over a hundred years to create, then are likely to remain convinced that professional educators are to blame and that all is needed to fix things is some corporate positivity.  You and missionary pals might end up feeling might righteous at the end of the day, but your "urgency" only serves to maintain the status quo of poverty and to exacerbate the neglected human needs of children who are turned into data points.
3. our society is, in fact, rooted in an American tradition balanced to favor the privileged affluent whites who are the architects of a system designed to limit the freedoms and choices of the socioeconomically disadvantaged and of those darker shades of skin. I can't control our history. I can't control the poverty that creates blight and hardship on our students, but I can go to school every day and work my tail off to make sure our students see a full world beyond their neighborhoods and that we challenge them to become better versions of themselves. 
As long as you accept, Jeremy, the irresponsible idea that poverty can't be fixed, mended, or controlled, then all of your "working your tail off" might leave you convinced that you have done all you could, but it remains a sad indicator that you are entirely owned by a corporate mentality that demands your utter exhaustion and the imposition of impossible demand as the price of free conscience.  In the corporate version of "challenging" these poor kids who, in fact, are not likely to ever escape the poverty that you have decided can't be fixed, you and your positivized pals set them up to blame themselves when ridiculous expectations meets the hard reality of race and class.  You exemplify, Jeremy, the corporate classroom missionary who remains steadfast in the delusion that one can purify the air on just one side of a screen door.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Achievement School District Responds to Criticism

Posted yesterday at Schools Matter:

Jeremy Jones, one of the bristly, high-T clones of the Ahievement School District administration (see pics above and tell me which one is Jeremy), sent the following comment to my post yesterday on the ASD corporate corruptionism going on in Nashville and Memphis, as the poorest public schools are labeled "Priority" before being auctioned off to charter chain gang operators:
It is incredibly misleading to say "corporate," "corporation" and "corporatize" when characterizing the changes happening in Memphis in the effort to move the bottom 5% of schools to the top 25% within five years of joining the ASD. There are no "corporations" running schools in the Achievement School District. Additionally, White's Frayser Community Schools charter management organization was approved to run schools in the Achievement School District through a rigorous selection process managed by the National Charter School Association. It doesn't seem like you're offering any alternative solutions in this blog post for persistently failing schools operating in Memphis. If you have them, it would be great to hear them. If not, it is probably best that your opinions are fully informed by actual facts. The crisis in our schools isn't the threat of corporations, it is the fact that for far too many years, the system has committed educational malpractice on our students. 
First off, Jeremy seems confused about the facts--that, or he is simply lying.  Every one of the Wall Street backed out-of-state charter chains that are favorites of the ASD are all non-profit corporations, and they are all afloat on tens or hundreds of millions of non-profit dollars that are invested by corporate foundations, philanthrocapitalists, and venture philanthropists--all of whom get dollar for dollar tax write offs for supporting the replacement of public schools with corporate-run segregated lockdown charters that resemble penal institutions more than do schools.

Secondly, it is a pure flight of fancy to think that these new charter chain gangs can raise proficiency rates among the impoverished children that they contain to reach the top levels of the wealthy TN suburban schools.  Pure nonsense.  What I expect Commish Huffman to be counting on are manipulated test score value-added gains for children in these new minimum security reform schools--at least those high-gaining students who are not dumped back into the surviving public schools of last resort in Memphis and Nashville.  These gain scores effectively conceal the disparity in proficiency rates, and CREDO is already using such scores to feed the illusion and/or delusion that charters are outperforming public schools.  

As for the National Charter School Association doing the judging of ASD employees' charter applications, it seems a bit odd that an out-of-state corporate entity would be in charge of identifying out-of-state operators for Tennessee schools, who will now collect from taxpayers f thousands of public dollars per child per year to treat inner city kids like total compliance inmates.

Finally, blaming "educational malpractice" for the blight of poverty, low achievement, and malignant educational injustice in Memphis that has gone on since the end of slavery is a transparent and hackneyed excuse for the new brand of corporate colonialism that in moving in on urban American schools, where teachers are replaced by white, privileged missionaries who know nothing of the problems faced by the poor children of Memphis or anywhere else.  They are, however, reliable conduits of corporate ideology and anti-culturalism, who cannot see kids for the data that blinds them to the human desperation of the neediest children. 

Meanwhile, corporate skinheads like Jeremy hide behind their minstrel version of educational justice, where justice really means segregation and incarceration for urban children.  

I have some educational solutions, alright, but none that Jeremy or the former Mr. Michelle Rhee is interested in:

1) socioeconomically integrate the schools (biggest bang for the achievement buck ever);
2) return public schools to the public, rather than handing them over to corporations;
3) extend Medicaid to poor students;
3) demand more qualified teachers, rather than replacing teachers with unprepared temps from TFA;
4) base curriculum and instruction decisions with teachers and researchers, rather than contractors from the Gates Foundation or TFA alums who don't even know how ignorant they are;
5) adequately fund TN schools as the courts have demanded, rather than hiding behind another phony brand of accountability;
5) end high stakes standardized testing.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Ram with a Scam?

Bobby White told the Daily News on September 16 that he will be "a Ram for life," referring to the Frayser High School mascot.  After getting national attention on Fox & Friends by enforcing a ban on baggy pants at Westside Middle where he was principal a couple of years back, White has become the darling of the State-funded effort to corporatize and charterize Memphis schools, as Bill Gates has designed.

White has his own consulting business, has hired on as an employee of the Achievement School District (ASD), has started his own charter school company, and is a voice of the State Charter School Incubator.

Showing no concern for apparent conflicts of interest, Barbic of the ASD recently approved White's MLK Prep to begin operations in Memphis in 2014.  As far as we can tell, White continues on the state payrolls and corporate payrolls as he beats the bushes in the Frayser community looking for support of his company to take over Frayser High School when the Achievement District moves in next year.  With so much money to be made in the feeding frenzy to carve up Memphis schools, White appears to be on full throttle.

Wherever he ends up, we can be assured that he will solve the education problems that are most pressing--at least the ones that have to do with baggy pants.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Race to the Top Big Success--for Corporate Education Reform Schoolers

EPI and The Broader, Bolder Approach have an important important report on how things are going with Race to the Top (RTTT), or as it may be more aptly known, HUAP (Hurry Up and Privatize).  In examining what the states have done to get some of Arne's 3.4 billion bucks, the authors find confusion, conflict, corruptionism, confoundedness, and cautious dread (that's as optimistic as it gets in RTTT land these days).

In looking at the how bonus bribe points for RTTT grant applicants were stated, I have responded (after each below) to what this has meant in the RTTT golden state of Tennessee, where the first grant of $501 million was handed out by judges approved by the Gates Foundation.  With another $90 million going directly to Memphis from the Gates loose change drawer, Tennessee has since exploded with policies and practices antithetical enough to good education practice and friendly enough to CorpEd to earn the Seal of Approval by Arne Duncan.

To obtain points, states had to commit to specific changes:
  • Develop teacher (and principal) evaluation systems that substantially rely on measures of student achievement and growth. States thus promised to develop strong data systems that would enable them to assess student progress and achievement and to evaluate teachers based in part on these data, using “value-added” measures that purport to assess teachers’ impact on student learning, distinct from other factors. These systems would eventually collect data based on the new, higher standards that states also had to adopt: 40 points out of the 500 were contingent on developing and adopting standards based on the Common Core State Standards, and RTTT is widely credited with spurring rapid adoption of the Common Core across almost all states (40 states competed in the first round of RTTT).
Just weeks before the RTTT Bribery Scam was announced in the Fall of 2009, the National Research Council and the National Academies of Science sent a 19 page letter to Arne Duncan that warned him that value-added measurements were not reliable enough to use for high stakes purposes.  What resulted in Tennessee was quick adoption of all the RTTT priorities by special legislative session in January 2010, including a Rube Goldberg model for teacher evaluation based on value-added scores, as documented by Michael Winerip.  

Teachers are now rated on a 1-5 scale based on value-added scores and observations that have been fine tuned to align with the test scores.  According to local teachers, the screws are being tightened each year now to make increase the number of 1s and 2s and decrease the numbers of 4s and 5s.  Where teachers teach subjects that aren't tested, their scores depend upon the school's overall scores, rather than their own.
    • Strengthen teacher preparation programs and improve access to and quality of professional development programs.
    This has led to closer alignment of teacher ed curricula with how to take and pass tests and how to use "data." Teacher ed programs are now rated on how well their graduates raise test scores.  The state plans to follow CorpEd's initiatives to weed out teacher ed candidates with lower ACTs or SATs, which guarantees to have a whitening effect to the surviving teacher ed programs.
    • Identify alternative routes to certification in order to remove barriers to teaching for potentially strong teachers who might be impeded by existing systems or processes.
    No problem.  Tennessee now has no caps on TFA, TeachPlus, TeachMemphis, and other start-ups where white girls, primarily, with no training are replacing teachers, particularly in Memphis's poorest schools.  The Walton Family Foundation just coughed up over $2 million in TN, alone, to pay the TFA home office cut for 550 new TFA teachers in Tennessee.  Over 200 new TFA beginners started work in Memphis this year.

    Hundreds of real teachers in Memphis have been "surplussed" before the term was changed to "excessed," as a result of the Gates plan to turn urban Memphis into another New Orleans charter system.  Almost 200 of the "excessed" teachers are Level 4 or Level 5, which very nearly matches the number of TFA temps that started this year in Memphis.  This was posted at Facebook back in May by a Memphis teacher:
    . . .a couple hundred excess teachers, including me, were herded into lines, in a hot hallway, to schedule short interviews with Principals of listed schools. Almost immediately, interview spots were called as filled at several schools. I got 1 interview, the only interview left for a position I qualify for. There were several hundreds behind me in line, I would say I was with in the first 50-70 in line... If not closer. So I leave a bit and come back for my 11:30 interview. On the door hung a sign that said "filled" and the position scribbled out. I returned to the Teach Memphis staff who said, "yeah, that position was already filled" and unapologetically invited me to the Networking Session at 1pm to leave my resumes with principals of schools that didn't have interviews spots available. I will go, and I will go tomorrow. But this seemed like a humiliating waste of time for professionals. . . 
    • Identify and turn around the lowest-performing schools, using one of several strategies along the lines of federal school improvement grants. Strategies include firing the principal and/or much of the staff, turning the school over to a charter or other outside manager, or closing it altogether.
    With the impetus from RTTT to focus on the bottom 5 percent of test scoring "priority" schools, Tennessee has an ongoing supply of charter targets (there will always be a bottom 5 percent).  With over 50 charters now and most of them located in Memphis, another 13 public schools have been put up for corporate auction for next year by the Achievement School District, a district on paper only, as it functions as Commish Huffman's state office that hands out charter contracts for schools that are being turned over for corporate control. 

    So bottom line:  While the EPI Report finds many shortcomings in terms of results of RTTT, I would argue that RTTT has been wildly successful from the standpoint of the people who put it together.  Until we all come to realize that CorpEd does not believe any of their rhetoric about educational rights, civil rights, teacher quality, blah blah, and that their motivation is corporate takeover of schools, social control through testing, and the crushing of the teaching profession, then we will continue to tsk, tsk about what a failure RTTT has been.  IT HAS BEEN A HUGE SUCCESS FOR CORPORATE EDUCATION REFORMERS!!