Tuesday, October 22, 2013

From School Consolidation in Memphis to School "Decoupling"

From Schools Matter:

The Memphis Commercial Appeal has another no-news story today on questions remaining about how much it will cost to operate nine school systems in Shelby County, rather than one.  Let's see, we have six leafy boutique municipal systems, a Shelby County non-municipal system, the Achievement School District downtown, a high-rolling hedge fund backed charter system with KIPPs and Rocketships, and a local charter system run by black politicians paid off for their support of the Gates fragmentation plan.

The CM article continues to focus on the millions missing when the munis pull out entirely, thus avoiding any potential contact with kids of Memphis, where poverty is now at 27%.

How quickly things go from "consolidation" to "decoupling," which seems to be the new word to describe the fragmentation plan put into effect by the corporate know-nothings who put this "plan" together.

The elephant in the room that the CM still will not talk about is the $212 million that will be lost as almost 20 percent of Memphis students end up in corporate charter schools that collect around 8K per child, plus free rent in public school buildings. The suburban diversion is just that--a feint to keep the public focused away from the segregated chain gangs downtown run by corporate missionaries from Teach for America.
If there is a concern about benefits and pensions for teachers out in the leafy suburbs, why not "excess" those teachers like they were downtown and replace them with TFA temps who have had 20 days of teacher practice? Oh, I forgot, the kids in the suburbs need real teachers.
See the Transition Planning Commission report, linked here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

CorpEd Losers' Quandary: How to Reward Teachers in High Poverty Schools With a System That Punishes Them for Working There

From Schools Matter:

Always looking for an opportunity to support corporate ed reform school losers, the Memphis Commerical-Appeal has an editorial today in support of Mississippi’s attempt toestablish merit pay for its teachers.  The editorial board offers no research to support its support, and the editors use the same conflicted rhetoric that CorpEd losers use to call for rewarding teachers based on test scores, while rewarding teachers for working in high poverty schools.  My reaction, just posted in the comments:

It would seem that you want too many things in one editorial, especially when one works against the others. Let me briefly explain. If you want good teachers to be rewarded for working with the neediest children in poverty schools, you do not accomplish that by having a system to determine merit based on test scores that punish teachers who work with low performing and high poverty children. You cannot use the same system of testing that effectively labels and punishes the poor to reward teachers who work with these children.
That is the system we have today in Mississippi and Tennessee, and that is one reason why teachers oppose it.
Another reason is based on research, which shows repeatedly in recent years (in Nashville, Chicago, and New York) that "merit pay" systems to do raise achievement as measured by test scores: http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/03...
The third reason that teachers oppose the new evaluation systems is that they are neither valid, reliable, nor fair. The scientific evidence against teacher evaluations based on test scores is both massive and compelling, so much so that the National Research Council urged Arne Duncan against incentivizing its use in Race to the Top grant applications. Of course, we know he ignored that advice, and now we have the Rube Goldberg version of teacher evaluation that has made Tennessee first in the pursuit of federal dollars and last in the contest for credibility. Any system that mislabels 25 percent of teachers every year deserves the ridicule that has been offered by those who read the research or those who have bothered to talk with someone who has read the research.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Luttrell Ready to Turn Over $23 Million Head Start Budget to Corporate Cronies at Porter-Leath

From Schools Matter:

We posted on September 30 about Shelby County Mayor, Mark Luttrell, and his cozy relations with fellow corporate pol, Mark Threlkeld, who presides over the Board of Trustees of Porter-Leath, a non-profit corporation that is building an empire on backs of young victims of the Zero Tolerance Era.

The former Orphan Asylum
Porter-Leath's history goes back to the 19th Century, when it served as home of last resort for children of the destitute.  Today it is run by President Sean Lee, who lives across the border in a very white and leafy section of Mississippi.

Lee seems particularly qualified by corporate standards to take on the new duties of running an early childhood education program such as Head Start.  He has a Bachelors in Business, and his other job before coming to Porter-Leath was in HR at Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

But of course we know he will have lots of help from the Gates Foundation if Mayor Luttrell gets his way, when Porter-Heath becomes the recipient of the $23 million annual stipend from the Feds for Head Start, as well as any portion of a planned sales tax increase on food that is not swallowed up to lower property taxes for prosperous friends and neighbors of the Luttrells and the Threlkelds. Plus generous tax-shelter dollars from philanthrocapitalists who are eager to begin instilling compliance at a very early age in the black kids of Memphis.

And, too, there will be plenty of help to divvy up the cash from the State's corporate welfare agency, the Achievement School District, which has already established a "partnership" with Porter-Leath:

Porter-Leath Partners with ASD to Provide High Quality Pre-K
Posted on: Friday, September 06, 2013

Porter-Leath has launched a partnership with four Achievement School District Schools, one Aspire school and a second KIPP: Collegiate Memphis Elementary school, to provide high quality pre-kindergarten for over 200 children. The schools in the new partnership include:

  • Frayser Elementary
  • Corning Elementary
  • Whitney Elementary
  • Cornerstone Preparatory School 
  • Hanley Elementary (Aspire)
  • Shannon Elementary (KIPP)

The partnership follows recent Porter-Leath Preschool expansion efforts. Porter-Leath's partnership with KIPP began last school year on their Henry campus and the agency began operating Frayser Head Start and Child Development Center in January 2013. 

President Sean Lee already has help from once-upon-a-time businessman, Mike Warr, whose salary of $128,000 actually exceeds that of Lee at $112,000.  After Warr bought and sold the failing Monday's Child clothing outfit, he became Head of Development at Porter-Leath, and he has been trying to "close" on Head Start since 2008, when he barely missed:
Biggest missed opportunity: Unable to close on a Shelby County Head Start contract in 2008
The story has been unreported by the Commercial-Appeal until now.  Missing is any mention of what happens to public early childhood teachers if the Luttrell-Threlkeld-Barbic plan goes through:

The County Commission failed to approve a resolution on Monday that urged the county administration to apply for a $23 million federal grant to continue operating the county’s Head Start program. 
The resolution, proposed by Commissioner Steve Mulroy, was a request and would not have been binding. 
The commission also passed a resolution on Sept. 23 that urged the Shelby County Board of Education to take over the Head Start Program. According to the federal government website, Head Start “promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development.” 
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell told commissioners that officials with non-profit Porter-Leath have said they planned to apply for the grant and that school officials have also indicated that Head Start would be a good fit for the system. 
Unless something changes before the Oct. 22 application deadline, there are no plans for the county to reapply, Luttrell said. 
Head Start began under President Lyndon Johnson in the mid-1960s. A troubled local Head Start was taken over by the county 10 years ago. It now serves about 3,200 children.
Luttrell has said previously that an outside entity would be able to secure other funding for the program and be able to possibly double the number of students enrolled. 
Update 4 pm October 15:

Bill Dries at the Daily News reports that Shelby County Schools will make a bid on Head Start. It matters not to the 500 employees of Shelby County, however, who now work in Head Start.  Their jobs will be gone if either entity wins the $23 million to privatize Head Start in Memphis.

. . . . Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson told school board members Monday, Oct. 14, he and his staff will apply for the federal funding by the Oct. 22 deadline.

“He envisions that the district would need approximately four additional employees that would work for the district,” said school board chairmanKevin Woods. “Unlike the Shelby County government system, which had approximately 500 employees operating its program, we would contract with early childhood providers to run those centers.” 
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said Monday that Porter-Leath, a Memphis-based children’s and family services provider, will also make a bid for the Head Start contract now operated by county government. 
Luttrell also said Monday he could foresee backing both applications once they are completed and he reviews them on their way to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 
County Commissioner, Terry Roland, who is the poster boy for anger mismanagement in county government, had this to say:
“There is a layer of bureaucracy that has to be funded with local government,” said commissioner Terry Roland. “The quicker we get this out of the county’s hands, the better off the children will be.”
Yes, indeed.  Get that $23 million into the hands of those corporate welfare leeches who are lined up for blood.  That's what the poor children of Shelby County represent.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Corporate Christian Missionaries, Capitalism, and Public Servants of the Corporate Church

Published earlier today at Schools Matter:

Education historian, Carl Kaestle, developed the thesis that the American ideology developed in the 19th Century from an overlapping and mutually supportive combination of three elements: protestantism, capitalism, and republicanism.  They are so closely linked, Kaestle argued, that a challenge to one often brings defensive reactions from the believers of the others, so that a skeptic of reading the protestant bible in school was often attacked as un-American, or an organizer of unions might be attacked as an ungodly and un-American.

Today in Memphis, we see this ideology brought to a steroidal level with

  1. corporate welfare charter chains clamoring for some of the hundreds of millions of public dollars up for grabs, 
  2. the State's Achievement School District led by Chris Barbic (former CEO of the corporate charter chain, YES Prep), and
  3. the Christian Memphis Teacher Residency Program run by David Montague.

Montague was a Campus Crusader in East Asia until 2009.  Thanks to rich white Boston investors, he is now in charge of his own group of young missionary teachers who, along with their secular corporate counterparts from TFA, staff the growing number of charter chain gangs in the poor parts of Memphis.  A clip from an article in Christianity Today (my bolds):
Through MTR, teachers in training from across the country move to Memphis for an intensive one-year residency. In addition to classes and seminars, residents are paired with a teacher-mentor in a Memphis classroom. At the end of the year, residents have earned a Masters of Arts in urban education through nearby Union University and a Tennessee state teaching license. In return, the residents teach in an underserved school in Memphis for at least three years. 
MTR is not the only urban teacher residency program in the country, and the concept of training teachers in exchange for years of service is not new; since 1989 Teach for America has been recruiting college graduates and young professionals to teach in underserved schools for at least two years. However, MTR is the only urban teacher residency program in the country that provides this training in a Christian context. Along with education training, residents attend biblically based seminars and courses throughout the year.
L-R: Church, Corporation, State
In the photo above from Bill Dries of the Daily News, we see the three elements of American ideology represented, left to right, by Presbyterian minister, Sandy Wilson, the corporationists' Chris Barbic, and Shelby County Superintendent, Dorsey Hopson.  With so many poor children to pacify and convert and with so much money to be made by so few, there is growing awareness among these leaders that colonization, indoctrination, and pacification represent, respectively, the corporate issue, the religious issue, and the civil rights issues of our times.

Photos and text below from a Memphis Teacher Residency Conference--and no, I did not doctor the text to say "admit corporately our belief that it is God. . ."

Anissa Listak, Executive Director of Urban Teacher Residency United, and Bryan Loritts, Lead Pastor of Fellowship Memphis, provided wonderful encouragement through their addresses. 
The evening served as a time to share and remember the impact MTR is making in our city, and to acknowledge and admit corporately our belief that it is God, and not simply hard working people, that is the giver and provider of all good things. 
Thank you to all who came for this inaugural event, and we can’t wait to see you next year.

Two of the enthused missionaries below:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The ASD House of Cards Is Built on a Mountain of Tax-Sheltered Cash

The NEPC has a completed a review of the "documentation" used by corporatists in New Orleans and Tennessee to justify the takeover and colonization of NOLA and Memphis schools.  To say the evidence is slim for such anti-democratic privatization schemes is an understatement.  Here is the link to the NEPC site, and below is a clip that focuses on Tennessee's Powerpoint "research" piece:

Presentation on Tennessee’s Achievement School District: Building the Possible

The reforms in Memphis are too new to have been adequately studied. The data cited aronly from two years, and from only a small sample of seven schools. The ASD claims it wilmove failing schools to the top, and a chart on one of the slides shows movement of thbottom 5% of schools in Tennessee to the top 25%, but it is unclear how the projections

The presenters laudably claim that it is necessary for portfolio districts to do careful data analysis,” which should include ruling out rival hypotheses. Regrettably, they did not apply this sound principle.

were determined. Such claims ignore the devastating poverty an d isolation of students’ lives, which would have to be rapidly overcome to move the schools to become competitivwith Tennessees more affluent public schools. 37 Less than 12 months into the reforms,
they claim level 5 growth. But again, nowhere was it e xplained what level 5 growth was
or how it was attained. Similarly, it is claimed that expulsion rates were cut in half, from
3.5% to 1.3%, and there is no discussion of how that was achieved.

The presentation shows that the portfolio model has led to te st-score gains in certaisubject areas. One chart shows gains in math and science, but a drop in reading anlanguage arts. Like the data from New Orleans, these charts are descriptive, and we cannoknow what is driving the changes. As in New Orleans, th ese gains could be due other policchanges, demographic changes, or selection effects. Furthermore, in later slides, thpresentation highlights one schools gains in reading and language arts proficiency, whicappears to be cherry-picked given the previous slides indication that overall scores in thsubject decreased.

The presentation highlights its efforts to recruit “great people and talent, withouexplaining what this means or how it is measured. Where these teachers are coming froand their professional qualifications are not defined. One -fifth of the teachers in thprogram were from Teach for America, an organization that has shown mixed results iother cities.38 Moreover, the slides did not discuss the fact that Memphis only re -hired fivof its former teachers and three administrators out of more than 50 teachers and seveadministrators from the takeover schools in Memphis; all others were fired, although thdistrict hired 50 replacement teachers from other Memphis public schools. 39 Finding anrecruiting qualified teachers may not be feasible or culturally, politically, or economicalldesirable in cities seeking to adopt a portfolio model.

One of the slides appeals to “freedom, but the specific autonomies given to schools oparents are not defined. If it means freedom to choose schools, the New York Timereported that ASD schools must accept any student who lives in their zones, 40 so parentoutside the attendance zone can gain access only if there is additional capacity. Similarlythe presentation claims that parents and teachers are very satisfied, but does not mention
how these stakeholders were surveyed, the response rates, and the differences in

satisfaction rates from previous years. Again, these pieces of information would probablbe addressed more thoroughly in a longer report, but because response rates matter fosurvey claims and sufficient response rates are difficult to attain, this is an importanpoint.41 The claim of greater satisfaction is an unsubstantiated change.

Unaddressed Issues in the Two Presentations

Finally, we note there are several substantive issues that were not adequately addressed ieither report. These include governance, representation, se gregation, and school finance.

The issue of whether RSD schools that are no longer failing will be returned to the locallelected Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) raises important but unaddressed governancissues. Schools may elect whether or not to return to OPSB, yet charter school boarddecide this, and the results have been contentious.42 Professor Lance Hill of Tulane, foexample, described the perceptions of some local residents who believe they have losdemocratic control of the schools. He wrote in a local blog in 2011:

The corporate education forces that advocate a free-market business model havdeveloped a beachhead strategy in New Orleans. Taking advantage of thevacuation of 90% of the population after Katrina, they set in motion
educational changes that bypassed the elected school board and destroyevirtually all local democracy and accountability. 43

Some researchers have contended that the charter reforms in New Orleans have resulted ihigher levels of racial segregation than would naturally occur in a neighborhood schoolsystem, based on residential patt erns in the city.44 Despite significant time and resourcespent on busing students across the city, the portfolio model has not prioritized any type oracial or economic desegregation policy. 45

The question of finance was also under -addressed by the RSD slides. With the exception of a bullet point under Challenges that mentions the imperative of finding sustainablfunding sources, the amounts provided from outside the public system were noacknowledged. Foundation dollars have supported many aspects of the RSD reformsadministrator salaries in charter schools have been supported by the federal i3 reforms
and the Teacher Incentive Fund grants to New Schools for New Orleans. 46 New Schools foNew Orleans estimated that a mid-sized city would need to spend between $25 and $5million for the first five years of a state reform district, 47 and philanthropy must play substantial role. Any system considering adoption of a portfolio model needs to consider
its true costs and how the state would pay for the refor ms.

VII. Usefulnesof thReport for Guidance of Policy and Practice

Portfolio models and school reconstitution represent po tential strategies for interventioin low-performing schools, and are worthy of attention. However, adoption of th is model

needs to be based on a careful, critical and comprehensive review of the research evidencon both the portfolio concept level as well as of the constituent parts . The evidentiary baspresented is very thin for both Louisianas and Tennessees portfolio districts. There iconsiderable external evidence on some of the elements but it is not reflected in thpresentations. The presenters laudably claim that it is necessary for portfolio districts tdo careful data analysis, which should include ruling out rival hypotheses. Regrettablythey did not apply this sound principle. The claimed successes of these two portfolidistricts are questionable in themselves. But the greater problem is in the ascription oimprovements to the presence of portfolio management s tructures. We thus encouraggreat caution by policymakers at every level of government in making high stakedecisions based on such presentations.