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When 51% Isn’t Needed to Pull a Trigger

October 2, 2011

My public middle school in South Los Angeles was labeled as a “failing school” almost 12 months ago making what is already a tough job even more difficult due to the Los Angeles Unified School District corporate inspired reform program called Public School Choice.  In short, if you are deemed a failing school, any organized group can submit a plan to take over your school and as a result, many public schools have been converted to charters in the last two years.  Brand new multi-million dollar buildings were handed over to corporations such as Green Dot and ICEF, and my school is on this dread list.

In this blog I have outlined the pressures we have faced as a “failing school” which include even more adherence to district curriculum initiatives, more planning meetings, time away from the classroom for plan writers, and a lowering of morale resulting in a mass exodus of personnel to other more “successful” schools.

We were in the middle of celebrating a marked increase in test scores (48 point increase on the A.P.I.)  that doubled the average growth rate for the district when this op-ed in the Los Angeles Times about the actions of the Parent Revolution (proponents of the Parent Trigger law recently passed in CA) was brought to our attention:

 At Los Angeles Academy Middle School, where the bus arrived Wednesday, student progress has been painfully slow. Only 1 in 5 students were found proficient in math last year; 1 in 4 were proficient in English-language arts.* Parents at the overwhelmingly minority campus — 99% of its students are black or Latino — are tired of waiting for successes that may come long only after their children have moved on. Last week, they shared stories of their frustration with the district and school administration, their sense of desperation for their children and their commitment to change.

The Parent Revolution was locked and loaded, aiming for our beloved school.

Let me backtrack.  Parent satisfaction is a component of a successful school.  We have been proud of the amount of parents who have made us the school of choice in the neighborhood as demonstrated by the high number seeking attendance permits.  We issued so many permits that we exceeded our room capacity and were forced to make teachers travel from room to room, occupying those available during another teacher’s conference period.

Our parent center abounds with involved parents who maintain close contact with teachers and administrators.  There is a parent presence at every single parent meeting, potluck, Meet and Greet, and numerous other events and there is a fiercely dedicated group of parents who are helping fundraise $100,000 to get their children to our nation’s capital in the spring.

Can our school improve?  Of course it can, as can all schools.

It was extremely disappointing then, but not unexpected, to read about L.A. Academy parents who were contacted by the Parent Revolution in their nine city tour of “failing California schools” as they canvassed neighborhoods to see which schools were ripe for trigger pulling.  Teresa Watanabe of the L.A. Times explains their M.O.:

Parent activist Esmeralda Medina cruised her Pacoima neighborhood this week, spied a mom sitting outside with kids and advanced. What is one thing you’d like to change about your school? she asked.

Maybe, Veronica Perez replied, more tutoring programs for her third-grader, who needs help with writing.

Medina closed in. She invited Perez to a parent meeting to push for better schools. Perez said she might attend. “Whatever helps, I’m all for it,” she said.

I don’t know of one school that has 100% of their parents unable to name “one thing you’d like to change about your school.” There are a many things we would like to change about our school but are unable to because of factors beyond our control.  But what was revealing here was that 51% of dissatisfied parents was not needed to obtain a glowing editorial (faulty data and all) in a major newspaper.  All it took was one, or two, or three parents and L.A. Academy was painted with the broad brush used by education reformers nationwide.  Damage done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I see this education reform movement, becoming dominated more and more by the corporations who believe privatization is the solution to eliminating the “education crisis.”  It is an iniquitous, coercive movement that purports to help schools by imposing threats and competition.  It is something educators are not used to dealing with, as academia operates under well-established rules of logic, reason, and civility. Besmirching public schools is a necessary step when you employ extreme measures such as closing schools, removing entire faculties, or converting to charters in order to “fix schools.”  It makes bloody conversions easier to stomach.  And yet journalists are willingly blind to the fact that in the aggregate, charters do not outperform public schools, and in fact most perform the same or worse in spite of advantageous conditions such as serving lower numbers of challenging students.

There are two charter operators bidding for my school:  Green Dot and College Ready Alliance.  It is well-known that the paid organizers of the faux grassroots group called the Parent Revolution receive their money from the Broad foundation under the intent purpose of acquiring schools for their portfolio via the Public School Choice process.  It is also well known that this group originated from Green Dot.  Mother Jones describes the connections this way:

It’s a small world after all: Parent Revolution started as a project of the Los Angeles Parents Union, which was closely connected to the Green Dot charter schools run by Steve Barr. Parent Revolution’s 14 staff members are a diverse mix of progressive community organizers and politicos. Ben Austin once worked as an aide to President Bill Clinton and served as Los Angeles deputy mayor under Richard Riordan. Parent Revolution’s organizing director, Pat DeTemple, started his career as a labor organizer. Lead organizer Shirley Ford sent two of her sons to Green Dot charters. Mary Najera, another lead organizer, also sent her son to a Green Dot school. Opponents of the “parent trigger” cite these close connections between Parent Revolution, the Los Angeles Parents Union, and Green Dot as one reason to worry about legal safeguards.

You would think Jim Newton would have mentioned these connections which can have a significant impact on how the school board may vote, but it was nowhere to be found in the op-ed.

Upon reading the op-ed, I immediately contacted my Principal and asked if indeed there was a group of dissatisfied parents who had contacted the school and whose concerns were ignored.  The answer was a resounding “no.”  If anything, every time I see the Principal she is surrounded by parents who want to thank her for providing their children with a quality education and who thank her for issuing their child a permit for the Advanced Studies program.  At the school, no administrator or teacher reported any type of parent group who had expressed any type of frustration other than the normal kind one sees in middle school.

I guess anyone can make an allegation against a school and obtain favorable coverage in corporate newspapers if it benefits charter schools.  Actual parent satisfaction be damned.

Green Dot or College Ready Alliance may be successful in overthrowing our own established faculty and gaining control over our 12 year old facility because the last two years of school board votes have shown that schools are awarded without regards to the quality of the submitted school plans (the Clay Middle School and Camino Nuevo decisions made this clear).  And the teachers and administrators will find work elsewhere.

But the children will lose experienced, credentialed educators with years, not weeks of training.

The children will lose a system where parents have a democratic voice and an actual vote in the way the school is run.

The children will lose South Los Angeles’ most successful Gifted and Talented Education program that serves 650 students and whose alumni have gone on to successful high school and college careers.

And they will lose teachers  who chose to teach in South L.A. for all the right reasons.

Just whom is this trigger being pulled against?

*This figure is incorrect, and was brought to the attention of the op-ed writer who neglected to make the correction on the L.A. Times website.  The correct figure is 32% proficient/advanced in ELA making it 1 in 3 students, not 1 in 4.

 

22 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2011 9:47 am

    I never been really sure what statements like this mean: “I see this education reform movement, becoming dominated more and more by the corporations who believe privatization is the solution to eliminating the “education crisis.” I don’t’ understand how Green Dot is a corporation, at least not in the sense that you seem to intend it.

    I can certainly say LA’s Promise isn’t a corporation in that sense. But lots of people have a different take. I just don’t get the rhetoric.

    But at any rate, interesting take on the PSC/Parent Trigger movement. I enjoyed the read.

    • October 3, 2011 10:57 pm

      Such cloying feigned ignorance, Mr. McGilliard. You don’t get the rhetoric? You don’t understand how lucrative charter chains are corporations? Here’s a few facts for your consideration.

      Green Dot, like every other CMO, is in every sense a corporation. They are an exempt 501c3, also defined in the tax code as a non-profit corporation.

      Their unelected private board follows the corporate model in every regard, as does having a CEO and an executive staff. With the meaningless exceptions of Forms 990, they have negligible oversight or accountability to the public. Moreover, it’s well established that charter schools are NOT public entities or agencies: two examples are the California Court of Appeals (2007-01-10) [1] and the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals (2010-01-04) [2].

      Their former hedge fund manager CEO declared by fiat the closure of Ánimo Justice because it effected their bottom line, against the will of both their school community and their educators (you know, the few non-business types employed by Green Dot). That could never happen at a public school, only at an organization strictly focused on revenues and market share.

      Green Dot’s primary funders include the largest corporate privatizers of all: The Walton Family Foundation, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and other vile corporate entities whose sole goal is privatization. Charters are the neoliberal solution to the fact that vouchers never sat well with people who believed in democracy.

      I could go on and on, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

      BTW, how does PSC or CMO Trigger constitute a “movement” … wait, I get it, you mean a corporate movement in the Mussolini/Franco sense.

      [1] http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1435567.html
      [2] http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2010/01/04/08-15245.pdf

    • October 25, 2011 9:19 am

      I have to agree with you that I do not like the disparaging of nonprofits that have a mission of seeking improvements in government systems. It makes sense that passionate stories need villans but not everyone seeking serious reform to public education can fit the tidy stereotype offered by anti-capitalists.

      Marginalized community members are often shut out of the high-minded discussions about school reform. As an objective third party to an argument between the bifurcated left and right it is easy to feel like the child of divorcing parents. But, we’re not children. Schools are not working for us and the results are a monumental pain to our culture and our lives.

      And neither the maternalists (left) or the paternalists (right) will have all the answers.

      Resisting every change and decrying corporatism as the main evil cheapens the discussion of why change is needed, why the status quo is intolerable, and how social justice is not on the side of those who think only teachers have the answers (that’s just arrogance in another flavor).

      What about parents? What about communities? When we agree with you we are brilliant, but when we seek changes you disapprove of our supposed IQs.

      There is one glaring flaw I see in the anti-corporatist argument: the unionist agenda is no less funded, no less political, no less powerful, and no less tired. To pretend that school reform efforts funded by foundations and corporations (and executed by low-paid nonprofit workers) even approaches the outlay for public education or unionism is a suspicious claim with unfortunate motives.

      For me it is a hopeful sign for parents and community members to have empowering levers to pull that change schools. For far too long it has been possible through the fiat of monopoly for unionists to operate chronically injurious schools without care for the input of parents or the community.

  2. October 4, 2011 12:41 am

    LIke with most extremists, you get the facts wrong. Not totally wrong. Just a lot wrong. E.g.:

    How are CMO’s lucrative? Most are nonprofit. So how are they lucrative?

    You say Green Dot is a corporation in “every sense.” What does that mean? Of course it’s a corporation. So is LAUSD. Green Dot is a private corporation. LAUSD is a public one.

    You say GD’s board is corporate in every regard. What does that mean? because they aren’t elected? Well, most boards aren’t elected. And those that are… well, look at LAUSD. How effective do you think its board is? (And some might argue that LAUSD’s board isn’t even elected.)

    And as far as being corporate in “every regard,” having little or no over site, as you suggest… do you know that CMO board are Brown-Acted? And have you heard of Sorbanes Oxley?

    I’m afraid you don’t know much about corporations… private, public, for profit or nonprofit. You are looking for conspiracy and getting lost in the maze. Good luck finding your way out!

    Mike

    • October 4, 2011 7:48 am

      Mike, while Robert’s observations are more technical and valid, my concerns with the corporate nature of charters is how they treat their people: like numbers. They churn through employees like cheap labor, and are proud of the fact. Paul Vallas in New Orleans specifically stated he “didn’t envision teachers working for more than a few years” in his business model. In the meantime, these young teachers get put through a mind-boggling set of circumstances that has an impact on their mental and physical health. I know. I’ve mentored dozens of TFA teachers in my career.

      Whereas public schools like mine accept all students, charters feel no loyaty to this concept. Students leave charters on a regular basis, and head right back to my school. Innumberable times I hear of the petty reasons why students are denied a space in charters (grades too low, missed first week of school, won’t stay for detention, threw a pencil at a teacher). In the corporate world, its all about the bottom line, not the people.

      Just because you are a non-profit doesn’t mean you won’t pay yourself a fat salary. Google Geoffrey Canada and HCZ and salary. Or claim a bunch of deductions for wining and dining. I’m sure their are ethical charters that don’t do this, but unfortunately a large number do. Don’t even get me started on Ivy Academia.

      Finally, Green Dot itself calls what they are doing in PSC as “acquisitions for their portfolio.”

      Thanks for reading the blog. i don’t know much about L.A.’s Promise but you don’t work for them anymore?

  3. October 4, 2011 8:02 am

    Hi, Martha.

    I started LA’s Promise in 2003. In 2007 we began to operate our first LAUSD school. Now we operate three, with the goal of a neighborhood turnaround – where schools are the center piece of academic as well as social and health services, to we can dramatically increase family access to those services. We never operated charter schools.

    I resigned just last month.

    I think Skeels is confusing “corporate mentality” (which is more of an idiom) with the actual technical definition of a corporation. LAUSD is a corporation, for example. Depending on who’s in charge, it may or may not act with a corporate mentality. And all nonprofits are corporations. Does he think they are all bad?

    As far as being lucrative – well, most nonprofits are not because they struggle, especially in today’s economy, to raise their revenues. And you don’t earn any equity in a nonprofit. I can’t say much about HCZ. Some people might call my salary “fat.” However, that person would be taking a very narrow view of the nonprofit corporation. I made a little bit more in my last two years at LA’s Promise than, say, a Title 1 Coordinator at a year-round school. But the first 6 years at LA’s Promise, I made about what a teacher makes.

    Additionally, I don’t have any job protections (no union), and I don’t have any retirement to speak of. This is the case with most nonprofits. So most of my employees, and perhaps even myself, are in a much more precarious position than public employees. Skeels wants to compare us to corporate fat cats. But again, that falls flat. We make less (counting benefits) than a Local District High School Director!

    I’m an advocate for good neighborhood schools – not pro, not con, charter. I chose not to open charters for many reasons, mainly because I wanted guaranteed enrollment of neighborhood children. And that’s what I got at West Adams, Manual Arts, and now John Muir.

    Thank you for your comments.

    Mike

  4. October 4, 2011 11:01 pm

    Diane Ravitch posted about the Parent Trigger today on her Education Week blog, and I posted an update, Martha. Here’s the latest on Parent Revolution, which is quietly dropping the Parent Trigger as a miracle school-turnaround nostrum:

    Cross-posted from Ed Week’s Bridging Differences blog: Chaos ensued after the Parent Trigger was deployed against McKinley Elementary in Compton. After the dust settled, the Celerity charter operator opened this fall in a nearby church rather than taking over McKinley Elementary. The big news, as reported by the New York Times last week — though the reporter didn’t grasp that this was the lead and buried it — is that only a small number of McKinley students have been enrolled in the new charter. So much for the notion that the families were clamoring to have this charter operator educate their kids. (Unless, of course, Celerity rejected many of the students, which is quite possible, though that would be a different story that also reveals what a failure this operation was.)

    In the wake of that obvious failure, demonstrating McKinley parents’ lack of support for and interest in the Celerity charter — and the negative publicity over the fact that the McKinley fiasco was orchestrated by Parent Revolution, not parents — Parent Revolution has actually quietly shifted its tactics. It’s now running around vaguely organizing “parents’ unions” at schools, with no explicit goal, and has stopped talking about Parent Trigger petitions.

    (Of course, it’s possible that Parent Rev is waging more stealth petition campaigns under deep cover, but that’s what got it such bad PR at McKinley.)

    Parent Rev chose Celerity as the designated charter operator to take over McKinley Elementary before deploying its paid operatives to canvass Compton collecting signatures.

    An “advocacy journalist” from the fiery right-libertarian L.A. Weekly newspaper was “embedded” with Parent Revolution throughout the process of assaulting McKinley Elementary. As it was a stealth campaign, the reporter, Patrick Range McDonald, didn’t write about it during the process but did a long feature after the petitions were delivered. McDonald’s article described the entire process in detail, including Parent Revolution’s selection of Celerity before the petition drive began.

    As McDonald was a fierce partisan advocate of the Parent Trigger — denouncing McKinley’s teachers and PTA and anyone else who questioned it — it’s extremely credible when he describes Parent Revolution’s deceit and manipulation. (It’s not clear whether he is too honest a journalist to spin all that to make Parent Revolution look better, or whether he didn’t know enough to recognize how damning his account was).

    Between the lines, despite gushing support from the mainstream press as well, the Parent Trigger is a failure as an ed reform strategy. It was undoubtedly a success from Parent Rev’s point of view, helping the operation line its pockets with vast amounts of funding from the usual array of billionaires and corporate titans.
    ***
    By the way, @Michael, nonprofits are free to rake in money from donors (see the comment above about the funding from billionaires and corporate titans) and pay their executives princely sums. They don’t have investors who reap the profit, and THAT’s the difference. It doesn’t mean they can’t bring in any money.

  5. October 5, 2011 11:49 pm

    Caroline – I enjoyed your read. I would just argue with comments like “nonprofits are free to rake in money form donors…” Having operated nonprofits my whole adult life, I can testify to the fact that we don’t do much “raking.” More like scraping. And sadly, many go out of business when the times get rough. My good years, I had maybe 12 months payroll in the bank.

    I don’t get the argument that wealthy corporate backers means wealthy corporate nonprofits. It’s a bit like arguing that public employees are somehow puppets of whatever administration happens to be in charge, and get the same perks as a fat cat senator.

    Public employees are paid by public funds. Private employees are paid by private funds. Nothing sinister in that.

    • October 6, 2011 7:01 am

      Agreed, Mike, there’s nothing sinister about private funding.

      However, many entities in the charter sector ARE indeed amply funded through private donors — very much including Parent Revolution. I didn’t say ALL nonprofits are raking in money from private donors; I’m well aware that that’s not the case. However, education-reform nonprofits undeniably are. Organizations like Students First, Stand for Children, Democrats for Education Reform — all operations based on privatizing, attacking teachers, busting teachers’ unions and pushing charters as the solution — are among them. The fact that your non-charter school was scraping for money doesn’t disprove that — in fact, the princely funding going to those malevolent and harmful operations COULD be benefiting schools like yours.

      (Yes, I know Stand for Children was once a positive force; it has been thoroughly corrupted and perverted into a destructive one.)

      • October 9, 2011 10:50 am

        I’m still unclear if you think that all education reform nonprofits are corrupt somehow. If you do believe that, I don’t know what to say, except… I disagree, especially considering I launched one. Some might be. I wouldn’t say corrupt. Maybe just wrong in what they identify as the problem. But just like some “social justice educators” want to hammer the “corporate reformers” and purge our schools of their “profiteering”, the “corporate reformers” want to bust the teachers unions, which prioritize middle and upper middle class primarily white employees above student needs…. or so the back and forth goes.

        This extremist sort of argument doesn’t get us toward solutions. So I took a middle ground with LA’s Promise – we will use the full union contract and play by all the rules of Ed Code (not go charter).

        But honestly, sometimes I feel that people are just fine with the status quo because finding solutions means radical disruption – or so I learned in the last few years of running LAP. I doubt students are fine with sq, or parents, but we are spending more time “recruiting” them for our causes then educating them on solutions.

  6. October 9, 2011 1:12 am

    Response to Mr. McGilliard

    It’s almost absurd to have to answer to your obtuse assertions when currently thousands are occupying Wall Street and other locations nationwide, including Downtown Los Angeles.

    > LIke with most extremists, you get the facts wrong. Not totally wrong. Just a lot wrong. E.g.:

    Extremist am I? My politics are identical to those of the late Paulo Freire, who you claim “is one of the reasons [you’re] doing this work.” Either you are ignorant of his political philosophy (hint, it’s the opposite of market driven economies) or you consider him an extremist as well. Regardless, where you write extremist, others read principled leftist or liberation theologist.

    > How are CMO’s lucrative? Most are nonprofit. So how are they lucrative?

    You’re being facetious here right? Just in case, here’s just a few examples.

    Quoted in Sirota: http://news.salon.com/2011/09/12/reformmoney/singleton/

    —–
    “Wealthy investors and major banks have been making windfall profits by using a little-known federal tax break to finance new charter-school construction. The program, the New Markets Tax Credit, is so lucrative that a lender who uses it can almost double his money in seven years…

    The credit can even be piggybacked on other tax breaks for historic preservation or job creation. By combining the various credits with the interest from the loan itself, a lender can almost double his investment over the seven-year period.

    No wonder JPMorgan Chase announced this week it was creating a new $325 million pool to invest in charter schools and take advantage of the New Markets Tax Credit.”
    —–

    Recent LA Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/02/business/la-fi-agassi-fund-20110602

    —–
    “The fund is expected to raise up to $300 million, which would be leveraged through borrowing to secure as much as $750 million for school investments…

    If their fund is a success, Agassi and Turner say, they hope it will spawn more for-profit investing in school facilities. “Once it’s proven to be a sustainable model, there is no telling how far this can go,” Agassi said.”
    —–

    Let’s not forget the classic http://billtotten.blogspot.com/2007/08/big-enchilada.html

    —–
    “The education industry represents, in our opinion, the final frontier of a number of sectors once under public control… represents the largest market opportunity… the K-12 market is the Big Enchilada.” — Montgomery Securities prospectus quoted in Jonathan Kozol’s “The Big Enchilada”
    —–

    > You say Green Dot is a corporation in “every sense.” What does that mean? Of course it’s a corporation. So is LAUSD.

    LAUSD is a corporation in the sense that they are incorporated like the city is.

    > Green Dot is a private corporation. LAUSD is a public one.

    Precisely. The former is not only private, but modeled on the business model of private property. The latter public, with democratic mechanisms (however frail), and modeled on the concept of commonwealth.

    > You say GD’s board is corporate in every regard. What does that mean? because they aren’t elected? Well, most boards aren’t elected. And those that are… well, look at LAUSD. How effective do you think its board is?

    Unelected and unaccountable. LAUSD’s failings, and they’re myriad, still provide a modicum of democratic control. It’s effectiveness is sadly hampered by the candidate bought with money from the right-wing Coalition for School Reform, but an elected board beats an unelected board any day of the week if you believe that communities should have agency.

    > (And some might argue that LAUSD’s board isn’t even elected.)

    I’m curious who you might mean by this oblique reference. Nevertheless, when we saw the reactionary Philip Anschutz (there’s your extremist) and the other plutocrats dump some 3.2 million dollars into charter-voucher candidate Sanchez’s campaign, there were some concerns that what you’re saying might be true. Heck, even the somewhat centrist KCET wrote about the privatizers slush fund.

    http://www.kcet.org/shows/socal_connected/undertheinfluence/education/the-business-behind-the-district-5-school-board-election.html

    Fortunately the community elected a candidate in opposition to the privatization agenda.

    > And as far as being corporate in “every regard,” having little or no over site, as you suggest… do you know that CMO board are Brown-Acted? And have you heard of Sorbanes Oxley?

    It’s oversight, no?

    Only their board meetings are ostensibly subject to the Brown Act. In practice it’s nearly impossible to obtain said information. Twice I’ve had requests for minutes and agendas ignored by CMOs, and even the local ACLU was unable to help secure the information I wanted. Sarbanes–Oxley is narrowly concerned with proper accounting procedures and is of little use in this discussion. Sure if a CMO was falsifying a 990, then we could talk about Sarbanes–Oxley.

    What is noticeably missing from your list is the Public Record Act, which public entities are subject to. We can write LAUSD’s General Counsel and request just about any document or recorded information we want. But privately managed CMOs are not required to divulge anything outside of what we’ve already discussed. Opaque is the word that comes to mind when we discuss CMOs.

    > I’m afraid you don’t know much about corporations… private, public, for profit or nonprofit.

    Actually, I’m fairly well versed in this. I’m also familiar with much of the regulations for tax exempt organizations. You’ve done little to prove otherwise.

    > You are looking for conspiracy and getting lost in the maze. Good luck finding your way out!

    How clever. You can’t really discredit anything I write, so you try to marginalize me with accusations of conspiracy or conspiracy theories. There’s one glaring problem with your claim, conspiracy requires a secret plan or covert organization. The corporate education reform cabal is neither secretive, nor covert. They don’t hide their donations to organizations like DFER, TFA, Parent Revolution, and the like. Nor do they hide why the make the donations. From one of my recent articles: http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/09/lying-to-mother-jones/

    ——
    “Where Kristina Rizga’s article says “Austin notes that Parent Revolution went to funders asking for support in giving parents collective bargaining rights, not charters,” Austin has gives mendaciousness a whole new meaning. His statement goes way beyond a lie, as we will see.

    The entirely astroturf Parent Revolution’s plutocrat funders make no such pretenses about why they fund Austin and his group of fellow privatization pushing employees. In one of my recent essays entitled Eli Broad pays Parent Revolution to champion charters not to empower parents! we see Parent Revolution’s true mission spelled out by Broad’s own candor. The 990 instead says:

    To support efforts to help Charter Management Organizations apply for new LAUSD schools under LAUSD’s School Choice Resolution.

    Notice it doesn’t say a word about parent empowerment or collective bargaining rights for parents.”
    ——

    Your painting me as a wild eyed conspiracy theorist running around a maze falls flat. There is no conspiracy, it’s simply ruling class policy. The policy is often called neoliberalism.

    Avail yourself of Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine,” then this conversation might be more productive.

    > I think Skeels is confusing “corporate mentality” (which is more of an idiom) with the actual technical definition of a corporation. LAUSD is a corporation, for example. Depending on who’s in charge, it may or may not act with a corporate mentality.

    Actually I mean corporatism. Somewhat in the sense of modern business vernacular, but far more in the sense of corporatism as an ideology. Italy, Spain, and other countries dabbled with that type of corporatism starting in the 1930’s. Chile and some other nations have experimented with it during our lifetimes. It’s sometimes called other names. I’m sure you studied enough history at that private liberal arts college you attended in the Pacific Northwest to know what I’m talking about.

    > And all nonprofits are corporations. Does he think they are all bad?

    Not all of them, but many are. Professor Welner has written about the undue influence of right wing think tanks (all nonprofits by the way) on education policy. http://www.colorado.edu/education/faculty/kevinwelner/Docs/Welner%20Dissent%20Original.pdf Moreover, there are even books that discuss The Non-Profit Industrial Complex, http://www.incite-national.org/index.php?s=89

    > As far as being lucrative – well, most nonprofits are not because they struggle, especially in today’s economy, to raise their revenues. And you don’t earn any equity in a nonprofit. I can’t say much about HCZ. Some people might call my salary “fat.” However, that person would be taking a very narrow view of the nonprofit corporation. I made a little bit more in my last two years at LA’s Promise than, say, a Title 1 Coordinator at a year-round school. But the first 6 years at LA’s Promise, I made about what a teacher makes.

    No one said all nonprofits are lucrative. I said CMOs were lucrative (although there are a few exceptions). Caroline addressed the rest of your assertions well, but let’s remind everyone why someone might have called your salary fat: http://gettingschooled.la/post/9606806645/when-it-comes-to-education-does-social-justice-mean#comment-299881371

    —–
    “MLA Partners’ 2009 990 form shows you pulling down $177,500. While certainly not rich by Philip Anschutz, Eli Broad, or Casey Wasserman standards, that’s still pretty substantial and speaks to a significant class difference between yourself and those you are trying to help (I’m of the mind that you are sincere, but misguided). To put that salary figure into perspective, it’s only 10K less than my mortgage, and it’s a staggering 6.7 times the median household income of the people that live in the attendance boundary of LA’s Promise’s West Adams Prep (http://j.mp/pUwYLz LA Times Mapping Project).”
    —–

    I just published another piece on LA’s Promise:

    http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/10/so-called-las-promise-isnt-all-that.html

    Mr. McGilliard, I don’t dislike you. I fact, I’d even sit and have coffee with you. I just can’t fathom some of the things you say. You’re a really smart guy, but you keep pretending that you don’t get it.

    Honestly, if LA’s Promise had a democratically elected board comprised of educators, community members, and parents, and really worked from the bottom up and was representative of the communities it served, I’d be singing your praises. Heck, I’d volunteer for you guys. I’m a big fan of wrap around services and schools as a community hub. Unfortunately, LA’s Promise board is nothing of the sort.

    Tell you what, I’ll invite you to an event PESJA-LA and several other community groups are holding in my neighborhood.

    • October 9, 2011 10:57 pm

      P.S. in all my years building LA’s Promise, my salary probably averaged about 100k or so. Add about 10% for health benefits. No retirement.

      It’s not as glamorous as you state. Not complaining. Just contextualizing ‘for the record.’ A Title 1 coordinator at a local HS on a Concept 6 makes more than me in total comp. And that’s public money funding that coordinator. At least I went out and raised my own dough.

  7. October 9, 2011 10:27 am

    I haven’t had time to read through your links. But from what you’ve written here, I would just say that you seem to confuse CMO’s and EMO’s with those that back those groups.

    E.g., Goldman Sachs has it’s reasons for giving 100k to LA’s Promise (an EMO). You may or may not view GS as a corporate monster, they may have a dozen reasons for giving us that 100k. Marketing their brand, profiting somehow, I don’t know. But for LAP, it’s a 100k donation that adds up to our 3.5 mill operating budget. Wouldn’t you take that 100k if there were no strings attached?

    Regarding EMO’s and CMO’s that are nonprofit, they have strict rules they operate under. Most have very tight budgets. Poor retirement packages. Few perks. Little job protection. High turnover (for these reasons). We are not as glamorous as the “Galas” we throw make us seem.

    Democratically elected boards are overrated. Look at LAUSD. Are you actually going to defend the sound decision making of that “democratically elected board”? School Site Councils too. They make horrid decisions every day as they misallocate millions in categorical monies.

    Look, I don’t know exactly where I stand on a lot of this stuff. We need elect to work agreements. We need to agree on what success looks like. We need to be honest in our data collection and presentation. We need to stop getting hung up on where the cash comes from (like I told Sandy Banks, when I was at Reed, I would never take money from a guy like Murdock. But I grew up and realized, wait… he’s got all the money! So if i want to redistribute wealth, i got to take it from him.

    I take back what I said about you being extremist. But you do sound like a fundamentalist. And fundamentalism isn’t very Freirian. I left more comments on your website here:

    http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/10/so-called-las-promise-isnt-all-that.html

  8. October 9, 2011 11:09 am

    In response to Mike McG:

    I don’t think all education reform nonprofits are corrupt, individually. I do think they have become part of and are fueling (if not necessarily intentionally) a movement that has become harmful and dishonest.

    Yes, the “people are just fine with the status quo” is the standard soundbite from the reformers when they can no longer make any other case. By now that has become such a cliche that it has lost its effectiveness — time for a new soundbite.

    “Finding solutions means radical disruption?” I have to think about whether I approve of that. The reformers’ notion of “finding solutions” and “radical disruption” is very like to do extreme harm, which is what so many of us are concerned about.

    I’m admittedly 500 miles away in San Francisco, but from what I’m seeing (including in the mainstream, vigorously PRO-reform L.A. Times), LA’s Promise has not “found solutions” — nor have other “radical disruptors” like Parent Revolution. It’s time to own up to that and so some “which side are you on?” soul-searching.

    • October 9, 2011 12:26 pm

      Calling the LA Times vigorously pro reform is funny. But at any rate, LA’s Promise has made some mistakes, made some progress, missed some solutions, found others. Let’s not be reductive.

      Here’s what we got right. Decrease counselor to student ratio, align all counseling to an A-G standard, increasing frequency of classroom observations, increase frequency of teacher feedback and evaluation, increase formative assessment, better use of technology, like adaptive learning systems. Increase the school day with more opportunities, both for remediation and other engagement. We integrated remediation into the school day, so kids who need it get it. We erased superfluous periods like “service.” We integrated health care into the school day, so kids get access. We brought in more outside “wraparound” support for families and created an access portal called “laspromisedirectory.org” and other things.

      A lot is about quality and consistent implementation. Not magic. But we haven’t solved all the problems and we never will.

      Choosing sides is easy, isn’t it? Kids. Whether or not they are best served with unionized employees, or with big corporate backers, or with charterized, or with standard models…. those are the questions, and like I said earlier. Let’s start talking about what works and stop pretending there are “sides” other than that of kids. Working with the “end in mind” shouldn’t be this hard.

  9. October 9, 2011 12:42 pm

    Oh, it’s not at all funny to call the LA Times vigorously pro-reform. Its teacher evaluation project goes so far beyond the bounds of professional journalistic standards and ethics that staff would be quitting in protest if they weren’t so desperate for their jobs in a dying industry.

    The Times’ editorial board has come down over and over and over again on the side of privatization/charterization/reform; one staff opinion columnist delights in viciously bashing public schools and promoting reformy fads as miracle solutions even when his claims fly in the face of reality; and there’s no on one staff promoting the other view. If it weren’t for the teacher evaluation project, I might call the straight news coverage professional and objective, but that project has destroyed the Times’ objectivity and professionalism, permanently, unless they renounce it, apologize for it and make up for it. I’m a veteran newspaper journalist and I know professional standards and ethics. No, it’s not funny, @Mike.

    I notice that almost every single improvement you cite is based on having the funding to do it. That’s not magic. When reforms get more money and can do more things than other schools because they can afford it, they don’t get to say “we’re better.”

    We are talking about “what works,” @Mike. Advocates like @Robert and I are pointing out that hype and lies and claims of miracles — all hallmarks of the reform movement — aren’t “what works.”

    • October 9, 2011 11:12 pm

      Caroline – the LA Times is Schizo. Lopez hammers teachers with VAM expose. Blume prematurely argues that the “corporate reformers” aren’t outperforming regular old district schools. Not use reporters’ claims as evidence for our arguments.

      Now – about money and how it takes more to do the stuff I listed, as you claim. Not true, actually. Just efficient spending. Schools are notoriously wasteful. The school in question actually pulls in about 1k less per child than its neighbor, even though it is a Provision 2 school of about the same size. Mainly because it hasn’t been in PI status as long (it’s a newer campus). LA’s Promise adds about 450 bucks per kid. So in total, the school still has less money.

      Here. If you don’t believe me, I’ll go through each in detail. You’ll see that what we did isn’t complicated, doesn’t cost more money, and is scalable. Spread the gospel, Caroline:

      1. Decrease counselor to student ratio: this is about prioritization. We got rid of some unnecessary coordinator positions, and instead doubled up on counseling. No additional money needed. 250:1 instead of 500:1.

      2. Align all counseling to an A-G standard: this is about standards, not staffing. Most counselors counsel to a “graduation” and not A-G standard. About credits and graduation, not an A-G course load.

      3. increasing frequency of classroom observations, increase frequency of teacher feedback and evaluation: this is about admin doing their jobs. Period. We did use technology to help streamline it. Cost was pennies relative to budget.

      4. increase formative assessment. This is about expectation. Teachers wanted to use their own assessments and some were good and some were not. We just created clearer standards around quality assessment, and frequency. We also bought a data system this year to facilitate more rapid feedback for the teacher to assess progress. But again, pennies relative to overall school budget. Easily fundable by ANY school.

      5. Better use of technology, like adaptive learning systems. APEX is what we used. Got some free licenses from LAUSD like dozens of other schools. Nothing fancy.

      6. Increase the school day with more opportunities, both for remediation and other engagement. We integrated remediation into the school day, so kids who need it get it. We erased superfluous periods like “service.” We integrated health care into the school day, so kids get access. We brought in more outside “wraparound” support for families and created an access portal called “laspromisedirectory.org” and other things.

      Number 6 is surprisingly cheap. Integrating remediation in your school day is all about the schedule. Doesn’t cost additional dollars. Just means erasing a handful of electives. Integrating health care into school day, and the other services… that’s free too. They already exist. They swarm around schools, these programs, hundreds of them. We just created standards and agreements. 200 free services that we help coordinate.

      Go online to that directory I told you about and get a taste of how the services are organized. If you like it and can use the same thing for your schools, let me know. I’ll help you set it up for little to no cost.

      Best to you.

      Mike

  10. October 9, 2011 11:18 pm

    No,wrong: “Blume prematurely argues that the “corporate reformers” aren’t outperforming regular old district schools.”

    Blume is not an opinion columnist. He’s reporting on the facts, consistent research results. And corporate reformers have had 10-15 years to outperform now — the current faddish response to the overwhelming evidence of their failure is to say it’s premature. Sorry — how long do these predators think they should get to experiment on our kids?

    I’m sure those are great programs, but I call BS on the claim that there was no more money to fund them and that it was all about efficiencies. That’s what the charter peeps always claim, and it always turns out they had some vast income stream from private funders. I know your school wasn’t a charter, but I simply don’t buy that. Fool me twice, shame on me.

    • October 9, 2011 11:35 pm

      Looks like I struck a nerve. Let’s be civil, now, and not resort to liar liar pants on fire.

      If you’re only response to my answer about “how we did it,” is BS, than I think that’s the shame. It’s not like there’s anything to hide here. LAP has audits each year. Our budget was 2.8 mill last year, between two schools more or less. And that equals 450 per kid. It’s not too challenging to find out how much West Adams gets per pupil. It gets less than most other Title 1 schools. That’s no secret. So we actually did more with less. Go figure.

      Your lack of creativity and your pessimism is really a downer. I think I’ll watch Dexter to cheer up.

  11. Jan Dietzgen permalink
    October 10, 2011 12:49 pm

    Martha, I heard you speak at Honda’s Educational Forum. You were as dynamic as yu are in print. I would like to connect by email to tell you about a Rally we are having in January connected somewhat with Moveon[s JObs, not Cuts–The Education component.
    Your descriptions o the conditions in the classroom need to get in the main street rhetoric”
    I am a fan of yours!!!

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