Michelle Rhee

Head of Florida School System Resigns Immediately Due to IN. Scandal

Head of Florida School System Resigns Immediately Due to IN. Scandal

by Bob Sloan

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s education commissioner will resign amid allegations that he changed the grade of a charter school run by a major Republican donor during his previous job as Indiana’s school chief, a state education official said Thursday.

Tony Bennett will resign in the wake of the scandal surrounding Christel House Academy, the official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet authorized for public release.

Bennett, when reached by the AP, would say only that “no decisions have been made at this point.” He has denied any wrongdoing.

(http://www.courierpress.com/news/2013/aug/01/tony-bennett-resign-over-indiana-school-grade-chan/)

Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change” organization suffered a substantial set-back today.  Bush hand picked Dr. Tony Bennett to head his Chiefs for Change organization that is working to privatize school systems in the U.S. – state by state.  Bennett is a long time crony of Jeb Bush, and helped Bush push both his Common Core and Charter School Agenda.  Together they founded Bush’s educational foundations, Chiefs for Change — There’s no evidence Bush knew anything about the cheating.

In 2011 – 2012, Bennett toured the country touting the school privatization agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and was a keynote speaker at ALEC’s States and Nation conference held in Phoenix in November 2011.  Hoosier voters were not taken in by his agenda to transform Indiana public schools into a privatized education network on behalf of ALEC corporate members who have realized huge profits off the work of Bennett and Bush’s Chiefs for Change, voting Bennett from office in 2012.

VLTP, CMD, Common Cause, PFAW and other progressive outlets have reported on ALEC’s education privatization pursuits since 2010; charters, vouchers, virtual (internet) classes and parent trigger.  We warned parents that all the hype about private and charter school success rates were just that, hype.  Those who stood to profit off of such privatization efforts would stop at nothing to advance an agenda that brought them profits…regardless of the impact upon students.

This scandal involving the “fixing of grades” in Indiana by Dr. Bennett follows on the heels of a similar scandal in D.C. involving another Jeb Bush acolyte, Michelle Rhee, the former Washington D.C. education chancellor.  Rhee has been accused of “adjusting” student test scores to give the appearance that her form of “educating” was successful.  At first, Rhee’s administration claimed it was only one elementary school involved but after independent analysis, investigators found the cheating was widespread:

“District of Columbia Public Schools officials have long maintained that a 2011 test-cheating scandal that generated two government probes was limited to one elementary school. But a newly uncovered confidential memo warns as far back as January 2009 that educator cheating on 2008 standardized tests could have been widespread, with 191 teachers in 70 schools “implicated in possible testing infractions.” The 2009 memo was written by an outside analyst, Fay “Sandy” Sanford, who had been invited by then-chancellor Michelle Rhee to examine students’ irregular math and reading score gains. It was sent to Rhee’s top deputy for accountability.

“Merrow provided a copy of the memo to USA TODAY on Thursday. Its findings stand in stark contrast to public statements made both by Rhee and her onetime deputy, Kaya Henderson, now D.C.’s chancellor. In a Jan. 8 statement coinciding with Merrow’s broadcast, Henderson noted, “All of the investigations have concluded in the same way that there is no widespread cheating at D.C. Public Schools.” She added, “We take test security incredibly seriously and will continue to do so even after our name has been cleared.” Sanford’s memo warns its intended recipients to “keep this erasure study really close (sic) hold. No more people in the know than necessary until we have more conclusive results.” The memo suggests, “Don’t make hard copies and leave them around. Much of what we think we know is based on what I consider to be incomplete information. So the picture is not perfectly clear yet, but the possible ramifications are serious.”

The Center for Media and Democracy reports:

“Despite widespread public opposition to the education privatization agenda, at least 139 bills or state budget provisions reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) education bills have been introduced in 43 states and the District of Columbia in just the first six months of 2013, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of ALECexposed.org. Thirty-one have become law.

“In 1990, Milwaukee was the first city in the nation to implement a school voucher program, under then-governor (and ALEC alum) Tommy Thompson. ALEC quickly embracedthe legislation, and that same year offered model bills based on the Wisconsin plan. For-profit schools in Wisconsin now receive up to $6,442 per voucher student, and by the end of the next school year taxpayers in the state will have transferred an estimated $1.8 billion to for-profit, religious, and online schools. The “pricetag” for students in other states is even higher.

“In the years since, programs to divert taxpayer money from public to private schools have spread across the country. In the 2012-2013 school year, it is estimated that nearly 246,000 students will participate in various iterations of so-called “choice” programs in 16 states and the District of Columbia — draining the public school system of critically-needed funds, and in some cases covering private school tuition for students whose parents are able and willing to pay.”

Maybe now parents and voters alike will begin to realize that ALEC, Bush, Rhee, Bennett and their network have little concern for educating our children, but a huge concern about how much money can be made off of “appearing” to provide students with a quality education.  A facade has been crafted and created to make it seem that private education is working while behind the false front, tax dollars are being diverted from true education and transformed into profits for corporate exploiters.

If these individuals and their organizations have to “cheat” to make it look like their programs are working so they can capitalize off such a scam, they should all be kicked to the curb then subjected to another form of “education” created by ALEC and their corporatist members…private prisons.

BOYCOTT PEARSON NOW!

Pearson, ALEC, and the Brave New (Corporate) World:
Stand Up to Pearson Now!

(Publisher’s Note: We have revised our Boycott Pearson boycottinformation for clarity and in order to add additional research – please use this version, posted April 29, 2012, when sharing.)

 

Supporters of Public Education,

The curtain has been pulled aside recently from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), exposing the seedy underbelly of our democracy. Organizations like ALEC circumvent the democratic process in favor of corporations. Financial resources are used to influence public officials and provide model legislation meant to easily pass through state houses of governance. Recent examples include infamous “Stand Your Ground” laws and others that seek to limit the voting rights of marginalized populations. Education reform legislation is also part of ALEC’s agenda, with substantial sponsorship from corporate funds to divert the flow of valuable taxpayer dollars away from public schools.

ALEC-inspired advocacy for public education reform typically follows a path to privatization; that is, viewing educational practices vis-à-vis economic and capitalist principles. Strict school choice models, vouchers, private charter management organizations, and the erosion of collective bargaining rights are all examples of the economic management of public education. As opposed to a valuable public good, certain entities prevalent in the education reform debate are forcing schools to motivate themselves by profit and competition. What it means to be an educated person (e.g., college and career ready), what is important to teach (e.g., common standards), and how success is measured (e.g., standardized tests) are currently under significant transformation without the thorough vetting via democratic processes. And with the frustration and confusion ensuing from rapid developments occurring behind closed doors, outside the public spotlight of democracy, there are large corporations conveniently present to sell us products that will solve all of our problems.

Pearson is one such entity that as of late always seems to be at the right place and precisely at the right time. In other words, just as new legislation is passed, as new educational mandates are set, Pearson is suddenly able to provide the legions of educators and school systems clamoring for some kind of answer with just the right product. How can this be? In recent years, this once relatively small publishing house turned itself into a massive provider of a range of educational products, from traditional print materials for the K-12 sector, higher education resources and technology solutions for public school systems. It is one thing to have various products to sell and to allow the marketplace to judge their success or failure. It is another matter to reorganize the rules so that Pearson products are all one needs to buy to satisfy a range of emerging Federal and State education mandates.

For better or for worse, education reform in the United States is largely controlled by legislation. It appears then that Pearson is successfully implementing a two-pronged approach: grease the democratic process in their favor so that certain rules must be followed and from the other side perfectly match their own products so they have exactly what can be bought to satisfy those requirements. Pearson, through connections to ALEC, has become the dominant provider of education resources and services in the K-12 and post-secondary markets. The following are some of the affiliations that made this perfect alignment possible:

  • Pearson acquired the Connections Academy, whose co-founder and executive VP is Mickey Revenaugh, is also the co-chair of the ALEC Education Task Force. In September of 2004, Connections Academy was sold to an investor group led by Apollo Management, L.P. In the fall of 2011, Pearson acquired Connections Education, establishing a leading position in the fast-growing virtual school segment and the opportunity to apply Connections Education’s skills and technologies in new segments and geographic markets.
  • According to Pearson’s website: “Pearson Education and the University of Phoenix (a subsidiary of Apollo Management Group), the largest private (for-profit) university in the United States announced a partnership which will accelerate the University’s move to convert its course materials to electronic delivery.” [emphasis added]. As such, Pearson will certainly provide the materials and the mode of transmission. It must also be stated here that many for-profit universities have been under investigation for student loan fraud and unethical recruitment practices. The CEO of AMG, Charles (Chaz) Edelstein, was Managing Director of Credit Suisse and Head of the Global Services group within the Investment Banking division, based in Chicago. He is also on the Board of Directors for Teach for America, which is a provider of temporary and inexperienced teachers and also frequently associated with corporate education reform. One prominent name in this regard is TFA alum Michelle Rhee, the failed former Chancellor of DC public schools.
  • America’s Choice was also recently acquired by Pearson. This organization is directly associated with the Lumina, Broad, and Walton Foundations, all active members of ALEC. They each promote so-called “innovations” that appeal to the corporate and for-profit mindset.
  • Bryan Cave, LLP is the lobbying firm for Pearson. Edward Koch is currently one of the partners at Bryan Cave. Edward Koch sits conveniently and comfortably on the board for StudentsFirst NY, a branch of the national initiative StudentsFirst, which is the brainchild of failed former Chancellor of DC public schools Michelle Rhee. It must also be stated that Rhee’s tenure is under a dark cloud of investigation for rampant test cheating and tampering in the district.
  • Pearson is contracted with Stanford University to deliver the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) to more than 25 participating states. According to Pearson’s website, “TPA is led by Stanford University, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and Pearson.” Furthermore, “Pearson’s electronic portfolio management system will support candidates, institutions of higher education, and state educational agencies by providing registration and account management services, submission of the portfolio for scoring and results reporting.” [emphasis added]. Pearson provides the administrative management skills and broad-based technology and delivery systems that will support the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) and bring it to a national scale. Stanford University’s Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) selected Pearson to provide these needed services for the TPA. Let it be known that the U.S. Dept. of Ed. is currently considering teacher preparation programs to be evaluated based on accountability measures similar to public schools.
  • Sir Michael Barber is the current Chief Education Advisor for Pearson. It is no secret that Mr. Barber is a powerful advocate for the free-market approach to education, including union busting, merit pay, and turning public schools into privately run charters.
  • Pearson contracts with Achieve to manage the PARCC assessments. Achieve is funded by Lumina, State Farm (both members of ALEC) and The Alliance for Excellence in Education (AEE). AEE chairman Bob Wise is a regular contributor to and participant with the ALEC educational agenda. Moreover, PARCC awarded Pearson a contract in January to develop a new Technology Readiness Tool, which will support state education agencies to evaluate and determine needed technology and infrastructure upgrades for the new online assessments. Pray tell, who will sell those upgrades?
  • The Tucker Capital Corporation acted as exclusive advisor to The American Council on Education (ACE) and Pearson on the creation of a groundbreaking new business that will drive the future direction, design, and delivery of the GED testing program.
  • The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) partners with a whole cast of other organizations that promote a corporate, anti-public education reform agenda. CCSSO Central “partners” include (among others) McGraw-Hill and Pearson. CCSSO Director Tom Luna works closely with Jeb Bush, whose associations with ALEC and corporate-reform are too numerous to mention.
  • GradNation is a special project of America’s Promise Alliance, sponsored by Alma and Gen. Colin Powell. Grad Nation sponsors include State Farm (ALEC), the Walton Foundation (ALEC), AT&T (on the corporate board of ALEC), The Boeing Company (ALEC), the Pearson Foundation and Philip Morris USA (ALEC). The GradNation Summit list of presenters reads like an ALEC yearbook.
  • Gen. Colin Powell sits on the Board of Directors for The Council for Foreign Relations, which issued an “Education Reform and National Security” report (co-chaired by Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice, directed by Julia Levy). The report states, among other things, that: “The Task Force believes that though revamping expectations for students should be a state-led effort, a broader coalition … including the defense community, businesses leaders, the U.S. Department of Education, and others … also has a meaningful role to play in monitoring and supporting implementation and creating incentives to motivate states to adopt high expectations. The Defense Policy Board, which advises the secretary of defense, and other leaders from the public and private sectors should evaluate the learning standards of education in America and periodically assess whether what and how students are learning is sufficiently rigorous to protect the country’s national security interests.” [emphasis added].
  • According to Susan Ohanian: “In the introduction to the Education Reform and National Security report, Julia Levy, Project Director, thanks ‘the several people who met with and briefed the Task Force group including the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Mary Cullinane formerly of Microsoft [Philadelphia School of the Future] [now Vice President of Corporate and Social Responsibility for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt], Sir Michael Barber of Pearson and David Coleman of Student Achievement Partners …’ They were briefed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson.”
  • Pearson has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create a series of digital instructional resources. In November 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave ALEC $376,635 to educate and engage its membership on more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement (the Gates Foundation recently withdrew its support for ALEC under the heat of public pressure). However, their billions of dollars still flow to other far-reaching organizations dedicated to dismantling public education.
  • The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards is a private-sector member of ALEC. Bob Wise (Chairman, of NBPTS) and Alliance for Excellent Education presented on “National Board’s Fund Initiative to Grow Great Schools” at the Education Task Force Meeting at the 2011 ALEC annual picnic. According to the NBPTS website, they “announced that it has awarded Pearson a five-year contract for the period 2009-2013 to develop, administer and score its National Board Certification program for accomplished teachers. Pearson will collaborate with NBPTS to manage its advanced teacher certification program in 25 certificate areas that span 16 subject areas.”
  • Pearson has also acquired partnerships with companies to deliver PARCC, SAT testing, GED testing, and was the central player (through Achieve) in the design of the National Common Core Standards. The GED Testing Service, while wholly owned by the American Council for Education, entered into a joint venture with Pearson to transform the GED for some 40 million adult Americans (one in five adults) lacking a high school diploma. This is an entirely new market.

Even with all of Pearson’s efforts, they are not the only game in town. McGraw-Hill is another publisher forging similar connections and making money hand over fist due to NCLB-mandated reading programs like Open Court and SRA Reading Mastery. Of course, after billions spent on Reading First and the McGraw-Hill materials, the federally funded evaluation of the program showed no increase in reading comprehension by third grade. McGraw-Hill is also one of the biggest test publishers in the U.S. and publishes the CTBS, the central competitor to Pearson’s illustrious SAT-10.

The legislation forced upon states to adopt the curriculum (i.e., the Common Core) and its required testing measures (i.e., PARCC) essentially eliminates the possibility of consumer choice (supposedly a key concept in free market ideology) and requires that taxpayer dollars for education be handed over to Pearson and McGraw-Hill as the sole providers of nearly all educational resources available to the schools. It is frightening that Pearson, profiting billions from public education, is simultaneously operated by and sponsors organizations that promote the destruction of public education. It is essentially forcing the public to pay for the demise of its own education system.

It is possible that Pearson and its allies will deny and attempt to refute the information bulleted above. Perhaps the magnitude of their efforts will project the magnitude of their guilt. Whatever the semantics here, if a connection is really an association, if ownership is actually sponsorship, or if partnership actually means membership, it is interesting and coincidental that the above cast of characters constantly find themselves associated with each other. Additionally, the common friend to all seems to be Pearson.

If Pearson is truly interested in profit, as all corporations typically are, then consumer pressure is the best way to be heard. We at United Opt Out National are calling on everyone to take a stand against Pearson by doing any or all of the following:

  • Refuse to buy their materials or adopt them in your courses or for personal use.
  • Bring these concerns to local PTAs, school boards and libraries.
  • If required to use Pearson products due to professional obligations, do so under public protest.
  • Promote the use of ACT rather than SAT, as SAT is a Pearson product.
  • Inform Pearson of your actions.
  • If you are in higher education, discuss your concerns with your local Pearson representative, informing them that for these purposes you are not going to adopt their materials in any of your courses.

Raise public awareness so the brakes can be put on this madness. Please click here to see Education News’ sample letter, which you are encouraged to share so that others may refuse Pearson products.

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This article is written by or from a variety of publications on EducationViews.org on March 11, 2013 and is published in Education News.
Education Newshttp://educationviews.org/boycott-pearson-now/#
Please visit their site to read the Pearson Boycott Letter
and to sign your name and intention to Boycott Pearson
in their Comment Section by clicking here

Parents Across America on “Won’t Back Down” movie

As hype for the “Won’t Back Down” movie heats up, PAA sent this message to entertainment media:

In case you are preparing to interview the stars of the controversial new film “Won’t Back Down,” or review the movie, Parents Across America would like you to be aware of the following facts:

1.       Walden Media which produced the film also co-produced the movie “Waiting for Superman”.  The people at Walden Media have admitted that they had a specific political agenda in making this film.  In an interview in the NYT, Walden’s CEO said they realized “there were inherent limitations of the documentary format,” of W4S, and they wanted to reach a larger audience through characters who struggle with issues that are “ripped from the headlines.”

2.       While the film doesn’t mention the “Parent trigger” law by name, the ads describe the film as being “inspired by actual events” and depict parents signing a petition to take over a struggling school.  Michelle Rhee and others have been showing the film in screenings around the country to promote the Parent Trigger legislation, which calls for similar measures.  In our FAQ on the movie, we provide some background about how the Parent Trigger legislation was first developed, how it has been disseminated by the right-wing group ALEC, and how it has never successfully worked to bring about true parent empowerment and why it is unlikely to do so in the future.

To read more about who to contact if you have questions about Parent Trigger laws, or if you would like to know more about Parent Trigger Laws and other practical information about our public schools, please click here

“Won’t Back Down” Film Pushes ALEC Parent Trigger Proposal

While Parent Trigger was first promoted by a small charter school operator in California, it was taken up and launched into hyperdrive by two controversial right-wing organizations: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute.

What is a Parent Trigger law? The proposals have varied from state to state, but they generally allow parents at any failing school, defined by standardized testing, to sign a petition to radically transform the school using any of four “triggers.” Parents can petition to: 1) fire the principal, 2) fire half of the teachers, 3) close the school and let parents find another option, or 4) convert the school into a charter school. While the details of how the school can be “restructured” vary from state to state, the charter school option is always present. Charter schools are privately managed, taxpayer-funded public schools which are granted greater autonomy from regulations applicable to other public schools, ostensibly in exchange for greater accountability for results, but they have been criticized for uneven and mediocre track records.

The trigger is from a gun aimed at the survival of our public school system and promotion of ALEC’s education program.  To read all of this excellent article from PRWatch, please click here

To see the trailer for this movie, please click here
the link to the trailer has been removed as YouTube apparently was fearful of a complaint from FOX (ALEC member via News Corp.).  No sooner did I remove the video – per YouTube’s instructions, than we got another message from YouTube telling us that there was no claim.

This appears to be part of a campaign of attempted intimidation.  Virus attacks from sources unknown were planted on the computers of two of our researchers preventing them from getting to this site.  A virus was planted on my computer also, again by sources unknown, but I removed it before knowing what it was going to do.

We will not be intimidated or silenced in our efforts to get information to our readers.

 

 

For-Profit Charter Chains Pour Money into Florida State Senate Races

This past spring, the state senate deadlocked on a 20-20 vote and did not pass a parent trigger law supported by right-wingers Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee.

Even some Republican senators turned against the proposal when not a single Florida parent group supported it.

Every Florida parent group opposed it. They warned that the parent trigger was a transparent attempt by the charter operators to trick parents into handing their public school over to the charter chains.

By funding opposition to the senators who oppose the parent trigger, the for-profit charter chains are demonstrating that the parent groups were right.

To read more of this article, please click here