Finnish Schools Not Relying on Ed Tech

by Diane Ravitch, 5/31/14

Caitlin Emma of Politico.com paid a visit to Finland and was surprised to discover that teachers are not depending on educational technology. By contrast, American schools are spending billions of dollars on tablets, laptops, and other devices.

She writes:

“Finnish students and teachers didn’t need laptops and iPads to get to the top of international education rankings, said Krista Kiuru, minister of education and science at the Finnish Parliament. And officials say they aren’t interested in using them to stay there.

“That’s in stark contrast to what reformers in the U.S. say. From President Barack Obama on down, they have called education technology critical to improving schools. By shifting around $2 billion in existing funds and soliciting $2 billion in contributions from private companies, the Obama administration is pressing to expand schools’ access to broadband and the devices that thrive on it.

“School districts nationwide have loaded up students with billions of dollars’ worth of tablets, laptops, iPods and more on the theory that, as Obama said last year, preparing American kids to compete with students around the globe will require interactive, individualized learning experiences driven by new technology.”

(Since the research on the benefits of technology is sparse, it is likely that the heavy U.S. investment in technology is driven by something other than research.)

The Finnish secret: recruiting excellent students into the teaching profession, which is respected and prestigious; according the teachers professional autonomy; working closely with the educators’ union to promote better education; no standardized testing until the end of high school; no charters; no vouchers.

Read more at Diane Ravitch

Bombshell Report: $100 Million in Taxpayer $$ Wasted or Stolen by Deregulated Charter Industry

Diane Ravitch, May 5, 2014

A new report reveals massive waste, fraud, and corruption in the charter industry, where private corporations control public funds with minimal oversight or accountability.

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 5, 2014

CONTACT:

Kyle Serrette: KSerrette@populardemocracy.org, 202-304-8027
Sabrina Stevens: media@integrityineducation.org, 720-295-0238

A new report released today reveals that fraudulent charter operators in 15 states are responsible for losing, misusing or wasting over $100 million in taxpayer money.

“Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud And Abuse,” authored by the Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education, echoes a warning from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General. The report draws upon news reports, criminal complaints and more to detail how, in just 15 of the 42 states that have charter schools, charter operators have used school funds illegally to buy personal luxuries for themselves, support their other businesses, and more.

The report also includes recommendations for policymakers on how they can address the problem of rampant fraud, waste and abuse in the charter school industry. Both organizations recommend pausing charter expansion until these problems are addressed.

“We expected to find a fair amount of fraud when we began this project, but we did not expect to find over $100 million in taxpayer dollars lost. That’s just in 15 states. And that figure fails to capture the real harm to children. Clearly, we should hit the pause button on charter expansion until there is a better oversight system in place to protect our children and our communities,” said Kyle Serrette, the Director of Education Justice at the Center for Popular Democracy.”

“Our school system exists to serve students and enrich communities,” added Sabrina Stevens, Executive Director of Integrity in Education. “School funding is too scarce as it is; we can hardly afford to waste the resources we do have on people who would prioritize exotic vacations over school supplies or food for children. We also can’t continue to rely on the media or isolated whistleblowers to identify these problems. We need to have rules in place that can systematically weed out incompetent or unscrupulous charter operators before they pose a risk to students and taxpayers.”

“The report can be found at http://www.populardemocracy.org and http://www.integrityineducation.org.

SAT, ACT Sued for Selling Student Data

By dianeravitch, March 24, 2014

A lawsuit was filed against the SAT and ACT for selling confidential data of students to colleges. Some states mandate that all students must take one of these tests, whether they are college bound or not. Students assume that their names and scores will be shared with colleges to which they apply, but it turns out that far more is disclosed about students, and it is sold, not just shared.

It appears that ACT and SAT are in the data-mining business for their own gain. A lawsuit filed this week contends that the College Board, which runs the SAT, and ACT, Inc., sell identifying information about the hundreds of thousands of teenagers who take the exams each year without the students’ consent. The test companies are “masking the sale” of personal details about the students “under the guise of ‘sharing’” the teens’ information with other agencies, the suit says. It says the companies don’t disclose to students that their personal information will be sold for profit. The companies collect data from test-takers, then sell the teenagers’ names and personal details to colleges. The universities use the information to market themselves to potential students. Across the country, more than 1.6 million students in this year’s high school graduating class — including 101,368 in Pennsylvania and 83,489 in New Jersey — took the SAT. Nearly 1.8 million graduating high school students — including 26,171 in Pennsylvania and 24,202 in New Jersey — took the ACT. The lawsuit says the companies collect details about those students — such as their names, home addresses, birth dates, phone numbers and social security numbers — and sell it at a price of 33 cents per student, per buyer, but “at no time disclosed” to test-takers that their information would be sold “to third parties for monetary gain.”

On its website, the College Board tells students it provides information to educational organizations “looking for students like you” but says the students’ scores, Social Security numbers and phone numbers aren’t given to other parties.

Last month, the College Board increased its fees for student information to 37 cents per name; the ACT now charges 38 cents per name.

See dianeravitch for links

Charter School Magnate Wants to End Local School Boards: Democracy is the Problem

Diane Ravitch, 3/14/14

Reed Hastings, the founder and CEO of Netflix, is a major player in the corporate reform movement.

He is on the board of various charter schools and charter chains, including Rocketship and KIPP.

The organization fighting the proliferation of Rocketship charters forwarded his address to the California Charter School Association:

Watch the 2 minute synopsis video.

Get the story and the full keynote.

The long-term goal is to replace most locally elected school boards with charters, all operated by independent boards, all competing for higher test scores.

And the longer term goal is to replace our present system of democratically-controlled schools by a system of privately-managed charters.

Underlying this plan is the assumption that the main problem in American education is democracy, since school boards are elected.

Other corporate reformers prefer mayoral control or governor control, whereby a single chief executive can override objections to open charters at will.

ALEC has pushed the idea of a state charter panel, appointed by the governor (and sometimes the legislature), whose decisions override local control.

The problem with school boards is that the local populace can replace them by vote.

In other words, as Chubb and Moe argued 25 years ago in their book advocating for vouchers, Politics, Markets, and Schools, markets are better than democracy.

No high-performing nation in the world has handed its schools over to private management; instead, they have a strong and equitable public school system, with a respected teaching profession and a well-prepared staff.

Breaking News: Randi Says AFT Will No Longer Accept Funding from Gates Foundation for Innovation Fund

[n.b. Phillips, of the Gates Foundation, was Secretary of the PA Department of Education from 2003-2004]

by Diane Ravitch, 3/10/14

This exclusive news appeared this morning on politico.com’s education site. When Randi spoke at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin, she told the audience for the Common Core panel that she would ask the AFT executive board for permission to do exactly what is described here. She understands that many members of the AFT do not trust the Gates Foundation, do not like Bill Gates’ public statements such as encouraging larger class sizes, or his unwavering commitment to measuring teacher quality by student test scores, despite the lack of evidence for its efficacy. I welcome this change and thank Randi and the AFT for severing ties with the Gates Foundation. Gates and Pearson have bought most of American education. Those who represent teachers should be free of their influence.

Exclusive: AFT shuns Gates funding …
By Caitlin Emma, Politico Morning Education, 3/10/14

With help from Stephanie Simon

EXCLUSIVE: AFT SHUNS GATES FUNDING: The American Federation of Teachers ended a five-year relationship with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation after rank-and-file union members expressed deep distrust of the foundation’s approach to education reform. AFT President Randi Weingarten told Morning Education the union will no longer accept Gates money for its Innovation Fund, which was founded in 2009 and has received up to $1 million a year in Gates grants ever since. The Innovation Fund has sponsored AFT efforts to help teachers implement the Common Core standards – a Gates priority – among other initiatives.

– Weingarten said she didn’t believe Gates funding influenced the Innovation Fund’s direction, but still had to sever the relationship. “I got convinced by the level of distrust I was seeing – not simply on Twitter, but in listening to members and local leaders – that it was important to find a way to replace Gates funding,” she said. Weingarten plans to ask members to vote this summer on a dues hike of 5 cents per month, which she said would raise $500,000 a year for the Innovation Fund.

– The Innovation Fund isn’t the only AFT initiative funded by the Gates Foundation. Since 2010, the union has received more than $10 million. The AFT’s executive council hasn’t formally voted to reject Gates funding for other projects, but Weingarten said she would be very cautious about taking such grants. “I don’t want to say ‘never never ever ever,'” she said, but “this is a matter of making common bond with our members and really listening to the level of distrust they have in the philanthropies and the people on high who are not listening to them.”

– Vicki Phillips, who runs the Gates Foundation’s education division, said her team is “disappointed by Randi’s decision.” She called the AFT “an important thought partner” for the foundation. “We continue to applaud the work of the Innovation Fund grantees to engage teachers in improving teaching and learning in their local communities,” Phillips said.

Teacher: Who Is Making Real Money? Vendors

by Diane Ravitch, 3/2/14

A teacher describes the incessant arrival and departure of vendors, each with a different program and remedies:

“From what I noticed as a teacher, the extra money given to the low performing schools was used to pay VENDORS. Our school district paid some company to come in and “help” the teachers. The guy walked around a lot, then hired people from all over the US. My “helper” came to MI all the way from Vermont. She probably made more than me and her plane fare and hotel was paid.

We got a new Algebra program called Carnegie. I went to training for 2 weeks and then once a month. After two years, all the trained teachers were gone. I was the only one left. Then that was abandoned and we got the TI-inspire calculators. I was trained on that and loved it. After all the training, they sent me to an elementary school. I noticed the teacher had the calculators but not the laptop and router that is part of it.

“Now they had me teaching reading and we had 2-3 reading programs going on at once and vendors running all over the schools having meetings. We bought thousands of books and then the school was taken over by the EAA. (Check that state school takeover out).

“My point is that the vendors are making promises and they get money and the kids are the guinea pigs.”

Why Does PBS Ignore the Assault on Public Education? Can You Guess?

Diane Ravitch’s blog: A site to discuss better education for all, February 16, 2014

In the aftermath of David Sirota’s exposé of PBS accepting $3.5 million for a series about pension reform, funded by the Arnold Foundation (and since returned), another question naturally arises: why has PBS shown little or no interest in the corporate takeover of and turmoil in public education?

I appeared on Charlie Rose last year for about 15-20 minutes. But otherwise the viewers of PBS have not had any in-depth investigation of the corporate-funded assault on one of our nation’s most crucial democratic institutions. Why isn’t PUBLIC television interested in PUBLIC education?

Here is one lead, sent to me by blogger Jonathan Pelto, who received it from Oakland parent activist Sharon Higgins. This was a letter she wrote in 2009:

It begins like this:

“Last summer you initiated a series of conversations, underwritten by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, about the “crisis” in our public schools.

“In the past nine months, it appears you have had three of these full-hour conversations: Wendy Kopp (with Bob Wise on 7/1/08), Michelle Rhee (7/14/08), and Arne Duncan (3/11/09). Have I missed anyone?

“As a longtime viewer, I am extremely disturbed that you are now limiting your education interviews to pro-charter school forces only. This clearly reveals a problem with your journalistic standards.

“I am even more disturbed, but sadly not surprised, to find that the funding for these interviews is being provided by a pro-charter school organization, The Broad Foundation. Either you have not researched how this organization is influencing the public’s view of charter schools, or you are intentionally delivering their propaganda to the American public.”

Since Higgins wrote, Charlie Rose has interviewed Bill Gates, Joel Klein, and other leaders of the corporate takeover.

Clearly, balance is needed.