Friday, November 27, 2015

Human Relations, Charter School Style

My Inbox for October 27, 2015, contained the usual collection of SPAM, ads, and offers to transfer millions of dollars to the U.S. from a prince in Nigeria. But one letter was most unexpected and not in the least routine. A teacher at Challenge Charter School in Glendale, Arizona, wrote, not to ask for help, but to let me know what is going on at one of the area's celebrated educational institutions.

I had written previously about this charter school:

A man named Greg Miller is president of the Arizona State Board of Education. There is also a man named Greg Miller who is CEO of Challenge Charter School in Glendale, AZ, a suburb of Phoenix. Matching up photos of the Board president and the charter CEO leaves no doubt that these two individuals are one in the same Greg Miller. Mr. Miller, a civil engineer for 25 years, founded Challenge Charter School in the late 1990s and for a while served as principal. His current title is CEO. ... [D]aughter Wendy Miller was appointed Principal of Challenge Charter School the same year in which she earned her MBA.

Greg Miller, the CEO of a school "system" with about 650 students, is being compensated to the tune of $145,000 annually. His wife receives the same salary, though her duties are never enumerated at the website and her position is only described as "Executive Director/Vice-PR" .... Wendy, who has degrees in Public Administration and Business, receives a salary of more than $120,000 for acting as Principal/Secretary. Basically, the Miller family, while working assiduously 60 hours a week each as reported on their IRS form, is taking about $425,000 a year out of the coffers for salary.

End of my blog post from February 2, 2015

A roughly half-million $ annual salary to three family members might be a great investment for educating 650 students in the world's greatest school. But my correspondent's letter of October 27th and other information lead me to believe that perhaps the Millers are not operating one of the world’s greatest educational institutions.

Herewith, my correspondent’s experiences:

‪Hello Dr. Glass,‬

‪I read with interest your article about Greg Miller and Challenge Charter School. I would add more to it if I may. I was employed as a sixth-grade teacher at CCS from July to September 25, 2015. I was originally hired in March because they were going to move a long-time employee to the position of vice principal. The woman's husband was then offered a job out of state and she was moving with him. ‬

‪I began my work with CCS in July and they loved me. The week of September 21, 2015, my job appeared to unravel. The Millers kept a constant eye on me with the video cameras they have in every classroom that are meant for student and teacher protection , not evaluation. On one occasion that week, I was having my students stretch at the end of our class session and Greg Miller came into my classroom yelling at me and the children. He told me to "get back to your job." After school that day, he called me into his office to tell me a parent had called to complain; her child had reported that I "looked scared" when Mr. Miller was yelling at me. He denies that he was yelling at me; he stated he was yelling at the children.‬

‪The Millers called into question my certificate, which I had and gave them a new copy. Systematically the Millers began digging into my personal life. On Friday, September 25th , the morning I received feedback on my first evaluation and after a change to their policy handbook (which I did not get to see) I was called in front of the Millers, all three of them. The assistant to Wendy Miller told me that I had three choices. I could be terminated, resign, or take a three-month leave of absence to keep my medical insurance. They accused me of being drunk on the job and refusing to take a drug test. I have been sober for more than 20 years. They continued saying I was mentally unstable and did not disclose a major medical illness on my application. I was told not to fight them as they had hours of video-tape on me and my inability to teach. They went further saying they had "called around about me" and said I was on heavy-duty medication. I was shocked. I took the leave of absence and was told to leave campus. ‬

‪I am writing to tell you this because people are afraid of Greg Miller. He is a bully, and he and his family have created a hostile work environment, firing teachers at will. The irony is the teacher who has taken my place was the one whom I replaced. She just happened to be on campus September 25th. It was announced in a staff meeting that I was gone "dealing with my problems" and that this teacher was gracious enough to return for the rest of the year.‬

‪My career in teaching is over — 16 years of doing what I truly loved. They have ruined my name. I want people to know what the Millers are, and how horribly they can treat people to get what they want. ‬ ‪

‪[Name withheld]

I wrote back immediately to this teacher to ask if she was willing to have this episode made public. She said that she was and that it was important to bring to light how this charter school was operating. I suggested that she remain anonymous when I reproduce her letter in this blog. She replied that she had no wish to remain anonymous.
‪I do not wish any level of anonymity. I am to report back to the school on January 4, 2016, to be reassigned or terminated. Needless to say, I am sending my resignation January 3, 2016. ‬ ‪You may use my experience as much as you would like. There is another teacher they have done this to as well, but she walked out. They have served her with a demand letter from their attorneys, stating she needs to pay them the rest of her salary. ‬ ‪

I forgot to add that the Millers make all students wear uniforms from one company. Teachers are to check students’ tags to make sure they are from that company. It is my understanding that they receive a kickback from the company.‬

‪I am sure this is just the beginning of the battle that I am going to engage with them.‬ ‪Thank you for helping me get the word out so other teachers are not taken in and spit out by the Millers.‬

‬ ‪[Name withheld]

I continue to think that this teacher could be retaliated against, and that her anonymity in this venue is wise. However, if someone has good reason to contact her, I will forward that request to her email address. You may contact me at

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
University of Colorado Boulder
National Education Policy Center
San José State University

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, University of Colorado Boulder, nor San José State University.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

For-Profit Education as Corrupt as the Worst Corporations?

Charlie Munger is the partner of Warren Buffett and the co-creator of the sensational holding company Berkshire Hathaway, which has made multi-millionaires of thousands of patient investors. I have written here about Buffett and Munger and their very productive view of investing and life.

Munger was recently quoted on the occasion of the centre temps of the drug company Valeant. Valeant's stock dropped more than 50% in price between August and November 2015 as its shady dealings in attempts to deceive auditors became known. Among its other alleged misdeeds has been the practice of buying up small pharmaceutical companies to acquire the patents to their drugs, then hugely increasing the price of the drugs. Munger called this practice "deeply immoral" and said that it was "similar to the worst abuses in for-profit education."

It is simply shocking to see a sector of the country's education system being used as a simile for the corrupt practices of private corporations. Shocking, but apt.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
National Education Policy Center
University of Colorado Boulder

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, nor the University of Colorado Boulder.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Becoming a Teacher in the Age of Reformation

Susan M. Tran is a young, second generation Vietnamese-American woman who completed a Bachelors degree in Spanish at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2010. She will soon complete a masters program and be certified as an elementary school teacher at the University of Northern Colorado. Susan is mature and intelligent; she recognized early in her career that becoming a teacher in the Age of Reformation is forcing idealistic young teachers to resolve contradictions — contradictions between 1) messages from reformers who believe that teaching is a low level trade that has no right to organize on its own behalf and for which six weeks of indoctrination are adequate training, and 2) messages from university-based teacher trainers who believe that good teaching is rooted in children's unique interests and capabilities and treats them as individuals, not as replicates of a governmentally defined template.

Here, Susan speaks for herself:

Throughout my education to be a teacher, one of the biggest questions that has arisen for me is “How do I meet the expectations and standards of the state and district, while also meeting the true needs of my students?” One of my biggest fears coming into the teaching profession is that we have started to confuse the acquisition of knowledge with the process of learning. In an effort to meet numeric goals and score high on standardized tests, we have become obsessed with how to get our students to perform in a way that satisfies a checklist, or a numerical score, or a national standard. I'm fearful that we have forgotten about instilling passion, excitement, and curiosity in our students. It is becoming less important to us to create better people, who care about each other and the world around them and think of ways to deal with the problems that they see in front of them. We discuss world problems only in so far as they fit into our standardized curriculum, but we don’t address the difficult yet inevitable issues that our students will eventually find themselves confronted with in the very near future.

I do understand the need for progression in a student’s knowledge. I see why it's important that our students are exposed to and encouraged to master a large variety of topics. However, I do not understand why we have begun to think that the best way to do this is to have them fill in a bubble sheet, or sit in front of a computer for an hour and take the exact same test. We’ve become immersed in this notion that there is a "standard," which then implies that there is a norm. There's a 'normal' level that a student must attain at a certain time, and that the best way to get them there is to maintain the same timeline across the board.

In spite of the fact that our methods classes certainly cover the topics of differentiation, and "meeting the needs of each student," we see classrooms all around us that teach to the same set-in-stone standards, which translates into more information and less context, relevance, and appeal to students' interests. This may all sound like a long rant criticizing the methods of current teaching, and that is absolutely not the point that I am trying to make. I think that teaching and teachers should be one of the most highly valued professions. I think that many schools do their very best to create well-rounded students who will enter the world as functional citizens who can contribute to society. I am simply trying to express the fact that we are in danger of getting lost along the way. We have focused too much on the numerical scores that we are producing rather than the wonderful, creative, and inspired individuals who we are helping to shape.

I know that I am entering this profession at a time of great change. There are shifts occurring within the standards, the expectations, and the focus of what we are teaching. I constantly wonder how I am going to be the teacher I imagine myself to be during this time of reform. I wonder how I am possibly going to adhere to these state and national standards with each class that I have, since I know that every single student, and thus every classroom, is unique. The state declares that a class must be at a specific point in the curriculum at a specific time, but what if we need more time? What if we need less? How can I possibly fit in all of the projects and support and guidance that my students will need to fully understand why what they’re learning is important and applicable to the real world? How will I foster minds that love learning, instead of ones that dread testing and begin to believe that they are "too stupid" to learn because they're not categorized in the "correct" numerical column? These are all things I've seen already, and it would be a lie to say that I'm not overwhelmed and terrified.

At the end of the day, what I put my hope and belief in is my students. As adults, we tend to follow the rules and the expectations that society has laid out for us. But from what I’ve seen, kids are resilient, and strong, and independent; and they don’t see the obstacles that we've so forcefully erected around them. I hope that although I may have to teach an ordained curriculum to a dictated set of standards,that I can somehow foster growth and creativity in my students that will help them grow into a new generation of learners. I believe it's possible that many of the teachers being trained in this day and age have similar feelings; and maybe if we can genuinely put our hearts and souls into this craft, our students, with their vibrant tenacity, will carry with them a passion for learning long after they’ve left our classroom. I hope that we won’t forever be caught up in a world that "normalizes" and standardizes, but instead in one that celebrates differences and fosters better people, rather than better scores.

~Susan M. Tran

Confronted with these contradictory pressures and expectations, some teachers grow cynical, some conform, and some exit the profession. And a few find safe places to give children what they know is right.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
National Education Policy Center
University of Colorado Boulder

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, nor the University of Colorado Boulder.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Outrageous "Class" Sizes at a Virtual Charter School

An experienced teacher who took a job with an online (virtual) charter school corporation wants to blow the whistle on unbelievable conditions under which these teachers labor.
I have an MS in Education and two areas of special education. I have endorsements in eight specialty areas. I have obtained certification in 11 states in order to teach for Connections [a Pearson Learning company]. I have been a public educator, pre-school through college, for more than 25 years.

During the month of September, I have had between 1300-1500+ students in my courses. I have had a total of about 1900 students move through my courses this past month. Recently a "small number" of students were moved to a new hire teacher. She has approximately 1300 students, and I now have 1100 students in approximately 80 sections. These sections are throughout the nation with students in various levels of Elementary through 12th grade. I also have had approximately 360 SPED students in my courses at any one time. I have about 250 at this time.

By the way, I am not receiving more compensation for this huge case load of students. I do not have a contract. I am paid $20,000 a year less than I was paid when I left my brick and mortar school. Connections Learning teachers do not receive retirement benefits. There is no union for virtual teachers.

As a teacher with integrity, I am appalled and don't know where to turn. I have had dialogues with Connections administrators and with Connections HR, sharing my concerns, to no avail. My student numbers have increased by 100 students just this week. 500 students were moved last week to the new teacher.

Stories such as these can be multiplied hundreds of times as the virtual charter school juggernaut rolls on.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
National Education Policy Center
University of Colorado Boulder

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, nor the University of Colorado Boulder.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

BASIS Charter Schools make fraudulent use of Special Education designation

Arizonans for Charter School Accountability is an amazing organization that is exposing malfeasance and fraud in one of the worst charter school states in the nation. We have opined here in the past that Arizona has no concept of a conflict of interest and allows the starkest, most absurd entanglements of financial interests one can imagine.

Now, Arizonans for Charter School Accountability has exposed a crass and cynical manipulation of the charter school financing system. Cynical and crass because it exploits money designated for special needs students to increase its already considerable profits. You can read the details at ACSC's website or jump to the story immediately that has been reproduced below:

Special Education Fraud II: BASIS Inc.

BASIS Inc. does everything possible to game Arizona’s financial system. They received Federal start up funds, designed for new charter holders, to build their 12th school. They charter each school individually and claim they are “small” schools to receive additional funding, even though they have over 8000 total students. Now we find that in 2013-14 they claimed to have 19 severely handicapped students in eight schools. Hearing Impaired, Visually Impaired, Multiple Disabilities, Autism, Intellectual Disability - all students that require a great deal of support to achieve in school. These students generate four to six times the revenue per pupil of a regular education child to pay for the extensive services they require. These 19 students netted an additional $350,000 in state assistance for BASIS Inc. (Data is on the ADE Finance site: Charter Equalization Report (CHAR55-1) 2014)

The problem? According to their 2014 Annual Financial Report, BASIS expended ZERO dollars on special education in all of its 12 schools, except for $244,800 for “general administration” that went straight to BASIS Inc. Worse yet, every BASIS school claims to have spent an identical amount, exactly $20,400, for special education general administration, whether they had education students or not.

It is hard to image 19 severely handicapped students being able to navigate one of the most rigorous curriculums in the country without assistance. There are three possibilities:

  • First is the possibility that BASIS is collecting $350,000 for special education students that don’t exist. That is fraud on both a state and federal level. Or maybe BASIS legitimately has 19 handicapped students and is not providing them appropriate services. That would prompt a huge investigation from Federal officials with I.D.E.A., the ADE Special Education Unit, and maybe the Office of Civil Rights.
  • This is exactly what happened at the new BASIS school in Washington D.C. Special education students were simply placed in remedial programs that all struggling students attended. BASIS was forced by OCR to make major changes in dealing with special education students.
  • Or finally, maybe BASIS has identified these students correctly and is providing stellar programs to meet their individual needs - hey just are not reporting spending money for any special education personnel, materials, or outside services. The identical $20,400 each BASIS school supposedly spends on special education administration indicates that the figures are made up. What else is fabricated?
At the least, special education students need to be reevaluated every three years. But BASIS shows no expenditures for special education purchase services, the code they would use to pay for a psychologist perform the testing. Why would they show no special education expenditures?

Arrogance. The same arrogance that cons parents out of millions of dollars every year for workbooks, art supplies, extra curricular activities, and even funds to compensate their underpaid teachers and to build new schools. The same arrogance that makes it OK to take startup funds or pretend their school are “small” to get more funding. The total lack of oversight in Arizona breeds arrogance. BASIS is building a national chain at the expense of taxpayers and parents, and high needs special education students.

We filed formal complaints with state and federal officials today. The complaints can be viewed at out website:

Public education. Always.

Visit the Arizonans for Charter School Accountability website and support their work if you can. At present, all this effort is coming out of the hide of one man. Share on Facebook; Tweet out this article.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Gallup Poll Shows Parents Rejecting Standardized Testing

The latest Gallup poll — sponsored in part by Phi Delta Kappa — shows that parents of students feel that there is too much emphasis on standardized testing and that almost half would choose to "opt out" of the testing for their child.
Parents are joined by public school teachers who expressed overwhelming dissatisfaction with standardized testing of the Common Core in an earlier Gallup poll.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
National Education Policy Center
University of Colorado Boulder

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, nor the University of Colorado Boulder.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Why I Am No Longer a Measurement Specialist

I was introduced to psychometrics in 1959. I thought it was really neat.

By 1960, I was programming a computer on a psychometrics research project funded by the Office of Naval Research. In 1962, I entered graduate school to study educational measurement under the top scholars in the field.

My mentors – both those I spoke with daily and those whose works I read – had served in WWII. Many did research on human factors — measuring aptitudes and talents and matching them to jobs. Assessments showed who were the best candidates to be pilots or navigators or marksmen. We were told that psychometrics had won the war; and of course, we believed it.

The next wars that psychometrics promised it could win were the wars on poverty and ignorance. The man who led the Army Air Corps effort in psychometrics started a private research center. (It exists today, and is a beneficiary of the millions of dollars spent on Common Core testing.) My dissertation won the 1966 prize in Psychometrics awarded by that man’s organization. And I was hired to fill the slot recently vacated by the world’s leading psychometrician at the University of Illinois. Psychometrics was flying high, and so was I.

Psychologists of the 1960s & 1970s were saying that just measuring talent wasn’t enough. Talents had to be matched with the demands of tasks to optimize performance. Measure a learning style, say, and match it to the way a child is taught. If Jimmy is a visual learner, then teach Jimmy in a visual way. Psychometrics promised to help build a better world. But twenty years later, the promises were still unfulfilled. Both talent and tasks were too complex to yield to this simple plan. Instead, psychometricians grew enthralled with mathematical niceties. Testing in schools became a ritual without any real purpose other than picking a few children for special attention.

Around 1980, I served for a time on the committee that made most of the important decisions about the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The project was under increasing pressure to “grade” the NAEP results: Pass/Fail; A/B/C/D/F; Advanced/Proficient/Basic. Our committee held firm: such grading was purely arbitrary, and worse, would only be used politically. The contract was eventually taken from our organization and given to another that promised it could give the nation a grade, free of politics. It couldn’t.

Measurement has changed along with the nation. In the last three decades, the public has largely withdrawn its commitment to public education. The reasons are multiple: those who pay for public schools have less money, and those served by the public schools look less and less like those paying taxes.

The degrading of public education has involved impugning its effectiveness, cutting its budget, and busting its unions. Educational measurement has been the perfect tool for accomplishing all three: cheap and scientific looking.

International tests have purported to prove that America’s schools are inefficient or run by lazy incompetents. Paper-and-pencil tests seemingly show that kids in private schools – funded by parents – are smarter than kids in public schools. We’ll get to the top, so the story goes, if we test a teacher’s students in September and June and fire that teacher if the gains aren’t great enough.

There has been resistance, of course. Teachers and many parents understand that children’s development is far too complex to capture with an hour or two taking a standardized test. So resistance has been met with legislated mandates. The test company lobbyists convince politicians that grading teachers and schools is as easy as grading cuts of meat. A huge publishing company from the UK has spent $8 million in the past decade lobbying Congress. Politicians believe that testing must be the cornerstone of any education policy.

The results of this cronyism between corporations and politicians have been chaotic. Parents see the stress placed on their children and report them sick on test day. Educators, under pressure they see as illegitimate, break the rules imposed on them by governments. Many teachers put their best judgment and best lessons aside and drill children on how to score high on multiple-choice tests. And too many of the best teachers exit the profession.

When measurement became the instrument of accountability, testing companies prospered and schools suffered. I have watched this happen for several years now. I have slowly withdrawn my intellectual commitment to the field of measurement. Recently I asked my dean to switch my affiliation from the measurement program to the policy program. I am no longer comfortable being associated with the discipline of educational measurement.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
National Education Policy Center
University of Colorado Boulder

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, nor the University of Colorado Boulder.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Setting of the Moon: Tom Luna's Short Time on Stage

Tom Luna served briefly as state superintendent of instruction for the state of Idaho. Luna was the darling of the online education corporations. In fact, K12 Inc. actually brought him to D.C. during his campaign for state superintendent and threw a fund raiser for him. It worked; he got elected; and K12 Inc. profited royally from his tenure.

There's more to the story of Tom Luna — who has largely disappeared from the political scene — and few are as well positioned to tell the story tas an Idaho teacher. Enter Jon Ziegler, a twenty-five year veteran of Idaho public education. I have invited Jon to present his thoughts on what the brief life of Tom Luna as state superintendent added up to. Forthwith, Jon's thoughts:

There are two positions concerning Tom Luna, former state superintendent of education for Idaho:
  1. His own, which he published on January 2, 2015
  2. And the position taken by most professional educators:
Having been a very polarizing politician, it is hard to find middle ground where Tom Luna is concerned.

Since his Wikipedia page appears to be run by a supporter, I will list the accomplishments of his Students Come First "initiative" as they are enumerated at Wikipedia.

Idaho school reforms
As a member of the Nampa School Board from 1994 to 2002, Luna supported school vouchers and tax credits for private schools as a means to increase competition in education.
Running for the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Idaho position in 2006, Luna focused on promoting charter schools. Columnist William McGurn stated that he found Luna's business experience and lack of education degree, "refreshing".

Students Come First
The centerpiece of education reforms spearheaded by Luna following his 2006 election as Superintendent is a package of legislation known as Students Come First. Among the reforms in the Students Come First package, passed by the Idaho Legislature in 2011, are:

  • New limits to the collective bargaining rights of Idaho teachers
  • Raised the annual minimum pay for new teachers by $345
  • Established a performance-based merit pay system for teachers
  • Increase classroom sizes in grades 4 through 12
  • Phased out tenure, instead implementing one- and two-year rolling contracts for every new teacher and administrator, depending on experience
  • Required online course credit for high school graduation
  • Provided laptop computers for all high school teachers and high school students and classroom Wi-Fi.
Luna's proposed reforms have been challenged though ballot initiatives. Among the opponents is the Idaho Education Association, a state teachers union. Petitions challenging the Students Come First legislation collected enough signatures to place the matter on the state's November 6, 2012, general election ballot. There were three separate ballot propositions because the reforms were passed with three legislative bills. Voters rejected all three propositions on November 6, striking down the reforms.
Luna's "laws" were nothing more than a reworking of Michelle Rhee's disaster in Washington, D.C. As stated in the above blog, "Students Come First" was not very original. A less biased assessment of Luna’s "reforms" than that found at Wikipedia looks like this.

Working as they do in a Right to Work state before Luna was elected to office, Idaho teachers were already in a precarious situation in regard to collective bargaining. The legislature's passage of Luna’s initiative gave school districts the opportunity for free-for-alls in how they negotiated with teachers. Teachers’ salaries were cutback because of the economy, the administration claimed, but more likely the cutback was due to the wish to purchase laptops and Wi-Fi. One school board member was pushing for a 13% decrease in pay, and wanted to stipulate that it was permanent. It was not until an IEA attorney showed up for negotiations that things calmed down a bit. Our district saw a 6.5% "non-permanent" reduction in pay. That was passed in the Spring of 2010. Teachers are still trying to recoup these losses. Raising the annual minimum wage for new teachers by under $30 a month was a sham. Under Luna, new teacher salaries dropped from $36,000 (statewide) to $29,000 (statewide). So with a smile, Luna told the new teachers that they were getting a "raise."

Merit pay, which I do not necessarily have issues with, was another reason wages were cut for teachers. Luna needed to fund merit pay. Of course within districts, merit pay tends toward crony-ism. To help support his position for merit pay, Luna had Frank Vandersloot (owner or a large radio network and chief financier of American Heritage Charter School) write op-eds concerning how bonuses and merit pay have brought excellence to his company. Currently Vandersloot is suing "Mother Jones" for their the magazine's having called Vandersloot a "gay-basher." Also, the Albertson [grocery chain] Foundation lobbied hard for merit pay.

Luna's position on class size was that the number of students in a classroom did not matter. Imagine, the end of August, 40 students in your classroom, and no oppressive heat (being in Eastern Idaho most schools do not possess air conditioning.) And that has nothing to do with the educational ramifications with having 40+ students in a class.

Under Luna, teachers who had tenure kept it and were to be grandfathered in. New teachers would be on rolling contracts. Although the laws were dumped by Republican voters, this portion of Luna's "laws" has been the most lasting (outside of pay cuts). School administrators used this to move teachers around districts without challenges.

Online courses were a bit duplicitous. Idaho already had the Idaho Distance Learning Academy. Being a large, and somewhat under-populated state, Idaho had implemented distance learning programs for students in rural areas. Instead, Mr. Luna insisted that students take online courses from companies the districts had to pay out of pocket for. In some way, he was duplicating services. Commercial breaks throughout the state were not complete without K12 Inc. ads. If I am not mistaken Tom Luna's sister, has been investigated concerning her participation with various broadband providers. She has continued to be employed by the Idaho State legislature. As of today, according to the Rexburg Standard Journal, she has been appointed to a position with...Homeland Security. And now the FCC is investigating both Teresa and Tom in connection with the letting of a contract for broadband services to schools when Tom was State Superintendent.

Laptops for every student is a still a financial burden for the state. Wireless carriers have been suing the State Department of Education for the money involved with the contracts Tom Luna signed. Until recently, the newspapers did not even mention this was Tom Luna's doing. The headlines just stated that Sherri Ybarra, his successor, was strapped with these contracts to deliver wireless to school districts (which most districts already had), for computers, for which they were no longer required to purchase.

I could continue, but as stated before, the on-line literature concerning Tom Luna is endless. Before the members of his own party voted down the "Luna Laws," Tom Luna was being spoken of in the press as being Idaho's future governor. Although his tenure as Idaho's school's chief has caused chaos within the state's education system (regardless of what he writes), his laws being voted down saved the state from Luna being governor. It destroyed him politically, for now. The state legislators, who jumped on his ship of error, do not mention him. It is as if he never existed. Locally, his former hardcore supporters dropped him for his endorsing the Common Core State Standards.

Thank you for the opportunity to express myself.

Jon Ziegler is a California ex-patriot living in Eastern Idaho. He has taught since. I have taught emotionally disturbed students, regular classroom classes, primarily special education along with math, literature, PE, and history. Currently he teaches at an alternative high school. He graduated with a degree in history, and a minor in philosophy, from Brigham Young University . He received a graduate degree in Instructional Leadership and a second degree in Special Education from National University - Sacramento.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
National Education Policy Center
University of Colorado Boulder

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, nor the University of Colorado Boulder.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Little Piece of the Opt Out Movement

The Opt Out Movement is an unorganized, spontaneous attempt by students and parents – and we can assume, with the support of some teachers – to stem the rising tide of standardized testing by external agencies. The movement is opposed by politicians, testing companies, and the federal government. A recent event brings to the forefront the dynamics underlying the Opt Out Movement.

Jim Vacca teaches an Advanced Placement class in Language Arts at Boulder (CO) High School. Boulder High was a site for the try-out of the PARCC test – the Pearson company’s entry into the Common Core testing business. The administration of Boulder High was prepared for a bit of opting out after the cross town Fairview High School students staged a huge walk out in protest of the state assessment test earlier in the year. Boulder High students were told that if they opted out of the PARCC that they were to attend study hall when the test was administered.

But Jim Vacca’s students were more interested in learning than twiddling thumbs in study hall or serving as guinea pigs for the Pearson company. They asked Vacca to hold their regular AP Language Arts class, and he did.

The Boulder High administration did not take kindly to Vacca’s act of insubordination, and they informed Vacca that he would no longer be allowed to teach AP classes. His students have started a petition to have him reinstated as the AP Language Arts teacher.

We can draw several observations from this incident:

  1. The Opt Out Movement is a special middle class movement. Boulder High and Fairview High are not typical middle class schools. They are located in a city that is overwhelmingly Democrat in voting preference. (By city ordinance, pet owners must be referred to as “guardians” in official communications.) The Opt Out Movement has yet to penetrate where testing does most harm.
  2. As Diane Ravitch once observed, the hope for the success of the Opt Out Movement resides with the students and retired teachers. Teachers currently employed are easy targets for retaliation.
  3. School administrators at several levels are afraid of retaliation by state agencies and the federal government if they refuse to go along with external testing schemes. In a recent exchange on an internet discussion list, and employee of one of the big contractors in the assessment business was quick to point out that those opting out were risking the cut-off of federal funds.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
National Education Policy Center
University of Colorado Boulder

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, nor the University of Colorado Boulder.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Crony Capitalism Beats the Free Market Again

There's bad news for all those neoliberal and conservatives who think that free markets and competition are the royal road to the shining city on the hill. The free market constantly takes a back seat to "crony capitalism": "an economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, or other forms of state interventionism."

First, about 5 or 6 years ago the founders of the Basis charter school chain thought they would enter the private school market in Scottsdale, Arizona, and reap those huge private school tuition profits. And why not? Private schools like Phoenix Country Day and Tesseract were charging $20,000+ a year tuition and turning kids away. But the Basis Scottsdale ad campaign produced a mere 7 takers by the time school was to open in the fall, and the founders quickly converted Basis Scottsdale from private to charter. "Free" tuition for all comers — "free," that is, to everybody but the taxpayers. Crony capitalism at work.

And today, crony capitalism has struck again. Tesseract private school, with a couple locations in the Phoenix Metro area, has announced that they are shutting down a large part of their operation. High school will be dumped and other parts of the operation will be consolidated. The reasons are dwindling finances and declining enrollments. Perhaps Tesseract leaders have too much integrity to convert to a charter school, or they don't wish to besmirch their brand name.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
National Education Policy Center
University of Colorado Boulder

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, nor the University of Colorado Boulder.