Monthly Archives: August 2015

Pgcps student Amber Stanley killer still at large three years later

image17-year-old pgcps student Amber Stanley was fatally shot on August 22, 2012 by an unknown person.

It’s been three years since a masked gunman kicked down the front door of a home on Chartsey Street in Kettering and fatally shot 17-year-old Amber Stanley while she was in bed.

To this day, county homicide detectives are still looking for her killer.

Stanley’s death on Aug. 22, 2012 shocked the entire community. Not only was she a teenager who was murdered in her own home, but that school year, her fatal shooting became the first in a series of six unrelated deaths of Prince George’s County students. The killings sparked fear and concern throughout the community.

When the gunman kicked in the front door of Stanley’s house, Amber’s older sister and a foster child were also in the house. According to a source close to the investigation, “The gunman said nothing and went directly up the steps to the bedroom. It looked like he knew where to go. He then came down the steps after shooting Amber and fled the scene.”

For the next several days, police and cadets searched the neighborhood for any type of evidence, but nothing was found.

Just a few days after Stanley’s death, Police Chief Mark Magaw of the Prince George’s County Police Department promised, at a press conference at police headquarters, Stanley’s death will be solved and someone would be arrested.

A year passed and no one was arrested.

Then, last year Capt. Jimmy Simms, head of the department’s homicide unit, said “We believe that we are in the best position that we’ve been in the last two years of this investigation. We’re hopeful that as this investigation plays out, we will see a successful conclusion.”

However, three years later no arrests have been made. And now homicide detectives are refusing to answer any questions. They have said in a statement that “it is an ongoing investigation and will continue to follow leads.”

That explanation is not good enough for Amber’s sister, who declined to have her name released in fear of any retaliation.

“It seems like the police are not doing anything about my sister’s death,” Amber’s sister said. “We call them and they have nothing to tell us. We need to move on, but it’s hard.”

Irma Gaither, Amber’s mother, has had to deal with the lack of closure and her frustration continues to grow with each passing day.

“I am frustrated with the police” Gaither said. “We asked them to attend what would have been my daughter’s graduation and pass out flyers, but they refused. They never keep me informed of what is happening. I just wish someone will tell me something. I lost my daughter.”

Charles H. Flowers Principal Gorman Brown recalled his time with Stanley.

“Amber was an honor student here at Charles H. Flowers High School and aspired to attend Harvard University to become a doctor,” Brown said. “Losing Amber is losing one of our future leaders.”

It is said that time heals all wounds. Unfortunately for Gaither, her wound is constantly being reopened.

“At least two or three times a week someone always asks me if I have heard anything. Do I know anything,” Gaither said. “I would like for someone or whoever knows anything to just come forward and help us get the case solved.”

Anyone with information about Stanley’s murder is asked to call the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Homicide Unit at 301-772-4925. Callers wishing to remain anonymous may call Crimes Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477), text “PGPD plus your message” to CRIMES (274637) on your cell phone or go to http://www.pgcrimesolvers.com to submit a tip online.

via Prince George’s county sentinel

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Governor Kasich’s education agenda, unmasked

Governor John Kasich let the cat out of the bag, unintentionally, of course. Or, as Marilou put it, he let his mask slip.John-Kasich2Ohio Governor John Kasich

BY MARILOU JOHANEK
BLADE COLUMNIST

It was probably an accident. Ohio Gov. John Kasich let his public education mask slip. He ranted when he should have relaxed.

What Mr. Kasich blurted out to a roomful of incoming legislators, assembled in Columbus for an orientation session last November, was enormously revealing. It was prophetic about a secret effort, already begun, to erode local control of Youngstown Schools and any Ohio district like it.

Representative-elect Michele Lepore-Hagan, a newly elected Youngstown Democrat, wanted to talk to the governor about the troubled school district she represented. “And he threw a tablet into the air and said those Youngstown City Schools are in such a mess I want to shut them down and put one great big charter school in there.”

Later a committee, quietly spearheaded by the Kasich administration, would sign off on a plan to change the Youngstown district and others like it in the state. The plan, crafted behind closed doors by the Youngstown City Schools Business Cabinet, could put traditional public schools out of business .

The cabinet included business executives, representatives of the governor’s staff, Ohio Department of Education officials including state Superintendent Richard Ross, higher education leaders, a retired municipal judge, and Youngstown Schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn.

Mr. Hathorn resigned effective June 30. That was enough for the so-called Youngstown plan to become an amendment to another piece of state legislation introduced, approved by committees, and voted out of both the House and Senate in a single day.

Mr. Kasich quickly signed the measure into law. His agenda was clear in November. He told Ms. Lepore-Hagan that a committee had been assembled to discuss the Youngstown problem but she couldn’t participate “because you’ll make it too political. You’ll muddy it all up.”

Instead, Mr. Kasich suggested she talk with state Rep. Sean O’Brien (D., Bazetta), the only lawmaker he would work with on Youngstown Schools. Ms. Lepore-Hagan informed the governor that Mr. O’Brien represents Warren Schools and that she was the elected official in the Youngstown district.

“The people who voted for me send their children to this school and I represent them, these kids,” she said. “It’s my neighborhood, my district.”

The incoming freshman, married to former longtime state Rep. Bob Hagan, said an angry Mr. Kasich abruptly ended the meeting. The lawmaker persisted. “Governor, my parents were both teachers in the Youngstown City Schools, and this is very important to me.”

He replied, “talk to Sean,” and left, she recounted. Ms. Lepore-Hagan asked Mr. O’Brien about the Youngstown group, but says he indicated he didn’t know anything about it.

Mr. O’Brien attended a May 21, 2015, session of the business cabinet, according to minutes of the meeting reported in the Youngstown Vindicator.

Those minutes also noted that state Superintendent Ross began the conversation by “reminding everyone that confidentiality amongst the cabinet is essential until the plan begins to take place.”

At the same meeting, the panel discussed how to address the “potential concerns of the public” and how to “avoid bad PR.”

Ms. Lepore-Hagan said she and other House colleagues had two hours to look at the amendment to the bipartisan education bill before it sailed through the General Assembly. “Every Democrat that was a co-sponsor lined up in the chamber and took their names off of the bill,” she said.

The Youngstown representative believes she was deliberately shut out of discussions about the school system in her district. “It was intentional to keep people from asking questions — the community, parents, teachers, elected officials,” she said.

The plan dooms the district to failure with impossible challenges and deadlines, Ms. Lepore-Hagan added. “It’s about dismantling what we know of public schools in Youngstown.”

“It’s forcing these kids into failed for-profit charter schools that are doing worse than the public schools.” But, the resigned rookie concluded, “this has been his [Gov. Kasich’s] plan all along.

“They [administration strategists] were just waiting to find a bill that was similar to drop education language into. While it specifically targeted Youngstown City Schools, it will spread across the state. Lorain is next.”

What happened in Youngstown was an abuse of power in the same way that Senate Bill 5 was a blatant power grab for collective bargaining rights. Mr. Kasich is unmasked.

Now what?

Contact Blade columnist Marilou Johanek at: mjohanek@theblade.com

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/MarilouJohanek/2015/08/22/Governor-Kasich-s-education-agenda-unmasked.html#KM6keOf6wvgAjAMv.99

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Executive Salaries at K12, Inc.

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While teachers across the nation have salaries lower than those of other professions and often need to take a second job to make ends meet, the executives at Michael Milken’s cyber charter chain K12, Inc. are faring very well indeed.

Their schools have high student turnover and low graduation rates, but it is a very profitable business.

The chairman of the board and CEO made $4.2 million last year.

The former CEO made $4 million.

The executive vice-president and chief financial officer made $824,000.

The president and chief operating officer made $5.5 million.

The executive Vice President, secretary, and chief counsel made $1.1 million.

The executive Vice President and manager of school services made $854,000.

Numbers are rounded.

Remember: It is all about the kids.

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PGCPS Teen Arrested, Charged as Adult in Fatal Shooting of Another Teen

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The 17-year-old boy Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) accused of shooting and killing another PGCPS teen has been arrested.

Chet Markland Jarret Jr. of Lothian, Maryland, has been charged as an adult in the murder of 17-year-old Jajuan McRae.

Investigators believe Jarret and McRae got into a fight in the 4300 block of Rockport Lane in Glenn Dale on Aug 21, 2015. When officers arrived to the area just before 10 p.m., they found McRae suffering from gunshot wounds. He died a short time later at an area hospital.

Police say Jarrett was arrested Wednesday. He has been charged with first- and second-degree murder.

As reported previously in this blog, fights among PGCPS youth are out of control and something needs to be done to change the tide. On or around August 15th, 2015, another PGCPS student Joseph Titus Ayobami Abariko was shot dead at Largo in similar circumstances.

It’s time for CEO Kevin Maxwell and the Board of Education for Prince George’s County to walk the walk and show leadership on these issues. One life lost to senseless violence is one too many-especially if it could have been prevented.

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Big for-profit schools, big donations:

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It’s no secret that Harrisburg is a hive of lobbyists, each representing industries and interests that spend millions to persuade state lawmakers to bend laws in their favor.

But perhaps what makes the charter-school lobby unique among the pack, says State Rep. Bernie O’Neill, a Republican from Bucks County, is its ability to deploy children to its cause.

In 2014, O’Neill experienced that first hand after proposing changes to a funding formula that would affect charter schools. Parents and children stormed his office and barraged him with calls and emails.

“They were calling me the anti-Christ of everything,” O’Neill said. “Everybody was coming after me.”

In recent years, as charter schools have proliferated – particularly those run by for-profit management companies – so too has their influence on legislators. In few other places has that been more true than Pennsylvania, which is one of only 11 states that has no limits on campaign contributions from PACs or individuals.

According to a PennLive analysis of donations on Follow The Money, a campaign donation database, charter school advocates have donated more than $10 million to Pennsylvania politicians over the past nine years.

To be sure, charter-school advocacy groups aren’t the only ones spending big to influence education policy in the Keystone State. The Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents 170,000 teachers and related professionals, has spent about $8.3 million over the same time period according to Follow The Money.

But what perhaps makes the influx of money from charter-school groups unique in Pennsylvania is the magnitude of spending by only a handful of donors and, in recent years, some of their high-profile successes in moving and blocking legislation.

“They are mobilized,” O’Neill said. “Let me tell you something: they are mobilized.”

Big schools, big donations

In Pennsylvania, a charter school has to be set up as a non-profit. However, a charter-school company can get around that by setting up a foundation to file the application and then contracting with the foundation to run the school.

While not all charter schools in Pennsylvania are run by for-profit management organizations, many are.

Jessie Ramey, a historian of social policy based in Pittsburgh, said there’s little doubt that charter schools have become big business in Pennsylvania as they have in many states.

For both investors and charter-school managers, as the industry has become more valuable so too has protecting their interests.

“These are big players who have a lot of money,” she said. “And they are playing big Harrisburg politics.”

Among one of the lobby’s biggest donors is Vahan Gureghian, the CEO of CSMI, which manages the Chester Community Charter School in Delaware County. According to Follow The Money, Gureghian pumped $336,000 into the campaign coffers of former Gov. Tom Corbett – making him his second largest individual donor over his gubernatorial career.

Gureghian has also donated close to a million to other Pennsylvania politicians and PACs.

Meanwhile, the American Federation for Children, a national organization that supports the growth of charter schools and “school voucher” legislation, has pumped in $3.7 million to Pennsylavania lawmakers. A trio of investors in Montgomery County – Joel Greenberg, Jeffrey Yass, and Arthur Dantchik – have donated about $4 million under a PAC dedicated to similar aims.

Collectively those donations have been spread across scores of Pennsylvania politicians. Generally, that money has flowed to a greater number of Republican candidates but Democrats also have been big recipients.

The biggest recipient of all, by far, is State Sen. Anthony Williams, a Philadelphia Democrat with ties to the charter-school sector. Williams has collected $6 million in donations, the bulk of which came during his 2010 bid for governor. Williams finished third in the Democratic primary, with only 18 percent of the vote, but remains a leading member on the Senate’s education committee.

Bills and appointments

Lawrence Feinberg, founder and co-chair of Keystone State Education Coalition, an advocacy group for traditional public education, said it was easy to see a pattern between donations to lawmakers from the lobby and subsequent votes or actions by lawmakers.

After he was elected governor in 2010, Corbett appointed Vahan Gureghian to two posts on his gubernatorial transition team – a group that plays a critical role in shaping the agenda of an incoming administration. Gureghian was appointed to Corbett’s education committee and as co-chair of his transportation committee.

In his first year of office, Corbett made the passage of a school “voucher system” for Pennsylvania a key priority. Under a voucher system, a parent is issued a certificate, a so-called voucher, which parents of a student can direct toward the school of their choosing – be it inside or outside their district. The legislation is considered part of the “school choice” movement, which shares similar goals and ideological ground as charter school advocates.

Corbett was ultimately unsuccessful in passing that voucher bill, but in 2012 he and other school reformers were able to pass something similar: An expansion of a tax program, called the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, that increased money for scholarships for students to attend schools outside their district.

“So the EITC was probably the major thing, the major thing they’ve impacted,” Feinberg said, referring to school reform advocacy groups.

But Feinberg said signs of the lobby’s influence were often subtler.

For instance, he said, language in 2012 was added to a bill that would have shielded charter school operators from disclosing financial information under the state’s public disclosure laws. Philadelphia Magazine reported that the amendment was pushed by Gureghian. The bill ultimately never got off the ground.

One of the more notable examples of the lobby’s potential influence, Feinberg said, occurred around 2012. The Department of Education was investigating four charter schools and 10 school districts for testing irregularities in 2009, 2010, and 2011, including Gureghian’s schools in Chester County. The state found a statistically improbable number of answers had been erased and changed to correct answers.

The state ultimately let Gureghian’s company investigate itself in 2012 and, after its internal investigation proved inconclusive, the state dropped its own investigation. That wasn’t the case for other schools.

“That’s how powerful they are,” Feinberg said. “That’s an example of how powerful.”

A spokesman for CSMI did not respond to PennLive requests to interview Gureghian.

The power of inaction

Critics of the lobbying influence of charter school groups say one of the biggest goals of the lobby, more often than not, is inaction on bills that might affect them rather than action.

O’Neill, the Bucks County Republican, said he was besieged by the lobby after he co-chaired a commission that investigated flaws with how special-education students were funded. As a former special-education teacher, the issue was close to his heart.

O’Neill’s commission found that, statewide, charter schools were enrolling students with minor special-education needs, such as a hearing impairment, but not students with more expensive needs, such as an intellectual disability. That was leading to huge funding inequities in the system between charter schools and traditional public schools.

A 2014 analysis by the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, a media outlet that covers education, found that Pennsylvania charter schools received $350 million for special education students but spent just $156 million to meet their needs.

O’Neill’s commission recommended a new funding formula that scaled funding for special education students based on the need of the student – but charter schools vehemently objected to it.

“They’re saying, ‘If we lose this money our doors are going to close.’ ” O’Neill said. “Well then, there’s something wrong with your business model if you’re relying on keeping your doors open on the backs of special-education students.”

Before the commission was formed, O’Neill said the lobby had already tried to unseat him because of his advocacy for special education funding reform. In 2012, charter school groups poured $83,000 into the coffers of Brian Munroe, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged him.

Over 2013 and 2014, as O’Neill’s commission’s investigation progressed and its recommendations were released, O’Neill said the lobby intensified its campaign against him.

“What they do is they bring the kids out of school and mobilize them in Harrisburg,” O’Neill said. “The parents and the students believe what they’re told, whether it’s the truth or not, and they bring them by the busloads to Harrisburg and have them do rallies, you know, and have them go visit their legislator, ‘You’re trying to close my school if you do this.’

One parent told O’Neill that her child, who attended a charter school at the time, was encouraged to make posters against O’Neill.

Ultimately, the special-education funding bill was passed in 2014. But O’Neill was still frustrated by a change to it, pushed by the charter school lobby, that meant the formula would be phased in slowly for charter schools.

“So in my opinion,” O’Neill said, “they’re still ripping off the public.”

Charter schools say unions are big donors too

Bob Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, argued that while charter operators have donated to campaigns, the teacher’s union also has donated millions in recent years.

“I think it’s unfair to look at just the donations on behalf of charter schools as opposed to all the donations that go to political candidates and legislators from all elements of the public school spectrum,” he said.

Fayfich added that while his group, which represents 120 of the state’s 176 charter schools, does hire lobbyists it doesn’t make campaign donations itself. Although he is aware that charter operators and advocacy PACs do donate to lawmakers

Fayfich said, on that note, that it was worth remembering that charter school advocates are not a homogenous group.

For instance, Fayfich said, his group didn’t represent Gureghian’s company and sometimes opposed items that he lobbied for – such as his push to shield charter schools from disclosing financial information to the public.

“We think that transparency is an absolutely fundamental responsibility you have as an organization receiving public tax dollars,” he said. “So we were at odds with him on that piece of legislation.”

Ultimately, some observers say, be it concern about the spending of charter school groups or teachers unions, their influence won’t be diminished until Pennsylvania tackles the root of the problem.

The fact of the matter, said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, is that the state has some of the loosest campaign finance laws in the nation.

“We are just so far behind the rest of the nation in protecting the integrity of our elections and protecting our government from the influence of political money,” Kauffman said. “No wonder people are cynical.”

Via Pennlive

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Another PGCPS teen sought for allegedly killing another 17-year-old in Maryland

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Chet Markland Jarrett Jr a pgcps student (seen above Courtesy of Prince George’s County Police) is accused of first- and second-degree murder

As his senior year at Duval High School approached,­ 17-year-old Jajuan Mcrae had a list of plans: SATs, applying to Delaware State University and obtaining a permit to learn how to drive.

Those aspirations ended abruptly Friday night when an argument and a fight with another teen led to gunfire that killed Mcrae in Glenn Dale, Prince George’s County police said.

Authorities issued an arrest warrant Monday for a 17-year-old in connection with Mcrae’s death.

Police said they are searching for Chet Markland Jarrett Jr., who lives in the 100 block of B Street in Lothian and is accused of first- and second-degree murder. Investigators said they think he shot Mcrae, of Brookstone Terrace in Glenn Dale, after the two youths brawled Friday night in the 4300 block of Rockport Lane.

Officers found Mcrae suffering from gunshot wounds after they were sent to the scene about 9:55 p.m to check on the welfare of a person, officials said. Authorities took Mcrae to a hospital, where he died.

 Police said the teenagers had been engaged in an ongoing dispute, which culminated in a fight and the fatal shooting.

Mcrae’s family is left with questions about how a young man relatives described as easygoing managed to become embroiled in a deadly confrontation.

Mcrae had been raised by his grandparents in their home in Glenn Dale until a year ago when they retired to South Carolina, family members said. An aunt, Shombee Veney, moved into the house so Mcrae could finish high school at Duval and prepare for his next stages of life.

“You know when someone says they have the perfect child? He was well-mannered, always happy,” Veney said in a telephone interview, adding that he had a bright future ahead of him. “He was the most mild-mannered, easygoing indivdual.”

He had just spent the summer visiting his grandparents, and as the school year neared, the teenager told his family that he wanted to study business in college.

Like most teenagers, Mcrae kept a short list of things he loved in life: his Playstation 4, playing basketball with friends, Old El Paso tacos and his family, Veney said. He was the eldest of four and had a 14-year-old sister, a 5-year-old brother and an infant sister.

The only angst he gave his family was being a Philadelphia Eagles fan in a house full of Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys fans, family members said.
 Authorities said they will charge Jarrett as an adult. Police have not told Mcrae’s family or said publicly why the two teens fought.

Mcrae’s family hopes police will arrest his killer or that he will turn himself in and provide some answers as to why Mcrae was shot.

“He was a good kid with plans for the future,” Veney said. “He was an innocent boy. He just could have gone so far in life.”

via Washington Post

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PG school board member Lyn Mundey tries to rescind the resignation.

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PG school board member Lyn Mundey  who resigned in June 2015 tries to rescind the resignation.

Prince George’s County school board member Lyn Mundey who was indicted August 11, 2015 and five county parents who were each charged with fraud and theft for allegedly lying about their income to get free lunch for their children has written a letter trying to rescind the resignation. In quick turn of events, the Board of Education for Prince George’s County refused to consider the request.

The supremacy battle between former board member Lyn Mundey and Prince George’s County school board, as You can see is playing out in the county and turning ugly prompting each leader to hold a separate meeting and tear each other apart like Hyenas eating a Wildebeest alive!

The advise to the Board to reject Lyn Mundey to rejoin the Board came from Ms. Abbey Hairston (Board counsel) who is facing fraud charges herself in Federal court for engaging in conspiracy to defraud, fraud inter alia. (See Federal case 8:14-cv-02334-PJM). Reporters in Washington DC metro area are asked to conduct investigative reports to highlight the public interest issues to the county and to help fix the county schools without fear or favor.

ABC 7 News reporter Brad Bell was live in Prince George’s County with the latest news on this developing story.

>>> Read more 

abbeyMs. Abbey Hairston (Board counsel) is accused of engaging in fraud, conspiracy to defraud inter alia and she is accused of swindling the county millions of dollars for personal gain together with co-conspirators. She must step aside ASAP! Union members, Staff and Parents of Prince George’s County are asked to exercise their rights in rejecting her candidacy to the Board of Education for Prince George’s County as a lawyer. She appears to be the spear of corruption. 

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When it Comes to the Teacher Shortage, The New York Times Got it Wrong

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by Carol Burris

New Mexico’s Rio Rancho School District lies just north of Albuquerque. When school opened, the district was still in desperate need of teachers. Students in 33 classrooms were met by a permanent substitute who in some cases had a bachelor’s degree, but no teaching certification of any kind.

Shortly before schools opened in Arizona, at least 1000 teaching positions had yet to be filled. Some positions did not have even one applicant—choosing among the best candidates was not an option.

Nevada does not have enough teachers. If every graduate from Nevada’s teacher preparation programs were hired on the spot, the state still expected to be short. Clarke County alone anticipated having fewer than the whopping 2,600 teachers it needed to open school.

In Oklahoma, the shortage has reached emergency proportions as teachers flee like refugees across state lines to get jobs in better paying states. School officials have traveled to Puerto Ricoand Spain to fill slots, especially in bi-lingual education.

The state of California has not been spared. Students in the Bay Area of San Francisco may find their teacher is a central office staffer, as schools scramble to put an adult in the classroom. Although the California shortage is most acute in the northern part of the state, some lawmakers are concerned that it is spreading from north to south.

These are a few of the recent stories that have appeared in local newspapers across the country. There are many more. Too many of our nation’s children do not have the qualified permanent teacher they deserve. There is no indication that the problem will be solved anytime soon, and every indication that it will get worse.

A recent story in The New York Times by Motoko Rich brought national attention to the problem. Rich described the extraordinary efforts districts are taking to put someone in the front of the classroom—ready and credentialed or not. She attributes the shortage to an improving economy—teachers were laid off during the recession and now when new positions are opening, there are job opportunities that are just more attractive to college graduates. There is some truth to the argument she makes.

But the economic upturn is only a part of the story.

Earlier this year, NPR also reported on the national teacher shortage. Correspondent Eric Westervelt’s identification of the cause went beyond the usual suspect—the economy. Noting the dramatic drop in enrollment in teacher education programs (a 74% drop in less than 10 years in California), he astutely attributed at least part of the problem to the way corporate reforms have impacted the profession.

Westervelt reported that the Common Core and its battles; high-stakes testing, the erosion of tenure, and the evaluation of teachers by test scores, have all contributed to the crisis.

This comes as no surprise to those inside the profession.

David Gamberg is the superintendent of the Greenport and Southold districts on Long Island’s east end. He has long worried that the politically hostile environment for teachers is contributing to the shortage we are seeing today. “I suspect that a range of issues conspire to exacerbate the problem. Certainly the ongoing, nationwide attack on teachers and unions is near or at the very top of the list of factors driving people away.”

What Gamberg suspects has evidence. There are frequent stories about public school teachers who are leaving the profession or taking early retirement because of the toll of working in a ‘test and punish’ environment. A November NEA survey reported that nearly 50% of all teachers are considering leaving due to standardized testing. Of equal concern is how frequently educators are cautioning young adults about entering the profession.

Renowned author and teacher of literacy, Nancie Attwell, recently won the first annual $1 million Global Teacher Prize awarded by the Varkey Foundation. When she was asked by CNN whether she would advise others to become a public school teacher, her response was she would not. She said she would tell them to find a job in the private sector, or in an independent school instead. She spoke about how constricting both the Common Core and testing have made the profession. “If you’re a creative, smart young person, I don’t think this is the time to go into teaching unless an independent school would suit you.” she said.

EdWeek reported on the story, which was followed by a poll. By nearly a 5 to 1 margin, respondents said that they would not recommend teaching as a profession. Considering that EdWeek readers are by and large educational professionals, that response, combined with the NEA data, is a clear indicator of the stress felt within the profession from outside reforms.

If we are to turn this trend around, we need to act now to not only stop the attacks on teachers and tenure, but to stop evaluation systems designed to fire teachers based on metrics that no one understands. And we cannot forget that pay and working conditions matter. It should also come as no surprise that in states that pay teachers relatively well like New York State, the shortage does not yet exist. Even so, enrollment in teacher preparation programs in the Empire State dropped 22% in two years time. Many factors are contributing to the decline.

It is time for policymakers to step back and chart a different course. It makes no sense to cling to failed reforms. As school begins, students across the country are paying a hefty price.

How ironic it would be if the reforms based on the belief that three great teachers in a row are the key to student success, result in students not having certified teachers at all.

Parents and Children Occupy Puerto Rican School Refusing to Let Corporate Vultures Raid Its Contents

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For more than 80 days, about 35 parents and children have been camping out in front of their neighborhood school in the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico.

The Commonwealth government closed the Jose Melendez de Manati school along with more than 150 others over the last 5 years.

But the community is refusing to let them loot it.

They hope to force lawmakers to reopen the facility.

Department of Education officials have been repeatedly turned away by protesters holding placards with slogans like “This is my school and I want to defend it,” and “There is no triumph without struggle, there is no struggle without sacrifice!”

Officials haven’t even been able to shut off the water or electricity or even set foot inside the building.

The teachers union – the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR) – has called for a mass demonstration of parents, students and teachers on Sunday, Aug. 23. Protesters in the capital of San Juan will begin a march at 1 p.m. from Plaza Colón to La Fortaleza (the Governor’s residence).

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The schools being closed are all in low income areas, said union president Mercedes Martinez. “This is detrimental to education, because the necessities of the community, the investment in infrastructure in recent years, the technology, have not been taken into consideration, and neither the parents nor the teachers have been consulted.”

The Jose Melendez de Manati school, for instance, served students 92% of whom live in poverty.

Now that the building has been closed, parents say they can’t afford the cost to transport their children to a new school miles away. And those schools that remain open have been forced to make drastic cuts to remain functional. Class sizes have ballooned to 35 students or more. Amenities like arts, music, health and physical education have typically been slashed.

Why?

The island territory is besieged by vulture capitalists encouraging damaging rewrites to the tax code while buying and selling Puerto Rican debt.

Hundreds of American private equity moguls and entrepreneurs are using the Commonwealth as a tax haven.

Since 2012, U.S. citizens who live on the island for at least 183 days a year pay minimal or no taxes, and unlike those living in Singapore or Bermuda, they get to keep their U.S. passports. After all, they’re still living in the territorial U.S. These individuals pay no local or federal capital gains taxes and no local taxes on dividend interest for 20 years. Even someone working for a mainland company who resides on the island is exempt from paying U.S. federal taxes on his salary.

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Big corporations are taking advantage of the situation, too.

Worldwide, American companies keep 60 percent of their cash overseas and untaxed. That’s about $1.7 trillion annually.

Microsoft, for instance, routes its domestic operations through Puerto Rican holdings to reduce taxes on its profits to 1.02 percent – a huge savings from the U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent! Over three years, Microsoft saved $4.5 billion in taxes on goods sold in the U.S. alone. That’s a savings of $4 million a day!

Meanwhile, these corporate tax savings equal much less revenue for government entities – both inside and outside of Puerto Rico – to use for public goods such as schooling.

Public schools get their funding from tax revenues. Less tax money means less money to pay for children’s educations. As the Puerto Rican government borrowed in an attempt to shore up budget deficits, the economy tanked.

But have no fear! In swooped Hedge Funds to buy up that debt and sell it for a profit.

When this still wasn’t enough to prop up a system suffering from years of neglect, the Hedge Fund managers demanded more school closures, firing more teachers, etc.

Of course, this is only one interpretation of events.

If you ask Wall Street moguls, they’ll blame the situation on declining student enrollment. And they have a point.

Some 450,000 people have left the island in the last decade as the economy suffered an 8-year depression.

There were 423,000 students in the Puerto Rican school system in 2013. That’s expected to drop to 317,000 by 2020.

But is this the cause of the island’s problems or a symptom?

Unfortunately, things look to get much worse before they’ll get any better.

The government warns it may be out of money to pay its bills by as early as 2016. Over the next five years, it may have to close nearly 600 more schools – almost half of the remaining facilities!

Right on cue, Senate President Eduardo Bhatia is proposing corporate education reform methods to justify these draconian measures. This includes privatizing the school system, tying teacher evaluations to standardized test scores and increasing test-based accountability.

“Our interest is to promote transparency and flow of data through the implementation of a standardized measurement and accountability system for all agencies,” Bhatia said, adding that the methodology has been successful in such cities as Chicago.

Despite such overwhelming opposition, protesters are taking the fight to the capitol. “Tax the Rich!” is a popular slogan on signs for Sunday’s march.

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“It’s unacceptable that the rich and powerful that created our crisis are the ones asking the working class for more sacrifices,” said Martinez.

“The foreign companies that pay no taxes or a less amount to evade paying their due in contributions – impose a tax on them now!”

This is just a beginning, she adds. Stronger actions will be coming.

In the meantime, those brave parents and children still refuse to give up their shuttered school.

They dream of a day when that empty building once again rings with the laughter of students and the instruction of teachers.

In a country being used by the wealthy to increase their already swollen bank statements, is that really so much to ask?


You can show your solidarity with these Puerto Rican protestors by spreading the word through social media. Post a picture of yourself with a sign saying you’re with them in their fight. Tweet the Commonwealth Secretary of Education @Rafaelroman6. Use the hashtags #EducacionEnPR #SOSdocente.

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The Myth of the New Orleans School Makeover

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Students at the Encore Academy charter school in New Orleans, in May. CreditMario Tama/Getty Images

WAS Hurricane Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” as Education Secretary Arne Duncan once said? Nearly 10 years after the disaster, this has become a dominant narrative among a number of school reformers and education scholars.

Before the storm, the New Orleans public school system had suffered from white flight, neglect, mismanagement and corruption, which left the schools in a state of disrepair. The hurricane almost literally wiped out the schools: Only 16 of 128 buildings were relatively unscathed. As of 2013 the student population was still under 45,000, compared with 65,000 students before the storm. Following the storm, some 7,500 unionized teachers and other school employees were put on unpaid leave, and eventually dismissed.

Two years before the storm, the State of Louisiana had set up a so-calledRecovery School District to take over individual failing schools. After Katrina, the district eventually took over about 60 local schools; about 20 well-performing schools remained in the Orleans Parish School Board, creating, in essence, a two-tier system. Nearly all the schools in both parts of the system have since been converted to charters.

Last year, 63 percent of children in local elementary and middle schools were proficient on state tests, up from 37 percent in 2005. New research by Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance shows that the gains were largely because of the charter-school reforms, according to Douglas N. Harris, the alliance’s director. Graduation and college entry rates also increased over pre-Katrina levels.

But the New Orleans miracle is not all it seems. Louisiana state standards are among the lowest in the nation. The new research also says little about high school performance. And the average composite ACT score for the Recovery School District was just 16.4 in 2014, well below the minimum score required for admission to a four-year public university in Louisiana.

There is also growing evidence that the reforms have come at the expense of the city’s most disadvantaged children, who often disappear from school entirely and, thus, are no longer included in the data.

“We don’t want to replicate a lot of the things that took place to get here,” said Andre Perry, who was one of the few black charter-school leaders in the city. “There were some pretty nefarious things done in the pursuit of academic gain,” Mr. Perry acknowledged, including “suspensions, pushouts, skimming, counseling out, and not handling special needs kids well.”

At a time when states and municipalities nationwide are looking to New Orleans, the first virtually all-charter urban district, as a model, it is more important than ever to accurately assess the results, the costs and the continuing challenges.

New Orleans has been trying to make the system more fair. It replaced its confusing and decentralized school application process with one in which most schools accept a single application. In response to a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of special education students, the courts recently tightened oversight of charter schools.

But stark problems remain. A recent report by the Education Research Alliance confirmed that principals engage in widespread “creaming” — selecting, or counseling out, students based on their expected performance on standardized tests. In a forthcoming study, the alliance expects to show that lowest-scoring students are less likely to move to higher-performing schools.

The rhetoric of reform often fails to match the reality. For example, Paul G. Vallas, the superintendent of the Recovery School District from 2007 to 2011, boasted recently that only 7 percent of the city’s students attend failing schools today, down from 62 percent before Katrina, a feat accomplished “with no displacement of children.” This was simply false.

Consider Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School, one of the city’s last traditional public schools to be “taken over.” Most of its 366 students declined to re-enroll when it reopened under new management in the fall of 2011. During its first year under FirstLine, a charter management organization, Clark had only 117 “persisters,” or returning students, according to a study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, known as Credo. FirstLine could not account for where the students went after they left Clark. However, Jay Altman, its chief executive, told me in an email that before FirstLine took over, a similarly low proportion of students, about 35 percent, were returning. (The school district did not respond to my queries about Clark.)

One problem is that in the decentralized charter system, no agency is responsible for keeping track of all kids. Two years ago the Recovery School District, acknowledging that it was “worried” about high school attrition, began assigning counselors to help relocate students from schools it was closing. Louisiana’s official dropout rates are unreliable, but a new reportby Measure of America, a project of the Social Science Research Council, using Census Bureau survey data from 2013, found that over 26,000 people in the metropolitan area between the ages of 16 and 24 are counted as “disconnected,” because they are neither working nor in school.

Ironically, schools like Clark actually feed the New Orleans success narrative because when bad schools are taken over their “F” grades automatically convert to a “T” — for a turnaround. Thus, in the 2013-14 school year, the four schools with “T” grades wouldn’t be counted as “failing” schools, nor would the 16 schools that received a “D” grade. About 40 percent of Recovery School District schools were graded “D,” “T” or “F” that year.

Adding to the difficulty of assessing the New Orleans experiment is the fact that Louisiana education data has been doled out selectively, mostly to pro-charter researchers, and much of the research has been flawed. Last fall, the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives was forced to retract a study that concluded that most New Orleans schools were posting higher-than-expected graduation rates and test scores.

Last spring, Credo produced a study of 41 urban charter districts, including New Orleans, that purported to show that charters outperformed urban public schools on standardized test scores; but this study was also highly flawed. The methodology was based on comparing each charter student to a virtual “twin,” a composite of as many as seven public-school kids who attend “feeder” schools and who match the charter students on demographics and test scores. The problem in New Orleans was that there are virtually no local feeders left from which to draw comparisons.

Andrew E. Maul, an assistant professor of research methodology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, found that Credo’s report “cannot be regarded as compelling evidence of the greater effectiveness of charter schools compared with traditional public schools.”

Meanwhile, black charter advocates charge that the local charter “club” leaves little room for African-American leadership. Howard L. Fuller, a former Milwaukee superintendent, said the charter movement won’t have “any type of long-term sustainability” without meaningful participation from the black community.

A few school leaders agree that the model needs major change. For example, a new open-enrollment charter school, Morris Jeff, is working to integrate both the student body and its teaching force, and even backed a unionization effort — one of the city’s first since the hurricane.

A key part of the New Orleans narrative is that firing the unionized, mostly black teachers after Katrina cleared the way for young, idealistic (mostly white) educators who are willing to work 12- to 14-hour days. Patricia Perkins, Morris Jeff’s principal, says the schools need the “wisdom” of veteran black educators.

Morris Jeff is benefiting from one of the most important post-Katrina reforms: a big increase in both government and philanthropic funding. It recently moved into a new bright, air-conditioned building.

For outsiders, the biggest lesson of New Orleans is this: It is wiser to invest in improving existing education systems than to start from scratch. Privatization may improve outcomes for some students, but it has hurt the most disadvantaged pupils.