Friday, July 15, 2011

Stand for Children is an Astro-Turf Machine

Recently, there's been some buzz around the semi-national organization, Stand for Children.   ( I say "semi-national" because they are only involved in 9 states but have received a lot of national attention.) An Oregon parent activist, Susan Barrett, wrote in the Washington Post blog, Valerie Strauss' The Answer Sheet, about her experience with Stand.  She explains her experience of believing in Stand only to find that their Board is full of private equity investors and their local staff tried to manipulate parents into lobbying teachers and parents for a reform agenda. 

Who is SFC?  From their website:

Stand for Children is an innovative, grassroots child advocacy organization. Our mission is to use the power of grassroots action to help all children get the excellent public education and strong support they need to thrive. Our members believe we need to stand up for our children now - particularly for their education from pre-school through high school - to create a better future for America.

We build effective local and statewide networks of grassroots advocates capable of convincing elected officials to invest in and reform children’s programs. Following specific priorities chosen by our members, we focus on securing adequate funding for public schools and reforming education policies and practices to help children thrive academically, giving them the opportunities they need to become successful, productive citizens.

I first became aware of Stand when they came into Washington state years ago. They, like TFA, have some very nice and very sincere people working for them. Like TFA, they constantly use words like "relentless", "empower", "status quo" and "fearless." There is something more than a little cult-like in how these groups all have the same talking points.

If you look at their website, there's not much about what they actually do. They want to get parents to front for their legislative agenda. Word is that not many teachers join Stand as they are not a friend to unions. (You have to wonder about the number of these so-called education groups that do not support teachers currently in the system.)

They, again like, TFA, are about creating an army of like-minded people who want to push the ed reform agenda and in SFC's case, via laws. They lobby legislators, throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars their way to win influence.

This is not a crime. This happens all the time in politics.

However, that there are so many powerful groups/entities in this country all focusing on one way to "better" education, is troubling. Their leader, Jonah Edelman, recently got caught on videotape explaining to a group of people how he had manipulated various people (including legislators) to get reform legislation passed in Illinois.  It was quite a performance. He has since apologized and spoke of being "blunt", "presumptuous" and "arrogant." But at least he was honest about what Stand is doing. In the videotape, he said:

I’m being quite blunt here. The individual candidates were essentially a vehicle to execute a political objective, which was to tilt toward Madigan. The press never picked up on it. We endorsed nine individuals – and six of them were Democrats, three Republicans – and tilted our money toward Madigan, who was expecting … that all our money was going to go to Republicans. That was really an show of – indication to him that we could be a new partner to take the place of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. That was the point. Luckily, it never got covered that way. That wouldn’t have worked well in Illinois – Madigan is not particularly well liked. And it did work.

The other criticism in this whole affair is how well he manipulated the unions and they fell for it.  Can't blame a guy for trying and it worked but he has now earned Stand a great deal of suspicion.

I would urge you to consider letting your state legislative reps know that around education legislation they should view Stand and their lobbying with a great deal of skepticism and to remember who the REAL parent groups are - PTA and CPPS (and maybe Parents Across America - too new to tell).  

(To note: there is a group, Stand with Children, that is a Catholic organization for marriage only between a man and a woman.) 

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

In their own words, anti-union:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kog8g9sTDSo&feature=youtu.be

former teacher

suep. said...

Hi Melissa,

Thanks for covering the Stands facts & fictions.

As a founding member of Parents Across America (PAA), I can assure that yes, we are a genuine grassroots, parent-founded organization. We support progressive and constructive education policies and practices, and have a local chapter here in Seattle.

We've been around for about a year but had our official kick-off event in New York this past February which featured Diane Ravitch as our keynote speaker, and fellow Seattle parent activist Dora Taylor and myself and other members from across the nation on the panel.

More info here:

http://parentsacrossamerica.org/

http://parentsacrossamerica.org/who-we-are/

http://gothamschools.org/2011/02/08/city-parent-activist-forms-national-group-to-push-for-esea-change/


Sue Peters
PAA Founding Member

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, good post. My one critique would be that from what I've heard (just from a few teachers, including the one whose experience with a Stand On Children accolyte I chronicled yesterday) it is not so much that SFC is anti-union that teachers are dismayed by it, but that (as you write) it is an agenda-driven machine, trying to get parents to front for its agenda, well-funded by the usual Reform suspects, and, as evidenced by Jonah Edelman's confession, manipulative.
It's not so much as a union issue as it is that edcuators want what's best for students, and Stand is obviously not. I only point this out because "The Union" is oftened pointed to as a driving force in teachers' opinions, but in reality it is more that they are considerate of policy and its implications for them as educators and for students as learners.

seattle citizen said...

But maybe teachers SHOULD be concerned about their union as professional educators:
Stand For Children’s employment page lists three “recruitment partners” (now why would an advocacy group be partnered with these three organizations that provide staff for teaching, admin, and governance? Obviously, it's not about what parents want, it's a job-creation scam):
Teach For America (“Teach For America is building the movement to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting our nation’s most promising future leaders in the effort.”)
MLT (“Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) is the premier career development institution that equips high potential African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans with the key ingredients—skills, coaching and door-opening relationships—that unlock their potential. By cracking the code on career potential, MLT is developing the next generation of minority leaders, for the corporate, non-profit and entrepreneurial sectors, who will in turn have transformational impact on our communities.”)
Education Pioneers (“Education Pioneers accelerates education reform with top talent outside the classroom. - School districts, charter schools, and nonprofits need great people at all levels -- from the classroom to the school district to our state and federal government -- with the skills, experience, and capacity to fulfill their missions and ensure student learning. Our proven Fellowship Programs place our nation's best and brightest emerging leaders in education organizations to ensure a thriving public education system. Furthermore, we support our Alumni to launch and maintain high-impact leadership careers in education to transform the educational system so that all students receive a quality education.”)

Catherine said...

"If you look at their website, there's not much about what they actually do. " That was my interpretation of their web site yesterday. Thanks for doing research into what they do, sometimes (frequently?) under a cloak. I didn't have the time to go that next step.

I'd like to put in a plug for a score card section to your blog. Something where lists of organizations would be linked to your research of their work. I have a time keeping track of whose agenda is what, and having quick links to posts like these... would help. please?

uxolo said...

Posted this elsewhere about his brother, Josh.

"Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman has quietly ousted one of the most powerful and controversial executives left over from the administration of Arne Duncan with no public statement and little explanation.

Joshua Edelman, who came to Chicago from Washington, D.C. after being hired by Arne Duncan, was responsible for the closing of more public schools in Chicago than any executive in the 150-year history of public education in Chicago. "

dan dempsey said...

PTA .. PTA .. PTA

In many instances, I am not so sure the PTA represents the best interests of Parents and Children any better than the SEA and WEA represent the best interests of SEA and WEA members.


I've watched as the PTA, SEA, and WEA have testified in favor of 6696 in legislature 2010 and failed to stand in opposition to the WA adoption of the Common Core State Standards in legislature 2011.

There is a huge disconnect between leadership and the best interests of members.

Very shortly after the national PTA endorsed the Common Core State Standards Initiative the PTA received $1,000,000 from the Gates foundation.

Make no mistake the CCSSI is all about large quantities of testing. The WA State report issued by Randy Dorn of OSPI to the legislature clearly showed that the adoption of the CCSSI would cost WA State over $180 million over five years and that $165 million of it was going to come from local school district funds.

{[[ YES -- this appears to be another unfunded mandate. ]]}

This means that local districts will be spending the equivalent of funding for 330 teachers per year on the CCSSI implementation.

Mr. Dorn was clearly in violation of the state law passed that required him to submit this CCSSI analysis on or before Jan 1, 2011, as he submitted the report on Jan 31, 2011...... This tardy submission helped he and all the cronies to slip this expenditure past possibly sleeping legislators.....

Well Sharon Tamiko Santos was not sleeping ..... As she was facilitating Mr. Dorn in pushing another piece of the Gates Foundation's "Ed Reform" upon us.
(( Report submitted 30 days late -- Oh no problem for the head of the House Education Committee .. who was busy pushing the CCSSI upon us. ))

Apparently Dorn and Santos have a lot more in common that just DUI convictions since each was last elected.

The WEA has been a major player in 6696 and failed to oppose the CCSSI .... the SEA leaders believed that WEA would never pass something that would impact the funding of teaching positions. ((Sleep on members))

SEA leaders perhaps "in complete ignorance of the facts" chose to believe that WEA would never push for something that would reduce the number of teachers in WA state ....

So SEA leadership .... where do you think the $165 million is coming from? The OSPI report says right out of local school district funds ... What do you know that we don't?

Do SEA or WEA leaders see the state or the Feds dumping $165 million into local districts to replace these funds? If the State wanted to pay the $165 million they would have done so up front ... and they did not... because the state budget was an issue at the time. Thus the Dorn Report stated up front the $165 million is coming from local districts.

(( Is anyone at SEA central watching this???? )

WEA and SEA leadership has a lot in common with Stand for Children .... Leaders in all three organizations demonstrate an inability to fully inform others on the issues they push and why they push them.

Maybe SFC should try charging SEA members a monthly fee just like the Union as their leaders push some of the same stuff.

PESB hearing on TfA .... all WEA and SEA leaders and representatives were noticeably absent. I guess that $70+ a month in dues just is not enough to fund getting a Union representative to the meeting to testify in opposition.

seattle citizen said...

Stand For Children, Teach For America, minorities, the Achievement Gap, and the destruction of the promise of public education:

"Teach For America purports to want to "eliminate educational inequality" in America. "African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans" - So lists Management Leadership for Tomorrow as the beneficiaries of its services. It exists to develop "the next generation of minority leaders, for the corporate, non-profit and entrepreneurial sectors." Education Pioneers wants to "launch and maintain high-impact leadership careers in education to transform the educational system so that all students receive a quality education."

What is the common theme of these organizations? "Reform" education through restaffing public education, replacing classified and certificated building staff, administration and boards; local, state and federal officials and administrators, with private sector free agents.

What is the tool for this massive takeover of public education? The Achievement Gap.
(cont.)

seattle citizen said...

Part II - Reform, Race and You

The Achievement Gap has come to be considered, by many, to be the difference in "performance" in schools between "whites" and "hispanics", "African Americans", and "Native Americans." It is based on the most simplistic of measures, crude tests that skim the surface of what is truly going on in classrooms, purportedly measuring merely Math and Reading, those catch-all descriptors for geometry, algebra, trig, American literature, poetry, journalism, current events...

By reducing education to two, maybe three numbers, and by utilizing race politics, the Reformers aim to wrench public education away from do-gooding, elite, racist, "book-smart" union dinosaurs, and hand it to Reform's cronies in business and the self-promoters who make Reform THEIR business.

No child is merely "African American. None are just "White." Nobody is only "Native American." There's not one person show is Hispanic and nothing else.
But by categorizing people as just these things, in these boxes checked at school registration, Reformers create the Achievement Gap with their tests and then sell the gap to these same communities, thereby creating a market for Reform and all its ills.

Minority community members, in some cases desperately poor, often without political access, rightfully engage in coalition and bargaining with the economic and political machines: They want a piece of the American pie.

So Stand For Children, TFA, MLT, EP, and their Gates/Broad/Walton/GE/Boeing supporters, serve as middlemen in this transaction:

"You are 'African American.' You have an Achievement Gap between what you...achieve...and what 'Whites'...achieve. We will connect you with jobs programs, politics, money...if you let us speak for you African Americans. Your children will benefit from a smaller Acheivement Gap (even if we have to lower the 'Whites' achievement to do that: bonus, eh? Knock 'em down a peg) so you will finally have "a level playing field."

In return, we ask that you go to 'your people' and ask them to support us. With votes. For our officials."

It's win/win: Reform gets a continued expansion for its minions and opportunists, paying top dollar for non-educators to either tell educators what to do, or replace them in the classroom; Reform gets public assets turned into private money-makers (off public tax dollars); Reform creates for business a docile and dull populace that know only Math and Reading.
Minority communities get access to politicians, business opportunities, and "a level playing field." (The level playing field, I've heard, is a popular with some "minorities" I've talked to: They feel that their children are judged unfairly in life, and something like the HSPE is their ONE chance to be compared equally to others - the HSPE score as leveler.)

What do well all lose? A rich and varied education, and the opportunity to move beyond race as race is the sole tool used to create the acheivement gap, to sell the "cure" for the achievement gap, and to justify Reform's existence. As long as Reform continues to exert power, we will continue to be boxed according to race, identified merely by the checkmarks made upon entry to public schools.

Anonymous said...

NYT Article about Tom Vander Ark.
"Tom Vander Ark’s New York-Area Charter Schools Falter"

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/15/nyregion/tom-vander-arks-new-york-area-charter-schools-falter.html

Choice quotes: "“He’s flying 30,000 feet on the air, but can’t do it on the ground,” said Joshua Morales, a former official with the New York City Education Department who was hired by Mr. Vander Ark to develop the schools. "

I'm starting to loose my benefit of the doubt for the Gates Foundation enterprise on education. I think I've made the mistake of conflating scientist mentality w/ tech/business points of view. They don't seem to really want to find out what works. They want to find out what sells. Sometimes what sells is what works (not many people bought the zune), but when it's not, the tech/business folks have a good model.

(Mind you, I know that not all scientists live up to the ideals of science, but the ideals are to look for what actually works)

(zb)

Anonymous said...

According to the IEA, Edelman was not very factual in his description of the legislation passed in Illinois.

http://www.ieanea.org/featured/edelman-misrepresentin-about-school-reform-bill-sb7/

Interested Bystander

seattle citizen said...

James Kelly returns to guide a faltering Seattle Urban League, Seattle Times

He will be an unpaid consultant as the Urban League seeks a new CEO.

Walle Ralkowski will be the new Board Chair. The Walle Ralkowski Award, given to Silas Potter, is named for him. ("Potter took home the Walle Ralkowski Award for "his dedication and commitment to diversity in contracting" The Stranger

dan dempsey said...

ZB -- this is priceless.

"They don't seem to really want to find out what works. They want to find out what sells."

They certainly have been able to sell this crap to school boards and state legislatures.... Mr. Dorn and Ms. Santos looks like they managed to violate state law in order to complete the CCSSI sale.

seattle citizen said...

Allied Coalition League of Those Who Stand Upon Children has a blog:

Stand For Children Blog

I'm sure they'd love to hear from parents and other involved community members. Stand For Children cares.

seattle citizen said...

Oops, Stand For Reform blog is moderated...wonder if they'll publish alternative viewpoints? Even if those viewpoints are written in a humorous snarky tone?

seattle citizen said...

Here are my three comments on Stand For Profit's blog, we'll see if they publish them...they get increasingly snarky, so who's to say...

Can you tell us what some of there ideas are to achieve the goals you write about in this post? How will they, as board members, enact these initiatives? What will it look like in administration and in the classrooms?
Thank you!

Your partners at Our Schools Coalition are mighty quiet this last year. I know they were formed by the Alliance for Education to publish that push-poll demonizing teachers right before contract negotiations last summer…(Did they ever figure out who, exactly, illegally gave OSC that private list of families and teachers that Seattle District had?).
I’ve heard that one of the PR firm Strategies 360′s employees was rewarded for S360′s posing as a coalition (Our Schools) in order to get that PR out about devil teachers…Congratulations to the PR flack from Strategies 360/Our School Coalition who was recently given the PR job in Seattle Public Schools!
I guess it’s just easier to push the Reform agenda from inside the district itself, rather than have to hire a PR company. Good idea.
Hope you all are having a good summer. I’m sure teachers, and parents and stakeholders all over the northwest are eagerly awaiting teh coming school year, when they are re-engaged and ready to come to you with their ideas about Reform. Many, many people are aware of your agenda, now, and more so will be shortly, so get ready to hear their suggestions!
TTFN,
WC

“The majority of the day was dedicated to member education on a variety of issues including P-3 education, useful data systems, teaching effectiveness, and public charter school basics.”

Wait a sec, Washington voters have voted three times to NOT allow charter schools in this state. Why is Stand training its naive, young accolytes in charter school “basics”? Washington citizens have said loud and clear that they have no interest in privatizing public schools by letting profitable charter management companies take the schools away from the citizens, so what gives?

And what “data systems” are you teaching your poor, ignorant schlubs who by your “citizen advocacy” line? Do you mean the wildly ineffective “value added” test result manipulation machines? (Remember when Seattle told its citizens that only 17% were college ready! No, wait, that’s 44%! Wait, no, really, it’s 67%! I think that was right around the time of teacher contact negotiations….yes, your partner, Our Schools Astroturf Coalition was touting that 17% number on its website, that’s right!

Speaking of partners, I see from your employment page that your are partnered with three Reform employment agencies: Teach For America, Management Leadership for Tomorrow, and Education Pioneers.

I thought you were an education advocacy group? Why are you partnering with these Reform agencies to replace dedicated public servants with Reform drones? I don’t get it. I thought you were listening to the citizens and doing their bidding, but evidently you have a plan to replace public educators with poorly trained (but eager!) young people who want to climb the edu-business ladder.

Silly me: I thought you had the best interests of students at heart, when really you just want to destroy public education as we know it, and make it something a bit more profitable for those in the Reform business.

Anyway, I gotta run. Gotta get over to your 990 form and see how much your administration is pulling in. Hope your volunteers don’t know where to fnd those non-profit 990 forms!

Bye!

seattle citizen said...

From Stand For Profit's 990 form:

(They are based in Portland (who knew?) and the 990 form seems to indicate ALL the S4C finances, but S4C is divided into two groups, plus a PAC, so it's hard to say. At any rate, here's some info:

Donations in 2009 were about five million, of which half was spent on salaries. Six officers (CEO, two CFOs, a COO, two regional directors) making a combined $645,000, or approx.. 107k each. (this sum does not include Jonah Edelman, who gets about 160k)

They spent 1.2 million lobbying.

Word Verifier says that's some looto.

Josh Hayes said...

zb writes:

"(Mind you, I know that not all scientists live up to the ideals of science, but the ideals are to look for what actually works)"

Speaking as a scientist, I can tell you that this is a difficult thing. The best person to ask a question is the person who doesn't care what the answer is - that is, they don't care that it's yes, or no, but they just want to know which it is.

A scientist, then, cannot "hope" that the data conform to a particular result. This inevitably produces (unintentional) bias. Anyone who starts from a conclusion and works backwards is not a scientist. They may be creationists, they may be supply-siders, they may subscribe to any number of ridiculous fairy tales. Reality, however, doesn't care what we wish it to be: it simply is.

And to that extent, we know what reality is, and it's the same simple, obvious answer: teachers teach kids. They know what they need: relatively small classes and flexibility to address all the different minds in their care. All this other crap is just that: crap. The kids to whom I taught math this year benefited enormously from the fact that I barely used the idiotic materials I was given. EVERY teacher in the district wants that flexibility. It's ironic that one has to be a parent volunteer to get it.

Jan said...

Josh: I would make it more basic still. In my opinion, the reality we need to listen to here consists of two things:

1. Kids learn. Now, whether they learn on their own, learn (a lot) from effective teachers using good materials, learn very little from bad materials, learn things that are in fact false, or whatever -- the end product from education is not teachers teaching, it is kids learning. The fact that most of those kids will need teachers who are capable of teaching flows in there -- but it is just an intermediate step (as illustrated by the lucky kids who learned from you what their Discovery math books obfuscated so well).

2. Time passes. (And we can't "recapture" what we lose). This goes hand in hand with #1. If kids only have one childhood, and their time matters, we need to start looking at HOW they best learn. We need to build (and fund) a system that most cost effectively uses kid time to enable as much learning as possible. (Frankly, this is one reason I don't want a longer school year -- it wastes so much of my kids' time that there isn't enough "learning" time left during the breaks -- when they learn so much more effectively than they often do in school).