Monday, December 26, 2016

Looking Ahead (Nationally) - Part One

You'll notice I didn't say "looking forward" because honestly, I don't see much hope for public education for all students in this country, state and city.  Let's start with nationally.

Trump won the Electoral College and is therefore elected president.  However, that win is clearly not a mandate when you consider that he received nearly 63 million votes to Hillary Clinton's nearly 66 million votes.  Add into her votes the ballots cast for Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and others and you get to about 74 million people who voted against Trump.

He has not even been sworn in and already there are many warning signs.  His background and actions tell us three important things.


1) He is not qualified to do the job, seemingly doesn't want to do the job full-time (he seems to think he only needs to be in Washington, D.C. four days a week and was never a great businessman but really, a good self-promoter.  Read this Newsweek article for more (and add Native Americans to the list of people he has insulted.)

2) It is amusing in a sad kind of way to see all these people - from Gates to Paul Ryan to many Christian groups - fall into line thinking that, well, he got elected and he's their guy.

There is no person on this planet who knows what he will do or say at any given time. No one.  

 Now I believe there are people who know how to manipulate him to get what they want but he has proven to be mercurial, petty and with a shallow knowledge of issues.  So good luck to all those who believe he will support their issues except for big business, of course.

3) He has no sense of humor and, like, George W. Bush, has a decided lack of intellectual curiosity.  If someone cannot laugh at themselves, it's not a good thing.  (There's something to wonder out loud about; will Trump even attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner where traditionally, poking fun at the president is the highlight of the evening.)

Why do I worry for public education?

1) Trump embraces a direction that, sadly, Obama embraced.  Namely, the many (non-educator) cooks in the kitchen.  From people running the Department of Education to those business-types who have made public education their philanthropy to businesses selling "personalized education" and, along with that, your child's data, they are all in the mix in American public education.

But mainly, it is that this nation seemingly cannot adopt a unified thought on a direction for public education that will produce better outcomes for more children across the board.  

I am for states' rights but this mish-mosh of the educational landscape in the U.S. offers no real clues about what works and what doesn't.

What worked out of Race to the Top?  Anything?  Did the Department of Education learn anything from that experiment?  Here's one report and their top item was "the number of relevant education reforms adopted as state policy." The National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance said this: The relationship between RTT and student outcomes was not clear: Trends in student outcomes could be interpreted as providing evidence that RTT had a positive effect, a negative effect, or no effect.

And, when there are pockets of real progress, we don't see adoption of those programs scale up.  (This is a key flaw of charter schools and the "vote with your feet" philosophy.  Parents choose schools for all kinds of reasons and yet, academic outcomes are the key measure of a school for taxpayers.  The charters that are successful - following all federal rules and regulations and serving all students, no matter their background or need.)

What's fascinating is there is a lot of hand-wringing over the lower amount of PE, arts, and civics in our schools and a need for cultural studies and computer science classes but really, where would the time come from?  Everyone has their own ideas of what matters but where is that centralized thought for what needs to get done to give students the knowledge and skills they need to be both workers and good citizens?

Given Mr. Trump's lack of real knowledge on public education (for himself or his own children) and his lack of interest in almost any in-depth learning on problems in our country, I would not expect much to change on any real vision for public education.

Except for:

2) Betsy DeVos, his nominee for Secretary of Education.  Read about her here and how to try to stop her appointment.  (Trump's first pick was Jerry Falwell, Jr. who leads Liberty University, the biggest Christian university in the U.S. It teaches evolution and creationism.) 

Her family background includes her father who helped create the Family Research Council which is acutely anti-LGBT.  Her brother started Blackwater, an infamous military contractor. From the NY Times:
At a 2001 gathering of conservative Christian philanthropists, she singled out education reform as a way to “advance God’s kingdom.” In an interview, she and her husband, Richard DeVos Jr., said that school choice would lead to “greater kingdom gain.”
From Politico:
The two also lament that public schools have “displaced” the Church as the center of communities, and they cite school choice as a way to reverse that troubling trend.

DeVos remains a harsh critic of the traditional education system, which she calls a “monopoly” and a “dead end.” But she said in the audio that she doesn’t want to destroy public education — only inject competition.

“People support school vouchers for different reasons. Some make a free-market argument because they are opposed to public schooling. Others want to prop up sectarian teachings with taxpayer money,” Boston said. “DeVos has a foot in both camps, which does not bode well for our public schools.” 
One kind of amusing aside is that Trump has so many billionaires in his Cabinet that vetting their lives and their financial backgrounds is going to take some time.  And it may not be in time for January 20th so who will be in charge of what and when is still up in the air.   Trump certainly didn't "drain any swamp."

This all leads us to:

3) All the public education sycophants who are lining up to be part of the gang.  Naturally, these are all big-bucks people who apparently have gotten over their dislike of Trump in time to kiss his ring.

Where's a good place to start?  With an interesting-sounding book, “Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence”by Megan E. Tompkins-Stange.  From The Washington Post:
She researched “Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence” over several years, in which she was given access to officials in four foundations — Bill and Melinda Gates, Eli and Edythe Broad, Ford, and W.K. Kellogg—  as well as permission to quote people without attribution.
At the top of that list, naturally we find Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation.

As we all are acutely aware, Mr. Gates is on a mission to use his wealth and power to change public education in this country.  He brought in Common Core (see graphic at end of post)  and naturally, is a big promoter of "personalized learning."  He's already working on overhauling the public education systems in other countries.  From FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting):
The Guardian (8/31/16) published a broadly positive report on Liberian education, which is handing over the reins of 120 primary schools to a consortium of private education companies and NGOs in a pilot program exploring privatization of the West African nation’s schools.

What the piece failed to note—other than the fact that Rhee’s tenure left DC’s schools “worse by almost every conceivable measure” (Truthout, 10/23/13)—is that multi-billionaire Bill Gates is both the major investor of the company administering the Liberian education overhaul and the principal of the Gates Foundation, sponsor of the Guardian’s Global Development vertical, where the story appeared.

The story clearly labels the Gates Foundation as its sponsor. What it never mentioned is that Bill Gates is a major investor of the firm at the heart of the story, Bridge Academies International, having pitched in, along with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar, $100 million for the “education startup.”

Making the conflict more glaring is the fact that this is a personal, for-profit investment for Gates, not a charitable donation.

The Gates Foundation gives grants in the hundreds of thousands and often millions to such media organizations as NBCUniversal, Al Jazeera, BBC, Viacom (CBS) and Participant Media (the producer of pro-charter school documentary Waiting for Superman). Both Gates and the Gates Foundation are sizable shareholders in Comcast, which is the primary investor in Buzzfeed and Vox, as well the parent corporation of MSNBC and NBC News–the latter of which teamed up with Gates and other noted education experts like Exxon and University of Phoenix Online for the week-long charter school commercial “Education Week”.

In the case of the Guardian, Gates effectively owns an entire vertical, so when one of his investments is written up, one doesn’t notice the conflict of interest—like a fish doesn’t notice water. Because his influence is everywhere, it appears to be nowhere.
Blurred lines, indeed.

Then there is the rise of ROI Philanthropy or "social impact investing." This from the NY Times:
Just about every big Wall Street firm and big-time philanthropist has recently tried to get in on what’s often called double bottom line investing. The idea is that an investment isn’t just intended to score a high return; perhaps more important, it is supposed to make a significant difference in an area that had been considered un-investable.

Now, a group of high-profile executives and investors are putting together perhaps the most ambitious social impact fund. Called Rise, the $2 billion fund is being developed by William E. McGlashan Jr., a partner at the private equity firm TPG, who more resembles a Buddhist monk than a cigar-chomping banker in pinstripes.  

“The reality is that no matter which side of the aisle you’re on, and no matter where your framework is, if I can build a great business that’s profitable and successful and, oh, by the way, here’s the impact and the multiple of impact that’s created through that business’s successes, I think that’s good for everybody,” Mr. McGlashan told me.
Well, sure but if you screw up, who really gets hurt?  All those kids you experimented on with your educational ideas. 
“We’re not in the business of charity here,” Mr. McGlashan said. “We’re going to make money and build profitable successful businesses and create a top performing fund. But in the process, what we’ve committed to is that we will not do a deal where there’s less than a two and a half times multiple of impact,” suggesting a meaningful social impact that can be measured.
Who gets to measure that impact? 
The problem with most of these kinds of funds is what Mr. McGlashan calls “greenwashing,” a euphemism for lying, which some in philanthropy feel is rampant among socially conscious investors. Everyone wants to claim some form of success using a shifting mix of metrics aimed at demonstrating how the fund worked.

Bono put it this way: “I asked them to hang a sign in their office saying, ‘Warm Fuzzy Feelings Not Welcome Here,’ because we need them to be tough-minded. We need some intellectual rigor, and you’ve got to get these metrics right.

It has an all-star cast of board members, all of whom are investors. Among them are Bono; Jeff Skoll, the first employee of eBay, who now runs Participant Media and is a major philanthropist (“You only need so much for you and your family,” he told me); Laurene Powell Jobs, the philanthropist investor; Richard Branson; Reid Hoffman, a founder of LinkedIn; Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments; Lynne Benioff, a philanthropist; Mo Ibrahim, perhaps the most influential investor in Africa; and Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay and a backer of First Look Media.
The new fund is expected to invest about half of its money domestically in areas like health care, education and clean energy technologies. The other half will be invested in emerging markets in sectors like microlending and other financial services, housing and education.
Note the new fund will invest both sides of the money in education.  Uh oh.

In Part Two, I'll talk about how the one-two punch of a Federal Student Data Tracking system and "personalized learning" will play a big part in redefining public education.

gateskeeper

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really great post Melissa!

-ParentSPS

Anonymous said...

After the election, it should be painfully obvious that students need an education in civic engagement--not just in theory, but in practice. Somehow I don't see this forming part of either DeVos' or Gates' national education priorities, for obvious reasons.

With regard to Gates' sucking up to Trump and comparing him to JFK: that is what fascist appeasement looks like.

David Edelman

Anonymous said...
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Michael Rice said...

Those of us who teach with Mr. Edelman have known for a long time that he is on the list!

I fully support the idea of more civics education and civic engagement by our students. We can find the time by eliminating all the Common Core mandated state testing. I know that one of the computer labs at Ingraham is booked for multiple days to administer these tests. It means that I will have less time to do something constructive with my AP Statistics and IB Math Studies students. I was going to teach the Statistics students who to program in R and I was going to teach some elementary statistics to the Math Studies students.

Watching said...

As I recall, a large portion of RTT dollars were spent on administration.

Michael Rice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Mr. David Edelman

Although you do have freedom of speech, you don't as a teacher have the luxury of calling the POTUS a fascist and by proxy labeling students and their parents as fascist.

Let's see if you have the balls to post the same thing on your verifiable FB account. I think not. Your move.

Loud Mouth

Michael Rice said...

Wagon Wheels

Very nice. I was already aware of this, It is a nice tutorial, thank you. I wonder who the students ask to get their questions answered and feedback on what they are doing?

I agree about moving on to more important things. Teaching the students statistics is one of those "important" things. Stats is the math of the 21st century and it is a necessary tool for students to be successful in our ever more and more focused data-driven world. I feel honored I get to teach such an important topic to the students.

Just so you know, this this is something additional we are going to after the AP exam. I have had several people who work with statistics in industry and they have recommended that the students learn some programming.

By the way, why don't you use your name when you make your snarky comments? What do you have to hide? We can have a much more fruitful and productive discussion if you reveal who you are and what your motives are. Any one can hide behind a fake name. I teach in room 42 at Ingraham High School. Why don't you come by someday and see what is going on? Come see education in process. I know you will leave knowing that children are learning and that public education in Seattle works, in spite of what you may read in the Seattle times or read or hear from the Gates Foundation or any other group that wants to "privatize" or "individualize" education.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Loud Mouth, you don't even sign your own name and you are challenging someone else? That's rich. (Also, your extrapolation of calling the POTUS a name and thereby it extends to students and parents is simplistic and not valid.)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I really have know idea if the comment was created by Mr. David Edelman an employee of Seattle public schools. If in fact it is Mr. David Edelman, then perhapse he wouldn't mind posting the same anti POTUS diatribe on his FB page, that way I can take the appropriate action.

I will check with the school after break to see if Mr. David Edelman political feelings are spilling over into his classroom. That's if in fact it's actually Mr. David Edelman who is commenting and not someone pretending to be Mr. David Edelman.

To answer your challenge, I don't need to sign my name, because I'm not the person making outrageous claims regarding the POTUS and Mr. Gates. Both men are very successful unlike Mr. David Edelman and most of your followers. Simplistic?, please.

Loud Mouth

Anonymous said...

mr or ms Loud Mouth: Before you accuse somebody, you may want to read what they say more carefully. Mr Edelman did not make any "outrageous claim regarding the POTUS". The POTUS is Barack Obama, who is clearly not a fascist. Nor did he accuse mr Gates of being a fascist; the accusation was about appeasement. And of course there was no accusation of students or parents.

The last 8 years have provided plenty of data on how far people in public life can go in being disrespectful to the President of the United States without losing their jobs. This may have something to do with the First Amendment and that Mr Obama works for us and we don't work for him. Just because you got your guy in next, doesn't change this in the least - unless of course, the next guy is going to act as a fascist.

Bert Speelpenning

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Loud Mouth, I think we can all agree that the fact that very few millennials even voted is problematic for democracy. And, we can agree that all students should not be threatened at school. Civics, at a minimum, could address this longstanding problem.

reader

Anonymous said...

Mr Edelman has the right to say anything he wants in a public forum. It's not a classroom; he's not on the job. Loud mouth, you just look ignorant and like a bully when you posted that, and so you are venting your spleen but influencing no one.

asdf

Anonymous said...

And apparently "making outrageous claims about POTUS" gets you elected as the next POTUS.

asdf

Anonymous said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

Reprinting for Anonymous (no anonymous comments, please):

https://www.aclu-wa.org/docs/free-speech-rights-public-school-teachers-washington-state

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

So I don't like name-calling or cryptic remarks so let's not do that. (I am considering some name-calling for Trump and his administration but that's still just under consideration.)

Anonymous said...

It was supposedly a teacher who chose to comment using their name which I recognized. I then used google to identify them and it turned out to possibly be an IHS teacher (I never relieved that)and that comment was followed up by a co worker commenting and affirming both facts (not me). This is a moot point unless the person wishes to somehow substantiate their identity, which I feel they will not.

LM

Anonymous said...



In this case it's not a stretch to imagine a teacher so brazen to publicly comment with such strongly biased political conclusions are also projecting the same bias upon any student who does not share the same beliefs.

Any student reading this teacher's online comments would likely be more than tentative engaging in a productive discussion in fear of retaliation.

LM

Charlie Mas said...

A productive discussion, by definition, does not result in retaliation. That is, unless retaliation was the desired product.

While a teacher who puts hate speech in a public forum can expect consequences, there should not be any consequences for political speech. That's protected.

Here is what was written in the comment signed "David Edelman":
"With regard to Gates' sucking up to Trump and comparing him to JFK: that is what fascist appeasement looks like."

I think it is worth noting that the comment characterized the type of appeasement as fascist, not the president-elect and certainly not those who voted for him.

So when Loud Mouth wrote,
"Although you do have freedom of speech, you don't as a teacher have the luxury of calling the POTUS a fascist and by proxy labeling students and their parents as fascist."

Loud Mouth was both wrong in fact and conclusion. First, yes, teachers DO have the luxury of calling elected officials fascists - though he didn't - and they DO have the luxury of labeling voters as fascist - though he didn't. "Fascist" is not hate speech.

I pity the person who makes primitive challenges that start "Let's see if you have the balls... " Especially when the challenge is to put your name to the statement and the challenger has chosen to remain anonymous. Loud Mouth has no obligation to identify his or her self; it's just funny and ironic to see an anonymous commenter make this specific challenge. I would remind Loud Mouth that it does not require testicles to have the courage or your convictions. In fact, it doesn't require any specific glands at all, just moral courage and strong dedication to principles.

Loud Mouth amuses me further with his or her second comment:

"I really have know idea if the comment was created by Mr. David Edelman an employee of Seattle public schools. If in fact it is Mr. David Edelman, then perhapse he wouldn't mind posting the same anti POTUS diatribe on his FB page, that way I can take the appropriate action."

The jokes here - other than the spelling errors - is the characterization of the original Edelman comment as a "diatribe" - it wasn't - and the suggestion that there would be some sort of appropriate action that Loud Mouth could take. Like what? Stamp your little feet and hammer your little fists? Cry loudly?

More jokes:
"I will check with the school after break to see if Mr. David Edelman political feelings are spilling over into his classroom."

Now there is an empty threat if I ever heard one.

And one final joke: " ...the POTUS [actually the president-elect, not the President] and Mr. Gates. Both men are very successful unlike Mr. David Edelman and most of your followers."

The jokes here are just as good. Is Mr. Trump successful? He thinks so. Are most of us successful? I'd say that most of us think we are. And who measures success and how is it measured? Surely not in wealth - that would be simplistic (and wrong).

So thank you, Loud Mouth, for the much-needed humor. Please come back and comment anytime - either in jest as you have or with a serious and informed comment.

Anonymous said...

This blog serves a very important purpose. And, a key contributor to the success of this blog is the cadre of knowledgeable posters. However, it is certainly overrun with trolls as it (and Seattle) grows with size - as are all free posting forums. I believe that it is time to restrict comments to registered users - still able to post anonymously. That way the organizers of the blog will, at least, know the identity of the posters and suspend their accounts - or issue warnings. This is one method that blogs have used to maintain some legitimacy. It might be time for this. BTW - I am the parent of an Edelman student. Arguably Mr. Edelman is one of the, if not the, best teachers we encountered in 10 years in the Seattle Public Schools. Any student, regardless of their political beliefs would be safe, respected and very lucky to be a member of his class.

-ParentSPS

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Teachers do not have total freedom of speech while employed by a school district. If their actions or speech interferes with any student's well being or creates a hostile learning environment the teacher could be removed from the classroom and or terminated.

The following paragraph is from the article linked in the comment above,

"Inside the classroom is considered speech on behalf of the school district and not be entitled to much protection. Certain types of speech outside the school might also not be protected if the school can show that your speech created a substantial adverse impact on school functioning."

LM

Anonymous said...

The issue here isn't about an identity or validating accounts. The issue is whether or not Edelman is actually commenting and the potential negative effects of public employees openly taking positions. So far, only a supposed co-worker has sudo validated that it's Edelman.

-MJ

Anonymous said...

Anonymous posting allows for more discussion, good or bad. Not responding to the obvious baiting type posts might be just as effective as trying to restrict who can comment. If I were a teacher I would hesitate to post by name, no matter how respected. It just leaves the door open to unwanted attention. It's still uncertain if teacher signatures were real or not. My bigger concern is that someone is possibly signing with the name of another. There have been several instances of someone using the long time pseudonyms of other posters.

Having encountered several SPS teachers who bring their personal politics and beliefs into the classroom, to the detriment of students, the truth is that SPS is unlikely to act in such a situation. For those teachers intent on indoctrinating, the students most silenced are those not aligned with far left political viewpoints. According to @ParentSPS, it's not really an issue for the teacher mentioned.

-another 2cents

Anonymous said...

With respect to Gates and Trump, Gates is both smarter than and more successful in business, by vast degrees, and much richer. He's superior to Trump in every measure Trump would value (other than groping women and cheating on wives). Trump has NPD. So he's easily manipulated by those whose opinion he values (viz. Putin).

By blowing smoke up Trump's ass (as if his ego could possibly be further inflated, but anyway), Gates can probably have massive influence with Trump, and manipulate the hell out of him. Don't know if it's racist appeasement, or smart politics.

asdf

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Any student reading this teacher's online comments would likely be more than tentative engaging in a productive discussion in fear of retaliation."

That's just ridiculous. A teacher is not going to retaliate against a student for a differing view. And Mr. Edelman is a very fine teacher who would not do that. As well, teachers are private citizens and have any public opinion they want as long as they are not teaching that opinion.

Parent SPS, I am considering ways to limit troll comments.

Melissa Westbrook said...

LM, you have made your point several times. Either talk about the post itself or move along.