Friday, December 21, 2012

Stand Your PLAYGROUND? HELL NO! Keep The NRA AWAY From Our Kids!!

I haven't commented on the heartbreaking events in Newtown because I have been, well, heartbroken.  I have twin six year olds, the same grade as the beautiful babies that were killed, and I haven't been able to so much as think about this without bawling.  Writing about it has simply been out of the question.

But yesterday, in the car line waiting to pick up my girls from school - where an armed police officer has been standing guard all week - that sadness turned to outrage.  

The turning point came at the end of a Fresh Air segment called Assault-Style Weapons In The Civilian Market.  Terry Gross interviewed Tom Diaz, a senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center, which conducts gun-related research and advocates for ways to reduce gun violence.

Diaz made a lot of sense.  
I liked to say that the NRA is, it becomes a kind of laundering machine for the gun industry. And I'll explain what I mean. The gun industry would really appear to be too crass perhaps, and shocking to say, you know what, you need to buy our Bushmaster so that you can resist the government and kill bad people if you have to. So they don't say that. The NRA on the other hand has no problem kind of euphemizing this very same message and saying, we need our guns, we need to protect ourselves from tyrannical governments, the way they phrase it. And some of their material is really quite provocative and quite shocking. So they've taken one of the messages of the industry and transformed it into a more or less socially acceptable way of saying it. And that brings us to the question of, as a society, are we going to break the code that the NRA constantly promulgates and say wait a minute, you guys have had enough with this business, that's not our society and are we going to stop it?
Read that a couple times.  Now read it again.  It really gets to heart of what's happened so far in the wake of the Newtown shooting.

At the end of the segment, Gross explained that she tried to present both sides of the argument, but no gun rights advocates would talk to her.

From the transcript:
We called the NRA to invite a spokesperson on our show in the wake of the Newtown massacre. In response, we were sent a press release saying that out of respect for the families they're giving time for mourning, prayer, and a full investigation before commenting. The group will hold a news conference tomorrow and says it's prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again. 
We also offered an invitation to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. They sent us a release saying out of respect to the families, the community, and the ongoing police investigation it would be inappropriate for the organization to participate in media requests at this time. 
We called the Freedom Group, the gun and ammunition manufacturer that owns several brands, including Remington and Bushmaster, which made the gun Adam Lanza used in Newtown. We never heard back from them. 
And we contacted the gun manufacturer FNH U.S.A. which was referred to in our interview. They told us they were unable to accommodate our interview request on such short notice. Coming up, our linguist Geoff Nunberg chooses the word of the year. This is FRESH AIR. (emphasis mine)
And that was all it took.  I was livid.  I was shocked by the cowardice displayed by the organizations that are entirely to blame for assault weapons like the one used in the massacre being accessible to damaged souls like Adam Lanza.  I was disgusted that they were unwilling to engage in dialogue or discussion.  I was incensed by their insincere, canned, or non responses, almost a week after the tragedy.  

As mad as I was, I have to admit, when they said they were "prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again," I thought they may have turned some moral corner.

Silly me.  Today they made good on the news conference they promised; here's what the bastards actually meant.
The N.R.A.'s main answer to school violence was a model program it unveiled called National School Shield, which would train and arm security guards at schools in those local districts that want to use it. 
The group said it would pay for a task force to develop details for the model, and named Asa Hutchinson, a former Arkansas congressman and a strong supporter of the N.R.A., to lead it.
Armed guards in schools across the country?  Are they INSANE????  

There's already a website for the National School Shield, but all that's on it is Hutchinson's press release which offers this gem:
Every school and community is di fferent, but this model security plan will allow every school to choose among its various components to develop a school safety strategy that fi ts their own unique situation, whether it's a large urban school ... a small rural school, or anything in-between.
Armed, trained, quali fied school security personnel will be one element of that plan, but by no means the only element. 
If a school decides for whatever reason that it doesn't want or need armed security personnel, that of course is a decision to be made by parents at the local level.
As if that's not terrifying enough, there's more:
Whether they're retired police, retired military or rescue personnel, I think there are people in every community in this country, who would be happy to serve, if only someone asked them and gave them the training and certi cation to do so.
Sounds like a glorified community watch program for schools, doesn't it?  Which makes me think of innocent Trayvon Martin, shot dead by overzealous community watch captain George Zimmerman, emboldened by destructive ALEC sponsored Stand Your Ground legislation.  Significant grassroots outrage forced ALEC to stop spreading similar legislation to other states. 

If there hadn't been nationwide pushback against ALEC you can believe we would soon see soulless legislators pushing Stand Your PLAYGROUND legislation right alongside this asinine scheme from the NRA to put MORE guns into people's hands and more MONEY into their pockets.

And seriously?  They expect parents across this country to believe that they can cook up some harebrained nationwide campaign like this and we should trust that, if they get federal or state buy-in, wether or not it's actually implemented will be "a decision made by parents at the LOCAL LEVEL????"  

Anyone who's read more than one of my blog posts about what's happening in public education in New Jersey knows it takes Herculean efforts for parents to make their voices heard and more often than not they are drowned out by monied interests that have infiltrated the very core of the Education Departments that are meant to serve our interests and the interests of our children.

So HELL NO!  No armed guards in our schools!  Parents want an assault weapons ban and stricter gun laws.

What warped place have we come to in this country when the monsters responsible for this massacre that has terrified parents to our collective core, attempts to offer us a solution that relies on MORE of the thing we are terrified of! 

So now we've come full circle, right back to Diaz and what he said on Fresh Air.
And that brings us to the question of, as a society, are we going to break the code that the NRA constantly promulgates and say wait a minute, you guys have had enough with this business, that's not our society and are we going to stop it?
What say you parents?  Are we? 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The NJ CREDO Study; And The Band Played On

My blog post refuting Commissioner Cerf's claim that CREDO was "not a part of the bandwagon", was picked up by both Diane Ravitch and Valerie Strauss.  I have done a bit more digging, and have come up with what I feel is irrefutable evidence that not only is CREDO part of the bandwagon, their Director Macke Raymond, may in fact be one of the band leaders.

The additional research started with this email, which was released to the Education Law Center under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).
Macke:Smarick re- Robertson.pdf

This email is LOADED.  It's going to take a bit of work to break it all down.

New Jersey Implications

The first, and most obvious thing is that Raymond states, in no uncertain terms, that she has used a yet to be signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between CREDO and the NJDOE to leverage a grant from the reformy, billionaire-hedge fund-backed Robertson Foundation.  

But also note, that there is reference to the fact that Robertson is "keen" to fund their work because they already fund the Newark Charter School Fund (along with Gates and Walton).

This certainly gives the impression that the Robertson Foundation is looking to use CREDO's NJ study to fortify their sizable ($4M) investment in Newark.  

And surprise, surprise! Newark charters were the star of the report!!  In fact, the report attempted to sell the gains in Newark, which Bruce Baker has shown again and again are most likely to be a result of segregation, to spread charters across the rest of the state.  

But not so fast!  A report released last week highlighted the segregation in Newark schools, which was glossed over almost entirely in CREDO's rosy depiction of "gains" in Newark charters.

The report, commissioned by the district and prepared by the Boston-based consulting company Parthenon, analyzed student proficiency in math and reading, college readiness and test score growth in 85 charter and district schools across the state’s largest city.
It classified about 14,000 K-8 students as being "highest need," based on factors such as backgrounds, home lives, English language proficiency and special education classification.
The Parthenon report found that among the 43 percent of Newark students classified as "highest need," charter schools enroll 3 percent and district schools enroll 40 percent. 

Yeah, there's a big surprise.  

And I can hear CREDO supporters now complaining that the CREDO study found "virtual twins" for district students in charter schools, and those charter school students, at least in Newark, performed better.  But Bruce Baker and Julia Sass Rubin have both pointed out that by not differentiating between levels of poverty, CREDO's results are tragically flawed.  

So what's NSVF?

In the email Raymond says, "Sorry to miss the chance to update you this week at NSVF..."

So of course I was curious to find out what NSVF was and what happened that week.  

NSVF is the NewSchools Venture Fund, and that week was their annual Summit.
The NewSchools Summit, held in partnership with the Aspen Institute, is an annual invitation-only gathering of entrepreneurs, educators, and policymakers who are passionate about the power of entrepreneurs to transform public education for underserved children.
So I looked back at some of their previous summits, and seems Raymond has taken part in some pretty telling panels.  Like this one from 2005, titled "How Good Is Good Enough? Reframing the Debate on Charter School Quality."  
Emerging availability of data on charter school performance and the evolution of how charter schools are authorized and evaluated have spurred conversations about charter school quality and fueled recent debates in the press. This session will examine how key stakeholders in the charter school movement should proactively frame the debate about charter school quality. (emphasis mine) 

Well, it certainly felt like the CREDO study's conclusions were meant more to "proactively frame the debate" than provide any kind of objective analysis of the findings.  And BTW, Greg Richmond, who we have already established is Commissioner Cerf's new BFF, was also on the same panel.

Raymond's participation in this clearly pro-charter, invitation only summit, alongside Cerf's latest partner in crime, made me wonder if she regularly takes part in other summits, but man, I wasn't prepared to find this next one.

2005 Chartering 2.0 Leadership Summit

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools website still has a report posted about the event.
Last summer, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools gathered some of the nation’s leading charter school advocates and other education experts to plan for the next generation of charter schooling.
The event, “CHARTERING 2.0,” was inspiring and thought-provoking and provided valuable guidance on how to improve charter quality as the movement grows to scale(emphasis mine) 

Raymond was on a panel called "School Districts Will Change in Response to Charters" with, among others, Deborah McGriff who was at Edison Learning with Cerf, and now is a partner at NSVF (see how everything seems to come right back to Cerf and the same handful of reformy organizations?)

What Raymond said on this panel is shocking.  Here are her comments in their entirety.

I have three points.  First, change is the last thing districts will do.  Second, there are predictable indicators of where districts are on the change curve.
Third, the charter movement isn’t yet making a strong case for competitive response from districts. 
I study the emergence of markets in industries dominated by monopolies. Certain lessons can be learned from these instances that can be applied to the charter world.  Monopolies have enormous power and do not change happily or easily; they can expend resources to avoid change.  When threatened, they launch a series of wars.  First is the war of entry: prohibiting new entrants into the market.  They try to set high barriers through law and regulation.  In general, the monopolist is dismissive of potential entrants. 
The second war is of survival—they launch games of irritation.  These include delaying tactics, non-responsiveness, and nonpayment.  They try to limit the discretion of the new entrants.  The public relations strategy is to smear the new opponents, often personally. 
Third is the war of containment.  They will heap on as many costs as possible to wear you down, such as more reporting requirements and cost studies. The public relations battle becomes more aggressive and organized. 
Fourth is the war of elimination; the biggest indicator is the legal challenge. The opposition forms into coalitions designed to destroy the new entrants. 
After all of these wars, you will see change.  But you have to survive first. 
A final point: if chartering is to win the political and policy battle, it must demonstrate that it can either produce much better results or much greater efficiency (same results with lower costs).  Charter schools haven’t done either yet.
So in 2005 Raymond studied the "emergence of markets in industries dominated by monopolies" and now she studies "the effectiveness of public charter schools.

To me, the question then becomes, is her current research really about "effectiveness" or is it a way to ensure that the charter market continues to "emerge."  This is certainly the goal of her funders. 

There is no way to read Raymond's speech at the Chartering 2.0 Leadership Summit and not question wether the dubious conclusions drawn from her research are nothing more than a weapon in the arsenal of charter advocates to win the "war" she describes.

In 2005 Raymond stated that to win, charter advocates must demonstrate that charters "produce much better results."  And now, lo and behold, 7 years and a couple million reform-bucks later, she's producing the research findings to "prove" just that.  

No doubt about it, Cerf Lied

One thing is certainly clear.  Raymond is indeed a "key stakeholder" among the "nation's leading charter school advocates."  AKA, the bandwagon.

Yet Cerf sat before the New Jersey State Board of Education and testified that the CREDO researchers were NOT a part of the bandwagon.  

There is no doubt.  He lied.  

Shouldn't there be some consequence when the Commissioner of Education testifies before his state board and lies through his teeth?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

For Laura Waters, Newark Charters Have A Certain... Special... Something...

Once again, Laura Waters demonstrates that facts, or even common sense, mean very little in the world of reform.

I've written a couple of posts already about the CREDO study.  I've written about the questionable conclusions drawn by the authors of the study, and how their ties to the reform world may explain how they came to such conclusions.  Bruce Baker has dissected the Newark Effect demonstrated in the study not once, but twice.  Julia Sass Rubin of Save Our Schools New Jersey has asked some very pertinent questions of the authors of the study.

But leave it to Ms. Waters to just come to her own conclusions, based on... well, based on nothing but her own reformy fantasies.

In her essay for NewsWorks New Jersey, she pontificates about "why" Newark charters demonstrated greater gains, and what we can learn from them.
One possibility is that Newark is home to five KIPP schools, the highly-regarded national network of charters.. There are no other KIPP schools in the state. What is KIPP doing that other charters – indeed, other traditional public schools – aren't doing? 
Another high-achieving charter in Newark is North Star Academy, part of the Uncommon Schools network, which has schools in New York City, Boston, Rochester, and Troy. Is there something special about large charter management organizations?
Ms. Waters then goes on to conclude that perhaps the KIPP coup in Camden will lead to better outcomes for kids there, too. 

Guess Ms Waters doesn't read Jersey Jazzman, or she'd know that KIPP has already come and gone in Camden.  But looks like KIPP will get to try again, thanks to George Norcross's influence over the Camden School Board.

And North Star Academy?  Bruce Baker has demonstrated that charters like North Star very likely owe their success to high attrition rates and "shedding" low performing students.  

If high attrition leads to high achievement, do we consider that a good thing?

And let's not forget, the authors of the study did not release their data, so we have NO IDEA which charters' data were or were not used in the CREDO study.  There is no way to know if KIPP or North Star have anything at all to do with the results. 

Unless CREDO releases their data. (more on that later...)

And Ms. Waters asks if there is "something special" about large charter management organizations?  Maybe she should ask the students and parents in St. Louis where Imagine Schools, which operates 70 schools in 12 states and the District of Columbia, was forced to close all six campuses it operated in that city. 

As many as 3,800 children — or about 11 percent of those attending public schools in the city — must find new schools. Their records must be properly preserved and transferred. The school buildings they attended have to be scoured for equipment and materials paid for with federal funds. The 288 teachers and staff who work at the schools must have a better idea of their remaining pay and benefits. And that's not counting the thousands of questions by parents who demand answers.
Charter schools in Missouri have closed in the past. But never on this scale.
In fact, the decision this week by Missouri's Board of Education to shutter six Imagine charter schools in St. Louis will likely result in the largest charter school closure of its kind nationwide, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "This is definitely one of the biggest that I'm aware of," said Todd Ziebarth, of the alliance. "It's complicated enough when it's a single school of, lets say, 300 kids 
The St. Louis Imagine schools were not only some of the lowest performing schools in the district, an Imagine VP had no explanation for the fact that he had received $32,000 in payments from a contractor renovating Imagine buildings. 

Oh, and look!  Cerf's old buddies at EdisonLearning may be getting ready to turn tail and flee from St. Louis, too!
The exit of Imagine comes as another for-profit company, EdisonLearning, appears to be leaving St. Louis. Like Imagine Schools, EdisonLearning also operates a cluster of mostly low-performing schools called Confluence Academy. The governing board is negotiating an end to the relationship with the hope of improving academics.
Yeah, there is something special about large charter management companies all right!

But this gem from Waters really takes the cake.
Newark also has a reform-minded superintendent, Cami Anderson, who doesn't seem to view charter schools as a threat to her market share. Is the relationship between a district's leadership and charters a factor in student success?
"Reform-minded" Cami Anderson is responsible for the "student success" in Newark as demonstrated in the CREDO study?  That's quite a feat since Anderson was hired in May of 2011, and the study used data from 2006-2011.  The NJASK is generally taken in March, April and May - so all of the data generated for the study was collected just before Anderson started in Newark.

She really is somethin' that Cami, isn't she?  She brought results to Newark before she was even hired!

At the State Board of Education meeting on Wednesday the authors of the CREDO study were asked why the gains in Newark were so much higher than the rest of the state.  Their answer was simple.  

They don't know.  

They said they were investigating the "what" and not the "why."

Please, Ms. Waters, I beg you.  Have the decency to stop pretending you know why when you have absolutely nothing to back up your spurious claims.

Newark charters have a certain... special... something...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Is CREDO "Part Of The Bandwagon?"

At Wednesday's State Board of Education meeting CREDO researchers presented the findings of their study, Charter School Performance in New Jersey.  Commissioner Cerf introduced them by saying he was "nervous" to have CREDO perform the analysis of New Jersey's charter schools.  He claimed CREDO was "not part of the bandwagon" and made a point to say that the national CREDO study is often cited by charter opponents.  

In an opinion piece today in NJ Spotlight Julia Sass Rubin asks four questions of the authors.  

Let's look at the first one.
Question #1: Why does the CREDO press release misrepresent the study’s findings?
The CREDO press release claimed that “New Jersey charter public schools significantly outperform their district school peers.” However, this is not even remotely what the CREDO study found.
If CREDO is in fact "not part of the bandwagon" why would the press release make claims that seemed contrary to the findings of the study?

Where does CREDO get their funding?

Rubin points out that CREDO is a part of the conservative Hoover Institution, and is funded by the equally conservative Walton Foundation.  However, neither of these facts are anywhere to be found on the CREDO website.  In fact, researching an essay I wrote for WHYY on the CREDO study, I asked the lead researcher of the study, Macke Raymond, how the study was funded.  

Here is her response:
The study of New Jersey Charter Schools is part of a larger array of studies we are conducting on charter school effectiveness across the country.  We have received foundation support for that body of work, though none of it was specifically ear-marked for the New Jersey study.
I hope this answers your question.  I do not, however, agree with you that we should be expected to announce our funders.  Many of the entities that support our work are "quiet" organizations and we try to respect their wishes as our funding partners.  Where funders are interested in being identified, we will generally go along.  So we're not trying to hide anything, which the tone of your email implies. (emphasis mine)
A tone?  Moi?  Since she didn't answer, I did a bit of digging, and found that her bio on the Hoover Institution's website disclosed her funding sources.
In partnership with the Walton Family Foundation and Pearson Learning Systems, Raymond is leading a national study of the effectiveness of public charter schools. The public-academic-private partnership helps public charter schools adopt information technologies as a means to both support their operations and generate information required by the study design.  (emphasis mine)
So CREDO is funded not just by Walton, but by Pearson as well.  Pearson, the biggest test pusher on the planet, and Walton, whose "core" education strategy is to "infuse competitive pressure into America’s K-12 education system by increasing the quantity and quality of school choices available to parents, especially in low-income communities."

A marriage made in heaven for CREDO which seems to be using test scores to push charters.

I checked the Walton website to see exactly how much Raymond gets.  One thing I will give Walton credit for is they do not hide where they spend their money, and what they use it for.  

I noticed that the only dollar amount greater than the $375,000 to Hoover/Stanford was $435,000 to University of Wisconsin-Madison, and that the combination of the two grants was more than half of the total amount Walton doled out for research, which says to me this research is pretty important to their "core strategy."

So what are they funding in Madison?  The Value-Added Research Center.

As part of the Value-Added Research Center's (VARC) work with the Walton Family Foundation, we are working with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the Cooperative Educational Services Agency (CESA) #2 to develop a production statewide value-added system for the state of Wisconsin.

Oh goody.  VARC also continues to work with the NYCDOE to develop VAM ratings that led to the highly criticized release of teacher data.

Point being, Walton is putting money into very reformy research, and the results of this research are creating chaos and upheaval in public schools across the country.  

The Company You Keep

So now we know where CREDO gets it's money, let's look at who they are associated with.  

Macke Raymond, Director

As Rubin stated, CREDO, and more specifically Raymond, is associated with the conservative Hoover Institution.  The Hoover Institution is also home to Eric Hanushek, a Senior Fellow in Education.  Hanushek would like to fire the lowest 5-10% of teachers (based on test scores).  Diane Ravitch has called him the "favorite economist of the VAM crowd."

Turns out Hanushek and Macke are not only co-workers.  They're married.   

In an article for Education Next titled "Why are Some Environments Better than Others for Charter Schools? Today’s Policy Question" Hanushek discusses the national CREDO study and it's implications, with the following disclaimer:
[Full disclosure: Macke Raymond, the lead author on the CREDO study, is my wife, so I know more about these studies than the random reader].
OK, I hear you, this could be a James Carville/Marly Matalin thing, right?  So, let's keep going...  But man, that sure is interesting isn't it??

Devora Davis, Research Manager 

Devora was at the State Board of Ed Meeting talking about the study, and has been in the press quite a bit too.  Guess what Devora did before she came to CREDO?  She was a research analyst for KIPP.  

You can follow this link to listen to Davis on KALW in San Francisco talking about charters with the KIPP Chief Academic Officer for the Bay Area, and Jill Wynns President of the California School Boards Association.  Wynns does an amazing job defending public ed, and Davis sounds a lot more like a charter cheerleader than a researcher.

Meg Cotter Mazzola, Manager of Federal Projects

Before working at CREDO Mazzola was at the Center for Education Reform (CER).  It just DOES NOT get more reformy than CER.  Mazzola is listed on the CER website as an alumni; one of many who have "come through CER to intern, work or test their interest in reform."

Guess she passed the test. 
Mazzola was listed as the contact on the press release.  Not sure if she wrote it or not, but ed reform spin and media messaging is a core component of CER's work.

Larson Communications

Until January of 2010 press releases for CREDO were written by Larson Communications, and Larson employees were given as press contacts.  Press releases since that date have listed either Davis or Mazzola as the contact.  

Taking everything above into account, once you learn about Larson Communications, you'll be hard pressed to believe Cerf that CREDO is NOT a "part of the bandwagon."

First, watch this video of Gary Larson, Founder and President of Larson Communications. (Not the Far Side's Gary Larson, sorry.)

"...building relationships with reporters is probably one of the most 
effective ways to make sure you get a positive message out 
about what you're program's doing."

Then peruse their website.  It's a real eye opener.  For starters:
Larson Communications manages a very small number of quality clients and is the only public and media relations firm that specializes in education reform and charter schools. 
Not sounding terribly unbiased...

But dig deeper, and it's simply unreal what this guy has done.  Larson was a California charter cheerleader for years before founding Larson Communications in 2007.  Larson's bio says he specializes in Strategic Positioning and Crisis Communications.  Here's an example of his Crisis Management work:
Protecting the Movement by Holding Questionable Programs Accountable
In the fall of 2004, California Charter Academy (CCA) abruptly shut its doors before the start of the schools year, stranding several thousand students and jeopardizing public confidence in all charter schools.
Show that the California Charter Schools Association was holding this “bad apple” accountable and was doing everything in its power to remedy the situation..

Just keep talking about accountability, and open more, MORE, MORE!


And speaking of NACSA, CREDO and NACSA, along with the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) and the Colorado League of Charter Schools (ALL funded by the Walton Foundation by the way...) are part of a project funded by the USDOE's Office of Innovation and Improvement called Building Charter School Quality.
Over the course of four-years, these partner organizations created a variety of important Publications and Tools designed to help align expectations and create clarity among charter school operators, charter support organizations, authorizers and policymakers around how a quality charter school performs and how different stakeholders can work together to hold these schools accountable for both academic and operational quality.
So to top it all off, CREDO is partners with the two largest national charter advocacy organizations on a USDOE project to build charter quality.

NOT Part Of The Bandwagon?

With all of these connections, can Cerf really say with a straight face that CREDO is NOT part of the bandwagon?  Funded by Walden and Pearson; employees with ties to KIPP and Center for Education Reform; using the services of the reformiest of reformy PR firms; AND partnered with both of the major national charter advocacy organizations on a USDOE funded project.

I think we may have the answer to Rubin's first question.  

The CREDO press release misrepresented the findings of the study because just about everyone in and around CREDO seems to be ideologically driven.  They are immersed in the reform movement and trained to produce ideologically driven conclusions and spin for the press to influence policy and advance the growth of the charter sector, above all else.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

One Million LIES...

Headlines were generated nationwide last week when Greg Richmond, President and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and New Jersey's own Commissioner Cerf teamed up at a press conference in DC to announce the "One Million Lives" campaign.  

The happy couple
What is the One Million Lives Campaign you ask?  That is a damn good question.

Most of the headlines about the roll out of the campaign seemed to focus on a promise to close underperforming charters.  For example, Joy Resmovitz of the Huffington Post titled her piece 

The real message of the campaign seemed to escape most reporters.  But one Indiana radio station got it and nailed the headline.  

That's it right there. That's all really all you need to know.  That's the goal.  

Closing charters is nothing more than subterfuge for the ultimate goal of opening A LOT MORE CHARTERS!

Indeed, the press release for the campaign makes the goal pretty simple.
NACSA today launched its “One Million Lives” advocacy campaign, designed to provide better schools to one million children by opening more good charter schools and closing more failing charter schools.
Just imagine how many charters need to open in order to close the ones that are 'failing', replace them with new ones (to stay at the same number of seats) and end with a net gain of one million seats!

Churn, baby, churn!

The campaign seems to be a continuation of the Richmond/Cerf bromance we first got a glimpse of when Richmond wrote an opinion piece for NJ Spotlight.  Richmond lauded Cerf and his NJDOE for their authorizing accumen (*cough* REGIS *cough*) and more specifically the roll out of the Performance Framework, the yardstick Cerf will use to determine which charters will stay and which will go.  

But if you really read Richmond's opinion piece, the main message is about adding LOTS more charter seats in New Jersey.  About 20,000 to be exact.  
Even as nine new public charter schools prepare to open in September to serve families in predominantly low-income communities, there continues to be overwhelming demand for charter schools. Indeed, 20,000 New Jersey students are still on waiting lists for public charter schools. These students -- and every student across the state -- deserve access to high-quality public school options of all types.
Richmond's headline was about the Performance Framework, but the real story was about how with NACSA's help, Cerf can grow New Jersey's charter 'sector', not shrink it.

Just remember, when you hear the likes of Richmond and Cerf talk about performance, standards, accountability or closures, what you should be hearing is growth, growth, growth and GROWTH!

Less is the new more!  And not just a few more.  Think Andy Smarick more.  Think district takeover more. 

Don't be fooled.  Don't let them lie to you.  Because that's what they're doing.

Silent Protest Against Cerf's Charter Regulations At State Board Of Education Meeting

Parents say "NO" to charter regulations, "YES" to local control
Parents from across the state staged a silent protest this morning at the State Board of Education meeting, where Commissioner Cerf's proposed charter regulations will most likely be adopted.  

There was significant backlash to the first draft of the regulations, including 40 speakers at a Board of Ed meeting last summer, a Save Our Schools NJ petition to the Board which has more than 5,500 signatures, and push back from the Education Law Center.  In response, language that would have allowed virtual charter schools to pull students statewide, despite the fact that New Jersey's charter school law is silent on virtual charters, was removed from the regulations.

Commissioner Cerf has moved ahead however with regulatory changes that would greatly impact districts state wide.  The Education Law Center recently renewed their objections to the regulations:
ELC's comments, submitted on November 1, 2012, challenge NJDOE's attempt to expand the charter school program without legislative authorization, in direct violation of the Legislature's requirement that any expansion, modification, or termination of the program should not be undertaken without legislative approval. 
Of particular concern is the NJDOE proposal to allow charter schools, once approved, to set up satellite campuses without obtaining separate charter approval, and to broadly amend their charters, even in ways that change the school’s prior approved mission. 
The satellite campus proposal would apply only to charter schools in districts with “priority” schools under the NCLB waiver obtained by the State, or within former Abbott districts. ELC notes that NJDOE has not yet adopted regulations governing “priority” schools, and the Abbott designation was eliminated by the Legislature in 2008.  
Yet another power grab by the Commissioner of Education, for which he lacks legal authority or popular support.  

And despite the headlines about the CREDO study, what the research really showed was that there were NO GAINS in four out of five districts that, according to the Commissioner's regulations, would be subject to satellite campuses and a corresponding loss of local control.  

The folks from CREDO will be at today's Board of Ed meeting to talk about the report, as will Cerf.  I certainly hope some of the board members have done their homework and will look beyond the headlines and press releases that purposefully bury the fact that charters are not showing better results than traditional public schools in Trenton, Camden, Jersey City or Paterson, that kids in suburban charters are only showing modest gains, and kids in rural charters are losing significant ground.  

If the largest study on New Jersey charters to date shows such limited results, who exactly is benefitting from the expansion of charters in New Jersey?  

Sure doesn't seem to be the kids.