Ears on the SRC – August 18, 2016

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By Lynda Rubin and Deborah Grill

August 28, 2016

Overview

Public attendance was light. Chair Marjorie Neff and Commissioners Bill Green and Sylvia Simms were present; Commissioner Houston participated by phone for the first hour and voted on the first set of resolutions, SRC 1-15; Commissioner Jimenez participated by phone for the last twenty minutes.

Chair Neff began by explaining a change in the agenda which would allow those testifying on resolutions SRC 1-15 (except resolutions SRC 8, 11, 12 and 13–Mastery School renewals, which were withdrawn by staff just prior to the meeting) to be heard first, followed by those votes being taken in order to accommodate Commissioners Houston and Jimenez “who would be participating by phone”. However, when Interim Chief of General Counsel Miles Shore took roll, Commissioner Jimenez failed to answer. This regular practice of having SRC members participate by phone, without access to documents, previous testimony, or ability to fully take part in discussions, is one that should only be used only in the case of a true emergency.

Jimenez did not join the meeting until all of the speakers had finished giving their testimony. She did vote on the Education Support Services and Education Services resolutions. Jimenez said little until just before adjournment at which time she gave a three-minute diatribe against Lisa Haver, objecting to Haver’s “spewing vitriol” and aiming “slings and arrows” at her.  Jimenez accused Haver of defending only the First Amendment rights “of those who agree with her”.  Jimenez did not explain the reason for her remarks: that Haver and another APPS member had sent a letter to Jimenez questioning her appearance on MSNBC as part of a panel of “undecided voters”, during which Jimenez failed to identify herself as an SRC member or Republican party operative but did repeat several of Donald Trump’s talking points. Nor did she or the Chair give Haver a chance to respond. (See the video at the end of this post.)

Click here to read the rest of the Eyes on the SRC – August 18, 2016

Green’s role as a public advocate is dubious

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by Lisa Haver
published in the Philadelphia Public School Notebook

August 22, 2016

School Reform Commissioner Bill Green has been making the rounds lately, along with fellow Commissioner Sylvia Simms, at events sponsored by the Parent Congress and the Education Opportunities for Families, presenting himself as an advocate for poor and working-class Philadelphians, expressing outrage and disdain at what he portrays as a lack of dedication and compassion from teachers and other school professionals.

His goal seems to be the sowing of divisions between parents and teachers, and between different demographics of parents. He recounts the old story, an urban legend at this point, of the new starry-eyed teacher, whose love of teaching and children has not yet been beaten out of her by the big bad union, who stays until 4 p.m. each day until the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers rep knocks on her door one day at 3:15, demanding that she leave because “you’re making the rest of us look bad.” That, he tells the parents, is “the culture of our school district.”

For a person in a position of power to mislead one group by demonizing another is nothing new. Green’s railing against union members — blaming them for the District’s shortcomings instead of those actually responsible for years of devastating spending and policy decisions — has become a regular feature of School Reform Commission meetings. Rather than spend money to lower class sizes or bring back school librarians, the SRC has funneled millions to vendors for questionable programs like blended learning, to testing and test-prep companies, to unnecessary training programs for teachers and administrators, to outside legal firms, and for ongoing charter expansion.

But let’s look at the culture of the SRC, especially in the last three years. Has it been a culture of openness and transparency, or one of secrecy and contempt for the public?

The record shows that Green, as both chair and commissioner, has used his position of power to thwart the will of the community, even violating the law to silence them. In October 2014, then-Chairman Green convened a meeting with no notice on the District’s website and with no public comment permitted in which the SRC voted unanimously to cancel the contract that it had negotiated with the PFT. Commonwealth Court’s unanimous ruling that the SRC acted illegally, that it has no “special powers” to unilaterally terminate a contract, was upheld last week in a unanimous decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Green’s new role as champion of parents can only be met with skepticism by those who have been the victims of his actions. In February 2015, Green used his position as chair to make a unilateral decision, again with no public notification, to have police search the bags and confiscate the signs of parents and community members who came to be heard on the issue of an alarming impending charter expansion. Green never apologized or made a commitment to respect the rights of the public, even after the District was sued in federal court and agreed to a financial settlement with the members of the public whose First Amendment rights he trampled.

More recently, Green was exposed in the press for having lied about his role in turning over Wister Elementary to Mastery Charters after stating publicly that he had no previous knowledge that Commissioner Simms was going to introduce a resolution from the floor. Documents obtained through a Right To Know request showed that he had spoken to a representative of Philadelphia School Partnership about having PSP board members (most of whom do not live in the city) lobby for such a resolution — five days before the SRC meeting. Neither he nor Simms ever met with the Wister parents who were fighting to keep the school public.

In a recent article on the ASPIRA charter renewals, Green declared himself  a “shill for students and their parents.” But he has made sure that no parents or students would be present to witness the deal that he and Simms, who have both been consistently pro-charter and anti-union, are making behind closed doors with ASPIRA management.

Of course, it’s not just Green’s behavior that motivated Philadelphia voters to approve a non-binding referendum in May 2015 for the abolition of the SRC.

Commissioner Farah Jimenez must recuse herself from voting on an increasing number of crucial issues as the possible conflicts grow because of her husband’s connections to charters and her own role as director of an education advocacy organization. Simms has refused to answer questions from the public and the media about the nature of her connection to her sister’s activities as a paid consultant for a company that lobbies on education reform issues.

Members of the SRC who continually shut out the public, who fashion private deals with charter companies and lobbyists, who deny the public’s right to speak on resolutions that affect the future and mission of public schools and who trample on the First Amendment rights of the public can try to rebrand themselves as public advocates, but the record shows they have been anything but.

Digital Learning Goes Back to School

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Alison McDowell summarizes her extensive research into the dangers of corporate education reform and personalized learning.

So I had a back and forth online with someone recently who didn’t understand the significance of education/workforce badging programs and asked me to write something up. So my thoughts are below. Ultimately I think this is all going to be linked to the TiSA (Trade in Services Agreement) as they create a global market for digital education.
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 How to create a global market for digital learning: (detailed background from Morna McDermott)
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 1. Create a common platform of educational standards. Don’t get distracted by CCSS-the uber set of standards is all pretty much in place now. https://ceds.ed.gov/
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2. Make sure all the developers are using a common schema for educational item data tagging. http://scorm.com/ http://dublincore.org/dcx/lrmi-term…
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3. Make PII data and data-collection a priority in schools. Don’t limit yourself to academic performance. Layer in SEL and bio-metrics, too. These are all important for workforce development. Gather it via embedded assessments and gaming to make it more palatable. https://www.adlnet.gov/adl-research…
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4. Focus on closing the digital divide by providing low-cost technology to districts with a majority of low-income students and by expanding broadband access to rural areas. For global, digital education to work, inexpensive internet everywhere must be put in place.
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5. Expand 1:1 device initiatives. Design learning management platforms to be run on less-expensive tablets and chromebooks. Baltimore’s STAT program is one of these. This is a parent blog with a lot of current information on concerns about the program: https://statusbcps.wordpress.com/ca….
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6. Systematically defund bricks and mortar educational systems. Allow facilities to decline, reduce human teaching staff, implement ongoing austerity budgets, etc. http://www.goerie.com/article/20160…
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7. Use fiscal pressure to introduce programs like 4-day school weeks and learn-from-home “e-days.” Public support for later high school start times can also be used to help push initiatives requiring students to take an online class in order to graduate. http://ktul.com/news/local/four-day…
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8. Control the teacher training pipeline to make digital learning the primary delivery vehicle.
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9. In response to growing teacher shortages, introduce blended/hybrid learning options into regular public schools. This enables increases in teacher/student ratios and allows “personalized” digital instruction to claim a growing percentage of the instructional day. Public monies are redirected to private companies through contacts for learning management systems and standards-based online education modules.
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10. Drive families out of the public school system via punitive measures (high-stakes testing, IEP non-compliance, “No Excuses” policies, etc.) and create a perception of public education as dangerous and/or ineffectual so people withdraw to do home school or private school.
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11. Set up charter cyber schools to accommodate the new “home school” families. This will further destabilize public school systems.
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12. Start to build up “virtual” public schools. In PA they are doing it through the county intermediate units. These will be cross-district, regional programs. Students will be encouraged to enroll in a “few” classes online via these programs. They will brand them differently than the cyber charters. They will market it as a savvy cost-saving measure. See PA Open Campus. https://mvp.mciu.org/ http://www.opencampuspa.net/benefit…
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13. Global corporations purchase cyber charter companies to do R&D to refine their online learning platforms and extend their reach-see Connections Academy (Pearson owned) in 29 states. http://www.connectionsacademy.com/n…
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14. Convince the public that online portfolios are better suited to the 21st century “gig” economy workforce than traditional diplomas/transcripts. Make it difficult to procure and access traditional credentialing avenues. See rise of Naviance use in schools. Push badging for non-academic skills.
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15. Convince people that badging has merit and is a trustworthy measure of true skill. Continue to break down the “seat time narrative.” Learning can happen “anywhere.” You can earn badges anywhere, too-not just in school. (see the links between bitcoin and skills-related badging around timestamp 40:00 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKv…) ***If you do nothing else, watch this 6-minute video on “edu-blocks.”*** https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zss…
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16. Have legislation passed that allows for an increase in the use of credit-bearing ELOs (extended, expanded, enhanced learning opportunities)-preferably unlimited. Initially these programs will be before/after school and in summer, but once the community-based learning framework is in place, it can begin to usurp the role of bricks and mortar schools. Reduce seat-time funding requirements at a state level.
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17. Use philanthropic and government funds to establish a system student-oriented maker spaces, code gyms, and other spaces for “out-of-school-time” learning. Piggy-back on the 21st Century Community Learning Center program. Push a vision that you can “remake education” by taking it out of a school building and moving it into the community. Once badging is firmly in place, make the case that bricks and mortar neighborhood schools are obsolete and that a redesigned digital learning program (complemented with some community-based projects-ELOs) provides students with the best career/life pathways.http://remakelearning.org/ https://www.edfunders.org/engage/fu… http://www.21stcclc.org/index.cfm?p…
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18. Blur the lines between high school and college through dual enrollment programs, many of which are delivered digitally. Couch it as “lifelong learning.” Expand online AP classes to target niche markets and add legitimacy to the online learning model.
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19. Get Federal legislation passed so for-profit online education providers can access student loan financing for online courses that will result in badges and micro-credentials.
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20. Establish a common list of skill codes for the labor force that can be tied to the online portfolios and to screen job applicants more efficiently. There will be limited on-the-job training in the future. People will need to finance their own training.
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21. Open up global education markets via TiSA (Trade in Services Agreement). Digital education controlled by multinational corporations (with a supplement of local project based learning) becomes the norm in the 21st century. If you are up for a short dystopian essay. It paints a compelling picture: http://vibrantlearning.aam-us.org/2…
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Don’t count on the non-profits to step up and save education. The ELO / Learning Eco-System model will allow them to significantly expand their programming, and once they accept philanthropic monies or funding via “Pay for Success” or social impact bonds, they will not be in position to fight back. Certified teachers will be replaced by Americorps/Vista kids keeping track of the online portfolios, and newly-minted college graduates will have temporary-grant funded jobs staffing project-based learning at cultural and job-training centers. No more need for certified teachers. http://www.knowledgeworks.org/sites…


For an in-depth look at corporate eduction reform and digital technology, see:

Education Technology, Surveillance and America’s Authoritarian Democracy | Schools Matter – August 19, 2016

Parents’ digital learning opt out form to share
Parents Across America

APPS members testimony to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – August 18, 2016

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On August 18, 2016 the Philadelphia School Reform Commission’s met for its monthly Action Meeting.

This is testimony of members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools at this meeting.

All seven videos can be viewed here.

Click on the pictures below to view individual videos. Speakers are in order of appearance at the SRC meeting


Video of APPS member Carol Heinsdorf testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission hearing – August 18, 2016.

Carol Heinsdorf

The transcript of Carol’s testimony.


Video of APPS member Lisa Haver testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission hearing – August 18, 2016.

Lisa Haver

The transcript of Lisa’s testimony and the transcript of her interaction with Commissioner Green after her testimony.


Video of APPS member Barbara Dowdall testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission hearing – August 18, 2016.

Barbara Dowdall

The transcript of Barbara’s testimony.


Video of APPS member Robin Lowry testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission hearing – August 18, 2016.

Robin Lowry

The transcript of Robin’s testimony.


Video of APPS member Deborah Grill testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission hearing – August 18, 2016.

Deborah Grill

The transcript of Debbie’s testimony.


Video of APPS member Lynda Rubin testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission hearing – August 18, 2016.

Lynda Rubin

The transcript of Lynda’s testimony.


Video of APPS member Rich Miglore testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission hearing – August 18, 2016.

Richard Migliore

The transcript of Rich’s testimony.