Saturday, March 30, 2013

Neoliberalism and the Politics of Higher Education: An Interview With Henry A. Giroux Tuesday, 26 March 2013 10:00 By CJ Polychroniou, Truthout | Interview

It's worth listening to Giroux's presentation posted on this website, as well. -Angela

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Henry Giroux "Youth and the Politics of Disposability in Dark Times": Dr. Henry A. Giroux argues that with the rise of market fundamentalism and the ensuing economic and financial meltdown, youth are facing a crisis unlike that of any other generation. Young people, especially low income and poor minority youth, are no longer seen as a social investment but are increasingly interpreted as a social problem and burden.
Chronis Polychroniou: How do you define neoliberalism?
Henry Giroux: Neoliberalism, or what can be called the latest stage of predatory capitalism, is part of a broader project of restoring class power and consolidating the rapid concentration of capital. It is a political, economic and political project that constitutes an ideology, mode of governance, policy and form of public pedagogy.
As an ideology, it construes profit-making as the essence of democracy, consuming as the only operable form of citizenship, and an irrational belief in the market to solve all problems and serve as a model for structuring all social relations.
As a mode of governance, it produces identities, subjects, and ways of life free of government regulations, driven by a survival of the fittest ethic, grounded in the idea of the free, possessive individual, and committed to the right of ruling groups and institutions to accrue wealth removed from matters of ethics and social costs.
As a policy and political project, neoliberalism is wedded to the privatization of public services, selling off of state functions, deregulation of finance and labor, elimination of the welfare state and unions, liberalization of trade in goods and capital investment, and the marketization and commodification of society.
To read more work by Henry A Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, please click here.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

With Vouchers, States Shift Aid for Schools to Families

This is not a good direction for public schooling. This in fact eviscerates the very notion of public education as the bedrock of our democracy. Education becomes no longer a public good, but rather an individual-level decision with our relationship to public schooling dwindling to that of a consumer making "choices" —which is really the best education they can buy—before a marketplace options. This bodes poorly for the guaranteeing of our children's and community's civil and human rights.


The New York Times

March 27, 2013

With Vouchers, States Shift Aid for Schools to Families

PHOENIX — A growing number of lawmakers across the country are taking steps to redefine public education, shifting the debate from the classroom to the pocketbook. Instead of simply financing a traditional system of neighborhood schools, legislators and some governors are headed toward funneling public money directly to families, who would be free to choose the kind of schooling they believe is best for their children, be it public, charter, private, religious, online or at home.
On Tuesday, after a legal fight, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state’s voucher program as constitutional. This month, Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama signed tax-credit legislation so that families can take their children out of failing public schools and enroll them in private schools, or at least in better-performing public schools.
In Arizona, which already has a tax-credit scholarship program, the Legislature has broadened eligibility for education savings accounts. And in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, in an effort to circumvent a Legislature that has repeatedly defeated voucher bills, has inserted $2 million into his budget so low-income children can obtain private school vouchers.
Proponents say tax-credit and voucher programs offer families a way to escape failing public schools. But critics warn that by drawing money away from public schools, such programs weaken a system left vulnerable after years of crippling state budget cuts — while showing little evidence that students actually benefit.
“This movement is doing more than threaten the core of our traditional public school system,” said Timothy Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association. “It’s pushing a national policy agenda embraced by conservatives across states that are receptive to conservative ideas.”
Currently, 17 states offer 33 programs that allow parents to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools, according to the American Federation for Children, a nonprofit advocate for school vouchers and tax-credit scholarship programs that give individuals or corporations tax reductions if they donate to state-run scholarship funds.
To qualify, students generally must fit into certain categories, based on factors that include income and disability status. Georgia students do not need to meet any specific criteria to receive tax-credit scholarships. And under the income criteria set for Indiana’s voucher program, nearly two-thirds of the state’s families qualify.
The Arizona Legislature last May expanded the eligibility criteria for education savings accounts, which are private bank accounts into which the state deposits public money for certain students to use for private school tuition, books, tutoring and other educational services.
Open only to special-needs students at first, the program has been expanded to include children in failing schools, those whose parents are in active military duty and those who are being adopted. One in five public school students — roughly 220,000 children — will be eligible in the coming school year.
Some parents of modest means are surprised to discover that the education savings accounts put private school within reach. When Nydia Salazar first dreamed of attending St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Phoenix, for example, her mother, Maria Salazar, a medical receptionist, figured there was no way she could afford it. The family had always struggled financially, and Nydia, 14, had always attended public school.
But then Ms. Salazar, 37, a single mother who holds two side jobs to make ends meet, heard of a scholarship fund that would allow her to use public dollars to pay the tuition.
She is now trying to coax other parents into signing up for similar scholarships. “When I tell them about private school, they say I’m crazy,” she said. “They think that’s only for rich people.”
These state efforts come at a particularly challenging time for public schools. Their budgets suffered severely during the recession, and they are now facing pressure to conform to new curriculum standards and to evaluate teacher performance.
“We’re not providing adequately now,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. “Why would you take away” financing from public schools?
In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that school vouchers did not violate the Constitution’s separation of church and state, even though many families use the public money to send their children to religious schools. Many states, however, still have constitutional clauses prohibiting the financing of religious institutions with public money, which is why some of the programs face legal challenges. Voucher opponents also have filed suits based on state constitutional guarantees of public education.
Beyond Indiana, the Supreme Court in Louisiana heard an appeal this month by a group of parents who are currently using vouchers and the Black Alliance for Educational Options, an advocacy group, after a lower court upheld a challenge to the state’s voucher program. They argued that children enrolled in failing public schools had the right to a high-quality education.
“What we’re dealing with is what public monopolies always give us, which is low quality at a very high price,” said Richard Komer, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm that represents the pro-voucher groups in Indiana and Louisiana. “The idea is to try and break that cycle, because what we’ve been doing in public education since the beginning of time is rewarding failure.”
Critics say schools that accept vouchers or tax credit scholarships often filter out students with special needs, and that families already sending their children to private school use the public programs to subsidize their tuition. It is also not clear that students who attend private schools using vouchers get better educations, as many do not have to take the annual standardized tests that public school students do. Research tracking students in voucher programs has also not shown clear improvements in performance.
“At the same exact time as accountability and transparency seem to be the total watchword for how are we spending these dollars in an austerity-ridden environment,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, “there’s absolutely no accountability with vouchers.”
Mr. Komer at the Institute for Justice called for a shift of focus. “We happen to take the view that parents know best,” he said, “and are the best accountability measure to make sure that things are done properly for their kids.”
In Arizona — which, over the past five years, cut more of its K-12 budget than any other state, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a policy research group based in Washington — charter schools are ubiquitous and school districts have open borders, so children are free to go to school wherever they want.
Dr. Ogle, of the Arizona School Boards Association, said, “The arguments that you need to have more options is superfluous.”
But the savings accounts have many powerful supporters, including Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer. Unlike vouchers, these accounts allow the money to follow the child from one school year to the next. (Scholarships total roughly $3,500 a year, or the state’s portion of school per-pupil funding.)
“It will be the end of schools that don’t perform, and that’s a blessing,” said Darcy A. Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute, which designed the program and led a robust lobbying campaign to pass it in the Legislature. “We’re not doing anyone any favors by keeping schools afloat that don’t teach children how to read.”
The school boards association and the state’s teachers union, among others, have challenged the savings accounts in court on the grounds that they violate a constitutional amendment banning spending public money on private schools. (Direct vouchers, begun in 2006, were deemed unconstitutional in 2009 for that reason.)
In January 2012, a Superior Court judge in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, upheld the savings accounts, though the plaintiffs appealed the ruling. Oral arguments were heard last month. A decision is pending.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Confederacy of Reformers

A must read. -Angela

A Confederacy of Reformers 

Posted on March 24, 2013

I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed by all the rapid changes happening in the education sphere. I’m positive I’m not alone in feeling this way based on the feedback, articles and correspondence I’ve been receiving from local and national groups and individuals. As I struggled to zero in on a topic where I could help or enlighten the most, something else even more screwed up would be sent to me. I’ve started and stopped work on several pieces, which may make their appearances later, but I feel the need to get my bearings again. All this crazy “stuff” (not my first word choice) needs to be sorted out and organized before I can make any more forward progress. I think the mistake I was making, and many others are probably making, is not connecting all the dots and figuring out what kind of picture they reveal.
Right now hundreds and probably thousands of disparate groups polishing their individual pieces of the puzzle and identifying a few corners and straight edges here and there . . . maybe the occasional face piece. All of us are focusing on our own small pieces of what is actually a very complex puzzle. If we could put them all together, it would surely show a grand scheme, but we’re all convinced we’re holding the key. I can’t solve this puzzle on my own, but what I can do is show you the pieces I’ve managed to put together, and what I think I’m starting to see. These are my pieces:

Intentionally Flawed Teacher Evaluation Systems

A scourge of questionable teacher evaluation systems and Value Added programs has surged across Louisiana, but across dozens of other states as well. While all these systems are referenced as “Valued Added” or “Teacher Evaluation” systems, they all have very different methods of operating and degrees of crappiness. Every one I’ve reviewed or seen reviewed by unaffiliated evaluators all of them have been revealed to be questionable at best, and outright absurd such as in the case of Louisiana’s Value Added system. Despite all these studies and findings, reformers and their allies still tout these kangaroo court evaluation systems as valid and necessary, and tie tenure and continuing employment and compensation to them. When the public starts to recognize just how absurd the metrics are, Reformer headed DOEs change the formulae, either in small ways or even quite dramatically. Sometimes this makes the systems even worse – for teachers and in terms of accuracy, but this change is only meant to fool the masses. Changing these systems gives the appearance of reasonableness, and shifts the conversation to one of getting data from DOE’s to prove their new systems are more accurate. Of course reformers like John White refuse to provide this data except to sympathetic patsies. The clamorings of researchers unable to get data without lengthy lawsuits is never covered by the mainstream media. Ultimately what happens is experienced teachers are driven from the profession in droves to make room for poorly trained, easily manipulated, inexpensive temporary recruits, teachers unions are dissolved and public education is diluted and destroyed to make way for privately held charter schools. These systems are a farce and are simply a tool to evict experienced teachers from their schools, so those schools can be handed over to private companies, who make campaign contributions to anyone who will further their destructive agenda.

Vouchers and Charter Schools are better for “Choice” although not a better choice

John White and his ilk routinely defend unvetted voucher schools and unregulated charter schools in the name of “choice.” John White has claimed he doesn’t need to monitor and evaluate these programs because parents are in the best position to know what is best for their children. He and his allies actively fight any attempts to evaluate these programs receiving public dollars by the same standards he evaluates public schools, student performance and teachers. The routine claims that are made is that such evaluations are cumbersome and interfere with learning (which is true and why they are foisted off on public schools). However it is also true that most charter students and voucher students perform worse than their peers, in many cases much worse. Initially reformers encouraged this type of comparison, until the results came back overwhelmingly negative. Since they can no longer claim these schools are “better” by their own standards, they have shifted the argument away from quality to one of “freedom” allowing these schools empowers parents by providing them “choice.” However without any information, or guidance, most children (and probably most adults) would choose chocolate chip cookies over carrots. Without nutritional information, calorie content, and high blood sugar readings which would you choose?
Read on here.


Who is Eli Broad and why does he want to destroy public education?

The promoters of the corporate reform of public education can be divided into two major groups, conservative and liberal political action committees which believe in an unregulated free enterprise market; and “venture philanthropies” which pour money into various causes that promote the free market and, not coincidently, the profits of the 1%.

In education funding, these legislators directly represent the interests of corporate and banking institutions, introducing legislation promoting the privatization of public schools through charters and vouchers.

Who is Eli Broad and why does he want to destroy public education?
February 24, 2013

Eli Broad

February 24, 2013
The historically unprecedented explosion of wealth in recent decades for the top one percent of the American populace is leading to a reshaping of the American economy in the interests of this one percent. Having more wealth than they know what to do with, many of the corporate leaders, hedge fund managers, and bankers are putting their wealth into “venture philanthropies”. They hope to advance an unregulated, free market economy which requires the destruction of the advances towards social equality made in American society during the 20th century due to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the sixties and the labor movement in the thirties. Incubated in the economic Wild West days of the G. W. Bush administration until the financial crisis of 2008, these “venture philanthropies” continue to seek to bring the business practices of the banking, corporate, and hedge fund manager world to all sectors of the U.S. economy through privatization.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the full-scale assault on public education that has been escalating for the last ten years since the Bush administration instituted the No Child Left Behind law in 2001. Basing itself on rating schools by high stakes testing, combined with declining federal support for education, NCLB has led to wide scale vilification of public school teachers for social conditions over which they have no control. This is being used all over the country as a pretext for closing schools in mostly urban school districts with large numbers of low-income families. As a result, we once again are faced with an increasingly segregated educational system where the children of middle class and slightly better off working class families are transferred into charters which are given advantages in student selection and funding, while the children of low income families are increasingly being left behind in deteriorating public schools. These ever worsening urban public school systems which, already having been inequitably funded for decades compared to wealthy suburban school districts, are being systematically starved of funding.

The promoters of the corporate reform of public education can be divided into two major groups, conservative and liberal political action committees which believe in an unregulated free enterprise market; and “venture philanthropies” which pour money into various causes that promote the free market and, not coincidently, the profits of the 1%.

Conservative corporate education reform
The major conservative political action committee is the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC). ALEC’s membership is made up of rightwing politicians in legislatures all over the country who propose ALEC created legislation promoting tax benefits to corporations, banks, and the wealthy, and advance the privatization of public institutions such as public education, public transportation, public utilities, state lotteries, and other municipal and state services. In education funding, these legislators directly represent the interests of corporate and banking institutions, introducing legislation promoting the privatization of public schools through charters and vouchers.
Liberal corporate education reform
The liberal political action committees that support corporate education reform are various and ever changing. Wealthy philanthropists and hedge fund managers fund them. Here are just a few:
• Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and state based affiliates, funders include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund managers David Tepper and Alan Fournier. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation, funded by hedge fund manager John Arnold, has also pledged $20 million to Rhee's organization over five years. The Broad Foundation provided $500,000 in start up funding.
• Parent Revolution, promoters of the “parent trigger”, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family, and the Broad Foundation.
• Al Sharpton's National Action Network, funded by Plainfield Asset Management, the hedge fund of former NYC Chancellor Harold Levy and corporate sponsors such as Wal-Mart and Pepsi.
• Teacher Union Reform Network, started by the American Federation Teachers, later heavily funded by the Broad Foundation and the Gates Foundation
• Teach for America, funded by dozens of corporations and hedge fund managers.
• The films “Waiting for Superman” and the recent box office dud “Won’t Back Down” , directed by directors who are liberal Democrats, financed by conservative entrepreneur (oil, entertainment, newspapers) Philip Anschutz.
• Dozens of national charter management companies, funded by a combination of public funds and private donations.

"Venture" philanthropies
Of the “venture philanthropies” there is a triumvirate that make up the major funders of the philanthropies of corporate education reform: the Bill Gates Foundation (Bill Gates is currently worth $59 billion), the Walton Family Foundation, established by the owners of Wal-Mart (The Walton family is currently worth $16.3 billion) (see Forbes for their ranking), and the Broad Foundation (Eli Broad is currently worth $6.3 billion) Of the three, the Broad Foundation is the smallest in financial assets, but it has had a far-reaching impact in the assault on public schools through a careful targeting of its resources. According to their website, the Broad Foundation claims to have spent $370 million on their “education philanthropy” since 1999. Based on their level of activity in local school districts, as this article will detail, it is probably much higher.
Venture philanthropy treats schools as a “private consumable service and promotes business remedies, reforms, and assumptions with regard to public schooling. Some of the most significant projects involve promoting charter schools to inject market competition and “choice” into the public sector as well as using cash bonuses for merit pay for teachers and to “incentivize” students. (See “The Rise of Venture Philanthropy and the Ongoing Neoliberal Assault on Public Education", page 54
The Broad Mission Statement
The 2008 Mission Statement of the Broad Foundation (Page 4) states its goal is:
“Transforming K-12 urban public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition.”
Note the targeting of “urban public education”. Eli Broad considers himself a liberal Democrat, as does Michelle Rhee of Students First, who has been on the Board of the Broad Foundation since at least 2008; and Bill Gates of the Gates Foundation. They claim their attempt to restructure American education is the next civil rights movement. They target urban school districts with the highest poverty by having Superintendents from their Broad Superintendents Academy appointed who are prepared to starve public schools in order to make charter schools appealing to parents. The hemorrhaging of students from public schools to charters has led to urban school districts closing public schools all over the country due to “under enrollment”.

Strong American Schools
In 2007, the Broad Foundation teamed with the Gates Foundation to create Strong American Schools. Founded by Eli Broad, the Gates Foundation contributed $60 million towards “a nonpartisan campaign aimed at elevating American education to the top of the presidential campaign agenda between now and November 2008. Strong American Schools is a public awareness and action campaign designed to give a voice to every American who demands strong leadership to improve our schools.”

With the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, until then a Broad Foundation Board member, was appointed Secretary of Education. The 2009 Annual Report of the Broad Foundation (Page 5) states:
“The election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, as the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned. With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.”

Of Arne Duncan, the 2009 Broad Annual Report states (Page 10):
“Prior to becoming U.S. secretary of education, Arne Duncan was CEO of Chicago Public Schools, where he hosted 23 Broad Residents. Duncan now has five Broad Residents and alumni working with him in the U.S. Department of Education.”

Since becoming Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan continues his association with the Broad Foundation in venues such as, for several years, presenting the annual Broad Prize for Urban Education that awards $1 million to five urban districts to be used for college scholarships for graduating seniors. Prizes are awarded based on criteria set by the Broad Foundation based on its goal of privatizing public education. He is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Margaret Spellings, who was Secretary of Education in the second G. W. Bush administration and also participated in the awarding of the Broad Prize for Urban Education. (See the 2008 Broad Foundation Annual Report, pages 13 - 15.)

The Board of the Broad Foundation
Members of the Board of the Broad Foundation have included a veritable Who’s Who of corporate education reform. According to the 2009 Broad Annual Report (Page 25), in 2008, they included:
• Joel Klein, Chancellor of New York City Schools
• Barry Munitz, board chair, trustee professor, California State University, Los Angeles
 • Arlene Ackerman, Superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools
• Richard Barth, chief executive officer of the KIPP Foundation
• Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton Administration
• Arne Duncan, Chancellor of Chicago Schools until he became U.S. Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration
• Louis Gerstner, Jr., senior advisor to The Carlyle Group
• Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools
• Dan Katzir, board secretary/treasurer, managing director of the Broad Foundation
• Wendy Kopp, chief executive officer and founder of Teach for America
• Margaret Spellings, former U.S. Secretary of Education in the second George W. Bush Administration where she oversaw the implementation of No Child Left Behind
• Melissa Megliola Zaikos, Autonomous Management and Performance Schools Program Officer, Chicago Public Schools
• Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Schools
 • Lawrence Summers, Chief economist for the World Bank 1991-1993; U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration, later on the Broad Board until he became the Director of the National Economic Council in the Obama Administration, rejoined the Broad Board on July 25, 2012
• Mortimer Zuckerman, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the U.S. News and World Report; Publisher of the New York Daily News
 Added to the Board in July, 2012 were:
• Andy Stern, former President of the Service Employees International Union
• Representative Harold Ford, five-term Congressman and former chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council
• Paul Pastorek, former Louisiana state superintendent of education and former president of the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who oversaw the post-Hurricane Katrina privatization of New Orleans public schools.

As can be seen from this list, top management of the Broad Foundation is overwhelmingly made up of people from the political community, the business community, labor leaders, and only a very few from the administrative end of education; who are reaching the end of their career path. They take highly paid positions and bring their expertise and connections from their prior careers into the world of corporate education reform. Only a few have any actual teaching experience in K-12 public schools.
The Broad Residency program

The Broad Residency program
is part of the management of the day-to-day operations of the Foundation that is carried out by the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems. Broad employees are trained at the Broad Residency in Urban Education which is a two-year management development program that trains recent graduate students, primarily with business and law degrees, who have several years of work experience in the business world and places them immediately into managerial positions in the central operations of urban school districts. As on the Board, almost all have no training in pedagogy or child development, and no classroom experience. Most are people in their 20’s and 30’s who see promoting the corporate education reform agenda as a stepping stone in a career path which they began in the business world. Some come from such organizations as the Boston Consulting Group, a leader in corporate downsizing, and Harvard's Strategic Data Project that is heavily involved, along with The Gates Foundation and Murdoch’s Wireless Generation (headed by Broad Board member Joel Klein), in the collection of student and teacher data.

According to the 2011-2012 Broad Foundation Annual Report (Page 34)
“Since 2003, the program has recruited and placed early-career executives with private and civic sector experience and advanced degrees into two-year, full-time paid positions in urban school districts, state and federal departments of education and top charter management organizations. More than 250 Broad Residents have been placed in 39 school districts, 30 public charter school management organizations, seven state departments of education and the U.S. Department of Education.”

The Broad Superintendents Academy
The other part of the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems is the Broad Superintendents Academy, begun in 2002. It trains eight to twenty-five candidates per year in six intensive four-day sessions spread over 10 months. According to the 2011-12 Annual Report (Page 24), from 2002 through 2011 there have been 144 Broad superintendent graduates.

A key part of corporate education reform is to reshape public schooling on the market model that involves remaking administrator preparation for education like the corporate model. Of the Superintendents, about half come from education, the other half come from business and the military. The Broad Foundation frequently pays cash-strapped school districts part of the new superintendent’s salary if the districts select a Broad Superintendent Graduate.

Looking at the toolkit of resources for trainees on their website, you find such things as their 2009 "School Closure Guide: Closing Schools as a Means for Addressing Budgetary Challenges".  This 83 page Guide gives a detailed breakdown and timelines of how to manage school closures and community opposition to the closing of community schools. A favored tactic in various cities has been to announce a proposal for closing a large number of schools; hold community meetings to give the appearance of democracy, but actually for the purpose of using the information gained to hone their tactics for carrying out a list of community schools to be closed despite community opposition. Then they take a few schools off the closing list to give the appearance that they are listening to the community. This is a form of the common practice in labor negotiations where management proposes some draconian cuts, and then, when a compromise is reached with the union leaders, the rank-and-file is relieved that the cuts are not as drastic as first proposed and votes to accept the contract even though it is less than they deserve and need. The difference with school closures is that there is no relief for the majority of communities where schools will be closed if just a few schools are taken off the closure list. This school closure method has been used in New York, Chicago, and Detroit, where large numbers of community schools have already been closed. The closings are done in phases to transform large numbers of public schools into a private system run by charter management companies over a period of years.

The criteria for the selection of schools to be closed is a mystery to the community that is trying to find what must be done to the keep their community school open so their children do not have to walk or travel long distances to school. Parents are told their schools are not cost effective because of under enrollment (which are largely due to student transfers to charters), the building is too old, or they are given no clear reason for the community school being closed. At some point in the process, charter schools are offered as an option to distressed parents.

In cities where this process has begun, vacant closed schools are blight in already impoverished communities, or they are turned over to charters, or they are sold to real estate interests at bargain basement prices. This is the script being followed by graduates of the Broad Superintendents Academy all over the country.

Other guides and toolkits have been created by and “for school districts and charter management organizations with support from The Broad Foundation to help with some of the most pressing and complicated issues facing school systems.”  Most were written in 2009 and 2010.

These include Administrative Career Path and Performance Evaluation Guide: “This guide will help charter management organizations (CMOs) and school districts – and their human resources staff and line managers in particular – that are looking to develop a systematic approach to evaluating and promoting employees.”, Rubrics for Charter Evaluations, "Bain Chicago charter school involvement summary: 2007-2009", and more.

In 2011, Parents Across America described the management method of Broad Superintendents like this:

“Broad and his foundation believe that public schools should be run like a business. One of the tenets of his philosophy is to produce system change by “investing in disruptive force”. Continual reorganizations, firings of staff, and experimentation to create chaos or “churn” is believed to be productive and beneficial, as it weakens the ability of communities to resist change.”

Many of their Superintendents last only a few years in their highly paid positions until communities that want to be rid of them give them six figure buyouts which the Broad candidates are careful to have written into their initial contract. Frequently, other graduates of the Broad Superintendents Academy replace them. The Broad Foundation does not see the termination of a contract as a defeat for its overall objective of privatization of public schools, but part of “churn.”

True to the Broad Superintendent Academies undemocratic nature, the Broad Superintendents prefer to operate in secrecy and stealth. Candidate’s graduation from the uncertified Broad Superintendents Academy is not listed on resumes. Usually only an inner circle of politicians and school administrators know of their promotion of the Broad agenda. In Philadelphia, for example, Dr. Arlene Ackerman sat on the board of directors of the Broad Foundation while she was Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia from 2008-2011. This was not known to the general public and only came out after she came into conflict with local politicians over the disputed selection of a charter operator for Martin Luther King High School. Having poured money into charters and Renaissance Schools while starving public schools, she left the District with a $1 billion deficit over the next five years. On August 25th, 2011, she was given a $1 million buyout of her contract after threatening to reveal “secrets”. Her replacement, Dr. William Hite (Broad Superintendents Academy Class of 2005) took office in September 5th, 2012. During the yearlong interim between Ackerman and Hite’s administration, private philanthropies hired the Boston Consulting Group to develop the plans for the reorganization of the School District. On July 18th, 2012, the School Reform Commission, the state agency that has run the School District for ten years, allocated $139 million for 5,416 new seats in existing charters. On December 12th, 2012, Hite announced the proposed closing of 37 schools due to “under enrollment” at a “savings” of $28 million.

On February 19, 2013 this school closing list was revised taking off ten schools, and adding two more which means 29 schools are now slated for closure. However, it was announced a few days later that nine schools, including two schools that had just been taken off of the closing list, will be “transformed” into Renaissance charter schools, three to be run by outside charter management companies.
The Broad Foundation and the unions
The Broad Foundation Mission Statement states that one of its goals is the transformation of labor relations. The Broad Foundation is not anti-union. Rather, it seeks to transform unions into a form of company union. A company union is a union located within and run by a company or a national government, and the union bureaucracy is incorporated into the company’s management. This opens up the workforce to unfettered exploitation for profits of the owners. Many right-wing governments internationally use company unions to suppress worker struggles against low living standards. In 1935, during the labor struggles of the Depression, the National Labor Relations Act was passed which outlawed company unions in the United States.

Broad has found no shortage of former or current union leaders who are willing to be bought and join his venture philanthropy to foster labor/management “collaboration”. Former President of the Service Employees International Union, Andy Stern, is just the most visible on the board. In education, the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN) fosters this collaboration.

American Federation of Teachers President Helen Bernstein started TURN in 1996 with a grant from the PEW Charitable Trust. Leadership of TURN was taken over by current AFT Vice President Adam Urbanski, when he was head of the Rochester, New York local in1999. By 2001, TURN had formed a partnership with the Broad FoundationAccording to the Los Angeles Times, on April 5, 2001, Eli Broad announced his Foundation was donating $10 million to TURN to foster labor/management “collaboration”. In 2009, Broad invested $2 million in TURN, a “a network of National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers locals”. Broad's 2009 Annual Report (Page 15)
In the early days of this collaboration, labor leaders joined leaders in politics, business and non-profit organizations in staffing the faculty at the Broad Superintendents Academy, training the future Broad Superintendents. According a 2002 Broad press release (Page 2) participants included:

• Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education in the G.W. Bush Administration
• Henry Cisneros, Secretary of HUD in the first Clinton Administration and now CEO of American CityVista
• William Cox, Managing Director of Broad, School Evaluation Services
• Chris Cross, Senior Fellow, Center on Education Policy
• Chester E. Finn, Jr., President, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
• Frances Hesselbein, Chairman, The Drucker Foundation
• Don McAdams, Founder, Center for Reform of School Systems
• Donald Nielsen, President, Hazelton Corporation, Chairman of the 2WAY Corporation
• Hugh B. Price, President and CEO, National Urban League
• Paul Ruiz, Principal Partner, Education Trust
• Adam Urbanski, Director of Teacher Union Reform Network
• Randi Weingarten, President, United Federation of Teachers.

In 2005 the Broad Foundation made a $1 million grant to help the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, at that time headed by Randi Weingarten, open two union-run charter schools in Brooklyn, the first such schools in the country. In October, 2012, it was announced these schools are in academic and enrollment trouble and will probably close at the end of the school year. This became another opportunity for another round of teacher bashing by the right-wing media. (Note: This column is written by Micah Lasher, executive director of StudentsFirstNY.)

In its 2009 Annual Report (Page 10), the Broad Foundation said,
“Teacher unions have always been a formidable voice in public education. We decided at the onset of our work to invest in smart, progressive labor leaders like Randi Weingarten, head of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City for more than a decade and now president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). We partnered with Weingarten to fund two union-run charter schools in Brooklyn and to fund New York City’s first incentive-based compensation program for schools, as well as the AFT’s Innovation Fund. We had previously helped advance pay for performance programs in Denver and Houston, but we were particularly encouraged to see New York City embrace the plan.” (See the picture in the 2008 Broad Foundation Annual Report, pages 14 and 15.)

On the same page the 2009 Annual Report also boasted of being one of the earliest funders of Teach For America stating “our investment in this innovative teaching corps has grown to more than $41 million.” The same page also says, “Since 2000, our CMO (charter management organization) investments have swelled to nearly $100 million, creating 54,474 charter seats in 16 cities. We provided early start-up capital for charter operators like KIPP, Aspire, Green Dot and Uncommon Schools. They have since become the models for other CMOs to emulate.”

In April, 2009, the AFT teamed with four venture philanthropies: the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation—to create the Innovation Fund. The private-foundation contributions, in addition to the AFT's down payment of $1 million, brought the fund's total to $2.8 million. Weingarten said its funds were made available for local affiliates to "incubate promising ideas to improve schools."

In an April 28, 2009 article, Education Week’s Teacher Beat described the purpose of the Innovation Fund this way:

“Both Weingarten and the foundation folks spoke a lot about the importance of working together and collaboration...Both she and Adam Urbanski, the president of the Rochester, N.Y., affiliate who will serve as the fund's executive director, were quick to minimize the fact that AFT's education-reform objectives haven't always been in line with those of the private foundations. (Broad and Gates, for instance, were said to be primed to offer financial support behind D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee's two-tiered pay proposal, although as far as I know, neither foundation ever confirmed that on the record.)”

On June 3, 2010, at their union leader’s urging, the Washington D.C. Teachers Union ratified a contract with the Washington D.C. School District, headed by Chancellor Michelle Rhee, which included performance pay linked to test score growth, and a weakening of seniority and tenure. Union President George Parker called the ratification of the contract “a great day for teachers and students.” On November 10, 2010, Parker was voted out of office by the union rank-and-file. On May 20, 2011, Michelle Rhee announced that Parker was joining her corporate reform organization StudentsFirst. Rhee had resigned as Chancellor of Washington D.C. schools on October 13, 2010, and started StudentsFirst soon after. Rhee’s Deputy Chancellor and chief negotiator of the 2010 teachers’ contract, Kaya Henderson, replaced her. Henderson recently announced the proposed closing of 20 schools due to “under enrollment”.

On July 8th, 2010, Randi Weingarten welcomed Bill Gates as the keynote speaker at the national AFT convention. Subsequently, in April 17th, 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $2 million to five of the AFT’s TURN regional networks through the Consortium for Educational Change, “an Illinois-based network of teacher unions, school districts, and professional organizations that work to make school systems more collaborative, high-performing organizations.” Of the grant, Mary Jane Morris, executive director of CEC said, “There is clear evidence that policies and programs that truly impact teaching effectiveness result when teacher unions and management collaborate as equal partners. Each stakeholder brings a unique understanding and knowledge-base that must be considered.”

An article in Reuters, right after the 2012 AFT convention reelected Weingarten to a third term, began: “In the maelstrom of criticism surrounding America's unionized public school teachers, the woman running the second-largest educator union says time has come to collaborate on public school reform rather than resist.”  "U.S. teacher union boss bends to school reform winds", Reuters, July 31, 2012

After the Chicago teachers strike in September, 2012, to which the AFT gave tepid financial and verbal support (not rallying locals nationally to support the CTU), ended on September 19th, 2012; on September 22nd, Weingarten joined Secretary of Education Duncan, who was on a bus tour through the Midwest to promote Race to the Top. She joined Gayle Manchin, wife of West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, on a panel to discuss “how to build public-private partnerships to support educational improvement as the path to a brighter future.” The state run McDowell County, West Virginia school system and the AFT had created the philanthropy "Reconnecting McDowell” in 2011 to foster “collaboration between business, government and nonprofit organizations to establish programs that address the challenges faced by this community.”  The AFT has given the fund hundreds of thousands of dollars from the dues of the AFT rank-and-file.

On November 17th, 2012, Weingarten teamed with New Jersey Education Secretary Chris Cerf (Broad Academy Class of 2004) to successfully promote the ratification of a contract for Newark teachers that included merit pay based on performance (including high-stakes test scores). On December 13, 2012, the New Jersey Education Law Center announced it had found that Eli Broad was offering a $430,000 grant to New Jersey contingent on the reelection of Governor Chris Christie. Terms of the grant include a requirement that the number of charters be increased by 50%, requiring that all public announcements of the program by the state have to be cleared with the Broad Foundation, and it contained a lengthy provision about making documents, files, and records associated with the grant the property of the Foundation. New Jersey bloggers speculated that Broad’s real concern was the keeping Cerf as the New Jersey Secretary of Education.

On December 13th, 2012, Weingarten held a press conference with Bill Clinton and Obama’s housing secretary Shaun Donovan to announce the AFT would invest $1 billion from the NYC teachers pension fund for Hurricane Sandy relief for the NYC area. NYC Mayor Bloomburg criticized the investment because taxpayers would have to bail out the pension fund if the investment failed. 
One month later the U.S. Congress allocated $50.5 billion dollars for Hurricane Sandy relief.

On January 29, 2013, Weingarten was interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered. She continued her campaign for a teacher’s “Bar Exam”. This year long campaign is an endorsement of the corporate education reformers campaign against teachers that says the problem with schools is “bad teachers” and tenure. Arne Duncan and New York Governor Cuomo have been aggressively supporting this proposal. Weingarten did this NPR interview at the same time as New York City teachers are in a battle against an unfair and flawed teacher evaluation system which Cuomo was threatening to impose through drastic cuts in state funding for NYC public schools if not agreed to or dictatorially imposing the teacher evaluation system outright.

On March 11, 2009, in an article in the NYC education website Gotham News, in the article "Eli Broad describes close ties to Klein, Weingarten, Duncan", Broad described his education philosophy and his collaboration with Klein, Weingarten, and Duncan. The article did not state that Weingarten’s relationship with Broad dates back to at least 2002.

Who is Eli Broad?
So who is Eli Broad and why does he want to destroy public education?

The son of Lithuanian immigrants, Eli Broad was born in 1933 in the Bronx and raised in Detroit where he attended the Detroit Public Schools. He graduated in 1954 from Michigan State University, where he majored in accounting with a minor in economics. He became the youngest Certified Public Accountant in Michigan, which was his occupation for two years before entering the home building business. He bought his first plot of land at the age of 20.

In 1957, he co-founded Kaufman & Broad with Donald Kaufman, a homebuilder related to his wife. They borrowed $25,000 from Broad’s in-laws and became one of the nation's biggest homebuilders, supplying baby boomers with affordable housing.

 In 1971 he bought Sun Life Insurance, a family owned insurance company for $52 million. This became the retirement savings powerhouse Sun America. In 1999, he sold Sun America to American International Group for $18 billion. He was CEO of Sun America, which is now a subsidiary of AIG, until 2000.

Now largely dedicated to their venture philanthropies, he and his wife Edythe Broad live in Los Angeles and oversee The Broad Foundation. The foundation is not only dedicated to “reforming” public education, but has used their fortune in the arts world and in medical research. They have given an estimated $3.5 billion (more than 50% of his current net worth) to their philanthropies, including $600 million to set up The Broad Institute for biomedical research at Harvard and MIT. He and wife Edythe created the Broad Art Foundation in 1984, which now holds more than $2.4 billion worth of art that is lent to art institutions around the world. Their influence in the Los Angeles arts community has been as controversial as their role in American education, though far more localized.
Eli Broad sold Sun Life Insurance for $18 billion in 1999. He is currently worth approximately $6.3 billion. Allowing for substantial losses in the housing market collapse after the 2008 financial crisis, there is still a large amount of money unaccounted for which makes the claim of only $370 million to their “education philanthropy” since 1999, as claimed on their website, highly suspect.

In 2012, Broad’s book The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking was published. The inside flap of the book has this quote from George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to him self. Therefore, all progress depends upon the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw was speaking of fighting for social justice. As always, Eli Broad is speaking about what makes a good businessman.

The Broad fortune is based on the speculative capital made possible during the deregulation that began under the Reagan administration. Taking public controls off of private capital set the stage for the wealthiest one per cent in American society to amass enormous personal wealth and use that wealth to lobby and legislate the radical redistribution upward of wealth and income over the next thirty years. It is this ideal of deregulation that Broad holds up as a metaphor for public education.
The only way to do that is to hand over public institutions to the private sector. As is being seen with the unfolding disaster of school closures, applying private sector methods to public institutions ignores economic and social reality. Downsizing a corporation to please Wall Street investors is not the same thing as downsizing a public school district because it is not turning out enough students ready for college. (For further analysis see "The Rise of Venture Philanthropy and the Ongoing Neoliberal Assault on Public Education: The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation"
The freewheeling deregulated market accelerated during the Bush years, putting the financial sector on steroids, and leading to the financial crisis of October 2008 for which Congress allocated $700 billion of taxpayer dollars to hedge funds, corporations and banks to prevent them from defaulting on huge debts. Despite this lesson, venture philanthropists like Eli Broad continue to try to use venture capitalist methods to create an educational system after their own image. They believe that privatizing schools will turn out a select number of students for their business needs and also give them another huge source of profit.

Just as the people of the world continue to suffer from the economic tremors of the 2008 financial bailout, just like the collapse of the housing bubble, the tremors created by corporate education reform will cause an economic earthquake that will collapse corporate education reform like the house of cards that it is. If supporters of public education mobilize to support it, left standing, though battered and wounded, will be the U.S. public school system that began after the American Revolution…but what about the children growing up in this war?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pearson Rakes in the Profit (Update)


Pearson Rakes in the Profit (Update)

Posted: 03/19/2013 3:21 pm

by Alan Singer 

A financial analysis for 2012 of the British-based publishing giant Pearson is available online at It tells a very interesting, if frightening story that needs to be more widely circulated in the United States, especially among parents, teachers, and educational policy makers. Something consistently missing in a report that emphasizes growth and profit is students and whether Pearson's high tech snake oil actually promotes student learning.* Pearson is a money making machine, but is this education?

The headline summarizes the multi-page post. "Pearson accelerates global education strategy: Restructuring and investment in digital, services and emerging markets for faster growth, larger market opportunity and greater impact on learning outcomes."

It is followed by "Financial highlights." Sales were up 5 percent in 2012 to £6.1 billion or $9.21 billion, with "digital and services businesses contributing 50% of sales." Operating profit in 2012 was £936 million or $1.4 billion.

But there are business problems that Pearson is moving rapidly to address. According to the report, "Market conditions generally weak in developed world and for print publishing businesses; generally strong in emerging economies and for digital and services businesses." However, there is "Considerable growth opportunity in education driven by rapidly-growing global middle class, adoption of learning technologies, the connection between education and career prospects and increasing consumer spend, especially in emerging economies."

As a result of this repositioning, Pearson's "North American Education revenues" were "up 2% in a year when US School and Higher Education publishing revenues declined by 10% for the industry as a whole," while "International Education revenues up 13% with emerging market revenues up 25%." Pearson plans further restructuring and investment in "fast-growing education markets" that by 2015 should "produce faster growth, improving margins and stronger cash generation."

Pearson hopes to "capture the once-in-a-generation opportunity that comes with being the world's leading learning company... Over the past 15 years, through a major programme of organic investment and acquisitions, Pearson has become the leading education company in the world, with unique geographic reach, product breadth and professional depth. More recently, we have achieved particularly rapid growth in digital products and in education services businesses, which together now account for half our sales... We are therefore planning significantly to accelerate our push into digital learning, education services and emerging markets."

To achieve its business goals, Pearson promises that its "products and services deliver demonstrable learning outcomes to the student or the institution. We have therefore developed the Pearson efficacy framework: a unique, rigorous and scalable quality assurance system that checks that the necessary conditions are in place for an education programme to deliver intended learning outcomes. We now require that all Pearson acquisitions and all product investments over $3m go through the Pearson efficacy framework and set out a plan to implement its recommendations before approval."

Pearson is targeting higher education as well as K-12 schools, but many of these profit-making innovations can be transferred to elementary and secondary levels. According to the report, "Student registrations at eCollege grew 3% to 8.7 million," which includes "new online enterprise learning contracts with California State University and Rutgers University" and continued partnership with Arizona State University. Students register for online courses through eCollege at their own institutions, but Pearson provides the technological house or platform for the operation. In a budget saving move, the California state legislature is considering requiring California State colleges to accept online classes offered by other institutions if their own classes are oversubscribed, a potential bonanza for Pearson and similar companies..

Pearson is also making money with "MyLab" digital learning, which provides students with homework help and preparation for standardized assessment, assessments which are often designed and marketed by -- guess who? -- Pearson. Pearson's "OpenClass," currently offered to institutions without charge, is used by 1,300 U.S. K-12 schools and colleges.

Curiously, revenues were flat in Pearson's "Assessment and Information business." The report complained, "State funding pressures and the transition to Common Core assessments continued to make market conditions tough for our state assessment and teacher testing businesses." But there is a rainbow hidden in the clouds. "The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a consortium of 23 states, awarded Pearson and Educational Testing Service (ETS) the contract to develop test items that will be part of the new English and mathematics assessments to be administered from the 2014-2015 school year." Pearson also won "new state contracts in Colorado and Missouri and a new contract with the College Board to deliver ReadiStep, a middle school assessment that measures and tracks college readiness skills" and five Race To The Top (RTTT) state deals in Kentucky, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina and New York).

Pearson has been able to extract these profitable deals through a systematic campaign of buying good will from state and local officials and educational institutions. Pearson's not-for-profit foundation has paid for local and state educational commissioners whose schools do business with the for-profit Pearson corporation to attend international conferences in Rio De Janeiro, London, Singapore, and Helsinki where they meet with Pearson executives. Pearson is a major funder of the American Educational Research Association and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, sponsoring sessions at their annual conferences, advertising and marketing in their exhibition hall, and giving away corporate labeled "swag" to participants. The foundation hosted the welcoming party at the 2013 South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference on emerging education technologies in Austin, Texas, at the same time that Pearson is trying to dominate the digital technology educational market.

The foundation paired with the Gates Foundation to develop digital learning material for state Common Core standards at the same time that the company was marketing common core instructional material and assessments. Pearson is developing a new national teacher certification system with Stanford University, and is contracting with states to administer the program.

Money, money, money, money, money. Profit, profit, profit, profit. No discussion of educational philosophy, educational achievement, or student needs in the entire report. Is this the company cities and states in the United States should trust with the education of our children?

Oh, you would think that with all of these profits made from the public purse, Pearson would be paying a heavy tax bill and pouring money back into the public coffers. But you would be wrong. Pearson was able to take advantage of a Hurricane Sandy tax deferral to significantly lower its 2012 United States tax bill.

*Addendum, 3/21/2013: I think my basic disagreement with Pearson Education centers around different definitions of what Pearson means by education and educational achievement. In their financial report, Pearson does discuss student achievement, but appears to equate it with student performance on standardized assessments. There is a national debate going on about the value of high stakes tests such as the ones designed and marketed by Pearson. For me, the question is whether improving test scores through test prep programs constitutes actual student learning and in any way reflects a thought out educational philosophy, an understanding of educational achievement, or meets student needs. In New York City where I live and my grandchildren attend public school, thousands of young children participate in test prep programs, not to learn, but to score higher on Pearson designed and marketed standardized tests. I do not believe executives at Pearson would want this type of education for their own children or grandchildren.

My goal is to expand discussion of education in the United States so I would like to suggest two possible resolutions to my disagreement with Pearson. First, I give Pearson permission to reproduce my blogs on own their websites. This would afford them the opportunity to provide an extended response. Second, I like the idea of collaboration. I propose that I write an analysis of the Pearson educational philosophy as presented on a Pearson website and that an agent for Pearson write a response and we post them on Huffington as a joint blog. I also welcome other suggestions from Pearson representatives for expanding dialogue on educational issues in the United States.

Teachers facing achievement gap try cross-race connections

Very interesting and important piece. Great to see a frank commentary on the subject of race and white privilege and how this privilege can compromise, in some instances, if not many, opportunities for children of color.  Certainly, the  expansive research  literature addressing race, ethnicity, and the schools, attests to this.

I wish there were more frankness in the educational system about this.  Among other things,  these conversations and  And the research that accompanies this could be used to better inform policy related to teaching quality in our schools. 

I also wish that there were more reporters willing to cover these issues of  race, class, difference, power, and privilege in their  reports.


Teachers facing achievement gap try cross-race connections

by Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
March 20, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — All the bleak statistics about Minnesota's achievement gap became personal to fifth-grade teacher Jen Engel, when she realized that gap was playing out in her own classroom.
"It stares you right in the face. It's real."

Engel teaches at Echo Park Elementary School in Burnsville, where about half of the students are racial minorities, many of them struggling academically. The 43-year-old, who is white, has heard about the factors that can contribute to the racial achievement gap, including poverty, unstable living conditions and troubled families.

But she says those are no excuses for educators.

So Engel is one of several teachers who are learning how to be what educators describe as "culturally responsive" to her students as part of a Twin Cities program offered by St. Mary's University of Minnesota, whose main campuses are in Winona and Minneapolis.

"The outside factors are not within my control," Engel said. "When these kids come to school, I see where their strengths are and where the gaps are. It's my job at the end of the day to fill those gaps."
Minnesota has some of the worst academic achievement gaps in the nation between white kids and students of color. For example, Minnesota has the nation's worst on-time graduation rates among Latinos and American Indians and is among the worst for black and Asian students.

The St. Mary's program is part of an effort among some teachers to make their classes more culturally relevant to their students. It requires the teachers -- most of whom are white women -- to find new ways to connect to struggling kids.

St. Mary's instructor Marceline DuBose encourages her students to shake up their traditional teaching styles. She said music and movement can help capture students who learn differently.

The education system is already working best for white, middle-class kids, particularly female students, so it's no surprise that many teachers share those traits, DuBose said. The state Department of Education estimates that less than 4 percent of Minnesota teachers are people of color. Yet more than a quarter of Minnesota's students are nonwhite.

Sometimes, that disconnect can result in a not-so-subtle bias. DuBose, a former social studies teacher, said she had former colleagues who gave up on poor or nonwhite students. She recalls hearing them bemoan that classrooms aren't what they used to be.

"They were white teachers and had been teaching for a number of years, and they would attach directly 'the way it used to be' with the idea that they had to alter their rigor and expectations, because they just weren't going to get from the students what they used to get," DuBose said.

Those lowered expectations can play out even for students of color whose families are well-off.
Luz Maria Frias is a Latina mother of two, married to an African-American man. Both are attorneys. Frias remembers confronting her daughter's elementary school teacher after learning he had not selected her for a gifted program. She came to school armed with standardized test scores showing her daughter scored in the nation's top percentiles, she said.

"He admitted he was very familiar with her academic achievements, and that she was a gifted child. And when I asked why he had excluded her from the gifted program, he said he had forgotten."

Note: MDE collected the teacher data through a self-reported system. Because the reporting is not mandated, there may be some margin for error.

Frias then asked him how many kids in the gifted program were girls or kids of color. The teacher acknowledged that there were none.

"It was a tough conversation," Frias said. "His first reaction was, 'Are you calling me a sexist?' And I said to him, 'You'd be really lucky if I stopped there.'" Frias, now a vice president with the Minneapolis Foundation, was able to persuade the teacher to include her daughter in the program. But she says not every parent is savvy enough to push for these kinds of opportunities for their kids.

Supporters of culturally relevant teaching say it's not just about believing in your students. It's about developing deeper relationships with them and not shying away from the prickly subject of race.

Tracine Asberry, an African-American school board member and a former teacher in Minneapolis, says it's natural to teach who you are. But if you come from a privileged background and don't believe in the struggles faced by many people of color, your opinions can alienate a lot of kids.

"As teachers, teaching students who have different realities, we have to be aware of those things. We can't just be aware of them. We have to be comfortable so that we can have the conversation, and then encourage our students to feel comfortable to have those conversations in our classroom."

Asberry believes one way to close the achievement gap is to close the teacher gap. For some students of color, she says, the key might be as simple as making sure the person leading the classroom looks like them.
To learn more about St. Mary's program go here.