The Plutocrat’s Lament

Writer Joanne Barkan argues that for plutocrats like Bill Gates, democracy is a nuisance…

gates-billionaire.jpg (400×266)EduShyster: You’re the author of a recent case study on what you call Bill Gates’ *charitable plutocracy,* his years’ long, and many millions-ed campaign to bring charter schools to Washington State. In the interest of the data to which Gates himself is so committed, can you reduce your argument down to a series of numbers? Oh, and please speak in bullet points.

Joanne Barkan:

  • Number of years required to pass a charter school enabling law in Washington State: 17 (1995-2012).
  • Number of statewide ballot initiatives required: 4 (1996, 2000, 2004, and 2012).
  • Total dollars spent by charter school supporters in the 2000, 2004, and 2012 ballot initiatives: $18.7 million. (Practically no money was spent by either side in 1996.)
  • Total dollars spent by charter school opponents in the 2000, 2004, and 2012 ballot initiatives: $2.04 million.
  • Money spent by the Gates Foundation *to give public charter schools in Washington State a strong start* in 2013-2015: $31 million.

And a few other data points your readers might be interested in:

  • Net worth of Bill Gates in 2015: $76 billion
  • Assets of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2016: $44.3 billion.
  • Total receipts of the National Education Association in 2015: $388.8 million.
  • Total receipts of the American Federation of Teachers in 2015: $327.6 million.
  • Average salary of an elementary public school teacher in Washington state (except in special education) in 2015: $60,140.

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The Keys to College and Career Readiness

keys 1

By Anna Litten
My 9 year old doesn’t know how to type.  I don’t often worry about the typing skills of kids, but since he’s taking the PARCC test on a computer this week, his words per minute really count. 

This year, my son is one of 4,370 third graders in Boston taking the PARCC assessment. According to the Massachusetts Department of Education, PARCC *require(s) students to speak and write in a variety of formats and support their ideas with evidence from authoritative sources.* PARCC calls on students to bring high-level thinking skills to their work.  I love the push to ask kids to think and engage with information but I also wonder about that typing.  Will poor typing get in the way of real assessment?  Continue reading →

If You Have a Voice, Use It

Have You Heard road trips to Lawrence, Massachusetts to hear what students have to say…

On a frosty spring Saturday (does New England have any other kind???), Have You Heard co-creator Aaron French and I piled in the car and motored to Lawrence, Massachusetts to spend the day listening to students who, it turns out, have quite a lot to say. These student writing leaders and story tellers, part of an organization called Andover Bread Loaf that I’ve written about here, are determined to write a different future for themselves and their city. You’ll be dazzled by their eloquence… But wait – there’s more! The students also have something to say about the city’s schools, subject to a state takeover five years ago, and widely recognized as a turnaround success story, and a model for struggling districts elsewhere. Except that no one appears to have talked to the students in Lawrence who were being turned around. Working with the Lawrence Youth Council and Elevated Thought, a local arts organization, students surveyed more than 600 of their peers across the city, asking them questions like *what kind of subjects would you like to study?* *how do you like to learn?* and *what opportunities are missing for kids in Lawrence?* Their findings, and the months they spent researching education, inspired this remarkable film called What Is Education? In other words, episode #4 of Have You Heard is a multi-media affair both eye-opening and ear opening.

Don’t forget that sharing is caring, and feel free to send comments to jennifer@edushyster.com. You can also find the Have You Heard team on Twitter: @EduShyster and @AaronMoFoFrench.

Take Your Money and Run

How parental powerlessness distinguishes urban charter schools from suburban public schools…

By Emily Kaplan

This is how you get your child into a public school in an affluent suburb:

1. Make a lot of money.
2. Buy a house in an affluent suburb. 

Congratulations! Your child will now receive a top-tier education!*

*If you ever feel that your child is not receiving the education to which she is entitled, exercise your right to go directly to the administration and complain. (Your tax dollars pay their salaries, after all.) Work with teachers and administrators, many of whom have decades of experience, to create an individualized education plan for your child. Do not fear retribution: your child cannot legally be driven from the district in which you have chosen to live.**

**If you still feel that your child is not receiving the best education property taxes can buy, you may choose among several courses of action, including: going to the school committee (an elected board on which sits one or more parent representatives like yourself); running for a seat on said committee; sending your child to a private school; or moving to another suburb, where you may repeat the steps above until you are satisfied.


This is how you get your child into a Boston charter school:

  1. Possess the social capital to be informed about the existence of— and application procedures of— charter schools. (Good luck to recent immigrants, particularly those who do not speak English!)
  2. Make the harrowing decision that the education your child would receive in the local district school is so under-resourced and/or deficient, academically or otherwise, that you are potentially willing to tolerate one or more of the following characteristics of many charter schools:draconian discipline; an obsession with testing; a developmentally inappropriate curriculum; a curriculum which is not culturally representative of your family; an inexperienced team of teachers and administrators, many of whom have never taught in any other environment; treatment as a pawn in a drawn-out political ruckus about charter schools’ right to exist and/or expand (or not.)
  3. Attend lottery night, at which you will be informed by a charter school administrator that if— and only if— your child “wins the lottery,” he or she can have the chance to graduate from high school, gain acceptance to college, and succeed there. (According to her, if you “lose,” of course, the chances of your child having a fair shot in life are slim to none.)
  4. Look around the room of parents and their children, all of whom are just as desperate for quality education as you are.
  5. Realize that, statistically speaking, 90% of them will “lose.”

If you “win,” congratulations! Your child has a chance of receiving a decent education!*

*If you ever feel that your child is not receiving the education to which she is extraordinarily lucky to have “won,” well… she can always go back to the district you fled, right?

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Holding Back to Get Ahead

Researcher Joanne Golann says that no-excuses charters are teaching low-income students to defer to authority and hold back their opinions—the opposite of what they’ll need to succeed in college and life.

walking in lineEduShyster: You’re one of the first researchers to spend an extended period of time inside a no-excuses charter school. Here’s where I ask you to sum up close to two years of research into a single sentence. OK—you can have a paragraph.

Joanne Golann: I found that in trying to prepare students for college, the school failed to teach students the skills and behaviors to help them succeed in college. In a tightly regulated environment, students learned to monitor themselves, hold back their opinions, and defer to authority. These are very different skills than the ones middle-class kids learn—to take initiative, be assertive, and negotiate with authority. Colleges expect students to take charge of their learning and to advocate for themselves. One of the students I talk about in the article learned to restrain herself to get through, to hold herself back and not speak her mind. She ended up winning the most-improved student award in 8th grade for her changed behavior. Continue reading →