Minnesota Governor Earns Proficient Score in Reform Industry Studies, is making Adequate Yearly Progress

We have a crisis in US education. Many of our most prominent school reform industry leaders and politicians are not proficient in basic critical thinking skills. I’m concerned, troubled, even, that they may not be prepared for the education landscape of the 21st century when public schools are completely deregulated, privatized and fragmented and there are thousands of non-profit and for-profit schools, groups, schemes, products, plans, grifts and lobbyists all gorging themselves at the (formerly) public education trough. Every once in a while though, a politician breaks from the reform industry mediocrity herd and applies actual independent thought to formulate additional questions that were not on the standardized test. Here’s Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota, striving for excellence:

The following items of appropriation are vetoed for the reasons below: • Page 5. line 5.29: A $750,000 item of appropriation in FY 14 and a $750,000 item of appropriation in FY15 for Teach for America.

Teach for America (TFA) is a well-established, national program with revenues totaling $270 million for fiscal year 2011 (its most recent annual report). With total expenses of $219 million, TFA’s net assets increased by over $50 million and now total over $350 million. With those financial resources available, it is not clear why a $1.5 million grant from the State of Minnesota is required to continue or expand the organization’s work here.

My principal concern, however, is the way in which TFA was selected as the recipient of this grant. To my knowledge, no competitive grant program was established; no other applications were solicited; and no objective review was made by an independent panel of experts. Instead, the funds were inserted into the Senate’s Higher Education bill, directed to this organization, and retained in the
Conference Committee’s report.

Teach For America receives federal and state funding to continually expand their reach. In addition they are paid for each temp they place in a public school system.

The organization that was launched to serve public schools so poor or dysfunctional they couldn’t attract qualified teachers now sends fully a third of its recruits to privately run charter schools, many with stellar academic reputations, flush budgets and wealthy donors. TFA also sends its rookies, who typically have just 15 to 20 hours of teaching experience, to districts that have recently laid off scores of more seasoned teachers.
Meanwhile, TFA has backed away from a claim that nearly half its teachers achieve outstanding academic gains with students, leaving the pivotal question of its effectiveness unresolved.
Camika Royal, who taught for TFA and has worked for them in various capacities for 13 years, says she once believed the organization’s goal was to strengthen troubled schools. Now she fears it is feeding a perception that public education is in ruins, and only an elite cavalry can rescue America’s children. “I can’t stand the self-importance,” Royal said.

Training an employee is an investment because experienced people have to do the actual work of training in addition to their own work. We all know this, because we’ve all either been trainees or trained someone in every job we’ve ever had. I didn’t consider myself competent as a lawyer until I had been at it 4 years. I remember the day I realized, “I actually know how to do this!” I got a week of on-the-job paid training for a waitress job at the International House of Pancakes 25 years ago, plus a pouffy uniform. TFA pays for five weeks training. What’s the return on my investment in a Teach For America 2 year temp over investing in hiring and training local people who commit to a career in public schools and intend to stay rather than using us as a fall-back if they don’t get into a top-tier law school?

Unfortunately, Arne Duncan is not making Adequate Yearly Progress in reform industry studies and is still diligently filling in bubbles on the reform industry federal funding demand list. I don’t know if it’s social promotion or the soft bigotry of low expectations with him, but I may have to follow the public school playbook of the reform industry insiders Duncan admires and follows and close the DOE and then privatize it.

I’m a reasonable centrist, so I’ll also consider “co-locating” Duncan’s DOE within the Department of Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture will be the Welcoming Agency for the Department of Education when I (reluctantly, with great sadness, or at least a look of anguished concern while on television) close his Agency and then locate it …elsewhere. Sure it will be crowded and chaotic and painful, there will be real sadness and mourning, but I’ll promise a “free!” tablet for each displaced employee plus, air conditioning and maybe a garden if I can tap my donor base for some charity cash to placate the employees who refuse to relinquish the building in a timely manner. You say they already have air conditioning at the DOE? I say “air conditioning” a little louder. Hear that? I addressed your concern, because I’m a listener. Consider yourself heard.

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62 replies
  1. 1
    dr. bloor says:

    Your ability to channel Michelle Rhee is a little scary, Kay. What’s the pastafarian equivalent of an exorcism?

    Oh, and Fuck Arne Duncan with the proverbial rusty chainsaw.

  2. 2
    Big R says:

    I considered myself competent as a lawyer when I first started, and then was quickly disabused upon my first actual court appearance. I didn’t consider myself competent again until my first appearance in a federal court of appeals.

  3. 3
    hitchhiker says:

    Brilliant stuff, Kay.

    A close friend of our family was conned into TFA after graduating in mechanical engineering. He got his 5 weeks of “training” and then found himself in downtown Detroit with a full load of crowded physics classes and zero support.

    He’s bright, motivated, warm, and extremely competent . . . and after a few weeks he told me he could barely force himself to get out of bed and go face those students. I spent a lot of nights chatting him online, and it it still pisses me off, the hit his optimism and spirit for challenge took.

    Who the hell wins in this damn experiment?

  4. 4
    NickT says:

    Damn, our Kay is becoming one of them dangerous librul radicals.

  5. 5
    Pincher says:

    Sometimes when you try too hard to be twice as snarky or sarcastic it becomes impossible for readers to figure out what point you are trying to make. You want to say something negative about TFA but you do it via a sarcastic dig at the governor who has raised a legitimate criticism of TFA. WTF?

    So for that reason I am giving you a D for this post.

  6. 6
    Corner Stone says:

    @dr. bloor:

    Oh, and Fuck Arne Duncan with the proverbial rusty chainsaw.

    I also have issues with Arne Duncan but the real problem is the troubling mindset does not stop with him.

  7. 7
    YellowJournalism says:

    I heart you, Kay.

  8. 8
    Corner Stone says:

    @Pincher: I’m assigning you to Remedial Reading 101.

  9. 9
    Big R says:

    @Corner Stone: Well done.

  10. 10
    NonyNony says:

    @Pincher:

    So for that reason I am giving you a D for this post.

    I’m giving Kay an F, but it’s because she hasn’t yet fired all of the rest of the front pagers and replaced them with undergrads fresh out of college willing to work as 2 year temps on this blog for ramen noodles and beer. Also she has not spent nearly enough time trumpeting her own successes while actually not doing anything productive in an obvious attempt to find backing to start her own non-profit foundation that can pay her a six figure a year salary to find ways to suck public dollars into the bank accounts of private sector grifters.

    Her obvious lack of management skills is appalling, and has earned this blog a failing grade.

    (Assigning a grade based on actual results is so 20th century. You need to shift to the new paradigm and start assigning grades based on political ideology instead – that’s 21st century education right there my friend!)

  11. 11
    Joey Maloney says:

    This is Hall of Fame work, Kay.

    …do we have a Hall of Fame?

  12. 12
    Corner Stone says:

    @NonyNony:

    her own non-profit foundation that can pay her a six figure a year salary to find ways to suck public dollars into the bank accounts of private sector grifters.

    Actually, that’s kind of a brilliant blueprint. Be a vocal critic, prominently chastising the grift. Then, start slowly acknowledging some key “wins” (using any criteria you have to). Ultimately leading to a proponent of the grift, but only with massive street cred and VSP nods due to your foundation of vocal criticism.

  13. 13
    The Moar You Know says:

    I personally observe my own version of Reagan’s 11th commandment, and make a habit of observing it even in the face of indefensible behavior from Democrats. Fox News is there to do that job; they don’t need my help.

    So it pains me to say this: Duncan and the Obama administration are deliberately dismantling and destroying public education in a way that no Republican would dare, it’s not acceptable, and it needs to stop.

  14. 14
    Lord Jesus Perm says:

    @NonyNony: Outstanding.

  15. 15
    NonyNony says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Duncan and the Obama administration are deliberately dismantling and destroying public education in a way that no Republican would dare, it’s not acceptable, and it needs to stop.

    I can tell you where it’s going to stop – at the suburbs and the exurbs.

    I can already see it in Ohio – plenty of Republican voters in the ‘burbs are shocked that this stuff is coming to their public schools where it may affect their kids and their football teams. They don’t give a crap if all of the urban schools in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincy, etc. get outsourced to private companies, and they don’t give a crap if the rural schools all get replaced with websites. But they are not going to let their property values go further underwater by having their public schools destroyed – especially when their schools are doing just fine thank you very much.

    And yeah – the national Dems are worse on this than the Republicans are because of that whole “only Nixon can go to China” thing. But here in Ohio this has all been Republican crap because our entire government is at this point nothing but Republicans.

  16. 16
    Kay says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Agreed. Sometimes one has to go after them. I’m basically stalking them at this point. This is an example of the responses I get to my (polite!) queries:

    We appreciate your interest in charter schools and inquiry regarding the charter conversion process. In closing, you can be assured that the Department will continue to work hard on behalf of American children and their families to ensure that each child has the choice to obtain a public education that is second to none and best meets his or her needs.

    Like a dog with a bone, as “we” (well, they) used to say at the IHOP :)

    When I was training as a waitress there, they assigned numbers to employees. The older waitress who trained me didn’t see a lot of potential, so she gave me “zero”. It still makes me laugh.

  17. 17
    NickT says:

    @NonyNony:

    You go to whore with the results you wish you had, rather than the results you have.

    (Rumsfeld Management Rule 34b)

  18. 18
    gene108 says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    So it pains me to say this: Duncan and the Obama administration are deliberately dismantling and destroying public education in a way that no Republican would dare, it’s not acceptable, and it needs to stop.

    The more I look at criticisms of the Obama Administration, from others and my own experience dealing with immigration issues, I think at some level the inmates are running the asylum.

    There’s no clear cut direction from the President as to what he wants to do with regards to managing legal immigration, in lieu of a grand sweeping immigration bill or education policy or financial regulations that were passed by Congress that the folks in those agencies start setting their own agenda for how things are going to work around here for no particular reason at all besides they think it’s a good idea.

  19. 19
    Corner Stone says:

    @gene108:

    There’s no clear cut direction from the President as to what he wants to do with regards to managing legal immigration, in lieu of a grand sweeping immigration bill or education policy or financial regulations that were passed by Congress that the folks in those agencies start setting their own agenda for how things are going to work around here for no particular reason at all besides they think it’s a good idea.

    Are you offering the “If only the Czar had known” defense, or the “Absent minded Manager” defense?

  20. 20
    slag says:

    fully a third of its recruits to privately run charter schools, many with stellar academic reputations, flush budgets and wealthy donors.

    I think I’ve met some of these people. Like most other “elites” they run around feeling unduly satisfied with themselves because the job they think they’re doing is actually being done for them by money and social capital. And then they perpetuate the inequities in the system by acting as if what they’re doing is working great and everyone else just needs to get on board. Assholes, really.

    Love this series, Kay! It’s one of the few things that help me realize that I’m not, in fact, going crazy but, instead, going sane in a crazy world.

  21. 21
    Chyron HR says:

    @NonyNony:

    But here in Ohio this has all been Republican crap because our entire government is at this point nothing but Republicans.

    No no no, it’s all Obama’s fault. Whenever something you don’t like happens anywhere in America, Obama personally did it.

  22. 22
    catclub says:

    @NonyNony: I’m failing her for lack of pet pictures.

  23. 23
    bemused says:

    Our local wingnut editor of area newspaper had a front page article just this morning about two area schools getting high grades from rankings put out by MN Campaign for Achievement Now. an education “reform” group launched in 2011. The executive director Daniel Sellers said MinnCAN’s goal is to provide more ‘accountability” of the state’s education system.

    All the buzz words are there.

    From quick googling, there seem to be CAN groups sprouting all over the country.

  24. 24
    gene108 says:

    @Corner Stone:

    I don’t know what defense I’d use, but there seems to be a lot of complaints from different corners that interact with the Federal government, whether it’s in education, immigration or even the finance sector.

    I don’t know why so many disparate groups each have their own issues with their own different interactions with the Federal government under this Administration, but there has to be a reason for it, because it’s not a good long term trend to set if it becomes the standard for Democratic administrations.

    You will lose otherwise supportive groups to either sit out elections or vote Republican.

  25. 25
    Corner Stone says:

    I like Congressman Barney Frank just fine, but the notion of “set a thief to catch a thief” does not make for effective legislative enforcement.

  26. 26
    NickT says:

    @catclub:

    It’s true. All blogs are rendered more meaningful by a round white blur that could be a cat if you stare at it long enough.

  27. 27
    NonyNony says:

    @catclub:

    I’m failing her for lack of pet pictures.

    Have it your way, but you’ll never synergize your paradigm into a sweet six-figure non-profit grifting job with that kind of attitude.

  28. 28
    slag says:

    BTW, this:

    I’m a reasonable centrist, so I’ll also consider “co-locating” Duncan’s DOE within the Department of Agriculture.

    made me LOL.

    FYI.

  29. 29
    Corner Stone says:

    Cam Newton is absolutely awful at PR and media. If he strangled a puppy before every Q&A I doubt he could come across any worse than he does now.

  30. 30
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Corner Stone: Am I the only one sitting here naked?

  31. 31
    Corner Stone says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: No. Why do you ask?

  32. 32
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    I think it’s interesting that the revenues of the outfit are prominently featured.

    It’s honesty about what this is all about…lucre.

    The Ferengi mindset will annihilate our civilization.

  33. 33
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Corner Stone: No reason.

  34. 34
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @NonyNony:

    BINGO!

    Oh…wait…

  35. 35
    Kay says:

    @bemused:

    The executive director Daniel Sellers said MinnCAN’s goal is to provide more ‘accountability” of the state’s education system.

    There was a really funny situation in Connecticut, where ConnCAN did something like that. Public school parents (who are ELECTED to a school council, they made clear) hit right back.

    Why are they pretending these are local orgs? If they come up with 50 versions of YourStateHere+CAN we’re going to be fooled by that? I mean, Jesus. It’s insulting. I demand better grifters.

  36. 36
    The Moar You Know says:

    Are you offering the “If only the Czar had known” defense, or the “Absent minded Manager” defense?

    @Corner Stone: I’m not seeing either one. The President sets policy, the Cabinet is supposed to execute it. And then make sure it gets executed. Policies are being set, but then it largely ends there and becomes a free-for-all two steps down the food chain. A couple of years back I would have said this was likely a result of Bush appointees being stuffed into every corner of the civil service. I no longer believe that. Those people are losing their guvvie jobs and clout just like all the rest.

    Institutions have memories. I think most of the federal government has forgotten how to manage things.

    I don’t know why so many disparate groups each have their own issues with their own different interactions with the Federal government under this Administration, but there has to be a reason for it, because it’s not a good long term trend to set if it becomes the standard for Democratic administrations.

    @gene108: It was a problem under the last one too. That’s 20 years of the government not working right. Time’s running out to fix this.

  37. 37
    Corner Stone says:

    I’m just going to put this out there. Cam Newton will not be a starting QB in 2014-15 season.

  38. 38
    Corner Stone says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    I’m not seeing either one. The President sets policy, the Cabinet is supposed to execute it. And then make sure it gets executed.

    And there’s no accident or mistake to Arne’s behavior and preferred policy. This is the accepted course moving forward.

  39. 39
    NickT says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Going to disagree with that. Now, if you had brought Jay Cutler into the conversation…

  40. 40
    NonyNony says:

    @Kay:

    Why are they pretending these are local orgs? If they come up with 50 versions of YourStateHere+CAN we’re going to be fooled by that? I mean, Jesus. It’s insulting. I demand better grifters.

    No, see Kay, it’s natural selection at work.

    Grifters gotta grift, but they don’t want to waste time on people who are more clever than they are. So you set your grift up so that it’s so obvious that only stupid, desperate, or greedy people will fall for it. Then you aren’t wasting your time putting a lot of energy into your operation on a potential mark only to have the mark figure out what you’re doing and walk away from the con.

    It’s the same reason that those Nigerian e-mails in your spam folder are all poorly written, obvious scams. They could easily clean them up, make them professional, and come up with a more believable story now that everyone is onto the whole “I need to smuggle money out of my repressive country” scam, but that would only lead them to have to deal with people who might figure out what’s going on and waste a lot of time and potentially get caught by law enforcement. If you stick with making your grift so obvious that only idiots are fooled by it, you don’t have to worry about them catching on until you’ve gotten their money and have moved onto your next target.

  41. 41
    Kay says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Well, have some hope, because it’s gotten so giant and grifter-laden they can’t control it. Parent Revolution is a PR disaster. They’re the “parent trigger” lobbyists, where current public school parents can privatize a publicly-owned entity with a bare majority on a petition. Never mind that the whole fucking community owns a public school. They don’t get a vote. If I have a 4 year old who goes to kindergarten next year, I don’t get a vote on whether to privatize my public school! It’s the craziest, most anti-democratic scheme yet.

    Everywhere they go it turns into a train wreck. People weeping hysterically, running to the newspaper, alleging fraud, whole towns divided. It’s just a matter of time before it hits, cumulatively. ALL reformers backed this dumb-ass scheme, blindly. I love that the initials are “PR”. Yup, pretty much!

  42. 42
    bemused says:

    @Kay:

    I found an opinion piece from Sellers and was not surprised to see the word “choice” in it.

    I started reading the wingnut editor’s front page piece and immediately knew before even reading the name of the ranking group that something smelled. Anything that editor is raving about is usually the same old conservative ideology.

  43. 43
    Corner Stone says:

    @NickT: IMO, Carolina will have another similar season, and none of his team mates will back him.
    Watch any presser he gives. His mouth turns down and looks like the freakin Grinch. He rests his head on his fist and turns his head sideways. Just the worst kind of body language from a team leader.
    I don’t think he can handle it.

  44. 44
    gene108 says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    It was a problem under the last one too

    Trying to get routine things done through Bush, Jr.’s admin wasn’t as bad as it has become under Obama, from my anecdotal experience.

  45. 45
    Kay says:

    @bemused:

    I would have trouble with the attitude even if I agreed with them, which I don’t. I hate the whole thing, the worship of celebrity, the insistence that all you need is a “strong leader”, the tough talk and union-busting, the stupid slogans that pass for “ideas.” It just couldn’t be a worse fit for me.

  46. 46
    slag says:

    Thought you’d enjoy this, Kay: http://www.learningbygivingfoundation.org/. It’s got all the greatest hits: “philanthropy”, MOOCs, and just a hint of desire to trade our democracy in for vanity projects of wealthy people.

    Best line at the end: “The world needs more people like Doris [Buffett]; learn to be one of them.”

  47. 47
    gelfling545 says:

    @hitchhiker: My daughter graduated a couple weeks ago in the honors ceremony at her university. Since this was limited to the top 3% (I think) of graduates, they spent some time talking about each student’s accomplishments & plans. At least 5 of them were heading to TFA under the impression that they were doing something good and the illusion that they were brighter & better than the actual, trained teachers. I whispered to a family member that by this time next year they will hate life. Teaching is nothing to dive into unprepared. Even the full semester of student teaching trained teachers get is not enough but 5 weeks? I spit on 5 weeks.

  48. 48
    bemused says:

    @Kay:

    A commenter on the Sellers opinion piece in Minnpost criticized Sellers for focusing on identifying problems in public schools while not offering any solutions, tested or not calling it just another “the sky is falling” oped.

  49. 49
    NickT says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Cam’s got a lot of talent, which is why I don’t see the Panthers giving up on him so easily. Sure, he’s shown a bit less maturity than one might like – but that’s fixable. Let’s face it, playing for a consistently sucky team would grind anyone down.

  50. 50
    Lyrebird says:

    Keep on rockin, Kay!

  51. 51
    gelfling545 says:

    @The Moar You Know: If the President really wanted to know what needed to be done to improve educational outcomes (as the jargon goes today) he would go into a school that is struggling, kick the administrators out of the room and encourage the teachers to talk to him about what they need. Sadly, he is taking the easy route most elected officials have taken, meddling with the structure pretending it would make a difference (and because that’s what they can control)& ignoring the more difficult social reasons. If he (or even a school board member) had cared to visit my school I would have told him about having 28 textbooks for 250 students, that the only computers I had access to were the 2 I bought on eBay, refurbished and brought in (but we couldn’t use both at once since or it would trip the circuit breakers) and CPS throwing their hands in the air and returning kids who had finally started showing promise to parents who would destroy that little bit of hope in a matter of days. I know that a number of teachers have written to the President’s website, begging that he will begin a conversation with, you know, actual teachers. No response, not even the traditional “thank you for your interest now go away” response.

  52. 52
    Mino says:

    I bookmarked this link for you, Kay, to post when you did another essay on this topic. It’s an article on 30-yrs of privatization in Chile from Daniel Luzer at Washington Monthly…..http://www.washingtonmonthly.c.....mpetit.php

  53. 53
    Kay says:

    @Mino:

    Thanks. I’ve been looking for it. When you Google “Chile” and “privatized schools” an old CATO article comes up.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly :)

  54. 54
    cyntax says:

    Thanks for this Kay.

    As a teacher I appreciate the chewy informational center of what you’re sharing, but as an aficionado of rhetoric I enjoy the rich, dark, ironic coating it’s delivered in.

  55. 55
    JoyfulA says:

    And Teach for America spends heavily on recruiting by utilizing Craig’s List.

  56. 56
    The Moar You Know says:

    Trying to get routine things done through Bush, Jr.’s admin wasn’t as bad as it has become under Obama, from my anecdotal experience.

    @gene108: I’m a guvvie. Got to agree with you there.

    Even the full semester of student teaching trained teachers get is not enough but 5 weeks?

    @gelfling545: Not a semester, at least not in California. It’s a year.

    I know that a number of teachers have written to the President’s website, begging that he will begin a conversation with, you know, actual teachers. No response, not even the traditional “thank you for your interest now go away” response.

    My wife was extremely concerned about Obama’s education policies before his primary run in 2007. It looks as though she was right.

  57. 57
    sb says:

    @cyntax: What she said.

    @The Moar You Know: .My wife was extremely concerned about Obama’s education policies before his primary run in 2007. It looks as though she was right

    Seems like a lot of our wives were saying the same thing. My wife and I are both teachers and I really thought Obama was going to be terrific for education so I should never, ever be trusted again.

    Look, I voted for him twice and did so without hesitation. That doesn’t change the fact–and fact it is–that his education secretary’s views on what schools need are a lot closer to Michelle Rhee’s than they are to people who actually know what they are doing when it comes to what is best for our nation’s students.

  58. 58
    gelfling545 says:

    @The Moar You Know: A year would be better, and I mean a full K-12 school year, not the college year.

  59. 59
    askew says:

    @Pincher:

    Yeah, this post was really poorly written. It’s too bad kay couldn’t be assed to actually write an article on Dayton and all the amazing things he’s done this year for public education in Minnesota. Like too many other liberal pundits/bloggers, kay seems to be too busy attacking people she disagrees with to make a positive argument for Democrats doing the right thing.

  60. 60
    wenchacha says:

    Kay, I’d rather we push for more participation of our young “best and brightest” in all facets of public life. How about “Policing For America” or maybe “Doctors Without Boards” or “Water Treatment For America”? Why should the profession of teaching be the only one that benefits from new eyes?

  61. 61
    Kay says:

    @wenchacha:

    Because no other profession would put up with it. “Sure, I’ll be happy to train my replacement. I AM getting on in years now that I’ve hit 40!”

    I love doctors without boards, BTW. That’s 21st century skills, right there.

    The mayor of Chicago is ahead of us. His plan is to have firefighters escort the tiny refugees to their new schools.

    I don’t know why he doesn’t just go with the tried and true “crossing guards” or “sufficient police presence” but then I’m not an innovator.

  62. 62
    Bump on a Log says:

    @Corner Stone: I’m in my jammies.

    That is all.

Comments are closed.