We Need to Talk About Our Philanthropy Problem.

This week, the announcement of a massive collaborative between the world’s largest foundations and their philanthropic underlings underscored a disturbing and growing trend among America’s billionaire elite: the use of unprecedented levels of wealth to remake social policy.

If you’re one of those kindhearted Americans who still believes that the nation’s richest families are simply giving away their wealth to little people like us because they care, allow me to do this:

92f576eaf0f1a1eb223611e3e32f082f.gif

Private foundations have long been used as tax-havens for the elite, but “philanthropy” has lately been retooled to serve a new function: the seeding of a new “social capital” market that has the potential to reap these self-proclaimed lovers-of-humanity billions of dollars in profit.

This new market, still in the works but advancing at lightning speed, relies on the complete undoing of the public sphere.

That whole Bill-Gates-Common-Core thing? Sure, he wanted everyone to have to buy his Microsoft products… but not as much as he wanted to build a data-tagging system that he and his cronies could use to “measure” and then profit off the “impact” of their investments. 

Data is king in the new social capital markets, which is why it’s no coincidence that Congress is currently ramming through several bills expanding the role of the Feds to collect and aggregate data on pretty much everything, starting from when you’re a neonate.

And maybe even more creepily, when it comes to “evidence-based policy”, it turns out that “evidence” doesn’t actually mean science or truth or even what’s remotely good for us.

Evidence means data, which can be p-hack’ed (massaged, if you will) anyway investors like.

And so we have folks like Tripp Jones of Massachusetts calling for an expansion of “evidence-based policy” while children die at alarming rates in his former for-profit foster care program; folks like Bill Gates relentlessly terrorizing the public school system in pursuit of an investment-friendly sector; and the folks who managed to balloon the national student debt to astronomical levels advancing new credentialing systems and grading systems…

…all under the guise of philanthropy.

Recently, education historian Diane Ravitch called for congressional investigation of Bill Gates and his out-sized and undemocratic role in the takeover of public education.

But I think we need to take this one giant step further.

Gates is one giant, gnarly tree in an dark, overgrown forest of private “givers” who are dead-set on remaking our nation into something reminiscent of a feudalistic society.

I say it’s time to investigate the whole rotten system that’s allowing this to happen.

Seriously, folks.  This just can’t be okay.

toonvectors-10873-940.jpg

A Plea to Future Teachers

Every now and then, a high school or college student will ask for advice about entering the teaching profession.

I typically give the standard two-cents:

Stay away from Teach for America.  Find a grade level you love.  Be prepared for the first year or two to grind you down to the bone, but stick with it.

Recently, however, there’s something else I’ve realized I should add:

Study economics, finance, and marketing.

These subjects may not interest you now, but these are the forces that will dictate so much of what you are expected to do in your classroom.

No one ever gave me this advice, and I so wish they had.

For a long time, I thought that the endless, ever-changing demands placed on teachers came from education experts. I believed, truly, that the teachers that came before me were mostly backwards dinosaurs using antiquated, oppressive teaching techniques; that public schools had become rotten, outdated places in need of dedicated young people like me to shake things up; and that standards and testing and technology and data were about nothing more lifting kids up and out of poverty and into the limitless possibility of a college-educated future.

It has taken one long punch-in-the-gut, slap-in-the-face dose of reality to discover just how duped I was, and hours upon hours of research to learn what’s actually driving the changes happening to public education.

There is a terrible disconnect right now between those in the classroom – those who have committed their time, energy and livelihoods to the well-being of young people – with the powerful financial and technological forces that are rapidly reshaping our schools.

Now – maybe more than ever?- we desperately need more bright minds who are able to bridge the divide between these two worlds –  thinkers and fighters who, in the game of tug-of-war between power and money on the one hand and innocent little lives on the other, will stand on the side of children.

So, while you study Piaget and Vgotsky and all the rest, please – learn more than I ever did about how money and markets and power work.

Find out who’s really in charge, and then, rather than join them (even though the money will be much, much better) help us fight them.

We need you.

28f35db9419bcf15939fc627975e549e.jpg

 

Big Money Coming for Your Child’s Privacy – Again.

In my fourth grade classroom, when there is something very important that I want all of my students hear and to understand the first time (a task that is more difficult than you can imagine), I tell my kids to “wake their brains up.”

And then I do this (sort of) to demonstrate:

tenor.gif

Today, I am asking parents to do the same.

And this is because your child’s privacy is under attack, and you, moms and dads, are literally the only thing standing in the way of the complete and utter hijacking of all personal information related to your loved ones.

Before you glaze over, realize that the implications of this data-grab may be greater than you think.

This week, a group of corporate-funded researchers joined Bill Gates’s “Data Quality Campaign” to lobby legislators to weaken the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) yet again.

In an era when entire school districts are being shut down due to data breaches and ransom notes from anonymous hackers, profiteers are seeking to put your child’s personal information into the hands of still more people.

Screen shot 2017-10-28 at 10.00.00 AM

But here’s the thing: it’s not only creepy anonymous hackers that we need to protect ourselves from.

Data was recently called the “new oil” by the CEO of Mastercard, but few people seem to understand how – beyond vague notions of algorithms and advertising revenue – they intend to turn our personal information into a multi-trillion dollar market.

The intent is to put social services – schools, public health, prisons, foster care, you name it – into the hands of private investors via “social capital markets.”

Using social impact bonds, pay-for-success contracts, and other so-called “innovative” financial tools, investors – in collaboration with a wide network of corporate-sponsored “nonprofits” – intend to hand out loans for public services in exchange for repayment (with interest) when we meet their predetermined outcomes.

It’s the technocratic nightmare behind ever-increasing calls for “evidence-based” (read: data-based) policy:

Screen shot 2017-10-28 at 10.02.44 AM

that leads not only to endless demands for data-collection, but to service-shortcuts like ipads in place of teachers and for-profit foster care programs that claim excellent “outcomes” while children are dying in their care.

(Please read here for more.)

And so when they – the data-miners themselves – suggest that perhaps we put our children’s data into something more “secure” like blockchain, realize that they are simply trying to secure the very data they themselves need to build their fortunes.

Unfortunately, this means that demands for greater “privacy” protections are not going to be enough.

What we need to do is stop the oil rigs from being built on our children’s backs in the first place.

Big-data-is-the-new-oil1.jpg

#TOTALREFUSAL2017 #DATAREFUSAL2017

 

Death, Corruption and Cover-Up in For-Profit Foster Care, and Why Education Activists MUST Confront Them

By EMILY TALMAGE and MARY PORTER


The following is an expanded and revised version to the original post , which can found here. 

BuzzFeed News has reported the results of a Congressional Investigation, which was prompted by their own report of corruption and coverup in the deaths of foster children.

In their groundbreaking  2015 report,  reporters Aram Roston and Jeremy Singer-Vine investigated widespread cases of physical and sexual abuse –  including multiple deaths of healthy children – which took place in foster homes that were part of a 36-state for-profit foster care organization known as the Mentor Network.
The report featured former Mentor caseworkers who accused the company of failing children because of its focus on extracting a profit from them – by cutting corners on expensive services, for example, or forcing social workers to carry extremely high caseloads.

“I went there because I care about services for kids,” said one caseworker. “I eventually became a machine that cared about profits. I didn’t care about kids.”

A BUSINESS PLAN FROM HELL

The Senate investigation didn’t pursue the Mentor Network’s business associations, outside of interviewing current officers.

Our own investigation found that a key architect of the profit-mining expansion has since moved on from Mentor to develop the model in several powerful organizations, adapting it to everything from juvenile recidivism to public education.

Tripp Jones has now opened his own shadowy company (called 21c) that specializes in developing the type of public-private partnerships that allowed the Mentor Network to flourish financially.

He reveals in his bio that he served as a leading member of Mentor’s executive team for eight years:

“He and his colleagues worked with their private equity sponsors to successfully complete 45 acquisitions in order to scale and diversify MENTOR’s services from $250 million in revenue operating in 13 states to $1.1 billion in revenue in 38 states with 25,000 employees. While at MENTOR, Tripp Jones focused largely on building the systems to enable the company to manage explosive growth, extensive service-line expansion, complex integration of operations.”

From there, Jones went on to serve as co-managing director at a company called New Profit, where he helped build a “social finance advisory firm” called Third Sector Capital Partners.
Jones and other perpetrators of this giant for-profit foster care firm are sheltered by powerful corporate cartels, which are making new demands for public-private profit opportunities. Jones sits on the boards of MassINC., New Profit, Time and LearningThird Sector Capital Partners, MA Juvenile Justice PFS Initiative, and the Building on What Works Coalition.

And this is where education activists need to pay attention.

Edweek reports that the Gates Foundation and the Zuckerberg-Chan initiative have jointly funded a $12 million initiative to support new ways of tailoring classroom instruction to individual students.

The recipient of their grant is none other than New Profit.

New Profit and Third Sector Capital, both major proponents of the controversial and highly unethical “Pay for Success” model of public financing, are now closely linked with powerful education organizations and lobbyists:

 

new profit

In 2014, New Profit – along with the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative – sponsored a series of meetings with a group called Convergence, in which major education policy-players – including the presidents of both major teacher’s unions – developed what they dubbed a “Transformational Vision of Education” – a “vision” that is little more than a call to transform public education to a data-mining industry that will allow for-profit companies, much like Mentor, to profit off the backs of children.

The Intercept published its own report of the Congressional hearings, which fails to link the actual congressional report, or the new Buzzfeed coverage.  Damage-control may be a more accurate term than report, in fact, because it also fails to even mention the resulting legislation, ‘‘Child Welfare Over-sight and Accountability Act of 2017.’’

In an particularly Orwellian twist, the Intercept article recommends a bill put forward last year which would put federal family assistance programs and foster assistance together into one program, stipulating that only prevention services classified as “promising,” “supported,” or “well-supported,” based on an evidence structure developed by the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse, would be eligible for reimbursement.

That same California Evidence-Based Clearing House has given its endorsement to the Mentor Network’s own proprietary “evidence-based Family Centered Treatment® program.”

FCT© can target children and families in community settings (like “Community Schools”) for its therapeutic intervention, and then designate its own for-profit foster home network as a successful planned placement from their therapy. 

With that system, Mentor was able to claim 89% success in meeting “permanency goals” during the whole horror show described in the Congressional report.

The Mentor Network operates under a corporate name of Civitas Solutions. 

Intercept reported that Civitas’ publicly traded stock dropped suddenly when the Congressional Report was released, then rebounded in a couple of days as it became clear there would be no coverage or follow-up.
Media outlets like the Intercept (but not BuzzFeed)  limit their coverage to this one firm, rather than demanding an investigation of the public-private structures and their architects (like  FCT© and Tripp Jones ) that allow organizations like Mentor to profit off the backs of our most vulnerable populations.
Sadly, this should surprise no one.

The Intercept receives most of its funding from the Omidyar Network, which is deeply linked to the development of the very same pay-for-success schemes that Tripp Jones is building.   Omidyar invested one million dollars in New Profit back in 2000 – and has remained linked to them through many channels.

These groups are now busy turning our public education system into one that can be profit-mined as thoroughly as the foster care system.

And so it is up to us, parents and other engaged citizens, to spread the word about what is happening to children, and to make it stop.

 

86 Deaths in Public-Private Foster Care – and Why Education Activists Should Be Paying Attention

Two years ago, BuzzFeed broke a disturbing story that gained little public attention at the time.

According to a 2015 report, widespread cases of physical and sexual abuse –  including multiple deaths of healthy children – took place in homes that were part of the for-profit foster care organization known as the Mentor Network.

The report featured former Mentor caseworkers who accused the company of failing children because of its focus on extracting a profit from them – by cutting corners on expensive services, for example, or forcing social workers to carry extremely high caseloads.

“I went there because I care about services for kids,” said one caseworker. “I eventually became a machine that cared about profits. I didn’t care about kids.”

Buzzfeed’s report was thorough enough to prompt a Senate investigation.

But a key power-player, who has since left Mentor to form organizations influencing everything from juvenile recidivism to public education, has thus far been left off the hook.

Tripp Jones, now Principal at a company called 21c that specializes in developing the type of public-private partnerships that allowed the Mentor Network to flourish financially, served as member of Mentor’s executive team for eight years.

According to his company bio, Jones played a pivotal role in “building the systems” that enabled the company to grow from $250 million in revenue to $1.1 billion.

Then, Jones went on to serve as co-managing director at a company called New Profit, where he helped build a “social finance advisory firm” called Third Sector Capital Partners.

Jones and other perpetrators of this giant for-profit foster care firm are sheltered by powerful corporate cartels, making new demands for public-private profit opportunities. Jones sits on the boards of MassINC., New Profit, Time and Learning, Third Sector Capital Partners, MA Juvenile Justice PFS Initiative, and the Building on What Works Coalition.

And this is where education activists need to pay attention.

New Profit and Third Sector Capital, both major proponents of the controversial and highly unethical “Pay for Success” model of public financing, are now closely linked with powerful education organizations and lobbyists.

In 2014, New Profit – along with the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative – sponsored a series of meetings with a group called Convergence, in which major education policy-players – including the presidents of both major teacher’s unions – developed what they dubbed a “Transformational Vision of Education” – a “vision” that is little more than a call to transform public education to a data-mining industry that will allow for-profit companies, much like Mentor, to profit off the backs of children.

Thus far, the coverage of the Senate’s investigation of Mentor has been watered-down at best.

Damage-control may be more accurate.

The Senate report and its recommendations call for further data-mining, which will inevitably serve to bolster these partnerships and the profits they generate.

Rather than demanding an investigation of the public-private structures and their architects (like Jones) that allow organizations like Mentor to profit off the backs of our most vulnerable populations, media outlets like the Intercept limit their coverage to this one firm.

Sadly, this should surprise no one.

The Intercept receives most of its funding from the Omidyar Network, which is deeply linked to the development of the very same pay-for-success schemes that Tripp Jones is building.

In fact, Omidyar even gave a million dollars to Jones’s New Profit – the group that is now busy turning our public education system into one that can be profit-mined as thoroughly as the foster care system.

And so it is up to us, parents and other concerned citizens, to spread the word about what is happening to children, and – hopefully – to make it stop.

10336589_330964540389199_7543365159374977443_n-474x632

 

(This is Alexandria Hill, who was killed in a Mentor foster home in 2013.)

Ivanka Trump Becomes Latest Billionaire to Push “Computer Science for All” Hoax

On Wednesday, an op-ed written by Ivanka Trump appeared in the New York Post.

Joining a long list of public school-meddling billionaires who have no education qualifications nor children in public school of their own, Ivanka claimed the nation’s children as the subject of her White House pet project by calling for expansion of computer science and coding in America’s public schools.

The call is built on a long-propagated but thoroughly debunked myth that our nation suffers from a dearth of workers with STEM qualifications.

In fact, the claim that we need to get kids coding by kindergarten is little more than convenient cover to get more kids hooked up to digital devices in their classrooms and sending data to the cloud.

“Coding is at intersection of tech ed and edtech,” explains Hadi Partovi in an interview with digital learning guru, Tom Vander Ark. “People get online Computer Science. It may be an easier sell to blended Computer Science than blended math.”

And that, of course, is exactly what Wall Street investors and Silicon Valley tech titans are trying to do: sell us on the idea that we need to spend more time learning online.  (The term “blended” refers to learning that takes at least partially online.)

No surprise, then, that Ivanka mentions joining Partovi and Microsoft President Brad Smith in Virginia for – in Partovi’s own words – the Hour of Code “marketing gimmick” with the students of Middleburg Community Charter School.

In an email to the Clinton campaign (because yes, this is a thoroughly bipartisan ruse) Partovi urged staffers to think beyond the marketing stunt and make “Computer Science” a key piece of their platform.

“Any time Hillary says “STEM”, if she instead, said “Computer science” she’d have more voters understand and support her.  For winning an election, STEM is not what voters react to,” Partovi advised.

Hillary lost, of course, but Partovi lost no time buddying up with Ivanka Trump to push his agenda.

Partovi, a long-time liberal, wrote: “I knew many would ask me: “How can you support something the Trump administration is doing?”

“[We] may be divided by our politics, but we’re united by our love for money,” he said.

Did I say “money?”  Okay, he actually said our love for “children.”

But we all know what he really meant.

 

44BDA60700000578-4922180-image-a-28_1506443952847-1.jpg

 

 

 

 

How They Silence Us: An ABC Primer – UPDATED!

**Curiously, if you shared this blog on Facebook last night, the link no longer works. Instead you get this message:

oops.png

(And yes I know I need to plug my phone in.)

Just a coincidence?  Or is this E for Erasing or maybe G for Gaslighting (i.e. messing with my head…)?  At any rate, I’ve updated the post with a new letter, and hope that if you were so inclined to share last night, that you will share again today!  

….

As the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act begins to take effect nationwide, the proverbial you-know-what is beginning to hit the fan.

Parents and teachers are discovering that all the talk about “returning decision making to states” was a bunch of hooey,  and that even though their state may have ditched Common Core, or replaced PARCC or SBAC with another brand-name test, profit-driven education reforms are moving forward at lightning speed.

Consultants, electronic devices, personalized learning plans, and standards-based grading software are closing in on districts everywhere, leaving many parents and teachers up in arms and eager to speak up.

Unfortunately, they are ready with an arsenal of tricks to keep us quiet.

Here are a few ways they may try to silence you as you try to take a stand, and a few ideas to help break through the barriers

1. A is for Asking for “Input”

Sure, there are some who actually want to hear what you have to say – but they are rarely those in the driver’s seat.

In order to keep you from quibbling too much with their plans, reformers (consultants, politicians, etc), will often elicit your “feedback” or “input” on their plans (which are already set in stone).

For teachers, this often means being asked to write things down on chart paper or sticky notes during meetings.

imgres.jpg

For parents, this may mean spaghetti dinners or emails from the state commissioner asking you to fill out a survey.

none_of_the_above.GIF

The idea is for them to take this information back to the boardroom and decide how best to communicate to you the plans they’ve already drawn up.

My advice: Bypass the sticky notes and surveys and contact power players directly.  Get a big group together to attend the board meeting and speak up together. Video tape it with your phone and post it online.  Repeat.

2. B is for Blaming

Don’t like the new learning management system?  Concerned about the new grading policy?  Frustrated by the new curriculum?

This is because you haven’t been implementing these things properly.

My advice: Ask to visit a district where all of the new reforms are being “fully” implemented with fidelity. Keep asking until they have to admit that there is nowhere, actually, that is successfully implementing all of the reforms they want to see.

3. C is For Calling Names

Have you been called stupid, mean, crazy, nasty, immature, foolish, etc… all because you’ve done some research on what’s happening to public schools and are worried about what is happening to your district?

Have you researched education reform for hours upon hours, and then, when you finally got the nerve to share what you’ve learned with others, got called a “conspiracy theorist”?

6361162861152856961099446630_giphy.gif

 

Yeah, me too.

My advice: Shrug it off, hug your kids or your pets, and think of it as a win.  People call names when they can’t think of a way to refute what you are telling them, so you’ve either struck a nerve or proven your point.  Well done.

4. D is for Deception

I’ll never forget the day our state commissioner sent me a letter – supposedly written by several “teachers of the year” – endorsing our state proficiency based diploma law.

“You are in the minority speaking against this,” he told me.

But when I looked more carefully at the letter, there in the top right corner was the logo of “Educate Maine” – the very organization that had lobbied (with Nellie Mae money!) for the law in the first place!

It turns out that Educate Maine had strategically taken over the State Teacher of the Year program, and used the program for their political goals.

Creepy.

The fact is, most of the reforms they are shoving down our throats have very little support or honest-to-goodness research to back them up, so they need to trick us into thinking people like their ideas.

My advice: Fact check everything you’re told.  If someone tells you a program is “research-based,” find out who did that research and how it was paid for.  If they tell you teachers are raving about a new program, find out who those teachers are and if (as in my case) there’s something more going on behind the curtain.  There usually is.

oz4.jpg

 

5. S is for Shaming

How dare you try to tear apart our community!  How dare you question what is meant only for the good of the children!  How dare you question distinguished politicians or intellectuals! That’s not just wrong – it’sstupid and selfish.

Who do you think you are, anyway?

In my mind, there isn’t a lower blow someone can commit than trying to make another feel ashamed of themselves for speaking their mind.

My advice: Keep speaking your mind.  We need more people who do.

Clearly, this is only the tip of iceberg.  Please comment with other letters as you think of them.

And remember: the revolution won’t be televised.

 

48548598-Scared-woman-with-mouth-taped-shut-Afraid-young-girl-with-duct-tape-on-lips-Censorship-and-freedom-o-Stock-Photo.jpg