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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/3/20

From The Person Who Brought You Common Core...

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   No comments, In Series: 2020 LAUSD Elections
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Arne Duncan
Arne Duncan
(Image by Marilyn Koziatek for School Board 2020)
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tp://">The best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina."
- Arne Duncan

Hidden in the pile of Trump's broken promises is the one where he pledged to get "rid of Common Core." While this set of standards is opposed by "an unusual coalition of right-wingers, liberals, teachers, and parents", it has long been supported by Trump's Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos. She served on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group that launched an "advertising campaign to support the Common Core math and language arts standards". DeVos also created the Great Lakes Education Project which applauded the passage of "a resolution endorsing the continued implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Michigan students." She "spent millions lobbying politicians in her home state of Michigan asking them NOT to repeal Common Core."

The birth of the Common Core started with the valid premise that there should be a nationwide set of minimum academic standards. However, the project was doomed for failure when education professionals were excluded from the process of determining what standards were relevant. Instead, corporations that profit off the standardized testing industry were given sole responsibility for its implementation. The result is an "all must fit one size" approach to education that has the attitude of "we'll try this on for size and if it doesn't fit, it sucks to be you." Teachers are judged by the test scores of their students and are, therefore, motivated to teach to the test instead of their students' needs and interests. Of course, the corporations profited from the increased testing regime and the need for all new textbooks.

The spread of the Common Core was solidified by "the Obama administration [which] all but forced states into it by requiring the adoption of the new standards in order to be eligible for more than $4 billion in federal 'Race to the Top' grant money." Obama's Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, not only refused to listen to the concerns about these standards but developed a reputation for leveling personal attacks against those who criticized them. Most famously, "Duncan said he found it 'fascinating' that opponents include 'white suburban moms who -- all of a sudden -- (discovered that ) their child isn't as bright as they thought they were.'" He also stated that "Common Core was a rallying cry for fringe groups," ignoring the bi-partisan opposition.

Partners in Privatizing Education: Duncan, Koziatek, and DeVos
Partners in Privatizing Education: Duncan, Koziatek, and DeVos
(Image by Koziatek Twitter Feed, Marilyn Koziatek for School Board 2020, Dept. of Education)
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Like DeVos, Duncan became the Secretary of Education despite having no professional experience in educating students. Instead, they both are experts in turning education into a business. DeVos spent decades financing the privatization of public education in Michigan with disastrous results. "In little more than a decade, Michigan has gone from being a fairly average state in elementary reading and math achievement to the bottom 10 states." In 2016, "70 percent of Michigan charters were in the bottom half of the state's rankings." As "CEO" of Chicago's schools, Duncan would close down neighborhood schools and have them converted into charters. While these privately run schools were given access to public facilities, they had no obligations to the students who were formerly educated within them: "there is no guarantee or requirement that students who attended the old schools will go to the new onesand many don't." In some cases, the charter school did not even serve the same grade levels.

In Los Angeles, some living within the attendance boundaries of Granada Hills Charter High School, have had the same outcome. Granada was thriving as a public school within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), but some within the school community wanted a way to recapture federal funds that the district was diverting to schools with a larger percentage of low-income students. There were also calls to end the practice of busing minority students from downtown and the East Valley into "their" school. Using a law that was meant to improve academic performance, "one of the highest-achieving schools in the LAUSD" converted into a privately run charter.

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Under the law, Granada is supposed to accept all students within its attendance boundaries without question. Yet, somehow the school manages to keep its enrollment of children with special education needs at less than half of the percentage enrolled in all neighboring public schools. For parents that insisted that the school obey the law and admit their students, Granada forced them into their iGranada blended learning program. In at least one case they broke the law by forcing this placement despite the fact that it was not authorized by the students Individualized Education Program (IEP).

As a member of Granada's leadership team, LAUSD School Board candidate Marilyn Koziatek was in a position to change these policies. Instead, as their Director of Development and Communications, she actively attempted to keep the press from looking into Granada's admissions policies that dissuaded parents from enrolling their children with special education needs in the school.

Given Koziatek's similarities to Arne Duncan, it should not be surprising that she accepted his endorsement, saying that he "did more to bring our public education system into the 21st Century than anyone else". Parents whose children lost access to their neighborhood schools would probably disagree. Residents of New Orleans who would not see the destruction of their city as "the best thing that happened to [their] education system" would also probably disagree. This is especially true considering the all-charter school system that he was praising has turned out to be a complete failure.

The fact that Duncan would get involved in any school board election is surprising considering that as "CEO" of Chicago schools he took part in a system that "locks out democracy." In a power grab similar to the one attempted by Antonio Villaraigosa (another endorser of Koziatek), Chicago's mayor appoints the Board of Education and the "CEO." Duncan actively worked to reduce the input of the Local School Councils (LSC), "the largest body of elected, low-income people of color (especially women) in the United States." Similarly, Granada had elected parent representatives on its governing board when it first converted to a charter school. However, these elections were eliminated and now the parent representatives are hand-picked by the administration, eliminating any independent oversight by the board.

It is also interesting that Duncan lists Koziatek's status as a parent for being one of the reasons that he is endorsing her since he had likened Local School Councils running schools in Chicago to having a chain of hotels being run by "those who sleep in the hotels." The members of these councils included parents whose children attended the schools and who, therefore, had a direct interest in making sure they succeeded.

If Duncan did not think parents were capable of being part of a local school's leadership, what makes him think that being a parent is the sole qualification one needs to lead the largest democratically run school district in the country? He also mentions her experience as Granada's "digital director," but fails to say how that will help her to be successful at advocating on behalf of students.

Yes, the LAUSD desperately needs a parent's voice on the board, but Koziatek is not running to represent parents; she is running to help the charter school industry regain the majority they lost after the forced resignation of convicted-felon Ref Rodriguez. This is why they have poured millions into anti-Semitic ads designed to force a highly effective school board member into retirement. 80% of students in Los Angeles attending public schools and they deserve better than being lab rats in the Duncan, DeVos, Koziatek privatization experiment.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a "strong supporter of public schools." Links to his blogs can be found at Opinions are his own.

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Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a " (more...)

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