Jeb! 2016 & the Web of Influence Peddling

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Yesterday, Jeb Bush announced his candidacy for President under the logo Jeb!2016.  Then today, Donald Trump, from a basement in one of his buildings in NYC, announced that he is running for President! Is his logo The Donald!2016?  Can it get any worse?

But Trump aside, I want to focus on the idea of influence peddling by examining three ideas that drive much of what happens, not only in education, but in other important issues in the upcoming election such as democracy, immigration reform, race, and jobs.

Here, however, I want to zero in on education.

Politicians, lobbyists and corporate executives have worked together to peddle their influence in the name of educational reform. This triad of influence is dismantling public education one charter school, voucher, tax incentive, and law at a time.

This group of education peddlers is known as “reformsters”, and I’ll use that term in this and future posts. For more about the term “reformster,” please see here, here, here, and here.

As you read this article, think of Jeb! 2016, the man also known as John Ellis Bush, and Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida.  He is a good example of a reformster, and it may help in seeing how reformsters work as you read the rest of my article.  I am not particularly picking on Jeb Bush. I could have just as easily replaced Bush’s name with Bill Gates.  But Bush is representative of a host of people who have pitched their ideas around the country in the way a salesperson tries to solicit your business.  And he’s running for President.

In today’s culture, politicians and especially business leaders, have perpetuated the myth that academic achievement in a few subjects is the most important outcome of schooling, and that indeed, there is a huge gap between achievement of students in the United States and its counterparts in other industrialized nations. Furthermore, these same politicians and business leaders (reformsters) would have us believe that there is a serious decline in the supply of high-quality students from the beginning (the end of high school) to the end of the Science & Engineering “pipeline.” Both of these cases are myths—that U.S. students do not achieve at high levels, and that there is a serious shortage of high quality persons for science & engineering. They are perpetuated to fulfill the needs and desires of officials whose best interests are served by claiming such weaknesses in the American educational system (see Lowell & Salzman).

These myths are real, however.  They are fodder for those looking to game the system.

Fear, Money & Gaming

Influence peddling is wide-spread in American education.  During the 2016 Presidential campaigns, you will see slick videos, prepared speeches, and hucksters of all shape and sizes pushing ideas that rest on three ideas:

  1. Fear
  2. Money
  3. Gaming

Fear, money, and gaming dominate the system. I’ve organized this inquiry around three ideas, and have additionally provided several case studies, as shown in the tabs below.  You’ll find two or more articles that I’ve written related to the fear, money, and gaming, as well as two case studies, one of Jeb Bush, and other on Bill Gates.  You will be surprised.  Did they go to the same schools?

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[restab title=”Fear Factor” active=”active”]Since the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957, and a U.S. government report, A Nation at Risk was published in 1983, American education has been cast as a failing system, and if “reforms” were not put in place, the sky would fall.  Although the sky hasn’t fallen, teachers and schools are envisioned as the cause of the mythical failure of American education.

The underlying and foundational reason that influence peddling is flourishing in education is the move toward the privatization of education. And the privatization of education is born out of assumptions that American education is a failed system, and that the only way to prove that the system is improving is show that it returning a profit to the taxpayers. When we begin to think of schools as a business, then test scores are a measure of profitability. Indeed, students of teachers who get high achievement scores are rewarded in the same way that employees earn bonuses. But when scores are low, it is analogous to a unprofitable business, which might mean layoffs, store closings, and fired staff.  Here are two articles that underscore this fear.

Why Education Must Be Public and Not Privatized

Using Achievement Scores to Support Myths and Build Fear[/restab]

[restab title=”Gaming the System”]The drive to privatize education is a web of connections worked out by politicians and corporate executives with the support of some very prominent and not so prominent foundations and “not-for-profit” organizations that have cropped up spreading their spray over the public education landscape. The relationships and the overall web of connectivity has brought a lot of people together who have influenced state legislatures to the extent that they collectively are gaming not only public schools, but the citizens who pay the taxes to support local and neighborhood schools.  This web shows very clearly how these organizations and people have figured out how to game the education system.  In these articles, we show how politicians have learned to game the system to not only use laws written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, but make use of the Tax Code to set up not-for-profit organizations that ask for money from around the country to support the bills that they support in their legislative bodies.

Using Students for Politics and Influence Peddling. In this article, I show how politicians have learned to game the system to not only use laws written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, but make use of the Tax Code to set up not-for-profit organizations that request money from around the country to support the bills in their legislative bodies.

Why Don’t Our Elected Representatives Write Their Own Legislation?  In this article, we show that ALEC, a national “bill-mill” is an “amazon” marketplace for state legislators looking to acquire “legislative bills.[/restab]
[restab title=”Money”]More than $700 billion is spent annually on public education in America, making education an investment and consumer market comparable to banking, energy, transportation, and retail.  But just as important is the idea that education is being shaped by organizations and a few people with a lot of money.  Here are two articles to offer some evidence for this.

Billions and Billions, and I am not Talking About Stars!  I am talking about dollars, and how billionaires are influencing (science) education policy from the K-12 level to the U.S. Department of Education, and this is being done in an environment where the billionaires are demanding accountability from the recipients of its money, but do so without having to be held to any standards or accountability themselves.

Are the Deep Pockets of Gates, Walton and Broad Contrary to the Ideals of Education in a Democracy? In this article, I wonder if the deep pockets of just 10 people can be consistent with the ideals of public education.[/restab]
[restab title=”Case Studies”]In this inquiry, we look at the Gates Foundation and Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education as core examples of organizations that use power and money to influence educational change throughout the states, often in the interests of corporate affiliates.

How the Gates Foundation Used $3.38 Billion in College-Ready Education Grants to Change Education Policy.  Did you know that since 1999, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (technically founded in 2000) have made over 4,000 grants in the US Program, one of the major categories of funding for the Gates. The 4,000 grants were distributed among 16 categories such as College-Ready Education, Community Grants, Postsecondary Success, Global Policy & Advocacy, etc.

Bush’s Education Foundation and Influence Peddling: Any Truth to it? The connections between Bush’s Foundation, private companies, and state officials has set up the perfect storm for not just a privatization of schooling, but the expansion of a corrupt and secret, behind closed doors operation that changes laws to line the pockets of corporate officials

Graphics of The Bush Foundation’s Influence on State Education Laws  The Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) agenda has seven “reform” priorities, and its work centers on influencing state governments to pass laws that are directly related to these reform priorities. Follow the link to see some data.[/restab][/restabs]


 

Establishment-Reformster Spray

The drive to privatize education is the outcome of connections worked out by politicians and corporate executives with the support of some very prominent and not so prominent foundations and “not-for-profit” organizations that have cropped up spreading their sp ray over the public education landscape.  And this spray stinks.

During the election cycle, including the debates to held by each party, America will be covered by this sediment comprised of nuggets of fear, money, gaming and untruths forming layer upon layer of spray, which in the is nothing but a pile of “excrement.”

What is your take on the nature of influence peddling in education?

Jeb! Is Running: From What?

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Jeb! Is Running: From What?

On this blog I wrote several articles about influence peddling and the role played by wealthy philanthropists such as Bill Gates, “former” politicians such as Jeb Bush, and reformists organization such as Achieve, The Fordham Foundation, and Teach for America.

Jeb!, the 11th Republican to announce a candidacy for President brought up somber deep inner reminders about education reformsters and how Jeb! is a poster child for politicians who have dipped their toes into schooling, and with that experiential knowledge, claim to know what is best for education.

Jeb! created an organization, The Foundation for Excellence in Education, and through it and the organization’s large sums of money and power, has used his influence as governor of Florida to peddle his Foundation’s ideas around the country.

One of his ideas is how online learning and related technologies can revitalize and improve education.  To make this happen, Jeb!’s organization takes aim at state departments of education by peddling its ideas by trying to influence key state education officials.

In the next few posts I am going to republish several articles about this, and use Jeb!’s education organization as a case study about how groups like his are working to undermine the work of American teachers.

 

Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence: Poster Child for Influence Peddling

Earlier this month, Governor Bush talked with the editors of Education Next about the legacy of the Florida reforms, his support for the Common Core State Standards, and his vision for education in the United States.  Education Next published the interview on its website here.

I responded to the article on their website, but my comment has not been published yet.

Here is what I wrote:

Mr. Bush’s analysis of his organization’s work is disingenuous.  When he left office as governor of Florida he and his allies created the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a large bureaucratic organization to influence legislation around the country.  The Foundation has become a major influence peddler enticing and supporting the privatization of public education.

Yet, Mr. Bush said this in the Education Next article:

“We need to end the government monopoly in education by transferring power from bureaucracies and unions to families.  The era of defining public education as allegiance to centralized school districts must end.”

Isn’t interesting that Mr. Bush has 8 years as the head of the government of Florida to test out his ideas, but now he wants to disable government’s role in education.  He claims the power will be transferred to parents, but that is a huge mistaken belief.  The power transfer is from families to private companies and organizations whose goal is privatize schooling by the using taxpayer’s dime.

Bush is a huge backer of charter schools, especially those that exist in the “cloud,” as virtual schools.  They have an elaborate scheme to influence states to move into these technology/virtual schools.  But Bush’s Foundation was “exposed” in a series of investigative reporting by Colin Woodard.  What was exposed was the profit motive behind the virtual schools that Bush’s group was pushing in Maine.  You can read Mr. Woodard’s full report in the Portland Press Herald.

The Education Next interview with Jeb Bush is prelude to his run for the Presidency.  Most of the motive behind his comments play into the hands of reformers who support the Common Core, the use of VAM scores to rate teachers, Virtual Schools, and high-stakes testing.  When you read his comments, its obvious that he ignores or doesn’t want to hear what is the research on some of his pet projects, especially charters and virtual schools.

I liken Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education to the American Legislative Exchange Council.  Each group uses power, influence and money to influence legislation at the state level to support a conservative agenda.

Earlier this year I wrote a series of posts on Bush’s Foundation.  I am re-publishing one of those articles here entitled “Bush’s Education Foundation and Influence Peddling: Any Truth to it?“, but you can find all of them here.

 

Bush’s Education Foundation and Influence Peddling: Any Truth to It?

The Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) is an organization founded in 2008 by Jeb Bush.  After reading about Bush’s claims that American teens were falling behind in math and science, and listening to his most recent speech at the Heritage Institute, I decided to investigate ExcelinEd, to find out what it is up to, and the extent of its intrusion into the various state’s education policies.  I also wanted to find out to what extent there is influence peddling going on, and any reports on the Foundation’s connections with private companies that sell products and services to public school systems.

According to the ExcelinEd website, the Foundation started out as a conservative group that now is bi-partisan and national in scope (according to them).  The Foundation works with state and local governments and legislative bodies to offer model legislation, rule-making ability, and implementation strategies related to its reform agenda.  Does this remind you of the American Legislative Exchange Council?  According to the Center for Media and Democracy, ALEC is uses corporate money to influence state politicians by not only writing “model” bills, but by providing expertise, and convening conferences for state legislators to learn the ropes of the legislation that they will propose in their states.

The Bush Foundation for Excellence in Education does the same.

The Bush foundation agenda has seven priorities, and its work centers on influencing state governments to pass laws that are directly related to these reform priorities.  The seven reform categories (shown in Box 1) are elements of the corporate and foundation led privatization of public schools, as well as the accountability system based on Common Core Standards and High-Stakes testing.  The reforms shown here are embedded in the No Child Left Behind Act, and the Race to the Top.  I’ve studied Georgia’s Race to the Top $400 million proposal and work plan; the state of Georgia’s education system is held in check by these categories of “reform.”

Box 1. Bush Reform Categories

  • Ccr: College and Career Readiness
  • Dl: Digital Learning
  • Etl: Effective Teachers and Leaders
  • K3r: K-3 Reading
  • Obf: Outcome-Based Funding
  • Sc: School Choice
  • Sa: Standards and Accountability

Influence Peddling?

One of my first projects was to find out how much influence the Bush foundation has exerted on legislative efforts in the states and the District of Columbia.  The Foundation website has a link to its State of Reform which takes you to an interactive map of the U.S.  Clicking on  any state map will take you to a page that will show which of the “reform categories” the Foundation has “had the opportunity to partner with reformers (in that state) to support development, adoption, and implementation of as many of the Bush reforms as possible.

So, the Foundation website provides evidence of its influence on legislation in each state.

To make sense of this data, I created an Excel chart that included the number of laws per reform category that the Foundation had a direct connection with lawmakers in each state.  Counts of the number of laws per state by reform category were recorded.  I interpreted the number of laws reported as an indicator of the degree of influence that the Bush foundation exerts on the states.  In some states (including Alaska, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, and New York), there appeared to be no activity.  But there were many states where the Foundation has made inroads by either providing model education reform bills for legislators to use and propose, or by providing consulting services to encourage the passage of bills that are congruent with the goals of the Foundation.

The degree of influence ranged from zero (0) to ninety-five (95).  There are 18 states in which no education laws were passed based on any influence from the Bush foundation, while there were 16 states with some influence.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education is moderately to extremely active in the remaining 18 states.  It is clear from their own website that they are influencing legislation in these states that supports their intentions.

Figure 2. Influence of the Foundation for Excellence in Education from No Influence to Extremely Influential
Figure 1. Influence of the Foundation for Excellence in Education on U.S. States and the District of Columbia Ranging from No Influence to Extremely Influential

There is one state that stands out, and that of course is Florida.  Florida, which is home to the Foundation, had an index influence score of 95.  The Foundation influenced every one of the reform categories in Florida as seen in Box 2.  In fact, there was more influence peddling in Florida than in most of the remaining states combined.

Box 2: Bush’s Florida Influence: Number of Laws per Reform Category 

  • Ccr: College and Career Readiness—21
  • Dl: Digital Learning—10
  • Etl: Effective Teachers and Leaders—9
  • K3r: K-3 Reading—16
  • Obf: Outcome-Based Funding—12
  • Sc: School Choice—20
  • Sa: Standards and Accountability—7

The influence of the Bush foundation in the states is shown in Figure 2.  For most states, the influence exerted by the foundation falls within expected limits, but Florida is the exception, and is several standard deviations above the other states.

Figure 1. Flow Chart Analysis of the Foundation for Excellence in Education's Influence on State Legislation
Figure 2. Flow Chart Analysis of the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s Influence on State Legislation.  *Index Influence Score is equal to the number of reforms directly linked to the influence from the Foundation.

Although the graph paints a picture of evenness of influence throughout the country, don’t be fooled by these numbers.

All it takes is one case of influence peddling to call the organization out, and to expose them for what they are really trying to do.  Digital learning and virtual schools is one of the areas that the Foundation of Excellence is eager to support and influence, because of the lucrative profits that will be realized if states pass laws that require students to take at least one online course to graduate, or offer the possibility of students opting for online courses and not brick and mortar classes.

Virtual Schools in Maine–Poster Child for Influence Peddling?

In an investigative report, Colin Woodard published the story The Profit Motive Behind Virtual Schools in Maine.  The Foundation for Excellence sponsors conferences for state officials in which presentations are made about the merits of the various reform efforts of the Foundation, especially virtual schools.

In 2012, according to the Woodard report, Maine’s education commissioner was paid to attend a three-day Foundation in Excellence conference in San Francisco.  At that conference, Stephen Bowen, was introduced to two things that excited him:

  1. Everything an educator needed to know about the merits of full-time virtual schools
  2. The Foundation for Excellence in Education Digital Learning Now report card, grading each state on its efforts in digital learning (Graded from A – F)

Mr. Bowen, when shown the Digital Learning Now, 2012 report card, soon discovered that the state of Maine received an overall score of D+.  Bowen’s goal was to improve digital access in Maine by deregulating online learning.  According to Woodard’s article, Bowen was overwhelmed and didn’t have a staff to carry this out.

Not to worry.

He met Patricia Levesque, head of the foundation, although she is paid through her private foundation.  It turns out she is paid as a lobbyist for online education companies.  Woodard writes about how their meeting in San Francisco led to a partnership (a favorite word of the foundation).  She writes:

Bowen was preparing an aggressive reform drive on initiatives intended to dramatically expand and deregulate online education in Maine, but he felt overwhelmed.

I have no ‘political’ staff who I can work with to move this stuff through the process,” he emailed her from his office.

Levesque replied not to worry; her staff in Florida would be happy to suggest policies, write laws and gubernatorial decrees, and develop strategies to ensure they were implemented.

“When you suggested there might be a way for us to get some policy help, it was all I could do not to jump for joy,” Bowen wrote Levesque from his office.

“Let us help,” she responded.

So was a partnership formed between Maine’s top education official and a foundation entangled with the very companies that stand to make millions of dollars from the policies it advocates.

The Woodard investigation revealed much of Maine’s digital education agenda was being guided (and written) in secret by companies that stood to gain from any actions that Maine took with regard to digital education.  Here was a poster child for influence peddling.  K12 Inc. (an online company), and Connections Education (a subsidiary of Pearson) were involved, and there was evidence that thousands of dollars were spent to create “independent” boards who would run the digital and virtual programs in Maine.  Each of these companies not only influenced state legislators in Maine, they also contributed financial aid to the Foundation for Excellence and the American Legislative Exchange Council!

The actions in Maine by the Foundation for Excellence in Education overlapped with the action of ALEC.  But here is how influence peddling works, as revealed by Woodard’s investigation.  She says in her article:

The corporate chair of ALEC’s education committee was revealed to be Mickey Revenaugh, Connections Education’s senior vice president of state relations, and members included K12, the International Association for K12 Online Learning, and Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. (Connections Education withdrew its membership in May.)

Bowen was also an ALEC member in March 2011, the month he was confirmed as commissioner, according to a second set of ALEC documents leaked to Common Cause and posted on their website earlier this summer. Bowen – then a senior adviser to LePage and the head of education initiatives for the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center – served as a private sector member of ALEC’s education committee, where he worked alongside officials from K12, Connections and other interested companies evaluating and approving model bills – including one creating centralized state clearinghouses for the sale of online courses.

The leaked documents also showed that ALEC-sponsored digital education bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country in recent years.

Foundations, such as the Foundation for Excellence in Education and the American Legislative Exchange Council have hidden agenda’s.  They use language, that as Gene Glass says (quoted in the Woodard article) is “the ideal form of crony capitalism.”

The connections between Bush’s Foundation, private companies, and state officials has set up the perfect storm for not just a privatization of schooling, but the expansion of a corrupt and secret, behind closed doors operation that changes laws to line the pockets of corporate officials.  Is the Bush foundation nothing more than an arm or a subdivision of ALEC.  Probably not.  But it certainly behaves as if it received its training and marching orders from them.

What do you think?  Is there any influence peddling of this sort going on in your neck of the woods?  Please tell us about it.

 

Bush’s Digital Learning Report Card: Misleading and Disingenuous

In March 2014, Jeb Bush’s organization Digital Learning Now (DLN), issued its 2013 Digital Learning Report Card measuring and grading K-12 education policies in the nation’s 50 states against its 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning.

I found their report misleading and disingenuous.

Digital Learning Now released its report card grading each state on 41 criteria divided into 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning.  You can visit their website to find interactive maps and a full report.

The ten elements are policy statements that the FEE claims are the essential elements for a high quality digital learning environment.  The 10 Elements are shown in Box 1, along with one of the criteria that states must adhere to or be marked down.

Box 1: Bush’s 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning & Sample Criteria

  1. Student Eligibility: All students must complete at least one online course to earn a high school diploma
  2. Student Access: No school district may restrict student enrollment in a full-time online school or in a part-time individual online course through enrollment caps or geographic boundaries
  3. Personalized Learning: All students may enroll with more than one online course provider simultaneously.
  4. Advancement: All students must demonstrate proficiency on standards-based competencies to advance/earn credit for a grade/course and to advance to the succeeding grade/ course.
  5. Quality Content: All digital content and instruction must be aligned with state standards or Common Core State Standards.
  6. Quality Instruction: State accepts alternative routes for teacher certification.
  7. Quality Choices: Based on eligible statewide online providers, digital providers, are allowed to appeal decisions or revise and resubmit their applications after denial
  8. Assessment and Accountability: State-mandated assessments in core subjects, including annual assessments, end-of-course exams, and high school exit exams, must be administered digitally.
  9. Funding: Public funds are available for online learning to: all district public school students, charter school students, private school students, home-schooled students.
  10. Delivery: All schools have high-speed broadband Internet access.

According to the Digital Learning Now website, 41 criteria categorized into the 10 elements for their rubric which according to them, “allowed for an objective evaluation of policies across all states.  Using research-type language, they weight equally each of the 10 elements by grading each criteria (41 of them) on a 0 – 4 point scale.  Thus scores can range from 0 – 164.

Each state completed ONE survey and returned it to DLN for analysis, and follow-up, if needed.  According to the Bush group, staff consulted with several groups, none of which were universities or schools, but all were either private firms, or those with a financial interest in virtual schools and digital curriculum.  The Bush digital foundation would have us believe that have a survey instrument which can be used to check the state of state’s digital policies. They use terms such as metric, which when you see the criteria you will at once notice that most of the “criteria” are based on Jeb Bush’s “Florida Miracle.”

In her new book, A Chronicle of Echoes (Library Copy), Dr. Mercedes Schneider highlights the Bush plan (in three chapters) for corporate education reform.  Dr. Schneider shows who Bush, through several Foundations is using his model for self promotion:

One could consider Bush’s statement, that Florida education reforms are “now a model for the nation,” from two different perspectives.  First, one might view such a statement to mean the Florida education reforms actually work, and are “a model to the nation.”  Second, one might consider that, regardless of the efficacy of these Florida reforms, model legislation has been written and is being actively marketed to states across the nation as the panacea to “reform” education.  Bush himself promotes both views.

Digital Learning Now is a way for Bush to package his “reforms” but in the context of digital learning and virtual schools.  Schneider identifies the following as the six key parts of the Bush education reform plan:

  1. Grading schools on a A through F scale based upon student standardized scores.
  2. Using of high-stakes testing.
  3. Preventing student social promotion.
  4. Basing teacher pay upon student performance on standardized tests.
  5. Using nontraditional avenues for teacher credentialing.
  6. Supporting charter schools, vouchers for private schools, and online schools (“parent choice”)

These are all present in the Digital Learning Now plan, and in its survey instrument.

Box 2 shows three criteria which are used to assess the Eligibility, one of the 10 elements of high quality digital leaning.  Note the word “must” in the first two criteria, and note that criteria #2 says that the state must require every student to take at least one online course to graduate. Who will benefit from this criteria? We see here authoritarian tactics used to promote a political and corporate plan in a democratic society.

Box 2. Student Eligibility
1. All students must be provided opportunities to use online courses throughout their entire K-12 experience.
2. All students must complete at least one online course to earn a high school diploma.
3. Student eligibility in digital-learning environments is not based on prior-year enrollment in the public school system.

So, one question to ask here is, How did the states do on “eligibility?”   Thirty states got a grade of “F,” 15 got a grade of “D,” and only 5 passed.  And by-the-way, Florida was rated highest, getting a 100% on this element.

You can see the results at the Digital Learning Now website.  Using a series of maps, you can click on an element and see at a glance how the country did as a whole, or zoom in on a state and see its grade.  Figure 1 are the grades for each state based on their overall score.  Notice that only two states got an A, a few Bs scattered here and there, a lot of Cs in the midwest, but Ds and Fs elsewhere.

Figure 1. Overall Grades on the Digital Learning Now Score Card, 2013. Source: http://digitallearningnow.com/
Figure 1. Overall Grades on the Digital Learning Now Score Card, 2013. Source: http://digitallearningnow.com/

Misleading and Disingenuous

The criteria that the Bush Foundation has identified to rate the states is designed to support their political views, and financial assets.  The Digital Learning Now group is nothing more than a politico-digital-wing of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

None of the data that they have collected would be acceptable if they tried to publish an article using the methods, tactics, and so-called “metrics” of their report.

The Bush group converts the scores they obtained from one questionnaire per state into a grade.  Not only does this lack condor, it misrepresents what the states are doing in digital learning.  For example, as I’ve stated, the largest score on the questionnaire is 164.  But the Bush group does not use real scores.  Instead they convert them to percentages, and then using a conversion chart of their making, they give each state a grade as follows:

Figure 2.  Grading scale used on Bush's Digital Learning Now Report Card. Source: http://digitallearningnow.com/
Figure 2. Grading scale used on Bush’s Digital Learning Now Report Card. Source: http://digitallearningnow.com/

There is no scientific basis to this conversion scale. The cut offs are opinion on qualitative and personal viewsof the Digital Learning Now staff. Nothing more. Nothing less.  There is no basis for deciding that a score lower than 59% is an F, any more than a score above 90% is an A.

In their report 27 states were graded “D” or “F.”  Or to put it another way, 54% of the states seem to be digitally challenged.  To to make matters worse, another 22% were graded “C,” meaning less than a fourth of the states digitally qualified.

What if the data was analysed in a different way?  What follows is an analysis of the Bush data using somedescriptive statistics and a more robust statistical process control.   If the Bush team did this, their report would read very differently.  But remember, if the Bush Foundation can show how poorly states are doing, then they put themselves into a position of pushing their reforms onto the backs of citizens in other states.  There is a lot of money to be made in the digital world, and if you study the Bush Foundation rosters, you will see that its stacked with people ready to make the move.

I converted all the percentages to real scores earned by each state.  Then, I examined the data using these raw scores.

The mean score on the questionnaire was 111 and median score was 118, and the standard deviation was 19.2.  The scores ranged from 67 – 151.

Figure 3 is a histogram of scores which shows a nearly normal distribution for how the states scored on the DLN score card.  It’s a normal distribution.

Figure 3. Histogram of Scores on the 2013 Questionaire
Figure 3. Histogram of Scores for States 2013

 

Variation

If we consider the variation in the scores, we find something very interesting about digital learning as measured by Bush and his team. Take a look at Figure 4. This is a flow chart of the scores that were released by Digital Learning Now.

Figure 4. 2013 Digital Score Card for All States
Figure 4. 2013 Digital Score Card for All States

There is variation from one state to another, but the variation is within Upper and Lower Control Limits.  No state (even Florida) fall outside the control limits.  The Bush report card is disingenuous because it fails to acknowledge that all states fall within expected limits, and that there is no state that needs to be “turned around,” or all of a sudden blamed for failing to meet their standards. Giving states a grade is dishonest.  Indeed, Figure 4 shows that all the states fall within expected limits using Bush metrics!

Organizations such as the Bush Foundation use tactics that are on the edge of being unethical, if not unscientific.  They use “instruments” to collect data from a few people, and then use these results to make outrageous claims about the state of education.  How can 50 questionnaires be representative of the nation?  Come on.

Do you think Bush’s Digital Learning Report Card is Misleading and Disingenuous?

Graphics of The Bush Foundation’s Influence on State Education Laws

The Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) agenda has seven “reform” priorities, and its work centers on influencing state governments to pass laws that are directly related to these reform priorities.  The seven reform categories (shown in Box 1) are elements of the corporate and foundation led privatization of public schools, as well as the accountability system based on Common Core Standards and High-Stakes testing.  The reforms shown here are embedded in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and the Race to the Top (RT3)

Box 1. Bush Reform Categories

  • Ccr: College and Career Readiness
  • Dl: Digital Learning
  • Etl: Effective Teachers and Leaders
  • K3r: K-3 Reading
  • Obf: Outcome-Based Funding
  • Sc: School Choice
  • Sa: Standards and Accountability

These categories of reform are focal points for the Bush foundation (ExcelinEd), and they have much financial resources, and lobbying connections to influence legislation around the country that is in the interest of “their reforms.”  One of the chief areas of reform is digital learning.

In an earlier post, I described a report by Colin Woodard, on The Profit Motive Behind Maine’s Virtual Schools which implicated the Bush Foundation, ALEC, K12, Inc, and Connections Education.  Woodard’s investigation won the George Polk Award for Education Reporting.   In his research, Woodard found that the state was directly influenced by Bush himself, who saw Maine as a great place to apply his Foundation’s Digital Learning Now.  I’ll discuss the Digital Learning Now program in more detail later this week.  But for now, its important to note that Maine’s digital policy was taken directly from the Bush Foundation.  The real problem emerges when we trace the principles of digital learning directly to companies that stand to make huge profits once the flood gates are opened.

Florida blogger, and educator Bob Sikes asked me in a tweet, who is  Patricia Levesque’s husband?  It turns out her husband is George Levesque, who holds the office of Florida General Council, which is responsible for providing legal advice to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and any Member, when in doubt about the applicability and interpretation of the House Code of Conduct or ethics laws, may ask advisory opinions from the House General Counsel.  In one post he wondered How Involved are the Levesques in Protecting the Fresen’s Florida Charter School Empire?  Ms. Levesque, who now heads the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and was Bush’s education advisory, also owns a lobbyist firm that represents many companies who have an interest in any Florida education legislation that is beneficial to their business.  In this particular post, Bob Sikes shows how family relationships and their connections between government and private companies either borders on ethics violations, or is simply downright unlawful.

You can read his posts on the Foundation for Excellent in Education here, and Jeb Bush here.

Graphics

In the first graphic we have a display of how each state is affected by the Foundation for Excellence.  The seven reform categories are plotted against each state.  For instance, in Wyoming, one bill was passed in the Effective Teachers and Leaders (ETL) category.  However, if you drop down to Virginia, five of the reform categories are represented.  In fact, a total of 19 bills were in one or more ways influence by the Foundation.  Florida, however, leads the way.  As many as 95 education bills can be traced to the Bush reform categories.

Figure 1. Analysis of the Bush Foundation's Influence on Education Bills in the States.  Data obtained from the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
Figure 1. Analysis of the Bush Foundation’s Influence on Education Bills in the States. Data obtained from the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

The graphic in Figure 2 is an interactive map of the states and the District of Columbia.  Here you will find how each state is influenced by the Foundation.

I’ll report later this week on Digital Learning Now (DLN), a Bush initiative that rates each state’s digital education against ten priorities developed by the Bush Foundation. Be in for an awakening.