This is a very good and reassuring thing to see:
If you see that bumper sticker or sign, most likely that the teacher or administrator belongs to the Tennessee Education Association. Momma Bears are happy to see that TEA is taking a strong stance against excessive standardizing testing in Tennessee. It will take parents and teachers speaking up to make a difference!
Apparently, Momma Bears stirred up a hornet's nest with our last blog, Hope Street is a Dead End for TN and TEA. Concerned members of TEA contacted their elected leaders, then TEA contacted one of our Momma Bears to clarify their position, then we sent the TEA board even more worrisome info we'd found about Hope Street Group (we posted it below so you can see it, too), and TEA was forced to address the issue at their big board meeting this past weekend. Like "Alice in Wonderland," things are not quite as they seem.
First, we are posting the response to our first blog from the TEA Executive Director, Carolyn Crowder:
TEA's number one priority is always improving public education for Tennessee students and teachers. We are a member-driven organization which fights for the issues our members tell us are important to them. That is why TEA is leading the fight for a significant pay increase to attract and retain the best teachers, to reduce the state's over-reliance on testing and increase respect for the voice of Tennessee educators.
Some things Momma Bears need to point out:
TEA is clearly outnumbered in this Gates-funded conversation. Despite TEA having a larger membership than SCORE's well-paid staff and Hope Street's army of lobbyists, TEA will be the minority. Gates' money will dominate the conversation, as they intend to do, and will dominate the outcome, as they fully intend to do. And, honestly, can anyone think of ANY organization funded by Gates that doesn't push for his reforms? Anyone??? Nope. Because there isn't one. He's deliberate and strategic in who he funds for a reason.
We have some major questions about this partnership, and we found some alarming information about Hope Street Group. Stay with us, readers...
Who gets to pick the teachers that become the Hope Street Fellows?
There is a application process, including: narrative questions, recommendations, and an interview.
But who gets to narrow down candidates, interview, and pick the fellows?
If a teacher doesn't agree with common core and/or merit-based pay, will their application be quietly discarded or do they have a real chance?
Does TEA have any input whatsoever on this process, interviewing, or selection of teacher fellows? Does SCORE??
We asked the Carolyn Crowder those questions, but were surprised to learn that she didn't know the answer to any of them. She did say that "TEA requested to be invited to the training." Um, that doesn't sound like TEA will have any control over which teachers will be picked or what they will be trained to do as citizen lobbyists. Hope Street Group obviously has a plan; the process is already on their website for teachers to apply. So, it appears that TEA doesn't get a say in that Fellowship process. Are you surprised? We're not.
Grab a bucket to puke in, because we found some sickening stuff about Hope Street Group you need to know about:
On Hope Street's website, we read this:
"Hope Street Group assisted the U.S. Department of Education in designing Race to the Top (RTTT) in 2009. Since then, the organization has partnered with multiple states including the first two Race to the Top winners, Delaware and Tennessee, working on new ways to engage practitioners, complement work efforts and support work product."
Oh, my, we have opened the can of worms with this one...
Nobody. Nobody. Nobody likes Race to the Top in Tennessee!!! So, we're going to allow an organization that assisted the USDOE in designing that horrible RttT program, AND who worked with teachers to get us to the horrible, horrible evaluation system we have now, TO HAVE CONTROL OVER THE CONVERSATION?
Hope Street Group got us into this mess. They need to leave TN. Just go away. Don't use our teacher voices to further your donor's agenda. Don't use our children to profit your investors and yourself. Don't influence our legislators. Just go back to your own little cushy offices and leave us alone. Tennessee can control our own education thankyouverymuch!
Wait, it gets worse... this isn't a worm, this is a monster!
Look at this publication from Hope Street Group that we found on their website (image below). It appears to be a two-page advertisement of sorts for politicians and state leaders to tell them what Hope Street has done in other states and can do for their state:
Do you see that? The very first PRINCIPLE of Hope Street Group says they are COMMITTED to making student test scores AT LEAST 50% OF TEACHER EVALUATIONS!
That document doesn't have a date on it, but judging by the past tense verbs they used to describe TN and Delaware winning Race to the Top grants and the summer training of teachers by Hope Street Group, this document could not be more than 4 and a half years old, and perhaps newer. Four and half years ago they were "committed" to 50% of teacher evaluations being test scores.
Note: this has been deleted from their website now after we sent it to TEA and TEA asked them about it. Their first priority now says that student achievement must be "a major component." Hmmm... Sounds like they watered down the wording because the percentage was offending some people. Even so, "a major component" is still "major."
Here's the thing, we Momma Bears don't want our children's test scores evaluating any teacher or school. That burden should not be on any child's shoulders. There is no fair way to do it. Momma Bears oppose this.
We found more dirt about Hope Street Group, but this blog is wormy enough already. We'll leave you with some red flags (other than the pointy-arrow American flag logo that Hope Street Group uses) so you can dig on your own if you'd like. Our links to Hope Street Group may not work since their website says they are getting a brand new website this month (probably just as soon as Bill Gates' check clears the bank). Lucky for you, we downloaded the documents before they were deleted by Hope Street Group a few days ago. Click to enlarge any of these:
Red flags all over this Hope Street Group Braintrust list above.
Wendy Kopp from TFA? Sir Michael Barber?? All those politicians and charter school investors???
The boxed quote above was on the advertising for a Hope Street Group 2012 Summit. For only $25,000 per person (or $100,000 for a group of 5, which is clearly a better bargain), you, too, can get your major pieces of legislation signed into law!
If you've got a few minutes, watch the above interview of former Commissioner Kevin Huffman with Hope Street Group's CEO (posted May 2012). You'll see how he planned to correlate the TVAAS scores with teacher's observation scores, and his intent to rid the workforce of ineffective teachers.
Momma Bears' recommendation = TEA should run away from this lopsided arrangement and should apologize to their members for making Momma Bears do all this research.
Momma Bears think it is shameful how an out-of-state organization gets a say in our state's public education simply because they have a ton of money. This is America, for goodness sakes! Because of money, Bill Gates and special interest groups have bought their way into Tennessee with plans to control the conversation and outcome regarding our children's educations. This is not okay.
We're just a group of concerned Moms volunteering our time to research and advocate for students, teachers, and strong public schools. TEA can brush off our little blog and all these facts we've shared, but they can't say they didn't know. We kindly gave them all this evidence last week before this blog was published. The staff and board of TEA know exactly who and what they are dealing with and their motives. TEA's leaders don't need to explain why they decided to partner with these shady organizations to Momma Bears, but TEA members who give up part of their already small paychecks for TEA membership dues might just want an explanation why TEA is giving so much power to these underhanded organizations.
This message that TEA's Executive Director sent us over the weekend might help, or it might not:
TEA leads the fight against privatization, defeating vouchers last year. TEA leads the fight for the teaching profession, getting the General Assembly to make basing teacher licenses on TVAAS illegal. TEA leads the fight for fair evaluation, filing lawsuits on the unfairness of value added scores. TEA leads the fight on testing, on funding, on class size, on so many issues critical for teachers, students, and parents. TEA has earned the trust of members and persons who care about schools.
Why does it take Hope Street to bring everyone to the table?
TEA politely partnered with these Gates-funded organizations because they say, "It is a way to insert our members’ voices into a system that does not always take action on the ideas of the real experts - our Tennessee teachers." TEA may have been invited to the Mad Hatter's "tea" party, but the sloshing and spinning of Bill Gates' teacups will not get them where they need to go.
There is yet another shiny new organization in Tennessee with a feel-good name: the Hope Street Group. It sounds all hopeful-ish and Main-Street-ish and warm-and-fuzzy Groupy-ish. Momma Bears did some digging, though, and found out that this new "non-profit" organization is pretty much the same package with a new ribbon on top. Or as we like to say, "same pig, different color lipstick."
This Hope Street Group gift has been given to Tennessee courtesy of none-other than Bill Gates. Surprise surprise. He just loves paying for reformy stuff in TN. He's been through here once or twice, right? Let's open this "gift" and see what we find, shall we?
Yep, Hope Street Group is heavily funded by Gates, with nearly $5 million from Gates so far. Less than 1 year ago in April 2014, we see that Bill Gates gave a big fat $468,433 grant to expand Hope Street to TN. This would have fallen under the reign of former Commissioner of Education, Kevin Huffman, and it might lead some to think that this plan has been simmering for awhile just waiting for the new Commissioner of Education to be appointed. Obviously, there's some strategy in choosing TN and waiting until February 2015 for this to become public.
A very helpful comment on Diane Ravitch's website gives insight to this type of organization [emphasis added by us]:
Finding front groups for foundations and other agencies that are hostile to public education is useful. A good place to start is with the USDE website and the publications of The Reform Support Network, created to propagate the agenda for teacher evaluation in RttT to every state, including pay-for-performance and offering “a solution” to evaluating the estimated 70% of teachers who have job assignments for which there are not statewide tests.
Diane Ravitch writes, "We have not seen so many front groups since the 1930s. Today, as then, they represent no community, no one but the funders and the elites and those with a hidden but anti-democratic agenda."
The agenda of Hope Street Group is clearly to push testing, evaluating teachers based on test scores, and common core. They will hand-pick some naive teachers to be their "Fellows" (or as we like to say, "follows" or "foolows" since they will be following foolish orders on what to say and do), give them a little extra $3500 boost to their paychecks, and train them in how to sweet-talk legislators to vote for the reforms that their donors want. So, it is just like the Teach Plus organization that has already been doing dirty work here in TN, except with a more hopeful-ish name and a rosier-pink lipstick.
In a nutshell, that is why Hope Street Group is coming to TN. Well, that, plus all the money they'll make from their donors. Their CEO, Monique Nadeau, made a whopping salary of $352,000 last year according to their tax return. (Remember what we've taught you, class, just because is is a "nonprofit," doesn't mean someone isn't profiting!) And Monique Nadeau is indeed prospering, even if teachers won't be! So even though Hope Street claims to be "dedicated to expanding prosperity for all Americans," Hope Street Group won't be advocating for the things that would truly "expand prosperity" in TN for students or educators. No, Hope Street Follows will be advocating for merit-based pay for teachers using our children's standardized test scores and common core.
To be fair, Bill Gates isn't the only one paying their massive paychecks and light bill. Look at their website* and you'll see other reform-pushing corporate-interest donors such as: The Joyce Foundation, Foundation for Excellence in Education (that's Jeb Bush's reformy group that he just resigned from so he could run for President. Bush's FEE pushes testing and common core bigtime), The Hewlett Foundation, Walmart Foundation (the Waltons love them some reformy standardized testing and low-wage employees!), and Carnegie Corporation. So, lots and lots of rich businessmen who wouldn't dream of putting their own children in public schools with Common Core and rich businessmen who would love to drive down the cost of labor. (*Note: Hope Street is getting a shiny new website in March 2015, so if our links don't work, it isn't our fault. Reformers like to buy themselves new websites with all that money they get from their sugar-daddies).
So, what's so bad about this Hope Street Group?
All this money being spent to hear teacher's voices? This isn't going to help students one little bit. This is clearly in response to the negative publicity swarming in Tennessee around common core, standardized testing, and using test scores to rate teachers and schools.
Call us simple, but... If people really want to hear what teachers think, just ask them! DUH!!! Do an inexpensive survey. Visit their schools and have lunch with teachers. Invite them to join you for a cup of coffee. Whatever you do, don't hire an over-priced consulting firm that will spin whatever the teachers say into what their donors want it to sound like! Hope Street may say they want "conversation," but they will be the one guiding what legislators hear.
What is a reformer to do if they can't find real teachers to support their reforms for FREE?
Why, buy yourself some, of course! They need to buy some voices quick because:
Speaking of the Tennesseee Education Association, Momma Bears are disappointed that TEA has apparently aligned themselves with this money-grabbing, policy-influencing organization. Based on the press release, TEA is collaborating with Hope Street Group. A statement by TEA President, Barbara Gray, said, "We very much look forward to working with the Hope Street Group Tennessee State Teacher Fellows to increase teacher input regarding what works in our public schools."
Why on earth TEA is participating with this?!?!? either they are just very naïve, they are getting money from it (and if that's true, they better do some splainin' to all their members!), or they want to look like a team player to Commissioner McQueen. Hope Street is a dead end for TEA... just like selling their organization's name and their member's souls to the devil. Isn't the whole purpose of TEA to represent the voices of teachers??? Then why the heck are they giving another organization your platform and endorsement?
If you are a member of TEA, you neeeeeed to speak up about this!!! Do it do it do it!
Tell your TEA Board you don't want your organization to have anything to do with Hope Street Group. We'll make it easy for you, just click here for all the TEA Board emails and phone numbers. We recommend sending your email to every board member, which might take awhile with the extra clicks, but your voice will definitely be heard that way. Bombard their inboxes and tie up their phone lines! Share this blog with your teacher friends. Speak up!!! You pay all that money in membership dues, so demand they represent you and not Bill Gates!
"This is a reminder to teachers who want to stay home and say, "Well, I don't want to get my hands dirty with political stuff" that they are opting out of making the decisions that they have to live with. And it's a reminder that "Why must you make this so political?" is another way to say, "I'd like you to go back to being uninvolved and ineffective, please."
- Peter Greene, Curmudgucation blogger extraordinaire
Just some moms who realize their children's public school systems in TN, as well as public schools across the country, have major threats to their survival. We research, we write, we share, and we advocate.