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.
That “solution" is the infamous SLO (student learning objectives) process now required in at least 26 states (most recently Maryland), with not even a smidgen of research to support it as reliable, valid, a means of improving student learning in the subjects for which it is supposed to be most relevant.
The policies of Race to the Top (RttT) are so in-credible that USDE hired marketing experts to sell them via a grant of $43 million. The marketing is directed toward the “winners” of the competition and for “scaling” the agenda to every state.
Of special interest, this “Reform Support Network” issues publications to state and district officials on “messaging strategies” that are needed to secure the compliance of teachers with high stakes evaluations based on the SLO process and increasingly ties to pay-for-performance.
One of the “messaging strategies” (there are at least 40 in multiple publications) is to enlist “teacher swat teams” who are paid in time or money to deliver the message that this new system will improve student learning (no proof, of course).
Another method is to by-pass unions where these exist and function to protect teachers due process. The by-pass, promoted in USDE’s publications, is to enlist is so-called “teacher voice groups” as advocates for the rating systems needed in pay-for-performance plans.
A “teacher voice group” is the Reform Support Network’s name for a non-union advocacy collective funded by private foundations favoring pay-for-performance. Five voice groups are mentioned by name. All have received major funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Teach Plus ($9.5 million), Center for Teacher Quality ($6.3 million), Hope Street Group ($4.7 million), Educators for Excellence ($3.9 million), and Teachers United ($942, 000). Other foundations are supporting these groups. For example, Teach Plus receives “partner” grants from eight other foundations including the Broad, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Joyce and several major investment firms.
See the propaganda for yourself, including one of the latest updates.
Reform Support Network (2012, December). Engaging educators: A reform support network guide for states and districts. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/implementation-support-unit/tech-assist/engaging-educators.pdf
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:
- Several lawsuits are currently pending that contest the constitutionality of the test-based TVAAS evaluation system. The lawsuits are gaining some negative attention for TVAAS.
- Citizens are hearing about teachers who are evaluated on the test scores of students they don't even teach and saying, "Hey, that isn't fair!" and "No way will my child's test scores be used to hurt their kindhearted, hardworking teachers!" Parents are refusing to allow their children to take the tests (aka "Opting Out").
- Common Core has become a dirty word in TN, so they've stop calling it by its real name. Instead, they call it "college and career standards" or "TN Standards" to fool everyone. While that tricks some people temporarily, it backfires when people realize they have been duped. Uh oh, now they've got some angry people on their hands who reeeeally don't trust them now for that sneaky move.
- The Tennessee Education Association has been stirring up a bit of trouble by hosting enlightening Road Trips across the state, inviting parents and elected officials, and telling them the truth about the testing... how much testing costs, how much time testing is eating up from instruction time, and how frequently these tests are occurring. (If you're able to catch a TEA Road Trip in your area, please do! You will learn a LOT! Click HERE for the schedule. You don't have to be a TEA member to attend.)
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!
- Peter Greene, Curmudgucation blogger extraordinaire