Dear JCPS,

I have done a brief review of the Bellwether report commissioned by the SCALA education subgroup and I wanted to share some information that should call into question the validity of conclusions drawn by or from the report.  Specifically, the Bellwether report cites a number of other reports that have been discredited when subjected to academic peer review.

For example, the Bellwether report includes multiple references to “A 21st Century School System in the Mile-High City.”  A review (attached) of this report by (White – University of Colorado Boulder) found:

A report published by the Progressive Policy Institute calls for aggressively closing more public schools and expanding charter schools and charter networks. It highlights reforms adopted by Denver Public Schools, notably a “portfolio model” of school governance, and argues that these reforms positively impacted student test scores. However, causality cannot be determined, and the report did not attempt to isolate the effect of a multitude of reforms— including charters, performance pay, and a new performance framework—from larger complex forces shaping student demographics in the city. Written in a reportorial voice, the only data presented are in the form of simple charts. The lack of conventional statistical analyses thwarts the reader’s understanding. The report also characterizes the reform’s adoption as a “political success” born of a healthily contentious electoral process. In doing so, it down- plays the role of outside forces and moneyed groups that influenced the form of reforms, and it disregards missed opportunities for meaningful engagement with community stakeholders. Finally, while the report acknowledges the district’s failure to close achievement gaps and admits limitations with the evaluation system, it never explains how a successful reform could generate a widening gap in performance between student groups by race and class.

The Bellwether report is also based on “Measures of Last Resort: Assessing Strategies for State-Initiated Turnarounds.”  A review (attached) of this report (Malen and Rice – University of Maryland) found:

The stated goal of this report is to strengthen the evidence base on state-initiated turn-arounds and to provide guidance to help states use turnaround strategies more effectively. The report draws on multiple sources of information to develop a conceptual framework and profile of state-initiated turnaround strategies, to array the evidence on the effectiveness of turnaround initiatives, and to identify key elements of a successful turnaround strategy. However, given multiple methodological limitations, the report fails to elevate either the research base or the policy discourse. Specifically, the methods used to carry out the original research (e.g., analysis of state policies, interviews with stakeholders, and illustrative cases) are neither explained nor justified. Likewise, the methods employed in the eight evaluations selected to assess the effectiveness of turnaround approaches are not described, and the evidence base produced by these evaluations is not sufficient to support the sweeping claims made in the report. Equally important, the report neglects to consider relevant research on the specific mechanisms (e.g., school reconstitution, intensive professional development, private management systems) that states use when they employ the broad turnaround strategies discussed in the report. As a result of these problems, the report does not enhance the evidence base or provide the substantive guidance state policymakers require to make informed decisions about the use of various school turnaround strategies.

These examples illustrate a broader problem with the Bellwether report – it is based on reports that would more accurately be described as policy advocacy documents than objective research.  As such, making consequential decisions that would impact our community based on the Bellwether report would not be advisable because the report’s validity is highly questionable at best.  Basing high-stakes decisions on such untenable evidence could lead to significant negative consequences and unintended outcomes.

I hope this information can be shared broadly, including with the full SCALA committee and that all involved will review the attached peer analyses carefully.  I have also attached an additional analysis of portfolio districts, by William Mathis at the University of Colorado Boulder, which individuals may wish to review.

Brent McKim
JCTA President

Portfolio Districts Analysis – Mathis

Measures of Last Resort Report Analysis – Malen

21st Century School System Report Analysis – White

This post is a work in progress. We are putting together a list of key #Louminati articles that were released, in the order they were released. We will soon be updating this post with our interpretation of how these stories fit in to the big picture.

First, a reminder of the Hargens, Jones and Hudson trifecta.

JCPS administrator: Community should be ‘outraged’ about high salaries – Posted: May 02, 2016 11:05 AM EDT

OPINION: Comment | ‘Outraged’ parent addresses CBO – Gay Adelmann, Guest Contributor Published 2:57 p.m. ET May 5, 2016 

JCPS school board chairman David Jones Jr. loses bid for re-election – Posted: Nov 08, 2016 6:50 PM EST

Dozens call for JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens to resign – Posted: Feb 21, 2017 4:29 PM EST

With Charters On Horizon, Mayor’s Ties To School Choice Emerge – By  – 

Dr. Hargens to step down from position as JCPS superintendent – Ana Rivera, WHAS 11:35 PM. EDT April 13, 2017

JCPS opts not to renew chief business officer Tom Hudson’s contract – Posted: May 19, 2017 12:44 PM EDT

Secret Christiansen Report, Commissioned by Tom Hudson, Conducted by “friend” of Tom Hudson, Never Before Seen By JCPS Board, Parents, Public, KDE – Oct. 31, 2016

Not sure what prompted this guy to have an opinion about public schools in Jefferson county, considering he’s been here less than two years. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that he receives funding and support from a group of Libertarians tied to the Kochs, and Art Laffer. But it shouldn’t be surprising. Everyone and their dog has an opinion about how to fix schools they’ve never set foot in or supported in decades, all based on tired stereotypes and assumptions.
State takeover is the last best hope to save JCPS | Opinion – Jordan Harris, Contributing Columnist  – Published 10:21 a.m. ET – Nov. 21, 2017

Columnist’s school-takeover rhetoric is straight from the Koch playbook | Opinion – Gay Adelmann, Guest Contributor – Published 9:33 a.m. ET Nov. 25, 2017

Fast forward to January 2018…

When this surprise, one-sided story comes from leaks by our ousted CBO. What is the motive? Agenda?

JCPS Internal Investigations Of Employee Misconduct Fall Short – By  

OPINION: The cowardice of JCPS leaders puts kids and staff at risk. The state must step in | Tom Hudson, Guest contributor Published 5:05 p.m. ET Jan. 26, 2018

By invitation only: Meet Louisville’s power brokers – By STAFF | 

Denying secrecy, private Louisville ‘steering committee’ releases members’ names

, Courier Journal Published 5:35 p.m. ET Jan. 30, 2018 

Louisville’s rich have joined to help set the city’s agenda, and they’ve got an eye on JCPS

, Courier Journal Published 8:05 p.m. ET Jan. 30, 2018

OPINION: Outspoken JCPS critic Tom Hudson helped make the same mess he groused about | Brady

OPINION: Tom Hudson is deceptive and delusional in his criticism of JCPS school board | Chris Kolb

Report: JCPS needs strong executive calling the shots, not the school board and union
, Louisville Courier Journal – Published 8:08 p.m. ET Feb. 1, 2018 

The list of funders for Bellwether Education Partners consists mainly of conservative privatization advocacy groups and charter schools / charter advocacy groups. Below are some examples…

· Academy for Urban School Leadership

· Academy Prep Foundation

· ACE Charter Schools

· Algiers Charter Schools Association

· American Center for School Choice

· American Enterprise Institute

· American Federation for Children – Alliance for School Choice

· Archdiocese of Boston

· The Aspen Insitute/Stevens Initiative

· Black Alliance for Educational Options

· Boston Charter Fund

· The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems

· Brooke Charter Schools

· Center on Reinventing Public Education

· Charter Parents United

· Charter School Growth Fund

· Charter School Partners

· Chicago International Charter Schools

· Chiefs for Change

· Citizens of the World Charter Schools

· Collegiate Academies

· Community Charter School of Cambridge

· DC Association of Chartered Public Schools

· DC Prep

· Democracy Prep Public Schools

· Digital Promise

· Downtown College Prep

· Education Reform Now

· Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School

· The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation

· Equitas Academy Charter Schools

· Freedom Preparatory Academy

· Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

· Friendship Public Charter Schools

· George W. Bush Institute

· Georgia Charter School Association

· Hebrew Charter School Center

· Hope Street Group

· Illinois Network of Charter Schools

· Ingenuity Prep Public Charter School

· InspireNOLA

· Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice

· K12 Inc.

· KIPP Colorado

· KIPP Foundation

· KIPP Houston

· KIPP Kansas City

· KIPP Los Angeles

· KIPP Massachusetts

· KIPP San Antonio

· KIPP St. Louis

· Lake Wales Charter Schools

· Laura and John Arnold Foundation

· M.C. Adams Public Charter School

· Massachusetts Charter Public School Association

· Mastery Charter Schools

· National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

· National Association of Charter School Authorizers

· New Schools for Baton Rouge

· New Schools for New Orleans

· New York City Charter School Center

· New Schools Venture Fund

· Noble Network of Charter Schools

· The Oaks Academy

· Perspectives Charter Schools

· Philadelphia Leadership Academy

· Reason Foundation

· ReNew Schools Charter Management Organization

· Revolution Prep

· Rocketship Education

· Roman Archdiocese of Boston

· Scholar Academies

· St. Ignatius Catholic School

· Stand for Children

· The Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda

· STRIVE Preparatory Schools

· Students for Ed Reform

· Sylvan Learning

· Teach for America

· Teach for America – Bay Area

· Teach for America of Greater New Orleans

· Teach for America – Northeast Ohio

· Tennessee Achievement School District

· Tennessee Charter School Center

· Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE)

· Texas Charter School Association

· Thomas B. Fordham Institute

· Thurgood Marshall Academy

· Thurgood Marshall College Fund

· Valley Christian Schools

· Voices College-Bound Language Academies

· The Walton Family Foundation

· YES Prep Public Schools