Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NBC Bias on Deborah Kenny HVA Charter Scam and NY Times Trip Gabbriel Trips on Vouchers

NBC's Brian Williams is a shill for charters and ed deform
Student attrition at HVA is huge...the 66 5th graders in 2007-2008 have shrunk to just 16 9th graders in the 2010-2011 school year.  This is a 75% attrition.  In that same time, the district that the school is in went from 904 5th graders in 2007-2008 to 1313 9th graders in 2010-2011.  That is a 45% growth....  Contrary to what she preaches, teachers are her lowest priority
Why would you believe anything reported on NBC? Even more outrageous was the puff piece NBC's Today show and Brian Williams did in an interview with Harlem Village Academy founder Deborah Kenny. Leonie has done a few pieces on the school and today Gary Rubinstein tears it all apart.
An outrageous puff piece NBC's Today show and Brian Williams did on Harlem Village Academy founder Deborah Kenny. Leonie has done a few pieces on the school and today Gary Rubinstein tears it all apart. Really, if you want to see the entire charter sham exposed this is a must read piece.If NBC were fair and balanced they would have Gary or Leonie on to give the counterarguments. But NBC may be even less "fair and balanced" on school deform than even Faux FOX.

Here is Leonie's comment:

Great piece from invaluable Gary Rubinstein on the fraud that is Deborah Kenny and her charter school Harlem Village Academy. Kenny is all over TV promoting her new book, interviewed by the likes of Brian Williams and other reporters who never bother to check the stats or uncover the truth.
I would put quotes around reporter in this case. Just take this stat from Gary:

It takes a village

The reason I need to debunk miracle schools is because lawmakers use them as examples of why it is good education reform practice to close down failing schools and fire their teachers.  My purpose is to show that the good test scores, if they really have them, come at an even greater cost.  The more I can show that the ‘miracle’ schools aren’t any better than the failing schools, maybe people will be more outraged when ‘failing’ schools are shut down. The latest ‘miracle’ school getting a lot of attention is Harlem Village Academy Charter School.  The founder of the school, Deborah Kenny, recently published a book about her experience, called ‘Born To Rise.’  The school was featured on NBC with Brian Williams.
 Gary also deals with their bogus claims on regent success and teacher turnover. He contacted a former teacher at HVA who has blogged about the school. Here is her entire comment which reveals ao much.

When a school is truly great, teachers want to keep teaching there year after year.  So it should be telling that in this school over the past three years the amount of staff turnover was 2007-2008 53%, for 2008-2009, 38%, and for 2009-2010, a whopping 61%.  By comparison, the teacher attrition for the entire district in 2009-2010 was just 19%.
To me, this teacher turnover is the most alarming statistic of all.  So I tracked down a TFA alum named Sabrina Strand who taught for one year there.  Sabrina wrote an excellent blog post called ‘I’m no Superman.’  I asked her if she would give more details about her experience, and here is what she wrote:
I am more than happy to tell the truth about HVA, at least how it was when I left after the 2006-2007 school year. I’m really glad you’re dedicated to exposing the truth behind the whole TFA/charter school charade. It is very much a charade, an elaborate, expensive smoke & mirrors. HVA, as I knew it, was one of the worst offenders of creating and sustaining the myth that teachers can solve everything. Waiting for Superman infuriated me because just like HVA – just like Deborah Kenny – it sent the message that good teachers should be martyrs, not people with lives and passions of their own that happen to also be talented and passionate about educating children. I am not a martyr, and as I titled my op-ed, I am also not superman. But yet many would say I am a very good teacher. In Deborah Kenny’s world, that would be impossible.
During the 2006-2007 school year at HVA, I taught huge classes of 5th graders who were poorly behaved. The administration was weak and ineffective. Everyone, including the principal and the dean, was so stressed out that there were often medical problems. I used to take the bus up to Harlem with my co-teacher and best friend at the school, Johanna Fishbein, and we would often cry on our way to work.
The working conditions at the school were plainly unreasonable. They took advantage of young, idealistic, competent teachers; they squeezed and squeezed until there was nothing left to give, even our dignity. Deborah Kenny is LARGELY to blame for this, as we were all desperately trying to play our parts in the Deborah Kenny play – one where she produced and directed but never wrote or starred in the productions. I have zero respect for that woman. The only time she actually came into the trenches is when she was preparing the kids for some dignitary’s visit. At that time, she would talk to them like they were slow kindergarteners, and when she left, they would all ask me who she was. That’s how connected she is to the school. Yet when President Bush came to laud our teachers’ efforts for earning the highest math test scores in the city, it was Deborah who schmoozed and gave the tour, Deborah who took the credit.
Deborah Kenny and her Village Academies take advantage of budding teachers, often crushing their spirits in the process. Though we barely made more than NYC public school teachers while working seven weeks over the summer, teaching on multiple Saturdays, and averaging 12-hour work days during the week, Deborah pays herself the HIGHEST SALARY out of any charter school executive in NYC (that stat was recently published in The New York Post). She makes almost nine times as much as her teachers who are doing all the real work, the hard work, that lands her in the press so often and helps her send her own kids to tony private schools. Her “vision” is a bunch of bullshit – basically, work your teachers to death, and you’ll see results. Sure, and you’ll also see a lot of unhappy teachers, and a lot of people leaving your school and vowing to never come back.
The year I left, my entire fifth grade team left with me. Deborah refused to write letters of recommendation for any of us. Contrary to what she preaches, teachers are her lowest priority and she never has their best interests at heart. In fact, this whole thing started when her husband tragically passed away from leukemia, and she needed a massive project to keep her grief at bay. That project was Harlem and its children. She developed her miracle solution about holding teachers accountable after she had already latched onto this “save the poor black children” project as a desperate attempt to find new purpose in her life. I admire that tenacity and resilience, but not what has become of it.
No school with a 60% teacher turnover rate should be praised in the press as the model for other schools to follow. Now that I’ve taught in a relatively stable independent school for four years, I see that a school’s real success comes from its sense of community. When teachers are leaving left and right because they’re being asked to perform superhuman feats for little compensation, the idea of “community” essentially vanishes. All that holds Village Academies together is Deborah Kenny’s unrelenting ambition and greed.
Feel free to use any or all of this in your blog post. I am absolutely, 100% done with the TFA and charter school world, and I have no fear of burning my bridges. I’m one of the lucky ones; I moved across the country and found a teaching job that calls to my soul instead of giving up on education altogether like many of my peers did after their horrific experiences at HVA.

NY Times weak piece on vouchers
With the news that Michael Winerip is leaving the ed beat at the NY Times we know that the paper has basically abandoned adequate ed coverage on both the local and national ed beats. Today's Trip Gabbriel piece on the Romney Voucher program has so many holes, the space shuttle could have passed through it on its recent journey. How can you write an article on vouchers and totally ignore the failed voucher programs already in existence, as pointed out in Diane Ravitch's book where she has a whole section on the Milwaukee failed voucher program (p. 130-31):
When a team of reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examined the voucher schools... they uncovered unanticipated problems. Applicants to run voucher schools did not need any particular credentials, nor did their teachers. The journalists visited 104 out of 115 voucher schools (nine voucher schools would not let them in); they found good schools and awful schools. [many religious schools --Ed:  using public money to support religion, a major purpose of the voucher movement]. 
The reporters judged that about 10 per cent... were excellent, and the same proportion showed "alarming deficiencies."
...on the whole, the reporters concluded that "the voucher schools feel, and look, surprisingly like the schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools District."...This was not the momentous result that voucher advocates had predicted."
In other words, let's destroy the fabric of the public school system for no real gain while opening up the ability to open schools by any charlatan or religious entity.

The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.


  1. Something that struck me is how children are treated. It’s as if they were preparing for prison life. They must wear uniforms, must walk in single file in halls and must not speak! How does this prepare students to be productive, creative, responsible members of society? The extreme discipline only teaches children that if they step out of line they will be punished. Why do these charter schools need such extreme measures, something that Brian Williams characterized as “tough love”? I’m sure he would not want the same experience for his children. And why is it always children of color who need “tough love”?

    The piece also lauded the founder of the school for giving teachers complete “freedom”. Of course, teachers were also held accountable, the school’s founder assured the audience. Nothing innovative or creative in terms of teaching methodology was shown but I guess Brian Williams knows best and we must take him at his word that it’s much better than traditional public schools. Also, nothing was mentioned about standardized tests or the NY State curriculum and how these might fit in with this newfound freedom for teachers. It is extremely disheartening to have the mainstream media report on these schools without actually doing any real reporting. I wonder how many people believe everything Brian Williams tells them.

  2. I was researching Deborah Kenny to see what teaching experience she has and to learn more about her credentials (and salary) and you were the second piece to show up on a Google search. Great writing, Ed. I'm definitely going to do some more Ednotes reading!!


    Your sister in the struggle,


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