CRPE: Creepier than CREEP

 

Way back in 1972 there was a committee whose acronym was CRP.  CRP stood for Committee to Re-elect the President, who at the time was Richard M. Nixon. Because CRP became integrally involved in some creepy activities including Watergate, its acronym morphed into CREEP. A creepy committee funding some CREEPy goings on. (On a personal note, I worked at CBS News in Washington, D.C. during this time.   While I thought some of the activities were CREEPy, I loved the political intrigue).

 

Fast forward to 2015 and my continuing involvement with Denver Public Schools. Another creepy organization has touched my life: Center on Reinventing Public Education or (another) CRPE, a University of Washington research center funded in part by Bill and Melinda Gates. It turns out this creepy organization has provided the blueprint for all that is happening and has happened in DPS over the last ten years.  This creepy CRPE has tried to lead us to believe that a business portfolio strategy can somehow be successful in the public education world. Strategies and phrases such as “risk management,”  “assets,” “portfolio rebalancing and managing,” “ridding yourself of portfolio low performers,” “monoploy” dominate the conversations with these folks.  And because DPS has been so successful and diligent in adopting these elements it has finally, finally, reached the top of a reformy chart.  The problem with this achievement is that it only represents success as it relates to implementation of some convoluted business strategy. Remember, a portfolio strategy requires constant churn, for the investor is always ridding his portfolio of low-performing stocks while looking for higher performing ones.  This may be a good strategy for business, but schools, children, families and teachers are not stocks and bonds.  They should not be treated as such.  And so far implementation of this strategy has had virtually no impact on improving educational opportunities or outcomes for Denver’s children.  So after being national exemplars for choice (or as I like to call it chaos), funding, talent (see here and here for Chalkbeat’s take) and accountability, Denver Public Schools still shows no growth in 2014 standardized tests.  Proficiencies across the district slog along at 57% for reading, 47% for math, and 44% for writing with achievement gaps increasing in each subject. Even with a slight increase ACT scores are still only 18.4 (a 26 is needed to enter the University of Colorado) and the overall graduation rate is still at only 62.8%.  Sadly, even after ten years, DPS has failed to transfer implementation into outcomes.

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 11.29.46 AM

 

Below is a chart with all 37 “elements” of Portfolio Management.  In order to see all of the elements you must click on this link. I strongly encourage you to do so.

A couple of observations:  As CRPE celebrates DPS for being a national exemplar in 5 out of 6 elements in the category of “Good Options and Choices for All Families,” neighborhoods across the city are at odds with the District on this very issue.  Just ask families in Northwest, Far Northeast, and Southwest Denver, and the neighborhoods of Park Hill and Stapleton how they view their choices. And again, as DPS achieves four out of 5 national exemplars in the Performance-Based Accountability category, one must ask how this is even remotely accurate when the School Performance Framework (SPF) used to close schools, give teachers’ bonuses, determine a school’s rating, is constantly changing.  There most likely won’t even be “Accountability” for the next two years, given the new PARCC tests.

Out of these 37, DPS is a national exemplar in 17, well on its way to implementing 15 elements and needing to work on only 5 elements.  I encourage you to open all of the elements.  The Denver Public Schools strategies of the past ten years will become painfully clear.  Strategies like “school closings, performance contracts, contract waivers, alternative pipelines, performance based evaluations,”  are all the things we in Denver are used to hearing.  What educational results have emerged from all this high performing implementation?

DPS Portfolio Snapshot

That is all I really want to say.  The 1972 CREEP was pretty creepy; the 2015 CRPE is even creepier. I was creeped out when I looked at this in detail and just wanted to share with you the blueprint of the business model producing nothing.  It is past the time to get rid of ten years of the sound and the fury, signifying nothing.

 

A Petrie Dish of Cynicism

Get this. Over the past four years a Denver-based health care provider settled (without admitting any wrongdoing) three whistle blower lawsuits with the federal government for $961 million. The cases involved defrauding the federal Medicare program ($495 million), double billing the government ($55 million), and engaging in a kick-back scheme for patient referrals. ($411 million). This same company underwrote a Denver Public Schools “pep rally” of sorts in 2012 where, using some of the company’s cultural training techniques, the six core DPS values were determined.  Not surprisingly the DPS’ core values look remarkably similar to this company’s core values . And since relocating its headquarters to Denver, the CEO of said company and his wife have contributed $33,000 to four “reform” school board candidates in 2013 (10K to Barbara O’Brien, Mike Johnson, Landri Taylor, 3K to Rosemary Rodriguez) and $61,000 to three “reform” candidates in 2011 ($25K to Happy Haynes and Anne Rowe, 11K to Jennifer Draper Carson). I try not to be overly cynical, which given the state of public education in the United States is often challenging, but when I saw the invitation below, I could no longer contain my cynicism regarding this alliance. It turns out this corporation with core values such as INTEGRITY and ACCOUNTABILITY is COLLABORATING once again with the Denver Public Schools for some FUN, this time to honor those who have a shared value and vision.  The company and CEO having such access to Denver Public Schools?  DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. and its CEO Kent Thiry.

 

Join Us For The

Night of Honor

A DPS celebration honoring those who are paving the way and going

above and beyond in helping reach our vision, Every Child Succeeds.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

DaVita Healthcare World Headquarters 2000 16th Street
Denver, CO 80202

Cocktail Reception 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.

Awards Banquet & Dinner 6:30 to 10:00 p.m.

Please RSVP by June 2 by clicking here. Elegant or Semi-Formal Attire

More information about the event to follow.
Contact Our_DPSValues@dpsk12.org if you have any questions.

It was August 2, 2012, according to the DPS website,  when a thousand Denver Public Schools employees, Superintendent Tom Boasberg, and teams from DPS and DaVita gathered “to celebrate our work, to share our personal connections to the mission that binds us, and to collectively choose the shared core values that are the foundation for everything we do together in educating our kids.”  This was the day when the six core DPS values were selected.  You know – the ones that that appear at the bottom of almost every DPS communiqué

Students First:  We put our kids’ needs at the forefront of everything we do.

Integrity:  We tell the truth, and we keep our promises.

Equity:  We celebrate our diversity and will provide the necessary resources and supports to eliminate barriers to success and foster a more equitable future for all our kids.

Collaboration:  Together as a team, we think, we work, and we create in order to reach our goals.

Accountability:  We take responsibility for our individual and collective commitments; we grow from success; we learn from failure.

Fun:  We celebrate the joy in our work and foster in our students a joy and passion for learning to last their whole lives.

(I could write a whole cynical post on these six values, but not today. Today I am limiting my remarks to the alliance between Denver Public Schools and DaVita HealthCare Partners.)

So, $961 million in payouts for questionable activities from a company that supported an event to establish and define the core values of a public school district, one of which is INTEGRITY. Close to $100,000 in contributions to elect “reform” school board members. And then an email invitation to and from “Our DPS Values” inviting people on June 10, 2015, to a celebration “honoring those who are paving the way…in helping reach our (my italics) vision.”

How much influence does this corporation actually have within Denver Public Schools? Why is a public institution allowing a private corporation to determine its values? Isn’t this an example of taking privatization within “education reform” too far?  Just askin’

UPDATE:  On April 14, 2015, Strive Prep held its annual community breakfast.  Who was the main sponsor?

“STRIVE Prep is deeply grateful to the Thiry-O’Leary Foundation for serving as our Premier Sponsor, and for the ongoing investment of DaVita HealthCare Partners.”

STRIVE PREP is one of the “neighborhood school” options being offered to residents of Northwest Denver.