FTF Tuesday: Clarity for Sale! Aligned to Common Core for ‘free’!

From the Files Tuesday

For “From the Files” Tuesday, we’re going to look at an educational management company called “Clarion Council”. The entire name is “Clarion Council for Education Greatness, Inc.” according to its website(http://www.clarioncouncil.com/) . So, where’s the Common Core? Keep reading, my friends.

Just what is “Clarion Council”?:

From the name, it does sound impressive. I mean, who doesn’t desire clarity in today’s education mess? I found words like this on the website, ‘bold action’, ‘improve education outcome’, clear’, ‘compelling’. If I’m searching for some ray of hope in today’s education market, this sounds interesting, right? Hold on to that thought.

Before we look up much closer at Clarion (for short), let’s look at what they are. Clarion Council  is what is known as an EMO (Educational Management Organization). So what exactly is an EMO? Here’s a definition (according to DegreeDirectory.org) “Educational management professionals can also be found working in governmental agencies, private companies, and not-for-profit organizations. Those working in educational management might act as policy-makers, researchers, or consultants to help evaluate and develop ways to enrich and enhance the educational system at all levels. Most educational management professionals have earned at least a master’s degree and many are licensed teachers or principals.”

So, my charter school has to use an EMO? No! For example, where I live (NC) the following excerpt is about EMOs:

“A charter school board may choose to contract with a vendor or company, such as an educational
management organization (EMO), to perform certain services in connection with the operation of the
charter school.” (from a NC DPI (Dept. of Public Instruction) letter dated 8/2014 concerning charter schools compliance with public records)
Now that we know this, we can better answer who Clarion is. When you visit the website, you’ll get some information, but not a tremendous amount. I can tell you from looking as closely as I can at the website, you can expect Common Core aligned character education, teacher incentives (the better the student score is to how well you are paid) and school leadership opportunities that are nebulous in description, yet you are to feel assured whatever leadership it is, it will be great. I can tell you that when I tried to find the on-line leadership training, I was blocked because I didn’t have an account. I did see “iLearn” as their on-line choice for instruction. (see more about iLearn: http://www.ilearn.com/web/about.html)

Repeatedly, on almost every page of the website,  you’ll see, that research has been conducted. However, I only found one reference to a University of FL study done back in 2006. For as many issues as there are in education AND the fact Clarion is a business, I would truly hope all their management isn’t based on one study. I’m sure the folks who work there are great, but it would make more business sense to know who these people are, what level of education they have, and all those other ‘pesky’ details we discerning educational consumers have a right to know.

My overall sense of the website is there is much more that needs to be shared, that frankly isn’t. For example, ‘educator resources’ is all about ‘STRIVE’, well, if I don’t know what “STRIVE” is how will that help me?  The website does give you a somewhat interesting view of what they PLAN to do, but not what they’ve already done. For instance, when I read there was a ‘curriculum map’, I thought it would be visible, then I read the sentence again and saw the curriculum map ‘will be developed AND aligned to state standards so that character education becomes an integral part of an academically rigorous curriculum.’ Continuing on in looking at the website, if I want to meet the board of directors, good luck..they aren’t even mentioned. Yet, Clarion isn’t shy about asking for lots of money. Sorry, if you want my donation, I need TONS of information first and upfront. However, interestingly enough, if you do choose to support the corporation with a financial gift, your request/donation is ‘directed’ to Charter Schools USA’s email (another education management company).

"Strive 65" is a character education curriculum offered by Clarion. Character education aligned to CCSS.
“Strive 65” is a character education curriculum offered by Clarion. Character education aligned to CCSS.

Charter Schools USA:

Like Clarion, Charter Schools USA (CSUSA) is based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It is also an EMO. After repeated references in various blogs, and an ardent internet search, I was able to finally find some evidence that Clarion/CSUSA are, indeed connected. How? A ‘YouTube’ video from  2009 showing a kids band playing at the Clarion Council / Charter Schools USA Corporate Picnic. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Ft. Lauderdale, FL is what helped me out the most.

Then, I was able to find this from a 2009 newspaper article, the Vice President of CSUSA, Richard Page said, “Our school would be focused on core academics, there would be a unique foreign language program, which would begin in kindergarten and continue through all grades, and a character-education program developed by Charter Schools USA in cooperation with the Clarion Council.” (source: http://www.ledgernews.com/news/top_stories/charter-schools-usa-resubmits-petition/article_44dcb1a3-8526-5727-916f-928329be0061.html?mode=jqm).

I am not suggesting CSUSA only has schools in FL, they have them in many other states, too. If you access the Indiana Charter Schools Prospectus, you can find out quite a bit about CSUSA and Clarion Council. ICN.Academy.Prospectus The report is well over 200 pages, however, the reason I include it today is that not only will you see CCSS, CSUSA, Clarion Council, you’ll see other education doctrines, methods and resources. Then, consider how many school students will be taught this in these ways.

AdvancED & Clarion, CSUSA:

From a 2010 AdvancED Executive Summary, Duval Charter School at Arlington had this to say about the joint effort, ‘Two years ago, Charter School USA, our management company, partnered with the Clarion Council to bring character education into our schools. The program, called STRIVE, is another area that we are proud of as it allows us to recognize and reward students who
are doing the right thing.” When reporting challenges, this statement was at the top of the list,  “One of the greatest challenges has been indoctrinating teachers into the CSUSA culture.“When stating Duval’s support of CSUSA, these are some of the excerpts written, “Duval Charter School promotes Charter Schools USA’s Non-Negotiable Goals… The CSUSA goals are divided into achievement and instructional goals….addition to the CSUSA goals, each school in our network sets its FCAT goals. ….Teachers at Duval Charter School go through training at the beginning of each school year that emphasizes the importance of both formative and summative assessments to determine students’ learning.” (to see all of the report: 7281) Another FL school, Six Mile Charter’s AdvancED report, publised in 2010 (7276) had this to say, “Two years ago, Charter School USA, our management company, partnered with the Clarion Council to bring character education into our schools. This program, STRIVE, is another area that we are proud of as it allows us to recognize and reward students who are doing the right thing. At the beginning of this school year, all faculty members were trained in the Positive Behavior Support Program, which has resulted in a consistent school-wide behavior system.” They, too, as a CSUSA member, have non-negotiable goals; formative and summative assessments. As AvancED customers, both schools have been through the ASSIST alignment to help produce better student outcomes.

AdvancED (http://www.advanc-ed.org/):

Who they say they are, “We are a non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts rigorous, on-site external reviews of PreK-12 schools and school systems to ensure that all learners realize their full potential.” The website goes on to state, “AdvancED was created through a 2006 merger of the PreK-12 divisions of the North Central Association (NCA) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)—and expanded through the 2011 acquisition of the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC).”
You can find much out about the group by visiting their website. Type in “Common Core State Standards” in the search bar & you’ll get plenty of response! Then, consider HOW many schools, this non profit has under its ‘care’..While not specifically mentioned in the 2012 video below, listen to the rhetoric.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtBctzrO4Q8&w=560&h=315]

Other EMOs:

In America, there are many other EMOs (education managment organizations). Academica is the largest such in the nation; Imagine Schools is the 3rd. Charter Schools USA is #2 of the three. Academica, CSUSA both were 2013 Excellence in Education contributors. Who’s “Excellence in Education”? Another CCSS supportive organization tied to Innovate Educate (which targets older students, especially workforce related). Imagine Schools has a for profit arm, as well as non-profit (not unusual at all). What’s noteworthy is their for profit is “Schoolhouse Finance”. Oh, IS (Imagine Schools, CCSS is part of the curriculum.) You can find it buried in this file: http://www.imagineschools.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Academic_Framework_FINAL.pdf

One last item:

Qualitycharters.org (National Assoc. of Charter School Authorizers) just received a hefty $800,000.00 grant from the Gates Foundation for the express purpose of  ‘support the final wave of district-charter compact cities in advancing college ready strategies through cross-sector collaboration.’ (source: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database/Grants/2014/09/OPP1115953) 

THIS is 'quality'?!
THIS is ‘quality’?!

In closing:

I think, while we’ve learned much, we haven’t learned enough about who is managing education in America. I know there will be more to discover. If you have any leads, hints or resources you’d like to add or share, please, leave a comment! As you can see, by looking at one organization, at least through the context of Common Core, you will find many others connected. Who knew looking at Clarion would take us to so many other groups.

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