Friday, March 11, 2016

J. A and Kathryn Albertson Foundation Fails Idaho #SOL16 Day 11/31

Grey clouds loom over the horizon. A barren landscape lines a desolate road leading into the coming storm. This ominous mood sets the scene for an anit-public school campaign bent on destroying public education in Idaho, the state where I live and work. This narrative is funded and created by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.  

The DON'T FAIL IDAHO campaign offers one more blistering critique of public education from an organization with an agenda. The Alberson Foundation wants to increase the number of students attending charter schools by 20,000. They also want to foist more public funds into vouchers. 

To reach its goal of dismantling public education, the Albertson's Foundation is funding a campaign against teachers and students. We are enduring an ad campaign on radio and television that depicts four children being kicked off a school bus and left to survive on their own in the desert. The subtext of this ad is clear to all but the most naive: Idaho educators are failing the children, abandoning them like so much refuse on the side of the road. 

To arrive at its conclusions, the Albertson Foundation uses SAT scores. These scores fail as predictors of college success. Every junior in Idaho takes the SAT, as mandated by the state legislature, itself anti-education. As Don Coberly, the Boise superintendent, eloquently explains in a letter to his staff, the SAT is not the best predictor of college success. A student's grades, taking dual credit and AP classes, and taking professional-technical classes offer a clearer picture of a student's potential for success in college. 

My school has a graduation rate over 90%, and that's as the high school in our district with the largest SPED population, including a self-contained classroom. We also serve as a feeder school for the Ft. Hall Indian Reservation and have an increasingly economically and racially diverse student body. A number of our students are classified as homeless, but we work to serve these students. We also have more students taking classes for college credit through ISU's Early College Program than any school on the eastern side of the state. 

In her important TED talk Nigerian writer Chimamana Ngozi Adiche warns us of THE DANGER OF A SINGLE STORY. As Adiche argues, we are "impressionable and vulnerable in the face of a story." But there's a danger when all we hear is a single story. We begin thinking the single story is the only story. 

We are living in a time of a single education story. It's a narrative claiming public education is a failure, and diverting public funds to for-profit educational enterprises will salve all that ails schools. Kuna superintendent Wendy Johnson offers a competing narrative in which she identifies false statements made by Don't Fail Idaho. 

Thirteen superintendents in my area, Region V, penned and signed a letter challenging the DFI campaign claims. "If the 'Don't Fail Idaho' organization continues to drop those students in the desert, rest assured that our districts will pick up those remaining students and place them at the doorstep of their pathway to a successful future."

The course of educators and patrons challenging the DFI narrative is strong, but we've been fighting the good fight for public education a long time, and the road is lonely, and the path is rugged, and we have been left on the side of the road, left alone in the desert to survive on our own without the support of the monied and powerful. The J. A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation fails Idaho. 

Edited at 6:06 p.m. to fix a clarity problem.

Thanks for joining me for the Slice of Life March Story Challenge sponsored by the team at Two Writing Teachers. Thanks, Stacey, Beth, Anna, and all who work with and for us to educate children. 


  1. I was troubled to learn of this attack. I liked your lines "But there's a danger when all we hear is a single story. We begin thinking the single story is the only story. "

    I think you are right we need to share our many collective stories with the public. We also need to follow the money. It has been my experience that money always has an interesting story to tell.

    1. Absolutely! Money is the great motivator.

  2. I love Adichie's TED Talk and have used it twice this year with different classes. Very sorry to hear this is happening.

    1. I guess this latest attack is par for the course for public school teachers these days.