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Sunday, January 29, 2017

DIRTY TRICKS? MICHIGAN CHARTER SCHOOL ASSOCIATION'S CHIEF PROPAGANDIST MOONLIGHTING AS A “JOURNALIST”: Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA) Vice President of Communications Writes “Fake News” Stories—With No Byline—As Part Of “National School Choice Week” PR Blitz. Stories Masquerading As “News” Include Bay City Academy, North Central Academy Deceptive Test Score “Success” Claims

Anita M. Senkowski
Glistening, Quivering Underbelly

BREAKING “RE-EDUCATION” NEWS: Former print journalist Buddy Moorehouse, current PR flack for MAPSA (the main lobbying arm of Michigan's “school choice” movement), is moonlighting as a paid journalist, ghostwriting “news” stories that generate hyper-positive—and misleading—charter school coverage often used by Michigan schools to tout trumped-up “accomplishments” and promote student enrollment.

While Moorehouse contributes commentary under his own name to The Livingston Post, an Michigan news site, and has written news stories for the site under his byline (including one about a Lutheran Montessori school turned public charter school run by his wife), he's also churned out uncritically positive propaganda about charter schools without a byline since late 2015.  

The news story byline personalizes a report so readers know someone is responsible for what's reported and written. It allows readers to hold someone accountable for the story. In essence, the byline says, “Believe this information because my name is on it.”

Two recent stories published by The Livingston Post during National School Choice Week (January 25, 2017) featured the Bay City Academy and its Mancelona satellite campus, the North Central Academy. (The Bay City Academy was founded by charter school OG Steven J. Ingersoll, a Traverse City optometrist sentenced on December 15, 2016 to 41 months in federal prison. Ingersoll, like the wounded bull elephant he now resembles, was found guilty on March 10, 2015 of three counts: conspiracy to defraud the United States, and two counts of tax evasion.)

If you think the paragraphs of self-congratulatory, back-patting blather in both stories read more like press release puffery, you'd be right—Moorehouse is serving a dual purpose by filling a news hole and burnishing the charter school industry's brand image during its annual version of Lollapalooza, National School Choice Week. (Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder proclaimed January 22-28, 2017 as “Michigan School Choice Week”, joining 14 other governors and more than 500 mayors and county leaders in issuing similar proclamations.)

Maria Stuart, founder of The Livingston Post and a former Livingston County, Michigan, newspaper reporter and editor, confirmed in an email to me late Friday, January 27, that although neither story carried a byline, Moorehouse had written both. 

The North Central Academy story follows (scroll down).


North Central Academy, a charter school in Mancelona, had a remarkable showing in this year’s top-to-bottom school rankings. The rankings are based on how well each charter school and traditional public in the state performs on standardized tests. 

North Central Academy improved by a whopping 64 points in the rankings, going from the 13th percentile to the 77th percentile. That sort of improvement is almost unheard-of, and school officials were understandably elated. 

“The administration is very proud of our students, faculty and staff for the significant increase in North Central Academy’s test scores,” said Rich Satterlee, principal of the K-12 charter school “Our school family has worked very hard to achieve these gains and they are excited about the results. We look forward to continuing this improvement during the 2016-2017 school year.” 

North Central Academy is a satellite campus of Bay City Academy, a charter school that operates two other campuses in Bay City. Both of those schools showed remarkable improvement, as well. 

The Bay City Academy Madison Arts Campus, which had been in the zero percentile, shot all the way up to the 39th percentile. The Bay City Academy Farragut Campus, meanwhile, ranked in the 83rd percentile – outperforming every other elementary school in Bay City. 

Bay City Academy is authorized by Lake Superior State University and managed by Mitten Management. 

Whopping? 

Remarkable? 

Unheard-of?

Although Moorehouse eventually ran out of superlatives, the North Central Academy folks didn't.

The Mancelona charter school included a link to The Livingston Post story in its own “Latest News” promotional announcement, drawing a unsupported conclusion not made by Moorehouse in his story: that the North Central Academy was ranked in the top 25% of all schools in Michigan.


“Today, North Central Academy was featured in The Livingston Post due [sic] the outstanding increase in our test scores! Our school made an incredible jump on the state top-to-bottom school rankings list, moving from the 13th percentile, to the 77th. That amount of improvement is, as The Livingson [sic] Post puts it, “almost unheard of”. This jump means that North Central Academy is now ranked in the top 25% of all schools in the state.” The Top-to-Bottom School Rankings are a part of Michigan's current school accountability system which ranks schools on student performance in mathematics, English language arts, science, and social studies. Graduation rate data is also used for high schools. Each school receives an Overall Ranking based on the performance components of student achievement and student improvement. Additionally, each school receives an Achievement Gap Ranking based solely on the achievement gaps between the highest and lowest scoring 30 percent of students within the school.

Of particular concern is this claim, which conflates the Michigan Department of Education's top to bottom rankings with the state's top schools: 

“This jump means that North Central Academy is now ranked in the top 25% of all schools in the state.”

That claim is completely false.


At the risk of sounding too wonkish, if you look at concept of proficiency, it gauges a percent of students mastering a particular subject or number of subjects areas within a single school or district or statewide. 

Proficiency cannot be directly compared to a school ranking process such as Michigan's Top-To-Bottom School Ranking, as it is a comparative study that determines a ranking order for each school based on comparisons of an individual school’s performance to every other school in the state.

School rankings are based on: student achievement, student growth and (if applicable) graduation rate.

It is valuable to point out that when a school has a small number of students tested in each content area, this has the possibility of having a greater impact in shifting the school rankings and also proficiency rates from year to year, like the North Central Academy.

Under current education law, states are responsible for setting the minimum number of students needed to form a student subgroup for federal reporting and accountability purposes. This required student subgroup size is commonly referred to as the state-set “n-size.”


For example, while Michigan M-STEP 2016 data for the North Central Academy appears to show the percent proficient in math jumped up from 10.53% in 2015 to 50% in 2016, this is due in part to a low 2016 n-size number as compared with the previous year.

This means that 7 of 15 4th grade math students tested in 2016 were proficient compared to 2 of 19 students meeting proficiency in 2015.

This chart, generated from official Michigan Department of Education data, shows historical rankings for the Bay City Academy's Farragut campus, its now-shuttered Madison Arts campus and the North Central Academy.

While the North Central Academy fumbled its opportunity—a National School Choice Week promotion masquerading as an uncritically glowing news story—the Bay City Academy took the ball and ran with it.

In this following tick-tock, you'll see how the story hand off went from ghostwriter Buddy Moorehouse, tweeted (using the hashtag #michartersrock) by MAPSA, posted on the group's Facebook page before ultimately landing on the Bay City Academy's Facebook page.

(And yet the Madison Arts building is vacant after a foreclosure and remaining students have been stuffed into the Farragut campus.)


Bay City Academy had a remarkable showing in this year’s top-to-bottom school rankings. The rankings are based on how well each charter school and traditional public in the state performs on standardized tests.

The charter school has two campuses in Bay City, and both of them showed incredible improvement when the Michigan Department of Education released the rankings last week. 

The Bay City Academy Madison Arts Campus, which had been in the zero percentile, shot all the way up to the 39th percentile. The Bay City Academy Farragut Campus, meanwhile, ranked in the 83rd percentile – outperforming every other elementary school in Bay City. 

School officials were understandably elated at the results.

“I am so proud of our BCA family,” said Darci Long, the second principal at Bay City Academy. “We have the most diligent, hard-working staff, who continue to do what is best for kids in all capacities. Most importantly, I am so proud of our students who have responded to the high expectations we have set before them. We know we are not done striving for excellence. There is more work to accomplish, but we are moving forward with great resolve to continue meeting the needs of all our students.” 

Bay City Academy Elementary Principal Jill Plant echoed those feelings. “Plain and simple, we put students first,” Plant said. “Our relationship with them comes before any test, assignment, or responsibility. We know the relationship is essential and that we must have a mutual respect and level of trust with each other in order for students to succeed.

“Students will not work for you unless they know you, the teacher, have their best interest in mind and you care about them. Once the relationship has been established, we look at what we want them to achieve based on standards, meet them where they are academically, and tailor our instruction based on the data. We use data from NWEA, M-STEP, supplemental materials, and our internal assessments to drive our instruction.” 

Bay City Academy also operates North Central Academy, a charter school in Mancelona, and that school also showed remarkable improvement, jumping a whopping 64 points. North Central Academy went from the 13th percentile to the 77th percentile. 

Bay City Academy is authorized by Lake Superior State University and managed by Mitten Management.

Yes, another remarkable showing for a school founded by convicted tax cheat Steven Ingersoll, who left the charter school with a $1.4 million deficit in 2015.

But why mention that? 

That's bad news, right?

Can't have that during National School Choice Week!



Next, MAPSA's Bay City Academy fake news story was posted on its Michigan's Charter Schools Facebook page.


And, just minutes later, MAPSA's custom-tailored story (ghostwritten by Buddy Moorehouse, the organization's Vice President of Communications) gets trotted out as news by the Bay City Academy on its Facebook page.


As Trump might tweet, “So sad.”

[NOTE: This story has been sent to Moorehouse for his reaction; his reply will be featured in a subsequent post.] 

11 comments:

  1. As always, excellent analysis and coverage, Miss Fortune. By the way, Charter Cheater of the Decade, Steven Ingersoll, has been seen driving and walking near his residence. He must have had his attorney put a "rabbit out of his hat" prison delay tactic. Sad.

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  2. It runs in the IVL and BCA Charter School family: Roy Bradley is not in federal prison yet either. Wonder how long they'll be out and about in the community?

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  3. Anita, I didn't get your e-mail asking me to comment. Please send it to bmoorehouse@charterschools.org.

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  4. As I read this I just have to shake my head. If anyone has ever seen how these tests are administered, they would know that anyone that wants your school to perform well, can easily give children hints as they are taking the tests. Another thought, if the kids had to write their password down, anyone could go in and change answers. I believe at one time they had adminstration that would never do something like that, that is why their scores were so low. But at this point they desperately need to have higher scores as not to loose their government subsidised cash cow. Never do you see scores that climb so quickly. I smell something rotten. But oh right, no one cares, because they are all from the Betsy DeVos flock. And she will definitely make sure no charter school gets bad ratings. Alternative facts, fake news it is all sad that these schools even exists.

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  5. Whoa, Anita.

    I have no charter-school horse in this race. Like charter schools, hate them, it’s all the same to me.

    What matters to me, though, is that you didn’t represent yourself as a blogger looking for confirmation of something. Instead, this is the email you sent me:

    Maria:

    Please help me win a bet: were these two stories written by Buddy Moorehouse?

    /http://thelivingstonpost.com/north-central-academy-jumps-an-amazing-64-percentile-points-in-state-academic-rankings/

    http://thelivingstonpost.com/bay-city-academy-has-remarkable-showing-in-state-academic-rankings/

    Thank you,
    Anita Senkowski

    I replied to your email with one word: “Yes.”

    So, yes, these are press release stories. There’s nothing sinister about that. I, myself, produce lots of content on The Livingston Post that doesn’t carry my name because they’re press release stories, not works of journalism or opinion.

    There is something kind of off-putting, though, about your not being upfront and honest about why you were looking for information, not that my answer would’ve been any different. At least I wouldn’t have been surprised to see my name in your post. And you didn’t give me the chance to comment or decline to comment. That’s just not cool, nor is it professional.

    Your profile shows you’ve not done any professional reporting, so I pass along this bit of advice: Always follow the rules of Journalism 101 and properly identify yourself and your reasons for getting in contact with people.

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  6. Don't know that Betsy DeVos would encourage or sanction such behavior on the part of the administration or staff from a charter school, cheating to improve test scores. But, she does need to have her eyes wide open about how some charter schools and their management companies operate. I would pray that after her years of Christian education, she would immediately order a thorough investigation and stop their funding of public dollars.

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    Replies
    1. Are you absolutely clueless? She is the reason that Ingersoll has gotten away with as much as he has. She supports her buddies ripping off the public. Ingersoll and all his trolls Noss, Lynch etc are all part of her legacy. Charter schools have become the most lucrative ways for business women and men like her to rip off the government and the tax payer's money. She doesn't care about children she just cares about money and control and building her family wealth. Ugh, I am so so very sorry children because of this mind set. Goodbye to education and say hello to shock therapy, religion and what ever else these guys concoct to charge money from insurance companies, the state and the taxpayer's.

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    2. Betsy Devos does not believe that charter schools should have any accountability. Although they have the same funds as public schools, they do not have the same reporting requirements.

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    3. I will be writing her and reminding her of the Ingersoll story and how devastating many charter schools are. She needs to wake up and smell dollar bills going up in smoke.

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    4. As for writing to Betsy DeVos, I wouldn't waste my time.

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    5. That is so funny you are absolutely right you know what is sad is when you work real hard to get somewhere you have a reason to be proud of Who You Are I don't know what kind of mirror she looks in

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