Total Pageviews

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

BUDDY MOOREHOUSE RESPONDS: Michigan Association of Public School Academies' Vice President of Communications Responds To January 29 “Dirty Tricks” Story; Weaseling 101

Buddy Moorehouse sent an email response this morning to my January 29 story revealing what I described as “fake news” stories about Michigan charter schools that appeared on The Livingston Post.  

Two of those stories featured “success” claims about the Bay City Academy and its Mancelona satellite campus, the North Central Academy. Although I believe my story debunked many of those claims, Mr. Moorehouse clearly has another position.

His response is reproduced below, with two modifications — I have redacted his email address and cell phone number out of privacy concerns.

All that aside, it's clear this cat is a first class flack! (That's nicer than D-bag, right?)

Let's start at the top: 

“I’m a blogger and contributor to the Livingston Post site, and I absolutely posted the stories about Bay City Academy and North Central Academy. I post a lot of good-news stories about charter schools on the site, and will continue to do so. I enjoy posting good-news stories to the site about a variety of things - not just charter schools. I enjoy sharing good news on lots of different topics. Most of the time, since these are basically just press releases that required no research on my part, I don’t put my name on them.” 

Well, Buddy neglected to mention those so-called “good news” stories he wrote about the Bay City Academy and North Central Academy were created from press releases he himself wrote on behalf of his role as the Vice President of Communications for the Michigan Association of Public School Academies — MAPSA. 

I like recycling my own content as much as the next guy, but when a charter mouthpiece admits to posting “good-news” stories created from press releases he wrote for his well-paid day job, I just have to face-palm in disgust. 

“I know you feel that any story about a charter school is inherently controversial, but I obviously don’t agree. Your opinion on this is meaningless to me.” 

No, Buddy, I don’t consider “any story about a charter school is inherently controversial”. However, I believe it’s feckless (and tasteless) to lecture a writer graciously requesting a comment by terming the writer’s opinion “meaningless”. 

Feh! Do you kiss Santa Claus with that mouth?

“Now, your main point seems to be that I committed a journalistic sin by not putting my name on a press-release story. Anita, I don’t believe I’ve ever met you and I don’t know anything about you other than what I’ve seen online. And from what I can see, you’ve never been a journalist, nor do you have any journalistic training. So I feel quite comfortable lecturing you on the topic of journalism and journalistic ethics. I have a degree in Communications from the University of Michigan, and I worked for 26 years as a newspaper reporter and editor at various papers in Michigan. I’ve won awards. I have some bonafides.” 

Wow, officious “mansplaining” at its most egregious! 

No, I’m not a journalist, and never even played one on TV. 

However, while Buddy marinated in Michigan his entire career, I took my degree in Political Science from Eastern Michigan University to New York City and parlayed it into a publishing and advertising career, one that continued after I returned to Michigan. 

From Hearst Magazines to Young & Rubicam (one of the world’s largest advertising advertising/marketing agencies), I managed large, complex projects for companies including Planters LifeSavers and Morgan Stanley. 

In addition, I am an award-winning copywriter, having won a Silver ADDY award for a corporate brochure I wrote for the Dow Corning Corporation. 

But I don’t want to brag — Buddy’s “bonafides” might deflate.

“When you write up a press release or take information that somebody else has compiled and run it in your publication, you don’t put your byline on it. Got it? I followed that rule as a reporter and editor at my former newspapers, and I follow that rule with the Livingston Post. You don’t put your byline on something just because you posted it. You put your byline on something when you did the reporting on it, or if it’s an opinion piece.” 

Again, it might work if “somebody else” wrote the release that was used for a news story. 

However, that didn’t happen in this case. 

It’s a deception on Moorehouse’s part not to clearly state something like this: “I wrote this press release while sitting at my desk at MAPSA, and now I’m recycling it into a news (cough!) story.” 

“In the case of the Bay City Academy and North Central Academy pieces, I didn’t do any reporting. It was just press release information that I posted. It would have been a breach of journalistic ethics if I HAD put my name on it.” 

Journalistic ethics? 

You might know ethics if ethics bit you — right in the middle of your so-called…well, you know! 

“Now, I will say that I didn’t mind one bit that you wrote about me. I know your blog doesn’t have much of a following, but I consider it a badge of honor that I made it in there. Feel free to write about me anytime - and please know that every time you contact me for a response or reaction, I will respond. Most journalists ask for the response BEFORE they run the piece, but that’s up to you how you do it.” 

The Livingston Post’s media kit states the site averaged 16,000 page views per month during 2016, roughly equivalent to my 14,000-18,000 per month 2016 average. 

Not that I’m bragging.

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. 




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.]