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Charts: Concerned Parents Dominate StudentsFirst Membership

image from www.studentsfirst.orgFriday afternoon #StudentsFirst announced that it had reached its goal of signing up a million members -- a pretty impressive feat it would seem.  

But a quick look at the breakdown shows that the Rhee organization is dominated by parents, concerned citizens, and others -- not by current K-12 classroom teachers in district schools.  

Twelve percent are teachers, but only 53 percent of those are currently in classrooms and only about half of those are in traditional schools. 

There's not necessarily anything wrong with that, given how important it is to balance the voices of classroom teachers with the voices of others. 

Obviously, there are a lot of concerned parents out there -- but not so many teachers who agree with the diagnosis or the treatment Rhee is proposing.

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We critics of corporate education "reform" may be marginalized, but aren't crazy or paranoid when we tell you that Rhee's organization has achieved many if not most of those "members," or "supporters," by tricking people into signing petitions with deceptive names, then adding those names to her list. It's in collusion with Change.org and Care2, which won't change and don't care as long as they can make a profit.

Here's the deal: A concerned member of the public signs a Parents Across America or other petition. Change.org and Care2 then present another, seemingly related petition for the member of the public to sign. The Rhee petitions have titles that make them look pro-teacher and pro-public school. I've been duped into signing them until I learned to be on my guard, and many of my colleagues have too.

We have been protesting mightily to change.org and Care2, with no luck so far.

How valid can Rhee's claims of massive support be when she has to trick people into signing her petitions?

Notice the breakdown you link to of Rhee's supporters. Presumably anyone who has given her actual information about themselves is an actual supporter to some degree. Here are the numbers she gives:

"Our movement can count members in each of the 50 states. Over 30,000 members have told us they are teachers. Over 85,000 members have told us they are parents."

That's 115,000 -- which isn't chicken feed (though with the millions at her disposal, not surprising either) -- but is pretty far from a million.

Sorry, I could have done that more thoroughly. Rhee's website says that 49% of her members are parents and that 85,000 of her members are parents. That means the base is 173,470. OK then.

By the way, I posted the info about tricking people into signing petitions with deceptive names on the NPR website in response to an NPR report on this, and they took my post down, replacing it with a comment that it violated NPR's standards. They left my full name up, too, making it look like I was posting death threats or something.

I have gotten countless emails from many teachers and parents horrified that somehow they are on Rhee's list as a "member" of Students First. Numerous petition sites were paid to promote her petitions that were deceptively entitled "Save great teachers" and the like. And I noticed that after a short while, she had taken her name off these petitions just in case that would trigger a negative response. It was highly deceptive campaign and one which I'm sure yielded thousands of alleged "members" who are opposed to her methods and goals.

Michelle Rhee and Students First have my email address because of a deceptive change.org petition. I guess I'm a "member" just as much as I "like" StudentsFirst on facebook. Give me a break!

You mean to say that 1 in every 311 Americans belongs to SchoolsFirst? Rubbish.

SchoolsFirst's claim about their alleged million "members" indicates they are counting every petition signer, intentional or not, as a full-blown "member." That in itself is deceptive and inaccurate, to put it mildly. If signing an online petition is Rhee's definition of "membership" then she has rendered that concept meaningless.

And as others have stated, people have been mistakenly directed to Rhee's repetitious petitions by Change.org's one-click signing trick. You click by accident, and presto!, you've signed a Rhee petition attacking teachers and have apparently become a meaningless "member" of Rhee's bankrolled anti-teacher lobbying enterprise.

Yet another ed reform sleight-of-hand -- like the test scores under Rhee's chancellorship in D.C.

Where have all the fact-checkers gone?

Make that "StudentsFirst" (Sorry -- all those ed reform group names sound alike. There's a "Schools First" in my town.)

Take 2:

You mean to say that 1 in every 311 Americans belongs to StudentsFirst? Rubbish.

StudentsFirst's claim about their alleged million "members" indicates they are counting every petition signer, intentional or not, as a full-blown "member." That in itself is deceptive and inaccurate, to put it mildly. If signing an online petition is Rhee's definition of "membership" then she has rendered that concept meaningless.

And as others have stated, people have been mistakenly directed to Rhee's repetitious petitions by Change.org's one-click signing trick. You click by accident, and presto!, you've signed a Rhee petition attacking teachers and have apparently become a meaningless "member" of Rhee's bankrolled anti-teacher lobbying enterprise.

Yet another ed reform sleight-of-hand -- like the test scores under Rhee's chancellorship in D.C.

Where have all the fact-checkers gone?

Rhee is a deceptive lobbyist out to make money off of poor children, a neoliberal "Me First" trickster.

Come on, Alexander -- please post about the swindle that is StudentsFirst's so-called "membership" drive. You don't think this online trickster tactic is news? The MSM can't cope with that level of deceit from their favored reform sweetheart, so you'd be breaking new ground in covering it. And you saw my numbers, above. They're from the StudentsFirst website.

Mr . Russo
You should take down the article supporting the false statement that Rhees group has a million members. This in the face of numerous fact checkers and disclaimers written by many stating that they had been suckered into signing by some scurrilous subterfuge.

Either take it down or write a subsequent piece about the deception and make a "mea culpa"

You will be known as either a shill for the vastly rich or as an incompetent or both if you do nothing. There are people in this country who have memories that work.

I hope your reporters integrity guides you to do "the right thing"

Lies, lies, lies.

I keep being told that I signed up to join this group. I did not. I have told Change.org that they had no right to add me on to this list, but I keep getting stuff from them.

Michelle Rhee represents exactly what is wrong with education--the hostile take over of public education has only served to further segregate the classrooms and corporate-ize the curriculum.

One million members, ridiculous!

Alexander Russo, this needs investigation. Or has reportage devolved so far that it is just a cut and paste of the economist/education insurgents' press releases?

Sally, retired educator

if you think this is a widespread problem and want to document it then why not start a counter-petition called "tricked into supporting studentsfirst? and use it to get them to take the names off?

if you think this is a widespread problem and want to document it then why not start a counter-petition called "tricked into supporting studentsfirst? and use it to get them to take the names off?

We've started a counter petition calling for change.org to stop leading from our petitions to StudentsFirst's deceptive ones. They ignored it. But nobody posting a counter petition has any way to reach the people who signed StudentsFirst's deceptive petitions anyway. And how would that force them to remove the names? (Plus, of course, StudentsFirst has a full paid staff to run its scams all day long, while we challengers have day jobs and do this in our unpaid volunteer time.)

In any case, the piece that's a story is that StudentsFirst tricks people into signing and then trumpets them as its supporters. Even if that happened with an indeterminate number, how many? How many aren't in line with StudentsFirst's beliefs at all?

Mr. Russo,

A petition is unlikely to convince Change.org to stop shilling for Michelle Rhee because that is the Change.org revenue model. Despite their misleading name, Change.org is a for-profit that makes money by getting people who are drawn to the Change.org site by legitimate grassroots organizations to sign petitions for groups like StudentsFirst. Despite numerous complaints from us, they have refused to stop routing people who sign our pro-public education petition to the StudentsFirst petitions.

Since routing petition signers to paying clients means money for Change.org, they also do not make it easy to un-sign if you sign a petition by mistake. To have your name removed from a petition, you have to search the Change.org web site to find the appropriate department to contact and then provide that department with detailed information regarding the petition that you signed. Even after I asked to be removed from a StudentsFirst petition that I accidentally signed, I began receiving e-mails from StudentsFirst.

As others have pointed out, many people sign the StudentsFirst petitions with no understanding of what the organization is all about. To disguise their primary organizational objective, StudentsFirst uses misleading statements to trick petition signers into signing. For example, we have a petition on Change.org asking people to support local approval of new charter schools in New Jersey, to ensure that charter schools cannot be forced on communities that do not want them. Some of our petition signers then signed StudentsFirst petitions to give communities less control over new charter school approval decisions. It is highly unlikely that these individuals meant to sign two such contradictory petitions.

StudentsFirst also relies on non-teacher or education privatization-related issues to get people to sign their petitions. For example, StudentsFirst uses their support for the Dream Act, which gives undocumented children access to education, to get signatures. I support the Dream Act but despise almost everything else about Students First, but I would be counted as a member if I signed a petition in support of the Dream Act.

There really is a great story here, both in terms of the misleading way that StudentsFirst is trying to generate membership and in the way that organizations like Change.org exploit their supposedly social purpose to make money. I very much hope that you will dig deeper into it.

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