The Attack on Public Education,
TESTING DOESN’T CURE POVERTY
The number of American children living in poverty ought to be a national shame. Instead of taking responsibility we punish children because the adults in their lives and their nation can’t provide for them.
We now know students cannot be tested out of poverty. While NCLB did take us a step forward by requiring schools to produce evidence that students were learning, it took us several steps backward when that evidence was reduced to how well a student performed on a standardized test.
It has long been acknowledged by many education officials that some of the goals set by NCLB — such as 100 percent student proficiency in reading and math by 2014 — were unattainable. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Education began to give waivers from that goal to states that agreed to implement specific reforms. Why not give parents the right to opt out of tests when they realize states have not done the work of guaranteeing their children are being adequately prepared?
FOCUS ON TESTING ISN’T WORKING
Here’s information that you won’t hear any “reformers” repeating…when we test and punish (like we’ve been doing for the last 3 decades) we are actually damaging children’s learning opportunities and stifling creativity.
Education reform policies that penalize struggling schools for poor standardized test scores may hinder—not improve—students’ college readiness, if a school’s instructional focus becomes improving its test scores, suggests a new study that explored efforts to promote a college-going culture at one Texas high school.
TRUTH VS. DECEPTION
This article does a nice job of explaining how statistics can be manipulated to “prove” that schools are “failing” when, in fact, the opposite is true.
Deception: Standardized test scores accurately judge the quality of education.
The problem is, standardized tests were NEVER proven to be a great judge of quality education and our standards were NEVER proven to be the main problem. That’s where the deception comes in — over the two major factors upon which we now base not only accountability of the system, but also our theory of improvement. And we continue to ignore real solutions.
Deception: Test scores should be used to compare and rank schools.
To understand the ruse behind the misuse of test scores, you have to understand Simpson’s paradox. Like most of you, I am not a statistician so don’t let this scare you off. Basically, this paradox can happen when comparing two or more groups. A statistical trend may reverse or disappear when the groups are combined. At a glance, it is very counter-intuitive but is one reason why statistics are so susceptible to misuse and abuse.
THE ATTACK ON PUBLIC EDUCATION
This is an important article. Anthony Cody correctly identifies the sources of the attack on public education.
On the “anti-government” side, billionaires like the Koch brothers and Walton family want to turn schools into a publicly-funded free market free-for-all…
On the “pro-government” side, the Gates and Broad Foundations have been working closely with the Obama administration and teacher unions to advance the Common Core and aligned tests as the new accountability system that will re-wire our schools and turn our classrooms into uniform “sockets” for technologically-based learning systems…
…The result of these attacks has been the unprecedented demoralization of the teaching profession. The number of applicants for teacher credentialing programs has plummeted in the state of California from around 77,000 around 2001 to fewer than 20,000 in 2012. According to the MetLife survey, teacher morale dropped from 62% in 2008 to 39% in 2012 – and I believe that morale is even lower today.
This is no accident. Teachers have been one of the chief obstacles to the dismantling of public schools from the start…
WHO WILL TEACH OUR CHILDREN?
The previous article by Anthony Cody referenced the decline of teacher candidates in teacher education programs. This creates a national crisis of teacher shortages which I believe is being done on purpose. “Reformers” want to get rid of high paid, experienced teachers in order to lower personnel costs. They also want to destroy teachers unions in order to have complete control over schools. They have used a 3 step process:
1. Make the job of teaching impossible by placing all the responsibility of educating children on public school teachers. Deny that poverty or other out-of-school factors have any impact on student achievement.
2. Require “accountability.” To do this, misuse student test scores as evaluation tools for teachers since there is no scientific basis for using test scores in this manner. Misuse student test scores as the basis for teacher pay instead of experience and training (degrees). In addition, remove job protections like “tenure” (due process) so that older, more expensive, teachers can be fired at will.
3. Use “accountability” to push out experienced teachers while claiming that “experience doesn’t matter” and is, in fact, detrimental. Claim that new teachers, or poorly trained teachers, are better.
This process has a triple impact on the teaching force. First, it reduces the number of experienced teachers in the work force thereby reducing costs. Second, reducing the number of teachers creates a critical teacher shortage which sets the stage for the third impact, which is that schools and states must ease the licensing requirements for teaching in order to fill classrooms. This also results in lowered personnel costs (and lower quality of teaching).
Indiana now allows anyone with a bachelors degree (and a B average) in a subject to teach that subject in public high schools. No pedagogical training is needed to walk into class on the first day of a school year and be responsible for teaching. Anyone, apparently, can teach.
A fourth step in this process is now underway…
4. Include post-secondary schools of education when placing blame for “failing” schools and “failing” teachers. “Grade” schools of education using the test scores of their graduates’ students.
It’s happening in Arizona…
There are not too many mysteries about why Arizona cannot hold onto a complete teaching force. For starters, if you live anywhere else, you may think you know what low spending on schools looks like. But take a guess at what Arizona’s per-pupil spending is, according to most recent reports–
That puts Arizona dead last in the US. So teachers in Arizona get bupkus in financial resources for meeting the needs of their students.
Can’t they just fill in the gap out of their own pockets, like other teachers all across America? I’m sure they’d like to, and I’ll bet many do– but the pockets of an Arizona teacher do not run very deep. The report says that the average starting salary is $31,874. Keep in mind– that’s an average, which means that all sorts of folks are starting out a even less than that. The report notes that is an increase of 20% over 2003 starting salaries, meaning that teaching has grown far slower than “other degreed professions.”
As the state has worked to overhaul its testing system in recent years, Burke’s job has involved more time tracking data on a computer and proctoring state tests and less time interacting with students. It’s a source of frustration for Burke and her educator peers.
“It’s turning into a 50-hour week,” Burke said. “I went into counseling so I could counsel students. We have turned into test proctors.”
…and Nationwide. Qualified teachers are leaving the classroom…and the impact of this exodus of qualified teachers is worse for children of color and children from economically disadvantaged families.
High-poverty schools, according to Harvard research, also tend to struggle with employee instability. Meanwhile, a widely-cited 2004 study found that high-poverty public schools—especially those in urban areas—on average lost a fifth of their faculty annually. Some of the schools serving America’s neediest children lose over half of their teaching staff every five years. Although researchers have debated attrition rates, high-poverty schools unequivocally deal with much higher teacher turnover than do more affluent ones. The turnover is expensive, too, costing school districts as much as $2 billion annually.
…the most common reasoning voiced by former teachers was that they felt “overworked and underpaid.” While some might dismiss those excuses as tired and baseless, there must be some truth to the claim when survey after survey yields the same results. Teacher responsibilities and expectations are steadily increasing as compensation remains stagnant.
Why We Should Care
Turnover in teaching is 4 percent higher than other professions, and it’s a profession that uniquely struggles with recovering from loss. NPR reports that yearly turnover costs districts up to $2.2 billion largely in the form of recruitment, training and development.
A lack of investment in teachers at the front end of their careers is likely to blame for their disloyalty to the profession. That creates a revolving-door system, which is especially damaging in a field so highly dependent on relationships. Not surprisingly, a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that students in schools with higher turnover rates score lower in both ELA and math. Education researchers concluded that student success is dependent on teacher retention. [emphasis added]
Two out of five new teachers leave ￼￼teaching within 5 years of entry (see p.24 of the following). We have made it much harder and much less attractive to be a teacher. Who will teach tomorrow’s children?
…beginners, regardless of their race, have the highest rates of turnover of any group of teachers. Over a decade ago we estimated that between 40 to 50 percent of those who enter teaching leave teaching within 5 years (Ingersoll, 2003). This figure has been widely reported since, but it was only a rough estimate using cross-sectional national data. Recently, using national longitudinal data, Perda (2013) was able to more accurately document rates of cumulative beginning attrition. He found that more than 41 percent of new teachers leave teaching within 5 years of entry (see Figure 12). Moreover, we have also found that these already high levels have been going up since the late 1980s. Rates of leaving for first-year teachers rose from 9.8 to 13.1 percent from 1988 to 2008—a 34 percent increase (Figure 13). Again, however, an increase in the annual percentage does not tell the whole story. Since the teaching force has grown dramatically larger, numerically there are far more beginners than before (Trend 3), and hence the actual numbers of teachers who quit the occupation after their first year on the job has also soared. Soon after the 1987-88 school year, about 6,000 first-year teachers left teaching, while just after the 2007-08 school year, more than four times as many—about 25,000—left the occupation. Not only are there far more beginners in the teaching force, but these beginners are less likely to stay in teaching.
The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.