Category Archives: Obama

Obama Administration “New” Testing Plan

The Obama administration has issued “new” guidelines for standardized tests and the President himself has come out against “too much” testing and in favor of making sure that we’re not “obsessing about testing.” President Obama spoke about good teaching, good education, and said that he didn’t like hearing from parents who said that there was too much testing and from teachers who said that too much testing took the joy out of learning. This is similar to what he said several years ago. Here is a report from 2011.

“Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools,” the president told students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C. Obama, who is pushing a rewrite of the nation’s education law that would ease some of its rigid measurement tools, said policymakers should find a test that “everybody agrees makes sense” and administer it in less pressure-packed atmospheres, potentially every few years instead of annually. At the same time, Obama said, schools should be judged on criteria other than student test performance, including attendance rate. “One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math,” the president said. “All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting.” “And young people do well in stuff that they’re interested in,” Obama said. “They’re not going to do as well if it’s boring.”

At this point your irony meter ought to be hitting maximum…since “using tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools,” is exactly what the President’s education program, Race to the Top, is all about. “Failing schools” are defined by test scores…and Race to the Top encourages states to punish “failing schools” by closing them and replacing them with charter schools. Furthermore, Race to the Top also encourages states to evaluate teachers by test scores, something which is both unreliable and invalid.

The new administration testing plan doesn’t really change anything. The impetus for the change was a report from the Council of the Great City Schools which said that there was too much testing. The report called for less than the (average of) 2.3% of student class time spent on testing. In our local school district that’s 180 days X 6 hours a day X 2.3% = about 25 hours of testing a year. That length of time doesn’t include class time for test prep. It doesn’t include time talking to students about testing or teaching young students how to take a standardized test. It doesn’t include the time wasted by school corporation and school personnel sorting, organizing and labeling the tests. It doesn’t include class time used traveling to the computer lab for testing or rearranging classroom furniture so that students would be unable to see each others’ test booklets.

The administration’s new testing guidelines call for no more than 2% of student class time spent on testing. Using the formula above, we have 180 days X 6 hours a day X 2% = about 22 hours of testing a year.

So, the administration is calling for a maximum of about 22 hours a year testing instead of a maximum of about 25 hours a year testing. And there’s still all the extra time for test prep, testing talk, and wasted school personnel time. Big deal.

Where did Obama administration’s 2 percent cap on standardized testing come from? You won’t believe it. (Or maybe you will.) – by Valerie Strauss

…The 2 percent is not much less than the 2.3 percent that a new two-year study on standardized testing says kids now spend on these mandated exams…

…It turns out, according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, it came from New York State. That’s where standardized testing administration and Common Core State Standards implementation have been so mishandled in recent years that 20 percent of students opted out of the tests this past spring, and the governor, Andrew Cuomo, turned on John King, the commissioner of education who resigned late last year and this year turned up as No. 2 to Duncan. Now, King is the designated successor to Duncan when he leaves his post at the end of this year.

At a gathering at the National Press Club on Monday, a reporter asked where the 2 percent limit came from. Duncan said to ask King because New York had passed a 2 percent standardized testing cap. The New York State legislature last year passed a series of changes involving public education, including on test-taking (1 percent for local standardized tests and 1 percent for state-mandated standardized tests) and test prep (2 percent, though not for charter schools, just traditional public schools)…

So we have President Obama’s new Faux Secretary of Education to thank for the 2% number. But standardized testing, as it’s practiced in the U.S. in 2015, doesn’t help teachers, doesn’t help students, and doesn’t help parents; In fact, it seems “reformers” are only interested in testing for two reasons. 1) to “prove” that schools and teachers are “failures” and 2) to force the closure of “failing” schools so privatization – and profit – can continue.

Department of Education SorryNotSorry About High Stakes Testing by Steven Singer

Can the administration prove any positive value for standardized testing? I’m not asking them to trot out the tired party line about equity. I mean can they prove that testing actually helps children learn in any appreciable way? If the answer is no (and Spoiler Alert: it is!) then we shouldn’t be wasting any more time with it. Not 2%. Not 1%. ZERO PERCENT!

…You can only lie to our faces for so long. Despite your best attempts to trash public education in the name of saving it, we’re not so dumb as to believe any more of your evasions, deceit and dishonesty.

In fact, the “new” guidelines are much like the old guidelines when it comes to using standardized tests in inappropriate ways. They will still be given to every student every year. They still have high stakes consequences for schools, teachers, and students. They will be misused, additionally, to label teacher preparation programs. They will still be used to grade and label schools, humiliate students, and evaluate and blame teachers.

Fact Sheet: Testing Action Plan by USED

Rulemaking on teacher preparation programs: Last December, the Department of Education released a notice of proposed rulemaking to improve the quality of teacher preparation programs by asking states to perform more rigorous evaluations of the quality of these programs based on more useful measures. In the proposed rule, the Department had suggested moving to a system that would measure the quality of a program by looking at certain discrete categories, including: success in placing teachers within a reasonable period of time after graduation, especially in high-need schools, surveys of teachers about the quality of their preparation, retention rates, employer surveys, and teachers’ impact on student learning. The proposal required that states place a significant weight on growth in student learning, including growth on statewide standardized tests in evaluating these programs. In the coming weeks, we will release a final rule that maintains a focus on student learning, but provides states flexibility on how to weigh the results of statewide standardized tests and measures of student learning more broadly in any teacher preparation accountability system that it develops. As in other areas, we believe that student learning as measured by assessment results should be a part, not the sole determinant, of determining the quality of a particular program. [emphasis added]

Curmudgucation gives us his excellent insight…

Obama’s Testing Action Plan Sucks (And Changes Nothing) by Peter Greene

…there is a difference between “I hear you, and we are going to find a way to fix this” and “I hear you, and we are going to find a way to shut you up.”

The fact that the administration noticed, again, that there’s an issue here is nice. But all they’re doing is laying down a barrage of protective PR cover. This is, once again, worse than nothing because it not only doesn’t really address the problem, but it encourages everyone to throw a victory party, put down their angry signs, and go home. Don’t go to the party, and don’t put down your signs.

…and the Network for Public Education…

Network for Public Education Fund Response to Obama Administration Statement on Testing by Carol Burris

…Anthony Cody, who serves as the vice-chairperson and treasurer of NPE, responded to the announcement by saying, “Limiting testing to 2% is a symbolic gesture that will have little impact so long as these tests are used for high stakes purposes.”

While the Department of Education remains wed to annual high-stakes tests, it is time for states and districts to call their bluff regarding flexibility. The research coming forward is clear. The overuse of standardized testing is educational malpractice. States should drop the destructive pseudoscience of VAM, empower educators to create their own meaningful assessments of learning, and get off the testing juggernaut.”

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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.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
Click here to sign the petition.

For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.

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Filed under Obama, Race to the Top, Testing

I Get a Response From NEA

CANDIDATE INTERVIEWS

Earlier this month I posted about the NEA’s Primary Election endorsement of Hillary Clinton for U.S. President. I included a comment I had written in response to a special ed teacher’s guest blog on Lily Eskelsen-Garcia’s blog.

You can read the guest blog, Proud to Be an Educator for Hillary. Scroll down and you can see a comment. As of this writing, my comment has not been included, however the one comment that is there expresses similar objections to the endorsement. Perhaps mine wasn’t written well enough…or I was too emotional…or confrontational…or impolite. It doesn’t matter. I only mention this to indicate that, apparently, the NEA is willing to read opposing views: something positive.

You can read my comment in my post, Finally, I Rant About NEA’s Endorsement of Hillary.

I submitted an abridged version of my comment a second time. I thought perhaps that it hadn’t been published because it was too long. After that submission, I received a response from NEA which you can read in its entirety at the end of this post.

My point in arguing against the endorsement of Secretary Clinton is not because I disagree with many of her positions on public education, it’s because I don’t know many of her positions on public education. I would argue against the endorsement of any of the three candidates who responded to the NEA’s questionnaire for the same reason.

In her letter to me, Lily provided a link to the interviews she did with the three candidates (all Democrats) who responded to the NEA questionnaire: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders (you can see all the interviews here. Scroll to the bottom section for the complete interviews).

Some of my objections have been answered. Lily asked all three candidates about their views on equality of opportunity, testing, college debt, collective bargaining, and their vision for rescuing the middle class. All three candidates gave essentially the same answers with minimal differences.

  • All children need equality of opportunity and we need to fully fund public education.
  • Too much testing is horrible and we need to fix that.
  • College should be available to all. Debt is bad.
  • Collective bargaining is important for all workers. Unions are important.
  • America’s middle class is shrinking. We need to dump Trickle Down economics and provide health care, a higher minimum wage, and better jobs.

There is nothing about the record of the three candidates on the interview page. There’s a link in the letter from NEA to a summary of Secretary Clinton’s record, but that doesn’t highlight the differences between the candidates. It only tells me, vaguely, what Clinton has done. During the interviews the candidates tooted their own horns freely, so that’s something.

The problem, as I see it, is not that Secretary Clinton is not deserving of NEA’s endorsement. It’s that there is still too much about the candidates that we don’t know. We did this before, with Barack Obama, and for our no-strings-attached support we got Arne Duncan and Race to the Top.

The fault is partially with the candidates. Clinton’s campaign site has a section on K-12 education, but it’s vague and unspecific. Sanders’ and O’Malley’s sites don’t say “boo” about K-12 education. All three discuss universal preschool and affordable college. To earn NEA’s support we ought to get some assurances that we won’t get a DFER, someone who wants to privatize public education, or another Arne Duncan in the office of Secretary of Education.

DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS: WHERE ARE THE DETAILS?

But the lion’s share of the fault is with NEA’s leadership. Where were the questions (or if you asked them, where were the answers) about…

  • Charter schools? I know that Clinton and Sanders are “in favor” of charter schools and that they support charter school accountability, but where are the details?
  • Vouchers? Democrats are generally against vouchers, but in the last few years they have made fewer and fewer comments about vouchers. Where do the candidates stand? Will they work to stop our tax dollars going to religious institutions?
  • No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the reauthorization of ESEA? Where are the questions about the failure of No Child Left Behind, the cost and damaging competition of Race to the Top, and the fact that there is still no renewal of ESEA? Where do they stand on providing support for schools that need more help or are they willing to close schools with high poverty and blame the victims for “failing?”
  • VAM? How do the candidates feel about teacher evaluations being based on student test scores? How about teachers of non-tested areas, such as music and art teachers, being evaluated using reading and math test scores of their students?
  • School letter grades? Should schools be judged by how well their students do on test scores? Is an A school simply one in which the children score high on the state standardized test?
  • Due process? Where do the candidates stand on due process (aka tenure) for K-12 teachers?
  • National Teacher shortage? How will the candidates relieve the national teacher shortage? How will they encourage more students to go into education?
  • Common Core? We know Lily loves her some Common Core, but not all of us do. I find many of the early childhood standards to be developmentally inappropriate. Where do the candidates stand on this issue?
  • The U.S. Education Department? Do they want to save the USED? Right now it’s filled with privatizers, DFERs, and “reformers.” How will a Clinton (or Sanders, or O’Malley) administration differ?

Lily, your questions about equality of opportunity, testing, college debt, collective bargaining, and the middle class were good; The candidates’ desire for universal preschool and affordable college is admirable. But it’s not enough. In the last two presidential elections the NEA supported President Obama because he said the right things. That’s not enough any more. I want more details. We still don’t know if any of these candidates support the corporate privatization of public education. I could make an educated guess, but it would have been nice if my professional association asked more detailed questions, or provided us with the answers to more detailed questions.

The candidates need to earn our endorsement. We need details, not vague references. We need assurances, not campaign sites that don’t even acknowledge the major issues facing today’s public schools, public school teachers, and public school students.

NEA’S RESPONSE TO MY COMMENT

Replying to your message about NEA’s presidential primary recommendation
from 2016presidential@nea.org

…Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts surrounding NEA’s recent primary recommendation of Hillary Clinton for president. I want to spend a few moments highlighting our process since February and, ultimately, our decision to move forward with the Clinton recommendation.
NEA members and leaders have engaged in our primary presidential recommendation process since last February, identifying and reaching out to nearly 25 candidates from both major political parties. Throughout this process, we asked for input from candidates and, equally important, did our best to highlight candidates’ positions on education issues for members like you. Throughout the last few months, we distributed a candidate comparison highlighting each candidate’s positions, hosted a tele-town hall with members to discuss the presidential field, and provided updated candidate positions via social media.

Just three candidates – Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders – met with me to discuss their positions on the issues. Afterward, I made it a priority to ensure all three taped interviews were distributed to NEA members and leaders throughout the country, which you can view right now.

These interviews remind all of us that each candidate is a dear friend of strong public schools and the students and children we work with, and Hillary Clinton’s proven track record, coupled with her comments throughout the recommendation process, is why I brought a recommendation for Secretary Clinton to the NEA PAC Council and Board of Directors for their consideration. Their discussions were thoughtful and robust, and our Board was able to spend time with Secretary Clinton on Saturday to discuss our issues.

Throughout this process, I am proud that NEA’s members and its leaders have had the opportunity to speak on this recommendation, and today I believe there is too much at stake to remain on the sidelines. Please continue to share your views, and go to Strong Public Schools for updates.

Only together can we work to ensure the next president ensures every child has a quality public education regardless of zip code.

Gracias,
Lily

*******************************************************************
Only the individual sender is responsible for the content of the
message, and the message does not necessarily reflect the position
or policy of the National Education Association or its affiliates.

~~~

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.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
Click here to sign the petition.

For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.

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Filed under Election, EskelsenGarcia, HClinton, NEA, O'Malley, Obama, Sanders

Finally, I Rant about NEA’s Endorsement of Hillary

Ok…so it took a while and everyone else has probably already said everything there is to say about the NEA supporting Hillary for President in the primaries, but I was looking around at blogs and I read one that triggered a rant.

The stimulus that finally got me going was a guest blogger on Lily’s blog who was Proud to Be an Educator for Hillary.

I have nothing against the teacher who wrote the blog and I did follow her link to Hillary’s Education platform on NEA’s server which said all the right things…well not all of the right things, but some of the right things. Missing, however, was detail about how those things would be accomplished and what they would be replaced with…for example,

Hillary Clinton supports reducing the role of standardized tests in public education, and she supports NEA’s push to create an opportunity dashboard, understanding the multiple measures that we must address and monitor to truly close the opportunity achievement gaps between students. She has committed to fighting to provide equal opportunity to have access to arts education, school nurses, librarians, and counselors, and funding so all students can succeed, regardless of their ZIP code.

Sounds great, right? Reducing the role of testing is something I would like to see, but what about teachers being evaluated by test scores, loss of due process, and loss of collective bargaining rights? What about the connection between poverty and low achievement?

Furthermore, how does her policy differ from that of Bernie Sanders? Martin O’Malley? Lawrence Lessig (did you even know he was running? Read Republic, Lost)? or other candidates?

Mrs. Clinton may indeed be the candidate we ought to support, however, I think we need to have more information before we endorse someone.

Here’s what I wrote as a response to An Educator for Hillary (I’ve fixed a couple of typos, added a link, and made one sentence bold).

The NEA board has decided for the rest of us that there is no need to get any assurances that our endorsement for a candidate will bring support for public education other than some vague references to “every child and teacher will get support.”

What is Hillary’s stand on Charter schools and the massive amounts of corruption which privatization has brought to so many states and school districts? More accountability? What does accountability mean for charter schools? More tests? Publicly elected school boards? Open enrollment or will Charters still be allowed to skim the cream? Will charters still be allowed to hire “teachers” with no credentials?

What is Hillary’s stand on the Common Core? We know Lily loves it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not developmentally inappropriate. What about the cut scores manipulated by state houses and governors in order to “prove that public education is failing?” What about the overuse and misuse of standardized testing — both Common Core related and otherwise?

What is Hillary’s stand on vouchers? Will there be any attempt to do away with public tax money going to religious schools?

What about due process for K-12 teachers (aka tenure)? Collective bargaining? Where are the details to Hillary’s education platform? What about test based evaluations? What about Teacher for America?

Why didn’t we get (or get to see) the details BEFORE we endorsed someone?

In 2008 we endorsed President Obama who “sincerely” told us that we didn’t devote our lives to testing…we devoted our lives to teaching and teaching is what we ought to be allowed to do. That, and a “seat at the table” was enough for us…endorsement done. Look what we got…Arne Duncan — who never set foot in a public school as either a student or a teacher — and Race to the Top which doubled down on No Child Left Behind’s labeling of low test takers as losers. Arne Duncan, who cheered when an entire school full of teachers in Rhode Island were fired because the school was “low achieving” (aka filled with high poverty students). Arne Duncan, who manipulated federal dollars meant for low income students so that it became a contest to see which states could raise the caps on Charters fast enough and evaluate teachers based on test scores.

A seat at the table? Haven’t we learned anything?

~~~

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.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
Click here to sign the petition.

For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.

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Filed under Duncan, Election, EskelsenGarcia, HClinton, NCLB, NEA, Obama, Race to the Top

2015 Medley #32 – Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan

GOOD RIDDANCE

Recently Arne Duncan, the Obama Administration’s Secretary of Education, announced his resignation. I’ve spent a lot of time criticizing him over the years for two main reasons.

1. I don’t agree with his “reformer” policies and
2. I think that a Secretary of Education ought to have some experience and expertise in actual education. Duncan has neither.

Here are some articles about his tenure as head of the U.S. Education Department…

The Faith-Based Education Policies of @ArneDuncan

Jersey Jazzman’s post about Duncan’s legacy reads like the Declaration of Independence. However, most states weren’t strong enough or economically healthy enough to stage a rebellion.

Each item in the Jazzman’s list shows how little Duncan understands about learning, schools, children, and public education. On the other hand, he knew enough to keep his children out of schools which were forced to follow his reforms.

  • Duncan has created a test-obsessed education culture that has narrowed the curriculum and sucked the joy of learning out of our schools.
  • Duncan has fostered an unbridled expansion of charter schools; while some may be well-run and showing marginal gains in test scores, many others have been involved in profit-seeking and corruption so egregious that they put defense contractors to shame.
  • Duncan has allowed organizations like Teach For America and the Relay “Graduate” School of Education to provide substandard teacher preparation, even as he promotes the use of noisy, biased student growth measures to rate actual colleges of education.
  • Duncan rewarded states that inequitably and inadequately fund their school districts, incredibly holding them up as exemplars.
  • Duncan has decimated the morale of America’s teaching corps, de-professionalizing teaching and contributing to an atmosphere where teachers are blamed for problems they did not create.
  • Duncan has overseen the implosion of teaching as a career; universities around the country are reporting that fewer students are enrolling as education majors, even as several states report shortages of qualified teaching candidates.
  • Duncan has allowed the unprecedented mining of student data, blithely ignoring parental concerns.
  • Duncan’s ham-fisted approach to implementing the Common Core has all but guaranteed that we will never see meaningful national standards reform in our lifetimes.
  • Duncan inappropriately punished states for not implementing teacher evaluation policies that experts have found to be wholly invalid.
  • Duncan has watched while the systematic defunding of our nation’s schools continues.
  • Duncan has presided over the continuing resegregation of America’s schools, offering little more than weak platitudes in response.

And, perhaps worst of all, Duncan has denigrated the real concerns of parents, teachers, and students, using the most condescending language possible — all while hypocritically exempting his own children from the effects of his policies.

FYI: What Obama Said About Duncan

Diane Ravitch is succinct about Duncan’s legacy. She reported what President Obama said about Duncan…

In the car yesterday, I heard a report that Arne Duncan was stepping down. President Obama said: He did more than anyone else to bring American education into the 21st century, sometimes kicking and screaming.

Taking Obama’s lead, Ravitch explains what Duncan’s version of education in the 21st century means.

So this is what the 21st century will look like: boot camps for minorities; teachers with scripts; schools run for profit; school scams by corporations; education industry traded on New York Stock Exchange; high-yield online schools with high attrition rates; the monetization of public education.

The tenure of Education Secretary Arne Duncan — in his own sometimes startling words

Duncan’s most famous, stupidest comment…Hurricane Katrina was a blessing, apparently.

“I spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and this is a tough thing to say, but let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that ‘we have to do better.”

So, how is the privatized New Orleans district working out? See for yourself…

Vice President Biden Statement on the Resignation of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Vice President Biden is correct in one part of his statement. He said,

Arne has made almost unprecedented strides in changing the direction of education in this country…

That’s true –– Unfortunately the “direction of education” in which Duncan took the country is the wrong direction!

Arne Duncan has been one of the best Secretaries of Education in our nation’s history. Over the past 7 years, he has been a dynamic leader who brings unparalleled energy to his work. During his time as Secretary, Arne has made almost unprecedented strides in changing the direction of education in this country through his work to improve graduation rates, expand access to community colleges and raise academic standards for students all across the country. He has also done tremendous work through Title IX to make campuses safer for women and girls. He’s a man of great character and principle and he has become a close friend to Jill and me. We wish him all the best and we will miss him dearly.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will step down in December

Duncan was a spokesman for the wealth-based, research denying, so-called “education reform” movement. He was, as I have written before, careful to keep his own children out of schools affected by his poison.

Duncan’s tenure was underscored by his embrace of an agenda that reflected the priorities of what’s become known as the education reform movement: support of charter schools, a willingness to spar with teachers’ unions, and a push for more rigorous teacher evaluations that take students’ standardized test scores into account.

Duncan is also known for the Race to the Top competition, a signature funding competition that used stimulus money to create incentives for states to adopt some of those policies, including common standards. Duncan also became an outspoken supporter of increasing the capacity of early education programs. This week, he made headlines by proposing to decrease incarceration for nonviolent crimes and use that money to increase teacher pay.

Arne Duncan’s Misguided Policies

In Race to the Top, as in any race, there are winners and losers. Public education ought not to have any winners and losers.

In December of 2010, already two years into Arne Duncan’s tenure as Secretary of Education, I heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson indict Duncan’s education policies for abandoning the very idea of American public education that Dewey and Wellstone had described so eloquently: “There are those who would make the case for ‘a race to the top’ for those who can run. But ‘lift from the bottom’ is the moral imperative because it includes everybody.”

If, as President Obama says, Arne Duncan has “brought our educational system, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the 21st century,” I hope we will stop to reconsider. Has our society decided to strive for innovation and to abandon universal provision of services and equality of opportunity as overarching goals? And have we become satisfied to blame the teachers in our poorest communities instead of ourselves for the vast injustices that appear at school in the guise of the achievement gaps?

Arne Duncan’s Exit: Not Unexpected.

Duncan’s children are moving from one “reform-free” school system to another. To protect them from the damage he, and his “reformist” friends in DFER, the Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, and others, have done to America’s public schools, he is enrolling them in the private school he went to, the University of Chicago Lab School. It’s a school with highly trained, highly educated, multi-degreed, unionized teachers, small class sizes, and resources their peers in the city don’t get – like libraries and art teachers.

The Duncans could have stayed in Virginia where they were residing (and where Duncan’s kids were attending Common-Core-free public school) for another entire school year. Instead, Duncan’s wife, Karen, and their children headed back to Chicago in July– more than a full school year before Obama would finish his time as a two-term president.

So, for Duncan to say that he is resigning to be with the fam seems more like he knew he would be resigning at the end of 2015– right in the middle of a school year. So, it became realistic for the Duncans to move back to Chicago summer 2015.

The Upside of Arne Duncan

I was never on the “Dump Duncan” bandwagon. I heartily disagree with the “NCLB on steroids” policy thrust of the current Department of Education, but I never saw Duncan as effective spokesperson for the behind-the-scenes big guns he for whom was fronting: Gates. Walton. Broad. DFER. He could dish out memorized talking points, sort of, but skilled interviewers have run circles around the Secretary of Education.

Furthermore, getting rid of a hapless Secretary doesn’t mean the policy-making will improve, just as getting rid of an incompetent President hasn’t meant smooth sailing for the Republic. Arne’s blunders have not slowed down the drive to capture the previously untapped K-12 education marketplace.

A Fan of Talking Points

“He could dish out memorized talking points…” Duncan couldn’t do much in public but spout talking points, even when he was talking about basketball. The following interview with Jon Stewart was proof positive that Duncan can spout his talking points, but beyond that he was out of his league.

He never really responded to Stewart’s repeated questions about teachers opinions and actual concerns about Race to the Top.

Listen when he says that schools belong to the community. Remember that Race to the Top forces schools to close only to be replaced by privately run charters.

Listen when he says Race to the Top helps to support “great” teachers and remember that his definition of “great” means high test scores and VAM…

The Duncan/King Robots and the Revolving Door

No doubt Duncan will take a job with some “reform” organization — like a “think tank,” a charter organization, a test-and-punish company like Pearson, or some state that wants to destroy their public school system.

Much rejoicing took place Friday when it was first announced that Arne Duncan was leaving the Obama administration early. Social media was a-buzz poking fun at the Secretary of Education who will now ride into the sunset to make money likely in the private sector, probably with something having to do with children. When you grow up around teachers it gives you a warm spot in your heart (sarcasm).

Perhaps he will work in President Obama’s future Presidential Center giving us his take on education matters from time to time—like Margaret “NCLB” Spellings sits cloistered in President G.W. Bush’s special place.

Or he might be like President Bush’s other ed. secretary Rod “NCLB” Paige, remember him? He was the guy who likened teachers to terrorists. He sits on the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation’s board, Eli Broad’s board too, and has done a bunch of serious periphery education stuff to foster privatization and make money. Here’s his Bio.

Maybe Arne could become Dean Duncan at the Relay Graduate School of Education—or even a real university president! The possibilities are endless for the guy who thinks soccer moms dote too much on their children, or that Katrina helped fix schools in New Orleans.

And, of course, there is Duncan’s coordinated and backed-up push for all children with disabilities to take regular tests. Who can forget that?

The Failure of Arne Duncan: How President Obama Placed Friendship Above Sound Education Policy and Stained His Legacy.

Duncan was never qualified to be Secretary of Education. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in Sociology and a plan to play professional basketball. He learned all he knew about education from watching his mom tutor high-risk students…his “solutions” for the Chicago Public Schools didn’t work and formed the basis for his attack on the nation’s public schools.

Duncan doesn’t know anything about public education. He never taught in a public school. He never attended a public school.

The lesson: no matter how close the friendship, no matter how loyal the friend: beware. Arne Duncan, your basketball buddy, an elite upbringing, jumped onboard the worst of the education reform ideas. As Linda Darling Hammond, Diane Ravitch, Pedro Noguera, renowned researcher after researcher questioned the Duncan agenda, Obama never strayed from supporting his friend.

IT CAN ALWAYS GET WORSE

Meet the New Boss, Even Worse Than the Old Boss

Everyone who blames Duncan for this administration’s public education policy ought to take a close look at his replacement. Replacing Duncan with John King is like George W. Bush replacing Rod Paige (“Teachers are terrorists”) with Margaret Spellings (“I’m qualified because I’m a mom”) By allowing John King to take over as Education Secretary, President Obama is guaranteeing that the Duncan policies continue. King’s appointment is a slap in the face to every public school teacher, administrator, and student. The damage that Duncan did will continue.

…with the entire country embracing Race to the Top, Gun to the Head policies like Common Core, I’m not feeling the love. The high-stakes testing and developmentally inappropriate tasks for our children (and not his, or Duncan’s, or Obama’s) are intolerable. That’s not to mention the junk-science teacher ratings that have been foisted upon us, rejected by none other than the American Statistical Association.

Education is apparently on the president’s “Eff-It” list. At this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, President Obama said that he didn’t have a bucket list, but with time running out on his administration, he did have something that rhymed with it. The president’s choice of John King* to oversee the department after Duncan is a signal he’s not that concerned with education politics at this point.

That’s clever, but not precisely accurate. It appears to me that President Obama, who’s certainly in a position to say “Eff-it” to pretty much anything, has decided to continue with the reformy policies that are King’s signature. While it wasn’t clear to UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who deemed King suitable as an independent arbiter for our evaluation system, it’s quite clear to anyone paying attention that John King supports all things reformy, specifically including Common Core and junk science evaluations.

~~~

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.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
Click here to sign the petition.

For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.

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More Random Quotes – August 2015

THIS JUST IN: REPUBLICANS STILL HATE TEACHERS…

Republicans’ deep hatred for teachers can’t be denied and they’re not trying
from Steven Thrasher

If you’ve been listening to the Republican candidates you’ve probably heard some nasty things about teachers. Thrasher tells us why.

Teachers’ unions are made up of groups Republicans always love to bash: government workers with lady parts.

Just to be fair, the author also wrote about Democrats…

Republicans have always hated teachers’ unions for obvious reasons. They reliably support the Democratic party, even though Democrats routinely go to war against teachers as well, particularly alumni from the Obama administration.

…AND DEMOCRATS ARE NOT MUCH BETTER

Teacher evaluations at the schools that Obama, Duncan picked for their kids
from Valerie Strauss

Democrats are just quieter about it. All states have to comply with Arne Duncan’s proclamations about VAM…they could lose their federal funds or get stuck having to deal with No Child Left Behind. If using test scores to evaluate teachers was such a good idea you’d think that the Secretary of Education, and his boss, would send their precious children to a school run by “reformers.”

Think again…

These comments were delivered when Duncan sent his children to Arlington public schools. They are now going to attend the University of Chicago Lab School…which is full of unionized teachers and devoid of “reformer” education. When they lived in Chicago, the Obamas sent their daughters to the Lab School. They now attend Sidwell Friends.

“What did the president and the secretary seek and obtain for their own kids, where the important issue of teacher evaluation was concerned? The answers recently arrived in two e-mails:

“Arlington school district teacher, March 31, 2011: ‘We do not tie teacher evaluations to scores in the Arlington public school system.’

“Sidwell Friends faculty member, April 1, 2011:

“ ‘We don’t tie teacher pay to test scores because we don’t believe them to be a reliable indicator of teacher effectiveness.’ ”

IT’S THE “OTHER” SCHOOLS THAT ARE “FAILING”

Groundhog Day: Parents Again Rate Local Schools Higher than Schools of the Nation
from Stephen Krashen

Year after year parents rate their own children’s schools high…but it’s “those other public schools” that are bad.

Seventy percent of parents said they would give the public schools their oldest child attended a grade or A or B, but only 19% would give public schools in the nation an A or B.

An obvious explanation: Parents have direct information about the school their children attend, but their opinion of American education comes from the media. For decades, the media has been presenting a biased view. 

WHERE DOES THE BUCK STOP?
from a teacher friend

Contrary to “reformer’s” beliefs, teachers don’t like to make excuses. The charge of “making excuses” gives “reformers an “out.” When teachers cry “poverty” “reformers” and their legislator friends can claim “excuses” instead of actually dealing with a very real problem. As the late Gerald Bracey said,

Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a condition. It’s like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.

The school administration blames the central office…who blames the state DOE…who blames the legislature…who are only doing what their donors demand.

Teachers must speak out!

Part of the problem is that teachers are caught in the proverbial “Rock and a Hard Place’ scenario. We can’t really turn to the public because in many cases they really don’t want to hear about it, and the state and administration simply blame someone else for the current state of affairs.

One of the things I remind my coworkers who aren’t outspoken…that if we remain entirely submissive and say yes, yes, yes to everything without defending students and teachers, we are just signing up for more of the same treatment.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

Blackmon: In Georgia, ‘reform’ aims to destroy public schools
from Myra Blackmon

Here is a pretty good summary of what “education reform” is all about…

This is how the self-selected “education reformers” operate. Their motive is profit and personal advancement. They love the idea of schools run by private organizations, staffed with uncertified teachers, cherry-picking the easy students and leaving the most vulnerable students behind. Unproven, invalid standardized tests drive every decision.

It is disgusting. It is immoral. It is repugnant to every American ideal of community, mutual support and benefit and democratic rule. It defies the values of local control in favor of centralized, easily managed power — all the while claiming “it’s for the children.”

It’s high time we kicked them all out and made them earn an honest living — as far from our schools as we can get them.

Education Roars Back
from Bob Grundfest

If you keep telling the nation that teachers are to blame for everything bad in our society…and you continue to cut salaries and benefits…and you close schools, cut staff, and, in general, trash public schools in favor of private charters and private parochial schools…and if you publicize all of this so high school and college students see how poorly teachers, and public schools are treated…

…why would a young adult, right out of high school, choose to make education his or her career…and why would anyone think that young adults would want to go into teaching?

Given the years of blame and economic hardship that teachers have had to endure, it’s no wonder that there’s a shortage. And given the attitude that many national and state leaders have about teachers, it’s no wonder that qualified students are looking at other fields of endeavor. The truth is that we pay a great deal of lip service to wanting a highly qualified, well-trained teaching staff at every school, but the best and brightest are not stupid; they see what’s going on in education and are increasingly turned off to it. And since we don’t have the best and brightest going into government, the solutions will be doubly difficult to come by.

MONEY FOR EDUCATION OUGHT TO GO TO EDUCATION

It’s common for legislators to complain that so much money is spent on education, but an important question is how it is spent. We use billions of tax dollars nationally to support testing and test prep and that’s money that should be going to instruction, materials, and student support.

…and what about all the money diverted from public schools to for-profit charters and voucher accepting parochial schools?

@TCBGP

TEACHERS ARE MORE THAN JUST TEST-JOCKEYS

‘Teachers want to change the world’
from John Kuhn

Relationships are greater than pedagogy. If you deliver flawless instruction but haven’t nurtured relationships with your students — even the challenging ones — then you might as well teach to an empty room.

DREAMS OF THE FUTURE

Neil DeGrasse Tyson quoted a young man in his book, Space Chronicles

There are lots of things I have to do to be an astronaut. But first I have to go to kindergarten — Cyrus Corey, age four.

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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.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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2015 Medley #14

Duncan’s Accomplishments, Private Schools for the Wealthy, Libraries, Accountability, Teaching Reading, Indiana, New Teachers, Testing

DUNCAN’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Arne Duncan’s Record of “Accomplishments”

To be fair, it’s not just Duncan. He’s doing what his corporate handlers want him to do…demonize public schools and public school teachers to ease the transition to a privatized education system. His reign as national school chief is following in the footsteps of Margaret Spellings and the Bush administration. The surprising thing is that politicians still pay lip service to “supporting public schools.” Actions speak louder than words…

My prediction…like Tony Bennett in Indiana, when the Obama administration leaves office, Arne Duncan will find his way to some high paying job in the “privatizing education” field.

TWO TIERED EDUCATION

Obama: Wealthy Ignore Poverty by Sending Kids to Private Schools

Wait…what? Barack Obama, who sends his kids to one of the nation’s most elite private schools (to the tune of about $38K@yr), who supports defunding public education at the expense of privately owned and run charter schools, is suggesting that the wealthy (like him) are ignoring poverty?

Obama’s secretary of education, who famously remarked that poverty wasn’t destiny, has spent the last 6 years telling us that poverty is just an excuse for failure. Duncan, as Obama’s education spokesperson, is one of the nation’s cheerleaders who expects schools filled with high poverty students to overcome all the out of school factors associated with poverty…things like

  • low birth weight
  • toxic environments like lead poisoning
  • lack of medical, mental health, and dental care
  • food insecurity
  • housing insecurity
  • lack of adequate preschools

Now, President Obama wants us to believe that he is concerned with poverty…that it’s a real educational issue…that the rich are ignoring poverty by opting their children out of the public schools? This is something which his policies have encouraged.

Ok, I get it…as president it’s probably necessary for him to send his children to a private school like Sidwell. There are security issues at stake and public schools are likely not equipped, nor could they tolerate the security arrangements necessary, for the children of the U. S. President to attend. So maybe I’m being unreasonable. Still, if public education was so important, wouldn’t the president’s policies, if not his actions on the part of his daughters, reflect that support?

Obama insisted that there needed to be more investments in public schools, public universities, public early child education and public infrastructure, insisting that funding these organizations both “grows our economy and spreads it around.”

In the past, Obama explained, these economic barriers existed for people of color, but he warned that the growing economic inequality was slowly creeping into the lifestyle of the middle class.

“What used to be racial segregation now mirrors itself in class segregation and this great sorting that’s taking place,” he explained.

LIBRARIES

To the editor

Krashen nails it…complete with references.

Libraries are especially important for children of poverty: The school library and the public library (especially during the summer) are often their only source of books.

We complain about our children’s reading levels, but fail to provide the means for improving it.
— Stephen Krashen, USC Professor Emeritus

ACCOUNTABILITY

Should We Hold Arne Duncan and Every Other Reformer Accountable for Every Child They Hurt?

Yes we should.

  • Has the “test and punish” system of education helped our nation’s students? 
  • Has closing and defunding neighborhood schools in favor of spending millions of dollars without public oversight on charters and voucher schemes helped the most vulnerable students in our nation?
  • Has the “reform” of public schools led by billionaires like Gates and the Waltons eased poverty, reduced the “achievement gap,” and increased learning?
  • Has the obsession with test scores given us higher achieving students?

The answer to all those questions is, of course, no. We are, in fact, hurting our most vulnerable students more. Those who are responsible ought to be held “accountable.” As President Bush (II) said when talking about No Child Left Behind, “…an accountability system must have a consequence; otherwise, it’s not much of an accountability system.”

Those who have supported the status quo of “reforming” the nation’s public education system since 2001 ought to now take responsibility for what they’ve done.

A new era of accountability should begin with reformers taking the log from their eyes before trying to remove the mote from educators’ eyes. It should start by holding accountability systems accountable. We could then proclaim to policy makers, school patrons, and other stakeholders that we have met the challenge, reinvented accountability and shown that education is worthy of increased investments.

By the way, too many reformers escalate the political battles, claiming that we need smarter accountability systems where everybody holds everybody else accountable. But I wouldn’t even contemplate systems where both sides hold each other accountable and risk the blame game spinning out of control. If reformers want to hold us accountable for each child, wouldn’t we have to hold them accountable for every child damaged by their policies? Wouldn’t we end up in an even greater education civil war?

Or maybe we should…

CAN YOU TEACH?

Don’t Teachers Know How to Teach Reading?

Do you know how to teach reading? Do “teachers today” not know how to teach “anymore?”

Teachers, how did you “learn” how to teach reading?

So why don’t teachers seem to be able to teach reading like they used to? Why do they have to go through all kinds of professional development like they never learned anything before they entered the classroom?

  • Has this been an intentional plan to de-professionalize teaching by those who want to privatize schools? Is it because of exaggerated claims that students weren’t reading well enough 30 years ago? Has the authority over how to teach reading been stolen from teachers?
  • Have the education schools sold out to commercialized companies and not provided the right kind of reading instruction to teachers? Is there too much concern about making a profit on reading programs?
  • Are the Teach for America types, or the online fast-track programmed teachers, ill-prepared to teach reading? Who’s monitoring those programs?
  • Did NCLB and RTTT change the way teachers are supposed to teach? When there is so much concern about high-stakes test results, teachers will find it difficult not to follow the program that will appear to help them succeed.
  • Is it because wealthy parents are pushing children too hard, to read too early and poor parents don’t push hard enough?
  • Are there more children with disabilities in the regular class who need remediation? Are regular education teachers required to learn how to teach special education? If so, how is that fair to the students in their classes who don’t have disabilities?

INDIANA

Mike Pence’s 2015 education agenda: Wins, losses and consolation prizes

Here’s a summary of the damage done to public education in Indiana by the Pence Administration and his lackeys in the legislature.

…here’s a bill that addresses every one of Pence’s priorities: more money for schools in general, an extra funding boost for charter schools and career and technical education, an expanded the voucher program, more flexibility for teachers and schools to try innovative techniques, added bonus pay for highly rated teachers and big changes to the roles of the Indiana State Board of Education and state Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

NEW TEACHERS

New Teacher Attrition And The Recession

The good news: it’s not true (at least according to this study) that 50% of all new teachers leave the field of education by their 5th year. On the other hand, fewer college students are opting into the field of education, and morale is still a problem.

The Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study (BTLS), a terrific project by the National Center for Education Statistics, tracks a nationally representative cohort of beginning teachers (those who started in 2007 or 2008) through their first five years and documents their turnover outcomes. Results from this survey have been trickling out every year (see our post here), but the most recent report presents outcomes from these teachers’ first four years.

The headline story, as reported in the Washington Post, was that roughly 17 percent of these new teachers had left the profession entirely within their first four years. A number of commenters, including the Post article, hastened to point out that the BTLS estimates are far lower than the “conventional wisdom” statistic that 40-50 percent leave the profession within the first five years (see here for more on this figure; also see Perda 2013 for a similar five-year estimate using longitudinal data). These findings are released within a political context where teacher attrition (somewhat strangely) has become a contentious political issue, one which advocates tend to interpret in a manner that supports their pre-existing beliefs about education policy.

…new teacher attrition during these years was far lower than is often assumed, and certainly that teachers are not fleeing the classroom at a greater clip than in previous years. This is important, and cannot be “explained away” by any one factor, but we should still be careful about generalizing too strongly these findings beyond this particular time period, given that the BTLS cohort of teachers entered the classroom almost precisely at the time that the “great recession” began. This is, of course, not a new or original point – it was, for instance, mentioned briefly in the Post article. And it’s hardly groundbreaking to note that labor market behavior does not occur in a vacuum. Still, given all the commentary about the BTLS results, it may be worth reviewing briefly.

TESTING

A True Testing Reminder

Individualize instruction…and then hold everyone to the same “standard.” Loosely translated this means, “allow everyone to be different, then punish them for not being the same.”

No one can understand the pressure of a high stakes test unless you are personally involved. The weight that is tied to your heart grows heavier and heavier as April and May approach. You completely relinquish control of your class to the state or testing company. They create the test, you cannot see it, they decide when you can give it and how long the kids have to take it, and you cannot even be in the same room with them. You spend every day with your students, you have learned their strengths and weaknesses, and you have differentiated instruction and followed IEPs, now every test is exactly the same. Oh, the irony of it all.

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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.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Some Things Haven’t Improved

PREDICTIONS WHICH DIDN’T COME TRUE

As one of it’s End of the Old Year/Beginning of the New Year blog entries, Think Progress presented 4 Things That Were Supposed To Happen By 2015 Because Obama Was Reelected. None of them happened (at least not yet) despite the warnings of Republicans. They included…

1. Gas was supposed to cost $5.45 per gallon.
In March 2012, on the floor of the United States Senate, Mike Lee (R-UT) predicted that if Obama was reelected gas would cost $5.45 per gallon by the start 2015.

Newt Gingrich campaigned with pictures of $2.50@ gallon gas and said that if we reelected President Obama we’d see gas at $10 per gallon.

Today, the nationwide average for a gallon of gas is $2.24.

2. Unemployment was supposed to be stuck at over 8%
In September 2012, Mitt Romney predicted that if Obama is reelected “you’re going to see chronic high unemployment continue four years or longer.”…The unemployment rate currently stands at 5.8% and has been under 6% since September 2014.

3. The stock market was supposed to crash
Charles Bilderman, the author of the “Intelligent Investing” column at Forbes, wrote that the “market selloff after Obama’s re-election [was] no accident,” predicting “stocks are dropping with no bottom in sight.”

2015 isn’t over. The Dow closed tonight at 17,501…so things look pretty good for the time being. I’m sure the Republicans would like to see some bad economic news right before the 2016 election. Perhaps they’ll help that along…

4. The entire U.S. economy was supposed to collapse
Rush Limbaugh predicted that “the country’s economy is going to collapse if Obama is re-elected.”… “California is going to declare bankruptcy”…

It hasn’t…

The U.S. economy grew at a robust 5% in the 3rd quarter of 2014, following 4.6% growth in the second quarter.

Think Progress didn’t paint everything as rosy and wonderful as we continue the second term of the Obama Administration. They ended their piece with…

Although these dire economic predictions have proven false, it doesn’t mean there aren’t real, persistent problems with the U.S. economy. Most critically, wage growth for American workers remains stagnant. That’s why, although many economic indicators are strong, a lot of Americans aren’t yet feeling the impact.

As much as Rush Limbaugh would have liked to see President Obama fail, he hasn’t. As much as Senator McConnell wanted President Obama to be a one term President, he isn’t. And things are getting better.

The dire political predictions have, thankfully, not come true.

ONE MORE THING

In October of 2012 I joined the Campaign for our Public Schools sponsored by Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody. We wrote letters to President Obama. While his reelection wasn’t guaranteed at that point, we hoped that he would listen to us when we told him what his policies were doing to America’s public schools. In my letter I urged him to change “Race to the Top.” I didn’t predict what would happen if he didn’t…but I didn’t have to.

I’ve asked the President more than once to drop Race to the Top and support public schools instead of the “reform” agenda. I have also hoped that he would “dump Duncan,” but I know that wouldn’t really matter. The President has his hand in the Privatization-Reformy-DFER cookie jar and getting rid of Arne Duncan wouldn’t change that. He would just ask Bill Gates for a new name and appoint someone just as bad to promote his policies — most likely Deputy Secretary James Shelton, formerly of the Gates Foundation and the New School Venture Fund (oh, and like Duncan, he has no actual professional education experience either).

Unfortunately for public schools, the second Obama Administration has doubled down on privatization through charters, teacher evaluations based on the junk science of VAM, ignoring child poverty as a serious problem in America, and the general abandonment of the U.S. Public School system.

That’s one outcome of President Obama’s reelection that hasn’t gotten better.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~

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2014 Medley #12

Learning a Language, Neighborhood Schools, Mixed Messages, Testing, Teachers Speak Out, Florida, Teach For America,
Experience Matters,

FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS

Brazilian kids learn English through heart-warming webcam chats with retired Americans

How can you learn another language? Talk to native speakers. A language school in Brazil partnered with a retirement home in Chicago and now their young students are communicating with elderly Americans in order to improve their English.

Not only are these students learning a language, but they’re building relationships, an important part of the learning process. This is a beautiful story.
(h/t Janet)

An advert for CNA language school’s ‘Speaking Exchange’ shows examples of the unlikely friendships between young Brazilians and senior Americans, many of whom live lonely lives in retirement homes.

Students are paired up with elderly residents of the Windsor Park Retirement Community in Chicago.

They then have conversations via webcam about their lives, families and future hopes, developing strong bonds in the process.

THE NEED FOR NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS

Government To Public Schools: You Can’t Keep Undocumented Immigrants Out Of School

The article above deals with public schools trying to keep children of undocumented aliens out of their schools. Whether you believe that children of undocumented immigrants should attend public school, at public expense or not is not the focus of my point…

In the article Arne Duncan is quoted as saying…

Secretary Arne Duncan added, “The message here is clear: let all children who live in your district enroll in your public schools.”

All children should have good public schools in their neighborhoods. Duncan might not have been talking about neighborhood schools, but he should have been because neighborhood schools are important. In The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Diane Ravitch wrote,

The neighborhood school is the place where parents meet to share concerns about their children and the place where they learn the practice of democracy. They create a sense of community among strangers. As we lose neighborhood public schools, we lose the one local institution where people congregate and mobilize to solve local problems, where individuals learn to speak up and debate and engage in democratic give-and-take with their neighbors.

…The market is not the best way to deliver public services. Just as every neighborhood should have a reliable fire station, every neighborhood should have a good public school. Privatizing our public schools makes as much sense as privatizing the fire department or the police department.

MIXED MESSAGES

Obama Administration Sends Mixed Messages on Teachers and Testing

This president frequently contradicts himself on education policy. As a candidate he told teachers that they didn’t devote their lives to testing, they devoted their lives to teaching (see the quote and link at the top of this page). In 2011 he said that he never wanted to see “schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world.”

He did it again this year at the ceremony honoring the National Teacher of the Year.

So why does he continue to allow Arne Duncan to force an insane obsession with standardized test scores on the nation’s schools?

Is it possible that President Obama is unaware of his own education department’s policies?

“Students know that what teachers give them stays with them for a lifetime,” the president said. He noted that great teachers take on the role of counselor, that they become the inspiration for their students to do big things, and that they do more than “going through the motions of teaching to the test.”

That “teaching to the test” line, and similar statements, have made their way into the president’s remarks before. In this year’s State of the Union address, for instance, Obama called for “better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test.”

But while the president may have a view of teaching that involves more than test results, his administration’s policies have arguably failed to focus attention beyond that aspect.

COMMON CORE ARGUMENT

Diane Ravitch defends Louis C.K., takes down silly Newsweek piece: “Your belief … has no research to support it, nor is there any real-world evidence”

Comedian Louis C.K. took shots at the Common Core earlier this month and was criticized in Newseek. The author of the article in Newsweek claimed that teachers were afraid of the common core because we don’t want to be “accountable.” Nonsense. Teachers are more than willing to be accountable, if the measurements are valid.

Diane Ravitch responds.

…educators oppose the Common Core because they fear they “will be judged (and fired) if their students don’t perform adequately on the more difficult standardized tests that are a crucial component of Common Core.” Here is where Alexander betrays an ignorance of research and evidence. Surely he should know that theAmerican Statistical Association issued a report a few weeks ago warning that “value-added-measurement” (that is, judging teachers by the scores of their students) is fraught with error, inaccurate, and unstable. The ratings may change if a different test is used, for example. The ASA report said:

Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.

THE TEACHERS’ VOICE

Teachers’ Voices Heard

Indiana lost big in this year’s primary elections when the legislature’s anti-public school champion won his primary fight. It’s discouraging…but he *got money from the school choice lobby…as well as the support of the state Republican leaders so it wasn’t likely that he would lose in a low turnout election.

A public school teacher comments…

The world of education right now is suffering under people who are looking to make money off of our children – charter schools, schools that take vouchers, public schools, and private schools are all in the mix as testing companies, textbook companies, for profit charters, and many others who see education as an industry, are looking for a dollar to be had rather than being truly focused on the well-being of our children. Until society realizes this and understands that many politicians are friends with the money makers, this is where we are in education and politics. When non-educators, people who have never step foot in the classroom as the role of a teacher, think they know what is best for our children and make sweeping policy changes like the implementation of Common Core, our children’s education will not be as strong as it could. There are so many in this district I respect, admire, learn from, and trust; but their voices and the voices of teachers around the nation are not heard. These teachers, every day, come to schools giving their best to the youngest in our community. It is an act of faith, courage, and love.

IT GETS WORSE

Romano: Voucher expansion doubles down on separate but unequal schools

In Florida things are getting worse…

Students, teachers and administrators are seemingly held captive by standardized tests in public schools, and yet tax revenues flow into private schools with few checks and balances and virtually no oversight.

…You cannot have over-the-top dependency on standardized tests in public schools, and under-the-rug disregard when it comes to private schools. Not if you plan on funneling more and more taxpayer funds toward those private schools.

Look at it this way:

Florida has micromanaged public education to the point of absurdity. The state’s entire educational experience, including curriculum, revolves around the results of a handful of standardized tests that are far from infallible. These exams are so danged important, legislators even insist that profoundly disabled children are not always exempt.

This testing devotion is so disheartening to so many parents, they are seeking any type of alternative for their child’s education.

And … surprise!

That plays right into the Jeb Bush-mindset…

TEACH FOR AWHILE AMERICA

A Primer for Engaging Teach For America Supporters

Here’s how to respond to TFA supporters and the billionaires who are backing them.

In districts across the country, pro-business politicians are closing down public schools and replacing them with privately managed charter schools. Many recent court decisions have concluded that charter schools are not public schools even though they receive public money. A public entity is accountable to the public. A private enterprise is accountable to its board of directors and shareholders. Therefore, as public schools are closed and replaced by privately managed charter schools, the public school system is becoming privatized.

Teach For America’s role in this privatization agenda is by providing corps members to teach at the newly opened charter schools for wages that are often well below the first-year salary of local public school teachers. Recent documents revealed that many charter school management organizations are so dependent on Teach For America to provide them cheap labor that charter managers are reluctant to open new schools without Teach For America.

EXPERIENCE MATTERS

Frequently Reassigning Teachers Limits Their Improvement

Teaching experience matters. 

Don’t let the “reformers” tell you otherwise. Stop laying off veteran teachers and replacing them with inexperienced novices.
(h/t Janet again!)

Experienced teachers make a difference in student performance, but their experience matters most if they have continued to teach the same grade, according to a new study by a University of Illinois at Chicago researcher.

Students whose teachers have not switched grades show greater improvement in test scores than students in similar classrooms with equally experienced teachers who switched grades frequently. The study is published in the April print edition and online in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Filed under Common Core, Duncan, Florida, Obama, Public Ed, Ravitch, Teach For America, Teaching Career, Testing

Pity the Poor, Underfunded Charters

WALTONS CLAIM CHARTERS UNDERFUNDED

Last month the University of Walmart Arkansas released a report — from their Department of Education Reform — that showed charter schools are underfunded.

Max Brantley at the Arkansas Blog, no friend of the Waltons, reported the following.

Surprise: Walton-subsidized UA has another report to support Walton school agenda

The Walton-subsidized University of Arkansas has issued a news release today about a report from a Walton-financed arm of the UA, the Department of Education Reform, that more money is spent on conventional public school districts than on charter schools, which the Walton heirs are spending hundreds of millions to promote in the United States, often to the detriment of existing public school districts.

He also suggested a few reasons that charter schools are not getting as much as real public schools.

I believe there are some understandable factors that lessen the the drama about the gap, ranging from less-experienced teachers who are paid less, differences in facilities and extra money given to public school districts for such considerations as desegregation plans (money to be phased out in Little Rock, for example) and federal money for poor students.

The biggest gap is a lack of local property tax revenue for charters and state construction funding. Walton lobbyists have managed to open the door in Arkansas a crack on construction funding with a state-subsidized revolving loan fund.

The charter schools also include virtual charters with huge “class sizes” and no building maintenance costs. Not to mention the charter habit of weeding out more expensive to educate children

WALMART ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Perhaps the Walton sponsored report is correct…that charters do get less taxpayer money than real public schools, but charters also have corporate and state sponsors which subsidize their operations…for example.

A Walmart Fortune, Spreading Charter Schools

Since 2002, the [DC Prep] charter network has received close to $1.2 million from Walton in direct grants. A Walton-funded nonprofit helped DC Prep find building space when it moved its first two schools from a chapel basement into former warehouses that now have large classrooms and wide, art-filled hallways.

One-third of DC Prep’s teachers are alumni of Teach for America, whose largest private donor is Walton. A Walton-funded advocacy group fights for more public funding and autonomy for charter schools in the city. Even the local board that regulates charter schools receives funding from the Walton Family Foundation.

So aside from the fact that this charter company uses novice, untrained, and cheaper, teachers (and most charters don’t have those pesky unions to negotiate a living wage and reasonable working hours), the Waltons have dumped $1.2 million on them.

and…

In Indiana, the 2013 state legislature added to the profitability of charters by forgiving more than $90 million in start up loans.

and…

KIPP schools get corporate subsidies and foundation grants…see HERE and HERE.

Yet all that extra money given to charters don’t make them better than real public schools. Charters don’t do better than traditional public schools…meanwhile the charter industry is increasing racial and economic segregation in the nation’s schools.

ACCOUNTABILITY COMES HOME

Charter schools use public funds…but are apparently running short. Perhaps it’s in the way they are handling their budget. Unfortunately, many charters spend public money without any public oversight…and today, Bill Moyers reported on fraud, mismanagement and waste.

Charter Schools Gone Wild: Study Finds Widespread Fraud, Mismanagement and Waste

According to the study, fraud and mismanagement of charter schools fall into six categories:

  • Charter operators using public funds illegally — outright embezzlement
  • Using tax dollars to illegally support other, non-educational businesses
  • Mismanagement that put children in potential danger
  • Charters illegally taking public dollars for services they didn’t provide
  • Charter operators inflating their enrollment numbers to boost revenues
  • General mismanagement of public funds

The report looks at problems in each of the 15 states it covers, with dozens of case studies. In some instances, charter operators used tax dollars to prop up side businesses like restaurants and health food stores — even a failing apartment complex.

TEACHER APPRECIATION CHARTER SCHOOLS WEEK

The Bush administration co-opted teacher appreciation week back in 2002 and President Obama continues the slap in the face of real public school teachers. In this year’s proclamation he wrote…

During National Charter Schools Week, we pay tribute to the role our Nation’s public charter schools play in advancing opportunity, and we salute the parents, educators, community leaders, policymakers, and philanthropists who gave rise to the charter school sector.

Let’s also pay tribute to the role charter schools play in increasing segregation, draining public funds away from real public schools, and filling the pockets of corporate cheaters.

For further reading: Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express To Fat City

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Filed under Charters, Obama, Privatization, WaltonFamilyFoundation

Segregation: 60 Years After Brown

In a few weeks we’ll mark the 60th anniversary of the (May 17,) 1954 school desegregation decision, Brown vs. Board of Education. Even after 60 years, however, the U.S. is still struggling with racism and segregation.

SPEAKING OUT AGAINST RACISM

Last weekend President Obama spoke out against the racism reflected by the comments of Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA franchise, Los Angeles Clippers.

Obama: Donald Sterling’s Racism Is Part Of ‘The Legacy Of Race And Slavery And Segregation’

“The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there, the vestiges of discrimination,” he said. “We’ve made enormous strides, but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often. And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out some much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves.” [emphasis added]

The President included segregation as one of the problems that still exists in America. Does he realize that his administration is contributing to the problem of segregation by forcing states to increase the number of charter schools?

Race to the Top, the Obama/Duncan plan to privatize America’s public schools, requires states to, among other things, increase charter school caps. Charter schools do not, in general, perform better than public schools, and are often worse. But what’s relevant to President Obama’s comments, though, is that charter schools are often responsible for increased racial segregation.

CHARTERS AND SEGREGATION

Charter Schools and the Risk of Increased Segregation

…the policy on charter schools remains a centerpiece of the administration’s initiatives (as it was, in a different form, in the Bush Administration), despite abundant evidence that the policy is inconsistent with the longstanding goal of promoting school integration.

Perhaps the increase in segregation is unintended. In 1954, Brown vs. Board of Education struck down the concept of separate but equal schools. States could no longer maintain separate facilities for students based on race. However, in 2007, the Court found that using race as a means to desegregate schools was also not allowed. This allowed continued de facto segregation. In other words, it is legal for schools to be segregated if the segregation is by, among other methods, “parental choice.” Whether segregation is desirable or not doesn’t seem to be an issue any more.

The fact is that desegregation worked — in that it helped the achievement of black students thereby reducing the racial achievement gap (The results were not universal, so desegregation alone is not sufficient to end the achievement gap, however, the gains made during the time the U.S. desegregated schools were real). The challenge to the nation today is to find a way to increase school integration without using race as a means to desegregation…

In any case, whether it is intended or not is irrelevant. School segregation is increasing and charter schools are contributing to the increase.

It is not that government has an agenda to increase segregation. Proponents of charter schools believe they’re giving low-income and minority students opportunities they otherwise would not have had. That belief is true in some cases; all charter schools do not result in segregation. But far too many do, and the trend is unfavorable. It takes a lot of care through targeted funding and oversight to mitigate the pressures that lead to yet more segregation. But whatever motivations drive the choices families and schools make, it is important that government does not exacerbate the problem of segregation by ignoring the unintended consequences of its policies. The risk is an increasingly divided public education system. [emphasis added]

It’s been asked before if President Obama is even aware of what his administration’s education policy is…what it expects the states to do…and its consequences — intended or unintended. Does he know that charter schools increase racial segregation?

A new round of segregation plays out in charter schools

The Civil Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles, which has documented charter school segregation for years, has found that in several western and southern states white students are disproportionately represented in charter schools. These patterns “suggest that charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools,” according to a 2010 report from the group.

Choice Without Equity:
 Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards

Seven years after the Civil Rights Project first documented extensive patterns of charter school segregation, the charter sector continues to stratify students by race, class and possibly language. This study is released at a time of mounting federal pressure to expand charter schools, despite on-going and accumulating evidence of charter school segregation.

Our analysis of the 40 states, the District of Columbia, and several dozen metropolitan areas with large enrollments of charter school students reveals that charter schools are more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the nation. While examples of truly diverse charter schools exist, our data show that these schools are not reflective of broader charter trends.

“The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there…”

Yes, Mr. President, it’s still there.

Related:

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~

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Filed under Charters, Duncan, Obama, Segregation