The speaker of the State Assembly in Wisconsin said the first thing on his agenda when the Legislature reconvenes will be a teacher accountability bill.

 

Tim Slekar, dean of Edgewood College, has a better idea: Why not start with a “legislator accountability bill”?

 

The speaker, Robin Vos, now wants reports on professors’ workload. Slekar says, Let’s check out your daily workload first. Let taxpayers know when and where you are actually working for us.

 

 

Alan Singer of Hofstra University is a Pearson-watcher, as we all should be. Pearson is the UK-based mega corporation that is swallowing up American educatiion. It creates assessments for many individual states (like Texas and New York) and Common Core PARCC. It writes curriculum for Common Core. It sells textbooks aligned with its tests. It owns the GED. It owns a virtual charter school chain called Connections Acadey. And it owns EdTPA, which evaluates whether aspiring teachers are qualified to teach.

Singer says that Pearson’s legal and financial troubles are piling up.

“Bad news for Pearson Education may be good news for the rest of us. The testing and publishing mega-giant is on the run, but it looks like it will not be able to hide. Pearson Education is closing its foundation; it is under investigation by the FBI for possible insider dealings in the Los Angeles iPad fiasco; the company is being sued by former employees for wrongful termination; and its PARCC exams are losing customers.”

Read on for the details.

Mercedes Schneider describes the remarkable shrinkage of states enrolled to give Pearson’s Common Core PARCC test from 2011-2014.

In 2011, Pearson boasted that 31 million students in 25 states plus D.C. Would take PARCC. By 2014, the numbers are down to 10 states and D.C. with 5 million students.

Politico.com asks whether Jeb Bush will be politically wounded by his punitive, privatizing education reform.

It is not just Common Core, which is under fire by many Republican governors and education activists and is slipping in the polls. It is also Bush’s love of high-stakes testing, his simplistic and punitive A-F school-grading system, and his coziness with profit-seeking corporations.

If Jeb Bush should run for President, this article bears re-reading.

Bush spoke at a rightwing policy conference in Michigan, where he “trashed” public schools.

“MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Jeb Bush praised charter schools and slammed traditional public schools and teachers unions in a speech here Wednesday, saying that public education “dumbs down standards to make adults look better,” a phrase often used by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“We must expand [school] choice,” said Bush, delivering a keynote speech at the annual Mackinac Policy Conference in northern Michigan. “Our governance model includes over 13,000 government-run monopolies run by unions.”

“Since he left office, the former Florida governor has become an evangelist for a certain strand of education reform; through his $19 million Foundation for Excellence in Education, he advocates for online education, grading schools based on test scores and forcing students to repeat grades if they don’t pass standardized exams.”

Bush is also an ardent fan of vouchers.

In his speech, he praised Michigan’s charter sector. Not everyone agrees with his enthusiasm. The Detroit Free Press ran a series of articles in July 2014 concluding that the state of Michigan spends $1 billion every year on charters with no accountability.

Here are the newspaper’s findings:

“What the Free Press found:

A yearlong Free Press investigation of Michigan’s charter schools found wasteful spending, conflicts of interest, poor performing schools and a failure to close the worst of the worst. Among the findings:

Charter schools spend $1billion per year in state taxpayer money, often with little transparency.

Some charter schools are innovative and have excellent academic outcomes — but those that don’t are allowed to stay open year after year.

A majority of the worst-ranked charter schools in Michigan have been open 10 years or more.

Charter schools as a whole fare no better than traditional schools in educating students in poverty.

Michigan has substantially more for-profit companies running schools than any other state.

Some charter school board members were forced out after demanding financial details from management companies.

State law does not prevent insider dealing and self-enrichment by those who operate schools.”

Anthony Cody <a href=”http://www.livingindialogue.com/pillars-reform-collapsing-reformers-contemplate-defeat that the so-called “reform movement” is collapsing. None of its strategies work.

1. TFA is having recruitment problems. Applications are down 25%. Criticism is coming from ex-corps members who realize they were ill-prepared.

2. Charter schools are no panacea, and many are struggling, even failing.

“But now charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate. Their plan is to “serve the strivers,” and let the rest flounder in an ever-more-burdened public system. The states where regulations are weakest, like Ohio, have charters that perform worse than the public schools, and even the self-described fan of free-markets, Margaret Raymond, lead researcher at CREDO, recently concluded that using market choice to improve schools has failed. In the state of Washington, where Bill Gates and other reform titans spent millions to pass a law allowing charter schools there, the first charter school to open is struggling to stay afloat, having suffered massive staff turnover in its first year. How ironic that 13 years after the corporate reformers labeled their flagship of reform “No Child Left Behind,” that now their leaders are left defending leaving behind the very children they claimed their project would save.”

3. The new and improved tests the reformers promised are not working well and are creating massive parental resistance.

4. VAM is not working anywhere.

5. Constant disruption may not be such a good strategy after all.

Cody sagely writes:

“It is perhaps a basic truth that it is easier to tear something down than to build something new. This may explain some of the trouble reformers are facing. Our schools are flawed in many ways, and do not deliver the sorts of opportunities we want all children to have access to. Racial and economic segregation, inequitable funding, and the replication of privilege are endemic — though truly addressing these issues will require change that goes far beyond the walls of our classrooms.

“Corporate-sponsored reformers have blamed the very institution of public education for these problems, and have set forth a set of alternatives and strategies to overcome social inequities. Here we are a decade into this project, and the alternative structures are collapsing, one by one.”

In response to two recent studies of Ohio charter schools, Governor John Kasich said that he would recommend stronger oversight of the state’s charters. This is noteworthy because charter operators have generously funded the campaigns of the governors and Republican legislators.

Critics of Ohio’s charter sector are skeptical. They note (off the record, of course) that the wealthiest charter operators have already made their campaign contributions for this election cycle. We will see if Governor Kasich proves them wrong.

 

The Columbus Dispatch wrote:

 

Gov. John Kasich pledged yesterday to crack down on shady Ohio charter-school operators in his upcoming budget proposal.

 

In a year-end speech to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the governor also threw out broad hints of possible tax changes, called for greater regulation on fracking wellheads and defended religious involvement in a new state-funded program with public schools.

 

“We are going to fix the lack of regulation on charter schools,” he said. “There is no excuse for people coming in here and taking advantage of anything. So we will be putting some tough rules into our budget.”

 

Two studies released this month blasted state laws and regulations that allow poor-performing Ohio charter schools to flourish and management companies to profit off the tax-funded privately operated schools. The studies showed that charter-school students receive fewer days of learning than youngsters at traditional public schools. Both reports were commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a pro-charter-school organization urging more accountability of charter schools.

 

Richard A. Ross, state schools superintendent, said court actions and “persuasiveness” have failed to fix problems with some charter-school operators.

 

The changes will seek to exert more state control over charter-school sponsors — “operationally, financially and educationally” — to ensure high-quality educations for charter students, Ross said.

 

 

Yesterday, I posted a letter written on behalf of Governor Cuomo by the director of state operations, Jim Malatros. The governor wants to know what should be done about the bad teachers, especially in “deplorable” districts like Buffalo.

Here is an answer from a teacher in Buffalo, posted as a comment on the original:

“As one of those teachers from a”deplorable Buffalo priority school who has condemned a generation of kids to poor education and thus poor life prospects” I take great offense to Mr. Malatras’ comments. Our school is primarily failing because 70% of our students are ELLs who have arrived at our high school without the prior academics needed for success in high school. 30% of our students have little or no literacy in their primary language and many have never been in a school setting until they enter our 9th grade cohort. NYSED has consistently ignored their needs of first learning the English language, learning to read and acquire math literacy before they take the grade/subject level Regents exams. How about letting us provide our students with a strong foundation before condemning us as “bad” teachers because these students are unable to make the grade? In a school with about 800 students, we have been allocated a single reading specialist. Time and time again, research has shown that it takes 7 years for older students to master English and yet you (NYSED) have only allowed an extra year for our SIFE students to get up to speed in school. How about looking at how your unrealistic expectations have created poor life prospects, along with the poverty and inequity of financing our inner city schools that have contributed immensely to the problem?”

Anyone who criticizes the current regime of test-based accountability is inevitably asked: What would you replace it with? Test-based accountability fails because it is based on a lack of trust in professionals. It fails because it confuses measurement with instruction. No doctor ever said to a sick patient, “Go home, take your temperature hourly, and call me in a month.” Measurement is not a treatment or a cure. It is measurement. It doesn’t close gaps: it measures them.

Here is a sound alternative approach to accountability, written by a group of teachers whose collective experience is 275 years in the classroom. Over 900 teachers contributed ideas to the plan. It is a new vision that holds all actors responsible for the full development and education of children, acknowledging that every child is a unique individual.

Its key features:

1. Shared responsibility, not blame

2. Educate the whole child

3. Full and adequate funding for all schools, with less emphasis on standardized testing

4. Teacher autonomy and professionalism

5. A shift from evaluation to support

6. Recognition that in education one size does not fit all

Jim Malatras, the director of state operations for Governor Cuomo in New York, recently sent a letter to Merryl Tisch, the chair of the state Board of Regents, and to the outgoing Commissioner of Education John King.

 

The letter asks a series of questions about the future direction of education in New York. It does not mention resources, because the Governor believes that New York spends enough or too much already. It does not mention resource equity, which is unfortunate, since New York has a highly inequitable funding structure. Nor does the letter mention poverty or segregation, which are known to be highly correlated with low test scores. Every standardized test shows a gap between haves and have-nots, but Mr. Malatras does not mention any action that might improve the life chances of children and families living in poverty. A recent report from the UCLA Civil Rights Project said that New York state has the most racially segregated schools in the nation, but that is not mentioned in this letter.

 

Please read the letter and feel welcome to offer your answers to the questions posed in it.

 

 

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