Egged on by Governor Chris Christie, the privatization movement has targeted Camden, Néw Jersey.

The following comes from Julia Sass Rubin is Save Our Schools Néw Jersey:

Dear all,

Save Our Schools NJ and Education Law Center are working with Camden parents to keep Camden public education from being wholesale forcibly privatized via the KIPP, Uncommon and Mastery charter chains.

Could you please help us get the word out?

Here’s the link, with the contents posted below:

The forced privatization reflects the evil alignment of the Christie Administration, which sees the privatization and the “supposed” lack of resistance by the city’s residents as a good national campaign issue http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/09/09/on-visit-to-camden-schools-christie-jabs-at-problems-in-newark-district/ and the corrupt South Jersey democratic machine of George Norcross, who sees the privatization as a way of gentrifying Camden and making lots more money.

Camden parents filed a lawsuit in late August to try and stop this forced privatization:

http://www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/local/south-jersey/2014/09/04/camden-parents-sue-renaissance-schools/15076251/

Any help you can give us in getting the word out is much appreciated!

Thank you very much!!!

Julia

PARENT ADVOCATES CALL ON LEGISLATURE TO HALT UNPRECEDENTED EXPANSION OF UNACCOUNTABLE CHARTER CHAINS IN CAMDEN

NJ Senate President Stephen Sweeney is poised to pass S2264, legislation that amends the 2013 Urban Hope Act in order to accommodate illegally approved renaissance charter schools in Camden. Senator Sweeney is bringing this legislation to a full Senate vote on Monday, September 22, without first introducing it in committee. This legislation was already snuck through the Legislature once in late June.

“The handwriting is on the wall,” said Susan Cauldwell, Executive Director of Save Our Schools NJ Community Organizing.

“If the legislature allows this undemocratic transfer of Camden public education to private control, district schools will be forced to close, and the education of Camden schoolchildren and the oversight of hundreds of millions of our tax dollars will be in the hands of entities that are unaccountable to New Jersey families and taxpayers.”

“The people of New Jersey deserve more transparency and accountability from their elected officials, especially when our children’s futures are at stake,” Ms. Cauldwell added.

Last spring, Commissioner of Education David Hespe approved renaissance school proposals submitted by out-of-state charter chains, Mastery and Uncommon, knowing they did not comply with the current Urban Hope Act law.

Save Our Schools NJ objected to the illegal Mastery and Uncommon approvals in three letters to the Commissioner. In what appears to be an acknowledgment of the validity of these objections, a bill amending the Urban Hope Act to allow some of Mastery and Uncommon’s illegal activity, was quickly passed through the Legislature in late June. That bill was vetoed by the Governor.

In August, after Senator Sweeney indicated that he would support a reintroduction of this legislation, Save Our Schools NJ and the Education Law Center sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto calling on him to reject the new UHA legislation. The two organizations recently sent the same letter to all State Legislators (please see below).

“The Camden school district currently turns over $72 million, or 26% of its budget, to charters, because of the new KIPP, Mastery and Uncommon schools that have opened this year. That number will continue to grow,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “We urge Legislators to oppose any expansion of the Urban Hope Act. The purpose of the act was to encourage construction of new school buildings in Camden, not to privatize public education in the district.”

LETTER TO LEGISLATORS

Dear Senator,

We urge you to vote no on Senate Bill 2264, scheduled for a full Senate vote on Monday, September 22!

This legislation extends by one year the Urban Hope program, which allows up to four private, non-profit organizations to open and operate multiple schools in Camden. This legislation also allows these organizations to open schools in temporary facilities, expanding the Urban Hope Act far beyond its intended scope of authorizing only “newly constructed” renaissance school projects.

We strongly oppose this bill because it expedites and further facilitates an unprecedented and unaccountable transfer of public education in Camden from public to private control, under the Urban Hope Act.

Governor Chris Christie’s administration has approved, behind closed doors, three renaissance projects for out-of-state charter chains over the last year. These approvals have set in motion dramatic changes that will result in the hyper-segregation of Camden students; the closing of many of Camden’s district and “homegrown” charter schools; and a near complete absence of accountability for hundreds of millions of New Jersey tax dollars.

1) Transfer of Public Education to Out-Of-State Private Charter Chains

In early July, the Commissioner of Education approved applications for renaissance schools from the Mastery and Uncommon charter chains. Mastery is based in Philadelphia, and Uncommon in New York. The Commissioner authorized these chains to open 11 schools serving 6,194 Camden students. In 2013, the former Commissioner authorized the KIPP charter chain, also based in New York, to open 5 schools serving 2,300 students.

Thus, under the Urban Hope Act, the Christie Administration has given the green light to three charter chains – KIPP, Master and Uncommon – to open 16 schools serving 9,214 Camden students over the next several years. This constitutes 62% of the approximately 15,000 students that attended Camden’s 26 district-operated neighborhood and magnet schools and 13 “locally-grown” charter schools during the 2013-14 academic year.

2) Hyper-Segregation of the Camden Student Population

These charter chains have a poor track record of serving very low-income students, English language learners, students with disabilities, and students at-risk of failure and with other special needs. As a result, the district would be left to educate, with a severely diminished budget, the most academically challenged students, whom the charters chains are either unwilling or unable to serve.

3) Closing of Camden’s District and Charter Schools

As Mastery, KIPP and Uncommon open schools and increase enrollment, the State-operated district will close many, if not most, of the 26 schools currently in operation. The State in recent months closed two charter schools. It is likely that more of these “homegrown” charters also will be closed.

4) Absence of Fiscal and Educational Accountability

The system created by the Urban Hope Act is shockingly lacking in accountability. It relegates the State-operated Camden district solely to the task of transferring enormous amounts of school funding to Mastery, KIPP and Uncommon Schools. In fact, the district’s 2014-15 budget already shows a nearly 30% projected increase in payments to charter schools, from $55.5 million to $72 million, as a result of the opening of the first KIPP, Mastery and Uncommon schools. This amount equals approximately 26% of the Camden district’s FY15 budget and will only increase in the coming years.

Aside from a cursory review by the Commissioner of Education every two years, the renaissance chains also are exempt from the State accountability and oversight requirements applicable to district and charter schools. Instead, responsibility for the education of Camden’s children and the effective and efficient use of hundreds of millions in New Jersey tax dollars would shift to the boards of trustees of the private charter chains. The Urban Hope legislation does not indicate how these organizations would be held accountable for providing a “thorough and efficient” education not just for some, but for the majority of Camden’s schoolchildren.

The Urban Hope Act has been used in Camden to serve a purpose far beyond its intent of creating four newly constructed school projects. Rather, it has been used to remake public education, shifting governance and control over the city’s schools to private organizations based outside New Jersey. This has occurred with almost no information about the specifics of the State’s plans, no meaningful opportunity for parent and community input, and no assurance of accountability going forward.

For these reasons, we oppose any further expansion or extension of the Urban Hope Act. We also urge the Joint Committee on the Public Schools to conduct investigative hearings into the Commissioners’ decisions allowing the Mastery, Uncommon and KIPP chains to, in effect, take over public education in Camden and to determine if any steps can now be taken to address the impact of these decisions on students and schools in the State-operated district.

Sincerely,

David Sciarra
Executive Director
Education Law Center

Susan Cauldwell
Executive Director
Save Our Schools
NJ Community Organizing

Jumoke Academy, once the star charter school of Governor Malloy and State Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, paid over $1 million to the husband of an executive for renovations, according to the Hartford Courant.

“HARTFORD — The Jumoke Academy charter school organization, now facing a state probe into allegations of nepotism, directed more than a million dollars in construction work to the husband of one of its executives, a Courant investigation has found.

“Jumoke’s payments to HSK Home Improvements included at least $85,000 in state grant money used to renovate a Victorian mansion and convert its second floor into an apartment later occupied by the charter group’s longtime leader, Michael M. Sharpe. The apartment, built in 2012 to Sharpe’s specifications, featured a new $12,000 master bathroom with a custom glass shower door.

“State records show HSK Home Improvements is owned by Kenneth Hollis and operated out of his East Hartford home. His wife, Anette Hollis, served as Jumoke’s facilities director and later became chief operating officer of Family Urban Schools of Excellence, the charter management group that ran Jumoke’s schools after Sharpe founded FUSE in 2012.

“Anette Hollis, who lost her job when FUSE collapsed this summer, said in August that she had no role in any of the work her husband performed for Jumoke, “because it was obviously a conflict of interest.”

“But Jumoke financial records show more than $26,000 in purchase orders for HSK that bear her name; among them, a $1,615 job in July 2011 that included painting her office. Anette Hollis did not respond to a subsequent request for comment.

“Kenneth Hollis was most active at Jumoke in 2012 and 2013, when his company received about $540,000 from the state-funded charter operation. But records obtained from Jumoke through a Freedom of Information request show that HSK has performed work for the organization dating back to at least 2000 and has been paid more than $1 million in total.”

This note of alarm comes from Denis Smith, a retired consultant in the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school office:

 

 
On Tuesday, September 23, the Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments in the notorious White Hat Management case, where the boards of 10 charter schools operated by White Hat Management have sued the operator to assert their right to control the physical assets of the schools. White Hat says that since it is the operator, all tangible property (student and office furniture, equipment, books and supplies) belongs to the company, while the boards maintain that the assets belong to the individual schools.

 

If White Hat wins, this means that upon the closure of any of these charter schools, the operator can sell or auction off this property and maintain the proceeds rather than returning the funds to the state through the normal liquidation process for public proerty.

 

What is disgraceful is that Ohio’s chief legal officer, Attorney General Mike DeWine, has failed to file an amicus brief on behalf of the Ohio Department of Education, and therefore has decided not to join the argument that the property, bought with state funds, belongs to the public rather than the company.

 

But what is even more disgraceful is that only the Ohio School Boards Association has filed an amicus brief in the case, supporting the schools’ contention that the company has no right to these physical assets purchased with state tax funds.

 

So the questions are:
Where is the Ohio Education Association in this case?
Where is the Ohio Federation of Teachers in this case?
Where is the Buckeye Association of School Administrators?
Where is the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators?
Where is the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators?
Where is the Ohio Association of School Business Officials?
Where is Ohio ASCD?
If you belong to any of these organizations, would you consider calling them tomorrow or contacting them TODAY via email to find out why they are AWOL in this case that affects the very future of public education?

 

When I found out about all of these organizations being AWOL after being on the road for two weeks, I was outraged. I hope you might be as well. Needless to say, White Hat has the support of several charter school organizations in this case, but public education organizations, save the Ohio School Boards Association, are absent.

 

This is absolutely shameful.

 

What are professional dues for? What is the reason these organizations exist?

 

If you’re not outraged about this, you haven’t been paying attention. To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of all of us in the education community.

 

http://www.dispatch.com/content/blogs/the-daily-briefing/2014/08/08.25.2014-animus-about-amicus.html

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/09/09/Pepper_on_charter_schools.html

Ken Futernick, a wise educator who has written about the improvement of the teaching profession for many years, has a brilliant article in the Los Angeles Times about “grand bargain” post-Vergara. Futernick testified for the state in the Vergara trial. He has long understood that schools in urban districts with low scores often have poor working conditions, inadequate resources, and high teacher turnover.

The term “grand bargain” typically refers to compromises by warring parties. In this case, he has laid out a program that all states can learn from.

He writes:

“Unless it’s overturned on appeal, the Los Angeles Superior Court’s June decision in Vergara vs. California making it much easier to fire teachers will hurt students if lawmakers, unions and other state education leaders don’t move beyond its limited focus and address the many factors that adversely affect student learning and teacher performance.

“Stakeholders must come together around a “grand bargain” that would address not only teacher incompetence but all the obstacles educators face that, in the end, prevent many students from learning.”

Making it easier to fire “bad teachers” won’t make it easier to hire good ones.

“To be sure, many of those who teach in poor neighborhoods don’t have the same effect on test scores as those who teach in wealthier schools. But most schools that serve poor and minority students — those with high concentrations of English learners, transient students, students with health problems and so on — have fewer resources to meet students’ many needs, larger class sizes and inadequate materials and facilities. In addition, they are staffed with many beginning teachers who turn over at high rates. Not surprisingly, student achievement suffers.

“Also, schools that serve poor students routinely assign teachers to subjects in which they have no expertise. For instance, a 2008 study showed that 27% of math courses in schools serving poor students were taught by teachers who were not qualified to teach math.

“Why are schools that serve poor and minority students overstaffed with inexperienced and out-of-field teachers? Most teachers seek to make a difference and are eager to teach disadvantaged students. But many don’t want to teach in such schools because most of them are extraordinarily difficult, dysfunctional places to work. The teachers there suffer from poor professional support, low morale, run-down facilities, a revolving door of principals and unrelenting accountability pressures.

“Ineffectiveness in the classroom often does not derive from incompetence.

“Consequently, administrators in these schools can’t attract and keep enough well-qualified, experienced teachers. That, in turn, highlights another critical flaw in the judge’s decision — the assumption that these schools can find suitable replacements for fired teachers. Quite the contrary, and administrators’ power to fire teachers without real due process will only exacerbate the teacher recruitment problem….

“For starters, the state should develop a new teacher dismissal process that is fair and efficient. It should not take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to fire an ineffective teacher if he or she has been given a reasonable chance to improve, has been carefully evaluated and hasn’t done better.

“[Governor Jerry] Brown signed legislation this year that provides a fair and efficient way to adjudicate cases of gross teacher misconduct. Education leaders should develop a similar way to handle cases of teacher incompetence. They also should develop solutions for the other statutes that the court struck down, such as the one that allowed teachers with more seniority to keep their jobs during layoffs. California could do what other states have done, recognize experience along with other factors in making layoff decisions.

“But California must have a solid due process system for teachers, and contrary to popular belief, that’s all that tenure provides. Without a reliable way to determine whether a teacher is truly incompetent, the state will return to an era when employment decisions were fraught with abuse that included higher-salaried, experienced teachers replaced with less-expensive beginners and competent teachers fired because of their political or religious views.”

“Here is the framework Futernick suggests for a “grand bargain”:

“*The state must develop a robust teacher evaluation framework designed to help all teachers improve, not just to identify low performers. Such systems would ensure that principals and other evaluators have the time and training needed to conduct meaningful evaluations.

“*The state should build on the successful peer assistance and review programs that exist in places such as Poway Unified and San Juan Unified. These programs provide high-quality support to struggling teachers. Most participating teachers improve; those who don’t either leave voluntarily or are dismissed without grievances and expensive lawsuits.

“*The state and school districts must improve the conditions in hard-to-staff schools to attract and retain the best teaching candidates and the strongest principals. Among other things, these schools need high-quality professional development, time for teachers to plan and collaborate, and the authority to make professional decisions.”

Without adequate resources, changes in the law will be a hollow promise.

In 2001, Congress passed a law called No Child Left Behind. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January 2002. It is the worst federal education legislation ever passed. It required that 100% of children in grades 3-8 must be proficient by 2014 or their schools are failing and subject to harsh sanctions. In no nation in the world are 100% of children proficient. This is an impossible goal. Yet many schools have been closed, many educators fired, because they could not do the impossible.

Although NCLB should have been re authorized in 2007, Congress has been unable to agree on how to change it. It should have been scrapped. Accountability should be the job of the states, not the federal government.

Into the stalemate over NCLB stepped our present Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who offered waivers from the 2014 deadline to states that agreed to evaluate their teachers based on their students’ test scores. States lined up to seek waivers. Washington State, however, asked for a waiver but the Legislature refused to evaluate teachers by test scores. Many studies have shown that this a fundamentally flawed way of evaluating teachers. But Duncan stuck to his guns, oblivious to the research. He decreed that Washington State would lose its waiver. That men’s that every school in the state is a failing school and must inform parents that their child attends a failing school.

:

Educators in Washington State have written a plea to Arne Duncan not to rescind the state’s waiver from what is, in fact, a ridiculous law. They have a petition and invite you to support them by signing it.

Here is their press release:

This year, most school districts across Washington state were forced by Secretary Arne Duncan’s selective enforcement of the No Child Left Behind Act to send letters to all parents that labeled our schools as failures. We are parents, teachers, students and community members who reject this label that has been placed on our schools.

We know that our schools are not failures. In fact, their accomplishments have been remarkable, especially given the deeply flawed policy imposed on them by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). While there are certainly changes needed for our schools – many due to the legacy of racism, class inequality, and lack of equitable funding for our schools – we believe that those changes should be directed by communities that make up local school districts, not by top-down mandates. This website will share stories and testimonials about the great things that are happening in our schools that should be supported and connect our communities so that we can organize opposition to Arne Duncan’s policies and No Child Left Behind.

According to NCLB, our schools should have had 100% of students test at proficient levels in reading and math by 2014. No county, no state, and no school district has ever achieved 100% proficiency on standardized tests and, in fact, the way the tests are designed make it statistically impossible to achieve that goal. Washington, like many other states, originally had a waiver in place that would have exempted it from this absurd NCLB mandate. However, when the state legislature refused to pass bills tying teacher evaluations to test scores (following overwhelming evidence that this would not improve teaching or learning), Arne Duncan chose to punish Washington state by revoking the waiver. With the waiver gone, nearly all of Washington’s schools have been labeled failures, we may lose control of millions of dollars in federal money, and some schools will be at risk of state takeovers and mass layoffs of teachers.

This kind of political game-playing has no place in our schools. Our schools and teachers should not be labeled as failures simply because we have rejected extremely flawed education policies. In August 2014, 28 school superintendents from around the state authored a letter, where they declared that their schools’ successes are not reflected in these ratings and criticized No Child Left Behind. We agree. It’s time for the voices of parents, teachers and students to be heard and respected.

If you have a story to share about why your school is not a failure, tell us here.

Also, sign our petition to reinstate the NCLB waiver for Washington state.

Endorsed by:

Parents Across America (PAA)
Seattle Education Website
Social Equality Educators (SEE)
Wayne Au, PhD, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Washington Bothell*
Jesse Hagopian, Teacher, Garfield High School*
Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council member*
Sue Peters, Seattle School Board Director*
Melissa Westbrook, Seattle Schools Community Forum

*For identification purposes only

Laura H. Chapman gives more examples of the distortion and corruption of education practice amd policy by econometric language.

Students are performing on grade level if their scores on a standardized test are at or above the median on a percentile scale (1-99). On a large-scale test, a score at or near the 50th percentile (the median) will usually classify a student as proficient in the skills and subject matter on the test.

Expected growth means that gain-scores of students (on tests in a single subject, such as math or art) are staying in about the same location in a distribution from year to year—below average, average, or above average. For a large number of students, the distribution is likely to resemble a bell or normal curve.

Predicted growth is an inference about a student’s future gain-score, derived from a linear regression analysis of two or more years of that student’s gain-scores. This analysis assumes that past performance will predict future performance. Perhaps, but in education, this is a dismal assumption. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The assumption is so risky that almost every corporate report begins with this caveat: Past performance does not predict future performance.

A student is said to have achieved a year’s worth of growth if his or her gain-score on a test of proficiency is equal to, or greater than, the gain-score made by a 50th percentile student. The same measure is applied to teachers. Teachers in some districts are rated highly effective only if all or most of their students have gain-scores of more than a year’s worth of growth.

References to a year’s worth of growth are fundamentally misleading because the common mental picture of a calendar year is different from a school year (typically 180 days); an instructional year (typically 172 days); and a typical accountability year (130 days from pre-test to post-test).

Academic peers are students whose test scores in a given year are the same or nearly the same. This concept permits comparisons of their gain-scores from the prior year to the current year. Students who make greater gains than their academic peers have an accelerated growth trajectory. Students who fall behind their academic peers need remedial work to keep up. The average of the gain-scores for academic peers in a teacher’s classes is typically used as a measure of the teacher’s productivity and effectiveness. This use requires a studied indifference to other influences on test scores.

A growth trajectory needs a target. Targets for learning need to be set using baseline data so the instruction offered to each student, during a known interval of time, is efficient and has a measurable impact on student learning. Meeting targets for learning is analogous to meeting a sales target or a production quota by a date certain.

Teachers and others who say they are “impacting the growth of their students” are not think-ing about the meaning of words. They are parroting econometric jargon.

Experts associated with Metametrics hope to set growth velocity standards. They describe their theoretical mapping of “aspirational trajectories toward graduation targets” in reading skills as analogous to “modifying the height, velocity, or acceleration respec-tively of a projectile launched in the physical world.” They seek greater precision in setting targets and cut scores for grade-to-grade progress in meeting the CCSS. (Williamson, G. L., Fitzgerald, J., & Stenner, A. J. (2013). The Common Core State Standards’ quanti-tative text complexity trajectory figuring out how much complexity is enough. Educational Researcher, 42(2), 59-69.).

Calibration refers to the quest for precision and consistency in measurement in the context of just-in-time delivery of a result, especially manufacturing.. In education, the term means that evaluators and other monitors have followed specifications in rating performances, presentations, processes, and products. Calibration events are training sessions intended to standardize how raters use or interpret language and to verify that rules for making judgments have been followed with fidelity. Such events are also called trainings or calibrations.

Audits are conducted to verify that calibrations are not needed, that rules have been followed, that data are free of ambiguity, and that low-inference definitions of performances and metrics are used consistently. Questions about the validity of the metrics may be ignored.

Bring to scale means that an educational policy, practice, or product is believed to merit replication in multiple locations, as in manufacturing and franchise systems for a mass market.

Many years ago, I first heard the term “semantic infiltration.” It was used to refer to the way that words, when used often enough, can become reality, even when we don’t agree with the “reality.” LauraChapman describes the way that technocratic language has corrupted education by inserting its language into the ways we think about children and learning.

She writes:

An economic concept of growth as a “measurable gain” has migrated into federal policies for education. The policy impulse is to simplify the multifaceted character of education and treat the enterprise of teaching and learning as a business in need of proper management to get results. The desired results are defined by forms of learning that can be measured and with a calculation of the rate of learning within a year and year-to-year, comparable to knowing whether profits are increasing—on a trajectory of growth or not.

This economic concept of growth as a “rate of increase” now overrides the educational meanings of human growth and learning—as a multifaceted, dynamic, and interactive process with daily surprises and influences from many sources.

Federal policies treat the economic meaning of growth as a virtue and as an imperative for accountability. This “accountability imperative” is evident in key definitions within RttT regulations and other grant programs. Federal Register. (2009, November 18). Rules and regulations Department of Education: Final Definitions. 74 (221-34), 559751-52.

“Student achievement means (a) For tested grades and subjects: (1) A student’s score on the State’s assessments under the ESEA; and, as appropriate, (2) other measures of student learning, such as those described in paragraph (b) of this definition, provided they are rigorous and comparable across classrooms. (b) For non-tested grades and subjects: Alternative measures of student learning and performance such as student scores on pre-tests and end-of-course tests; student performance on English language proficiency assessments; and other measures of student achievement that are rigorous and comparable across classrooms.”

“Student growth means the change in student achievement for an individual student between two or more points in time.”

“Rigorous” means “statistically rigorous.” Federal Register. (2009, July, 29). Notices 74(144), 37803-37. Retrieved from the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID:fr29jy09-148]

The federal definition of an “effective” teacher requires attention to the rates at which student’s scores increase.

“Effective teacher means a teacher whose students achieve acceptable rates (e.g., at least one grade level in an academic year) of student growth (as defined in this notice).

“Highly effective teacher means a teacher whose students achieve high rates (e.g., one and one-half grade levels in an academic year) of student growth (as defined in this notice.”

If should be obvious that calculations to determine “rates” of growth depend on a data system that matches the test scores of individual students and the “teacher of record” for a given student and test. Gates and USDE have poured millions into getting data systems linked and free of crud that will compromise the metrics for accounting.

These integrity of data in these records serve as “baselines” for estimates of the “value-added” by a teacher to the scores of their students and various sub-groups. VAM produce these estimates. SLOs (student learning objectives) are a proxy for VAM until statewide tests for nontested subjects are developed.

Federal definitions mandate “comparable” ratings of teachers regardless of the grade or subject. Learning a foreign language, or math, or learning in dance must be made to look comparable. The bean counters, and bookeepers, and accountants, and statisticians can’t deal with qualitative differences.

Federal policy makers have sought to “normalize” the idea that economic growth is the same as “student growth’ and just an extension of the longstanding metaphor of teaching as nurture, cultivation, gardening (kindergarten)—a child’s garden.

Today, almost every teacher who uses the phrase “student growth” in connection with evaluation has been infected with the federal definition.

Some value-added experts love this easy conflating of the meanings of growth because it makes the convoluted metrics for VAM and SLOs easier to sell… And the silly oak tree analogy one means of doing so. See. http://www.varc.wceruw.org/tutorials/Oak/index.htm

A friend who moved to Maine sent me this lovely post about the first day of school at the two-room Ashley Bryan school, where children from two neighboring islands join to form a tiny school. It is an exciting day for everyone, children, parents, and community members. Even Ashley Bryan, Maine artist, was there to greet the children.

“It has become a tradition for parents and townspeople to gather in the schoolyard as students arrive for their first day at the two room Ashley Bryan School. Everyone is there to wish them well, to see who the new students are, and to feel good about our special island school and its community support.

“The crew from Great Cranberry arrives by boat and begins the short walk up from the dock. There are 6 students from Great Cranberry and one teacher and one aide who travel by boat every morning. This morning there were also all of the teachers for Art, Music, Phys. Ed and French. The principal was there too. It made for a solid group of educational energy surrounding the school. The inter island students were all happy to reconnect after a busy summer. All around the school yard parents of students, and other community members want to celebrate what a unique school we have.”

There are 16 students in grades K-8, representing every grade but 7. The pictures evoke a foggy island day.

“Teachers Lauren and Audrey asked people to exuberantly make suggestions of goals for the year and then Ashley Bryan read them out and worried that the students will have to work too hard to learn all of these things! I don’t know if you can zoom in on the list, but the suggestions are things like: Laughter, building, discovery, adventure, wonder, fun, awesomeness, cooperation and friendship.”

The children gathered for a group photograph. Then everyone gathered for a community photograph.

Think of it. Somewhere in our great nation, there are remote communities like this where no one worries about VAM and all the other nonsense now raining down on teachers and children. Arne won’t be closing Ashley Bryan. Nice goals for the year.

Marc Tucker recently published a position paper arguing that our current system of test-based accountability, testing every student every year in grades 3-8, has failed and that we need a new approach. His approach, as Anthony Cody argued, would test at transition points but would still have high stakes and would test more subjects. Tucker wrote a post criticizing Cody and me and arguing that high-stakes testing is necessary to raise test scores and improve education.

Yong Zhao here weighs in with a brilliant response to Tucker, sharply disagreeing with him on the value of high-stakes testing.

Zhao points to Tucker’s inconsistency thus:

“Why does one who condemns test-based accountability system so much want more test-based accountability? The inconsistency exemplified by Marc Tucker does not make sense to me at all. Yet it is widespread so it must make sense in some way. I try to put myself in the shoes of Tucker and other similarly minded people and learned the chain of reasoning underlying their inconsistency:

“Premise #1: Education quality matters to individual and national prosperity.

“Premise #2: Education is a top-down process through which students are instilled the prescribed content and skills (curriculum) deemed universally valuable by some sort of authority.

“Premise #3: Teachers and schools are responsible for the quality of education, i.e., instilling in students the prescribed knowledge and skills.

“Premise #4: How well students master the prescribed knowledge and content is measured by tests.

“Conclusion #1: Thus test scores measure the quality of education, and thus the capacity for individuals and nations to be economically prosperous.

“Conclusion #2: American students have lower test scores on some international tests, thus American schools offer a lower quality education than countries with higher test scores.

“Conclusion #3: Therefore, American teachers must be less effective than their counterparts in other countries.

“Conclusion #4: Therefore, to prepare Americans to succeed in the global economy, American teachers and schools must be held accountable for improving the quality of education, which is to raise test scores (Tucker’s goal: “the only acceptable target for the United States is to be among the top ten performers in the world” [I assume top 10 on the PISA league table]).

“Conclusion #5: Hence we must improve the test-based accountability system, which then leads to higher quality education, which then leads to economic prosperity.

“Bait and Switch

“Marc Tucker’s objection to Anthony Cody’s questioning his assertion that “the economic future of our students will only be guaranteed if we educate them better” is a standard bait-and-switch tactic, playing with the afore-mentioned logic. It starts with the premises. Education is a term that has a positive connotation, but in practice it has many different, sometimes, contradictory, incarnations, in the same way the word “democracy” is used in reality. For example, some of the worst dictatorial countries claim to be democratic. Thus whether education matters to the prosperity of individuals and nations depends entirely on what it means.

He concludes:

“When economies change, as Tucker notes, so fast and on a global scale, it has become even more difficult to predict the skills and knowledge that matters in the future. But one thing seems to be clear. Even if Americans are equipped with the same skills and knowledge as Chinese and Indians, America’s favorite competitors, Americans won’t have an economic advantage simply because it costs much less for these countries to develop the same skills. So more of the same skills and knowledge won’t work, neither will the same education. America does not need a quantitatively better education, it needs a different kind of education.

“There are of course other problems with Tucker’s chain of reasoning; for example, are American teachers truly worse educators than their counterparts in other countries? Again it depends on the definition of education. Is education about test scores? Or is it about cultivating diverse, creative, passionate, and curious innovators and entrepreneurs?

“Tucker has much faith in this plan. “We know this form of accountability will work because it is already working at a national scale in the countries that are outperforming us.” Even if Tucker were right, America will at best outperform the top performing country—China. But is that what we want? My answer is NO and my reasons are in my book ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World.'”

It is not bad enough that Governor Tom Corbett and the Pennsylvania legislature are starving the Philadelphia public schools of basic necessities. Here comes the charter lobby to launch an expensive media campaign to persuade parents to pull their kids out of the public schools and put them into charters.

Politico reports:

“SCHOOL CHOICE HITS THE AIRWAVES: Proponents of school choice have launched a major PR blitz in Philadelphia. For the next four weeks, they’ll saturate both morning TV and the evening news, on all four major channels, with 30-second spots featuring parents talking about why their kids are thriving in charter schools. Similar messages will pop up on Twitter and in web ads, and organizers are considering adding radio, too. The goal: Prod civic leaders and school officials to open up the system by making it easier for students to transfer among district-run schools – and, above all, by authorizing more privately-run charters. The campaign is organized by Choice Media, a nonprofit news service that focuses heavily on school choice. Executive director Bob Bowdon won’t name his funders; he told Morning Education that he wants to keep the focus on parents and students, not the money behind the (decidedly pricey) campaign. Watch the ads:http://bit.ly/1s9H2rw and http://bit.ly/1pkXhKG”

Bob Bowdon is a choice zealot. in 2009, he produced a movie called “The Cartel,” mostly about public education in New Jersey. He portrayed the teachers’ union as akin to a mafia-type organization and the public schools as rife with corruption. His solution: vouchers and charters. He surely won’t mention the 18 Philadelphia charter schools that were the subject of federal investigation for financial mis dealing.

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