I read Jeff Bryant’s interview with the President-elect of NEA, Lily Eskelsen, and I think I love her.

She is smart, strong, and she doesn’t mince words.

She was a classroom teacher for many years, and she speaks from experience teaching many kinds of kids, including kids in special education and kids in a homeless shelter.

She knows that VAM is ridiculous.

She knows that tests can be valuable when used for diagnostic purposes, but harmful when used to pin a ranking on students, teachers, principals, and schools.

She gets it.

Here is a small part of the interview. Jeff asked why NEA delegates voted for a resolution calling on Duncan to resign.

“Bryant: So what’s the frustration for teachers?

“Eskelsen: Here’s the frustration – and I’m not blaming the delegates; I will own this; I share in their anger. The Department of Education has become an evidence-free zone when it comes to high stakes decisions being made on the basis of cut scores on standardized tests. We can go back and forth about interpretations of the department’s policies, like, for instance, the situation in Florida where teachers are being evaluated on the basis of test scores of students they don’t even teach. He, in fact, admitted that was totally stupid. But he needs to understand that Florida did that because they were encouraged in their applications for grant money and regulation waivers to do so. When his department requires that state departments of education have to make sure all their teachers are being judged by students’ standardized test scores, then the state departments just start making stuff up. And it’s stupid. It’s absurd. It’s non-defensible. And his department didn’t reject applications based on their absurd requirements for testing. It made the requirement that all teachers be evaluated on the basis of tests a threshold that every application had to cross over. That’s indefensible.

“Bryant: So any good the Obama administration has tried to accomplish for education has been offset by the bad?

“Eskelsen: Yes. Sure, we get pre-K dollars and Head Start, but it’s being used to teach little kids to bubble in tests so their teachers can be evaluated. And we get policies to promote affordable college, but no one graduating from high school gets an education that has supported critical and creative thinking that is essential to succeeding in college because their education has consisted of test-prep from Rupert Murdoch. The testing is corrupting what it means to teach. I don’t celebrate when test scores go up. I think of El Paso. Those test scores went up overnight. But they cheated kids out of their futures. Sure, you can “light a fire” and “find a way” for scores to go up, but it’s a way through the kids that narrows their curriculum and strips their education of things like art and recess.

“Bryant: Doesn’t Duncan understand that?

“Eskelsen: No. That reality hasn’t entered the culture of the Department of Education. They still don’t get that when you do a whole lot of things on the periphery, but you’re still judging success by a cut score on a standardized test and judging “effective” teachers on a standardized test, then you will corrupt anything good that you try to accomplish.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Julian Vinocur, julian@aqeny.org, 212-328-9268
Maria Bautista, maria@aqeny.org, 347-622-9706

*** Media Advisory for July 31st, 4:15pm, Outside Colbert Report Studio Taping 513 West 54th St.***

Parents and Teachers to Protest Campbell Brown’s Appearance On Colbert Report

Growing Outrage Over Brown’s Refusal to Disclose Wall Street Backers, While Proclaiming to Speak for Parents

WHAT: On the heels of Campbell Brown filing a bogus lawsuit attacking teachers, public school parents and teachers will protest her appearance outside tonight’s taping of the Colbert Report.

Parents and teachers will expose the Real Campbell Brown: a right-wing, out-of-touch elitist, with no background in education who is running a political campaign funded by Wall Street donors.

Participants will be tweeting from #WhoFundsCampbell & #Questions4Campbell

WHO: Parents and teachers, members of the Alliance for Quality Education and New York Communities for Change.

WHERE: Outside Colbert Report studio on 513 West 54th St, NY, NY (between 54th st. and 10th ave.).

WHEN: Today, at 4:15pm. Thursday, July 31st, 2014.

# # #

The Guardian of London has an excellent article that explains why payment by results always fails. The article is based on a study that the article links to.

Two examples of payment by results in the current “education reform” strategy that is promoted by the Obama administration: basing teacher evaluation on test scores and merit pay.

The article calls payment by results in “dangerous idiocy” and explains why:

“Payment by results is a simple idea: people and organisations should only get paid for what they deliver. Who could argue with that? If your job is to get people back to work, then find them a job dammit.

“Plenty of people working in local government and public services are already starting to realise this is nonsense, and a pernicious, damaging nonsense at that. The evidence is very clear: if you pay (or otherwise manage performance) based on a set of pre-defined results, it creates poorer services for those most in need. It is the vulnerable, the marginalised, the disadvantaged who suffer most from payment by results.

“Here’s why: payment by results does not reward organisations for supporting people to achieve what they need; it rewards organisations for producing data about targets; it rewards organisations for the fictions their staff are able to invent about what they have achieved; it pays people for porkies.

“We know that common things happen when people use payment by results, and other outcomes-based performance management systems. There have been numerous studies that show that such systems distort organisational priorities and make organisations focus on doing the wrong things – and they make people lie.

“This lying takes all sorts of different forms. Some of them are subtle forms of deception: teachers who teach to the test or who only enter pupils for exams they know they are going to pass; employment support that helps only those likely to get a job and ignores those most in need; or hospitals that reclassify trolleys as beds, and keep people waiting in ambulances on the hospital doorstep until they know they can be seen within a target time. In the literature, this is known as gaming the system…..

“Sadly, the distortion of practice by payment by results doesn’t just stop with managers. The evidence shows that it also undermines the practice of frontline workers. It turns the relationship between support worker and client upside down. When payment-by-results practices are introduced, workers who used to ask their clients “How can I help you to achieve what you need?” instead think “How can you help me to produce the data I need?”

The article was written by Toby Lowe, a visiting fellow at Newcastle University business school and chief executive of Helix Arts, a charity that transforms lives through art. He is collecting stories from people who have been forced to lie by payment for results. you can reach him at Twitter: @tobyjlowe

The renowned Finnish educator, Pasi Sahlberg, explains how major American innovations improved education in Finland but are all too often forgotten here, where they originated.

He begins with a new report from the OECD that measures educational innovation between 2003 and 2011. The U.S. does not get high rankings from the OECD, yet oddly enough, other nations send delegations here to learn about what we do that has made us such a successful nation.

Sahlberg writes:

“An interesting observation that anyone interested in what current high-performing school systems have in common is that they all, some more than the others, have derived critical lessons from abroad. Singapore, one of the most successful reformers and highest performers in global education, has been sending students to study education in U.S. universities and encouraged university professors to collaborate in teaching and research with their American colleagues. Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea have done the same. More recently China has also benefited from education innovation from the United States and other Western education systems. Even those running school systems above the 49th parallel in North America admit that U.S. research and innovation have been instrumental in making education in Canada world-class.

“Finland is no exception. If you want to discover the origins of the most successful practices in pedagogy, student assessment, school leadership, and school improvement in Finland, you only need to visit some schools there and have a conversation with teachers and principals. Most of them have studied psychology, teaching methods, curriculum theories, assessment models, and classroom management researched and designed in the United States in their initial teacher education programs. Primary school teacher education syllabi in Finnish universities include scores of books and research articles written by U.S. scholars. Professional development and school improvement courses and programs often include visitors from the U.S. universities to teach and work with Finnish teachers and leaders. So common is the reliance on U.S. ideas in Finland that some have come to call the Finnish school system a large-scale laboratory of American education innovation.

“The relatively low overall rating of “innovation in education” in the United States raises an interesting question: Where are all those great ideas in the United States that other countries have been able to utilize to improve the performance of their school systems during the last century? It is interesting that, according to the OECD, the United States exhibits only modest innovation in its education system but, at the same time, it is the world leader in producing research, practical models and innovation to other countries.”

Read on to learn which five U.S. innovations he considers most important.

Jersey Jazzman writes that we know what Campbell Brown is against: bad teachers. She says teachers should have due process protections. So does Arne Duncan. Unions would agree with them that termination hearings should not be expensive and endless.

So what does she want?

Jersey Jazzman writes:

“Campbell, I’d be a lot less inclined to question your motivations if you would just do us all a favor and tell us what it is you want.

“I went to your website and tried to find a proposal for a system of teacher workplace protections — it wasn’t there. There were, of course, plenty of reformy talking points gussied up with research that show illustrations of the importance of teacher quality. But there wasn’t anything that resembled evidence that shows tenure suppresses overall teacher quality, and there wasn’t anything even remotely resembling a concrete proposal to “fix” a tenure and seniority system that still hasn’t been shown to be a drag in student achievement.

“If you want to have a serious debate about tenure and seniority, Campbell, the very least you should do is present some sort of alternative system of teacher, student, and taxpayer protections. If you think you can come up with something that will work better than tenure and seniority, by all means let’s hear it.

“But unless and until you do, your complaints are little better than whining. And no teacher worth his or her chalk puts up with that. – See more at: http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2014/07/what-exactly-does-campbell-brown-want.html#sthash.uqNKOiP2.dpuf”

Gary Rubinstein, former TFA but now veteran high school math teacher wrote this article in Education Week about the failure of Race to the Top. I wish I didn’t have to delete any part of it but Internet or copyright protocols require me to. Subscribe to Edweek so you can read it all. And be sure to follow Gary’s blog.

“Years from now, I hope we will look back at Race To The Top as the time we allowed the rich and powerful to conduct reckless experimentation on our nation’s schoolchildren. And they would have gotten away with it too — to paraphrase every Scooby Doo villain ever — if it wasn’t for those meddling educators. Race To The Top is an example of how reform in any field will fail if it is based on an invalid premise. That premise, in this case, is that teachers cannot be trusted.

“We need the Common Core, the argument goes, because when teachers set what they consider to be an appropriate level of ‘rigor’ in their classes, they will usually choose to make it too easy. They do this because either because they are lazy or because they simply believe that students are not capable of challenging work or, most likely, both.

“Teachers are so devious, it must be, that they have figured out ways to get satisfactory evaluations from their supervisors despite all their ‘inputs’ going in one ear of their students and out the other. Administrators are also either incompetent for thinking they are witnessing learning, or they are giving positive evaluations to ineffective teachers for other reasons that only they could know….

“When teachers complain that they don’t want to have this inaccurate component as 50% or 40% or 35%, depending on what state they’re in, they are reassured that ‘multiple measures’ are being used so that, on average, it should all work out. Couldn’t this ‘multiple measures’ argument be used to justify having shoe size as a component of the evaluation score?

“By starting with a bad premise, the ‘reformers’ have been given the power to start destroying public education in this country. Fortunately the momentum is slowing down on Race To The Top since if it were permitted to continue to grow the result would be a massive teacher shortage as the only people dumb enough to become teachers would also be too dumb to do the difficult job of teaching. Without teachers willing to teach, ‘reformers’ would learn that it truly is lonely at The Top.”

Teachers, time to make your voices heard!

Parents, help your children’s teachers get fair treatment!

Students, you need teachers who can speak truth without fear!

Teachers should not be fired for teaching “The Invisible Man.” Teachers should not be fired for opposing war. Teachers should not be fired for allowing students to express controversial views. Teachers should have due process, the right to a fair hearing.

Time to speak up!

There’s an important conversation happening Thursday night, and we need your help—and your tweets—to make sure the right questions are asked.

Former journalist Campbell Brown is going on “The Colbert Report” to spin a new lawsuit she’s pushing in New York state. It’s a copycat of Vergara v. California, and it would strip New York’s teachers of key job protections like due process.

Brown’s organization—ironically named the Partnership for Educational Justice—has hired some of the fanciest PR firms in the country, including the firm that ran Mitt Romney’s online program in 2012, to sell its snake oil. This will be her first big media appearance to sell it.

Brown is hoping to get softball questions and spin them to blame teachers. But there’s one big question she doesn’t want to get: Who’s funding these attacks?

Brown refuses to disclose her donors, but we know she’s deeply connected in the corporate “reform” crowd. Her husband even sits on the board of StudentsFirstNY!

We need to make sure Campbell Brown doesn’t get a free pass from the press. We’re launching #Questions4Campbell to make sure our voices are heard every time she makes an appearance.

Will you ask Stephen Colbert to make Campbell Brown answer the right questions? You can just click any of the suggested tweets below, or write your own using #Questions4Campbell and tagging @StephenAtHome.

Why won’t @campbell_brown disclose her funders? Afraid Americans might not like what they see? #questions4campbell @StephenAtHome

The usual anti-teacher funders: Walton. Koch. Wall St. Silicon Valley. Who’s funding @campbell_brown? #questions4campbell @StephenAtHome

Just “holding the coats” or pulling the strings? @campbell_brown doesnt speak for this NY parent. #questions4campbell for @StephenAtHome

One of your “student plaintiffs” has a parent who’s paid by StudentsFirstNY. Conflict of interest? #questions4campbell for @StephenAtHome

You’re against due process for teachers. Who else shouldn’t have rights, @campbell_brown? #questions4campbell on @StephenAtHome

Campbell Brown and her friends want to sell you the same “blame teachers” line we’ve seen from Michelle Rhee and right-wing politicians for years. They’ll tell you tenure means a job for life and that due process makes it impossible to dismiss ineffective teachers. Now, emboldened by a radical ruling in California, they’re spreading this misinformation across the country, starting in New York.

Their claims couldn’t be further from the truth. In New York, teachers are granted tenure—and due process protections—after three years of success in the classroom. Once your boss grants you tenure, due process simply means he or she must produce just cause to discipline or terminate you. Due process gives teachers the protections to speak up for their students, stop cronyism and innovate in the classroom.

Campbell Brown is hoping to cruise through her media appearances unchallenged. But news shows and the media are paying more and more attention to social media.

Your tweets can be a powerful force in the fight to reclaim the promise of a high-quality public education for every child. Help us challenge the “blame teachers” crowd by adding your voice on Twitter right now.

In unity,

Randi Weingarten
AFT President

This is a must-read article.

One of the best education writers in New York State is Gary Stern of lohud.com, which covers the Lower Hudson region. This article shows how the passing marks (“cut scores”) were set for the state’s Common Core tests. It is a story that should have appeared in the New York Times. The State Education Department likes to boast that the cut scores are set by teachers. This is supposed to make them legitimate, on the assumption that the teachers have reasonable expectations and know the students’ capacity. All 95 teachers who participated in the process of setting cut scores were required to sign a confidentiality agreement, but Gary Stern persisted and found 18 who were willing to talk about the process without violating the agreement.

What Gary Stern found was that Pearson called the shots, not the teachers.

Here are some quotes.

“How does the state determine the crucial break between a 2, which means that a student is not quite proficient in, say, fifth-grade math, and a 3, which signifies that he or she is on track for college?

“These scoring scales were set last summer by a group of 95 educators that the state gathered at a hotel in Troy for several days. Teachers, administrators and college professors from across New York signed confidentiality agreements and were given the task of setting the cuts between 1 and 2, 2 and 3, and 3 and 4 for the new tests. But the scores would be widely questioned and even ridiculed after one-third of New York students were deemed to be on pace……”

“To most parents, passing a test means earning 65 out of 100 points. Cut and dried.

“The process of setting a scoring “scale” and cut scores for an annual test, based on all-important, predetermined goals, is an entirely different animal that is not easily described. In fact, the panelists met to set the 1-4 cut scores after students took the first new tests in spring 2013 and the raw data was in.

“It’s like you’re jumping over a hurdle that’s 2 feet high, but after you jump they say it was 3 feet and you missed,” said Cary Grimm, another panelist who is math chairman for the Longwood school district on Long Island.

“In brief, panelists were assigned to small groups that looked at several grades’ exams in math or English language arts. They were given detailed descriptions of what students should know in each grade — prepared by state officials and experts from Pearson Inc., the mega-corporation signed to create New York’s tests…..”

“Panelists were told whether various cut scores would jibe with research on what it supposedly takes to succeed in college.

“Jane Arnold, an English professor at SUNY Adirondack, said the Pearson people provided confusing data that didn’t seem to apply to grades 3-5, her group’s focus.

“Then they gave us a chance to change our minds,” she wrote in a statement. “In other words, we all knew that most of the student scores would be substandard…..”

“Maria Baldassarre Hopkins, assistant professor of education at Nazareth College in Rochester, said the process was driven by the introduction of outside research about student success.

“I question how much flexibility and freedom the committee really had,” she said. “The process was based solely on empirical data, on numbers. … There are ways to make the numbers do what you want them to do.”

“Tina Good, coordinator of the Writing Center at Suffolk County Community College, said her group produced the best possible cut scores for ELA tests in grades 3 to 6 — playing by the rules they were given.

“We worked within the paradigm Pearson gave us,” she said. “It’s not like we could go, ‘This is what we think third-graders should know,’ or, ‘This will completely stress out our third-graders.’ Many of us had concerns about the pedagogy behind all of this, but we did reach a consensus about the cut scores.”

“Eva Demyen, superintendent of the Deer Park district on Long Island, said she still doesn’t grasp how the state determined that two-thirds of students were not proficient in English and math.

“How they got the 33 percent (passing) was beyond us,” she wrote. “It just seemed very strange to me … and I’m a mathematician!….”

“Another panelist, Karen DeMoss, a professor of education at Wagner College on Staten Island, said she is increasingly convinced that standardized testing is “scarring” students and not promoting achievement.

“Our process was perfectly fine, and the Common Core standards may be the best thing the country has ever had in education,” DeMoss said. “The problem is the underlying assumption that these tests are helping us. They’re not. Pearson’s tests were unbelievably bad, the worst I’ve seen, and the reality of using tests designed to rank students is something we haven’t gotten our heads around.”

There are at least three lessons are to be learned from this fiasco: one, it was Pearson, not the educators, that decided what students should know; two, Pearson’s standards will cause massive failure wherever they are used; three, as many panelists noted, teachers did not have the training to teach the standards.

And there is one more lesson: if the standards themselves are developmentally inappropriate–if the tests expect fifth-graders to learn material that is appropriate for seventh graders, failure is inevitable. Unless, that is, Pearson and the State Education Department decide to lower the cut scores to give the illusion of progress.

As Gary Stern wrote: “A 2006 primer on cut scores prepared by the Educational Testing Service found that cut scores can be reliable, but are based on a group’s opinions.

“It is impossible to prove that a cut score is correct,” the report said.

Remember that the cut score is NOT an objective measure. It is a judgment call, a matter of group opinion, shaped by assumptions, and it can be manipulated to make scores appear higher or lower, depending on what the state wants. If New York’s scores go up, it means that the State Education Department decided to reduce parent anger by lowering the failure rate.

This is what happened in New York. It is wrong, it is cynical, it is misguided. Thousands of children were falsely labeled as failures. This is not good education. This is not about the needs of children. This is institutional incompetence.

If your state plans to use Pearson and PARCC for Common Core testing, consider this a cautionary tale. As Peter Greene writes in his blog,

“In fact, among the CCSS supporters who spoke (and really– did you think NYS would fill this committee with people who didn’t love the Core), there was a recognition that the implementation is a hash and the tests are a bogus joke. Yes, they haven’t figured out that what we’ve got is exactly what the Core were designed to give us, but at least they recognize some of the suckage, and not simply from a practical political calculus angle (and remember– everyone must take calculus now). This is undoubtedly part of the reason that CCSS enjoys the kind of support in NYS usually reserved for politicians who cannot keep their private parts off the internet.

“It’s an illuminating batch of reportage, well worth your time to read. Because you may not live in New York, but wherever you are in America, you’re still living in the United States of Pearson.”

Fred Klonsky writes that in 2007, the Chicago Tribune praised CEO Arne Duncan because he would not be content with principals drawn from the ranks. not Arne! He was looking for superstar principals. Duncan was CEO because he lacked the experience as a teacher or a principal to be a superintendent.

The Tribune singled out one of Duncan’s “superstars”: Terrence P. Carter.

““Used to be, as long as the lights were on and the heat was working and teachers reported to school, your job as principal was basically done,” said Terrence Carter, principal of Clara Barton Elementary School in Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. “Now, in the age of more accountability, there’s a paradigm shift for what skills principals need to have.”

“For Carter, who also attended that day, the training reviewed skills he already knew. Carter represents a new breed of principal, many of whom recently entered the profession from the business world through a selective principal training program called New Leaders for New Schools. In that program, prospective principals focus on becoming academic leaders and conducting rigorous evaluations of teachers, students and curricula.

“That’s the challenge and the opportunity for Chicago: to draw dozens more leaders like Terrence Carter into the most challenging public schools and to help them thrive.”

Klonsky writes:

“Carter is now the center of controversy in New London, Connecticut where his application for school superintendent is on hold while the board investigates his claims of a doctorate from among other universities, Stanford University in California.

“Stanford denies he received a doctorate from them.

“Prior to applying for the job in New London, Carter worked as a principal for CPS and as an executive director for the Academy for Urban School Leadership. AUSL is responsible for managing most of CPS turnaround schools.

“CPS board president David Vitale and chief administrative officer Tim Cawley both come from the ranks of AUSL.”

Yet, Klonsky writes, the Chicago Tribune has not seen fit to report about Arne Duncan’s superstar, and Duncan has no comment.

The Day reports that the language in the cover letter submitted by Terrence Carter to be superintendent in New London contained language identical to a cover letter written by another job applicant in Michigan in 2011. When will this charade end? If he fabricated his résumé and plagiarized his job application and cover letter, what more evidence is needed?

Here is an excerpt from The Day:

“New London — The cover letter Terrence P. Carter submitted with his application to be the city’s next superintendent bears a resemblance to a cover letter submitted by a different candidate seeking a Michigan superintendent job in 2011.
Carter’s cover letter, submitted on March 11 along with his application and resume, shares a similar structure and, in some cases, identical sentences.

“I bring an unbridled passion for educating children and adults, a track record of launching and directing critical educational programs, and exceptional leadership credentials,” Carter wrote in his letter. “If you are looking for a dynamic educational leader who has continually succeeded in the classroom, in academic programs, in the central office, and in corporate America, then my credentials will be of great value to you, your students, and your community.”

A cover letter submitted in 2011 by Frederick Charles Clarke, then a candidate for the superintendent job in Rochester, Mich., contains a similar passage.

“…I bring to your academic institution an unbridled passion for educating America’s youth, a track record of launching and directing critical educational programs, and exceptional leadership credentials,” Clarke wrote. “If you are looking for a dynamic educational leader who has continually succeeded in the classroom, in academic programs, and in the central office, perhaps my credentials will be of great value to you, your students and your community.”

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