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SomeDAM Poet (Devalue Added) writes poems on current issues with frequency:

“The Perfect Reform Storm”

When education reform
Becomes a perfect storm
The stakes align
Like fronts in time
And chaos is the norm

Hi Dr. Ravitch,

I’ve been glad to see a couple of blog posts in the past few days about CCSS and early childhood. I am the mother of a kindergartener, and have been on a slow simmer about this since my daughter started school in Sept. My daughter is four, she’ll turn five Thanksgiving weekend. She woke up crying in the middle of the night last night from a dream, worried about not being able to learn to read.

She is in our very well rated zoned NYC school (Queens). Her homework load is ridiculous! As I am a working single mom, she goes to an afterschool program. I had to put my foot down with them about the amount of time spent doing homework. Capping it at about a half an hour. The pressure about learning to read is not coming from me. I don’t believe there’s anything that can be done to change the curriculum soon enough to help my daughter, but I would love to hear from you and maybe your readers about how to deal with this as a parent of a young child.

Thanks so much,

Rose XX

Myra Blackmon, journalist in Georgia, writes here about the testing resistance that is growing by the day,

“Despite Georgia’s ridiculous “assessment” of college and career readiness, it’s impossible to predict how the life of a first- or second-grader will turn out.

“All the tests we administer can’t predict a child’s future. The tests don’t measure real learning. They measure test-taking ability.
Research has shown that test scores are most accurate in measuring the socioeconomic level of the student.

“That’s correct. We use tests that don’t measure teacher competence or student learning to make or break careers, categorize children and place them in certain groups or pathways. We assume poor test scores mean a poor teacher, when often the opposite is true.

“We are obsessed with our ridiculous tests. The state legislature insists that test scores make up at least 50 percent of a teacher’s performance evaluation. The lobbyists for Pearson, McGraw-Hill and others fund the campaign coffers of candidates and court high-level administrators to convince them we need more testing. And more testing is exactly what we get.

“What if we spent those millions on authentic testing, that actually allows students to demonstrate mastery of content by performing an action, doing a presentation or building something that explains the concept? What if we spent some of those millions on more observation in the classroom, or gathering feedback from parents and students that actually tells us how the teacher works with children, assigns homework, provides extra help or many of the myriad other indicators of professional competence?

“Why is it so easy to say, “Every child learns in a different way,” and at the same time insist on testing them all in exactly the same way? We have become so blinded by our obsession with accountability that the testing, not the accountability, has become the priority.

“There is a growing wave of anti-testing action across the country. Some states (including Georgia) have rolled back graduation tests.
I’ve read of several dozen school boards that have passed resolutions protesting the outrageous waste of time, resources and money of high-stakes testing. Thousands of parents opt their children out of the tests each year.

“Do you see where the resistance to testing is coming from? It is from the parents, teachers and school boards who are in the trenches of public education every day. It is from those who actually teach children and study how they learn and what they need to thrive and grow.

“Do you see where the resistance hits the brick wall? In state legislatures and the U.S. Department of Education. Those are the folks who get millions in support from the Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the testing companies. Those mega-wealthy people wouldn’t dream of subjecting their own children to what they insist is essential for all others.

“Money talks. Money wins. At least until the people who know what is right make enough noise, opt out of enough tests, and vote for people who agree with them. It is time to rise up.”

Here is yet another example of the Florida “miracle,” wherein charter operators open and close as they miseducated children and waste taxpayer dollars.

Amy Shipley and Karen Yi of the Sun-Sentinel tell the woeful tale of the latest charter failure in Florida.

“The Broward School Board voted Tuesday to close two charter schools in Fort Lauderdale, citing poor academics and saying the schools failed to document how they spent $876,000 in taxpayer money.

The Obama Academy for Boys and The Red Shoe Charter School for Girls serve more than 250 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The schools have 90 days to appeal the termination or close down.

“We know the claims are exaggerated,” Corey Alston, who founded both schools three years ago and oversees day-to-day functions, told the Sun Sentinel. “We know many of them are wrong. We know this is the most recent attempt to target our schools.”

The district attempted to shut down the charter schools this March after the schools relocated and failed to secure a required certificate of occupancy, records show. Officials allowed them to remain open after the schools appealed the decision and submitted the necessary paperwork.

Alston said the schools would appeal the closure.

In termination notices sent to the schools last week, district officials said the schools failed to provide services for students with special needs and students who are not native English speakers. They also cited the schools for not providing an adequate reading program and poor record-keeping…..

“The community should be outraged,” said School Board member Rosalind Osgood. “For nine months [we've] just given away free money to people who are not following any of the rules … They keep coming up with excuses….”

Six Broward charter schools have closed or been ordered to shut down since the start the school year in August.

Alston told the Sun Sentinel the charter schools had been so successful they had turned away about 150 prospective students this year for lack of space.

Alston received probation for a felony charge of grand theft and a misdemeanor charge of corrupt misuse of official position as part of a plea deal last month in connection with his tenure as city manager of South Bay in Palm Beach County. The judge withheld adjudication on the felony charge. Those charges had no connection to his work with the Broward charter schools.”

Ewin Chemerinsky, Dean of the School of Law at the University of California in Irvine, wrote this compelling article about the Vergara decision and teachers’ due process rights.

 

He writes, in part:

 

American public education desperately needs to be improved, especially for the most disadvantaged children. But eliminating teachers’ job security and due-process rights is not going to attract better educators — or do much to improve school quality.

 

In recent months, several respected progressive scholars and politicians have endorsed litigation, like a successful case in California, to weaken the protections afforded public school teachers. Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown is spearheading a suit in New York. Their goals are laudable, but their means are misguided.

 

The problem of inner-city schools is not that the dedicated teachers who work in them have too many rights, but that the students who go to them are disadvantaged in many ways, the schools have inadequate resources and the schools are surrounded by communities that are dangerous, lack essential services and are largely segregated both by race and class.

 

Taking the modest job security accorded by tenure away from teachers will address none of these problems.

 

The causal relationship alleged by the plaintiffs in these lawsuits — that teachers’ rights cause minority students to receive substandard educations — is belied by readily available empirical evidence.

 

If the plaintiffs were correct, similarly situated students in states with weak protection of teachers — such as Texas, Alabama and Mississippi — would have higher levels of achievement and the racial achievement gap would be smaller in those states. But there is no evidence that minority students in Houston, Birmingham or Jackson outperform those in Los Angeles or New York.

 

He adds:

 

One of the biggest challenges in education today is teacher retention. In the District of Columbia, 80% of teachers leave within five years. Getting rid of tenure and due process will not encourage more teachers to stay in the profession. It will drive them out and discourage other qualified people from entering the profession in the first place.

 

The plaintiffs who are bringing these lawsuits have misappropriated the soaring rhetoric and fundamental principles of the civil rights movement. Civil rights lawyers have worked for decades to end racial segregation in schools and neighborhoods and equalize school funding.

 

Cloaking the attack on teachers’ rights in the rhetoric of the civil rights movement is misleading. Lessening the legal protections for teachers will not advance civil rights or improve education.

 

Mercedes Schneider, no fan of the Common Core standards, here reviews a new proposal for Common Core accountability, this one funded by the Hewlett Foundation. We are supposed to believe that the ideas are new, but almost everyone involved was a key player in the creation of the standards or the federally-funded CC tests.

 

Schneider says that what is needed is not more accountability for standards that have never been reviewed, revised, or piloted, but accountability for a dozen years of testing post-NCLB.

 

Why no piloting for CCSS? She writes:

 

Piloting was needed for CCSS, and it never happened. Instead, overly eager governors and state superintendents signed on for an as-of-then, not-yet-created CCSS. No wise caution. Just, “let’s do it!”

That word “urgency” was continuously thrown around, and it makes an appearance in the current, Hewlett-funded report. No time to pilot a finished CCSS product. Simply declare that CCSS was “based on research” and push for implementation.

This is how fools operate.

America has been hearing since 1983 that Our Education System Places Our Nation at Risk. I was 16 years old then. I am now 47.

America is not facing impending collapse.

We do have time to test the likes of CCSS before rushing in.

 

She identifies where accountability is needed most, and that is for programs that have been tried and obviously failed:

 

How about an accountability report on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its strategic placement on a life support that enables former-basketball-playing US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to hold states hostage to the federal whim?

The Hewlett-funded report notes that between 2000 and 2012, PISA scores have “declined.” Those are chiefly the NCLB years and beyond, with the continued “test-driven reform” focus. It is the test-driven focus that could use a hefty helping of “accountability.”

And let us not forget the NCLB-instituted push for privatization of public education via charters, vouchers, and online “education.” An accountability study on the effects of “market-driven,” under-regulated “reform” upon the quality of American education would prove useful.

There is also the very real push to erase teaching as a profession and replace it with temporary teachers hailing from the amply-funded and -connected teacher temp agency, Teach for America (TFA). A nationwide accountability study on the effects of the teacher revolving door exacerbated by TFA would be a long-overdue first of its kind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosa Rivera-McCutchen participated in a panel discussion about the Common Core and testing at Public Education on October 11 at the Brooklyn New School. She gave a powerful presentation about race, power, and privilege. The event was sponsored by the Network for Public Education. Read the transcript and see the video here.

She used Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail as the framework for her discussion:

“In thinking about my remarks for today’s panel, I thought it useful to draw upon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail because it’s an incredibly powerful way of framing the role of school leadership in the face of testing and the Common Core, and the impact they have on economically disadvantaged students and students of color. In the letter, King responds to 8 white clergymen who were supportive of desegregation, but were critical of the methods Dr. King was employing in Birmingham.

“The letter is meaningful in a number of historical ways, but it’s especially meaningful for me in the work I do as a researcher and as educator of future school leaders, because it really is powerful example of moral leadership in the face of not only troubling educational policy and also in thinking about well-intentioned resistance to the policies.”

“King wrote in the letter: “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action.”

“To King’s first point: collecting facts to determine whether injustices exist. Here, school leaders have to examine not just the intended goals of the policy; it is their responsibility to examine the application and the consequences of the policy.

So school leaders must ask themselves:

“How do the standards and the high stakes tests help my students? What is the impact on the curriculum? On the teachers? And equally important, school leaders must ask, are they equitable and just for all students?

“After determining, as all of us here know, that the answers to these basic yet critical questions are quite troubling, we move to the next step in King’s framework: negotiation.

“In the case of testing and the CC, it is clear that there have been numerous efforts to negotiate locally with the NYC Chancellors as well as with Commissioner John King and Secretary Arne Duncan. But when those negotiations become nothing more than stalling tactics and smoke in mirrors, as with the civil rights movement, school leaders must come to a point where they step away from the table and move closer towards direct action.

“But prior to the direct action, comes the third step, which Dr. King called, “self-purification.” This is arguably one of the most important steps in King’s framework for mounting a resistance. That’s because it demands that the resister, in this case the school leader, be reflective and consider the extent to which she or he has been complicit in perpetuating the oppression. They have to be honest with themselves about the extent to which their continued support of flawed policies has contributed to the harm. The school leader has to search inward to determine whether she or he is ready to face the consequences of resisting policies mandated from above, But beyond this, the school leaders particularly in communities that are more privileged have to look inward to determine whether their resistance will extend beyond their individual communities; whether they’re ready to engage in the kind equity work that will benefit ALL communities.”

One of the nation’s top investigative journalists, David Sirota, reports that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker based his estimate of a “living wage” on the restaurant industry, which pays workers minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

He writes:

“Under pressure to raise the state’s minimum wage, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker confidently declared that there was no need. Low-wage workers had filed a complaint charging that the state’s minimum wage — $7.25 — did not constitute a “living wage” as mandated by state law. But the Republican governor’s administration, after examining the issue, announced on Oct. 6 that it found “no reasonable cause” for the workers’ complaint.

“That official government finding, according to documents reviewed by the International Business Times, was largely based on information provided by the state’s restaurant industry — which represents major low-wage employers including fast-food companies.

“The Raise Wisconsin campaign, which is pushing for a higher minimum wage, requested all documents on which the state based the “living wage” ruling. And the only economic analysis that the administration released in response was one from the Wisconsin Restaurant Association — a group that lobbies against minimum wage increases, and whose website says it is includes low-wage employers such as “fast food outlets” and “corporate chain restaurants.” The restaurant association’s study argued that a minimum wage increase would harm the state. It did not actually address whether workers can survive on the $7.25 minimum wage.

“It’s outrageous that Walker’s administration only thought to consult the restaurant industry, and not the workers themselves,” said Dan Cantor, the national director of Working Families, one of the groups that has been leading the effort to raise the minimum wage in Wisconsin. “In Scott Walker’s world, regular people don’t matter, only corporations,” Cantor said. Walker has received major campaign contributions from the restaurant industry.”

Sirota cites data showing that about half of all restaurant workers live at or below the poverty line.

A journalist sent the following message about a previous controversy involving the author of TIME article on tenure.

Hi Diane — I understand that the cover of TIME is more strident than the article, but it rang a bell about an earlier controversy connected to the same writer.

The TIME reporter, Haley Sweetland Edwards, did a bizarre bash on S.F. Bay Area community colleges last year for the Washington Monthly that was rebutted by one of her main sources. The article got surprisingly little attention, and for that reason no one seems to have really dissected it, and I haven’t done that either.

It particularly bashed College of Marin, a low-poverty community college in suburban Marin County. I’m pretty sure but haven’t confirmed that the bash was largely due to a high number of students like my parents, now 87 and 91, who have taken ceramics, welding and music classes at College of Marin and have, gasp, failed to graduate or transfer to four-year colleges.

The article also bashed high-poverty City College of San Francisco, which has been threatened with losing its accreditation and has been fighting back with apparent success (and where I’ve also taken classes), but the College of Marin portion stood out as particularly bizarre.

The bash on Bay Area community colleges was a separate article accompanying a rankings feature in the Washington Monthly.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/september_october_2013/features/americas_worst_community_colle046450.php?page=all

The article cited data from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE).

Kay McClenney of the CCSSE objected to the use of the data and refuted the article’s substance in a strongly worded letter posted after the article (you have to scroll to find it). Excerpts from McClenney’s rebuttal:

“Edwards’s article includes multiple errors of fact and misuses of survey data. …

“As has occurred in the past, the Washington Monthly created the magazine’s rankings in large part through misuse of data drawn from the CCSSE website and then manipulated in ways not transparent to the reader. The ranking method thus is based on an undisclosed calculation combining CCSSE results and IPEDS data. There are so many things about this approach that are statistically wrong that it is impossible to overstate how spurious the results really are.”

John Thompson, teacher and historian, explains here why teachers are beating up reformers. Shocking but true. Charters don’t outperform public schools unless they exclude low performers. Vouchers are sending kids to church schools that do not perform as well as public schools. Teacher evaluation by test scores is a disaster. The testing culture has demoralized teachers. The reformers have no idea how to “fix” schools.

He writes:

“During the high tide of corporate reform in 2010, their scorched earth public relations campaign against teachers and unions was doubly effective because they all sang from the same hymnal. Since then, however, reformers’ failures to improve schools have been accompanied by political defeat after defeat. Now they are on the same page with a kinder, gentler message.

“Now, the most public message is that a toxic testing culture has mysteriously appeared in schools. As the Center for American Progress, in Testing Overload in America’s Schools, recently admitted “a culture has arisen in some states and districts that places a premium on testing over learning.” So, the reformers who made that culture of test prep inevitable now want to listen to teachers, and create a humane testing culture.

“As Alexander Russo recently reported, in Why Think Tankers Hate the Vergara Strategy, some indicate that the Vergara campaign against teachers’ legal rights is a dubious approach. I’m also struck by the number of reformers, who complain about unions’ financial and political power, and who seem to by crying that We Reformers Are Being Beaten Up by Teachers.

“Yes! Reformers Are Being Beaten Up by Teachers!

“I communicate with a lot of individual reformers who agree that test-driven accountability has failed, but they can’t yet visualize an accountability system that could satisfy their reform coalition and teachers. I repeatedly hear the pained protest that, Testing Isn’t Going Away.

“So, what alternative do we have?

“Talk about Low Expectations! Are they saying that a democracy can’t prosper without test and punish imposed from on high? Do they believe that families and students are just as feckless as teachers, and none of us will teach and learn without reward and punish regimes that toughen us up for economic combat in the global marketplace?”

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