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Mike Klonsky has known Arne Duncan a long times he notes that Arne is quick to criticize people and institutions that are not accountable. Mike wonders when Arne will be held accountable.

The BATS are strong-willed, courageous teachers who are tired of being kicked around by politicians and their dumb ideas. They are “mad as hell” and they won’t take it anymore.

Last year, after the BATS met with Arne Duncan, one of their leaders, Professor Yohuru Williams had the idea of convening an annual BATS Congress. That Congress recently met in Washington, D.C., had meetings with key legislators, held a sit-in at the office of Senator Bernie Sanders, and picketed the U.S. Department of Education.

“Prior to our two lobbying days, Washington BATs got us off to a great start by participating in a “Coffee with Constituents” session with Sen. Patty Murray. This group led the charge and let the legislators know that the Badass Teachers Association had descended upon “The Hill”. Over the course of the next two days, BATs from 20 states conducted over 61 appointments with their Federal Lawmakers. BATs shuffled from the House building to the Senate building over the course of these two days. Appointments started at 8 a.m. and lasted until 5 p.m.”

They met “The Walking Man” Jesse Turner as he concluded his 400-miles walk to D.C. to join with the other BATS.

They had three busy and productive days. It is valuable to have the BATS go to Washington. Otherwise our elected representatives would hear only from the big campaign contributors who are buying public education and elected officials like Cuomo and Malloy. The BATS made sure that teachers’ concerns were well represented to the decision-makeres on Capitol Hill.

Thank you, BATS.

The New York Times has a fascinating article today about how a handful of very wealthy people invested in Andrew Cuomo and the Republican majority in the State Senate to gain control of public schools in Néw York City and state. The article says they want to continue former Mayor Bloomberg’s policies of closing public schools and replacing them with charter schools and tying teacher evaluations to test scores.

The leader of this effort, the story says, is former chancellor Joel Klein, who now works for rightwing media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Unmentioned is the undemocratic nature of this purchase of public policy. There was a mayoral election. Bill de Blasio won handily, after making clear his opposition to Bloomberg’s education policies. So, the reformers lost at the polls but used their money to nullify the voters’ choice.

John Merrow has evolved into the Jonathan Swift of our day. You read, I hope, the brilliant satire “A Modest Proposal” by Swift. Therein, he suggests that the way to solve the hunger problem in Ireland is to encourage the poor to fatten up their children and sell them to rich landowners as choice meat. It is a data-driven and logical proposal, according to this summary:

Children of the poor could be sold into a meat market at the age of one, he argues, thus combating overpopulation and unemployment, sparing families the expense of child-bearing while providing them with a little extra income, improving the culinary experience of the wealthy, and contributing to the overall economic well-being of the nation.

The author offers statistical support for his assertions and gives specific data about the number of children to be sold, their weight and price, and the projected consumption patterns. He suggests some recipes for preparing this delicious new meat, and he feels sure that innovative cooks will be quick to generate more. He also anticipates that the practice of selling and eating children will have positive effects on family morality: husbands will treat their wives with more respect, and parents will value their children in ways hitherto unknown. His conclusion is that the implementation of this project will do more to solve Ireland’s complex social, political, and economic problems than any other measure that has been proposed.

Like Swift, John Merrow has figured out how to solve the cheating problem.

He says that cheating has become widespread since testing became so consequential, that is, since No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top raised the stakes, using tests to evaluate teachers and principals, to hand out bonuses, to close schools, and to fire educators.

It is no use, he says, to fire those who cheat, because we have a serious teacher shortage that is getting worse by the day.

So he offers a series of surefire punishments that will stop the cheating by watching closely and by shaming the cheaters.

Increased surveillance will cost more, of course, but we can trim other expenditures, perhaps in the subjects that aren’t being tested and therefore not occasions for cheating. I’m thinking of art, music and physical education, but, if schools have already cut those, then electives like journalism, minor sports, and theatre are places to look for savings.

Publicly shaming the cheaters is essential. Making the punishments more public should curtail cheating. For younger students, the shaming should be temporary. Perhaps cheaters should have to wear bright yellow shirts emblazoned with a huge letter [3] “C” for a month or more.

But for anyone cheating after 5th or 6th grade, a shaming shirt isn’t enough. After all, 10-year-olds are mature enough to understand consequences. Here’s where I think a permanent tattoo would do the trick. The first offense should produce a stern warning. But a the second offense demonstrates they are beyond redemption, so let’s tattoo the letter ‘C’ or the word ‘CHEATER’ [4] on the back of the criminal’s dominant hand. Should there be a third offense, the tattoo ought to be placed more prominently, perhaps on the cheater’s forehead. While I doubt matters would ever get to that point, leadership has to be ready to make the hard decisions, for the greater good. [5]

If public shaming and tattoos on the cheating adults don’t work, he says, the punishments must be increased, for example, “lopping off the index fingers” of repeat cheaters.

Be sure to read the comments.

Politicians and charter lobbyists recite the claim that thousands of students are wait-listed for charter schools. They say we must open more charters at once to satisfy the demand for charter seats. The seats, we are told, are “high performing” seats, as if a seat had some magic to transfer to whoever might sit in it.

A blogger called Public School Mama describes her experience with the charter school “wait list” in Boston.

She really needed to put her son into kindergarten. She applied to a local charter school. She applied to the neighborhood public school. The charter school never called. The neighborhood public school told her that her son was accepted. She was happy with the public school. She liked the teachers. No complaints.

Years later, she got a call from the charter school informing her that her child had been accepted. She realized that all those years, his name had never been removed from the wait list. And she understood that the “wait list” was a political chimera.

Arthur Camins left the following insightful comment on Rick Hess’s analysis of “What Went Wrong with Common Core.” I agree with his claim that the purpose of setting a totally unrealistic goal was to make public schools fail, thus destroying public confidence in them and setting them up for privatization. It is also manifestly correct, based on Joanne Weiss’s comments posted here earlier, that the intention of the Common Core standards and tests was to create a large, unified national marketplace for products and consultants, thus spurring entrepreneurs to enter the “education market.”

Rick Hess highlights many important points about what “went wrong” with the Common Core State Standards, laying the blame on the Obama administration and inside the beltway technocrats. Missing from his analysis is exposure of any of the behind-the-scenes role for companies looking to profit from a more coherent and less fragmented market and the hopes of market ideologues searching for tools to undermine the power of teachers unions in particular and public education in general. The 100% proficiency demands were designed to undermine confidence in public education, as was the connection between teacher evaluation and common core testing in Race to the Top and School Improvement grants.

Absent from much of the media attention to the strident debates about federal v/ local control is the simple fact that no system in the world has made significant improvement based on standards and high-stakes testing. We are, I think stuck in a debate within an autonomy and control framework, while ignoring the great potential for mutual responsibility.

I wrote about this several years ago here: http://www.arthurcamins.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Past-Gets-In-Our-Eyes1.pdf

New York State Commissioner of Education MayEllen Elia has been on the job since July 6, and she has won over many–but not all–critics.

Whereas Her predecessor John King was young, inexperienced, and had worked for a brief time in a charter school, Elia has many years as a teacher and administrator. She gets points for that.

But her agenda is the same as Cuomo, King, and Tisch: high-stakes testing, school closings, teacher evaluation by scores.

The one group not yet charmed by Elia are the opt out parents and educators at Néw York State Allies for Public Education. It is the agenda they oppose, not the messenger.

Gary Rubinstein keeps a close eye on Teach for America and watches how it shows its true colors from time to time. That happened with the votes cast on amendments to the Senate bill called “Every Child Achieves Act.”

TFA lobbyists urged Senators to support the Murphy-Booker amendments, which would have retained the worst, most punitive features of No Child Left Behind. They also publicly opposed parents’ right to opt their children out of state tests, on the flimsy claim that this would hurt poor and minority children. In fact, poor and minority children are victimized by high-stakes testing, by a greater emphasis on testing, and by closing of schools located mostly in their communities.

Rubinstein writes that the Murphy-Booker amendment:

says that the states must identify the schools most in need of intervention, which must be at least the bottom 5%. It seems that the Democrats did not learn the lessons from NCLB about the danger of putting specific numerical targets into federal law and how those numerical targets can be abused. The fact that there is always a bottom 5% no matter how good the schools are in a state. Also, schools where the graduation rate is less than 67%, a magic number for ‘failing school’ that is not grounded in any real research (not to mention one that is easy to game with different ‘credit recovery’ schemes, but that’s another issue altogether). For schools like this some of the federally mandated interventions are to inform the parents that their child is attending a failing school, to establish ‘partnerships’ with ‘private entities’ to turn around these schools, and to give the states the ability to make, and for this I’ll use a verbatim quote, “any changes to personnel necessary to improve educational opportunities for children in the school.”

So where does Murphy’s Law come in? What could possibly go wrong with this? Well for starters, there would need to be an accurate way to gauge which schools are truly in the ‘bottom 5%.’ I admit that there are some schools that are run much less efficiently than others and surely the different superintendents should have a sense of which schools they are. But as NCLB and Race To The Top (RTTT) taught us, with all the money spent on creating these metrics and the costly tests and ‘growth metrics’ that go along with those tests, it is likely to lead to way too much test prep and neglect of some of the things that make school worth going to. Then those ‘private entities’, could it be any more clear that these are charter schools taking over public schools? And as far as “changes to personnel necessary to improve educational opportunities for the children in the school”, well, firing teachers after school ‘closures’ in New York City hasn’t resulted in improved ‘educational opportunities.’ My sense is that with enough of these mass firings, it will be very difficult to get anyone to risk their careers by teaching at a so-called failing school and the new staff is likely be less effective than the old staff. So you can see why the NEA wrote a letter to the Senate urging them to vote against it. Sadly nearly all the Democrats (and Independent Bernie Sanders!) ignored the plea of the NEA.

TFA’s leaders gave their approval to an article sharply criticizing parents who opt their children out of standardized testing:

In The 74 [Campbell Brown’s website], disgraced former Tennessee Education Commissioner and TFA alum (not to mention ex-husband of Michelle Rhee-Johnston) Kevin Huffman wrote a completely incoherent comparison of parents opting their children out of state tests to parents opting their children out of vaccinations. The title of the article was “Why We Need to Ignore Opt-Outers Like We Do Anti-Vaxxers.” Not that we need to ‘challenge’ them, but we need to ‘ignore’ them. Don’t bother learning what motivates them to do what they do, just assume you know and ignore whatever concerns are causing them to want to do this. Huffman is also a lawyer, though his argument is quite weak. He says that wealthy opt-outers are selfish since they are doing something that somehow benefits themselves while hurting the other, less wealthy people. But does he consider that many opt-outers are doing it as a protest against the misuse of their students test scores to unfairly close schools and fire teachers? Or to protest an over emphasis on testing and testing subjects so they opt out to say “Since I’m opting out anyway, please teach my child as you would have before all this high stakes testing nonsense.” Now I can’t speak for every opt-out supporter, but I believe that opting-out helps everyone, especially the poor since the way the results of the state tests have been used has hurt them disproportionately with school closures and random teacher firings so the idea that all opt-out supporters do so knowingly at the expense of less fortunate others is something that I find offensive. Both co-CEOs of TFA, however, tweeted their approval of this article.

High-stakes testing and punitive policies widens the market for privatization, drives out experienced teachers, and clears the way for more positions for TFA.

United Opt Out recently announced that its annual conference will be held in Philadelphia from February 26-28, 2016.

 

This is the movement that will destroy corporate reform.

 

Suppose they gave a standardized test and nobody took it. Suppose they gave 25 standardized tests and no one showed up.

 

No profits for the test makers.

 

No data to label kids; no data to close schools; no data to declare teachers HEDI (highly effective, effective, developing, ineffective).

 

Suppose teachers wrote their own tests.

 

Imagine.

 

Join the revolutionaries in Philadelphia. Mark the date in your calendar.

In recent days, you have read posts about the program in Lawrence, Massachusetts, called NNN (No Nonsense Nurturing), a for-profit program in which coaches sit in the back of the room and tell teachers what to do and say via a wireless earbud. EduShyster wrote the original post. Others did research on google and connected NNN to the Gates Foundation and KIPP. It is a behaviorist approach to classroom discipline.

One reader points out that NNN was tried out first in Memphis.

Some wired-for-sound city school teachers are testing the value of real-time coaching that the NFL has made as common as a Sunday in the park.

Through earbud headphones, the teachers hear cues from experts observing from the back of the room.

“Once a teacher understands what it feels like to be successful, it takes root immediately,” said Monica Jordan, coordinator of teacher professional development in Memphis City Schools.

“The teachers get training first. It’s not like someone walks in and shoves an (earbud) in your ear and starts rattling in your ear,” she said.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the work in Memphis, Tampa and New York, hoping to prove that tailoring professional development raises the needle on test scores….

Teach for America in Memphis sees so much promise it is spending $15,000 to conduct its own earbud research next year.

“Essentially we are looking at a control group that doesn’t get coaching to see to what extent coaching and real-time feedback enhances the process,” said Athena Turner, TFA executive director.

“We want to know, does it speed up the timeline in which a teacher develops?”

The back-and-forth between the coach and teacher is happening through walkie-talkies now. As early as March 2, the coach could be anywhere in the world, coaching with digital video feeds from Memphis classrooms….

“I think this new approach gives you an opportunity to differentiate professional development based on teachers’ own strengths and weaknesses,” said Thomas Kane, a Harvard University researching working with the Gates Foundation.

Kane’s hypothesis is that teachers who can watch themselves work will see places to improve.

“Next year, we would hope to have enough classrooms so we can start to answer that question,” Kane said.

Memphis ordered 11 180-degree cameras at $4,500 each. When parent permission slips are returned, the cameras will be set up in classroom corners.

“We’re asking teachers to watch themselves and reflect,” Jordan said. “What does it feel like to be your own observer? … What would you tell yourself if you had to give yourself feedback?”

The technology is so new that the cameras, which also record audio, are being built as they’re ordered.

“Memphis is right behind Harvard’s order,” Jordan said.

Question: Did Harvard get its order? Is it videotaping professors? Who is being videotaped and given earbud instructions at Harvard?

Next question: Is Lakeside Academy in Seattle, where Bill Gates’ children are students, putting earbuds in their teachers’ ears?

Next question: Four years have passed since the experiment was launched in Memphis: What are the results? Was there an experimental group of teachers with earbuds and a control group without earbuds? What happened to the test scores of their students?

Last question: Was the experiment worthwhile? O should the money have been spent on reducing class sizes and tutors?

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