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Politicians continue to fret about scores on tests and to ignore the causes of poor academic performance. They have this strange belief that more testing will raise test scores and that they need not address the underlying causes of low scores.

 

Consider this report from politico.com:

 

“THE CONSEQUENCES OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA: Nearly half of U.S. children have gone through a traumatic experience like exposure to violence, economic hardship, family discord or mental health and substance abuse. And for the one in five children who’ve been through at least two traumatic experiences, the consequences can be dire, a study in this month’s issue of Health Affairs says. Those kids were twice as likely as their peers to have a chronic condition and special health needs. And they were 2.5 times more likely to repeat grades in school. The study: http://bit.ly/1stwY81

Recognizing that Race to the Top may be defunded in the next budget, Peter Greene explains the program’s original purposes, priorities, and policies.

 

Greene calls it a “giant turkey” with its neck on the chopping block and warns that it is too soon to celebrate. It might be saved at the last minute.

 

After surveying its many parts, he concludes:

 

“Yes, when lost in the haze of debate and discussion, sometimes it’s best to go back to the basics. Here it is– exactly what the feds wanted. Good paperwork. A teacher rank and rate system based on student test scores that would drive everything from training. More charters. More school takeovers.

“While the document says that RttT ‘will reward states that have demonstrated success in raising student achievement,’ that’s not really what it rewards. It rewards states for remaking their education systems along the lines demanded by the feds. And though the document promised that the best models would spread their reform ideas across the country, five years later, there are no signs of any such spreading infection. But then, there are no signs that any of these federal ideas about fixing schools has actually improved education for any students in this country.

“If Congress actually manages to shut this mess down, there will be no cause for tears.”

Be sure to read the first comment about the turmoil unleashed by Arne Duncan, and the effect of chaos on students.

States continue to distance themselves from either the Common Core or the federally-funded Common Core tests. The following was reported by politico.com:

“DIVORCING ‘SMARTER BALANCED': Anti-Common Core activists in Missouri activists opposed to the Common Core are revving up their legal fight to pull the state out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Last month, they won a temporary restraining order barring the state from paying membership fees to SBAC. But that order has expired, so they’ve filed motions asking for another such order – or, better yet, for a summary judgment declaring the state’s affiliation with SBAC an illegal interstate compact. The activists know they can’t stop Missouri from administering SBAC this coming spring; state law requires it. But state committees made up of teachers, parents and administrators are writing new standards to replace the Common Core. In future years, the state will be free to pick a new test aligned with those standards. The lawsuit aims to ensure the state can start that process with a fresh slate rather than be tied to SBAC. In the meantime, the activists want to be sure that Missouri is free to set its own cut scores and control test administration without interference from the consortium. “We want local control, which means that we control the test,” plaintiff Anne Gassel told Morning Education.

- Missouri owes Smarter Balanced $4.2 million for the complete package of formative, interim and summative assessments for this school year. The state has already paid a portion of that fee and Sarah Potter, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said it will have to find a way to pay the remainder no matter what happens in court, since the law requires that the SBAC test be used this school year. A renewed restraining order “could impact our membership in the consortium, but we don’t think it will affect our actually buying and administering the test,” Potter said. In the event that the Show Me State’s payments are affected, the consortium is developing a policy for dealing with deadbeat states. Among the issues being discussed: Whether to block states from using the assessments if they fail to pay their bills, Potter said.

- “We are committed to working with the state of Missouri to provide the best tools and assessments to teachers and students,” Smarter Balanced spokeswoman Jacqueline King told Morning Education. “Beyond that, I cannot comment.”

The Attorney General of Michigan ruled that it was appropriate to use school funding to build a new hockey arena for the Red Wings.

“Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette quietly issued an opinion that said state taxes for schools can legally be used to fund the arena’s construction. The opinion came in response to a request in October from state Rep. Rose Mary Robinson (D-Detroit), who asked if it was a constitutional use of the funds.

“In her request, Robinson pointed to a section of the Michigan Constitution, which says that money from the state School Aid Fund is to be used “exclusively” for public schools and colleges in Michigan.

“Some quick background: Robinson’s request stems from the structure of how the Red Wings arena will be financed. An estimated 58 percent of the cost to construct the arena will funded by public tax dollars, about $261 million….”

“Whether you agree that public tax dollars should be used for the project, or decry the idea of subsidizing a billionaire’s arena, the fact is that schools in Michigan could use all the help they can get. Even if it is only $15 million.

“For example, this past May, Michigan officials lowered revenue projections for state school taxes over the next year by nearly $80 million. This was seen as a big deal when the revised projections were released. And if facets of a recent state House plan to support road funding — by phasing out the sales tax on gasoline and replace it with an increase to fuel taxes — gains traction when lawmakers hash out a compromise this week, that could cost deplete school taxes of “hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to one study.

“And while Robinson hasn’t said this outright, her point speaks to a larger concern about the current revitalization in downtown Detroit: No one questions the fact that it’s a positive sign to see young millennials moving into the city. But what will those transplants do when they have children later in life and want to send them to school — in Detroit?

“I represent Detroit, and I represent the center of Detroit, the core,” Robinson told MLive. “And our priorities are our children, schools, police protection, basic essential city services. Give us that. Take your arena … it’s just not fair.”

Journalist Charlie Mitchell in Mississippi has advice for politicians: stop telling teachers how to teach. What an idea!

He writes:

“Do members of the Legislature go over to Highway Patrol headquarters to instruct troopers on how to make a traffic stop? How about the medical center? Do you reckon our state’s elected elite scrub up, waltz into surgery and give doctors pointers on a liver transplant?

“But what began as a trickle of officious intermeddling with education has become a torrent.”

How about asking legislators. To take the tests they mandate?

Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2014/12/15/5970853_charlie-mitchell-if-teaching-is.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

Read on for the details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bush is also an ardent fan of vouchers.

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

Here are the newspaper’s findings:

“What the Free Press found:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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