Archives for category: Accountability

I have never understood the idea that anyone can run a school, even people who have never been educators, even people who are high-school dropouts (think Andre Agassi).


So it comes as no surprise when a school run by a football great runs into trouble. In this case, it is the charter school opened by professional star Deion Sanders. The New York Times wrote about the school last year. Opened in 2012, the school quickly had a world-class basketball team, its games broadcast on ESPN, but its academic quality was far below par. According to the Times, the lower grades were rated F by a respected nonprofit group, and its high school had no rating due to missing data.


Now the school is in deep trouble and might even lose its charter in charter-friendly Texas.


The Dallas school founded in 2012 is in financial straits after years of management disputes that led to a state takeover. Prime Prep could close in the middle of the semester if found insolvent.
Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams earlier this month announced that he would appoint a board of managers to run the school, effectively placing it under state control.
The sports programs of Prime Prep have faced scrutiny for recruiting and eligibility allegations. The school also has fought employee turnover, and last April had to repay more than $45,000 it received for providing subsidized meals in 2013 because the school provided no documentation those meals were served.


You might well wonder how a school founded in 2012 has been in “financial straits after years of management disputes.” I wonder too.


According to Forbes, the school is operating under “crushing debt” with finances that are in “utter chaos.”


Sanders was among those in 2012 who opened the school with the goal of combining a college prepartory curriculum with a high-powered athletic program. The school, with two locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, did develop a big-time basketball program, but most of what it produced was chaos and headlines. Through the course of its two-plus years, Sanders was fired, hired, re-fired and re-hired as school leaders and administrators fought with local media, with the authority that runs Texas public high school sports, and with each other (sometimes physically).


As the chaos mounted, so did the bills, which got harder to pay as enrollment fell by half to about 300 students, and eventually the state of Texas stepped in to oversee things. Sanders claimed a merger with another charter school was imminent (it wasn’t). He also seemed just as concerned with his latest reality show, refusing to grant an interview to a local TV station regarding the school when it refused to allow the show’s cameras to film the interview that was being filmed.





Kate Taylor of the New York Times checked with a few nonpartisan experts on Governor Cuomo’s claim that New York public education is in “crisis,” and in dire need of the draconian “reforms” he favors.


The experts said that New York public education is NOT in crisis. The public schools fare about the same as they did on national assessments as they did 20 years ago. Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution says that if they are in crisis now, then they must have been in crisis for the past 20 years.


Aaron Pallas of Teachers College says it is unfair to use the Common Core test scores to gauge achievement because they are have a different passing mark from the previous tests. Only 30% passed the Common Core tests, but the year before, 80% were passing. The teachers didn’t suddenly get worse. The State Commissioner decided to change the standards.

The Los Angeles Times reports a new survey of 26 school districts showing that many of them are not complying with state law that requires them to evaluate teachers in part by student test scores. Apparently, the district leadership knows this is a flawed and invalid means of judging teacher quality.


Teresa Watanabe writes:


The review of 26 school districts serving more than 1.2 million students found that only Clovis Unified near Fresno and Sweetwater Union High School District in Chula Vista fully complied with the law. Two others, Upland Unified in the Inland Empire and San Ramon Valley Unified in Contra Costa County, were “blatantly in violation” of the law by expressly prohibiting the use of state standardized test scores in their teacher evaluations, the study said. The findings were disputed by both districts.


The other school systems surveyed — which included Long Beach, San Diego, Oakland and San Francisco — offered mixed findings, according to the study conducted by the EdVoice Institute for Research and Education, an educational advocacy organization in Sacramento.


Los Angeles Unified School District is still writing its method for evaluating teachers, in response to a court order telling the district to do it (even though most researchers have said it is invalid).


This is a big problem for “reformers,” constantly having to litigate against states and districts to force them to comply with invalid measures and policies that have negative consequences for students and teachers alike.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Professor Dr. Jochen Krautz, a professor of art education in Germany, who is one of a growing number of European scholars who do not like the test-based accountability that is being enforced internationally by the OECD through the PISA examinations. He and colleagues are producing articles to argue against test-based accountability and for recognition that teachers are the experts in teaching. I look forward to posting more articles from scholars in other countries who recognize the absurdity of an international horse race for higher scores on standardized tests. The goal is not “real education,” he says, but the ability to answer the questions posed by unaccountable bureaucrats.


This is one of the articles he sent me: Professor Dr. Hans Peter Klein wrote “Quality Management by Marking Schemes Dumping.” It is translated from German to English, which causes an occasional surprising wording (like the title), but you will get the point if you read the 2 page article. It begins like this:


It has long been all over town: The methods of alleged “quality management” in education do not lead to greater knowledge and skills, rather they conceal the fact that students know less and are capable of less. Ever more beginners, particularly in the natural sciences, lack basic knowledge and skills to successfully take up and complete their studies. However, the kind of trouble caused by ministerial guidelines which teacher teams are facing and let out only behind closed doors, is something the public must know about.


How knowledge and skills develop as the basis of real education and how this can be achieved best during lessons, has been well-known for a long time. Why are teachers not given the freedom to take independent decisions how to organize their lessons according to their professional training? After all, they are the experts.

Republican Governor Susana Martinez is a strong supporter of Common Core and PARCC. She is a follower of the Jeb Bush model of school reform, with ratings and grades for everyone.


Democratic State Senator Linda M. Lopez has introduced legislation to withdraw from Common Core and PARCC. It will be interesting to see if any Republicans are willing to buck the Governor or if any Democrats are willing to stand with the veteran Senator Lopez.


Governor Martinez selected Hanna Skandera as Commissioner of Education, but the Democratic-controlled State Senate has not confirmed her because she has no teaching experience as the law requires. Skandera previously worked for Jeb Bush, and before that for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Skandera is currently leader of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change and a strong supporter of Common Core, VAM, and high-stakes testing.

Tim Slekar, dean of Edgewood College school of education, has a few questions for Senator Vos, speaker of Wisconsin ‘s state senate. He doesn’t ask Senator Vos about his proposal for “the right to work for less.”

No, he asks about the senator’s idea that the state’s students and educators need tough new accountability.

Tim asks:

“WHY, WHY, WHY would you even be thinking about implementing “accountability?” Accountability has a 30-year record of failing children, parents, teachers, and communities. And the disaster of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top over the last 14 years has literally denied a generation of children access to their fundamental right of a powerful and critical education! The only beneficiaries of “accountability” have been you and your friends in the legislature and the companies that have made millions on the sale of tests and data systems to schools. Schools that have simultaneously been drained of money that could have gone towards the only things proven by research to help create an atmosphere in which real learning can occur—health care, basic nutrition, and access to books.

“This leads me to ask again, why? Why engage in behavior that actually damages children, families, and communities? Is the money being offered by lobbyists really worth purposely harming Wisconsin’s kids, families and communities? If you and your colleagues in the legislature really want to help make sure Wisconsin is delivering on its promise to the children of the state, why not simply start by asking for help from people that actually know what they’re talking about. Why not ask a classroom teacher what they need to help educate the children of Wisconsin?”

Senator Vos even wants to crack down on the University of Wisconsin because he is sure its faculty doesn’t work hard enough.

Tim offers his own proposal: why not start with a Legislator Accountability System?

“I have a better idea. Before you start screwing up one of the best systems of higher education in the world all over your perceived issue with faculty workloads, please first implement a transparent system of accountability for you and your legislative colleagues. Provide us with detailed daily workloads—the taxpayers— so we know where and when you are actually working for us. We—the taxpayers— need to be sure that all of you are not “working on administrative and other nonproductive activities.” We—the taxpayers—want efficient legislators. We don’t really have time for you and your colleagues to engage in inefficient legislative practices.

“Also, it would be really helpful if you and your colleagues designed a legislative report card. We—the taxpayers—would like to know if you and your colleagues are actually building Wisconsin’s infrastructure, creating life sustaining jobs, and helping to promote a civil society free of racism, segregation and poverty. Right? I mean we are paying you good money. Shouldn’t we—the taxpayers— know if you and your colleagues really are effective civil servants?”

Dave Zeeicel, the editor emeritus of the Capital Times in Madison loved the idea.

So do I.

A regular commentator, Dienne, makes a point that is very important. She asks what is the value of comparing children, comparing teachers, comparing schools, and comparing states by test scores. She is right. The only ones who need to know a student’s test scores are the student, the parent(s), and the teacher, maybe even the principal. A test score is like a medical diagnosis. It is between you and your doctor; if you are a minor, it is between you, your doctor, and your parents. If the states wants to collect data, they do not need to look at your personal records. They use data to determine if there is a pattern that requires a public health response. But how a child scores on a test is no one’s business but those most immediately involved: the student, his/her parent(s), and teacher(s).


Dienne writes:


I think it’s a lose-lose battle so long as we continue to buy into the rephormers oft-repeated lie that we need “accountability” (with the implication that there isn’t any without standardized testing). There are multiple ways for parents to know how their children are doing – report cards, conferences with the teacher, science fairs, open houses, heck, just talking with their kids. How anyone else’s kid is doing is not anyone else’s business.

There are also ways to know how teachers are doing – that’s the principal’s job. Again, it’s not anyone else’s business, just like my performance review at my job is between me and my superiors.

The notion that we need some sort of nationally published stack-ranking system for schools or teachers is ludicrous and we need to say so.

Governor Mike Pence has been trying to take down State Superintendent of Education Glenda Ritz ever since they were both elected to office in 2012. Pence is a Republican, Ritz is a Democrat. In the election, Ritz won with a bipartisan coalition and beat incumbent Tony Bennett, whose campaign outspent Ritz’s by 10-1. Ritz won more votes than Pence in the general election. Under Tony Bennett, Indiana education policy favored for-profit charter schools, vouchers, high-stakes testing, and attacks on the teaching profession (he was chair of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change and adopted all of Bush’s favored policies). After he resigned, he was immediately hired to be State Superintendent in Florida, but then quickly resigned when AP reporter Tom LoBianco revealed that Bennett had altered the A-F grading system to protect the charter school of one of his major campaign donors.


Glenda Ritz’s victory would prove to be a thorn under Governor Pence’s saddle. Pence appoints the members of the State Board, which Ritz chairs. Over the past two years, Pence created a new state agency to deal with education and workforce issues, to reduce Ritz’s authority. The sniping has continued, because Pence won’t be content until Ritz has no authority at all.


Now members of the State Senate have introduced bills to allow the State Board of Education to elect its own chair, a position that under current law belongs to the elected State Superintendent.


What are the lessons for the rest of us?


One, Governor Pence and the members of the State Senate want to nullify the clear wishes of the public who overwhelmingly voted for Glenda Ritz. Pence and his allies apparently don’t believe in democracy.


Two, Superintendent Glenda Ritz is a brave woman with a strong stomach, who has stood up to this constant assault on her and her office with great dignity.’s reporters are closely watching as interest groups inside the Beltway maneuver around the important issue of testing and the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. NCLB is the name given to the basic federal education law, which was originally titled the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The crucial question now, as Senator Lamar Alexander begins the revision of NCLB is what will happen to the mandate of annual testing from grades 3-8. Accountability hawks love it, especially when it is attached to high-stakes testing. Most teachers and parents hate it, because it narrows the curriculum, encourages constant test prep, promotes teaching to the test, and incentivizes cheating and gaming the system. And so the various interest groups are staking out their positions, and decisions will be made by Congress about whether to allow districts and states to decide about how to test students or whether to stick with the status quo. The latest news is that the AFT issued a Solomonic joint statement with the Center for American Progress (a neoliberal think tank that is close to the Obama administration) supporting annual tests with no stakes and grade-span tests for accountability. Previously, the AFT and NEA were in solidarity against annual testing. Nothing would prevent states from continuing to use the annual tests for accountability. No high-performing nation gives annual tests or uses test scores to evaluate teachers.



Here is Politico’s latest update:


THE CHANGING TIDE ON TESTING: Statements of principles on No Child Left Behind reauthorization have been flying all week, and amid the platitudes, there have been some surprises – position shifts that strongly hint at an emerging consensus on the issues of testing and accountability. Just six months after demanding an end to mandatory annual testing [], the American Federation of Teachers did a 180 and called [ ] for keeping that requirement in the law. The union’s only condition: Congress has to dial down the high stakes and let states pick which test scores they include in their school accountability systems, as long as they use at least one set of scores per grade span. The AFT also called for accountability systems to include multiple metrics beyond the test scores, such as graduation rates, school climate surveys and measures of “social and emotional learning.” The Center for American Progress joined the AFT in that statement.


- Catherine Brown, CAP’s vice president of education policy, said the think tank’s position is evolving as it learns more and conducts more research about testing. The principles outlined with AFT aren’t a “radical departure” from what CAP has said in the past, she said, and the think tank fully supports the agenda laid out [] by Education Secretary Arne Duncan earlier this week. The centrist think tank Third Way opposes CAP and AFT’s proposal, saying none of the testing or accountability requirements should be rolled back:


- The National Education Association continues to call [ ] for an end to the testing mandate. But President Lily Eskelsen García has also said one of the union’s top priorities is to spotlight equity issues through accountability systems that look at everything a school does, so test scores carry far less weight. She told Morning Education last week that the NEA wants to be crystal clear it doesn’t oppose tests – just their misuse. “We know you have to assess kids against benchmarks and determine if they’re learning or not,” she said. “We want good data used in good ways, so we understand how kids are progressing.” That sounds a lot like the AFT/CAP view.


- The Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents the views of superintendents from both parties, is also calling for flexibility. It’s in favor of keeping the testing mandate, but wants districts to be able to opt out of the statewide tests in favor of their own assessments. Executive Director Chris Minnich told Morning Education that CCSSO thinks one of the testing options proposed in Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander’s NCLB discussion draft is “too loose,” making it impossible to compare tests statewide. On the evolving positions of the education policy world, he said it’s natural while the bill is in negotiations. “I think everybody is trying not to draw hard lines around this has to be in it and that has to be in it,” he said.


- Conservatives, meanwhile, have lined up to praise Alexander’s NCLB
discussion draft, which toys with the idea of letting local districts opt out of statewide tests and gets the feds out of the business of prescribing accountability systems. One surprise came from Fordham Institute President Michael Petrilli. He has long been a very vocal supporter of annual tests. Yet in an op-ed in the National Review, he called the idea of winnowing testing to once per grade span “both modest and sensible.” Petrilli later told Morning Education that he still supports annual testing and should have been “more careful with the wording” of the piece, which he co-wrote with Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute. But Petrilli also said he’s open to other concepts; his chief goal is simply to be able to track kids’ progress over time. “If some state comes up with an idea on how to do it differently, we should be open to it,” he said.


- So, could all this maneuvering signal a potential compromise in which Congress would continue to require annual tests in theory, but in practice give states and districts a heap of flexibility? Hess said he sees such a middle ground emerging – and notes that it sounds an awful lot like the framework President Bill Clinton proposed 20 years ago. “We’ve taken a long road home,” he said.

When I spoke to the Texas School Boards Association a few years ago, a member of the audience got up and identified himself as a school board member and an engineer. He said that he didn’t understand why the government tests every child every year. He said that in the industry where he works, it is customary to test the products periodically, on a sampling basis. I will never forget what he said: “If we tested every product, we would spend most of our time testing the product, and we wouldn’t have time left to manufacture or to improve the product.”


I was reminded of that statement when I received this comment from Doug Garnett, who is a specialist in marketing, advertising, branding, communications, and technology. Garnett wrote, just minutes ago:


Where I’m mystified is this belief that in order to have “accountability”, EVERY child has to be tested in the entire nation.


In business, we rely heavily on statistical sampling because it’s flat out too expensive to measure every item. Sampling in manufacturing, sampling in store satisfaction, sampling in purchasing, sampling in advertising impact, sampling, sampling sampling.


The NAEP relies on sampling…because it’s EFFECTIVE!


Imagine this: IF we shifted to a sampling test approach an amazing array of issues would be mitigated. The tests would lose their intensely punitive nature – and evolve toward being instructive and enlightening. They would lose the “high stakes” and become simply learning that informs. And, WE could use their reduced presence to focus on the totality of education instead of creating testing farms.


So…why don’t these so-called “business people” behind reform endorse smart business approach like sampling? Mind boggling…unless we embrace the conspiracy to redirect all of that government spending into the profits of private corporations.


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