Archives for category: Accountability

Peter Greene reports on the latest declaration that the sky is falling, released by the Foundation for Educational Excellence. FEE was established by Jeb Bush to push the Florida Miracle, digital learning, vouchers, charters, and high-stakes testing. When Jeb! decided to run for President, he stepped down and Condoleeza Rice took his place. She has been quiet, perhaps because she is learning the ropes about education. While Condi is studying up, Jeb!s righthand woman, Patricia Levesque wrote this latest blast at America’s terrible schools.

Quite frankly, I wonder why everyone swallows the latest alarm. We are,after all, the most powerful nation on earth. If our schools are so awful, how did we achieve economic, military, and cultural success? Sure, we have problems, big problems, especially segregation and poverty. But that is never what reformsters worry about. They work on the assumption that if they could get the right standards and the right tests, poverty would disappear.

FEE has discovered an earth-shattering crisis: the “Proficiency Gap.” It seems that NAEP has a higher standard for proficiency than almost every state. This is not a new finding. I think it has been written about many times. The NAEP “proficiency” standard is very high; it represents a very high level of performance on the NAEP tests. States, which must be concerned about getting kids through high school, do not set as high a standard as NAEP. NAEP proficiency was never meant to be a goal that all or almost all students could reach. No matter how high your expectations, some kids will not do as well as others. Not all will achieve A-level performance.

Greene’s complaint is that FEE never defines what proficiency is or how it should be measured. FEE seems to assume that a score on tests of reading and math are all that is needed to predict whether students are ready for college and careers. Peter has too much experience to accept that claim, especially when it comes from privatization advocates with no classroom experience.

Greene asks:

Is there a proficiency gap?

Between what and what? If the assertion is that we have a gap between the results of one lousy standardized test and another different lousy standardized test, then, yeah, I guess so, but so what? If the gap is between what we tell students they can accomplish and what they actually are able to accomplish– well, where’s the evidence? Oh, I know what reformsters believe– that all the poverty in the country is the result of students who couldn’t score high enough on a standardized test. This strikes me as highly unlikely, though I get that there are many possible explanations for and solutions to widespread poverty. But if we’ve had the most terrible education system in the world, and we should fear that because it will lead to failure and collapse, I just feel as if the country isn’t doing as badly as all these chicken littling privatizers want to say, and where I do see failure, I see problems of racism and systemic barriers to class mobility. Oddly enough, race and poverty do not appear as issues on the proficiency gap site.

So if FEE is declaring that states need to do more about closing the resource gap and the opportunity gap and the stupid racist barriers gap, that would be swell. But I’ve read enough FEE materials to suspect that they’re chicken littling in one more act of “There’s a terrible emergency, so you must do as we say!!” The Honesty Gap folks wanted us all to buy more PARCC and SBA tests, and Common Core harder, as well as handing over more public schools to private interests. Oh, and stop opting out. This seems like more of the same old stuff aimed primarily at helping privatizers close their revenue gaps.

This story is behind a paywall, although some readers found a way around the paywall. It was written by staff writer Fred LeBrun. It accurately describes the revulsion that parents and educators feel toward Governor Cuomo’s mean-spirited plan to tie everyone to a stake made of standardized test scores. LeBrun also points out that the State Assembly, which appoints new Regents, might well flip the majority next spring by appointing two new Regents to join the board. Chancellor Merryl Tisch has been a steadfast ally of Governor Cuomo and his plan (which is based on a letter she wrote one of his aides last December, outlining the changes she supported, without consulting the other members of the board of Regents.) If the opt out movement continues to grow–and there is every reason to believe that it will–the Assembly may not re-appoint Tisch to the board, where she has been a member since 1996.

 

 

In the linked article, LeBrun writes that it could have been much worse. Cuomo’s “education tax credits” to cut the taxes of billionaires while creating back-door vouchers did not pass.

 

 

What the Legislature and governor did agree to during the Legislative session’s final days was to direct the State Education Department to assure that the deeply controversial standardized growth tests and individual questions in Cuomo’s plan are at least age and grade appropriate and more useful as teaching tools. Also, that teachers are no longer gagged from discussing the test questions once they’re made public, and that a teacher’s student growth score, critical to whether that teacher stays employed according to the Cuomo plan, must also consider a number of student characteristics such as special needs, English as a second language, and most importantly, poverty.

 

Common sense tweaks, but far too few to make much of a difference. The core remains rotten. The Cuomo plan needs to be scrapped for something that actually works and that’s fair to all.

 

That is not so farfetched as it might seem.

 

As the Cuomo plan reveals itself as unworkable, unuseful and publicly about as popular as a dead whale in the living room, increasingly the Legislature and governor are shunting off the overly complicated implementation — and blame — on the state Education Department and the state Board of Regents, the body that by law is supposed to set and govern state public education policy. Unequivocally, Regent Roger Tilles of Long Island last week told reporter Susan Arbetter that the Legislature and the governor have all along been stepping on the Regents’ toes over formulating teacher evaluations, and not a single one of the 17 Regents is in favor of the present student and plan so favored by the governor.

 

After recent personnel changes, the Regents are very quickly becoming radicalized over the evaluation plan, and the so-called ”reform” agenda that embraces it.

 

The balance of those stridently opposed to the governor’s plan is at present a strong minority, and by March, when the terms of Chancellor Tisch and another Regent are up, that could well become a majority.

 

Already the Board of Regents is beginning to show new energy. Last week, while reluctantly accepting the education department’s draft teacher evaluation regulations as mandated by the Cuomo plan, the Regents found wiggle room that clearly signals they want to turn this garbage scow around.

 

The Regents voted for granting four-month hardship waivers without aid penalties to school districts that feel they will not be ready with a teacher evaluation plan by the required Nov. 15 of this year. That takes it to March of next year, which realistically means not before the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. They also decided that yet-to-be created and approved alternative local tests will be acceptable instead of the state standardized tests to meet the Cuomo student growth requirement, and they voted to create their own study group to evaluate and assess the entirety of the current evaluation plan with an eye to changes.

 

What that study group comes up with will make a dandy justification for an Assembly package of bills to give us a reasonable evaluation plan.

 

Meanwhile, other major factors speak to dramatic change. Next week, MaryEllen Elias becomes our new state education commissioner. She fills the vacancy left by the largely useless John King. He and Tisch were the main architects and promoters of Cuomo’s draconian version of a Common Core based plan. Elias is a veteran educator who is certainly familiar with the issues facing New York. Let’s see what she can do….

 

 

Cuomo can thumb his nose at the Legislature and the education establishment with seemingly little consequence.

 

It’s another matter when he tries to jam his malarkey down the throats of livid parents and their anxious youngsters, also known as the electorate. Last year, 60,000 Opted Out. This year 200,000. On Long Island alone, 40 percent of the students who could take those tests didn’t. Opt Out is a political force with quickly developing muscle, reflecting deep public dissatisfaction.

 

No single issue has contributed more to the rapid and still sinking decline of Cuomo’s popularity than his boneheaded war with students, teachers and public schools generally, and there’s no end in sight. Legislature take note.

In displaying readiness for college, grade point average matters more than a score on a college admissions test like SAT or ACT. Even the testing companies acknowledge that this is the case. But they are businesses, and they compete with one another for numbers and dollars. So they are always on the lookout for new avenues by which to serve their customers (the colleges, not the students).

 

The ACT, Mercedes Schneider reports, will offer a new service to colleges (not to students). It will not only test the student, but it will give the college confidential advice about his or her readiness, based on subtest scores. This information will go to the college, but not to the student.

 

Schneider writes:

 

Thus, ACT is intentionally shifting its role from reporting test scores to advising postsecondary institutions regarding admissions decisions.

There’s more:

Students will not be privy to the advice ACT is offering regarding ACT’s predictions of student success. None of this info will be part of the student score report. Such info will be between ACT and postsecondary institutions.

And not only does ACT believe it has a right to both form and communicate its opinions of student success to colleges and universities; ACT is fine with forming some of its judgments based upon unverified, volunteered student self-report information.

 

So, get this. The students pay to be tested; ACT reports the results to the students and to colleges. But then ACT gives the colleges information about the students and recommends whether or not they should be accepted. This advice is not shared with the students who paid to be tested.

 

Does this strike you as outrageous? ACT is not your guidance counselor. What nerve!

Jonathan Pelto writes about this curious conundrum: Connecticut’s charter schools want more public money, but they object to public accountability. Their motto seems to be: give us money and get out of our way. In other states, like Néw York, charter operators have gone to court to block public audits of public funds (“trust us”).

In Connecticut, as Sarah Darer Littman wrote in a column Pelto quotes, charters testify before the Legislature that they should be excused from complying with Freedom of Information requests because it is burdensome. And their spokesman testified that they should not have to complete background tests on employees. They are in a hurry and can’t be expected to wait to find out if their new hires have criminal backgrounds.

Charter schools are special. Rules and regulations and state laws are for public schools, not for charter schools.

Didn’t Leona Helmsley, the billionaire queen of mean, sat that taxes are for the “little people?”

Angie Sullivan teaches K-2 in Nevada. She follows state policies closely and asks questions.

 

She is a prolific writer. I wish she would run for the Legislature but then the kids would lose a good teacher.

 

She sent the following to her large email list (that includes legislators and journalists):

 

http://www.wsj.com/articles/nevada-places-a-bet-on-school-choice-1434319588

 

My main points of concern are:

 

Who is an approved vendor to provide the receipts for obtaining the $5K?

 

For instance – can a school teacher get a business license and have a private school in their home with ten students and make $50K a year?

 

The ninety day attendance rule – does this happen every year or once you have attend in your days do your 90 days – can you receive the money every year for the next 13 years?

 

Fraud – we poorly regulate our charters and schoolers already. This has the potential to create all sorts of scamming education business much like the for profit colleges that already riddle the Vegas Valley.

 

Could someone potentially move here for 90 days with their children and then go back to Virginia and receive their $15K check for the rest of the children’s careers?

 

Who decides who is an approved educational service? The Charter Authority does not even list a portion of the failing charters. Will we have huge lists of approved vendors coming and going? Does the regulating body have to follow the open meeting laws or any of the transparency rules?

 

This has the potential to become the biggest disaster and waste of tax payer money in America. Not to mention siphon every cent from the public schools essentially wiping then out.

 

We could become the state where parents visit Nevada for 90 days and take their kids home to Connecticut collect their check. The zone variance system in Vegas already shows that parents will game whatever system is in place to attend wherever they want whenever they like.

 

Any other teachers want to chime in here?

 

Angie

This is a list of the Regents of the State of New York. The majority want to maintain high-stakes testing to evaluate teachers.

 

Six of the 17 Regents voted to oppose high-stakes testing and to change the state’s way of evaluating teachers. These six want more attention to student performance, not defined as bubble tests, but student work in the school.

If your Regent voted to support high-stakes testing, please contact him or her to express your views.

 

The Regents who opposed Governor Cuomo’s high-stakes testing are:

 

Kathleen Cashin

 

Betty Rosa

 

Judith Chin

 

Judith Johnson

 

Catherine Collins

 

Beverly L. Ouderkirk

 

These Regents are profiles in courage. They based their decision on research and on their own experience as educators.

 

If you live in the district of one of the other Regents, you should contact them and let them know that their vote for high-stakes testing hurts students and teachers by placing too much emphasis on standardized tests. Urge them to pay attention to pedagogically sound practices, as the other six Regents did.

Complaints are pouring in about the New York Regents examination in algebra, which all students must pass in order to graduate. It is now aligned with the Common Core, so it is very “rigorous.” Most students know that they are likely to fail. There are many reports of students in tears, and teachers in despair. What will New York do about the clog in the pipeline? What if most students can’t pass the exam and can’t graduate? Will they remain in high school until they drop out? Ideas? Anyone?

 

The common theme shared by parents and teachers was that any test that children will likely fail that determines their future is abusive, and that when most children leave an exam in tears something is very wrong. And don’t forget that this incredibly flawed exam will also count toward teacher evaluation, thereby prejudicing and harming teachers as well.

Paul Thomas decribes the futility of rebranding the Common Core.

He writes: “Careful examination of both adopting Common Core and then the backlash resulting in dropping Common Core reveals that states remain firmly entrenched in the same exact accountability based on standards and high-stakes testing that has overburdened education since the 1980s. “The names and letters change, but not much else—except for throwing more money at a game of wasteful politics labeled “reform.” “Political posturing and public responses to all this Common Core puffery suggest that the next time a hurricane is plowing toward U.S. soil, the Weather Channel can lessen public panic by simply announcing a kitten is off the coast of Florida. “New and different standards and tests—these are jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, rearranging chairs on the Titanic. “We need to abandon ship.” It is time to aim for equity, for equality of opportunity, not a race with winners and losers.

Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio summarizes what is wrong with the charter industry in Ohio. Under the guide of helping “poor kids escape failing schools,” charter operators have created a profitable business running mostly low-quality schools. Deceptive marketing and contributions to key politicians keep the hoax going, stealing money from taxpayers and public schools to fatten the wallets of entrepreneurs.

 

“Charter schools –alternative schools meant to provide better educational options for parents and children while creating healthy competition for local public schools – have been hijacked in Ohio by profiteers and huge campaign contributors whose great talent is making money and winning elections, not educating kids. The results have been the poorest performing charter school sector outside Nevada.

 

“How bad is it? Some charter schools in Ohio can remain open even though they only graduate 2 out of 155 children. Meanwhile, more than half a billion state dollars that were meant for districts went instead to charters that performed the same or worse than the district last year.

 

“However, there is great hope that meaningful charter school reform is coming to Ohio. This could mean that my home state’s well documented status as the country’s most notorious charter sector could soon change.

 

Senate Bill 148, currently being merged in the Ohio Senate with another reform bill, takes meaningful and significant steps toward fixing many of the most obvious transparency and accountability issues with Ohio law.

 

“Despite its shortcomings on funding and tightening closure standards (due to how far behind Ohio is than any bill weakness), this is without a doubt the most comprehensive and courageous charter school reform effort offered by Ohio Republicans in three decades.”

 

 

Dyer warns that the biggest profiteers and their lobbyists could still weaken or torpedo the reforms, allowing charter scams to continue uninterrupted.

 

 

Nothing will really change, he writes, unless the funding formula for charter schools changes.

Like every other state, Pennsylvania spent many tens of millions (or more) to develop a new teacher evaluation system. Guess what?

Teachers got their highest ratings ever!

“In the first year of many school districts using a new statewide teacher evaluation system, a greater portion of teachers was rated satisfactory than under the old system.

“In figures released by the state Department of Education, 98.2 percent of all teachers were rated as satisfactory in 2013-14 — the highest percentage in five years — despite a new system that some thought would increase the number of unsatisfactory ratings.”

“In the four prior years, 97.7 percent of teachers were rated satisfactory in all but 2009-10, when 96.8 percent were. These figures count teachers in school districts, career and technical centers, intermediate units and charter schools.”

Pennsylvania is fortunate to have so many good teachers!

Whom shall we blame now?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 152,362 other followers