Archives for category: Accountability

This comment came from a reader who signs as “NY Teacher”:

 

 

They can’t prove it because they are all barking up the wrong tree.
In fact their entire premise is wrong. The weakest link in the learning/achievement chain is rarely the teacher.

I have one hundred students this year. I teach a subject that is new to all of them. This puts all of my 14 year old students on an equal footing as far as course content goes. After a year of instruction, a few of them have been incredibly successful. Some have done quite well. Most have done ok, just not setting the academic world on fire, And a few have been abysmal failures. If student achievement rests solely (or even mostly) on the teacher, how can this be explained?

The premise behind the teacher bashing movement is based on the surrealistic notion that virtually all students are willing participants in the learning process. If all my students are eager to learn, attentive, inquisitive, organized, conscientious, and hard working (and had the necessary parental support), I will gladly take the blame for student failure. In school districts where this is largely the case, it is amazing just how highly effective teachers seem to be.

We are looking for reasons why students don’t learn, and the only rock we have not looked under is the only rock worth exploring.

Zephyr Teachout is running for governor in the Democratic primary against Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo has collected more than $30 million for his campaign, much of it from Wall Street titans. At the convention of the Working Families Party last month, Cuomo won over the union leaders, who delivered the WFP endorsement to him over Teachout. She must gather 15,000 signatures on petitions by July 7 from across the state to place her on the ballot for the Democratic primary ballot on September 9.

Among other things, she wants to change the way political campaigns are funded. She says:

“Right now, the campaign funding system leads to politicians basically being beggars at the feet of oligarchs. It’s what the progressives of another era called the invisible government: the private power that sits behind public power. Politicians are not making decisions based on what they think their constituents want or even what they think is best for their constituents. They’re making decisions based on who is giving them $60,000; that’s more money than any middle-class person can afford.”

In this interview, Teachout explains why she is running and why she thinks she has a possibility of upsetting Cuomo. Her basic issues are public corruption, about which she is an expert; the environment (she opposes fracking and favors alternative sources of energy); economic development; jobs; a higher minimum wage; and education. Everyone who runs for office in New York promises to “clean up” the ethical swamp in Albany. Teachout means it.

Tom Scarice, superintendent of schools in Madison, Connecticut, here speaks out and names the criminal corruption of education into a test-taking industry that has no goal other than test scores. He knows that as the stakes go higher, people succumb to the pressure to teach to the test or even to cheat. Campbell’s Law is relentless. The same things happen in other fields, when the goal of profit becomes more important than the endeavor itself.

Scarice compares present practices to those that destroyed Enron. He writes:

“Without question, measures, qualitative and quantitative, representing a variety of indicators that mark the values of an organization, are necessary fuel for the engine of continuous improvement. High-quality tests, specifically used for the purposes for which they were designed, can and should play a productive role in this process. But, measures are not goals. Regrettably, just as Lay and Skilling did in bringing a multibillion dollar corporation to its knees, in this era, the shallowest of thinkers have passively accepted the paradigm that measures are goals.

“And finally, we are left with the greatest crime committed against the professional practice of education as a result of the corrosive effect of the high-stakes testing era. In an effort to thrive, and perhaps, just to survive, in a redefined world of quality education, a soft, though sometimes harsh, distortion of pedagogy, has perniciously spread to classrooms, just as the Enron executives distorted sound accounting practices to meet high-stakes targets. This will indeed be our greatest regret.”

When test scores on standardized tests take precedence over the larger humanistic and aesthetic goals of education, over the needs of children, over creativity and ingenuity, then education itself becomes a cheapened enterprise.

This is a terrific article by Steve Nelson. I wish I could republish it in full but that is not allowed.

He actually says that what is called reform is “a national delusion.”

He writes:

“As I watch the education “debate” in America I wonder if we have simply lost our minds. In the cacophony of reform chatter — online programs, charter schools, vouchers, testing, more testing, accountability, Common Core, value-added assessments, blaming teachers, blaming tenure, blaming unions, blaming parents — one can barely hear the children crying out: “Pay attention to us!”

“None of the things on the partial list above will have the slightest effect on the so-called achievement gap or the supposed decline in America’s international education rankings. Every bit of education reform — every think tank remedy proposed by wet-behind-the-ears MBAs, every piece of legislation, every one of these things — is an excuse to continue the unconscionable neglect of our children.”

Read it!

His conclusion:

“Doing meaningful education with the most advantaged kids and ample resources is challenging enough with classes of 20. Doing meaningful work with children in communities we have decimated through greed and neglect might require classes of 10 or fewer. When will Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton Family, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan and other education reformers recommend that?

“No, that’s not forthcoming. Their solution is more iPads and trying to fatten up little Hansel and Gretel by weighing them more often. Pearson will make the scales.

“Only in contemporary America can a humanitarian crisis be just another way to make a buck.”

After a year-long investigation, the Detroit Free Press published a scathing report on the state’s thriving charter sector.

Charter schools receive $1 billion in taxpayer funding with virtually no accountability.

They get worse results than traditional public schools.

140,000 children attend charter schools in Michigan.

Michigan has more for-profit charters than any other state. The for-profit organizations are secretive about their finances because they are private.

“In reviewing two decades of charter school records, the Free Press found:

“Wasteful spending and double-dipping. Board members, school founders and employees steering lucrative deals to themselves or insiders. Schools allowed to operate for years despite poor academic records. No state standards for who operates charter schools or how to oversee them.”

““People should get a fair return on their investment,” said former state schools Superintendent Tom Watkins, a longtime charter advocate who has argued for higher standards for all schools. “But it has to come after the bottom line of meeting the educational needs of the children. And in a number of cases, people are making a boatload of money, and the kids aren’t getting educated.”

“According to the Free Press’ review, 38% of charter schools that received state academic rankings during the 2012-13 school year fell below the 25th percentile, meaning at least 75% of all schools in the state performed better. Only 23% of traditional public schools fell below the 25th percentile.

“Advocates argue that charter schools have a much higher percentage of children in poverty compared with traditional schools. But traditional schools, on average, perform slightly better on standardized tests even when poverty levels are taken into account.”

Some examples of charter abuses of the public trust:

“Michigan’s laws are either nonexistent or so lenient that there are often no consequences for abuses or poor academics. Taxpayers and parents are left clueless about how charter schools spend the public’s money, and lawmakers have resisted measures to close schools down for poor academic performance year after year.

“The Free Press found that questionable decisions, excessive spending and misuse of taxpayer dollars run the gamut:

■ A Sault Ste. Marie charter school board gave its administrator a severance package worth $520,000 in taxpayer money.

■ A Bedford Township charter school spent more than $1 million on swampland.

■ A mostly online charter school in Charlotte spent $263,000 on a Dale Carnegie confidence-building class, $100,000 more than it spent on laptops and iPads.

■ Two board members who challenged their Romulus school’s management company over finances and transparency were ousted when the length of their terms was summarily reduced by Grand Valley State University.

■ National Heritage Academies, the state’s largest for-profit school management company, charges 14 of its Michigan schools $1 million or more in rent — which many real estate experts say is excessive.

■ A charter school in Pittsfield Township gave jobs and millions of dollars in business to multiple members of the founder’s family.

■ Charter authorizers have allowed management companies to open multiple schools without a proven track record of success.”

Carol Burris has been one of the leading voices in opposition to corporate education reform in New York state. Whenever anyone tries to imply that opposition to the Common Core comes only from the Tea Party, there is Carol Burris–a progressive high school principal–as a counter-example.

 

Burris has led the principals’ revolt against high-stakes testing and against evaluating educators according to student test scores.

 

In this article, she describes the progressive revulsion to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is more attuned to the interests of major corporations and big-money donors than to parents and educators.

 

Burris sees Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout as the progressive who is likeliest to challenge Governor Cuomo in a Democratic primary, running against him on his left flank, where he has big vulnerabilities.

 

Given the upset defeat of Eric Cantor in Virginia, no politician can rest easy as they approach an election. In many states and districts, voters are angry and feel cheated.

 

Cantor was surprised. Let’s see if Cuomo coasts to victory, as he expects, and as Cantor expected.

Peter Greene here picks apart an article by Patricia Levesque defending the Common Core, testing, and accountability.

Who is Patricia Levesque? She is CEO of Jeb Bush’s organization called the Foundation for Educational Excellence. It is safe to assume that she speaks for Jeb Bush in celebrating the Flrida miracle, Common Core, and the immense value of standardized testing and accountability.

Levesque is critical of those who question the value of a one-shot standardized test or the value of holding teachers accountable for their students’ test scores.

This, he writes, is what he learned from Levesque:

“Student success depends on testing and accountability. Not teaching. Not learning. Not supportive homes. Not a supportive classroom environment. Not good pedagogical technique. Not a positive, nurturing relationship with a teacher. Just tests. Tests with big fat punishments attache to failure.

“Perhaps what we need is an all-test district. Every day students file in, receive their punishments for the previous test results, take a new test. I mean, if testing is the whole key to learning, the whole key to a successful life itself, then why are we wasting classroom time on anything else? Let’s just test, all day, every day. “

Peter Greene asks: if you had your choice, which head of the hydra-headed reform monster would you lop off first?

Hint: one of those heads is essential for all the others. I agree with his choice.

Anthony Cody does not agree with Randi Weingarten and Linda Darling-Hammond. They recently published an article saying that California would be a model for the success of Common Core, because the new tests would be used to help schools, not to close them or to evaluate educators.

Cody posts a video from the Common Core website. Here is the script:

“Like it or not, life is full of measuring sticks: How smart we are, how fast we are, how we can, you know, compete. But up until now, it’s been pretty hard to tell how well kids are competing in school, and how well they’re going to do when they get out of school. We like to think that our education system does that. But when it comes to learning what they really need to be successful after graduation, is a girl in your neighborhood being taught as much as her friend over in the next one? Is a graduating senior in, say, St. Louis, as prepared to get a job as a graduate in Shanghai? Well, it turns out the answer to both of these questions is “no.” Because for years, states have been setting different standards for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. That’s making it too hard to know if our kids are really doing well enough overall and if they can really compete for a job some day.”

The video concludes:

“The world’s getting more and more competitive every day. But now when our kids get to the top of their staircase, they can have way more options of where their life goes from there. Clear goals, confident, well-prepared students, that’s the Common Core state standard.”

Cody writes:

“So let’s unpack the assumptions built into Common Core. First, “like it or not” we are told our world is determined to measure everything. Bizarrely, we even have a picture of someone who looks like Albert Einstein measuring the circumference of his skull, as if this has any value. And these measurements are the basis for competition – and our students are in a race against one another, and against that kid in Shanghai, who may be better prepared for a job than our kids.

“The way to make our students “confident” and “well-prepared” for this race is to set up their learning as a series of steps they must climb, and every student at a given grade must mount these steps in order, and at the same age.

“This is a powerful framework for learning, and I think it is destructive.”

He adds:

“The promise of the Common Core is that we create confident students and help the under-privileged by measuring them on a set of difficult tests, which will show that those who have always been behind are further behind than ever. I just don’t see how this builds confidence. I think that in spite of the best efforts of teachers and leaders in our state, many of our students will do very poorly on these tests. And high-poverty schools will do worse than ever. We will then be obliged to use these scores as an accurate diagnosis of our problems, and in effect this will justify and reinforce inequities, rather than challenge them.”

Cody makes a powerful argument against the assumption that standards and testing will create equity or excellence. It is more NCLB, more Race to the Top, more of the same-old same-old.

Vote here:

http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2014/06/education_supt_john_white_how.html#comments

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