Archives for category: Accountability

Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post has written a sympathetic article about Arne Duncan and the waning of his powers as Secretary of Education. He is a nice guy. He is a close friend of the President. He cares about individual children that he met along the way. The pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will prohibit him and future Secretaries from interfering in state decisions about standards, curriculum, and assessment. His family has already moved back to Chicago. But he will stay on the job to the very end.

 

When Obama was elected, many educators and parents thought that Obama would bring a new vision of the federal role in education, one that freed schools from the test-and-punish mindset of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind. But Arne Duncan and Barack Obama had a vision no different from George W. Bush and doubled down on the importance of testing, while encouraging privatization and undermining the teaching profession with a $50 million grant to Teach for America to place more novice teachers in high-needs schools. Duncan never said a bad word about charters, no matter how many scandals and frauds were revealed.

 

During Duncan’s tenure in office,

 

*He used his control of billions of dollars to promote a dual school system of privately managed charter schools operating alongside public schools;

*He has done nothing to call attention to the fraud and corruption in the charter sector or to curb charters run by non-educators for profit or to insist on charter school accountability or to require charters to enroll the neediest children;

*He pushed to require states to evaluate teachers by the test scores of their students, which has caused massive demoralization among teachers, raised the stakes attached to testing, and produced no positive results;

*He used federal funds and waivers from NCLB to push the adoption of Common Core standards and to create two testing consortia, which many states have abandoned;

*The Common Core tests are so absurdly “rigorous” that most students have failed them, even in schools that send high percentages of students to four-year colleges, the failure rates have been highest among students who are English language learners, students with disabilities, and students of color;

*He has bemoaned rising resegregation of the schools but done nothing to reduce it;

*He has been silent as state after state has attacked collective bargaining and due process for teachers;

*He has done nothing in response to the explosion of voucher programs that transfer public funds to religious schools;

*Because of his policies, enrollments in teacher education programs, even in Teach for America, have plummeted, and many experienced teachers are taking early retirement;

*He has unleashed a mad frenzy of testing in classrooms across the country, treating standardized test scores as the goal of all education, rather than as a measure;

*His tenure has been marked by the rise of an aggressive privatization movement, which seeks to eliminate public education in urban districts, where residents have the least political power;

*He loosened the regulations on the federal student privacy act, permitting massive data mining of the data banks that federal funds created;

*He looked the other way as predatory for-profit colleges preyed on veterans and  minorities, plunging students deep into debt;

*Duncan has regularly accused parents and teachers of “lying” to students. For reasons that are unclear, he wants everyone to believe that our public schools are terrible, our students are lazy, not too bright, and lacking ambition. If he were a basketball coach, he would have been encouraging the team to try harder and to reach for greater accomplishment, but instead he took every opportunity to run down the team and repeat how dreadful they are. He spoke of “respect” but he never showed it.

This era has not been good for students; nearly a quarter live in poverty, and fully 51% live in low-income families. This era has not been good for teachers, who feel disrespected and demeaned by governors, legislatures, and the U.S. Department of Education. This era has not been good for parents, who see their local public schools lose resources to charter schools and see their children subjected to endless, intensive testing.

 

It will take years to recover from the damage that Arne Duncan’s policies have inflicted on public education. He exceeded the authority of his office to promote a failed agenda, one that had no evidence behind it. The next President and the next Secretary of Education will have an enormous job to do to restore our nation’s public education system from the damage done by Race to the Top. We need leadership that believes in the joy of learning and in equality of educational opportunity. We have not had either for 15 years.

This was posted recently as a comment on the blog by Mamie Krupsczak Allegretti:

 

 

Both my husband and I are teachers in New York. He teaches high school English, and I teach French. We are both concerned about the state of education now, and I am actively taking steps to change my career after 23 years in teaching.

 

Let’s make no mistake about the situation. The move toward privatization of public education, the destruction of unions, and the loss of our democracy is well underway. I personally feel that the only way teachers, administrators, and parents can counter this is by refusing to participate in Common core tests and any tests that are used to evaluate a teacher’s performance. Teachers are now giving pretests in the beginning of the year knowing that students will fail because they have not yet learned the material! This is absurd, not to mention immoral and unethical. We are losing our common sense. Teachers are being evaluated by student performance on tests and those tests are in NO WAY reflective of what students have done in class.

 

For example, some teachers’ evaluations are based on how students do on a 15 minute computerized test–a test that does not count for the students! It’s not a test grade; it’s not a graduation requirement; it’s not a Regents exam. It’s an exercise that serves as a referendum on an individual teacher’s ability. Furthermore, the subject matter of the test is peripheral to the subject matter of the classroom. Many kids know this; therefore, instead of taking it seriously, they tap the keys and answer carelessly. Is this logical? Does this make sense? Would any businessman accept this evaluation system? In addition, I think parents and the public would be shocked to know how much time has been wasted on policies and plans that pop up and then are changed months later. I have worked countless hours on preparing items and then watched as the school discarded my work. Wouldn’t my time have been used better to create great lessons for students or helping them? There is no plan, no vision.

 

The two pillars of this “reform” movement are corporate greed and misogyny. I say misogyny because in NY over 70% of teachers are women, and the teaching profession is dominated by women. Our NYS union NYSUT is headed by a woman, and recent NYSUT pictures show a child saying, “Gov. Cuomo you’re breaking our hearts.” This kind of appeal will not work to influence men. Men are influenced by ACTION, not by appeals from children. Example: In basketball, Coach Dean Smith installed the four corners offense. Instead of shooting the ball, he would have his players dribble for minutes on end. He did this because he knew the game needed a shot clock, and this was the action he took within the rules of the game to bring it about. This is why I say that we need to refuse the tests. It is ACTION we need in the actual academic arena to bring about change! And teachers, if you’re concerned about losing your job for speaking out, it may happen anyway if the Governor gets his new teacher evaluation plan through the legislature! If you happen to be a teacher who has been around for a while and earn “too much” money, you’d better worry.

 

In the beginning of this post, I said I was actively seeking a new career after 23 years in teaching. Why? First, the stress of day-to-day teaching. People think teaching is easy. Try being with children all day -some of whom are disruptive, disrespectful, and not motivated. Try helping students who haven’t eaten, slept or been loved by their families. Try listening to their stories of abuse, poverty, and helplessness. It takes a toll on you. Second, I’m tired of the loss of respect and professionalism that teachers have suffered. We are losing control of our classrooms, our creativity, and our independence. We are now at the mercy of administrators, politicians and billionaires who are creating curricula, assessments, and evaluation plans for financial gain. Mostly, I am saddened at the diminishment of intellectual curiosity and joy in learning that is pervasive in our culture today. None of the “reforms” currently suggested will positively influence this. Thank you for this forum, and thank you Diane Ravitch for your cogent arguments and your advocacy.

Mercedes has been closely following the evolution of the Congressional debate about the future of federal aid to education. She became one of the few people in the world to read every line of the Senate proposal, which she gave a “close reading.” In this post, she leans on a comment by Laura Chapman.

 

She know the final product won’t please everyone. Everyone has a different idea about how it should be revised.

 

The least desirable path is to leave the NCLB-‘Race to the Top as is. It is a harmful, toxic brew that kills education and crushes the joy of learning.

 

Our goal must be to fight off the intrusion of uninformed politicians who know nothing about schooling but assume it is their duty to tell teachers what and how to teach, and how to evaluate teachers. It would be useful to have a good summary of the research about charters and vouchers to demonstrate that their record of success is slender and that they damage more schools (and children) than they save.

 

In a perfect world, Congress would limit its education program to things that it can do–and do well:

 

1) distributing money to the neediest schools

2) protecting the civil rights of teachers and students

3) making sure that federal funds go to students who need them most.

 

How did we get into this mess of believing that the U.S. Department of Education has the knowledge, wisdom, experience, and foresight to create a single template of standards, curriculum, standards, professional development, teacher evaluation, and assessment to guide the nation’ s millions of children and teachers? It does not. That is a fantasy. Here is a fresh idea: evidence-based policy-making. Field trials. Or how about the simple recognition that teachers are not the sole cause of students test scores. Or how about the startling idea that every child does not progress at the same time and in the same way?

 

There is a simple axiom that our parents taught us: Stick to what you know.

 

 

The Center for Popular Democracy and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools reviewed reports of financial abuses by charter schools and concluded that more than $200 million in state and federal funds have been squandered. They examined records in only 15 states and estimate that what they discovered is only “the tip of the iceberg.” Most financial scandals and frauds come to light only after a whistle-blower speaks out or a state agency audits charter schools or an enterprising journalist digs into charter records. Many state laws governing charter schools confuse “flexibility” with a lack of oversight. Charter schools receive public money yet have gone to court to prevent public audits by state officials.

 

The report says that “According to standard forensic auditing methodologies, the deficiencies in charter oversight throughout the country suggest that federal, state, and local governments stand to lose more than $1.4 billion in 2015. The vast majority of the fraud perpetrated by charter officials will go undetected because the federal government, the states, and local charter authorizers lack the oversight necessary to detect the fraud.”

 

The report is alarming. Even more alarming is that the Obama administration intends to increase charter school funding by nearly 50% despite the absence of adequate supervision and oversight to prevent fraud.

 

Legitimate charter schools, serving students with high needs, should be first to expose the hucksters.

 

Regulations exist for a reason: to protect children and the public from fraudulent, unqualified, and incompetent operators who will prey upon them and profit because of the absence of oversight. How long will the public continue to tolerate this laissez faire approach to an industry that siphons money away from public schools without any accountability?

 

 

At the annual meeting of Pennsylvania AFT, the leaders of the union called on the legislature to eliminate the test-based teacher evaluation system. Because of the inducements offered by Race to the Top, almost every state spent many millions to design a new teacher evaluation process, based on Arne Duncan’s insistence that such a system would weed out “bad” teachers. Behind that assumption is the wacky belief that bad teachers cause low test scores.

Last year, the first year of the new system, 98.2% of teachers were rated satisfactory or higher.

This year, 97% of Pittsburgh’s teachers were rated proficient or distinguished. The statewide figures for this year are not yet available.

“AFT Pennsylvania president Ted Kirsch said, “The law was based on a false narrative that low-performing schools exist primarily because of ineffective teachers, which is not the case. There are many factors involved in student success that are not given the proper weight under Pennsylvania’s new teacher evaluation system. The result is a system that gives high marks to educators working in well-funded schools with few disadvantaged students and penalizes teachers who take the tough assignments in under-funded schools with large concentrations of students from low-income families or with special needs or English language learners.”

“The release stated the delegates want a system that is “transparent and understandable by teachers and the community“ and is “primarily a professional growth system that supports teachers in their development and differentiates evaluation for new and experienced teachers to ensure that new teachers who are in need of support are not driven away.”

The biggest scam in higher education was perpetrated by Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit corporation that once enrolled more than 120,000 students at 120 campuses. Corinthian collapsed recently, leaving tens of thousands of students saddled with debt and worthless degrees.

 

The recruiters focused on minorities, the poor, and veterans, making false promises about future employment and costs. The bottom line was always the same: profits. Not education.

 

The linked article is the inside story of the decline and fall of Corinthian, its predatory practices, its lies to students, and the inaction of the DOE.

 

“In lawsuits, official complaints to state and federal regulators, sworn declarations submitted in Corinthian’s bankruptcy proceeding, and conversations with The Huffington Post, dozens of former Corinthian students and several former Corinthian employees said that Corinthian drowned students in debt and sent them off with meaningless diplomas that did not help — and sometimes even harmed — their job prospects. It illegally padded job placement statistics and gave students college credit for “externships” at fast-food restaurants. It charged students up to 10 times what a comparable community college degree would cost. More than 1 in 4 Corinthian graduates defaulted on their student loans, according to Education Department data. And for years, the Education Department not only failed to recognize the depths of the abuse, but effectively funded Corinthian’s business model, sending the company billions of dollars in financial aid to help cover students’ bills.”

 

Why did the U.S. Department of Education allow this fraud to continue for so long? One might well ask why the U.S. Department of Education has been silent about the growth of predatory for-profit K-12 schools, both virtual and brick-and-mortar. For the first time in history, the U.S. ED just doesn’t see privatization and profit-making as a problem.

 

“In 2008, Tasha Courtright visited the Everest College campus in Ontario, California, with a friend. She was not looking to pursue higher education. “The recruiter said, ‘How about you? Do you want to go to school?’” Courtright recalled.

 

“I said I can’t afford it, I can’t do loans,” she remembered, noting that she was working a minimum-wage job at a gas station when Corinthian first recruited her. “They said, ‘Let us do the numbers.’ They said I qualified for Cal Grants and Pell Grants, and I wouldn’t have to pay anything.”

 

“The recruiter called Courtright repeatedly for two days, pressuring her to make a decision. “They said classes were starting and ‘If you don’t do it now, you never will.’ So I went down again and signed up.” Courtright spent four years at Everest, earning a bachelor’s degree in applied business management. She said recruiters promised she wouldn’t pay a dime; she ended up with $41,000 in student debt.

 

“High-pressure sales tactics like that were deliberately targeted at vulnerable demographic groups, including single mothers and the unemployed, according to Lueck, the former Corinthian manager. Recruits were often the first in their families to attend college. Almost anyone could qualify.

 

“Laurie McDonnell, a librarian at the Everest-Ontario Metro campus, resigned after learning that her school had enrolled a man who read at a third-grade level.

 

“The goal was simple: profits. Smaller chains like Lincoln Tech or DeVry used to dominate the for-profit college industry. But toward the end of the last decade, larger, publicly traded companies took over. By 2009, three-quarters of all U.S. students enrolled in for-profit colleges were at schools owned by a corporate conglomerate or private equity firm. Goldman Sachs owns around 40 percent of Education Management Corporation, another operator of for-profit colleges.

 

“Many for-profit college companies own multiple university brands. Corinthian, which traded on Nasdaq, ran Everest, Wyotech and Heald Colleges. The consolidation of the industry changed how for-profit schools operated, argues Elizabeth Baylor, senior investigator on a landmark 2012 Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee study of for-profits. “Student success was not the primary focus of the entity. It was returning investor value,” Baylor, who now works at the Center for American Progress, told HuffPost.

 

“One-quarter of the average for-profit college budget goes to marketing and recruitment, Baylor said. The goal is to capture and retain students, and squeeze as much money out of them as possible. The 2012 Senate report found that Corinthian’s students defaulted on their loans at a rate that was “by far the highest of any publicly traded company” that investigators scrutinized.”

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?”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 154,375 other followers