Archives for category: Accountability

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:

The Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia, just released a report describing the ways that co-location of multiple schools into the same building reduces educational equity. The report is called “THE EFFECTS OF CO-LOCATION ON NEW YORK CITY’S ABILITY TO PROVIDE ALL STUDENTS A SOUND BASIC EDUCATION.”

Co-location was a primary goal of the Bloomberg administration, which closed many large schools and opened many small schools. Today, almost 2/3 of the city’s schools are co-located: “In 2013, 1,150 (63%) of the city’s 1,818 schools were co-located. Charter schools made up 10% of co-located schools (115); the other 90% were traditional public schools.”

Many of the small, co-located schools “suffer from inadequate facilities, oversized classes and instructional groupings, inadequate course offerings, insufficient student supports, and inadequate extracurricular activities….” In many cases, these conditions violate state statutory, regulatory, and constitutional requirements.”

The report spells out in detail how these conditions limit students’ educational opportunities.

Small elementary schools are unable to provide adequate instructional time in the arts, science, or physical education.

Some high schools were unable to provide basic chemistry or physics classes, or foreign language classes

No school was able to provide the academic intervention services to which students were entitled.

Many middle and high schools were unable to provide required arts courses.

Many lacked the support staff for struggling readers or English language learners or others in need of extra time and attention.

These, and many more shortages of staff and resources, short-change children.

Co-locations have meant that many children do not get the academic opportunities or the social services they need.


Linda Thomas is the school board president of a small rural district in Arizona. She is a strong advocate for public education as a public responsibility.

In this post, she reminds us that 85% of children in Arizona attend public schools despite the state ‘s trepidation as the “wild west” of charters.

She also describes the legislsture’s devious efforts to expand vouchers.

She writes:

“When vouchers (aka Empowerment Scholarship Accounts) were first introduced in 2011, only children with disabilities were eligible. That has now expanded to include children: who’s parent’s are in the armed forces, are a ward of the juvenile court, who attend a school or district assigned a D or F grade, are eligible to attend kindergarten, and who received a School Tuition Organization scholarship. This session, expansion efforts include those whose siblings receive ESAs, all first responder’s children and (HB 2291) children currently eligible for free or reduced lunch percent. HB 2291 also seeks to further raise the income threshold of those who qualify by 15 percent ever year going forward.

“ESA funds can be used for curriculum, testing, private school tuition, tutors, special needs services or therapies, or even seed money for college. The program however, requires parents to waive their child’s right to a public education…a right that is guaranteed under the state constitution, in order to receive the benefits.”

School choice, she says, is a smokescreen. The real goal is to transfer public funds to private hands. The one risk to voucher advocates is attaching any form of accountability. They want the money, no strings attached.

John Merrow demonstrates the incisiveness of poetry as a means of communicating complex ideas in his rewrite of Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” Merrow turns the poem into “Mending School,” a scathing critique of bubble testing. Used appropriately and sparingly, he suggests, the bubble tests may offer value. Used promiscuously, as they are today, they are a parasite that is consuming the host. They have become not a measure of education, but a substitute for education, an insidious force that strips education of meaning. Merrow’s annotations are important. In one, he writes, “Robert Frost’s poems, including ‘Mending Wall,’ may not be on many school reading lists in the future because the Common Core State Standards emphasize non-fiction” another annotation refers to the growth of the opt out movement. And one exposes the uselessness of the current regime: “School districts generally get back the test results about four months after they are given, long after students have moved on to new grades, new teachers, and perhaps new schools.” One wonders how useful the test results would be even if they were reported in a timely manner. One wonders about the long-term effect of judging students by the format of a multiple-choice test. How many decisions in life consist of four defined, discrete choices? How many are “none of the above” or “well,, two of the four might be right”?

Julian Vasquez Helig says NCLB failed.. It’s time for a new paradigm. He calls it “community-based accountability.”

Bob Shepherd writes on the absurd demands now placed on teachers and principals by politicians, who expect to see higher test scores every year. Step back and you realize that the politicians, the policy wonks, the economists, and the ideologues are ruining education, not improving it. They are doing their best to demoralize professional educators. What are they thinking? Are they thinking? Or is it just their love of disruption, let loose on children, families, communities, and educators?

Bon Shepherd writes:

OK, you are sitting in your year-end evaluation session, and you’ve heard from every other teacher in your school that his or her scores were a full level lower this year than last, and so you know that the central office has leaned on the principal to give fewer exemplary ratings even though your school actually doesn’t have a problem with its test scores and people are doing what they did last year but a bit better, of course, because one grows each year as a teacher–one refines what one did before, and one never stops learning.

But you know that this ritual doesn’t have anything, really, to do with improvement. It has to do with everyone, all along the line, covering his or her tushy and playing the game and doing exactly what he or she is told. And, at any rate, everyone knows that the tests are not particularly valid and that’s not really the issue at your school because, the test scores are pretty good because this is a suburban school with affluent parents, and the kids always, year after year, do quite well.

So whether the kids are learning isn’t really the issue. The issue is that by some sort of magic formula, each cohort of kids is supposed to perform better than the last–significantly better–on the tests, though they come into your classes in exactly the same shape they’ve always come into them in because, you know, they are kids and they are just learning and teaching ISN’T magic. It’s a lot of hard work. It’s magical, sometimes, of course, but its’ not magic. There’s no magic formula.

So, the stuff you’ve been told to do in your “trainings” (“Bark. Roll over. Sit. Good Boy”) is pretty transparently teaching-to-the-test because that’s the only way the insane demand that each cohort will be magically superior to the last as measured by these tests can be met, but you feel in your heart of hearts that doing that would be JUST WRONG–it would short-change your students to start teaching InstaWriting-for-the-Test, Grade 5, instead of, say, teaching writing. And despite all the demeaning crap you are subjected to, you still give a damn.

And you sit there and you actually feel sorry for this principal because she, too, is squirming like a fly in treacle in the muck that is Education Deform, and she knows she has fantastic teachers who knock it out of the park year after year, but her life has become a living hell of accountability reports and data chats to the point that she doesn’t have time for anything else anymore (she has said this many times), and now she has to sit there and tell her amazing veteran teachers who have worked so hard all these years and who care so much and give so much and are so learned and caring that they are just satisfactory, and she feels like hell doing this and is wondering when she can retire.

And the fact that you BOTH know this hangs there in the room–the big, ugly, unspoken thing. And the politicians and the plutocrats and the policy wonks at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Secretary of the Department for the Standardization of US Education, formerly the USDE, and the Vichy education guru collaborators with these people barrel ahead, like so many drunks in a car plowing through a crowd of pedestrians.


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