Archives for category: Accountability

The parent blogger who calls herself Red Queen in L.A. has written what must be the ultimate indictment of the troubled reign of John Deasy.

How has he survived in his job despite his any transgressions against students, teachers, and the district? Deasy enjoys the patronage of Eli Broad, who rules Los Angeles, and can count on the automatic support of a galaxy of Gates-funded organizations, like United Way and Educators4Excellence. They will demonstrate, they will demand, they will champion Deasy no matter what parents or teachers say.

It is hard to see how Deasy can survive in light of his long record of thumbing his nose at the school board he works for. At some point, they either fire or they should quit.

Jack Schneider, historian of education, has written a powerful column about why education is actually harder than rocket science.

 

He explains that reform after reform has failed because the reformers think that it is easy to change teaching and learning. It is easy (in their eyes) because they went to school, they were students. But they know nothing about how children learn, they know nothing about children with disabilities, they know nothing about child development. So, armed with ignorance, they assume they can “fix” education by eliminating unions or tenure or imposing a new curriculum or creating a computer-driven metric for evaluating teachers.

 

Thus, elected officials pass law after law, claiming they are “reforming” education, when they are only creating mandates that remove teachers’ professional autonomy.

 

Would they dare to tell rocket scientists at NASA how to do their work? Of course not. They respect rocket scientists, and the politicians know the limits of their knowledge. But when it comes to education, they feel free to impose mandates and interfere with the work of experienced teachers.

 

And that is why “reforms” imposed by politicians in DC and state capitols fail again and again and will always fail.

 

Schneider writes:

 

Imagine Congress exerting control over NASA through a bill like No Child Left Behind, or coercing policy shifts through a program like Race to the Top. Or well-intended organizations like Teach For America jumping into the fray—recruiting talented college graduates and placing them on the job as rocket scientists. Or philanthropists deciding to apply lessons from their successes in domains like DVD rentals to “disrupt” the NASA “monopoly.”

How long would any of this be taken seriously?

The point here is not that various groups involved in school reform should disengage from the field. Their energy and financial support can play a critical role in supporting communities and their schools. And for all their arrogance and errors, reformers have helped turn the nation’s attention to the importance of public education. NASA should be so lucky.

But the egotism and ignorance of the so-called education reform movement are all too often on display. Because the work of improving schools isn’t as simple as reformers believe.

Reformers would know this if they spent their days in schools. But most do not. Unlike working educators, most leaders in the reform movement have never taught a five-period day, felt the joy of an unquantifiable classroom victory, lost instructional time to a standardized test, or been evaluated by a computer. And unlike the vulnerable students targeted by so much reform, most policy elites have not gone to school hungry, struggled to understand standard English, battled low expectations, or feared for their personal safety on the walk home.

 

The other day when I was in Connecticut, an experienced teacher told me about his students. He teaches special education. His students are in ninth grade but they read at a third-to-fourth grade level. Reformers think they should be reading at ninth grade level. Arne Duncan wants them all enrolled in Advanced Placement classes. Why not invite legislators and governors and even Arne Duncan to teach that class for a day, even an hour. They are totally out of touch with reality. There are real children with real learning issues. Their teachers are heroic. They should not be evaluated by those who know nothing of teaching and learning.

 

I do not give “reformers” credit for turning the nation’s attention to “the importance of public education.” The reformers have created  world of illusion, in which 100% of children will succeed, regardless of their circumstances. If they don’t, blame their teachers. This is pie in the sky. It is unrealistic. It is a display of staggering and harmful ignorance.

 

The reformers are hurting children. They are undermining the teaching profession. They are damaging public education. They should be held accountable. And politicians should get out of the way, fund the schools appropriately, and shower respect on those who do the hard work of educating children.

 

 

As you may have noticed, we are getting swamped with messages from the corporate reformers about how it is time to restart the conversation. Presumably that is a recognition that the previous conversation wasn’t working. The American public is fed up with high-stakes testing and increasingly suspicious of the grandiose promises about the miracles that privately managed charter schools will accomplish. Having noticed that the charter schools don’t want children with disabilities, don’t want English language learners, and are likely to encourage kids with low test scores to find another school, the public is waking up to the game played by corporate charters. It’s all about the test score, which takes us back to the overuse and misuse of standardized testing. This failed conversation seems to have gotten mixed up, inevitably, with the Common Core, and the public is overwhelmingly opposed to CCSS and federal takeover of state and local decision-making.

 

So, in the face of a growing public resistance to their plans, we hear more and more about starting over.

 

In this post, Peter Greene deconstructs the latest effort to begin again, this one from the Center for Reinventing Public Education in Washington State. CRPE was founded by Paul Hill and has been an advocate for “portfolio districts” made up of charter schools, public schools, and other types of management. The basic idea of the portfolio is that district boards should act like stockbrokers, keeping the winning stocks and selling the losers. But the losers, in this case, are public schools that would be closed and replaced by charters.

 

The authors of the proposal that Greene dissects are our friend Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (a relentless advocate for Common Core), Paul Hill, and Robin Lake of CPRE.

 

As you can imagine, Greene is critical of the report, but he does see some useful issues raised. The proposal says:

 

States should hold schools, not individual teachers, accountable for student progress.

 

Hey look! Something that is, in fact, different. Not new, actually– threatening to punish just schools is what we tried under NCLB, and it didn’t work. Not to mention that we don’t know how to do it, just as we don’t know how to hold individual teachers accountable. This is no more useful than saying “Santa should lend us his naughty and nice list for accountability purposes.”

 

The article also provides a list of Things To Worry About While Pursuing Accountability.

 

How to avoid specifying outcomes so exhaustively that schools are unable to innovate and solve problems.
How to drive continuous improvement in all schools, not just the lowest-performing.
How to coordinate and limit federal, state, and district demands for data.
How to prevent cheating on tests and other outcome measures.
How to motivate students to do their best in school and on assessments.
How to give children at risk new options without causing a constant churn in their educational experience.
How to adjust measurement and accountability to innovations in instruction and technology.
This list is actually the best thing about the whole article. There is nothing remotely new about the list of Things To Do– it’s the same old, same old reformster stuff we’ve heard before.

 

But this list of problem areas? That’s a good piece of work, because it does in fact recognize a host of obstacles that generally go ignored and unrecognized. These are “problems” in the sense that gravity is a problem for people who want to jump naked off high buildings, flap their arms, and not get hurt. I don’t know that CRPE, given its clear focus on charters, finance, and high stakes standardized testing, has goals and objectives any different from a few dozen other reformy iterations. But the recognition of obstacles shows some grasp of reality, and that’s always a nice sign.

 

Greene actually sees a hopeful sign in this proposal. The writers say:

 

These problems are solvable, but they require serious work, not sniping among rival camps. It is time to start working through the problems of accountability, with discipline, open-mindedness, and flexibility.

 

“We—all the co-signers of the September 24 statement—are eager to work with others, including critics of tests and accountability. Issues of measurement, system design, and implementation must be addressed, carefully and through disciplined trials.”

 

And Greene responds:

 

I’ll accept that from a step up from, “Shut up and do as you’re told. We totally know exactly what we’re doing.” I’m not seeing much in CRPE’s ideas that represent a new direction on the issue; it’s basically reframing and repackaging. But the recognition of real-world obstacles is more than a simple shift of tone. (And there’s still the Whose Party Is This problem). But keep talking CRPE. I’m still listening.

 

My guess is that the September 24 statement is a recognition that parents and educators are rising up to fight the test mania that has gripped policymakers and state education departments. More and more of the public is saying: “Enough is enough! Stop the testing madness!”

 

In the face of the growing tide of anti-testing sentiment–which is not so much anti-testing as it is opposition to the sheer quantity of time devoted to testing, and the billions stolen from schools to fund Pearson and McGraw-Hill–the reformers are regrouping, trying to find a way to save testing and accountability from a rising public anger. I don’t think it will work. After all, a statement from CPRE is not exactly a big newsworthy deal. The public, quite rightly, will keep on protesting, the government will keep on sending billions to the testing and technology companies, and kids will still be subjected to take tests for many hours each year for no purpose other than evaluating their teachers by failed methods.

 

 

 

 

Fearless Peter Greene criticizes economist Thomas Kane for his latest paper, called “Never Diet Without a Bathroom Scale and Mirror: The Case for Combining Teacher Evaluation and the Common Core.”

Kane directed the study called Measures of Effective Teaching for the Gates Foundation.

Greene calls the new study “grade A baloney.” Kane calls for “a massive adult behavior change exercise,” not an easy thing to accomplish.

But Greene writes:

“The bathroom scale image is brave, given the number of times folks in the resistance have pointed out that you do not change the weight of a pig by repeatedly measuring it. But I am wondering now– why do I have to have scales or a mirror to lose weight? Will the weight loss occur if it is not caught in data? If a tree’s weight falls in the forest but nobody measures it, does it shake a pound?

“This could be an interesting new application of quantum physics, or it could be another inadvertent revelation about reformster (and economist) biases. Because I do not need a bathroom scale to lose weight. I don’t even need a bathroom scale to know I’m losing weight– I can see the difference in how my clothes fit, I can feel the easier step, the increase in energy. I only need a bathroom scale if I don’t trust my own senses, or because I have somehow been required to prove to someone else that I have lost weight. Or if I believe that things are only real when Important People measure them.

“Kane envisions the Core and new evaluations going hand in hand, leading to more successful implementation of the Core (he does not address the question of why a successful Core is a Good Thing, Much To Be Desired). And his vision of how evaluation will provide a connection to standards as well as the kind of continuous feedback by people who don’t know what they’re doing and whose judgment can’t be trusted.”

Kane says that one of the big problems in American education is teacher autonomy. He believes that teacher work must be carefully monitored, guided, and measured. He refers to Japanese lesson study as exemplary, but does not mention Finland, where teachers are highly prepared, then given considerable autonomy to do the work they were prepared for.

Greene says:

“My experience is that every good teacher I’ve ever known is involved in a constant, daily cycle of reflection and self-examination, using a rich tapestry of directly-observed data to evaluate her own performance, often consulting with fellow professionals. It’s continuous and instantly implemented, then instantly evaluated and modified as needed. It’s nimble, and it involves the professional judgment of trained experts in the field. That seems like a pretty good system to me.”

Los Angeles’ school politics is beginning to sound like a soap opera. Tune in next week to see if long-suffering Superintendent John Deasy, much admired by billionaire Eli Broad, survives yet another unjust attack at the hands of the brutes who disapprove of the $1.3 billion iPad fiasco, the bungled computer mess, the other snafus unjustly laid at the feet of a man guilty only of caring too much. Forget the emails showing possible collusion between Deasy and Apple, Deasy and Pearson. What matters details like this when a great man is in our midst, loved and appreciated most by those too rich to patronize the schools he oversees. Never forget: every organization funded by Bill Gates adores this man: think Educators 4 Excellence; think United Way of Los Angeles.

It was not enough that the LA Times’ editorial writer Karin Klein paid him tribute and chastised the LAUSD for seeking to hold him accountable: how dare they! Now her boss Jim Newton weighs in with another full-throated defense of the Indispensable Man. Okay, says Newton, so his handling of the $1.3 billion deal for the iPads was “admittedly sloppy.” Well, “sloppy” is one way to characterize the friendly negotiations between Deasy and Apple. Others might have less kindly words. Like, why did LA have to buy an obsolete model at a higher than retail price? Why did Deasy think that buying iPads mattered more than repairing schools, which the voters wanted in the first place? What part of 25-year construction bond approved by the electorate did Deasy misunderstand?

Do read Jim Newton’s apologia for Deasy. All of his errors on blamed on the Board, for daring to expect accountability, and on the union for…. for being the union, always a ready scapegoat for the editorial board of the L.A. Times, even for matters in which the u ion had no role.

Stay tuned. This is the soap opera that ends in tragedy or never ends at all.

But also read this letter to the editor, which I post in full, in case it gets deleted:

Offred Gillead on September 29, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am said:
We have officially entered into a super bizzaro, gothic world with Jim Newton.

With his Emily Bronte opening: “There’s a storm cloud gathering over Los Angeles politics these days” before moving into gaunt, haunted purple poignancy, “It’s taking a toll on the superintendent. I visited him in his office last week…he looked drawn. Already slight, he’s lost weight.”

Deasy’s rich, cultish supporters, have always given us a variation of THE MARTYRDOM OF JOHN DEASY. I tingle over Newton’s words like “have been dragged across these coals” and “put through the local grinder”.

Okay. I get it.

I’m really reading 50 SHADES OF DEASY, a story that makes Deasy’s backers swoon.

Newton says, “Deasy has made matters worse by some admittedly sloppy handling of a deal intended to put iPads in the hands of students.” Really? “Admittedly?” When did Deasy EVER admit to this?

Newton tells us, “So, what’s not to like? By his own admission, Deasy can be bullheaded and impatient.”

Ana Steele could understand that. She might say, like Newton, “No one is suggesting he did anything for personal gain, but his trademark impatience may have left him…vulnerable.”

Sensitive and obsessively-driven! Like Moses! Dr. Frankenstein! Ahab! Hamlet! Dr. Strangelove!

Deasy confides, “‘I could have done a thousand things better,’ he conceded during our conversation.”

Really? How about naming ONE thing, Doc?

In Deasy’s perverse brain, his biggest fault is that he CARES TOO MUCH. He is TOO MUCH of a perfectionist. His only goal is to lift children out of poverty and has to put up with hundreds who stand in his way.

“He’s quick to correct and sometimes short-tempered….Even Deasy’s critics acknowledge that he is a powerful intellect and a determined education reformer.”

Karl Rove also breathlessly informed us that George Bush was the smartest person he ever met and, famously, “The Decider”.

I don’t know what Christian Grey non-disclosure contract might have gotten signed between the two, but the Op-Ed hints: “But here’s the perversity of punishing Deasy for aggressiveness…”

Sizzle!

Do we really need to read the whole trilogy to find out where this story ends? I hope the BOE has the good taste to call this series quits.

Journalist Kathleen Sharp summarizes the incredible iPad fiasco in Los Angeles in Salon. The article is called “Rotten to the Core.” Let’s face it: the gold rush is on, and tech companies will clean up.

She writes:

“Technology companies may soon be getting muddied from a long-running scandal at the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation’s second-largest system. A year after the cash-strapped district signed a $1 billion contract with Apple to purchase iPads for every student, the once-ballyhooed deal has blown up. Now the mess threatens to sully other vendors from Cambridge to Cupertino.

“LAUSD superintendent John Deasy is under fire for his cozy connections to Apple. In an effort to deflect attention and perhaps to show that “everybody else is doing it,” he’s demanded the release of all correspondence between his board members and technology vendors. It promises to be some juicy reading. But at its core, the LAUSD fiasco illustrates just how much gold lies beneath even the dirtiest, most neglected public schoolyard.

“As the U.S. starts implementing federal Common Core State Standards, teachers and administrators are being driven to adopt technology as never before. That has set off a scramble in Silicon Valley to grab as much of the $9 billion K-12 market as possible, and Apple, Google, Cisco and others are mud-wrestling to seize a part of it. Deasy and the LAUSD have given us ringside seats to this match, which shows just how low companies will go.”

The deal was ballyhooed as a win for civil rights, but that was a cynical joke. Apple was the winner, having sold LAUSD an outmoded model at top dollar.

She writes:

“Alas, problems began to appear almost immediately. First, some clever LAUSD students hacked the iPads and deleted security filters so they could roam the Internet freely and watch YouTube videos. Then, about $2 million in iPads and other devices went “missing.” Worse was the discovery that the pricey curriculum software, developed by Pearson Education Corp., wasn’t even complete. And the board looked foolish when it had to pay even more money to buy keyboards for iPads so that students could actually type out their reports.

“Then, there was the deal itself. Whereas many companies extend discounts to schools and other nonprofits, Apple usually doesn’t, said George Michaels, executive director of Instructional Development at University of California at Santa Barbara. “Whatever discounts Apple gives are pretty meager.” The Chronicle of Philanthropy has noted Apple’s stingy reputation, and CEO Tim Cook has been trying to change the corporation’s miserly ways by giving $50 million to a local hospital and $50 million to an African nonprofit.

“But the more we learned about the Apple “deal,” the more the LAUSD board seemed outmaneuvered. The district had bought iPad 4s, which have since been discontinued, but Apple had locked the district into paying high prices for the old models. LAUSD had not checked with its teachers or students to see what they needed or wanted, and instead had forced its end users to make the iPads work. Apple surely knew that kids needed keypads to write reports, but sold them just part of what they needed.

“Compared with similar contracts signed by other districts, Apple’s deal for Los Angeles students looked crafty, at best. Perris Union High School District in Riverside County, for example, bought Samsung Chromebooks for only $344 per student. And their laptop devices have keyboards and multiple input ports for printers and thumb drives. The smaller Township High School District 214 in Illinois bought old iPad 2s without the pre-loaded, one-size-fits-all curriculum software. Its price: $429 per student.

“But LAUSD paid Apple a jaw-dropping $768 per student, and LAUSD parents were not happy. As Manel Saddique wrote on a social media site: “Btw, thanks for charging a public school district more than the regular consumer price per unit, Apple. Keep it classy…”

The deal, she says, is indeed rotten:

“If you step back from the smarmy exchanges, a bigger picture emerges. Yes, LAUSD is grossly mismanaged and maybe even dysfunctional. But corporations like Apple don’t look so good, either. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Hewlett Packard — the companies that are cashing in on our classroom crisis are the same ones that helped defund the infrastructure that once made public schools so good. Sheltering billions of dollars from federal taxes may be great for the top 10 percent of Americans, who own 90 percent of the stock in these corporations. But it’s a catastrophe for the teachers, schools and universities that helped develop their technology and gave the companies some of its brightest minds. In the case of LAUSD, Apple comes across as cavalier about the problem it’s helped create for low-income students, and seems more concerned with maximizing its take from the district.

But the worst thing about this scandal is what it’s done to the public trust. The funds for this billion-dollar boondoggle were taken from voter-approved school construction and modernization bonds — bonds that voters thought would be used for physical improvements. At a time when LAUSD schools, like so many across the country, are in desperate need of physical repairs, from corroded gas lines to broken play structures, the Apple deal has cast a shadow over school bonds. Read the popular “Repairs Not iPads” page on Facebook and parents’ complaints about the lack of air conditioning, librarians and even toilet paper in school bathrooms. Sadly, replacing old fixtures and cheap trailers with new plumbing and classrooms doesn’t carry the kind of cachet for ambitious school boards as does, say, buying half-a-million electronic tablets. As one mom wrote: “Deasy has done major long-term damage because not one person will ever vote for any future bond measures supporting public schools.”

“Now, the Apple deal is off, although millions of dollars have already been spent. An investigation into the bidding process is underway and there are cries to place Deasy in “teacher jail,” a district policy that keeps teachers at home while they’re under investigation. And LAUSD students, who are overwhelmingly Hispanic and African-American, have once again been given the short end of the stick. They were promised the sort of “tools that heretofore only rich kids have had,” and will probably not see them for several years, if ever. The soured Apple deal just adds to the sense of injustice that many of these students already see in the grown-up world.

“Deasy contends that that he did nothing wrong. In a few weeks, the public official will get his job performance review. In the meantime, he’s called for the release of all emails and documents written between board members and other Silicon Valley and corporate education vendors. The heat in downtown Los Angeles is spreading to Northern California and beyond, posing a huge political problem for not just Deasy but for Cook and other high-tech captains.

“But at the bottom of this rush to place technology in every classroom is the nagging feeling that the goal in buying expensive devices is not to improve teachers’ abilities, or to lighten their load. It’s not to create more meaningful learning experiences for students or to lift them out of poverty or neglect. It’s to facilitate more test-making and profit-taking for private industry, and quick, too, before there’s nothing left.”

Laura H. Chapman gives more examples of the distortion and corruption of education practice amd policy by econometric language.

Students are performing on grade level if their scores on a standardized test are at or above the median on a percentile scale (1-99). On a large-scale test, a score at or near the 50th percentile (the median) will usually classify a student as proficient in the skills and subject matter on the test.

Expected growth means that gain-scores of students (on tests in a single subject, such as math or art) are staying in about the same location in a distribution from year to year—below average, average, or above average. For a large number of students, the distribution is likely to resemble a bell or normal curve.

Predicted growth is an inference about a student’s future gain-score, derived from a linear regression analysis of two or more years of that student’s gain-scores. This analysis assumes that past performance will predict future performance. Perhaps, but in education, this is a dismal assumption. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The assumption is so risky that almost every corporate report begins with this caveat: Past performance does not predict future performance.

A student is said to have achieved a year’s worth of growth if his or her gain-score on a test of proficiency is equal to, or greater than, the gain-score made by a 50th percentile student. The same measure is applied to teachers. Teachers in some districts are rated highly effective only if all or most of their students have gain-scores of more than a year’s worth of growth.

References to a year’s worth of growth are fundamentally misleading because the common mental picture of a calendar year is different from a school year (typically 180 days); an instructional year (typically 172 days); and a typical accountability year (130 days from pre-test to post-test).

Academic peers are students whose test scores in a given year are the same or nearly the same. This concept permits comparisons of their gain-scores from the prior year to the current year. Students who make greater gains than their academic peers have an accelerated growth trajectory. Students who fall behind their academic peers need remedial work to keep up. The average of the gain-scores for academic peers in a teacher’s classes is typically used as a measure of the teacher’s productivity and effectiveness. This use requires a studied indifference to other influences on test scores.

A growth trajectory needs a target. Targets for learning need to be set using baseline data so the instruction offered to each student, during a known interval of time, is efficient and has a measurable impact on student learning. Meeting targets for learning is analogous to meeting a sales target or a production quota by a date certain.

Teachers and others who say they are “impacting the growth of their students” are not think-ing about the meaning of words. They are parroting econometric jargon.

Experts associated with Metametrics hope to set growth velocity standards. They describe their theoretical mapping of “aspirational trajectories toward graduation targets” in reading skills as analogous to “modifying the height, velocity, or acceleration respec-tively of a projectile launched in the physical world.” They seek greater precision in setting targets and cut scores for grade-to-grade progress in meeting the CCSS. (Williamson, G. L., Fitzgerald, J., & Stenner, A. J. (2013). The Common Core State Standards’ quanti-tative text complexity trajectory figuring out how much complexity is enough. Educational Researcher, 42(2), 59-69.).

Calibration refers to the quest for precision and consistency in measurement in the context of just-in-time delivery of a result, especially manufacturing.. In education, the term means that evaluators and other monitors have followed specifications in rating performances, presentations, processes, and products. Calibration events are training sessions intended to standardize how raters use or interpret language and to verify that rules for making judgments have been followed with fidelity. Such events are also called trainings or calibrations.

Audits are conducted to verify that calibrations are not needed, that rules have been followed, that data are free of ambiguity, and that low-inference definitions of performances and metrics are used consistently. Questions about the validity of the metrics may be ignored.

Bring to scale means that an educational policy, practice, or product is believed to merit replication in multiple locations, as in manufacturing and franchise systems for a mass market.

Marc Tucker recently published a position paper arguing that our current system of test-based accountability, testing every student every year in grades 3-8, has failed and that we need a new approach. His approach, as Anthony Cody argued, would test at transition points but would still have high stakes and would test more subjects. Tucker wrote a post criticizing Cody and me and arguing that high-stakes testing is necessary to raise test scores and improve education.

Yong Zhao here weighs in with a brilliant response to Tucker, sharply disagreeing with him on the value of high-stakes testing.

Zhao points to Tucker’s inconsistency thus:

“Why does one who condemns test-based accountability system so much want more test-based accountability? The inconsistency exemplified by Marc Tucker does not make sense to me at all. Yet it is widespread so it must make sense in some way. I try to put myself in the shoes of Tucker and other similarly minded people and learned the chain of reasoning underlying their inconsistency:

“Premise #1: Education quality matters to individual and national prosperity.

“Premise #2: Education is a top-down process through which students are instilled the prescribed content and skills (curriculum) deemed universally valuable by some sort of authority.

“Premise #3: Teachers and schools are responsible for the quality of education, i.e., instilling in students the prescribed knowledge and skills.

“Premise #4: How well students master the prescribed knowledge and content is measured by tests.

“Conclusion #1: Thus test scores measure the quality of education, and thus the capacity for individuals and nations to be economically prosperous.

“Conclusion #2: American students have lower test scores on some international tests, thus American schools offer a lower quality education than countries with higher test scores.

“Conclusion #3: Therefore, American teachers must be less effective than their counterparts in other countries.

“Conclusion #4: Therefore, to prepare Americans to succeed in the global economy, American teachers and schools must be held accountable for improving the quality of education, which is to raise test scores (Tucker’s goal: “the only acceptable target for the United States is to be among the top ten performers in the world” [I assume top 10 on the PISA league table]).

“Conclusion #5: Hence we must improve the test-based accountability system, which then leads to higher quality education, which then leads to economic prosperity.

“Bait and Switch

“Marc Tucker’s objection to Anthony Cody’s questioning his assertion that “the economic future of our students will only be guaranteed if we educate them better” is a standard bait-and-switch tactic, playing with the afore-mentioned logic. It starts with the premises. Education is a term that has a positive connotation, but in practice it has many different, sometimes, contradictory, incarnations, in the same way the word “democracy” is used in reality. For example, some of the worst dictatorial countries claim to be democratic. Thus whether education matters to the prosperity of individuals and nations depends entirely on what it means.

He concludes:

“When economies change, as Tucker notes, so fast and on a global scale, it has become even more difficult to predict the skills and knowledge that matters in the future. But one thing seems to be clear. Even if Americans are equipped with the same skills and knowledge as Chinese and Indians, America’s favorite competitors, Americans won’t have an economic advantage simply because it costs much less for these countries to develop the same skills. So more of the same skills and knowledge won’t work, neither will the same education. America does not need a quantitatively better education, it needs a different kind of education.

“There are of course other problems with Tucker’s chain of reasoning; for example, are American teachers truly worse educators than their counterparts in other countries? Again it depends on the definition of education. Is education about test scores? Or is it about cultivating diverse, creative, passionate, and curious innovators and entrepreneurs?

“Tucker has much faith in this plan. “We know this form of accountability will work because it is already working at a national scale in the countries that are outperforming us.” Even if Tucker were right, America will at best outperform the top performing country—China. But is that what we want? My answer is NO and my reasons are in my book ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World.'”

On September 4, I posted two things about Marc Tucker’s latest accountability proposals. One was a brief summary of his ideas. I was especially impressed by the point he made that no other advanced nation tests as much as we do.

The second was a critique of Tucker’s accountability plan by Anthony Cody.

Cody wrote the following:

““We need to learn (and teach) the real lesson of NCLB – and now the Common Core. The problem with NCLB was not with the *number* of tests, nor with when the tests were given, nor with the subject matter on the tests, or the format of the tests, or the standards to which the tests were aligned.

“The problem with NCLB was that it was based on a false premise, that somehow tests can be used to pressure schools into delivering equitable outcomes for students. This approach did not work, and as we are seeing with Common Core, will not work, no matter how many ways you tinker with the tests.

“The idea that our education system holds the key to our economic future is a seductive one for educators. It makes us seem so important, and can be used to argue for investments in our schools. But this idea carries a price, because if we accept that our economic future depends on our schools, real action to address fundamental economic problems can be deferred. We can pretend that somehow we are securing the future of the middle class by sending everyone to preschool – meanwhile the actual middle class is in a shambles, and college students are graduating in debt and insecure.

“The entire exercise is a monumental distraction, and anyone who engages in this sort of tinkering has bought into a shell game, a manipulation of public attention away from real sources of inequity.

“We need some accountability for children’s lives, for their bellies being full, for safe homes and neighborhoods, and for their futures when they graduate. Once there is a healthy ecosystem for them to grow in, and graduate into, the inequities we see in education will shrink dramatically. But that requires much broader economic and social change — change that neither policymakers or central planners like Tucker are prepared to call for.”

For some reason, Tucker decided that Cody and I are one and the same person, apparently using different names when it suits our purpose. Cody wrote the second piece, and I quoted it.

I actually think that Tucker agrees with Cody, and I agree with them both, on the main issues at hand. We all agree that our schools would have higher test scores if there were less poverty. I think I can safely say that we believe that more testing and higher stakes won’t reduce poverty. I think I can say we agree that teachers should have better preparation for their work, more mentoring and support, and higher salaries. (Marc, correct me if I am wrong.)

Maybe where we diverge is on the value of high-stakes standardized tests. I don’t think they are necessary to improve teaching and learning. If they were, we would surely see them used at Sidwell Friends, Lakeside Academy, Groton, Dalton, Exeter, and Deerfield Academy. Instead, these institutions have small classes, respect their experienced teachers, have extensive programs in the arts, a well-stocked library, and assure that all students have a full and balanced curriculum. These schools do not judge their teachers by value-added metrics based on test scores. They are not faced annually with the threat of budget cuts and layoffs.

That’s what I want for all children. Marc, let me know where we disagree.

Tom Ratliff, a member of the Texas state Board of Education, wrote this article for the Longview News-Journal. It is a warning to parents not to assume that charter schools are better than public schools. On average, he says, the opposite is true.

 

Public schools ranked higher for financial accountability:

 

During the 2012-13 school year (the most recent year of the rating), Texas’ traditional public schools far outperformed charter schools in both academic and financial measurements. Don’t take my word for it, look at the information straight from the Texas Education Agency:
Financial accountability: bit.ly/1rIFYsm
Academic accountability: bit.ly/1pXZ3RZ
To summarize these reports, I offer the following:
The FIRST rating is the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas and, according to the education agency, is designed to “encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources in order to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.” I think we all agree, that’s a good thing to measure.
According to the agency, the FIRST rating uses 20 “established financial indicators, such as operating expenditures for instruction, tax collection rates, student-teacher ratios, and long-term debt.” How did the schools do? Glad you asked.
Traditional ISDs: 89 percent ranked “superior” and 1.2 percent ranked “substandard.”
Charter schools: 37 percent ranked “superior” and 20 percent ranked “substandard.”
Yes, one out of five charter schools ranked “substandard” on how they spend the tax dollars supporting them, while almost 9 out of 10 ISDs ranked “superior”.

 

And public schools outperform charter schools academically too:

 

Let’s shift our attention to academic performance. If the academic performance is good, the taxpaying public might be more understanding of a low rating on a financial measure. Unfortunately, the charters do not compare well there, either, under the 2014 TEA Accountability System.
Traditional ISDs: 92.6 percent met standard, while 7.4 percent did not.
Charter schools 77.7 percent met standard, while 17.3 percent did not.
Again, almost one out of five charter schools failed to meet the state’s academic standards.

 

And then Tom Ratliff asks the best question of all:

 

“Where is the outrage from groups like the Texas Association of Business or the Austin Chamber of Commerce?” Those groups rarely miss an opportunity to criticize the shortcomings of traditional ISDs. Why not express concerns when numbers like these relate to charter schools? If these numbers were attributable to ISDs, you can bet those groups would be flying planes around the Capitol and holding press conferences like they have in the past. A little consistency would be nice when asking for taxpayer-funded schools to perform as expected.”

 

Ratliff points out that his father wrote the original charter law. It is refreshing to see a policymaker looking at the data and seeing that competition does not translate into better education or more accountability. By the way, Tom’s father Bill Ratliff –former Lieutenant Governor of Texas–is already a member of the blog’s honor roll for his willingness to speak up and think for himself. A good Texas family.

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