Archives for category: Accountability

Our frequent commentator Laura H. Chapman, whose wise analyses so frequently inform all of us, has done some research on the billionaire class. I would add that her second category of schools, public in name only (PINO), includes for-profit charters.

 

 

Many of the billionaires in Forbes 2015 list claim to be self-made and to come from a low to moderate income family. Those are self-reports with no backup data worthy of mention by Forbes.

 

 

According to the Forbes 2015 list of the wealthiest people in the world, The United States has 536 billionaires worth $2.6 trillion.

 

 

In 2014 Warren Buffet made $14.5 billion.

 

 

Among the wealthiest in the US, 23 % of the billionaires claim to have been raised in a household that was “poor,” 17% in a “working class” family. Here are some of the top billionaires and major source of wealth.

 

 

Bill Gates, Microsoft, $ 79.2 billion…
Warren Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway, $72.7 billion…
Larry Ellis, Oracle, 54.3 billion…
Charles Koch, Diversified, $42.9 billion…G. Davis Koch, Diversified, $42.9 billion… Christy Walton, Walmart $41.7 billion…Jim Walton, Walmart $40.6 billion…Alice Walton, Walmart $39.4 billion… S. Robert Walton, Walmart $39.1 billion…
Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg, $35.5 billion…Jeff Bezos, Amazon, $34.8 billion…Mark Zuckenberg, Facebook, $33.4 million….Sheldon Adelson, Casinos, $31.4 billion…Larry Page, Google, $29.7 billion…Sergey Brin, Google, $29.2 billion…
Forrest Mars, Jr., Candy, $26.6 billion….Jacquelin Mars Candy, $26.6 billion….John Mars, Candy, $26.6 billion….
George Soros, Hedge funds, $24.2 billion…Carl Icahn, Investments, $23.5 billion…Steve Ballmer, Microsoft, $21.5 billion… Phil Knight, Nike, $21.5 billion… Len Blavatnik, Diversified, $20.2 billion…Charles Ergen, Dish Network, $20.1 billion…Lauren Powell Jobs, Apple & Disney, $19.5 billion…Michael Dell, Dell, $19.2 billion…

 

 

So far as I know, only a few analytical studies have been done on the interconnections among grants flowing into K-12 education and the major foundations, many set up by billionaires. Here are some recent findings.

 

 

In 2010, the top 15 grant makers for K-12 education (based on IRS filings) were: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Broad Foundation, GE Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, Doris and Donald Fisher Fund, Communities Foundation of Texas, and Ford Foundation.

 

 

In 2010, the top “convergent grantees”–beneficiaries of multiple funders were:

 
Charter School Growth Fund $46 million, 6 funders;
Teach for America, $44.5 million, 13 funders;
KIPP, $24 million, 9 funders;
D.C. Public Education Fund, $22 million, 5 funders (set up for merit pay) ;
New Schools Venture Fund, $18 million, 10 funders.

 

 

The researchers noted a dramatic increase in convergent grant making between the first year they studied, 2000, and the last, 2010. The increase was not only in dollars but also in the proportion groups that received funds from two or more foundations. As one example, funding for traditional public schools dropped from 16% of grant dollars in 2000 to 8% in 2010 while charter school funding rose from about 3% in 2000 to 16% in 2010.

 

 

Source: Reckhow, S & Snyder, J. W. (2014, May). The expanding role of philanthropy in education politics. Education researcher, 43, 4, pp.186-195. Or see Sarah Reckhow, (2013). Follow the money, How foundations dollars change public school politics. NNY: Harvard Education Press.

 

 

Plenty of money is around, and it is increasingly used to create a tripartate system of education.

 
One is truly public, tax-supported with governance by democratically elected school boards.

 
One is public in name only, tax subsidized, but with governance that is not fully public or democratically determined.

 
The third is private education, including for-profit-by-design education.

The Leona Group, a for-profit charter corporation that runs the schools of Highland Park, Michigan, will not offer high school classes next year. It will also end its contract one year early. And enrollment in the schools has dropped by 40% since the for-profit takeover. It is just not that profitable to offer high school.

 

Leona is closing the only high school in the district, and students were stunned.

 

Hannah, a rising junior, said the students were shocked and upset. “A lot of us couldn’t believe that they’d close the only high school in Highland Park,” she told the World Socialist Web Site. “We thought they couldn’t do that, because where would we go? But the superintendent called us all down to a meeting in the lunchroom and said she had done everything humanly possible to try to keep the school open.

 
“It’s really crazy. I am going to miss this school.”

 
A community meeting has been scheduled for Monday, June 8, for parents and students scrambling to find new schools. They will be assigned to the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) system and reportedly will be offered enrollment at DPS schools, a range of other charter operations, as well as slots in the so-called “failing school district” run by the state’s Education Achievement Authority.

 
Displaced students, facing the hardship of much longer commutes, will be given bus passes. This hardly compensates for the potentially drastic increase in commute times. For a student to take a bus from the current high school, Highland Park Renaissance, to the closest DPS high school, Pershing, would require three buses. Wait times in the city are beyond onerous in the former “Motor City” where buses can be hours late. A single bus ride could take students to Cass Tech High School; however, that school has a very selective application process.

 
Hannah said she would be spending her senior year at the Detroit Public Service Academy. DPSA is another Leona Group-run charter school, whose students are called “cadets” and specialize in police, military and emergency responder skills.

 
“It’s not that I want to do that kind of work,” she explained, “I want to do culinary arts, but they’ll have other subjects too. The DPSA will provide buses right at the CVS to get you to the school. If your parents can’t take you to a further school, you need to do what you have to, to get an education.”

 

It’s all about the kids. The state of Michigan has washed its hands of responsibility or accountability for public education.

Faced with the highly unpopular law on teacher evaluations rushed through the Legislature by Governor Cuomo with minimal consideration or debate, seven members of the 17-member New York State Board of Regents issued a vigorous dissent. The law requires that 50% of teacher evaluations be based on test scores, a number that is not supported by research or experience. Unlike the Governor and the Legislature, these seven members of the Regents have demonstrated respect for research and concern for the consequences of this hastily-passed law on teachers, children, principals, schools, and communities. They are courageous, they are wise, and they are visionaries. They have shown the leadership that our society so desperately needs. All New Yorkers are in their debt.

I place these wise leaders on the blog honor roll.

The dissident Regents issued the following statement:

Position Paper Amendments
to Current APPR Proposed Regulations

BY SIGNATORIES BELOW JUNE 2, 2015

We. the undersigned, have been empowered by the Constitution of the State of New York and appointed by the New York State Legislature to serve as the policy makers and guardians of educational goals for the residents of New York State. As Regents, we are obligated to determine the best contemporary approaches to meeting the educational needs of the state’s three million P-12 students as well as all students enrolled in our post secondary schools and the entire community of participants who use and value our cultural institutions.

We hold ourselves accountable to the public for the trust they have in our ability to represent and educate them about the outcomes of our actions which requires that we engage in ongoing evaluations of our efforts. The results of our efforts must be transparent and invite public comment.

We recognize that we must strengthen the accountability systems intended to ensure our students benefit from the most effective teaching practices identified in research.

After extensive deliberation that included a review of research and information gained from listening tours, we have determined that the current proposed amendments to the APPR system are based on an incomplete and inadequate understanding of how to address the task of continuously improving our educational system.

Therefore, we have determined that the following amendments are essential, and thus required, in the proposed emergency regulations to remedy the current malfunctioning APPR system.

What we seek is a well thought out, comprehensive evaluation plan which sets the framework for establishing a sound professional learning community for educators. To that end we offer these carefully considered amendments to the emergency regulations.

I. Delay implementation of district APPR plans based on April 1, 2015 legislative action until September 1, 2016.

A system that has integrity, fidelity and reliability cannot be developed absent time to review research on best practices. We must have in place a process for evaluating the evaluation system. There is insufficient evidence to support using test measures that were never meant to be used to evaluate teacher performance.

We need a large scale study, that collects rigorous evidence for fairness and reliability and the results need to be published annually. The current system should not be simply repeated with a greater emphasis on a single test score. We do not understand and do not support the elimination of the instructional evidence that defines the teaching, learning, achievement process as an element of the observation process.

Revise the submission date. Allow all districts to submit by November 15, 2015 a letter of intent regarding how they will utilize the time to review/revise their current APPR Plan.

II. A. Base the teacher evaluation process on student standardized test scores, consistent with research; the scores will account for a maximum of no more than 20% on the matrix.

B. Base 80% of teacher evaluation on student performance, leaving the following options for local school districts to select from: keeping the current local measures generating new assessments with performance –driven student activities, (performance-assessments, portfolios, scientific experiments, research projects) utilizing options like NYC Measures of Student Learning, and corresponding student growth measures.

C. Base the teacher observation category on NYSUT and UFT’s scoring ranges using their rounding up process rather than the percentage process.

III. Base no more than 10% of the teacher observation score on the work of external/peer evaluators, an option to be decided at the local district level where the decisions as to what training is needed, will also be made.

IV. Develop weighting algorithms that accommodate the developmental stages for English Language Learners (ELL) and special needs (SWD) students. Testing of ELL students who have less than 3 years of English language instruction should be prohibited.

V. Establish a work group that includes respected experts and practitioners who are to be charged with constructing an accountability system that reflects research and identifies the most effective practices. In addition, the committee will be charged with identifying rubrics and a guide for assessing our progress annually against expected outcomes.

Our recommendations should allow flexibility which allows school systems to submit locally developed accountability plans that offer evidence of rigor, validity and a theory of action that defines the system.

VI. Establish a work group to analyze the elements of the Common Core Learning Standards and Assessments to determine levels of validity, reliability, rigor and appropriateness of the developmental aspiration levels embedded in the assessment items.

No one argues against the notion of a rigorous, fair accountability system. We disagree on the implied theory of action that frames its tenet such as firing educators instead of promoting a professional learning community that attracts and retains talented educators committed to ensuring our educational goals include preparing students to be contributing members committed to sustaining and improving the standards that represent a democratic society.

We find it important to note that researchers, who often represent opposing views about the characteristics that define effective teaching, do agree on the dangers of using the VAM student growth model to measure teacher effectiveness. They agree that effectiveness can depend on a number of variables that are not constant from school year to school year. Chetty, a professor at Harvard University, often quoted as the expert in the interpretation of VAM along with co-researchers Friedman & Rockoff, offers the following two cautions: “First, using VAM for high-stakes evaluation could lead to unproductive responses such as teaching to the test or cheating; to date, there is insufficient evidence to assess the importance of this concern. Second, other measures of teacher performance, such as principal evaluations, student ratings, or classroom observations, may ultimately prove to be better predictors of teachers’ long-term impacts on students than VAMs. While we have learned much about VAM through statistical research, further work is needed to understand how VAM estimates should (or should not) be combined with other metrics to identify and retain effective teachers.”i Linda Darling Hammond agrees, in a Phi Delta Kappan March 2012 article and cautions that “none of the assumptions for the use of VAM to measure teacher effectiveness are well supported by evidence.”ii

We recommend that while the system is under review we minimize the disruption to local school districts for the 2015/16 school year and allow for a continuation of approved plans in light of the phasing in of the amended regulations.

Last year, Vicki Phillips, Executive Director for the Gates Foundation, cautioned districts to move slowly in the rollout of an accountability system based on Common Core Systems and advised a two year moratorium before using the system for high stakes outcomes. Her cautions were endorsed by Bill Gates.

We, the undersigned, wish to reach a collaborative solution to the many issues before us, specifically at this moment, the revisions to APPR. However, as we struggle with the limitations of the new law, we also wish to state that we are unwilling to forsake the ethics we value, thus this list of amendments.

Kathleen Cashin

Judith Chin

Catherine Collins

*Josephine Finn

Judith Johnson

Beverly L. Ouderkirk

Betty A. Rosa

Regent Josephine Finn said: *”I support the intent of the position paper”

i Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Jonah Rockoff, “Discussion of the American Statistical Association’s Statement (2014) on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment,” May 2014, retrieved from:

http://obs.rc.fas.harvard.edu/chetty/value_added.html. The American Statistical Association (ASA) concurs with Chetty et al. (2014): “It is unknown how full implementation of an accountability system incorporating test-based indicators, such as those derived from VAMs, will affect the actions and dispositions of teachers, principals and other educators. Perceptions of transparency, fairness and credibility will be crucial in determining the degree of success of the system as a whole in achieving its goals of improving the quality of teaching. Given the unpredictability of such complex interacting forces, it is difficult to anticipate how the education system as a whole will be affected and how the educator labor market will respond. We know from experience with other quality improvement undertakings that changes in evaluation strategy have unintended consequences. A decision to use VAMs for teacher evaluations might change the way the tests are viewed and lead to changes in the school environment. For example, more classroom time might be spent on test preparation and on specific content from the test at the exclusion of content that may lead to better long-term learning gains or motivation for students. Certain schools may be hard to staff if there is a perception that it is harder for teachers to achieve good VAM scores when working in them. Overreliance on VAM scores may foster a competitive environment, discouraging collaboration and efforts to improve the educational system as a whole. David Morganstein & Ron Wasserstein, “ASA Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment,” Published with license by American Statistical Association, April 8 2014, published online November 7, 2014: http://amstat.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/2330443X.2014.956906. Bachman-Hicks, Kane and Staiger (2014), likewise admit, “we know very little about how the validity of the value-added estimates may change when they are put to high stakes use. All of the available studies have relied primarily on data drawn from periods when there were no stakes attached to the teacher value-added measures.” Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Thomas J. Kane, Douglas O. Staiger, “Validating Teacher Effect Estimates Using Changes in Teacher Assignments in Los Angeles,” NBER Working Paper No. 20657, Issued in November 2014, 24-5: http://www.nber.org/papers/w20657.

ii Linda Darling-Hammond, “Can Value Added Add Value to Teacher Evaluation?” Educational Researcher, March 2015 44, 132-37: http://edr.sagepub.com/content/44/2/132.full.pdf+html?ijkey=jEZWtoEsiWg92&keytype=ref&siteid=spedr.

A reader of the blog provides a new acronym and defines it: DARVO. We have seen examples of this on many recent occasions.

 

“DARVO”

 

DARVO is an acronym to describe a common strategy of abusers: Deny the abuse, then Attack the victim for attempting to make them accountable for their offense, thereby Reversing Victim and Offender. This may involve gaslighting and victim blaming.

 

“Psychologist Jennifer Freyd writes:
“I have observed that actual abusers threaten, bully and make a nightmare for anyone who holds them accountable or asks them to change their abusive behavior. This attack, intended to chill and terrify, typically includes threats of law suits, overt and covert attacks on the whistle-blower’s credibility, and so on. The attack will often take the form of focusing on ridiculing the person who attempts to hold the offender accountable. The offender rapidly creates the impression that the abuser is the wronged one, while the victim or concerned observer is the offender. Figure and ground are completely reversed. The offender is on the offense and the person attempting to hold the offender accountable is put on the defense.”

The state education department in Ohio has taken control of eight charter schools and closed four of them for poor performance. Two of the closed charters are operated by the for-profit charter chain Imagine Inc. of Virginia.

 

The for-profit company has been criticized for charging its schools what the state has called exorbitant rent. The rent, in turn, is used to pay back private investors who buy up the charter school property then lease it back to the school management company….
The Romig Road operation, Imagine Leadership Academy, was on notice in 2012 that it would have to close in 2013 for poor academics. The charter school, instead, closed a year early, found a new school board and reopened under the same management company.
By creating a new school, the clock was restarted on its academic performance. And even though it is performing as poorly, or worse, than the two Imagine schools targeted for closure, the Ohio Department of Education cannot intervene.
Imagine Schools operates 17 charter schools in Ohio, including Imagine Akron Academy, a kindergarten school also taken over by the state after the Portage County Educational Service Center closed.

 

 

 

 

Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, and David Sciarra of the Education Law Center, have written an excellent opinion piece about why the East Ramapo school board needs a state fiscal monitor. Frankly, in light of the facts they lay out, they make a good case for a state takeover of the district.

They write:

East Ramapo is a divided community. Of the roughly 32,000 school-age children enrolled in schools in the district, about 24,000 attend private schools, nearly all of them Orthodox Jewish yeshivas. Of the more than 8,000 children in the public schools, 43 percent are African-American and 46 percent are Latino; 83 percent are poor and 27 percent are English-language learners.

The East Ramapo school board, dominated by private-school parents since 2005, has utterly failed them. Faced with a fiscal and educational crisis, the State Education Department last June appointed a former federal prosecutor, Henry M. Greenberg, to investigate the district’s finances.

Mr. Greenberg’s report, released in November, documented the impact of the board’s gross mismanagement and neglect. Since 2009, the board has eliminated hundreds of staff members, including over 100 teachers, dozens of teaching assistants, guidance counselors and social workers, and many key administrators. Full-day kindergarten, and high-school electives have been eliminated or scaled back. Music, athletics, professional development and extracurricular activities were cut.

The Greenberg report also detailed dismal outcomes for East Ramapo students. In 2013-14, only 14 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 were proficient in English Language Arts, and only 15 percent were proficient in math, according to the most recent statistics from the State Education Department. The graduation rate, 64 percent, is far below the state average of 76 percent.

While slashing resources in its public schools, the school board vastly increased public spending on private schools. The cost of transporting children, including gender-segregated busing, rose to $27.3 million in 2013-14 from $22 million in 2009-10, a 24 percent increase. Public spending on private school placement for special education students grew by 33 percent between 2010-11 and 2013-14, and the district placed students in private schools when appropriate spaces were available in public ones.

The report also exposed disturbing practices by board members. The board conducts 60 to 70 percent of its meetings in closed-door executive session. It does not tolerate, and is overtly hostile to, the complaints of public school parents, students and community members. Public protests against the board are now commonplace.

There is now a bill that has been introduced in the legislature to enable the appointment of a fiscal monitor to make sure that the children in public schools in East Ramapo to ensure that public money is spent appropriately in the best interests of the children in the district.

Critics of the legislation have said that those who want to limit and supervise the East Ramapo school board are anti-Semitic. This is ridiculous. The authors say that the legislation is not about acting against the interests of one group, but “acting to make sure that the civil rights of a community of overwhelmingly low-income minority children are not denied and that their constitutional right to a sound basic education is enforced.”

The legislature must act by June 17, when the session ends, or nothing will happen, and the minority children in the East Ramapo district will continue to be denied their right to equal opportunity in education.

Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the College of Education at Indiana University, wrote a letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star agreeing with the dean of the College of Education at Purdue: Indiana is on track for an education disaster because of the policies enacted by the legislature at the behest of former Governor Mitch Daniels (now president of Purdue) and continued by his success Mike Pence.

 

He wrote:

 

Indiana’s downward trend in education enrollments can be traced directly to the policies promoted under then-Gov. Daniels and Indiana schools superintendent Tony Bennett. Between 2000 and 2012 constant-dollar teacher salaries in Indiana decreased by 10 percent, outpaced nationally only by North Carolina’s 14 percent decrease.

 

At the same time, the wrong-headed Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability policies promoted by Daniels and Bennett increased regulation of education schools and licensure requirements for teacher education students while lowering standards of preparation for nontraditional teacher prep programs. Coupled with the equally flawed testing and test-based teacher evaluation policies implemented in the state, these rules have driven out experienced, effective teachers while discouraging new teachers from entering the field.

 

Unless Indiana changes course, its public education system is headed for disaster. Already teacher shortages are being felt across the board, not just in traditional shortage areas.

 

It is wonderful to see education leaders speaking out fearlessly and telling the truth. Indiana’s leaders have led education to a precipice. Will the electorate permit them to continue destroying public education and higher education?

A regular commenter on the blog who calls him/herself “Democracy” posted these insightful thoughts about the state of “leadership” and its willingness to follow the corporate reform script instead of standing up for sound policies and practices that promote good education:

 

 

 

Part 1

 

I’ve been commenting on this blog for a while, lamenting the state of “leadership” in pubic education.

 

The fate of Joshua Starr in Montgomery County, MD is a good example. Starr was actually trying to bring more equity to the system, he wanted to de-emphasize testing, he opposed merit pay, and he was collaborative, generally. A teacher rep said Starr made sure teachers were “included in the decision-making process for most major decisions.” Still, Starr seemed to favor the Common Core, and in an interview with NPR he bragged about the county’s “SAT and AP scores.” Sigh.

 

Starr’s replacement was to have been Andrew Houlihan of Houston, who later withdrew his name from consideration.

 

Houlihan’s dissertation was on the use of data. He has described himself as “a big data person. I love using data to make decisions.” Except, apparently, Houlihan never really understood what the “data” said. He bragged about an Arnold Foundation grant that, he said, was “transforming” the recruitment of teachers. And he bragged about Houston’s merit pay program – ASPIRE – that, he said, rewarded “our most effective educators” for “accelerating student progress.”

 

The Arnold Foundation is a right-wing organization founded by a hedge-funder who resists accountability and transparency in derivatives markets but calls for them in education. Its executive director, Denis Cabrese was former chief of staff to DIck Armey, the Texas conservative who now heads up FreedomWorks, the group that helps to pull the Tea Party strings and gets funding from the billionaire arch-conservative Koch brothers.

 

Fairfax County recently hired Karen Garza, who was also in Houston. Garza led the ASPIRE program, a pay plan that was funded (in part) by the Broad, Gates and Dell foundations, the very same groups that fund corporate-style “reform” and that support the Common Core. And while researchers point out the dangers of value-added models, noting that they “cannot disentangle the many influences on student progress,” Garza said they were “proven methodology” that are both “valid and reliable.”

 

Fairfax and Montgomery, by the way, are considered two of the better school systems, nationally.

 

Part 2

 

Meanwhile, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) recently concluded its Spring conference, titled “Inspiring Leadership for Innovation.” The conference was focused on “college and career readiness,” “leadership skills essential to changing school cultures,” and “superintendent success stories.” The featured speakers were Jean Claude Brizard and Marc Tucker.

 

Brizard has been a failure as a superintendent in Rochester and Chicago. According to a columnist who followed him closely, Brizard “engaged in gross misrepresentations of data and sometimes outright lied. He made promises he didn’t keep. He did one thing while saying another.” As to his two failed superintendencies, Brizard admits that “there were some mistakes made.”

 

Marc Tucker says that he wants high-stakes tests in grades 4, 8 and 10, and “the last exams would be set at an empirically determined college- and work-ready standard.” Additionally, “every other off year, the state would administer tests in English and mathematics beginning in grade 2, and, starting in middle school, in science too, on a sampling basis. Vulnerable groups would be oversampled to make sure that populations of such students in the schools would be accurately measured.” Tucker wants all schools systems to take PISA, because he thinks that the test scores of 15-year-olds are somehow tied tightly to economic growth and competitiveness. You know, jobs.

 

Sigh. Tucker just keeps regurgitating the same-old song, all over again: college and career “readiness.” To Tucker, that’s why public education exists. He says nary a word about citizenship.

 

And what about those jobs? The Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that most new jobs created in the United States over the next decade will NOT require postsecondary education. These are jobs like personal care aides, retail clerks, nursing assistants, janitors and maids, construction laborers, freight and stock movers, secretaries, carpenters, and fast food preparers.

 

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/most-new-jobs.htm

 

In addition to its Spring fling, VASS selected its 2016 superintendent of the year. While the award comes from VASS, a VASS-selected panel –– comprised of the state superintendent of instruction, and the heads of the Virginia Education Association, state PTA and state school boards association, the state ASCD, and the directors of the state associations of secondary and elementary school principals –– picked the winner. In other words, the top education “leaders” in the state –– those who should be familiar with research and evidence –– were responsible for choosing the state’s “best” superintendent.

 

A few years back, this recently-named “superintendent of the year” forced a test-score-tracking software program called SchoolNet on teachers. She was advised against it because of its problems, but she went ahead anyway. It ended up being a $2 million-plus failure. SchoolNet was later bought by Pearson. The superintendent is still withholding 268 SchoolNet-related emails from public scrutiny, claiming they are “exempt” from the Freedom of Information Act.

 

 

Part 3

 

This VASS-award-winner’s school division sent out what it called a “leadership” survey several years back. It was a skewed-question survey designed to produce pre-determined results. But it did allow for comments. And they were instructive. They included comments such as “..this is the worst leadership the county has ever had,” and “Honesty, integrity and fairness are lacking,” and “…teachers have very little voice, and “…the system does not care about me or most other employees as individuals, and “county schools leaders seem to be increasingly inept and far-removed from the day-to-day realities of public education.” Again and again and again, commenters said these things about the top “leadership:”

 

“does not listen to teachers…”
“does not ask what people think before it accepts major policies…”
* “…teachers are not listened to…our opinions have been requested and ignored…”
* “…when I offer my opinion, i has been dismissed.”
* “l..leaders seek input, but then usually, disregard the opinions of those not in agreement with the administration…decisions are made top-down before input is received.”
* “decision making is so top-down — stakeholders are seldom consulted…”
* “…decisions have already been made…”
* “…teachers feel that their professional judgment is not valued…”
* “most administrator are arrogant…and remove themselves with any type of collaborative dialogue with teachers.”
* “…they do not want to hear complaints, or you are labeled as a troublemaker…”
* “the county asks its employees for input but these requests are superficial…the decision have already been made by the people ‘downtown’…”
* “you ask people to think critically but we must toe the party line…”
* “We are not asked what we think…it is common knowledge here that you are not allowed to address concerns that may be negative…”
“I see few examples of teachers being involved in decision making.”

 

A blue ribbon resources utilization committee recommended a climate survey of the schools years earlier, noting that one had been done repeatedly in county government. Teachers asked for a climate survey in the schools too, and even offered to help write one. A climate survey still hasn’t been offered.

 

This “superintendent of the year” forced STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) “academies” on all of the county high schools. The original claim was that research showed a STEM “crisis” in America, and that this move was “visionary.” Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin – which has laid of thousands of STEM workers – was invited to the schools to make his STEM spiel. When asked for the “research,” the superintendent couldn’t produce any. There’s a reason for that. The research shows there is no “crisis,” no “shortage.” In fact, there’s a glut.

For example, Beryl Lieff Benderly wrote this stunning statement recently in the Columbia Journalism Review (see: http://www.cjr.org/reports/what_scientist_shortage.php?page=all ):

“Leading experts on the STEM workforce, have said for years that the US produces ample numbers of excellent science students. In fact, according to the National Science Board’s authoritative publication Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, the country turns out three times as many STEM degrees as the economy can absorb into jobs related to their majors.”

 

When VASS selected this “superintendent of the year” for 2016, it noted certain “indicators of success.” What were they? It cited an increase in the “number of students enrolled in AP courses” and SAT scores that were higher than the state average. Never mind that the SAT is not tied to the school curriculum and that this school division is one of the most affluent in the state. There is no better predictor of SAT score than family income.

 

The research on SAT – and ACT – and AP courses finds that they are mostly hype. The SAT and ACT just don’t do a good job of predicting success in college or life. Moreover, research finds that when demographic characteristics are controlled for, the oft-made claims made for AP disappear. In the ‘ToolBox Revisited’ (2006), a statistical analysis of the factors contributing to the earning of a bachelor’s degree, Adelman found that Advanced Placement did not reach the “threshold level of significance.” Other research finds that while “students see AP courses on their transcripts as the ticket ensuring entry into the college of their choice…there is a shortage of evidence about the efficacy, cost, and value of these programs.”

 

This is the current state of public education’s “leadership.”

 

Unlike the Allstate commercial, I don’t think we’re in ‘good hands.’

Peter Greene read a post that Checker Finn wrote for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s blog, in which Checker warned parents to be ready for the unpleasant news they would learn about their children’s failure when the Common Core tests results are reported. Peter did not agree with Checker because he thinks the tests are dumb, not the kids. Peter can’t understand why a “conservative” would want the federal government to take control of what all students in the nation ought to learn. He writes: Aren’t Fordham guys like Finn supposed to be conservatives? When did conservatives start saying, “The government should decide what a person is supposed to be like, telling people when they aren’t measuring up to government standards, and using government pressure to try to make them be the way the government says they should be.”

 

I am sort of in a tough spot here because Checker was my closest friend for many years. We worked together at the Educational Excellence Network, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (now Institute), the Koret Foundation at the Hoover Institution, and we shared many family events. However, when I turned against testing, choice, accountability, charters, and vouchers, our friendship did not survive. I am still fond of Checker, his wife Renu, and his children, but we don’t agree anymore about things we both care about, and we both understand that. I lost a very close friend when I changed my world views, and I am sad about that. But, I had no choice. Knowing Checker, he would do the same. But he didn’t.

 

I know that Checker has a low opinion of American students and teachers. He went to Exeter and Harvard, and very few meet his high expectations. When he was chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which oversees NAEP, he led the creation of the achievement levels so the American public would see just how ill-educated their children were. The established NAEP scale was a proficiency scale from 0-500. Checker thought that the public did not derive a sufficient sense of urgency because they did not understand what it meant to be 350 or 425 on a scale of 500. What they would understand, he thought (correctly), was proficiency levels: basic, proficient, advanced (and, of course, the worst, below basic). He wanted the public to be duly alarmed at the sad state of education. Congress recognized that there is an arbitrary quality to proficiency levels; they still considered them to be “trials.” Experts disagree about how to set them and what they mean. Ultimately, the NAEP levels are set by panels of people from different walks of life who make judgment calls about what they think students in fourth grade and eighth grade ought to know. This is not science, this is human judgment.

 

Unfortunately, the public didn’t listen to the periodic alarums from NAEP and NAGB. The reports came out, and they didn’t get much attention. But after the passage of No Child Left Behind, the nation went into full-blown crisis mode about the state of education, and a hungry industry grew up to tutor, remediate, and school the students who didn’t pass their state tests. Then the charter industry emerged, and the henny-penny-sky-is-falling movement saw that the way to create a demand for charters and vouchers was to generate a steady narrative of “our schools in crisis.” Suddenly the regular NAEP reports were headline news. Suddenly the public became aware of the number of students who were “not proficient,” even though proficient was a very high bar indeed.

 

Now we have Common Core, more rigorous than any of the other standards, and Common Core tests, designed to find 70% of American kids falling short of the standards.

 

This is where Checker comes in again, to warn parents that their children will surely fail. Imagine this: the most powerful nation in the world, with the most advanced technology, the most influential culture, the biggest economy, yet somehow the schools that educated 90% of Americans are terrible. How can this be?

 

Peter Greene steps in now to take Checker on.

 

Read the whole thing, but here is the windup:

 

Finn’s basic complaint is that parents aren’t being forced to understand the Hard Truth that BS Tests prove that their children are dopes, and that said parents should be alarmed and upset. The Hard Truth that Finn doesn’t face is that the PARCC and SBA provide little-to-no useful information, and that parents are far more likely to turn to trusted teachers and their own intimate knowledge of their own children than to what seems to be an unfair, irrational, untested, unvalidated system.

 

Yes, some parents have trouble facing some truths about their own children. There can’t be a classroom teacher in the country that hasn’t seen that in action, and it can be sad. I’m not so sure that it’s sadder, however, than a parent who believes that his child is a stupid, useless loser. Finn seems really invested in making that parents hear bad news about their kids; I’m genuinely curious about what he envisions happening next. A parent pulls the small child up into a warm embrace to say, “You know, you’re not that great.” A parent makes use of a rare peaceful evening at home with a teenager to say, “I wish your test results didn’t suck so badly. Would you please suck less?” What exactly is the end game of this enforced parental eye opening?

 

Okay, I can guess, given the proclivities of the market-based reformster crowd. What happens next is that the parents express shock that Pat is so far off the college and career ready trail and quickly pulls Pat out of that sucky public school to attend a great charter school with super-duper test scores. The market-driven reform crowd wants to see an open education market driven by pure data– not the fuzzy warm love-addled parental data that come from a lifetime of knowing and loving their flesh and blood intimately, and not even the kind of chirpy happy-talk data that come from teachers who have invested a year in working with that child, but in the cold, hard deeply true data that can come from an efficient, number-generating standardized test. That’s what should drive the market.

 

Alas, no such data exists. No test can measure everything, or even anything, that matters in a child and in the child’s education. No test can measure the deep and wide constellation of capabilities that we barely cover under headings like “character” or “critical thinking.”

 

Folks like Finn try hard to believe that such magical data-finding tests can exist. They are reluctant to face the Hard Truth that they are looking for centaur-operated unicorn farms. The unfortunate truth is that they have dragged the rest of the country on this fruitless hunt with them.

Purdue’s dean of education Maryann Santos de Barona bluntly described the pernicious effects of “reform” on enrollment in the College of Education, as Purdue President Mitch Daniels listened quietly. As Governor of Indiana, Daniels was responsible for the “reforms” she was describing.

 

 

Maryann Santos de Barona, dean of Purdue University’s College of Education for the past six years, was at the front of a Stewart Center meeting room May 14 for one of those death-by-PowerPoint presentations. From among her dozens of slides, the dean was showing the university’s trustees a sinking trend line of undergraduates enrolled in Purdue’s teacher education program.

 

At the other end of a conference table, one big enough to seat 10 trustees and assorted support staff, was Mitch Daniels. The Purdue president fidgeted as his education dean unflinchingly laid out her hypotheses for why students were avoiding careers in elementary and secondary education, as well as why test-weary schools were increasingly reluctant to experiment with Purdue-developed curriculum.

 

Wait, you know where this one is going, right? Probably so.

 

But it still was stunningly awkward, as the dean heaped so much of the blame at the feet of her boss, without calling him out by name. She didn’t have to. Not a person in the room — probably not in the state — was unfamiliar with Daniels’ role for clearing the way for education reform in Indiana in his previous life as a two-term Republican governor.

 

“What is happening in (pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade) education, in legislative bodies and in governmental offices, affects our enrollment, our course offerings and our administrative responsibilities,” Santos de Barona said during an annual update for the trustees’ Academic Affairs Committee.

 

“Our profession is at a critical juncture,” she said. “The pervasive negativity about the teaching profession, and the misconception that education is broken, has resulted in increased pressures on practicing teachers. As a result, they are less likely to want to mentor our student teachers — and have less time to do so. Teachers and administrators are reluctant to let our faculty research in their classrooms, as this represents a risk that might impact test scores.”

 

Santos de Barona said undergraduate enrollment in the College of Education is down 33 percent since 2010, even as recruitment efforts have been ramped up to interest high school seniors across Indiana and students looking into changing majors once on campus. (Graduate student enrollment at the education college is up 32 percent during the same time. “We saw this coming and diversified our portfolio,” Santos de Barona said after the meeting.)

 

Santos de Barona told the trustees that Purdue wasn’t alone in this — that it was a national issue. One example: Ball State University, once called Ball State Teachers College, has seen a 45 percent drop in undergraduates in its elementary and kindergarten prep programs in the past decade.

 

Santos de Barona didn’t specifically mention it, but the trend at Purdue tracks the timeline of education reform in Indiana, when teachers’ bargaining power was busted, scores on standardized tests were tied more closely to pay raises and to overall A-to-F grades for schools, and the introduction and expansion of a private school voucher system sold on the idea that there had to be something better than what public schools could provide.

 

How refreshing that the dean brought the terrible consequences of the Governor’s actions to his face and let him know that he is responsible for a catastrophic decline in the number of young people entering the teaching profession. Being a reformster means you are never held accountable for your actions. Former Governor Mitch Daniels was confronted with the facts. Wonder what he heard? Or did he just tune out his dean?

 

 

Yes, as readers have suggested, Dean Barona belongs on the blog’s honor roll for speaking truth to power.

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