Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Gary Rubinstein, former TFA but now veteran high school math teacher wrote this article in Education Week about the failure of Race to the Top. I wish I didn’t have to delete any part of it but Internet or copyright protocols require me to. Subscribe to Edweek so you can read it all. And be sure to follow Gary’s blog.

“Years from now, I hope we will look back at Race To The Top as the time we allowed the rich and powerful to conduct reckless experimentation on our nation’s schoolchildren. And they would have gotten away with it too — to paraphrase every Scooby Doo villain ever — if it wasn’t for those meddling educators. Race To The Top is an example of how reform in any field will fail if it is based on an invalid premise. That premise, in this case, is that teachers cannot be trusted.

“We need the Common Core, the argument goes, because when teachers set what they consider to be an appropriate level of ‘rigor’ in their classes, they will usually choose to make it too easy. They do this because either because they are lazy or because they simply believe that students are not capable of challenging work or, most likely, both.

“Teachers are so devious, it must be, that they have figured out ways to get satisfactory evaluations from their supervisors despite all their ‘inputs’ going in one ear of their students and out the other. Administrators are also either incompetent for thinking they are witnessing learning, or they are giving positive evaluations to ineffective teachers for other reasons that only they could know….

“When teachers complain that they don’t want to have this inaccurate component as 50% or 40% or 35%, depending on what state they’re in, they are reassured that ‘multiple measures’ are being used so that, on average, it should all work out. Couldn’t this ‘multiple measures’ argument be used to justify having shoe size as a component of the evaluation score?

“By starting with a bad premise, the ‘reformers’ have been given the power to start destroying public education in this country. Fortunately the momentum is slowing down on Race To The Top since if it were permitted to continue to grow the result would be a massive teacher shortage as the only people dumb enough to become teachers would also be too dumb to do the difficult job of teaching. Without teachers willing to teach, ‘reformers’ would learn that it truly is lonely at The Top.”

In 2010, Colorado State Senator Michael Johnston took credit for a piece of legislation called Senate Bill 191, which he said would produce “Great Schools, Great Teachers, Great Principals.” Its main feature was tying teacher evaluation to their students’ scores, which counted for 50%. But it included other time bombs. One allowed districts to lay off teachers for various reasons. Now seven teachers and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association is suing.

One of those who lost her job was Cynthia Masters, a special-education teacher in a K-8 school. She was one of only 3,000 to lose their job.

“In the four years since the law was passed, nearly 3,000 DPS teachers have lost their positions due to what the district calls “reduction in building,” or RIB for short. The reasons that teachers are RIBed vary: Some lose their jobs because their schools are “turned around” or closed. Others are cut because school enrollment drops. In Masters’s case, she was RIBed due to a decrease in the number of special-ed students.

Of those 3,000 teachers, 1,240 had at least three years’ worth of positive evaluations, including Masters. And not all of them have been able to find new jobs. According to the law, still widely referred to as Senate Bill 191, RIBed teachers with three years of positive reviews — officially known as “nonprobationary” — who can’t find a position within a certain time frame are put on unpaid leave, a move that both unions believe violates the state constitution……”

“Brad Bartels, an attorney with the Colorado Education Association, says these teachers are victims of DPS’s brand of musical chairs. They didn’t lose their positions because they were bad teachers, he insists: “They just didn’t have a chair when the music stopped.”

“Seven DPS teachers and the DCTA have now sued the district. (The statewide CEA is representing the DCTA in the matter.) The lawsuit is a class action, and the plaintiffs represent several different classes, including all teachers in Colorado who were considered nonprobationary prior to the passage of Senate Bill 191 and all nonprobationary DPS teachers who were RIBed and ended up on unpaid leave.

“Westword spoke with five of the seven plaintiffs and found that they have several things in common: All are older than 45 and have good teaching records. Upon losing their positions, all five applied for hundreds of teaching assignments within DPS but, inexplicably to them, received just a few interviews. Only one managed to avoid being put on unpaid leave or being forced into early retirement.

“I applied for over 700 positions in the district,” says plaintiff Michelle Montoya, who got RIBed in the fall of 2010. “I thought, ‘I can deal with this. I’m going to go get a job. My skills are definitely needed.’ And I just never got a second interview.”

Will Senator Michael Johnston live long enough to declare that Colorado now has great teachers, great principals, great schools, thanks to Senate Bill 191?

Bertis Downs is a native of Georgia and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education.

He writes:

This is the best electoral news in a long time– Georgia Democrat Valarie Wilson won the runoff for state school superintendent, and it wasn’t even close: http://bit.ly/Us7qNi I am proud to be one of her supporters.

And on the Republican side a longtime educator, Richard Woods, won in a squeaker– he had strong support from the Tea Party for his opposition to Common Core, which many on the right consider a federal intrusion into what should be local decisions.

Valarie Wilson’s decisive win on the Democratic side is significant for Georgia, and it fits into a developing narrative that Money (doesn’t always) Mean Power, at least in the intersection of politics and schools. It’s great to add Georgia to the list of places where big, out of state, corporate reformist money did not beat a genuine pro-schools candidate who will fight for strong and effective public schools for all– Seattle, Los Angeles, Bridgeport, Newark, Indiana, over and over this pattern is being repeated. Diane Ravitch’s blog and the Network for Public Education are key ways to get the good word out. I guess people like Bloomberg, Huizenga, Rhee, DeVos, Broad, et al have millions to spend (ahem “invest”), but all those $6,300 (+/-) check-writers from California and New York and elsewhere must be feeling a little ripped off this morning. Campaign disclosures, especially when analyzed and broken down on Diane’s blog, are a beautiful thing in a democracy! http://bit.ly/UoWuQC. And I guess, in a way, money does in fact talk– despite Valarie’s opponent’s decision to play down her involvement in the so-called choice movement, the extent of her out of state support, and the fear that she would indeed “dance with who brung her” if elected, likely helped propel Valarie, who raised virtually all her support here in Georgia.

And on the Republican side, and let’s be realistic– Rs generally beat Ds lately in GA– Richard Woods is a solid candidate who believes in public education and is not in deep with the corporate interests looking to privatize our schools. Either way, whatever the outcome in November, Georgia will not have someone really bad running our schools, and that is a relief. I am confident that Georgia’s next superintendent — whether Wilson or Woods — will address and improve the shortcomings of our schools while celebrating and replicating what works in advancing teaching and learning in our classrooms, supporting teachers and helping them improve, and restoring funding cuts that have reduced our school year and increased our class sizes. And if we are really lucky, the next Superintendent will courageously start the long walk back from the absurd amount of standardized testing being forced on our children and our schools, and back to sane and effective assessment and evaluations that help Georgia attract and retain quality teachers. As has been said, a teacher’s working conditions are our childrens’ learning conditions. I look forward to a superintendent who knows this. (And it would of course be really great if that Superintendent could serve under a Governor who shares their view of public schools– see, e.g. https://carterforgovernor.com/issues/)

The results in Georgia send a powerful message that what the people want, Republicans and Democrats alike, is pretty straightforward: good public schools where they are proud to send their children. And the selection of the fall candidates, Richard Woods and especially Valarie Wilson, is a clear rejection of the status quo of the false cures and nice-sounding quick fixes offered by the well-capitalized marketers of “school reform.”

Bertis Downs

Lisa Graves was one of the creators of the website ALECExposed. She has followed the money, and she here describes a dangerous threat to American democracy by the billionaire Koch brothers, ALEC, and others who seek control by the super-rich. They want to bust unions and privatize schools. Graves says that progressives must stand together. I agree. That’s why I grow frustrated when union members attack their unions. Of course, they should fight to win democratic control of their unions. But when they begin hurling insults and invective at their allies, they do the work of their common foe.

Graves writes:

“Two of the richest men in the entire world are plotting to dominate our elections this fall, from congressional races to school board seats.

“Their scheming to shove America further to the far right should be a serious wake-up call for anyone who cares about our nation’s soul.

“As Charles and David Koch promised their billionaire buddies, they’ve assessed how the quarter billion dollars they helped raise and spread across the country failed spectacularly in the 2012 elections. And, they’ve made adjustments to their battle plans to win more this time…..

“If unions and their leaders want to stand up to the Koch machine – which has sought to gut union power for decades – I say right on. Nurses, teachers, and factory workers ought to have a chance to negotiate with power for better wages and working conditions than each could negotiate with their powerful employer alone.

“Thank goodness they’ve all stood up to the Kochs’ neo-Bircher worldview, in their own ways.

“Thank goodness they understand that civil society — indeed, our very democracy — is what’s at stake.

“I stand against the cult of greed peddled by the Kochs.

“I’m utterly opposed to the Koch-y brand of Ayn Rand’s dystopian propaganda and the updated version of this kind of every-man-for-himself economic Darwinism peddled by Rand Paul in blue jeans. I don’t want America’s great dream for our people to be shrunk into a members’ only club, letting the richest few rule with the less lucky stuck as servants struggling to survive.

“A civil society — a true democracy – recognizes that investing in our shared future makes our nation stronger.

“A healthy democracy fully funds our public institutions that serve all of the American people and helps those living on the brink, as part of our social contract in recognition of our common humanity and the fact that we all face illness and aging out of work….

“It’s about having truly public schools that provide our children with empowered teachers trained in the art and science of teaching rather than inexperienced and un-certified stand-ins trying to do it on the cheap so a corporation can pay better dividends to stock speculators.

“The right-wing alternative to truly public schools that the Koch deregulation machine has helped spawn is “charter” schools paid for with our tax dollars.

“We’ve seen too many charters run by fly-by-night operators feeding kids religious gruel or designed by corporations to enrich Wall Street speculators through cutting what’s spent on kids, teachers, and classrooms but a healthy budget for slick ads blanketing the airwaves and underwritten by taxpayers.

“Charles and David Koch have spent decades trying to get rid of “government” schools, as touted in David’s run for the White House in 1980. That’s why it’s now practically a litmus test for Republican presidential candidates to list the Department of Education among the government agencies they are in a race to eliminate.

“We need all hands on deck to stop them.

“That’s one of the reasons why attacks on the DA or union leaders like Randi Weingarten as a false equivalent to the Koch cabal are so misplaced. They are not equivalent because the goals of the Kochs matter and investing in an alternative to the Kochs’ agenda matters, a lot…..

“But, as the person who launched ALECexposed with my team in Madison, I can tell you that Weingarten has been totally stalwart in standing up to ALEC and its anti-public education agenda, which is fueled by the Koch family fortune and other rich families — along with corporations that profit from privatizing public schools, of course.

“The American Federation of Teachers has been rock solid in the fight against ALEC, consistently devoting staff time week in and week out for three years to expose ALEC, due to her personal commitment. The ongoing public campaign on ALEC would not have had the success it has had without AFT’s work and her leadership, and without the work of many devoted colleagues across the country, including the National Education Association and other organizations, bloggers, and concerned citizens nationwide…..

“I know we need a more progressive America.

“And progressives need to get better at using their power to persuade each other and to win better policies.

“But attacking genuine progressives for banding together to take on the Kochs or for not being pure enough is foolish sport. And the right loves it when progressives fight. It makes their effort to tear down the left so much easier.

“So, let’s get real.

“Because there’s a real-world war going on to kill our public schools, outsource our public institutions to private companies not accountable to us, and destroy key government constraints on corporate power…..”

Just when you think things can’t get worse in Connecticut, another “reform” scandal pops up.

Civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker writes here about the clear pattern of hiring unqualified people to run impoverished districts. Their way of operating: cut services, bring in Teach for America, install unproven programs.

She writes:

“It is becoming painfully clear that in Connecticut, the refrain that education reform is “all about the children,” is a sad joke. To Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his allies, children are merely collateral damage.

“Recently, there was the scandal involving Hartford’s Milner school, in which the children were used as pawns in a scheme to expand the charter empire of now-disgraced Jumoke/FUSE CEO Michael Sharpe. Pryor never bothered to discover that Sharpe is a former felon and falsified his academic credentials. Instead, while Milner was floundering under Sharpe, Pryor, a longtime Sharpe supporter, handed him two additional schools. The fate of public school children was clearly the last thing on Pryor’s mind. Currently, the FBI is investigating Pryor’s, Sharpe’s and Jumoke/FUSE’s connections.”

The latest drama is playing out in impoverished New London, where the state is pushing to hire a superintendent with a phony doctorate.

Connecticut is one of the nation’s highest performing states. It didn’t get that way by turning children over to inexperienced, unqualified teachers and superintendents. The achievement gap is a direct result of the opportunity gap. It won’t be closed by experimenting on children but by reducing the poverty that creates obstacles for children.

The following letter appeared as a guest post on Anthony Cody’s blog:

Paul Horton’s Open Letter to President Obama: Listen to Committed

Dear Mr. President,

Like thousands of experienced classroom teachers throughout our great country, I am very concerned about how you decided to go the way that you did with your Education policies. I was recently told by a close friend of the yours that “Arne’s Team looked at all of the options” and decided to go with its current policies because “they would get us where we needed to go more quickly than any other set of alternatives.” I was also told, “that not everybody could be in the room.”

The problem was that you and Mr. Duncan did not listen to experience. The blueprint for Arne’s plan for stimulus investment that morphed into the Race to the Top Mandates (RTTT) featured advisers from the Gates and Broad Foundations, analysts from McKinsey Consulting, and a couple of dozen superintendents who were connected, like Mr. Duncan, to the Broad Foundation. Most of those who were invited to advise you were committed supporters of heavy private investment in Education who favored high stakes testing tied to teacher evaluations. Most of these advisers also favored the scaling up of measurable data collection as a way to measure progress or lack of progress in American Education.

If you had listened to the leading experts on standardized testing and the achievement gap, you would have learned that your policies were bound to fail. Our former colleague here at the U of C, Professor James Coleman, was the first to establish this empirically. You should have taken the time to learn learn about Campbell’s Law, a concept that is taught in every graduate level statistics course here at the University of Chicago.

On a more personal level, Mr. President, you consulted many of your contacts in Democrats for Education Reform, an organization funded mostly by Democratic leaning Wall Street investment firms. And you were also very impressed by the ideas and passion of a Denver charter school principal and Democratic activist, Michael Johnston….

Thousands of teachers possess the experience, training, and commitment to advise you on Education matters. But you chose to listen to those who went to places like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford who have only two years of classroom experience. Commitment, I submit, is a very important word.

The true measure of one’s commitment to Education is one’s willingness to sacrifice one’s will to power and economic potential to be successful in the classroom. TFA kids who go back to grad school after two years in the classroom and buy into corporate education reform are embracing their will to power. Most of these kids tend to have every advantage to begin with, they get an Ivy League education, and they are ambitious young liberals. Rather than staying in the classroom and truly making a difference by developing their teaching skills over twenty or thirty years, they can achieve administrative positions in the charter world that have far more economic potential than teaching positions by buying into the mantra of data-driven corporate reform lingo.

You have left thousands of us behind and allowed inexperienced “experts” yellow-brick road access to take charge. You and your administration have encouraged a “Cultural Revolution” in American education. Your Education Secretary embraced and applauded the Madame Mao of this movement and allowed his Inspector General to whitewash an investigation of cheating in DC Schools. You promoted your basketball buddy and very close friend of your campaign finance manager to be Secretary of Education. You chose someone with a Broad Foundation background. The Broad Foundation has written a “toolkit” for the destruction of public schools that is being used in Chicago, Philly, and New Yorks and in many cities across the country.

Your policies represent a new elitism. You seem to think that: “if we can get these really smart Ivy League educated former TFA people in senior policy, superintendent, and administrative positions, then we can turn this whole thing around.”

This idea is arrogant beyond belief, the equivalent of the “best and the brightest” idea that drove us into the ground in Vietnam, only you have decided to do it in Education. Robert McNamara was brilliant, he had an analytical razor, but he lacked a moral compass and anything resembling empathy for the lives of those who were dying in a “winnable” war. Mr. Duncan has a great deal of empathy, however his policies are misguided. Indeed, in my humble opinion, his department’s policies are an inarticulate mess. If he were ever asked the tough questions under oath in senator Harkin’s committee, we could very well discover that his use of the authority of his office overstepped the legal parameters of the laws circumscribing federal involvement in the formulation of Education policy. Ms. Weiss and Mr. Sheldon III, two of Secretary Duncan’s advisors who worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation prior to serving under Secretary Duncan, articulated what Mr. Gates wanted on his terms in exchange for tacit support for your campaigns. Several Wall Street investing firms also made it clear to you and to Mr. Emanuel that they were willing to support you if your Education policies encouraged private investment in charter schools.

Much as McNamara destroyed the U.S. Army in Vietnam, your Education policies are destroying two or three generations of dedicated and excellent classroom teachers by allowing them to be humiliated by young people who have very little experience. The policies that you have endorsed will set the teaching profession back twenty years much as the Cultural Revolution set China back twenty years. While recent studies have indicated that only two to three percent of classroom teachers are ineffective, your policies vilify the 98% who are effective and exemplary. Your policy makers would have done well to examine the teacher assessment policies of Montgomery County, Maryland that are based on the AFT’s Toledo Plan to learn how to deal with ineffective teachers.

You have bought into a corporate model of Education Reform: you seek to create competition among public and private schools, you encourage the “creative destruction” that your University of Chicago Business School buddies and Judge Posner love, and you seem to be gung-ho about selling off the public commons of American Education that were built with the sweat and blood of American farmers and workers. Do your policies work for young people who need stability in their lives? Creative destruction might benefit some kids (I was a military brat), but it probably does not benefit most.

Your Education policies embrace the management tactics of McKinsey Consulting that call for the firing of twenty to twenty-five percent of the teacher workforce every two years. You have said that Education should not “all be about bubble tests,” but your policies measure progress by bubble tests and they narrow the curriculum when they require standardized testing in some subjects, but not in others.

Your campaign pledged to address income inequality, but you and many of the mayors that you support are actively working to destroy what is left of the American middle class. Your Education policies work actively to destroy teacher unions. Many of your mayors and governors are working to bust teacher, hospital, public employee, firemen’s, and police unions….

The questions that you need to examine more closely are:

How do we get and keep candidates who would be brilliant in any career into the classroom?

How do you increase the size of the quality teaching pool?

The answers are clear and they don’t have anything to do with charter schools.

If Mr. Gates were really serious about Education in this country, he could invest in creating a system like Finland’s. The problem is that he is more interested in selling product than investing in four well qualified and well trained teachers in every classroom.

Progress in Education is not about buildings, it is not about technology: It is about human investment, not the expansion of markets.

President Obama, I have great respect for you. I have taught many of the young people who work for you. Ask the young man who has cooked for you for many years what a hard ass teacher I was. Please find the time to talk to committed teachers who have given their entire professional careers to improving Education in this country. This would require you to step outside of your comfort zone inside of Democrats for Education Reform and Teach for America circles. It will also require you to look beyond the mess that Ms. Weiss, Mr. Shelton III, and Bill Gates have helped to create. It will require you to talk to exemplary, veteran teachers about teaching and schools rather than to Arne Duncan

Please encourage Senator Durbin and his committee to completely defund No Child Left Behind. Do you prefer to fund Pearson Education or allow thousands of teachers to be laid off? This is what it is coming down to. Will you allow the middle class to be further eroded? Or will you fight for the jobs of teachers? Will you reward Wall Street investors in Education and Bill Gates, or are you willing to fight for neighborhood schools and arts and humanities programs? Will you use Value Added Measures tied to standardized testing to further discredit teachers? Or will you begin to understand how complex real learning is, learning that can not be measured by “bubble tests.” These are your choices, Mr. President. Please look beyond your current Education advisors if you want to explore complex questions and solutions.

All best,

Paul Horton
History Instructor
University High School
The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Friends, when a small group of parents and educators formed the Network for Public Education in 2013, we had a singular goal: to mobilize the allies of public education against the powerful forces supporting privatization and high-stakes testing. To advance that goal, we hoped to create a force to counter the large amounts of money that were being dumped into state and local school board races to undermine public education, to demoralize teachers, and to promote an agenda of choice, testing, and sanctions.

We knew we were up against some of the wealthiest people in the nation. We knew they included a bunch of billionaires, and we could never match their spending.

But we put our faith in democracy. We put our faith in the simple idea that we are many, and they are few. We believed–and continue to believe–that an informed public will not give away its public schools to amateurs, hedge fund managers, rock stars, for-profit corporations, athletes, fly-by-night entrepreneurs, and religious groups. Our goal is to inform the public, assuming that they would not willingly abandon or give away what rightfully belongs to the entire community.

We believed that we could exert influence if we established our credibility as genuine supporters of children, parents, teachers, administrators, and real education, as opposed to the data-driven, high-stakes testing policies that degrade education and to the consumer-oriented choice programs that divide communities and harm public schools.

Our budget can’t match the budgets of those who want to turn our schools into profit centers. But we believe in the power of our message. During our short existence, we have proven on several occasions that our message can beat Big Money. We have seen candidates in state and local races triumph over well-funded adversaries. We think that our support gave them added visibility and contributed to their astonishing victories.

We supported Sue Peters for the school board in Seattle, and she won. We supported Monica Ratliff in a race for the Los Angeles school board, and she won. We supported Ras Baraka in his race for Mayor of Newark, and he won. This past week, we supported Valarie Wilson in the runoff for the Democratic nomination for state superintendent in Georgia, and she won. All of these candidates were outspent, sometimes by multiples of numbers.

Some candidates we endorsed lost their races. But our message has been consistent and powerful. All credit goes to the candidates themselves, of course, but we are proud that we gave them support and hope when they needed it most, and that our endorsement may have helped their fundraising and campaigning.

We urge you to join us as we promote the principles that will improve our public schools and repel those who seek to monetize them. We want our children to have a childhood. We want our teachers and principals to be highly respected professionals. We want parents and educators to stand together on behalf of their children and their community.

We oppose the status quo. We seek better schools for all children. We will work diligently with like-minded allies until we can turn the tide, turn it away from those who seek silver bullets or profits, and turn the tide towards those who work to restore public education as the public institution dedicated to spreading knowledge and skills, advancing equality of educational opportunity, and improving the lives of children and communities, while encouraging collaboration and a commitment to democratic values.

Join us! With your help, we will build better schools and better communities for all children.

Diane Ravitch, President, The Network for Public Education
Anthony Cody, Treasurer, The Network for Public Education
Robin Hiller, executive director, The Network for Public Education

Peter Greene continues the debate about reform, civility, and honesty.

Have critics of the reformers corrupted the debate by being snarky?

Or have reformers corrupted the debate by calling themselves reformers as they seek to strip teachers of job rights and taking money from public schools for religious and private schools?

Greene writes:

.
“We play a lot of games with defining what qualifies as a lie (it depends one what the meaning of “is” is). I say, any time you shade or misrepresent the truth in order to influence, shape or control the behavior of other people, that’s a lie. For me, that also explains what’s wrong with lying– it’s an attempt to take away another person’s ability to make their own informed decision. Lying is destructive because it breaks relationships. It’s wrong because it’s about stealing another person’s freedom to choose.

“How do we react to being lied to?

“Well, when someone lies to you, they are sending some of the following messages:

* I don’t care about you enough to actually show up for this conversation
* I think you’re stupid
* We both know I’m lying, but you’re powerless to do anything about it, so neener neener
* You don’t matter; I’m in charge here
* This is not a real conversation

“Lies, depending on how much power you have in the situation, are somewhere between angering and funny. Depending on how much power you have and your temperament and the history of the relationship involved, you will choose something somewhere between playing along and fighting back. Playing along can either be about resignation or the hope that playing along will eventually lead to real dialogue. Fighting back can be about open aggression, or about snark and sass and sarcasm.

But here’s the most important thing I know about lying.

Lying closes the door to real dialogue. Closes it absolutely and completely.

So maybe snark and sass are a way of breaking that down. Maybe, for me, it’s a way of saying, “Look. I want you to know that I don’t believe that bullshit at all and you can stop shoveling it so we can move on to something else.”

In the education debates, sorting out the players is hard as hell. There are reformsters who I believe are being honest– they just don’t know what they’re talking about. I believe there are others who are looking for good faith ways to improve education. And I believe that there are some who haven’t had an honest word to say about education in years.

“They are not always easy to sort out. New NEA president Lily Eskelson Garcia seems to believe that Arne Duncan is sincere but just wrong. I’m not so sure, but she’s met him face to face, and I have not. like the majority of teachers, I’ve got to make these judgments from home, from words on a screen. And not everyone is so obviously full of it as She Who Will Not Be Named or the various lying hucksters pushing charters to make a buck…..

“Sometimes a lie is so outlandish that the truth sounds like mockery, and I think many parts of the conversation have sailed way past that point. There’s no way to respond to something like “We will get better teachers in classrooms by removing job security for the profession” that doesn’t sound like snark. There’s no way to inject honesty and truth into a discussion of using testing to measure teacher effectiveness without making proponents of VAM sound foolish. If the emperor has no clothes on, there’s no way to have an honest conversation of his wardrobe that doesn’t leave him feeling naked.

“To move forward, we need honesty more than we need niceness. The people who have injected large lies into the conversation have raised the bar for how tough honesty is going to be (which is often the point of making the big lie), but we can’t be afraid to go there. We can’t make the mistake of matching lies with lies; reformsters are not brain-damaged fiends who drink the blood of children under a full moon. But if pointing out the truth is going to feel ugly and snarky and sassy, we can’t be afraid to do it. Honesty is an essential navigating tool for finding our way out of this sea of strife and confusion.
A civil conversation requires honesty. And the conversation these days about charter schools — and, indeed, about tenure and test-based teacher evaluation and seniority and vouchers and standards and just about every other education policy on the table today — is anything but honest.”.

The University of Arkansas issued a study claiming that charter schools get a higher “return on investment” than public schools, yet are underfunded especially given their great “productivity” and “ROI.” (I admit I stumble over the idea of applying ROI when we are talking about education and children, but that’s just me.)

Bruce Baker of Rutgers University analyzes the University of Arkansas study and takes it apart.

Baker shows that the Arkansas study “shamelessly” and “knowingly” uses bogus data. The Arkansas study is meant to refute an earlier critique of their work by Baker.

Here is what Baker concludes:

“The acknowledgement of my critique, highly selective misrepresentation of my critique, and complete failure to respond to the major substantive points of that critique display a baffling degree of arrogance and complete disregard for legitimate research.

“Yes – that’s right – either this is an egregious display of complete ignorance and methodological ineptitude, or this new report is a blatant and intentional misrepresentation of data. So which is it? I’m inclined to believe the latter, but I guess either is possible.

“Oh… and separately, in this earlier report, Kevin Welner and I discuss appropriate methods for evaluating relative efficiency (the appropriate framework for such comparisons)…. And to no surprise the methods in this new UARK report regarding relative efficiency are also complete junk. Put simply, and perhaps I’ll get to more detail at a later point, a simple “dollars per NAEP score” comparison, or the silly ROI method used in their report are entirely insufficient (especially as some state aggregate endeavor???).

“And it doesn’t take too much of a literature search to turn up the rather large body of literature on relative efficiency analysis in education – and the methodological difficulties in estimating relative efficiency. So, even setting aside the fact that the spending measures in this study are complete junk, the cost effectiveness and ROI approaches used are intellectually flaccid and methodologically ham-fisted.

“But if the measures of inputs suck to begin with, then the methods applied to those measures really don’t matter so much.

“To say this new UARK charter productivity study is built on a foundation of sand would be offensive… to sand.

“And I like sand.”

Paul Horton, who teaches history at the University of Chicago Lab School, here analyzes the origins of neoliberalism and its attack on the public sector.

The “rhetoric of economic freedom” has put a price tag everything. Self-interest and me-first have become the ideology of the day, and anyone who dares to think of what is in the best interest of society or how to raise up the poor is scorned as a Marxist or collectivist.

Horton writes:

“In effect, “the invisible hand” behind the push to create new education markets is coming from Wall Street investors who are flush with capital for investment. Wall Street bundlers and investment firms are buying up stock in charter school companies and big education vendors. These bundlers not only fund both party’s campaigns, they also sell stock, betting on the futures of big education vendors, start-ups, charter schools, and vouchers. They “encourage” political leaders to pursue policies that will hedge their bets on education products and to view all schools as portfolios that will increase in value as long as the Feds and the states pursue policies that encourage privatization.

“But Wall Street bundlers are far from the only group that embraces a radical version of libertarianism as a way to legitimate opening new markets in education. “Hardcore libertarianism has been making inroads among a younger set of tech entrepreneurs, who see its goals of limited government as being compatible with their general hatred of innovation-stifling regulation. And as more and more tech founders become phenomenally wealthy, many are naturally drawn to the right-wing political ideologies that help them preserve more of that wealth,” according to Kevin Roose in an article for New York magazine.

“Not surprisingly, this same set of Silicon Valley and Seattle billionaires has teamed up with Wall Street bundlers to push neoliberal attacks on public education by pushing an agenda that supports charter schools, computer driven learning, and assessment schemes that are designed measure success of students and teachers in “real time.” Value added measures (VAM) for teachers based on student test scores are designed to reduce the power of unions by making it easier to get rid of ineffective teachers. Charter schools are created both as competition for public schools to give parents “choice” and as a way to hire nonunion teachers at cut rate salaries–teachers who can be hired and fired with no job protections or due process.

“This neoliberal-libertarian agenda for education violates the values of the American Revolution that affirmed that promise of public education in the Northwest Ordinance that reserved the proceeds from the sales of public lands to build public schools and the later Morrill Land Grant Act (1862) that used the proceeds of public land sales to create public universities that would serve the interests of the public.

“Neoliberal corporate education reform is nothing short of an attack on the political DNA of the United States. This agenda makes a mockery of Jefferson’s idea about a school as an “academical village” designed to create leaders to serve the commonwealth. Corporate education reform also disgraces the legacy of the fight for integration and equal funding during the Civil Rights movement by encouraging the resegregation and the resource starving of public schools to create more “choice” in the form of charter schools.

“The Tea Party might rant on and on about liberty and taxes these days, but Republicanism, or the idea that we have to “rise above faction” to serve the commonwealth was the glue that held the American revolutionaries together…..”

“Nothing is sacred: public servants, those who promote the humanities and the arts, and those focused on caring for others are viewed by neoliberals as naïve at best. Public servants deserve little or no respect because only the market can truly establish value. They are contemptuously seen as the new “welfare queens,” or the “forty-seven percent” because the very idea of the public is emasculated, shorn of value, a heavy drag on a fine tuned and lean market system. Neoliberals believe that almost everything public should be strangled and flushed, to use Grover Norquist’s intentionally crude image.

“Toward this end, public schools and public teachers have been subjected to a relentless barrage of negative propaganda for almost thirty years. Many corporations want to force open education markets, Microsoft and Pearson Education to name two of the largest, demand “free markets,” “choice,” and “free enterprise.” Public schools are defunded and closed, so that parents can choose among competing charter schools supported by city, state, and Federal policies. Politicians of both parties at every level are funneled campaign contributions from charter school investors for their support of “school choice.”…….

“The privatizers want us to forget all of this history; they want us to forget the idea that public anything is a good idea. Parents who demand quality public neighborhood schools are as American as apple pie. The corporate education reformers are motivated by ideas that have no respect for tradition or for common human decency. They devalue the aspirations represented in the Declaration of Independence. We need to push back and demand a limit to privatization and a defense of the Commons.”

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