Archives for category: Duncan, Arne

EduShyster visited the University of Chicago Lab School, where Arne Duncan was a student from K-12, thirteen years.

She met his favorite teacher, who has been teaching for 49 years.

She searched for the secret sauce that makes him tick.

She would have been better off searching for whatever ingredient led him to look upon public schools with such disdain.

Perhaps she found it. It is just a stone’s throw away.

Matt Farmer, a lawyer and public school activist in Chicago, wrote a brilliant satire of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top. You may recognize Matt Farmer as the brilliant litigator who cross-examined and tried billionaire Penny Pritzker in absentia. At the time, Pritzker was a member of the Chicago Board of Education, merrily cutting services for the children in public schools while raising money for a glorious library at her children’s private school. Last year, President Obama appointed Pritzker as Secretary of Commerce. She was a major Obama fund-raiser.

In this new post, Farmer tells us that Arne Duncan has discovered that American kids spend too much time eating lunch.

Other countries spend less time in the lunchroom, he says gravely. We must beat the international competition!

Farmer writes:

“Secretary Arne Duncan’s April 15, 2014, remarks to employees and diners at the National Place food court in Washington.

Today we cross an important threshold in school cafeteria reform by releasing draft guidelines for states to apply for the $3.6 billion dollar Graze to the Top fund. We gather here today at Washington D.C.’s National Place food court to announce – and celebrate — a new Graze to the Top in schoolhouses across America.

For too many years, our nation’s public school students have been trapped for nearly 20 minutes a day in under-performing school cafeterias. Simply put, kids are spending too much time in lunchrooms and not enough time in classrooms. In today’s global economy, a country that eats lunch in less time than America will out-compete us.

And what we now know from international assessments is that students in countries such as Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic spend far less time eating school lunches than do their U.S. peers.”

Surely, spoiled suburban moms will complain. But don’t listen to them. We can’t afford to waste another minute!

“Save, save the minutes!” You have to be a historian of American education to recognize that this phrase was associated with the early 19th century Lancastrian movement, the first effort to standardize education for the children of the poor so that it would be cost-effective. Arne Duncan, the Joseph Lancaster of the 21st century.

Award-winning high school principal Carol Burris reports here on Arne Duncan’s latest foray into New York, where he highly praised the state’s controversial Commissioner of Education John King, disparaged disgruntled educators and parents as a mere distraction, and urged the state to “stay the course.”

Burris, a leader in the effort to expose and reverse some of the worst aspects of Race to the Top, explains why it is important not to stay the course, when the course is leading in the wrong direction.

She writes:

” There is no empirical evidence that rigorous state or national standards will result in higher student achievement or greater college readiness.

“Those who created the Common Core assumed that if we established rigorous standards, student achievement and economic competitiveness would increase. Duncan said, in his remarks at New York University, that it is common sense. Prior to the 15th century, common sense said the world was flat, but that did not make it true.”

She cites research to demonstrate that rigorous standards and high-stakes tests o not produce better education:

“This is not an argument for low standards or no standards—it is an argument that standards reform is not an effective driver of school improvement. Keep in mind that all state standards had high-stakes state tests associated with them. The more rigorous the standards, the more difficult the tests are. As high-stakes tests become more difficult, the curriculum becomes narrower and narrower. The tests soon drive teaching and learning.

“When I hear “I am for the Common Core standards, I am just not for the tests”, I cringe. While thoughtful educators look at the standards through their prism of good practice, test makers look at the standards as the basis for creating “items” that discriminate the learning of one child from another. In the end, the test maker calls the shots. It is no coincidence that the Common Core Standards, PARCC and Smarter Balanced were all born at the same time. In his remarks, Duncan referred to PARCC and Smarter Balanced as the “national tests.”

“The destination of school reform—ensuring that all students have the skills, content and habits needed for college and career success—is the right destination. The challenge is choosing the pathway that gets us there. Good intentions are not enough. If we continue to put our tax dollars and our efforts into “standards reform” because Mr. Duncan and his followers believe it is common sense, we will waste time and treasure.”

Bottom line: Race to the Top is no better than No Child Left Behind. It has no research to support its premises and will come to an ignominious end like its predecessor. Burris hopes that Duncan will change course but his bad ideas seem impervious to evidence.

Perhaps someday historians will figure out how the Obama administration pulled the wool over the eyes of so many people about its plans for urban schools. As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama named Professor Linda Darling-Hammond as his senior education advisor. She went on national television to describe the progressive policies he would pursue if elected.

Soon after the election, President-elect Obama dropped Darling-Hammond and selected his basketball buddy Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. He introduced Duncan as someone who had enjoyed remarkable success in turning around the Chicago public schools. We now know that Duncan did not enjoy remarkable success, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is applying a wrecking ball to the Chicago public school system.

What went wrong? How did Obama fool us? Once he was elected, why did he choose as Secretary a non-educator who was determined to make standardized testing the centerpiece of his program, to advance the privatization of America’s public schools, to demoralize teachers, and to make common cause with the nation’s most rightwing governors? Why does Duncan never speak out against segregation? Why does he pretend that poverty doesn’t matter so long as poor kids have “great” teachers? Why does he never speak out against vouchers? What will historians say about Race to the Top, which turns out to have as much evidence as No Child Left Behind?

 

The Obama Administration’s “Scorched Earth Policy” for Urban Schools

By Dr. Mark Naison

The Obama Administration, in the five years it has been in office, has pursued an Education “Scorched Earth” policy in major urban centers, closing public schools en masse and replacing them with charter schools. And for the most part, Democratic Mayors have enthusiastically supported this policy. Only in the last year, there has been finally been some resistance to this policy, by newly elected Mayors in New York and Pittsburgh. That resistance must spread if public education is to survive and be revitalized in Urban America. Electing anti-testing, anti-charter school and pro public school Mayors in big cities should be a major priority of activists in the last three years of the Obama Presidency, along with building the multi-partisan movement against the Common Core Standards. That is the only way we can build public schools into strong community institutions where creative teaching and learning is practiced and honored.

 

Dr. Mark Naison is one of the Co-founders of BATs with Priscilla Sanstead

http://badassteachers.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-obama-administrations-scorched.html

Peter Greene has a large appetite for listening to our educational leaders. In this post, he describes speeches given by Arne Duncan and John King, defending the status quo. They want all children tested, they all teachers evaluated by test scores. They want everyone to stop making so much noise. They want everyone to listen to them. Now.

As Greene puts it, Arne’s new message is: “Shut up.”

The central feature of the Obama administration’s $5 billion “Race to the Top” program was sharply deconstructed and refuted last week by the American Statistical Association, one of the nation’s leading scholarly organizations. Spurred on by the administration’s combination of federal cash and mandates, most states are now using student test scores to rank and evaluate teachers. This method of evaluating teachers by test scores is called value-added measurement, or VAM. Teachers’ compensation, their tenure, bonuses, and other rewards and sanctions are tied directly to the rise or fall of their student test scores, which the Obama administration considers a good measure of teacher quality.

Secretary Arne Duncan believes so strongly in VAM that he has threatened to punish Washington state for refusing to adopt this method of evaluating teachers and principals. In New York, a state court fined New York City $150 million for failing to agree on a VAM plan.

The ASA issued a short but stinging statement that strongly warned against the misuse of VAM. The organization neither condemns nor promotes the use of VAM, but its warnings about the limitations of this methodology clearly demonstrate that the Obama administration has committed the nation’s public schools to a policy fraught with error. ASA warns that VAMs are “complex statistical models” that require “high-level statistical expertise” and awareness of their “assumptions and possible limitations,” especially when they are used for high-stakes purposes as is now common. Few, if any, state education departments have the statistical expertise to use VAM models appropriately. In some states, like Florida, teachers have been rated based on the scores of students they never taught.

The ASA points out that VAMs are based on standardized tests and “do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes.” They typically measure correlation, not causation. That means that the rise or fall of student test scores attributed to the teacher might actually be caused by other factors outside the classroom, not under the teacher’s control. The VAM rating of teachers is so unstable that it may change if the same students are given a different test.

The ASA’s most damning indictment of the policy promoted so vigorously by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is:

“Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.” The ASA points out: “This is not saying that teachers have little effect on students, but that variation among teachers accounts for a small part of the variation in scores. The majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher’s control such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum, and unmeasured influences.”

As many education researchers have explained–including a joint statement by the American Educational Research Association and the National Academy of Education– the VAM ratings of those who teach children with disabilities and English language learners will be low, because these children have greater learning challenges than their peers, as will the ratings of those who teach gifted students, because the latter group has already reached a ceiling. Those two groups, like the ASA agreed that test scores are affected by many factors besides the teacher, not only the family, but the school’s leadership, its resources, class size, curriculum, as well as the student’s motivation, attendance, and health. Yet the Obama administration and most of our states are holding teachers alone accountable for student test scores.

The ASA warns that the current heavy reliance on VAMs for high-stakes testing and their simplistic interpretation may have negative effects on the quality of education. There will surely be unintended consequences, such as a diminishment in the number of people willing to become teachers in an environment where “quality” is so crudely measured. There will assuredly be more teaching to the test.. With the Obama administration’s demand for VAM, “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. Over-reliance on VAM scores may foster a competitive environment, discouraging collaboration and efforts to improve the educational system as a whole.”

For five years, the Obama administration has been warned by scholars and researchers that its demand for value-added assessment is having harmful effects on teachers and students, on the morale of teachers, on the recruitment of new teachers, and on the quality of education, which has been reduced to nothing more than standardized testing. Secretary Duncan has brushed aside all objections and pushed full steam ahead with his disastrous policies, like Captain Ahab in pursuit of the great white whale, heedless to all warnings.

Based on the complementary statements of our nation’s most eminent scholarly associations, any teacher who is wrongfully terminated by Duncan’s favorite but deeply flawed methodology should sue for wrongful termination. What is not so clear is how the nation can protect our children and our public schools from this administration’s obsessive reliance on standardized tests to rank and rate students, teachers, principals, and schools.

Arne Duncan may withdraw the waiver he extended to Washington State because it failed to adopt a test-based teacher evaluation system, as he demanded.

The first question is, what this will mean for Washington State, should Duncan withdraw the waiver? If the state reverts to the requirements of NCLB, then very likely every school and every district will be a “failing” school or district and therefore subject to draconian punishments, such as state takeover, takeover by a private management company, takeover by charter operators, or closure. In short, the entire state public school system would be privatized, subject to state control, or closed. The utter absurdity of NCLB would be on public display for all to see. That might be a valuable lesson for the nation, helping to hasten an end to a failed law.

Another interesting question that the Washington State issue raises is where Arne Duncan got the authority to set the terms of waivers from the law. Did Congress say he could do it? I don’t think so. Is it legal for him to create conditions that mirror Race to the Top requirements but without RTTT funding? Congress might want to know the answer to that question, especially Senator Patty Murray of Washington, who will not be happy to see her entire state branded a failure. Senator Murray is chair of the Senate Budget Committee and a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee.

Third, why should he revoke his legally dubious waiver because a state fails to enact a program that has consistently failed wherever it was tried? Evaluating teachers by test scores has not worked anywhere, has received negative reviews from most education researchers, yet Duncan clings to it with religious faith.

Why should Washington State be punished for demonstrating good judgment, wisdom, and critical thinking?

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and State Commissioner of Education John King spoke at the Wagner School at New York University. This comment came from a graduate student at that institution. Her insight was so on target that I thought I would share it.

She writes:

“I am an NYU Wagner graduate and a public school parent. I was unable to attend Commissioner King’s speech and Secretary Duncan’s appearance. I hope a bright Wagner student asked how two men entrusted with our children’s education could miss so many of the fundamentals taught at the Wagner School. A Wagner education includes the analysis of case studies. If they are not already doing so, I hope Wagner students will soon be studying the Common Core as an overwhelming failure and as an example of what not to do in order to create change. The Federal Government and New York State have set shining examples of top-down management at its worst. Instead of building support from stakeholders, parents and teachers have been alienated and demoralized. Instead of valuing each and every student, Commissioner King and Secretary Duncan have sought to rank and sort students into losers and winners. Instead of fostering collaboration, competition and the survival of the fittest are their goals. Great leaders possess large quantities of humility. King and Duncan exemplify hubris.”

Stephanie Simon writes in Politico.com that Arne Duncan is not really in favor of Common Core. Common what? Common who? Never heard of it. Ah, how soon politicians forget what they said last week, last month, last year. And they expect us to forget too.

She writes:

“COMMON CORE LOSES ITS BIGGEST CHEERLEADER: It was less than a year ago that Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a no-holds-barred defense of the Common Core in a speech to newspaper editors. He cited example after example of the benefits of common standards: Teachers in different states could use the same lesson plans; children of military personnel could move across country “without a hitch” in their schooling; and, first and foremost, “a child in Mississippi will face the same expectations as a child in Massachusetts.” In short: “I believe the Common Core State Standards may prove to be the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education,” Duncan said.
– That was then. This was Tuesday: “Just to be very clear with this group,” Duncan told the House Appropriations Committee, “I’m just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they’re common or not is sort of secondary.”
– Duncan immediately added that his stance was “not news.” And his spokeswoman, Dorie Nolt, later pulled up audio from a press breakfast in January where Duncan was asked about whether the term “Common Core” was politically radioactive. “We’re not interested in the term,” he responded then. “We’re interested in high standards. There are a couple ways to come at it.” Indeed, the administration has never required states to adopt the Common Core; it just offered financial and policy incentives to adopt higher standards – and embracing the Common Core happened to be by far the quickest and easiest way to hit that bar.”

So what gives?

Here are some possibilities:

1. The Common Core standards have become so controversial that Duncan wants to pretend he had nothing to do with them.

2. Duncan has been warned by his advisors that his support and Obama’s is actually dragging down the poll numbers for the Common Core so the best way to help them is to back off.

3. Someone is planning to sue the U.S. Department of Education for illegally interfering in curriculum and instruction by supporting the Common Core, so Duncan must pretend he had nothing to do with their swift adoption by 45 states. His lure of $4.3 billion was just a coincidence.

4. Duncan realized that his cheerleading contradicted his insistence that the Common Core was “state-led.”

Can you think of another reason that Duncan forgot that only a year ago he said the Common Core was the most important development since the Brown decision?

For five years, I have listened to Arne Duncan lecture the American people about how terrible our public schools are.

 

He goes on at length about our ignorant students, our misguided parents, our ineffective teachers, our failing public schools.

 

In his eyes, we seem to be a nation of slackers, bums, ignoramuses, fools, and failures.

 

We know that he likes: charter schools, Teach for America, closing public schools and handing them over to corporate management, and “graduate schools” that have no scholars, no researchers, just tutors of test-taking skills. And of course, he loves the heavy emphasis on test-taking in places like Shanghai and Singapore. Test scores are his North Star. He wishes we could be like Shanghai, and that all our moms were “Tiger Moms,” cracking the whip over the children and making them get ready for the next test. All work, no play. He dreams of a new America of test-taking grinds. Arne Duncan is our Mr. Gradgrind, and if you don’t know who that is, google it.

 

Every once in a while, he launches a campaign calling for “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” but no one believes him. They know it is just empty PR.

 

So, I wonder, what are the unforgettable phrases of Arne Duncan that will be his legacy, the words that encapsulate his unique combination of certainty and cluelessness.

 

Entry one must be his immortal comment about Hurricane Katrina, which caused the deaths of over 1,000 people and wiped out public education and the teachers’ union in New Orleans: He said that Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.” Forget the fact that the great majority of charter schools in New Orleans today are rated either D or F by the state of Louisiana (which favors them). According to Secretary Duncan, every major city needs a Hurricane Katrina or some other natural disaster to demolish public education and eliminate teachers’ unions so they can be replaced by privately managed charter schools and Teach for America. Of course, then Teach for America would have to train 1,000,000 teachers a year instead of only 10,000, and it would put an end to the teaching profession, but Arne hasn’t thought that far in advance.

 

Entry two was captured by Gary Rubinstein in this post on his blog: At Teach for America’s 20th anniversary celebration, Arne Duncan was a featured speaker. He told the story of a school that had only a 40% graduation rate. The school was shut down and replaced by three charter schools. One graduated all of its students, and all were accepted into college. Duncan said: “Same children, same community, same poverty, same violence. Actually went to school in the same building with different adults, different expectations, different sense of what’s possible. Guess what? That made all the difference in the world.” Gary pointed out that the students were not the same kids, and that the 107 who graduated were not the same as the 166 who started in the class. Yes, the graduation rate was higher, but it was not the 100% that Arne implied. And to make matters worse, the students at that particular “miracle school” had lower test scores than the Chicago school district. But Arne was trying to promote his theory that schools get better if everyone is fired and the slate is wiped clean.

 

Then there was the time last year when he sneered at parents in New York state who objected to the absurd Common Core tests as “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” He quickly tried to walk that one back, but it stuck. He deeply believes that our kids are dummies and their parents want to believe that they are smart when they are not. I guess you need to have a Harvard B.A. to be so arrogant about the brainpower of other people’s children.

 

My personal favorite occurred when he visited a charter school in Brooklyn. He told those assembled that the United States is facing both an economic crisis and an educational crisis. And then came this immortal line: “We should be able to look every second grader in the eye and say, ‘You’re on track, you’re going to be able to go to a good college, or you’re not,’ ” he said. “Right now, in too many states, quite frankly, we lie to children. We lie to them and we lie to their families.”

 

The claim that we are “lying to our students” or “we are lying to our children” is like a mantra for Arne, so that’s not new. What is special about this line is the idea that you should be able to look every second grader in the eye and be able to tell them that they are on track to go to a good college. Since I have a grandson who is in second grade, I know how absurd this is. I look into his eyes and I see a laughing, happy child. That’s what I want to see. Sometimes I see a sad child, and I want to know what’s wrong and can I help. I see a child who loves to read and loves to play. The last thing in the world that would occur to me as a parent, a grandparent, or an educator is to ask whether he was on track to go to a good college. I want him to be on track to be happy, healthy, curious about the world, eager to learn, and secure in the love that surrounds him.

Julian Vasquez Heilig collected his Top Ten of Arne’s Inanities.

The reality is that it is easy to find Arne’s clueless remarks. They occur whenever he goes off script.

 

What is your favorite Arne Duncan line? I have known almost every Secretary of Education since the U.S. Department of Education was created in 1980. I have never known one who had so little respect for students, educators, parents, school boards, or public education as our current Secretary. Nor have I known one who had so little understanding about what constitutes genuine learning. Not test scores, but a love of learning, a love of tinkering, a love of knowledge. It is innovation, creativity, imagination, curiosity, wit, and the pursuit of new knowledge that is the genius of our nation. Those who care not to preserve those essential aspects of education are not educators, but technicians, bureaucrats, and bean counters.

 

My wish: Arne Duncan should take the PARCC test for eighth graders and publish his scores.

 

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