Archives for category: Duncan, Arne

Teacher Angie Sullivan wonders why her school is being turned around yet again and how many staff will be fired again. This is, of course, the idea embedded in Race to the Top, the idea that scores will go up if part or all of the staff is fired, and the whole school is disrupted and “turned around.” This approach negates the values of stability, consistency, and other old-fashioned notions in favor of disruption and chaos. “Creative destruction” usually turns out to be just plain old destruction, and it destroys trust.

Angie writes:

33 schools in Vegas are being considered for “turnaround”.

My principal announced Standford Elementary was one. No one could really understand why – because most of the staff turned over last year and most of us just got there. The former principal had turned it around – and then they moved her out and someone new in.

In 2013-2014 we taught one set of standards – and tested in another because at the last minute we became the test school for SBAC. Our old computer lab computers could not even run the SBAC tests. So we lost all our stars – mainly due to confusion, new staff, old technology, and general disruption.

So I’m out with all the holiday shoppers buying a suit – because tomorrow I have to not only do parent conferences and my regular busy day . . . I have to interview for half an hour in the middle of the day.

Very disruptive. Congratulations! And Happy Holidays!

Are there about 2,600 (80 x 33) Vegas teachers going through this interview process right before the holiday?

I guess if you are one of the 800 long term subs (they have driven off the licensed teachers) – you probably get to skip the interview?

Pricey Teach for America get to skip it too I bet.

Which suit will help me keep on teaching my at-risk kids that I love? Red? Purple?

What is the official color of destruction, disruption, and devastation?

I hope I don’t cry – I need all the self-respect I can get.

They keep saying not to worry – why do they call it an interview? Interview means . . . Worry.


Secretary of Education Arne Duncan can’t get over his obsession with the idea that the only reason children don’t have higher test scores is because they have “bad teachers” with low expectations. He has consistently said that teachers’ colleges bear the blame for those “bad teachers.” Never having taught, he has strong opinions about how to fix teaching. He loves charter schools, especially those without unions; he loves Teach for America, because they are elite. He loves evaluating teachers, principals, schools, even teachers’ colleges, by student test scores.


David Berliner, one of our nation’s most eminent researchers, does not agree with Duncan. He has different ideas. He tells Duncan, as he once told his dean, how to solve the problems of teacher education.


Berliner writes:



“Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Obama administration want to improve teacher education. Me too. I always have. So I went to the president of the university I was then working at and showed him university data that I had collected. I informed him that a) we were running the cheapest program on campus, even cheaper to run than the English Literature and the History programs; and b) that some of our most expensive programs to run, computer science and various engineering programs, produced well-trained graduates that left the state. But teachers stayed in the state. I told my president he was wasting the states resources and investing unwisely.


“I told him that with the same amount of money as we spend on the students that leave the state I could design one year clinical programs so every teacher does clinical rotations in the classrooms of schools with different kinds of students, rotations modeled on medical education.”


Berliner has many other good ideas. Read them here. Arne should invite him to meet and hear his ideas on how to improve teacher education.

On his blog “Cloaking Inequity,” Julian Vasquez Heilig conducts an annual poll seeking to identify the “Turkey of the Year.” This year’s winner, hands down, is Arne Duncan. This was an unusually impressive victory because in the listing of candidates, Duncan’s name appeared last. And better: he garnered a majority of the votes, even though there were several choices.

Caitlin Emma, who writes for, here reviews the threat to student privacy posed by online courses.

While students are taking these courses, the provider is gathering a treasure trove of information about each of them. This data may later be sold to marketers, who see students as customers.

There is a federal law that is supposed to protect student privacy, but in 2011-12, Secretary Arne Duncan oversaw a weakening of FERPA regulations, removing key protections.

Companies working together, like Pearson and Knewton, are gathering confidential student data whenever your child goes online.

Why should corporations advertise when they can use Big Data to identify their target audience? Race to the Top required states, if they wanted to be eligible for federal cash, to create a massive student data warehouse, to open more charters, and to adopt “college and career ready standards,” I.e. Common Core. Clever, no? A bonanza for certain corporations.

This is scary stuff.

Here is Mercedes Schneider with a brilliant post about the Obama U.S. Department of Education. She writes brief sketches of eight key appointees, each of whom is tied to the privatization movement.


When the President wonders why his party was so badly beaten at the polls earlier this month, he might think about the millions of educators who work in public schools and the millions of parents whose children attend good public schools; they are disgusted by Race to the Top, non-stop testing, test-based teacher evaluation, the Department’s preference for charter schools over public schools, and the millions of public dollars directed to TFA and charter schools. Educators were at one time a key part of the base of the Democratic party. As states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee lashed out at teachers, no protest was heard from Arne Duncan. As billions were cut from school budgets in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Obama administration was silent (Duncan wrote a letter to Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania about the defunding of Philadelphia, but it was a faint protest, not like actually showing up). At present, educators and parents feel abandoned by both parties.

Let us be thankful. A hopeful thought from the reader who comments as NY Teacher:

“I understand your pessimism, but this too shall pass. The Obama/Duncan regime are closing up shop soon. Their policy attacks are simply not scalable nor will they withstand the legal challenges that are sure to follow. The teaching profession will survive this onslaught and one day Arne, RTT, CC, VAM, and the test-and-punish reform will be smoldering on the ash heap of failed and discredited ideas.”

Stephen Krashen, literacy expert, wrote a letter to the Denver Post to comment on Arne Duncan’s recent discovery that children take too many tests. Some little ones sit for 9 or 10 hours of testing, as well as test prep. Arne is not happy. But who brought all this testing that got out of control in the past five years. No Child Left Behind? Race to the Top? Race, race, race for higher test scores. Evaluate teachers by test scores . Evaluate education schools by the test scores of students taught by their graduates. Who is responsible for this madness that makes children cry?

Stephen Krashen wrote this letter in response to an article by Arne Duncan (or his press office);

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been an enthusiastic supporter of the common core testing program, accurately described as “nonstop testing” by education expert Susan Ohanian. The common core imposes more testing on our children than has ever been seen on our planet, and no attempt was made to determine if the new tests result in higher student achievement.

Now Secretary Duncan (“A test for school tests,” Oct 20) says he supports a movement to eliminate redundant and inappropriate tests. This should have been done using small-scale studies before the tests were forced on millions of children.

Stephen Krashen

original article:

SomeDAM Poet (Devalue Added) writes poems on current issues with frequency:

“The Perfect Reform Storm”

When education reform
Becomes a perfect storm
The stakes align
Like fronts in time
And chaos is the norm

In response to an earlier post about the U.S. Department of Education setting “measurable and rigorous targets” for children with disabilities, ages 0-3, Laura H. Chapman writes:

“This is nothing more than an extension of the Data Quality campaign that Bill Gates has funded since 2005 along with USDE– initially limited to Pre-K through college, but now clearly starting at birth, and likely in a race to get as much data into “the cloud” on each cohort of kids ASAP along with some hard-wired policies such as do this or we will gut the health and human services funding and IDEA funding for your state.

“Comply or else.

“Of course, closing the achievement gap will be easy enough if you just demand more of the parents and hand over all of the “evidence-based interventions” to instant experts. They will have conjured all of the necessary and sufficient measures for ratings of “infant and toddler and parent effectiveness.”

“Don’t forget checklists for observation, with rubrics for properly identifying all-purpose and specialized remedies for every condition, Instant experts on “disabilities” are sure to be ready (for a fee) to share their power points and modules for corrective action.

“Let’s see, let’s have some infant and toddler SLOs with targets to reach every three months, so quarterly reports can be filed at the state level. Or some VAM calculations with grand inferential leaps from scores on cognitive function, locomotion, eye-hand coordination, new scores for versions of the old Piaget experiments. Add some body sensors to pick up rigorous data on pee and poop and tantrum control, a measure of infant and toddler grit in retaining gas or vomit.

“Perhaps the real aim is to privatize the US Census, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, etc., etc., etc.

“I think that Arne Duncan and Bill Gates have never been in the presence of infants and toddlers and adults who are struggling to make sense out of the booming buzzing confusion that marks you as alive and human and doing your best even if you are not blessed from birth with “the right stuff,” plenty of money and connections with people who give you a bunch of tax dollars and discretionary authority to spend these at will..

“I hope the over-reach on this idiotic plan makes big news.

“My fear is that it will not.”

This comment from a reader in response to a post about “pre-school readiness” for children 0-3 with special needs, with “measurable and rigorous targets.”

The reader writes:

“I spent 19 years in infant special education- even before we even called it early intervention, I was teaching children in the 0-3 age range. Yes- I visited mothers the week their babies came home from the hospital because because they sought and wanted that support. I was in that first group of teachers in the nation earning a MS Ed in Early Childhood Special Education right after the passage of PL 94-142. My program was home-based and holistic- the goal was to help the parent(s) understand how their child’s medical condition/syndrome/extreme prematurity/ brain damage/sensory disorder impacts development, and to help that parent care for the baby’s physical, sensory, cognitive and social needs.

“I went to homes twice a week where there was no heat, no food security, overcrowding, broken windows, little furniture or toys, vermin infestation, poor lighting and broken cribs. And sometimes also there was abuse and domestic violence. I also went to homes with maids and luxury cars- any everything in between. My expertise and support made a difference for those families- but how much more of a long term difference would there be if all the children had prenatal care, safe and secure shelter, food security and access to needed medical and dental care?

“As a teacher, my job was to help the child and parent move from one step to the next developmental step, and celebrate each milestone, whenever it came, with joy. It was about attunement, attachment, engagement and play- not testing, pressure and grit. That is how babies learn- though touch and interaction and play. My job was to help the parent see a child as lovable and capable which might sound unnecessary, but learning that your child has a significant problem is a crushing blow to many parents- it is traumatic, it is a shock, and a nightmare. But yes. I recorded new milestones on a checklist of developmental skills to help the parent understand and delight in the sequence of skills as they developed- not to quantify and get a “score.”

“Rigor? Does Duncan realize we are talking about babies with poor oral-motor tone learning how to suck on a nipple? Or a baby having hundreds of seizures a day learning how to make eye contact with her mother? Or a baby with cerebral palsy lifting his head to see himself in a mirror? What Duncan is proposing is clueless, but also despicable and sinister. Is there anything in this world he cannot reduce to a data point? Grief? Laughter? Love? Acceptance? Health? Comfort? Pride? What is YOUR score Mr. Duncan?”


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