Archives for category: Duncan, Arne

Arthur Goldstein, a veteran high school teacher in the Néw York City public schools and a master blogger, does not agree with Beltway insider Andrew Rotherham that it is too soon to judge Arne Duncan’s tenure as Secretary of Education.

Goldstein does not agree. Goldstein judges Duncan to be not just a failure but a public official who inflicted harm on students, teachers, principals, and public schools.

“Wow. I wish I agreed with that. But with the entire country embracing Race to the Top, Gun to the Head policies like Common Core, I’m not feeling the love. The high-stakes testing and developmentally inappropriate tasks for our children (and not his, or Duncan’s, or Obama’s) are intolerable. That’s not to mention the junk-science teacher ratings that have been foisted upon us, rejected by none other than the American Statistical Association.”

Duncan brought us the “education wars,” with newly energized “reformers” opposing unions, tenure, and public schools, while boasting about the superiority of privately managed charters, especially those that demand robotic compliance by students and teachers.

Goldstein writes:

“I’m not sure the education debate can get any nastier. For one thing, our unions are under attack, and SCOTUS may reduce us to virtual “Right to Work” status. For another, accomplished though King may be, I’ve seen precious little evidence of thoughfulness from him, Diane Ravitch goes so far as to call him “brilliant” based on his academic credentials. But King is remarkably thin-skinned and unable to deal with criticism. He thinks it’s beyond the pale when people comment that his signature programs, Common Core and junk science, are not good enough for his own children, in private schools.

“Furthermore, John King shows little evidence of being able to play well with others. He actually canceled a series of public meetings when people dared disagree with him. In fact, he went so far as to call teachers and parents special interests. That’s what we get for advocating for the kids we love, I guess. In Spanish, they say, “Tiene doctorado pero no es educado.” This means, roughly, he has a doctorate but he isn’t educated. In Spanish, being educated means not simply sitting through some classes, but rather behaving well. King’s been to Harvard but treats the people he ostensibly serves with a sorely limited scope ranging from indifference to outright contempt.”

Just for the record, I said that King was “brilliant” based on his remarkable ability to earn simultaneous degrees from Harvard Law School and a doctorate from Teachers College, while apparently working at an Uncommon Schools charter in Massachusetts. Maybe I should have said “astonishing,” “amazing,” or “incredible.”

The fact is that John King managed to antagonize more parents and educators than any of his predecessors. He moved fast and furiously and created a tidal wave of opposition. He was widely viewed as arrogant and hostile to those he was hired to serve. There was no question he believed in his mission of testing and rating; he did not think that listening was part of his job.

Jan Resseger served for many years as program director for education justice of the United Church of Christ. She is a woman with a strong social conscience, who is devoted to the well-being of all children. She lives in Ohio. When I first visited Cleveland, I had the privilege of being escorted by Jan, who showed me the stark disparities between the affluent suburbs and the downtrodden inner-city.

Jan Resseger writes here of the calamities imposed on our nation’s education system by Arne Duncan, who changed the national education goal from equality of educational opportunity for all to a “race to the top” for the few. He shifted our sights from equal opportunity and equitable funding to test scores; he pretended that poverty was unimportant and could be solved by closing public schools and turning children over to private entrepreneurs who had little supervision.

Read Jan’s entire piece: Duncan was a disaster as a molder of education policy. He ignored segregation and it grew more intense on his watch. His successor, John King, was a clone of Duncan in New York state. He too thinks that test scores are the measure of education quality, despite the fact that what they measure best is family income. He too, a founder of charter schools, prefers charters over public education. His hurried implementation of the Common Core standards and tests in New York were universally considered disastrous, even by Governor Cuomo; John King, more than anyone else, ignited the parent opt out movement in New York. And his role model was Arne Duncan.

Jan Resseger writes:

School policy ripped out of time and history: in many ways that is Arne Duncan’s gift to us — school policy focused on disparities in test scores instead of disparities in opportunity — a Department of Education obsessed with data-driven accountability for teachers, but for itself an obsession with “game-changing” innovation and inadequate attention to oversight — the substitution of the consultant driven, win-lose methodology of philanthropy for formula-driven government policy — school policy that favors social innovation, one charter at a time. Such policies are definitely a break from the past. Whether they promise better opportunity for the mass of our nation’s children, and especially our poorest children, is a very different question.

School policy focused on disparities in test scores instead of disparities in opportunity: Here is what a Congressional Equity and Excellence Commission charged in 2013, five years into Duncan’s tenure as Education Secretary: “The common situation in America is that schools in poor communities spend less per pupil—and often many thousands of dollars less per pupil—than schools in nearby affluent communities… This is arguably the most important equity-related variable in American schooling today. Let’s be honest: We are also an outlier in how many of our children are growing up in poverty. Our poverty rate for school-age children—currently more than 22 percent—is twice the OECD average and nearly four times that of leading countries such as Finland.” Arne Duncan’s signature policies ignore these realities. While many of Duncan’s programs have conditioned receipt of federal dollars on states’ complying with Duncan’s favored policies, none of Duncan’s conditions involved closing opportunity gaps. To qualify for a Race to the Top grant, a state had to remove any statutory cap on the authorization of new charter schools, and to win a No Child Left Behind waiver, a state had to agree to evaluate teachers based on students’ test scores, but Duncan’s policies never conditioned receipt of federal dollars on states’ remedying school funding inequity. Even programs like School Improvement Grants for the lowest scoring 5 percent of American schools have emphasized school closure and privatization but have not addressed the root problem of poverty in the communities where children’s scores are low.

A Department of Education obsessed with data-driven accountability for teachers, but for itself an obsession with “game-changing” innovation and inadequate attention to oversight: The nation faces an epidemic of teacher shortages and despair among professionals who feel devalued as states rush to implement the teacher-rating policies they adopted to win their No Child Left Behind waivers from the federal government. Even as evidence continues to demonstrate that students’ test scores correlate more closely with family income than any other factor, and as scholars declare that students’ test scores are unreliable for evaluating teachers, Duncan’s policies have unrelentingly driven state governments to create policy that has contributed to widespread blaming of the teachers who serve in our nation’s poorest communities.

However, Duncan’s Department of Education has been far less attentive to accountability for its own programs. In June, the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a coalition of national organizations made up of the American Federation of Teachers, Alliance for Educational Justice, Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, Center for Popular Democracy, Gamaliel, Journey for Justice Alliance, National Education Association, National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, and Service Employees International Union, asked Secretary Duncan to establish a moratorium on federal support for new charter schools until the Department improves its own oversight of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, which is responsible for the federal Charter School Program. The Alliance to Reclaim our Schools cites formal audits from 2010 and 2012 in which the Department of Education’s own Office of Inspector General (OIG), “raised concerns about transparency and competency in the administration of the federal Charter Schools Program.” The OIG’s 2012 audit, the members of the Alliance explain, discovered that the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, which administers the Charter Schools Program, and the State Education Agencies, which disburse the majority of the federal funds, are ill equipped to keep adequate records or put in place even minimal oversight.

Most recently, just last week, the Department of Education awarded $249 million to seven states and the District of Columbia for expanding charter schools, with the largest of those grants, $71 million, awarded to Ohio, despite that protracted Ohio legislative debate all year has failed to produce regulations for an out-of-control, for-profit group of online charter schools or to improve Ohio’s oversight of what are too often unethical or incompetent charter school sponsors. The U.S. Department of Education made its grant last week despite that Ohio’s legislature is known to have been influenced by political contributions from the owners of for-profit charter schools.

Here are John Thompson’s reactions to the transition at the U.S. Department if Education. I am happy to welcome John’s first direct contribution to the blog. John is a historian and a history teacher. He writes frequently about current issues in education. In this post, he speculates that Acting Secretary John King will be a problem for the Democratic nominee in 2016.

“Watching President Obama’s press conference where he announced the resignation of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was déjà vu and more déjà vu and even more déjà vu all over again. I still love the president as much as I despise his test and punish school policy. And, once again, President Obama displayed his charm even as he praised the discredited Duncan and his interim replacement, John King. Obama’s knows basketball and his jokes about Duncan and b-ball were great. However, his lack of understanding of the catastrophic misrule by King was not funny.

“Even in 2007, I knew that Hillary Clinton would be a better education president, but I went to Iowa to campaign for Obama. In 2012, I worried that Duncan (or should I say Scott Walker-lite?) would cost us the reelection. Fortunately, teachers and workers in Wisconsin and Ohio did not respond to the administration’s antiunion education policies by staying at home.

“After 2013, there was no logical reason for Duncan to not recant his test-driven accountability and his devotion to school closures, charters, and micromanaging. As Politico’s Mike Grunwald reports, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel had tried to warn him that “if he didn’t bring sanity to the testing craze, everything he was doing would collapse under its own weight.” AFT President Randi Weingarten told Duncan that “this fixation on testing was a disaster. If you don’t fix this, all you’re going to hear about for the next few years is testing, testing, testing.”

“Once again, Duncan remained loyal to corporate reformers, defended their social-engineering, and invested billions of dollars on competition-driven mandates and almost nothing on science-based, win-win policies like early education and full-service community schools.

“Even as the grassroots backlash against test, sort, reward and punish grew, Duncan did no more than mumble words about over-testing, invest relative pennies in socio-emotional student supports, and imply that he would have supported school integration had it been more politically popular. Such words rang hollow as his market-driven policies put NCLB-type testing on steroids and accelerated the resegregation of schools.

“And that leads, once again, back to the question of why President Obama would go along with the corporate reformers who see themselves as righteous crusaders against unions and demonize educators who reject their competition-driven policies. Nobody denies that King, like Duncan, is sincere. They are such nice guys that I really wanted to believe King’s words about the need for socio-economic integration. As was explained in Chalkbeat NY, Richard Kahlenberg says that “King could sway districts to take steps on integration even with relatively minor incentive programs.”

“But, I doubt we will hear more than sweet talk from him on how “schools that are integrated better reflect our values as a country.” After all, King is deeply rooted in the “No Excuses” charter school value system and nothing is a better recipe for increased resegregation than that pedagogy. What parents, if they had a choice, would embrace his behavioristic charters and the neo-Plessyism that results?

“In another “déjà vu all over again” moment, I’m torn by the destructive effect the King nomination could have on the Hillary Clinton campaign. Although I’m still undecided, I very much hope that the Democratic campaign can avoid circular firing squads. Any Democrat’s comment on the transition from Duncan to King will anger key constituencies. After all, education reform consciously pitted liberal versus liberal, generation versus generation, and civil rights advocate against civil rights advocate. It is Hillary who will most often have to face those questions.

“I can understand why the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association chose to make early endorsements of Hillary. I also respect the anger of educators who remind us of her long friendship with one of the most destructive and anti-union corporate reformers, Eli Broad. I cannot understand why a Democratic president would dump this on the plate of Democratic presidential candidates. I doubt they fully played out the political chess game, and how the King appointment comes at a bad time for Hillary, but how there are plenty of scenarios where Bernie or Biden could be hurt.

“Educators are energized. We see the no-longer-secret Broad plan to charterize Los Angeles school system for what it is – an all-out attack on teachers unions and the idea that the public and not the Billionaires Boys’ Club should run our schools. It was inevitable that this $500 million dollar assault on our educational values would provoke a backlash and at least stall Hillary’s momentum in the wake of the NEA endorsement. Now is not the time when she wants to face questions on which side is she on – corporate donors and King supporters (and funders) or teachers, parents, and unions.

“King may not be well-known outside of New York, but that state is hardly a political backwater. Moreover, it may be the strongest bastion of the Opt Out movement – a grassroots campaign that was prompted by high stakes testing, Common Core, and the unforced turnovers committed by Duncan and King.

“The national, non-education press may not be fully aware of the causes and the extent this anger, but there are plenty of educators and patrons who will inform them about the Duncan/King fiascoes, and the reasons why their test and punish policies are so despised.

“I will focus on just one – the pain caused by these nice guys as they personalized policy differences. Duncan ridiculed sincere opponents as “white suburban moms” who are afraid “their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought.” King might be just as sincere, but that doesn’t make his slanders any more palatable to those of us who dedicated our lives to teaching poor children of color. We are primarily fighting for the right of our kids to get the same respectful, holistic engaging instruction as affluent kids. King, however, dismisses our concerns as excuse-making and low expectations.

“King, like Michelle Rhee, Scott Walker, John Deasy, Eli Broad and, yes, Arne Duncan, dismisses educators who disagree with him as putting “adult interests” over our kids. So, I believe the national press will soon be learning why we teachers are so offended by the King appointment. I just hope that Clinton, Sanders and, perhaps, Biden are not hurt by it.”

The Network for Public Education announced its reaction to Arne Duncan’s resignation and the choice of John King to replace him. NPE was founded in 2012 to rally parents, educators, and concered citizens against out-of-control high-stakes testing and privatization of our public schools, which have long been a symbol of our democracy.

Valerie Strauss describes John King’s stormy tenure as State Commissioner of Education in Néw York.

To learn about the style of the man who will replace Duncan, read this. A rabid advocate for Common Core, testing, and charters. A brilliant man who earned both a doctorate at Teachers College, a law degree at Harvard, and ran a no-excuses charter, apparently at the same time.


More information contact:

Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager BATs or Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager BATs

The Badass Teachers Association at

Today the White House confirmed that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would be stepping down. The Badass Teachers Association, an education activist organization with over 70,000 supporters nationwide, celebrate this decision. Sadly, at the same time we rejoice the resignation of a man who has done more destruction to public education than any other sitting Secretary, we are horrified that President Obama has chosen to replace him with John King. John King is the former Commissioner of Education in New York.

John King’s tenure in New York was one of controversy and with an established agenda of dismantling public education by using corporate education reform tactics. King was run out of New York in 2014 because of a staggering test opt out rate, because he ignored and dismissed parents at education forums, and because he refused to fix an education system that he himself destroyed. The state teachers union, NYSUT, had a unanimous vote of no confidence in him prior to his departure.

“While we are glad to see Arne Duncan leave his post as one of the most destructive people to hold the title of Secretary of Education, we remain concerned that he will be replaced with yet another non-educator that will continue the Corporate Education Agenda. What we need now more than ever, is a compassionate, knowledgable, and experienced educator at the helm of this country’s highest education post.” – Gus Morales, Massachusetts BAT and Public Education Teacher 9 years
“John King did more destruction to the New York State education system than any sitting commissioner I have known in my tenure as an educator in New York State. He dismissed the parents, teachers, and students of New York State by calling us “special interest groups.” The fact that he has been elevated to the U.S. Secretary of Education is beyond appalling.” Marla Kilfoyle, New York BAT and Public Education Teacher in New York for 29 years.

John King taught for three years in a “no-excuses” charter chain that had a high suspension rate. His agenda in New York State was to attempt to destroy the public’s confidence in public education. He grossly miscalculated the parents, educators and students of New York State. We anticipate he will continue his failed New York agenda while head of the United States Department of Education.

# # #

Mike Klonsky does his usual round up of Chicago news.

70% of students in Illlinois “failed” the PARCC test. Arne Duncan was not troubled at all.

“Arne Duncan agrees…

“It actually doesn’t concern me at all. What Illinois and many other states are doing is finally telling the truth.” (EdWeek)”

Did he forget that President Obama named him as Secretaryof Education because of the alleged leap in test scores in Chicago? We’re they not telling the truth in 2008?

The news: the Dyett hunger strike is in day 32. See the interview with Jitu Brown.

U.S. News and World Report points out that the rationale for Common Core and its tests was that parents needed to know how their child compared to children of the same age in other states.

But with two different testing consortia, and with so many states dropping out of those consortia, the rationale has been eviscerated.

Frankly, it never made any sense to argue that parents everywhere were hungering to compare their own child’s test score to children in other states. Maybe it is just me, but I never met a parent who said, “I’m desperate to know how my child’s test score compares to children in the same grade in Alaska and Maine and Florida. And to insist that having this information would somehow improve education or benefit students made no sense either. What we learn from standardized tests is that family income matters. Having the same test everywhere doesn’t change that fact. What if the same energy had done into reducing poverty and segregation? We might have made a dent. Instead, our whole country is pointed to the wrong goals.

Says U.S. News:

Even when all the results are available, it will not be possible to compare student performance across a majority of states, one of Common Core’s fundamental goals.

What began as an effort to increase transparency and allow parents and school leaders to assess performance nationwide has largely unraveled, chiefly because states are dropping out of the two testing groups and creating their own exams.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told state leaders in 2010 that the new tests would “help put an end to the insidious practice of establishing 50 different goal posts for educational success.”

“In the years ahead, a child in Mississippi will be measured against the same standard of success as a child in Massachusetts,” Duncan said.

Massachusetts and Mississippi students did take the PARCC exam this year. But Mississippi’s Board of Education has voted to withdraw from the consortium for all future exams.

“The whole idea of Common Core was to bring students and schools under a common definition of what success is,” said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “And Common Core is not going to have that. One of its fundamental arguments has been knocked out from under it.”

However, if you want to compare state performance, you can always look at the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which has been comparing states since 1992. NAEP also compares a score of urban districts every other year.

Nicholas Tampio seeks to understand why the Democratic Party abandoned public education.

Some part of the explanation, he believe, can be found in the leadership’s limited personal engagement with public schools.

“The key to understanding Obama’s education policy, according to Maranto and McShane, is his biography. Obama attended the prestigious Punahou School in Hawaii, an experience that prepared him for college and law school. Obama also observed from a distance a Hawaiian public school system rife with ethnic violence, low academic standards and an unresponsive bureaucracy. These experiences influenced Obama’s decision to send his daughters to Sidwell Friends, the elite Washington, D.C. institution whose alumni include the younger Albert Gore and Chelsea Clinton.

“As president, Obama has advocated reforms to the public education system that include upping merit pay, weakening tenure rules and evaluating teachers by student test scores. Obama’s most controversial education policy, however, was the Race to the Top program that gave states additional incentives to adopt the Common Core standards.”

“There is nothing wrong with private school. The problem here, though, is that too many Democratic elites advocate education reforms such as the Common Core standards, charter schools, and high-stakes testing with minimal first-hand knowledge of how they affect schools or children. In sending their children to private schools, Democratic elites exempt themselves from policies that they might oppose if they saw their own children being harmed by them.”

“Liberty produces wealth, and wealth destroys liberty”
Henry Demarest Lloyd

News that teacher shortages exist in many states is not surprising to the nation’s educators.

Many, if not most, teachers in the United States today do not feel as though they are respected. Public school teachers feel as though their profession is under assault in a country that seems to be abandoning the idea of public education.

Those who seek to defund public education and replace it with a corporate model that makes use of market mechanisms to serve “strivers” and their families sound very well intended.

Education “reformers” typically target takeovers of inner city schools by managers who see charter school networks as assets in stock portfolios. Much as investment firms have bought up distressed mortgages, investors in charter schools envision long-term investment and risk leading to long-term dividends. These fledgling education capitalists sing a confident song of win-win: their schools will close the “achievement gap” between inner city and suburban youth and display the data proving it in “real-time.” They proof will be displayed in the “data,” lighting the path for the disruption of public schools and relieving tax-payers of school pension debt as the corporate school model displaces public control of schooling. The key source of profit for this privatization scheme, the real target of education capitalists, is the destruction of teacher unions. Investors will benefit by profit margins derived at the expense of teachers and their families. With the institution of work to order regimes that pay charter schoolteachers lower salaries, fewer benefits, and that offer virtually no workplace protections; investors will be able to realize more value in their portfolios.

That the Obama administration made a Faustian bargain with Republicans on public education is blindingly obvious. Long before Obama considered a run for the presidency, his best friend, Marty Nesbitt, along with Rahm Emanuel and the major Chicago developer clans: the Rauners, the Crowns, and the Pritzkers guided the creation of public-private partnerships to build housing to replace the city’s decaying and crime-ridden behemoth public housing projects under the Clinton era Hope Acts.

These same individuals, not surprisingly, turned to public-private initiatives in education, by founding and funding the Noble Charter chain. These schools cater to the city’s inner-city “strivers.” While the resources provided by the Pritzkers, Crowns, and Rauners to these schools and their students represent a sterling display of civic investment, what they give they hope will be multiplied by more investment in similar charter enterprises. Mr. Nesbitt predictably has started an investment firm, the Vistria Group, that seeks to attract investors into the charter school education business. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, has expressed great confidence in Mr. Nesbitt and the Vistria Group.

The direction of Obama education policy was thus built on two factors: the focus on building public-private partnerships in education modeled on the dismantling of the Chicago Housing authority and the need to attract Silicon Valley and tech sector billionaires, most prominently, Bill Gates. The tech billionaires also wanted more access to school markets and the privatization of public schools could free up money that would otherwise go to teacher salaries and benefits. When the Obama transition team chose Arne Duncan as Education secretary over arguably the most knowledgeable and able education researcher in the country, Linda Darling-Hammond, the die was cast.

Mr. Duncan was never a teacher and thus has little empathy for teachers or teaching. His favorite teacher, a University of Chicago Laboratory High School English teacher, has expressed “concern for the future of her profession” in the wake of attacks on teachers coming from Bill Gates and his foundation, Michael Bloomberg, Republican governors, representatives of the Bush and Obama administrations, and most prominently, her former student.

Many teachers view Mr. Duncan’s Race to the Top Initiative as a failure and the recent revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as a necessary corrective to out of control Federal, state, and local testing mandates that turn teaching into a nightmare.

We have reached an Education tipping point in the United States. We can either reverse course and end our romance with the privatization of Education and our obsession with standardized testing regimes, or our resourced starved public schools will simply collapse, trapped as they are in a zero-sum game of diminishing resources.

The editorial pages and publishers of the New York Times and the Tribune Company have served as the praetorian guard of education reform movement sponsored by well-intentioned plutocrats who have little or no first hand knowledge about the everyday challenges that face most public school teachers, students, and parents.

Our political leaders need to begin to listen to parents who opt their kids out of invalid and ridiculous tests, teachers who are quitting or fleeing teacher hostile states like Kansas, Indiana, North Carolina, and Arizona, and potentially excellent candidates for teaching who decide that teaching is not a rewarding profession.

Disruption is leading us down the wrong road.

Paul Horton teaches history at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. His views in no way reflect the views of the board or the administration of the Laboratory Schools (several former members of this board are mentioned in this article)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 158,928 other followers