Archives for category: Duncan, Arne

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)

Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation/Institute has been a strong supporter of school choice and the Common Core. On the whole, he and TBF have applauded Arne Duncan’s move to promote charter schools, to ignore the voucher proliferation, and to push Common Core on the states (as if they were “state-led,” which they were not).

However, Petrilli now has had a change of mind. (For the record, I support those who are willing to rethink their views and change their minds.) He now recognizes that Arne overreached and caused a counter-reaction. The most atrocious action by Duncan was to force test-based teacher evaluation on the states, with no evidence that it would improve education. It was a disaster. It hasn’t worked anywhere, and it has increased teaching to the test and teacher demoralization. If you are looking for the cause of the widespread teacher shortage, look to the policies of the U.S. Department of Education since 2009.

Petrilli writes, with humility, that he was wrong.

It’s not just that the Department of Education usurped power from Congress and the states; it’s that they used that power to push bad policy. Nobody today can creditably argue that mandating statewide teacher evaluations as a condition of ESEA flexibility was a good idea. Nobody can say that the teacher evaluation efforts are going well. This was an unforced error of enormous magnitude—one that has sparked a significant backlash to accountability policies writ large and also destroyed whatever credibility the feds may have had….

So yes, both the Senate and House versions of ESEA reauthorization are “looser” than No Child Left Behind, or than the Fordham proposal from 2011. If this renewal processes gets across the finish line (and I think it will), the federal government will have much less power than it does today. Folks like Chad who don’t like that will only have Arne Duncan to blame.

Mike Klonsky has known Arne Duncan a long times he notes that Arne is quick to criticize people and institutions that are not accountable. Mike wonders when Arne will be held accountable.

Peter Greene explores why five percent has become the reformsters’ goal.

Not surprisingly, the originator of “the bottom five percent” is Mr. Reformster, Arne Duncan.

“It has a fine long history. All the way back in June 2009, we can find Arnie Duncan talking about the five percent in his address to the conference of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools. The address, “Turning Around the Bottom Five Percent,” and it features the rhetorical sleight-of-hand that usually accompanies discussion of the five percent. Duncan leads with a description of chronically under-performing schools, noting the social and physical conditions of these schools are “horrific.” “They’re often unsafe, underfunded, poorly run, crumbling, and challenged in so many ways that the situation can feel hopeless.”

So now turning around or closing the bottom five percent is holy reformster writ.

Chris Barbic moved to the Achievement School District, took over the poorest five percent of schools and pledged to move them into the top 25%, but he failed and has resigned.

Greene gets it. There will always be a bottom five percent. Reform will never end.

He writes:

“Or the other big question mark in this whole system– the state will take those bottom five percent schools and do…. what? Turn them around and fix them? Is there any indication that the states or the privateers that they invariably hire to do the work– do any of them know the secret sauce for turning schools around? If they don’t, then what is the point of this exercise? If they do, why did we decide that only the bottom five percent would get the benefit of this miraculous brew of fairy dust and unicorn pee?

Any time you see “bottom five percent” crop up, beware. It’s one more time that reformsters are just making stuff up but trusting you’ll believe them because, look, numbers!”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s children will attend the private University of Chicago Lab School, where his wife works.

 

Of course, everyone is free to send their children wherever they wish. What’s interesting about Duncan choosing this school is that it does not practice any of the policies that Duncan has promulgated. It is a progressive school, founded by John Dewey. No Common Core. No evaluation of teachers by test scores. No performance pay.

 

Duncan attended the prestigious University of Chicago Lab School. The teachers are unionized. President Obama sent his daughters there. Mayor Rahm Emanuel sends his children there.

 

Julie Vassilatos, a parent activist in Chicago, notes that Duncan has chosen a school that is free of any of Duncan’s influence. This is how she describes the Lab School:

 

Lab is an excellent, well-resourced private school with a rich arts curriculum, small classes, entire rooms devoted to holding musical instruments, a unionized teaching staff that you pretty much never hear anyone suggesting should be replaced by untrained temp workers, and not one single standardized test until students reach age 14.

 

In other words, Lab School has to date experienced not one ounce of influence from Arne Duncan’s Department of Ed. Not one ounce of impact from his policies.

 

Not.

 

One.

 

He’s choosing to keep his kids out of the system that requires nearly continuous standardized testing each year: three iterations of the PARCC, three of the NWEA MAP, the REACH Performance Tasks; the NAEP, TRC + DIBELS, mClass Math, and IDEL specially for littles; and EXPLORE, PLAN, COMPASS, and STAR for bigs.

 

I know, he’s told us, like a father, it’s okay. Our kids can do this. It’s what’s best. It’s challenging. What kind of message does it send our children if we object to a challenge? He’s gotten this narrative out far and wide, so that folks who don’t have kids in school now can often be seen saying things in newspaper comments sections like, “Why can’t these whiners just shut up and take the test?” or “What a bunch of weaklings! These kids and parents don’t have any spines anymore if they don’t want to take the test!”

 

You’ll note, in these kinds of comments sections, that it is always the test. As if there is one.

 

What those commenters don’t know is that the endless stream of tests, accompanying prep, and supporting curricula are low-quality dreck, and they have very little to do with actual learning. They do, however, have a lot to do with bubbling in bubbles and guessing what adults expect.

 

No, those commenters may not know how bad the situation is for public schools right now in terms of testing.

 

But Arne Duncan does. He crafted the testing policy and now calls it a civil right.

 

He’s choosing to keep his kids out of a system that spends so much time and money on testing that there’s little time left, and no money, for stuff that’s not on the tests: history, science, art, music.

 

 

If only Duncan wanted America’s children to have public schools with the same rich offerings as the Lab School. Public schools that didn’t have to waste time and money on endless bubble tests. Duncan knows what is best for his children, for Rahm’s children, and for the President’s children. Why isn’t it right for other people’s children? John Dewey founded the Lab School to see what was best for public education, not just for the children of elites.

Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post has written a sympathetic article about Arne Duncan and the waning of his powers as Secretary of Education. He is a nice guy. He is a close friend of the President. He cares about individual children that he met along the way. The pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will prohibit him and future Secretaries from interfering in state decisions about standards, curriculum, and assessment. His family has already moved back to Chicago. But he will stay on the job to the very end.

 

When Obama was elected, many educators and parents thought that Obama would bring a new vision of the federal role in education, one that freed schools from the test-and-punish mindset of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind. But Arne Duncan and Barack Obama had a vision no different from George W. Bush and doubled down on the importance of testing, while encouraging privatization and undermining the teaching profession with a $50 million grant to Teach for America to place more novice teachers in high-needs schools. Duncan never said a bad word about charters, no matter how many scandals and frauds were revealed.

 

During Duncan’s tenure in office,

 

*He used his control of billions of dollars to promote a dual school system of privately managed charter schools operating alongside public schools;

*He has done nothing to call attention to the fraud and corruption in the charter sector or to curb charters run by non-educators for profit or to insist on charter school accountability or to require charters to enroll the neediest children;

*He pushed to require states to evaluate teachers by the test scores of their students, which has caused massive demoralization among teachers, raised the stakes attached to testing, and produced no positive results;

*He used federal funds and waivers from NCLB to push the adoption of Common Core standards and to create two testing consortia, which many states have abandoned;

*The Common Core tests are so absurdly “rigorous” that most students have failed them, even in schools that send high percentages of students to four-year colleges, the failure rates have been highest among students who are English language learners, students with disabilities, and students of color;

*He has bemoaned rising resegregation of the schools but done nothing to reduce it;

*He has been silent as state after state has attacked collective bargaining and due process for teachers;

*He has done nothing in response to the explosion of voucher programs that transfer public funds to religious schools;

*Because of his policies, enrollments in teacher education programs, even in Teach for America, have plummeted, and many experienced teachers are taking early retirement;

*He has unleashed a mad frenzy of testing in classrooms across the country, treating standardized test scores as the goal of all education, rather than as a measure;

*His tenure has been marked by the rise of an aggressive privatization movement, which seeks to eliminate public education in urban districts, where residents have the least political power;

*He loosened the regulations on the federal student privacy act, permitting massive data mining of the data banks that federal funds created;

*He looked the other way as predatory for-profit colleges preyed on veterans and  minorities, plunging students deep into debt;

*Duncan has regularly accused parents and teachers of “lying” to students. For reasons that are unclear, he wants everyone to believe that our public schools are terrible, our students are lazy, not too bright, and lacking ambition. If he were a basketball coach, he would have been encouraging the team to try harder and to reach for greater accomplishment, but instead he took every opportunity to run down the team and repeat how dreadful they are. He spoke of “respect” but he never showed it.

This era has not been good for students; nearly a quarter live in poverty, and fully 51% live in low-income families. This era has not been good for teachers, who feel disrespected and demeaned by governors, legislatures, and the U.S. Department of Education. This era has not been good for parents, who see their local public schools lose resources to charter schools and see their children subjected to endless, intensive testing.

 

It will take years to recover from the damage that Arne Duncan’s policies have inflicted on public education. He exceeded the authority of his office to promote a failed agenda, one that had no evidence behind it. The next President and the next Secretary of Education will have an enormous job to do to restore our nation’s public education system from the damage done by Race to the Top. We need leadership that believes in the joy of learning and in equality of educational opportunity. We have not had either for 15 years.

Arne Duncan asked for parent engagement. He got more than he bargained for.

Read the tweets. Arne should really stay far, far away from parents. They don’t like what he has done to their children.

Our blog poet, who signs as SomeDam Poet, contributed these words of wisdom:

 

Hail Arne
Full of Gates
The Core is with thee
Mes-sed art thou among Reformers
And mes-sed is the fruit of thy room, RTTT

 

Our Coleman
Who aren’t an educator
Hollow be they claim
Thy King-dom come,
Thy will be dumb,
In NY as it is in Washington
Spare us this Core our daily bore,
and forgive us our testpasses,
as we forgive those who testpass in charters ;
and lead us not into DAM nation,
but deliver us from Common Core.

 

Amen

Peter Greene has noticed that reformsters send contradictory messages about testing. First, they make it all-important, tying teachers’ careers to the scores. Then, they chide schools and teachers for putting so much importance in testing, e.g., teaching to the test, test prep, etc.

Peter Greene knows who is to blame. in this post, he reviews the remarks of Andrew Rotherham, a leader in the corporate reformster world. (Readers may note that I have been using Green’s word “reformster,” which has the virtue of rehabilitating the once admirable words “reform” and “reformer.” I expect to hear the Koch brothers lauded as reformers soon, along with Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, and other hard-right free-marketeers.)

Greene writes:

“Reformsters seem to want the following message to come from somewhere:

“Hey, public schools and public school teachers– your entire professional future and career rests on the results of these BS Tests. But please don’t put a lot of emphasis on the tests. Your entire future is riding on these results, but whatever you do– don’t do everything you can possibly think of to get test scores up.”

“I have no way of knowing whether Rotherman, Duncan, et al are disingenuous, clueless, or big fat fibbers trying to paper over the bullet wound of BS Testing with the bandaid of PR. But the answer to the question “Who caused this testing circus” is as easy to figure out as it ever was.

“Reformy policymakers and politicians and bureaucrats declared that test scores would be hugely important, and ever since, educators have weighed self-preservation against educational malpractice and tried to make choices they could both live with and which would allow them to have a career. And reformsters, who knew all along that the test would be their instrument to drive instruction, have pretended to be surprised testing has driven instruction and pep rallies and shirts. They said, “Get high test scores, or else,” and a huge number of schools said, “Yessir!” and pitched some tents and hired some acrobats and lion tamers. Oddly enough, the clowns were already in place.”

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