Archives for category: Duncan, Arne

If you want to see our Acting Secretary of Education John King deflecting any responsibility or accountability for the ethical lapses of senior officials in the Department, here is a link to the full hearing. 

 
King finds a variety of ways to shift responsibility. He insists he is not accountable. Not me. Someone else said it was okay to have outside income and not report it to the IRS. Does the ED still give ethics briefings to political appointees? Apparently not.

 

To be fair to King, he has only worked at the Department for a year, understudying the role of Secretary. Who appointed Danny Harris as chief information officer? Who supervised him? Who reviewed his disclosure forms? Call them to testify too.

 
Who is accountable in this Department that has made “accountability” its watchword?

John Thompson, historian and teachers, wrote a guest column on Anthony Cody’s blog in which he calls out the “reformers” for their arrogance and reckless disregard for collateral damage: children, teachers, and public schools. Thompson said that from the outset of Obama’s first term, he hoped that Arne Duncan and his team of advisers from the Gates Foundation “would not create a mess.” He recognized that every element of their Race to the Top program ignored a large body of social science and the professional judgments of teachers. But he kept hoping. He hoped that Duncan would be willing to obtain objective evaluations of his experiments. “At the time, I couldn’t have known that Arne Duncan and his team of former Gates Foundation administrators would be so allergic to facing up to facts.”

 

He lays much of the blame for the administration’s failed education policies not only on Duncan but at Joanne Weiss (former CEO of the charter-promoting NewSchools Venture Fund), who directed the Race to the Top, then became Duncan’s chief of staff. Duncan saw his job not as someone seeking unbiased evaluations of his initiatives, but as a cheerleader for his programs, regardless of their results. Intent on claiming victory after victory, he never listened. Since Duncan was unwilling to obtain objective evaluations or listen to professional educators, it was left to others to appraise his prized RTTT and SIG (School Improvement Grants).

 

Thompson writes:

 

Now, we are getting the next best thing as conservative reformers, as well as educators, are calling them to task. One of the most recent examples of the pushback is conservative reformer Andy Smarick’s challenge to Joanne Weiss’s defense of the RttT. Weiss personified the administration’s overreach. As director of the RttT, she set out to impose corporate school reform on states and localities across the nation.

 

Weiss ignored the need for checks and balances of authority, and then she seemed to blame states and localities for the failures of her federal micromanaging of school policies. Smarick concludes, “even when federal education officials are pure of heart, their plans reliably underperform, as in the case of SIG, the backlash to NCLB and Common Core, the disappointing results of educator evaluation reform, and the disintegration of the federally funded testing consortia.” (I don’t agree that federal policies always under-perform, but it is a safe bet that grandiose federal social engineering always will.)

 

Some of the best critiques of Weiss’s spin can be found in the comments prompted by her article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Almost all of the fifty-plus comments were negative, and many were especially eloquent in criticizing Weiss and her innovations. My favorite commenters were Leonie Haimson and Christopher Chase. Chase fact-checked Weiss and in doing so he cited the pro-Obama spin by the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). DFER displayed an openness that contrasted sharply with Weiss’s current claims. It bragged, “President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan added the role of ‘venture philanthropist’ to the federal education policy wheelhouse.” The RttT and SIG, as well as Duncan’s NCLB Waivers were said to be transformative because previously:

 

[DFER wrote:] There was a confederacy of education reform-focused groups and most were narrowly focused (often with frustrating discipline) in their own directions. President Obama, primarily through the launch of the Race to the Top competition, got this crazy constellation of reform groups united and pointed in the same direction for the first time.
DFER not only gloated about the way that value-added added teacher evaluations were imposed through the process, but it also cheered the rise of the charter management organizations that facilitated the mass closures of schools. According to DFER, it “wasn’t accidental” that “charter schools flourished more under three years of Obama than under eight years of George W. Bush.”

 

Thompson wondered how smart people could make so many miscalculations and errors:

 

As conservatives and liberals finally come together to hold the Duncan/Obama/Gates reign of error accountable, we will often be able to grin at the language with which the administration’s social engineering is described. Rick Hess, as usual, is especially quotable; he describes their overreach as a “product of executive branch whimsy.” A commenter referred to Joanne Weiss as “a dilettante.” But, the policy wonk in me seeks a narrower explanation. How did the smart people – who imposed the full corporate reform agenda – do so while mandating policies that were so different than the principles they espoused?

 

Weiss’s micromanaging, for instance, imposed the full laundry list of the corporate reformers’ simplistic “silver bullets.” Her answer for the complex and interconnected problems in our low-income schools was an impossibly long and contradictory list of quick fixes: test-driven teacher evaluations, the undermining of teachers’ due process, Common Core, mass closures of urban schools, the mass dismissal of teachers, and subsidies for charter management systems.

 

In the context of mass closures, Weiss should have known, the abrogation of seniority rights would encourage districts to dump the salaries and benefits of veteran teachers, replacing them with often-ineffective novices. Her value-added mandates and need to meet extreme and immediate test score targets would incentivize bubble-in malpractice. One would think she would understand that her RttT would treat teachers as disposable, and thus kill the chances to build trusting and collaborative relationships. But, did Weiss not also realize that she was inviting a mass pushout of struggling students? It seems inconceivable that she wouldn’t recognize the opportunity costs of her RttT, undermining the capacity to build the student supports that readiness-to-learn requires in high-challenge schools.

 

Weiss later claimed that her RTTT wanted to get education out of “discrete silos.” But, she did so because the administration “wanted to mold entire systems.” It supposedly sought to help states implement “interconnected policies and work streams” and make them “move forward in tandem.”

 

And, that suggests an answer. Duncan staffed the USDOE with smart people who knew little or nothing about the inner city or high-challenge schools. What they knew was theories about incentives and disincentives. They were experts at the big “C,” control. They understood paperwork. They understood profits and privatization. Duncan, Weiss, et. al may have been clueless about real world schools, but they understood grant-making, rule-making, drafting criteria, subcriteria, memorandums of understanding, and regulations. They did what they knew how to do – creating work streams of interconnected policies that were disconnected from actual reality.

 

Thompson’s charitable explanation of how smart people do dumb things is that they were “disconnected from actual reality.” Meaning, they knew so little about schools and teaching that they created programs that were doomed to fail.

 

And now, as their failure becomes obvious to the world, they shift the blame to others, or in the case of Duncan, advise the nation to keep doing the same things over and over for at least another decade, when we will finally see the “results” he promised and never achieved. The question is whether the parents of millions of children want them to be subjected to Duncan’s failed policies for the next ten years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim Farley, principal of an elementary/middle school in upstate New York and founding member of New York State Allies for Public Education, writes here that the new Obama testing policy might increase the time spent testing students.

Andrew Cuomo, governor of Néw York, was quick to applaud the Ibama plan and to note with pride that New York had already enacted a 2% cap on testing time.

Farley writes:

“In New York, as Cuomo has reminded us, we already have a 2% cap on time spent on standardized testing. What does that actually mean? In New York we have 180 school days and an average school day runs about 6.5 hours. If one does the math that’s 180 x 6.5 x 2% = 23.4 hours of testing. So, by law, we cannot exceed 23.4 hours of standardized testing in grades 3–8.

“This begs the question — How much time do kids in grades 3–8 spend on the state tests in English Language Arts and math? If you are a general education student, you will spend roughly nine hours in a testing room for both the ELA and math tests. If you are a student with a learning disability (SWD), and you have a testing accommodation of “double time,” you get to sit in a testing location for eighteen hours. As insane as that seems, it is still 5.4 hours short of the time allowed by law. A 2% cap isn’t a step forward, it’s a giant leap backward.

“How much testing is too much? I don’t know the magic number that will give the state education departments and the U.S. Department of Education the data they supposedly need in order to determine the effectiveness of the schools, but I do know that nine hours of testing is too much for a nine-year-old, eighteen hours is abusive for nine-year-olds with a learning disability, and 23.4 hours of testing for a child at any age is criminal.”

Peter Greene carefully reviewed the Obama administration’s “Testing Action Plan” and concluded it is phony, a duplicitous confirmation of the status quo.

Did you think the administration realizes that the billions of dollars spent on 13 years of standardized testing was a waste? Think again.

Did you think the administration really wants to reduce time spent on testing? Think again.

Did you think the administration understands that it is not fair to give exactly the same test to children who can’t read English, children with disabilities, and others of their age? Think again.

Have they lost faith in standardized testing? Not a bit.

Here is what they see as the problem that needs fixing, Greene writes:

“Before you get excited about the administration taking “some” blame for the testing mess, please notice what they think their mistake was– not telling states specifically enough what they were supposed to do. They provided states with flexibility when they should have provided hard and fast crystal clear commands directions for what they were supposed to do.

“Because yes– the problem with education reform has been not enough federal control of state education departments.”

Peter Greene warns us not to be taken in by Secretary Duncan’s latest pretense of disavowing testing. We have heard this song before. So he wants to limit testing to “only” 2% of class time? That’s more testing, not less. Will he cancel his ironclad demand to evaluate teachers by student test scores? Is VAM dead and finished? He didn’t say that.

Peter writes:

“Remember that theoretical problem where someone keeps moving half the distance to a point, and how that means they’ll never actually get there? Well, today Arne Duncan once again moved half the distance to the point at which he will someday theoretically accept responsibility for the administrations failed education policies and then actually do something about them.

“Duncan issued a statement about testing, and I’d like to be excited that he almost admitted culpability in the Great Testing Circus while stating some actual policy changes to address the problem. But he didn’t get there, and I’ve seen the Duncan “I’ll Kind of Say the Right Thing Almost and Then Go On Acting As If I Haven’t Said Anything At All” show far too many times.”

No, says Peter, it is not a problem of implementation. The problem is the policy itself. And Duncan did not renounce the policy. What did he offer? An apology for ruining American education for seven years? No. A policy to free teachers, principals and schools from the tyranny of testing? No. A promise to stop punishments based on test scores? No.

What did he offer?

False hope.

The Badass Teachers association responded to Arne Duncan’s mea culpa on testing with this statement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 24, 2015
More information contact:
Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director BATs or Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. Executive Director BATs
Contact.BATmanager@gmail.com

Today the Obama Administration released a statement calling for “a cap on assessment so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. It called on Congress to ‘reduce over-testing’ as it reauthorizes the federal legislation governing the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/25/us/obama-administration-calls-for-limits-on-testing-in-schools.html?_r=0)

The Badass Teachers Association, an education activist organization with over 70,000 supporters nationwide, are reluctantly pleased with this announcement. Our vision statement has always been to refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning. Our goals have always been to reduce or eliminate the use of high stakes testing, increase teacher autonomy in the classroom, and include teacher and family voices in legislative decision-making processes that affect students.

Since No Child Left Behind and Race to The Top we have seen our children and communities of color bear the brunt of the test obsession that has come in with the wave of Corporate Education Reform. When resources should have been used for funding and programming, politicians and policy makers were focusing on making children take more tests in hopes that equity in education would occur. It didn’t work, and it will not work. We know as educators you cannot test your way out of the education and opportunity gap. The blame and punish test agenda has not closed either the education or opportunity gap . We are reluctantly pleased that the President and his administration are finally taking a stand, but sadly the devastation has already been done. We are confident that if the President and his administration make a commitment to work with educators, parents, and students we can fix it and make it right.

“Although this is a step in the right direction I feel we need to see what the policy is before we count this as a win. Given his actions in New York, I have no reason to trust John King, and I’m concerned that this is a ploy to get teachers on the side of Democrats aka Hillary Clinton.” – BAT Board of Director Member Dr. Denisha Jones

“The policy that stems from this statement needs to be mindful that important discussions about exactly what kind of testing is most beneficial to our students. BATS advocates for teacher-driven tests with immediate and relevant feedback that can be used to drive current instructional practices.” – BAT Assistant Executive Director Melissa Tomlinson

“The policies of Sec. Duncan and the USDOE have caused an immense amount of damage to our educational system, student morale, and teacher morale. I am very reluctant to be happy about this announcement and will watch closely as to what the President plans to do to fix the damage that has been done. Will he stand up to Corporate Education Reform? Will he end the test, blame, punish system for schools, students, and teachers? Will he return the elected school board? Will he end mass school closings?” – BAT Executive Director Marla Kilfoyle

The Badass Teachers Association would like to extend its voice and expertise to help get public education on the right track. Together we can work towards the real solutions that will make great schools for all children. We will be watching closely as this unfolds.

Mercedes Schneider reports on speculation that Arne Duncan is returning to Illinois so he can meet the residency requirement to run for governor. It would be interesting to see Duncan debate Bruce Rauner on who loves charter schools the most.

Mike Klonsky notes that Arne Duncan is paving the way for his return to Chicago by ladling out millions to charter schools. 
Remember when Rahm Emanuel closed 50 schools in one day because they were under enrolled?  It turns out that charter schools are also under enrolled, but that’s no reason to stop opening more of them!

“Just as Arne Duncan was announcing his retirement and his plans to return to Chicago to “spend more time with his family,” he dropped another $8M in fed dollars on pal Mike Milkie’s Noble charter school chain. This on top of another $42.2M coming to IL with the lion’s share going to Noble and Lawndale Educational and Regional Network.
“Milkie says Noble (which I lovingly call the Billionaires; Charter Network) needs the money in order to open 8 new schools to meet the growing demand and shorten its “waitlist.” But the Raise Your Hand parents group just made a few phone calls and found out that at least 5 Noble schools can’t fill the seats they have. They wonder, “Where’s the waitlist?”
“RYH asks some great questions:
‘Why is the charter community rallying for more schools when there are plenty of openings in existing charter schools across Chicago, including Noble, and CPS’ enrollment has been declining for years, down roughly 14,000 students just since 2012? RYH found last year that there are over 12,000 open seats in charters across Chicago. How and why are taxpayers expected to fund eight new schools when there are plenty of open seats in Noble schools right now?'”

Reader Chiara sent the following comment about new funding by the U.S. Department of Education for for-profit ventures. Since when did ED become a source of venture capital for start-ups?

“Duncan’s cranking up the private sector subsidy funding on his way out the door:

“On Wednesday the department will announce a pilot program that will allow federal grants and loans to flow to educational-technology companies that team up with colleges and third-party “quality-assurance entities” to offer coding boot camps, MOOCs, short-term certificates, and other credentials.”

“Partnering with accredited schools to deliver tech skills for credit is a dangerous back door to access federal student loans,” wrote Clint Schmidt He called for the department to put “a rigorous standard in place” before federal aid could cover boot-camp tuition.

“The risk is a short-term, money-grabbing mind-set”

Nothing could possibly go wrong there, right? Public money to ed-tech companies. They’re doing this…. because for-profit, online colleges were such a smashing success?

Is there some reason the federal government feels they have to market and fund ed-tech? Is there a shortage of salespeople at these companies or something so we have to provide publicly-paid salespeople for their product?

http://chronicle.com/article/A-Boon-to-Boot-Camps-US/233742″

Here’s another description: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/us-looks-to-let-students-use-federal-aid-for-training-bootcamps/2015/10/14/9a4eba38-72bb-11e5-8d93-0af317ed58c9_story.html?postshare=7671444875772458

U.S. Deputy Secretary Ted Mitchell was formerly CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, which invested in these kinds of business ventures, as well as charter chains. He has no problem with for-profit education; NSVF supported it when he was in charge.

John Merrow has been a close observer of American education for decades, so it is always interesting to read him. In this post, he reflects on what Arne Duncan did and accomplished.

John expected that Arne’s experience in Chicago would have inclined him to push for less federal micromanagement but this didn’t happen.

“As CEO of the public schools in Chicago, Duncan had chafed under the directives of “No Child Left Behind” and its hundreds of pages of regulations. I thought the lesson of NCLB was inescapably clear: Washington cannot run public education. However, Democrats, including Secretary Duncan, apparently reached a different conclusion: “Perhaps REPUBLICANS cannot run public education, but we can.”

John made arrangements to film the creation of Race to the Top, but the DOE lawyers mixed it.

Early on, he found Arne open and accessible. As time went by, however, he gave canned answers and talking points, seldom straying.

John thinks that Arne’s worst mistake was to tie teacher evaluations to student scores.

Arne became the most powerful Secretary of Education in the Department’s history, because of the leverage that $5 billion discretionary dollars gave him, a gift from Congress as part of the economic stimulus that followed the 2008 crash.

Arne used that leverage to impose a heavy federal hand on almost every state and literally, to take control of public education–a goal that no other Secretary of Education ever tried (because it was illegal). As a result of Arne’s assertiveness, legislation to reauthorize ESEA/NCLB strips the Secretary of any authority to meddle in state and local issues related to curriculum, assessment, instruction. Such prohibitions are already in the law but Duncan ignored them. I wonder why there has been no lawsuit by a state or district to challenge his indifference to these clear prohibitions against meddling in curriculum and instruction. He claims that he had nothing to do with the Common Core standards, but that is widely viewed as a fabrication since states had to adopt something very much like them (and there were no competitors) to be eligible to compete for Race to the Top funding. Surely, the federal funding ($360 million) of two tests aligned to the CCSS has something to do with shaping curriculum and instruction.

So $5 billion was spent by Arne to promote school closings (mostly in black and Hispanic communities), to encourage the opening of more privately managed charter schools (despite the number of scandals associated with their deregulation and lack of oversight), to make standardized testing the most important ends and means of education, to fire principals and teachers, and to impose an invalid means of evaluating teachers and principals.

Merrow wonders:

“What if he had used that power differently? What if the Secretary had told states that they would be evaluated on their commitment to art, music, science, and recess? Or to project-based learning? Or social and emotional learning? Instead of today’s widespread teacher-bashing, excessive testing, test-prep, and a rash of cheating scandals, many more schools might be places of joy.”

I ask: What if he had used that power to request voluntary proposals to desegregate the nation’s schools?

We would be a different country. It would have been money well spent.

Unfortunately, neither happened. The $5 billion for Race to the Top was not only squandered, but did incalculable harm to students, educators, and public education.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 167,164 other followers