Archives for category: Duncan, Arne

In 2001, Congress passed a law called No Child Left Behind. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January 2002. It is the worst federal education legislation ever passed. It required that 100% of children in grades 3-8 must be proficient by 2014 or their schools are failing and subject to harsh sanctions. In no nation in the world are 100% of children proficient. This is an impossible goal. Yet many schools have been closed, many educators fired, because they could not do the impossible.

Although NCLB should have been re authorized in 2007, Congress has been unable to agree on how to change it. It should have been scrapped. Accountability should be the job of the states, not the federal government.

Into the stalemate over NCLB stepped our present Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who offered waivers from the 2014 deadline to states that agreed to evaluate their teachers based on their students’ test scores. States lined up to seek waivers. Washington State, however, asked for a waiver but the Legislature refused to evaluate teachers by test scores. Many studies have shown that this a fundamentally flawed way of evaluating teachers. But Duncan stuck to his guns, oblivious to the research. He decreed that Washington State would lose its waiver. That men’s that every school in the state is a failing school and must inform parents that their child attends a failing school.

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Educators in Washington State have written a plea to Arne Duncan not to rescind the state’s waiver from what is, in fact, a ridiculous law. They have a petition and invite you to support them by signing it.

Here is their press release:

This year, most school districts across Washington state were forced by Secretary Arne Duncan’s selective enforcement of the No Child Left Behind Act to send letters to all parents that labeled our schools as failures. We are parents, teachers, students and community members who reject this label that has been placed on our schools.

We know that our schools are not failures. In fact, their accomplishments have been remarkable, especially given the deeply flawed policy imposed on them by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). While there are certainly changes needed for our schools – many due to the legacy of racism, class inequality, and lack of equitable funding for our schools – we believe that those changes should be directed by communities that make up local school districts, not by top-down mandates. This website will share stories and testimonials about the great things that are happening in our schools that should be supported and connect our communities so that we can organize opposition to Arne Duncan’s policies and No Child Left Behind.

According to NCLB, our schools should have had 100% of students test at proficient levels in reading and math by 2014. No county, no state, and no school district has ever achieved 100% proficiency on standardized tests and, in fact, the way the tests are designed make it statistically impossible to achieve that goal. Washington, like many other states, originally had a waiver in place that would have exempted it from this absurd NCLB mandate. However, when the state legislature refused to pass bills tying teacher evaluations to test scores (following overwhelming evidence that this would not improve teaching or learning), Arne Duncan chose to punish Washington state by revoking the waiver. With the waiver gone, nearly all of Washington’s schools have been labeled failures, we may lose control of millions of dollars in federal money, and some schools will be at risk of state takeovers and mass layoffs of teachers.

This kind of political game-playing has no place in our schools. Our schools and teachers should not be labeled as failures simply because we have rejected extremely flawed education policies. In August 2014, 28 school superintendents from around the state authored a letter, where they declared that their schools’ successes are not reflected in these ratings and criticized No Child Left Behind. We agree. It’s time for the voices of parents, teachers and students to be heard and respected.

If you have a story to share about why your school is not a failure, tell us here.

Also, sign our petition to reinstate the NCLB waiver for Washington state.

Endorsed by:

Parents Across America (PAA)
Seattle Education Website
Social Equality Educators (SEE)
Wayne Au, PhD, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Washington Bothell*
Jesse Hagopian, Teacher, Garfield High School*
Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council member*
Sue Peters, Seattle School Board Director*
Melissa Westbrook, Seattle Schools Community Forum

*For identification purposes only

Frank Breslin, retired teacher of foreign languages and history, calls for Congressional hearings about the cost and misuse of testing.

He points out that test scores are used to close public schools, fire teachers, and privatize schools, even though charters do not get better results than public schools.

He warns that the federal government has used testing to impose its failed ideas on schools, eviscerating local control. Breslin concludes that the best way to end federal intrusion is to abolish the Department of Education.

Peter Greene has been following the conversation at EducationPost, the blog funded by Broad, Walton, Bloomberg et al for $12 million, he says that the new spin from reformsters is that education is too politicized. He agrees but asks how it got that way. Who took the decision making power away from educators and gave it to legislatures, governors, the President, and Comgress? Not educators.

Peter Greene knows who did it:

“As it turns out, I think I have an answer for this one. Asking why the Common Core are wrapped up in politics is like asking why human beings are so involved with blood.

“The Common Core were birthed in politics. They were weaned on politics. And every time they have looked tired and in trouble, they have been revived with a fresh transfusion of politics.

“When David Coleman and Gene Wilhoit decided they wanted to standardize American education, they did not come up with a plan to sell such a program on its education merits. They called on Bill Gates to use his money and power to convince state governments to legislate systemic changes to education.

“The states signed on to a Memo of Understanding (a political tool for out-politicking politics) and many of them did it before there were even any standards to look at. This was a political move, using the political power of legislatures and governors’ offices to impose rules on educational systems– in many cases, before educators in particular states even knew that such a systemic overhaul was being considered.

“Common Core’s Pappy, No Child Left Behind, was a creature of politics, right down to its spin-ready title. It was created to put a glossy shine on bipartisan action for the kids. Educators (and other people with rudimentary math skills) pointed out early on that the NCLB end game of 100% above average was ridiculously improbable, but the political shininess plus the political notion that future politicians would find a political solution drowned out good sense. Because, politics.”

He concludes:

“At no point in all this reformy baloney have we seen the spectacle of bottom-up reform, a reform movement driven by teachers and other educators saying, “Hey, we have some ideas that are so revolutionary and so great that they are spreading like wildfire strictly on their educational merits!”

“No– Common Core and its attendant test-driven high stakes data-glomming VAMboozling baloney have come from the top down, by politicians using political power to impose educational solutions through the political tools applied to the political structure of government. Why do people get the idea that all these reformy ideas are linked? Because they all come from the same place– the linkage is the political power that imposed them all on the American public education system.

“Look. We live in the real world and politics play a part in many things. But for some reformsters to offer wide eyes and shocked dismay and clutched pearls as they cry, “Oh, but why does it have to be so political!” is the height of hypocrisy. It’s political because you folks made it political, every step of the way, and it’s not humanly possible for you to be too dumb to know that (particularly at a site like Education Post that is larded with career political operatives). So if you want to have a serious conversation about any of this, Step One is top stop lying, badly, directly to our faces. I can’t hear you when my bullshit detector alarm is screaming in my ear.”

Paul Karrer, who teaches in Castroville, California, writes a scorching review of what is laughingly called “reform.”

He begins:

“Arne Duncan and his patron President Barack Obama have gotten themselves in a bit of an educational bind. Big news came out of the White House on Aug. 21 but a lot of America missed it. It seems a collision course of: 1. sunsetting of the year 2014 and the imbecilic impossible fatwa of No Child Left Behind (the obscenity of schools held accountable for testing without a morsel of input for poverty); and 2. a large push by teacher unions to dethrone he of the basketball — Sir Arne Duncan.”

So Duncan made his statement about testing “sucking the oxygen” out of teaching, a typical Duncanism in which he denounces the policies he promote and still enforces.

Says Karrer of Duncan’s fancy step:

“Is it a complete flip flop? No, it is a little greasy middle-of-the-road weaseling meant to gain favor from Obama’s once-upon-a-time education supporters and to patch the rebellious hemorrhaging of his pet bamboozle Race To The Top and its ugly stepsister Common Core. Ever since Obama initiated his slash and burn policy regarding public education with pro-privatization, the green light to pro-charter corporations, his relationship with publishing-testing companies, and his knee in the groin and knife in the backs of teachers with rigorous evaluations based on kids’ test scores, he’s been trusted about as much as a pedophile at a playground by those who once-upon-a-halo included him in their sacred prayers.”

Karrer says time is running out for the Age of Test and Punish. More and more people are speaking up and the public is catching on to the failure of test, test, test. The momentum is growing. Time is running out.

Beverley Holden Johns, a nationally recognized expert in the field of disabilities, strongly disagrees with Arne Duncan. Duncan wants children with disabilities to be able to perform on the highest level of NAEP tests. She points out that NAEP was not designed for this purpose. Duncan unilaterally changed the requirements of the IDEA act, without Congressional authorization. Having changed NCLB without Congressional authorization, he must think that ignoring the law is routine. In Néw York, we learned how students with disabilities do when they took the Common Core test: 95% failed.

Beverley Holden Johns writes:

————————–
NCLB required all students to be proficient on State tests by 2014.

Failure of the public schools to reach that goal has been widely
viewed as the failure of public education, requiring movement
to Charter Schools and even increasing the talk of Vouchers in the name of Choice.

Now Arne Duncan seeks to require ALL students with disabilities to
demonstrate proficiency or advanced mastery of challenging
subject matter on the NAEP tests?

As this is impossible (students without disabilities do not
come close to doing it and are making very little progress
toward meeting that goal), what will be the impact on special ed?

Special education will be deemed to be an utter failure, and
some will urge Response to Intervention, RTI, often called MTSS,
and Full Inclusion for all (although there is no evidence that will
cause students to meet the NAEP goal).

What is wrong with using NAEP?

(1) National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, was not designed for any such purpose, or validated for any such purpose.

(2) NAEP is given at only a few schools in each State to get
a sample of how the State is doing in the 4th and 8th grades
in math and reading every 2 years.

NAEP makes no pretense of testing all children or all schools.

So NAEP offers no accountability whatsoever at the vast majority
of schools in each State.

(3) There have been consistent problems on whether students
with disabilities even take the NAEP, and on whether the NAEP
tests will offer accommodations for students with disabilities
(on which each State has made tremendously varying decisions).

So the percentage of students with disabilities in each State
taking the NAEP varies tremendously from State to State
(making State to State comparisons totally invalid).

(4) NAEP is not aligned with the Common Core so it does
not reflect what may be taught in the classroom.

What does Arne Duncan state that the goal of special ed Results Driven Accountability is?

“While the goal is to ensure that ALL Children with
Disabilities demonstrate proficient or advanced mastery
of challenging subject matter, we recognize that States
may need to take intermediate steps to reach this benchmark.”
(emphasis added)

Please see footnote 7 at

http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partbspap/2014/2014_part_b_htdmd.pdf

Can anyone provide a complete description of this accountability
system that parents and educators can understand?

On August 4, 2014, all 8 Republicans on the U.S. Senate
education committee in a 3 page letter asked Arne Duncan
detailed questions about this special ed Results Driven Accountability:

“It is troubling that the department made unilateral changes
to the [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] compliance
framework without seeking legislative approval, disregarded
congressional intent, and appears to have violated the clear letter of the law.”

“The changes spelled out in your ‘Results-Driven Accountability’
framework clearly amount to federal influence on the standards
and assessments states and school districts use to direct the
education program of students with disabilities and would give
the federal government authority to use students proficiency as
measured by the NAEP to evaluate and either reward or
sanction school districts.”

No Child Left Behind, the joint product of George W. Bush and
Ted Kennedy, has positives and negatives, but overall it has
been a disaster for the public schools because it had unrealistic
and utopian goals.

We cannot allow special ed Results Driven Accountability
to be a similar disaster.

Bev Johns

As someone who has responded many times to Democratic Party fund-raising appeals on the Internet, I now get daily requests to give more. For the past few weeks, I have been responding that I will not give another penny until President Obama renounces Race to the Top and replaces Arne Duncan with someone who supports public schools. I thought I was the only one doing that, but then I got this letter from John Ogozalek, who teaches in upstate New York.

He wrote, in response to a similar appeal:

” Hancock, New York 13783
August 18, 2014

“Dear People Sitting in Fancy Offices In Charge of the Democratic Party,

“Why, why on Earth would I send a donation to politicians who seem intent on harming my family and our kids’ school?

“What a HUGE error the Democratic Party brass has made attacking public schools and teachers. What a bunch of dummies kissing off the support of millions of MIDDLE CLASS voters. (Does the corporate cash mean that much to you??)

“Tell Barack Obama and Arne Duncan that they have FAILED the Democratic Party….they’ve FAILED our children.

“Race to the Top? Farce to the Top!

“Governor Andrew Cuomo is a sellout, too. I’ve voting for Zephyr Teachout September 9 in the New York State Democratic Primary and will strongly encourage every Democratic I know to do the same

“When Democratic leaders are ready to stop sucking up to big corporate money….when Democratic leaders are ready to stand up for families and their schools…..let me know.

“And, no, I will not use my own first-class stamp on your pre-addressed, money grovelling campaign contribution envelope to “help us save much-needed funds”. How many times do I need to tell you that?

John Ogozalek”

John Thompson, widely published writer, historian and teacher, wrote this post for the blog.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan obviously knew what he was doing when he timed the USDOE revocation of Oklahoma’s NCLB Waiver on the proverbial “take out the trash day,” just before the long Labor Day weekend. One Duncan soundbite is that Common Core is not a top down corporate and/or federal mandate, but he doesn’t want to call national attention to his own repudiation of that claim. It is now impossible for anyone to believe Duncan’s spin after he punished Oklahoma for repealing its standards and tests.

Neither can Duncan deny anymore that his policies are about reward and punish. In its letter informing Oklahoma that it must return, this year, to the discredited NCLB accountability regime, the USDOE admits that it is imposing a policy that “is neither simple nor desirable.”

Technically, Duncan did not punish the teachers and students of Oklahoma because the state yielded to bipartisan grassroots pressure and rejected Common Core. It did not even throw our underfunded and overwhelmed schools into another mess, at the beginning of the school year, because Oklahoma rejected college-readiness standards. Oklahoma has long had such standards, known as PASS, and those widely praised standards are again in place. Despite the dubious nature of the legal authority that he claims, Duncan threw our schools into turmoil because Oklahoma did not meet his schedule for proving that our democratically enacted standards meet his standards.

The USDOE had given Oklahoma sixty days to prove that its standards are college ready. The Oklahoma State Regents was tasked with determining that a student who met those high school standards would not require remediation in college. The Regents apparently was on schedule to ratify or not ratify that status by October.

In other words, Secretary Duncan remains consistent in not only demanding that all states, schools, and teachers toe the line, but that they remain on his timetable when implementing everything on his corporate reform wish list.

Duncan tipped his hand when Oklahoma repealed Common Core, snidely commenting on the state’s high college remediation rate. Clearly Duncan believes the failure to produce college ready students was linked to our failure to see the wisdom of Common Core. It couldn’t be due to generations of poverty, an out-of-control incarceration rate (especially of mothers,) lack of access to health care for children and families, or our incredibly low per student spending (of about $8000 per student.) Our shortcomings were not due to education budget cuts of 22%, more than any other state.

Neither could our high remediation rate be attributable to what we are doing right. Oklahoma Promise funds college attendance for low-income students, meaning that our universities need to remediate the skills of students who otherwise would not have attempted to go to college. (But, perhaps I shouldn’t go there; Duncan might demand a repeal of that law or mandate NCLB-type accountability for the universities whose graduation rates are hurt by it.)

But, frankly, this week is a reminder of a misjudgment I made a couple of months ago. The transition to the current standards was slowed somewhat when Oklahoma Board of Education exercised its legal right to challenge the repeal of Common Core in court. I was in a room full of superintendents at the Vision 2020 annual conference when it was announced that the lawsuit was rejected and school systems were on a tight schedule for starting the year with the old PASS standards.

I could understand the pain of educators who had invested scarce resources and energy in preparing for Common Core, while meeting all of the new post-NCLB demands of the Duncan administration and our state Chief for Change. In a time of austerity, they had to implement high-stakes 3rd grade reading tests, and find resources for students who they had been required to retain. (Fortunately, a moratorium on mandated retention was also passed in the closing days of the legislature.) They had to deal with a dysfunctional A-F Report Card, as well as the second year of technical failures during testing. At a time of teacher shortages, Oklahoma schools had to implement the value-added teacher evaluation scheme that Duncan had pressured us to adopt.

I could appreciate the frustration of so much energy being wasted at a time when so many mandates remained on their plates. But, I sensed that the anxiety of that roomful of administrators – which I felt bordered on outright fear – was out of proportion. Now, I’m reminded of how wrong I was to judge.

Preliminary reports and my layperson’s reading of the Waiver revocation indicated that most of the rebudgeting would not have to be completed until 2015. But, the Tulsa World’s more detailed reporting indicates that an unknown number of schools and districts will be on the 2014 School Improvement List, and that most of these schools will have to set aside 10% of their federal Title I funds for professional development this year. I find it hard to believe that it will happen this year, but some schools on that list may have to conduct mass dismissal of teachers and/or become charters. So, it is not unlikely that the state’s two high-poverty urban districts will be thrown into confusion at this crucial time of the year.

The Oklahoma DOE correctly notes, overburdened administrators now face “a steep learning curve” as they figure out what is required of them this year under the reinstated NCLB regulations. Under the best case scenario, after administrators rush to learn the new rules, the USDOE will hear from the Oklahoma Regents and say, “never mind.” They will thus be reminded about the way that corporate reformers see educators’ labor as easily expendable.

Superintendents can’t assume a rational outcome. Plans must be made for rebudgeting in case the NCLB Waiver is not reinstated. Next year, up to 20% of Title I funds may have to be set aside for supplemental educational services and transportation for school choice, perhaps requiring the dismissal of teachers. As the OKDOE says, they must “plan for these additional funding restrictions and federal requirements to go into place next year.” So, educators must frantically adjust to Duncan’s new rules, hope that their efforts will soon be flushed down the toilet, and fear that they might actually have to act on the plans that they must now make.

The bottom line for educators across the nation, not just in Oklahoma, is “déjà vu all over again.” Once again, it is rule by soundbite. If students need remediating, it’s not due to poverty or the multiple, contradictory mandates placed on under-resourced schools; the soundbite is that teachers don’t fully embrace “High Expectations!”

The new Duncan cop is the same as the old NCLB cop – or worse. NCLB was designed to produce an endless list of failing schools, to produce an infinite string of headlines about failing schools. Some conservatives would celebrate the inevitable march towards 100% failure as proof that schools should be privatized. Pro-NCLB liberals somehow believed that showcasing the predetermined defeat of public schools would create a demand to end poverty and that schools could do so on the cheap.

By the time Duncan took office, even NCLB’s chief author acknowledged that it was the most discredited “brand” in politics. That title should now pass to Arne Duncan, and his test, sort, and punish policies. But, because he didn’t like the way that Oklahoma pushed back, he has punished us by creating a situation where:

Upward of 90 percent of Oklahoma schools are expected to be affected to some degree by the loss of the waiver. Under NCLB, schools must meet 100-percent proficiency on a number of benchmarks to avoid being designated as a school in need of improvement. The number of failing schools in need of improvement could now swell from its current 490 to more than 1,600, according to NCLB definitions of failing.

So much for the claim that corporate reformers put children’s interests over adult concerns. Equally absurd is the idea that Common Core is a state-driven effort, not a mandate from on high.

The Tampa Bay Times published an editorial saying that the U.S. Department was “out of line” for threatening to yank Florida’s NCLB waiver.

Duncan took away Washington State’s waiver because the legislature refused to tie teacher evaluations to student test score. So now, schools across the state must send home letters saying that their child attends a “failing” school because it had not achieved 100% proficiency on tests of reading and math.

Duncan took away Oklahoma’s waiver because the Legislature repealed the state’s participation in the Common Core, and the governor signed the law.

What did Florida do to offend the U.S. Department of Education?

“Duncan’s staff has put Florida on notice that the state is at risk of violating NCLB standards that require all children to be counted equally in accountability formulas. Earlier this year, with the support of educators and advocates, the Legislature agreed to give non-English-speaking students two years in a U.S. school before including their standardized test scores in school grading formulas. The change was an acknowledgement of the huge learning curve such children face and that schools should not be penalized if those students can’t read, comprehend and write English at grade level within a year.

“Yet to the federal bureaucrats enforcing the unpopular NCLB law, such common sense doesn’t matter. They have given Florida a year to make changes or risk losing its NCLB waiver, which has allowed the state to substitute its own accountability efforts for some of the most unworkable federal mandates. Those include the idealistic but unreasonable federal standard for 2014 that each child at a school must be working at grade level for the school not to be deemed “failing.”

Thus, if Florida wants to keep its waiver, the Florida legislature must change the law so that English learners are allowed only one year to master English ad be tested in English.

The editorial concludes:

“Ultimately, the continued flaws in NCLB are Congress’ fault, because it has failed repeatedly to adopt reforms. But the last thing federal enforcers should be doing is punishing a state for embracing a commonsense reform. Education Secretary Duncan needs to find a better solution.”

Alan Singer compares Arne Duncan’s recent denunciation of over-testing–that is, his own policy in Race to the Top–to George W. Bush’s infamous victory speech in Iraq under a banner saying “Mission Accomplished.”

He notes that Duncan offers a one-year delay in using test scores to evaluate teachers, while the other leading voice in American education proposed a two-year moratorium. Wouldn’t you think a simple phone call between Arne and Bill could have settled the matter? You know, it’s not like states or local districts have anything to say about how or when teachers should be evaluated. This decision belongs to Arne and Bill.

Peter Greene discovered an article in the Vanderbilt Law Review by University of South Carolina law professor Derek W. Black that argues that Arne Duncan’s waivers from NCLB are unconstitutional.

Greene writes, quoting the article by Black:

“Two of the most significant events in the history of public education occurred over the last year. First, after two centuries of local control and variation, states adopted a national curriculum. Second, states changed the way they would evaluate and retain teachers, significantly altering teachers’ most revered right, tenure. Not all states adopted these changes of their own free will. The changes were the result of the United States Secretary of Education exercising unprecedented agency power in the midst of an educational crisis: the impending failure of almost all of the nation’s schools under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The Secretary invoked the power to impose new conditions on states in exchange for waiving their obligations under NCLB….As a practical matter, he federalized
education in just a few short months.”

Greene then says:

“This allows the kibbitzing to start immediately in response. Black does not distinguish at all between Common Core Standards and a national curriculum, a distinction without a difference that reformsters have fought hard to maintain. Nor will reformsters care for the assertion that states did not all adopt reform measures of their own free will. But all of that background in the first paragraph of the article is simply setting the stage for Black’s main point.

“This unilateral action [writes Black] is remarkable not only for education, but from a constitutional balance-of-power perspective. … Yet, as efficacious as unilateral action through statutory waiver might be, it is unconstitutional absent carefully crafted legislative authority. Secretary Duncan lacked that authority. Thus, the federalization of education through conditional waivers was momentous, but unconstitutional.”

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