Archives for category: Duncan, Arne

Peter Greene responds to the NEA resolution. Calling for Arne Duncan to resign. he first deals with the debate on Twitter, about who would replace Arne Duncan. The assumption behind the discussion is that President Obama has no idea what Duncan has been doing and that when he finds out, Duncan will be ousted.

Then he takes on the NEA resolution.

Greene quite rightly points out that Duncan is doing exactly what the President wants. Were he to leave, which is unlikely, he would be replaced by someone as committed to high-stakes testing, privatization, closing schools, and undermining the teaching profession as Duncan. A likely replacement: Ted Mitchell, the newly appointed Undersecretary of Education, was most recently the CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, the epicenter of privatization and anti-public school activism. Then there is always Michelle Rhee, whom the President and Duncan have lauded.

I can personally vouch for the fact that Duncan is doing exactly what Obama wants. In the fall of 2009, I had a private meeting with Secretary Duncan, just the two of us, no staff. It was very pleasant. He was charming, pleasant, and took notes. I asked him, “Why are you traveling the country to sell Race to the Top accompanied by Reverend Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich? Why Gingrich?” His answer: “because the President asked me to.”

After Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced new rules for special education, requiring higher standards and more testing for students with disabilities, many teachers and parents debated this course of action on the blog. This teacher in Florida offered some real-life experience to inform the debate and, perhaps, the Secretary:

“Let me start by saying that I am an ESE teacher. I teach students with learning disabilities and language impairments. The students I have are in the unit they are in because they are at least two grade levels below their regular ed peers in reading.

“Currently, in Florida, we already have to give these students access to the same standards that their on-grade level peers enjoy. That has been the case for years. We already know that Florida tests pretty much everyone, no matter their disability. Again, this has been the case for years. I can’t believe that in this education environment that there are many other states that are significantly different. And yet, Arne is going to say that these students aren’t getting a quality education? That they aren’t held to high expectations?

To me, it is pretty obvious that these students are held to much higher expectations than their regular ed peers. It would be like telling two mountain climbers that they have to reach the same peak, but one of them will do it with both hands tied behind his back. Sure, he can have some accommodations. Someone can hold his rope steady. Someone else can yell out supportive verbal encouragement. He can even take longer breaks, and we’ll take away any time requirement (as long as he finishes in the same day that he started).

“The world of special ed was already insane. I’m not sure where this takes us. As I said, in my class, the students are all at least two years behind in reading. What I didn’t tell you is that I teach in an elementary school. What this means is that many of these 3-5th graders are non-readers. The few that can decode are either doing so at a kindergarten/first grade level or at a level approaching grade level but without any comprehension whatsoever of what they have just decoded. Despite this, they have the same designation on paper (or computer) that other LD kids have who are just slightly behind their regular ed peers.

“In Florida, as I imagine is the case in other states, we already track academic progress. You might think it would be as easy as seeing what they are capable of doing at the beginning of the year and then comparing that with what they are capable of at the end of the year. Not so. Remember, they are working on the same standards as their regular ed peers. And, so, they are tested with the same tests that their regular ed peers take. This means that a fourth grader who cannot read anything above “see sam run” is being tested on those “rigorous” non-fiction passages that are on a fourth grade level (not the fourth grade level of yesteryear but the new, improved 6th grade, I mean 4th grade level of today). And then we track their progress on a graph. If you’re thinking that these graphs look like random peaks and valleys, you are correct. When you cannot read and you are given a test, you are just going to guess. Which is what these students do. Sadly, they have become so inured to this that they guess on the few items that they actually are capable of doing.

“The federal government is already involved through NCLB, etc. These students count towards AYP. They count towards the school’s “grade.” The schools have every reason to give these students everything they’ve got, so why aren’t the slackers doing anything to give them a “quality education”? Well, they are. Florida is an RtI state. To get an ESE label, a student has to show that they are “resistant to interventions.” That is, they have to show that they require extensive interventions, that if they are weaned off of the interventions, they regress. Or, they have to show that despite intensive, research-based interventions, they are still showing no progress. In other words, before these students come to me, they have already received every intervention imaginable. In addition, even after they are found eligible for ESE services, they are usually started in a less restrictive environment. If none of this has worked, why should it work when they get to my class? Indeed, it had to be shown that it did not work in order for them to get into my class in the first place.

“Alas, I’m afraid I do not have a magic wand or a bag of pixie dust with which to work miracles. So, what is an ESE teacher to do? Most of us actually work with the studennts where they are at. And we move them forward from there. There is no huge spurt of growth (very rarely anyway), but they do make academic gains. None of these gains will show up on the regular ed grade level assessments, but they are there nonetheless. We’ve often wondered why these students aren’t given meaningful assessments that will show growth and that will actually tell us where these students are still struggling (thanks, FCAT, I already knew they couldn’t read on grade level). Now we know why. It’s to show that these students aren’t getting a “quality education.”

“I would tell you that these students, who are as bright as you or me, struggle immensely with academic subjects. That they are usually Language Impaired as well. That most of them are also ESOL students. That most of them come from low SES homes. That most of them come from single-parent households. That many of these parents come in to thank us because their child used to hate school and now they want to go. That their regular ed teachers in the past told us that they wouldn’t do anything in class, that they would shut down when anything was required of them, and now they are working in class. That through a lot of hard work and effort of both the teachers and students, the students get to a point where they stop saying, “I can’t do this, I’m stupid.” That non-writers become independent writers (legible despite the many spelling, grammar, and convention errors). That non-readers become readers (yes, still way behind their regular ed peers) and learn to enjoy reading. I would tell you these things, but it doesn’t matter because none of it shows up on the tests. The tests show that these students are not making any gains. And, as we all know, there are no excuses.”

Let’s face it. If Arne resigned, as the delegates to the NEA convention recommended in Denver, teachers would be thrilled to see one of the worst Secretaries of Education go away, but would we get someone worse? Would it be Ted Mitchell, who makes no bones about his love of privatization and for-profits? Would it be the teachers’ nemesis Michelle Rhee? Most reformers make too much money to step down to a cabinet job, so maybe it would be one of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, like Deborah Gist of Rhode Island or Hanna Skandera of New Mexico or John White of Louisiana? What does it say about Obama that his likely choice would have to be acceptable to DFER, Stand on Children, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the other reformers?

One thing we would not miss: Arne Duncan’s affinity for the term “game changer.” Here is parent Matt Farmer of Chicago, remarking on how frequently Arne sees some phenomena as a game changer.

Farmer wrote in 2013:

“Let’s go back to 2010.

That February, Duncan called a proposal for increased funding of student loans “a real game-changer.”

By mid-July, he deemed “shared standards for college-readiness…an absolute game changer.”

His thinking had obviously evolved by the end of July, when he concluded that “the big game-changer is to start measuring individual student growth rather than proficiency.”

August, however, brought another epiphany. Duncan realized that the “big game-changer…revolves around the issue of teacher quality.”

In September, he concluded that the “new [Race to the Top] tests will be an absolute game-changer in public education.”

And Duncan, like a lanky philanthropist filling the tin cups of educational panhandlers, continued doling out change in 2010.

In November, he hit Paris to address the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Arne changed the game so often during that speech his UNESCO audience needed copies of “According To Hoyle” just to keep up with him.

After noting that in “the knowledge economy, education is the new game-changer,” Duncan assured the crowd that the sweeping adoption of “common college-ready standards that are internationally benchmarked . . . is an absolute game-changer.”

The secretary of education then called a “new generation of assessments aligned with the states’ Common Core standards” a “second game-changer,” even though it was actually the third “game-changer” Duncan had offered the assembled UNESCO masses during that difficult-to-diagram, five-minute rhetorical stretch.”

If Arne left, would it be a game changer or would President Obama go back to DFER to get their pock?

Delegates to the national convention of the National Education Association passed a resolution calling for the resignation of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Similar resolutions did not pass in 2011 ad 2012.

The resolution was proposed by the California Teachers Association. Teachers are angry at Duncan because of his support for the controversial Vergara decision, which ruled against teachers’ right to due process and his devotion to high-stakes testing.

I just received a copy of Dennis Van Roekel’s speech to the NEA RA in Denver. 

 

It is his last, as he is retiring as President.

 

He waxed nostalgic but he hit out appropriately at the toxic culture of the corporate reformers. He lambasted NCLB. He is a mild-mannered and kindly gentleman, so it is hard to imagine him getting really angry.

 

He said:

 

In all of our history, we have always advocated for ways to improve education, but now we had to fight for the very existence of public education. As public education policy shifted from leveling the playing field into turning education into a competition with winners and losers, we needed to become the champions of equity, to define solutions that drive excellence and success for all students. The report “A Nation at Risk,” was the beginning of an attempt to totally redefine America’s system of public education. First, they labeled public education as a failure, a liability. And then in 2002, they lowered the boom with No Child Left Behind. Now, this was passed with overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans, but No Child Left Behind became an insidious tool used to undermine and attack public education. It’s been driven by mandatory high-stakes testing in grades three through eight. It became the mechanism for labeling and blaming public education, and by establishing a flawed measure of success–Adequate Yearly Progress, politicians created the means, the opportunity for corporate reformers to remake public education into a whole new source of profits that would be gathered at the expense of students.

And so now, 12 years after No Child Left Behind, where are we? These politicians and their policies have created a difficult environment for students and educators, delegates. You know clearly the issues that have become part of our daily lives and discussions: intense dissatisfaction with the conditions of learning and teaching, the need for more time in almost everything we do, time to teach, time to learn, time to plan, and time to collaborate with colleagues as we deal with all of these new demands placed upon us. The issue of privatization of more and more jobs of our education support professionals. The intrusion of for-profit players, both in higher education and K-12. Especially troubling is the increasing influence and control of huge corporations like Pearson and others. And the incredible onslaught of corporate reformers like Democrats for Education Reform, Michelle Rhee, and the like. Attacks on educators’ rights and even attempts to silence our voice. And if that were not enough, our lives revolve around testing–the overwhelming amount and the offensive misuse of scores from high-stakes standardized tests. For the delegates in this hall, for our members back home, the feelings generated by these and other issues are strong and they are real. I’ve seen them. I’ve heard them from you. And I share them with you. Feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment, and unrealized expectation of the Department of Education. Whether student, active, retired, whether higher ed, ESP or teacher, it doesn’t matter. We are all impacted and demoralized by these attacks. And your feelings are totally justified. I mean, really, 12 years is plenty long enough to evaluate their strategy of mandatory testing and test-based accountability. Plain and simple, their strategy has failed America’s students, especially students who are poor and students of color. And I say to you that it is simply not acceptable to continue down this path. The direction must change? Am I right? Am I right?

As an organization, public education, we’re at a critical point. We’re at another milestone in our history. You know, I guess getting older does have some advantages. It has allowed me to see and to experience many different things. And I can tell you that living through “A Nation at Risk,” No Child Left Behind, and the increased intensity of corporate reform, I have seen so many examples of injustice in our systems, and the negative impact on students. When I think of the 10 years preceding No Child Left Behind, I wish I could go back and do things differently. If I had only understood then what I understand now. You see, all of us in the education family–all of us–we knew the system was not fulfilling the promise, not fulfilling the promise for all of its students, not doing what they needed, and we allowed the politicians of the day, Congress, to define the solution, and their solution was No Child Left Behind. Now, I want to state something very clearly. We, the NEA, cannot allow politicians to define the terms of change and accountability for yet another generation of students. We cannot let that happen again!

 

That is strong stuff coming from a kindly man like Dennis. But notice what he did not say. He did not mention Race to the Top, which mandated the idiotic program of evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students. He did not mention “value-added assessment,” which has forced teachers to teach to the test. He did not mention Arne Duncan, the worst Secretary of Education in our history, who supports toxic testing in every form. He did not mention the Vergara trial, which challenges the due process rights of teachers.

 

I do not mean to be unkind to Dennis, who is leaving the presidency of the nation’s largest teachers’ union and who was generous enough to name me as NEA’s Friend of Education in 2010, a memory I will always treasure.

 

But I wish, I wish, I wish that he and Randi and every teacher leader would shout from the rooftops that what is happening now under the misguided “leadership” of the Obama administration will not stand! I wish they would recognize that Arne Duncan is a tool of DFER, and that the Obama administration has outsourced American education to the Gates Foundation. I wish they would issue a call for teachers to stand together to say NO to policies that hurt children, such as the Common Core tests that last for 8-10 hours. I want them to be angry and determined and proud and determined. I wish. I wish.

A few years ago, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, David Coleman, and a merry band of policy wonks had a grand plan. The non-governmental groups like Achieve, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Coleman’s own Student Achievement Partners would write the Common Core standards (paid for by the Gates Foundation); Duncan would require states to agree to adopt them as a condition of eligibility for a share of the billions of Race to the Top funds at a time when states were broke; the Feds would spend $370 million to develop tests for the standards; and within a few short years the U.S. would have a seamless system of standards and assessments that could be used to evaluate students, teachers, and schools.

The reason that the Gates Foundation had to pay for the standards is that federal law prohibits the government from controlling, directing, or supervising curriculum or instruction. Of course, it is ludicrous to imagine that the federally-funded tests do not have any direct influence on curriculum or instruction. Many years ago, I interviewed a professor at MIT about his role in the new science programs of the 1960s, and he said something I never forgot: “Let me write a nation’s tests, and I care not who writes its songs or poetry.”

So how fares the seamless system? Not so well. Critics of the standards and tests seem to gathering strength and growing bolder. The lack of any democratic process for writing, reviewing, and revising the standards is coming back to bite the architects and generals who assumed they could engineer a swift and silent coup. The claim, often made by Duncan, that the U.S. needs a way to compare the performance of students in different states ignores the fact that the Federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) already exists to do precisely that. In addition, critics like Carol Burris and John Murphy have pointed out that the Common Core tests agreed upon a cut score (passing mark) that is designed to fail most students.

As politico.com reports, support for the federally-funded tests is crumbling as states discover the costs, the amount of time required, and their loss of sovereignty over a basic state function. The federal government pays about 10% of the cost of education, while states and localities pay the other 90%. Why should the federal government determine what happens in the nation’s schools? What happened to the long-established tradition that states are “laboratories of democracy”? Why shouldn’t the federal government stick to its mandate to fund poor schools and to defend the civil rights of students, instead of trying to standardize curriculum, instruction, and testing?

So far, at least 17 states have backed away from using the federal tests this spring, and some are determined not to use them ever. Another half-dozen may drop out. In many, legislators are appalled at the costs of adopting a federal test. Both the NEA and the AFT, which have supported the standards, have balked at the tests because teachers are not ready, nor is curriculum, teaching resources, and professional development.

Time and costs are big issues for the federal exams:

“PARCC estimates its exams will take eight hours for an average third-grader and nearly 10 hours for high school students — not counting optional midyear assessments to make sure students and teachers are on track.

“PARCC also plans to develop tests for kindergarten, first- and second- graders, instead of starting with third grade as is typical now. And it aims to test older students in 9th, 10th and 11th grades instead of just once during high school.

“Cost is also an issue. Many states need to spend heavily on computers and broadband so schools can deliver the exams online as planned. And the tests themselves cost more than many states currently spend — an estimated $19 to $24 per student if they’re administered online and up to $33 per student for paper-and-pencil versions.

“That adds up to big money for testing companies. Pearson, which won the right to deliver PARCC tests, could earn more than $1 billion over the next eight years if enough states sign on.”

One of the two federally-funded testing consortia, PARCC, is now entangled in a legal battle in New Mexico, which was sued by AIR for failing to take competitive bids for the lucrative testing contract. This could lead to copycat suits in other states whose laws require competitive bidding but ignored the law to award the contract to Pearson.

Frankly, the idea of subjecting third graders to an eight-hour exam is repugnant, as is the prospect of a 10-hour exam for high school students, as is the absurd idea of testing children in kindergarten, first, and second grades. All of these tests will be accompanied by test prep and interim exams and periodic exams. This is testing run amok, and the biggest beneficiary will be the testing industry, certainly not students.

Students don’t become smarter or wiser or more creative because of testing. Instead, all this testing will deduct as much as a month of instruction for testing and preparation for testing. In addition, states will spend tens of millions, hundreds of millions, or even more, to buy the technology and bandwidth necessary for the Common Core testing (Los Angeles–just one district–plans to spend a cool $1 billion to buy the technology for the Common Core tests). The money spent for Common Core testing means there will be less money to reduce class sizes, to hire arts teachers, to repair crumbling buildings, to hire school nurses, to keep libraries open and staffed, and to meet other basic needs). States are cutting the budget for schools at the same time that the Common Core is diverting huge sums for new technology, new textbooks, new professional development, and other requirements to prepare for the Common Core.

Common Core testing will turn out to be the money pit that consumed American education. The sooner it dies, the sooner schools and teachers will be freed of the Giant Federal Accountability Plan hatched in secret and foisted upon our nation’s schools. And when it does die, teachers will have more time to do their job and to use their professional judgment to do what is best for each student..

Anthony Cody points out the contradiction between claims that the Common Core will prepare students for college and careers and the reality that the Common Core tests are designed to fail most students.

He also notes what happened to the GED graduation rate after Pearson took control of the program. The pass rate on the GED plummeted.

What is going on? Cody has two hypotheses:

“Hypothesis #1:

“Corporations are unable to find an adequate supply of highly skilled and educated people, and if we make it harder to graduate high school or earn a GED we will get a larger number of people on track for these skilled jobs.

“This is the basic reason stated by the Gates Foundation and other advocates of “higher standards.” This has been the rationale for the Common Core, along with the idea that we are somehow losing in an international race for higher test scores.

“If this were the case, we should see employers experiencing some sort of shortage of skilled workers. Economists can find no evidence of such a shortage. This report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the top seven occupations with the largest projected numerical growth require at most a two-year Associates degree, and most require only short-term on-the-job training.

“Hypothesis #2:

“Employers actually need FEWER employees with college degrees, and perhaps even fewer workers overall, due to increases in efficiency that are coming through technology. This creates a challenge to the stability of the system – how can we justify leaving many people who are willing to work idle? Perhaps we need a system to label these people “unready for college and career.”

“I do find some evidence to support this hypothesis. We are already in what has been termed a “jobless recovery,” which means that while corporate profits are sky-high, these profits are being made with fewer and fewer workers. A report in the MIT Technology Review suggests that in the next 20 years, 45% of American jobs could be eliminated as a result of computerization.

“There is an idea, most recently expounded by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, that any student, including those with significant learning disabilities, can pass ever more difficult tests. If our entire education system is re-tooled to prepare for Common Core tests, teachers are evaluated based on test scores, and energetic innovators produce new devices and “learning systems,” ALL students will somehow rise to meet the challenge. Where have we heard this premise before? Oh yes. The mythical 100% proficiency rates of No Child Left Behind. We have abandoned one myth simply to embrace another. I think it is time to call an end to this charade.

“Tests do not and cannot accurately measure who is “ready for college and career.” They can only serve to stigmatize, rank, sort, and justify the abandonment of an ever larger number of our students. The Gates Foundation’s Common Core project, in spite of Vicki Phillips’ reassurances, is NOT acting in the interests of our students when it labels large numbers of them as rejects. It is putting millions of them in grave danger. Fortunately, the Common Core tests are encountering serious trouble. The Pearson GED test ought to be rejected as well, and the sooner the better.

“Our public education system has as its noble mission the elevation of all students to their highest potential. This is not defined by their future usefulness to employers. And if corporations find ways to make their billions while employing fewer and fewer of our graduates, that will not be a failure of our educational system, nor of our students themselves. Our economic system ought to be critically examined and re-thought, if, in fact, “all lives have equal value.” As advances in efficiency allow greater productivity, those gains should be shared widely, not hoarded by the .01%. Any testing system that results in massive failure is an assault on our students and should be fought by anyone who cares for their future.”

Arne Duncan is one of the most fervent advocates of the Common Core standards and testing. As Valerie Strauss explained in this article, Duncan said:

“I am convinced that this new generation of state assessments will be an absolute game-changer in public education. For the first time, millions of schoolchildren, parents, and teachers will know if students are on-track for colleges and careers — and if they are ready to enter college without the need for remedial instruction.”

Nope, the new tests will not be a “game-changer.” States keep pulling out, and more are thinking about following suit.

Strauss writes:

“With Tennessee’s recent departure from PARCC, that consortia is now down to 15 members, 14 states plus D.C. public schools, and Smarter Balance has 22 members.

“An Education Week analysis found that in the next school year, 19 different accountability tests will be given in various states in which, collectively, more than half of America’s students go to school.”

Reminder: there is still NAEP, which has been comparing states’ academic performance since 1992.

Peter Greene proves himself a man of infinite patience. In this post, he analyzes and deconstructs a speech that Arne Duncan gave to the annual meeting of the PTA.

He writes:

“Arne opens up his speech as pretty much anybody would (Glad to be here! Your organization is great! Let’s here it for your leaders!) and then moves on to tales of his children’s schooling. Their experience was not the typical 25-30 desks in a row. His son got to work ahead in math because, technology. His daughter got to attend a constitutional convention and Civil War day.

[Duncan says]: “But it’s those kinds of opportunities that I think are so special. And why are those experiences so important? Because I think all of us – all of us as parents – want our children to be inspired, to be challenged, to be active participants in their own learning.

“This is not the last time that Arne will say something that is true, but also completely disconnected from the kind of schooling promoted by his department’s policies. I’m pretty sure we can make it a drinking game; every time Arne says something that would make a great basis for educational policy, but US DOE actually does the opposite–drink! Do I need to point out that Arne’s kids attend a school that remains untouched by the policies that are being inflicted on the rest of us?”

See if you can actually wade through this speech.

Comments have been intense about Arne Duncan’s plan to hold states accountable for higher test scores for students with disabilities.

Peter Greene said his proposal was really bad. Really bad.

That set off a vigorous debate.

Here is the last word, from Peter Greene, on what Arne should have said (but didn’t).

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