Archives for category: Duncan, Arne

Mike Klonsky knows who is sucking the oxygen out of classrooms and killing the joy of learning: Arne Duncan.

Don’t take Mike’s word for it. Arne confessed. He said he would give schools a one-year reprieve from his testing mandates. One year to breathe deep and suck in some real oxygen. Then he returns to take your oxygen away again. Makes sense, no? No.

Paul Horton is a history instructor in the University High School at the University of Chicago Lab Schools. This post explains the Obama administration’s love for charters and its disdain for public schools.

Martin Nesbitt is the President’s best friend, and close associate of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who provided much of the start-up capital for Parking Spot, a very successful off airport parking company that Mr. Nesbitt directed for several years before Ms. Pritzker sold the company. Nesbitt and Pritzker also are invested in the Noble Charter Schools chain in Chicago. In the last year, Mr. Nesbitt has created an investment firm called the Vistria Group that seeks, in part, to bundle capital for Charter School investment.

Mr. Nesbitt grew up in Columbus, Ohio and credits the discipline he acquired at the private Columbus Academy for helping him deal with the violence, drug use, and the social dislocation that surrounded him growing up in a tough neighborhood. He sees the Noble Charter Schools as a vehicle to instill discipline in inner city youth. Like the President, he grew up, for the most part without a present father. They both see themselves as self made men and view charter schools as a potential path to success for inner city youth. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-01-21/business/ct-biz-0121-executive-profile-nesbitt-20130121_1_martin-nesbitt-michelle-obama-penny-pritzker)

Mr. Nesbitt and the President are basketball addicts. They play as much as they can and talk basketball incessantly. They, of course share this addiction with Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education and Craig Robinson, former Oregon State coach and Michelle Obama’s brother. Mr. Nesbitt sponsors and participates in three on three basketball tournaments all over the country.

During his first campaign, the President narrowed his friendship group, forcing long time friends Bill Ayers and Rashid Khalidi out of their social circles in response to attacks from the right concerning Mr. Ayers’s political past and from AIPAC on Professor Khalidi’s advocacy for Palestine and criticism of American Middle East Policy.

In Chicago, Mr. Nesbitt was the President of the Chicago Housing Authority in the late 90s where he worked with Rahm Emanuel and other power brokers to create public-private partnerships that created housing on Chicago’s south and west sides to replace the drug and crime ridden behemoth projects, the Robert Taylor Homes (see Gang Leader for a Day) and Cabrini Green.

The Commercial Club of Chicago worked with CHA to re envision the development of mid south and near west sides. A subcommittee created the “Renaissance 2010″ plan that sought to create mixed income housing in these area that was open to former project residents who worked thirty hours a week. “The Renaissance 2010″ plan resulted in heavy real estate investment in these areas and the creation of charter schools were seen as essential to attracting young urban professionals into these areas.

So the connection between real estate developers who speculate on land and building investment and the push for charter schools is very strong. Chicago real estate moguls lead by Bruce Rauner, the Republican nominee for Illinois governor, and the Crown family drive much of the Chicago push to close public schools to expand the charter sector. Indeed, the Commercial Club of Chicago, known as “the billionaires club” on the streets of Chicago, drives the Education policy of the mayor and funds, through connections with the Joyce Foundation (the Director of the Joyce Foundation sits on board of the Commercial Club) funds education “research” (non peer-reviewed) that is printed on the editorial pages of the Chicago Tribune to legitimate public school closings.

This pattern of connection between real estate developers, the creation of and public-private partnerships to build low density mixed income housing in impoverished neighborhoods, and the drive to close public schools and open charter schools has been chronicled in powerful detail by Education theorist and sociologist Pauline Lipman. I have addressed these issues in more detail in an Education Week piece, “Why Obama’s Education Policies will not Change and why ‘Change is Hard.'”

Mr. Nesbitt and Mayor Emanuel are the leading political actors who have orchestrated and executed public policy for the interests of the Commercial Club. Their chief supporters need the value of the land that they bought in gentrifying neighborhoods to increase. They see charter schools as a key magnet to attract middle class professionals back into neighborhoods within a three to four mile radius of downtown on the south and west sides.

The process appears to be working for developers on the near west side with the construction of a massive shopping mall, the sales of condos that were intended to be mixed income to middle and upper middle class white and black professionals, and the plans to build a new selective enrollment “Barack Obama High” smack dab in the middle of the former Cabrini Green.

The gentrification scheme of developers, however, is clearly not working in Bronzeville, on the near south side. According to a recent Harvard study that received some attention on NPR, real estate values in the mId south and Bronzeville areas on the south side is slowed by perceptions of violence. According to this study, white urban professionals are more likely to move into Latino areas like Humbolt Park and Pilsen.

To date, Mr. Nesbitt’s friends are scared to death about their investments in Chicago’s mid south and Bronzeville areas, explaining why this area has been targeted for several rounds of public school closings and charter school openings.

The take away from this piece is that many of the people who provided the funds to transform Mr. Obama into a viable national candidate after he passed the litmus test of Iowa are associated with the Commercial Club of Chicago were heavily invested in real estate speculation and building charter schools as a way to increase the value of property purchased by investors. All of this is couched in the language of making Chicago a global city and creating school choice for parents.

At the national level, Democrats for Education Reform stepped into the discussion over schools in exchange for raising money for Democratic campaigns that was needed to counteract the impact of the Citizens United decision.

The reason why those closest to the President are strong supporters of RTTT and charters is because they are connected to south and west side real estate investment in Chicago and bad press for public schools in the form of low test scores will create the pretext and legitimation for more investment and funding of charter schools that will lead to rising condo sales, condo values, and land values. Once values rise and more middle class professionals move into these areas, commercial shopping and retail investment will do its work to increase the value of real estate.

That the President’s best buddy, should attempt to capitalize on on charter school investment after playing a role in the shaping of the President’s education policy, is either the hallmark of a “free enterprise system” or more grease to the wheels of yet another episode of crony capitalism excreted by the proximity to power of buddies helping each other out.

I taught Mr. Nesbitt’s two oldest children and I have communicated my disappointments about the Obama administrations education policies to him.

I told Mr. Nesbitt several times that the Democratic party would pay a price for creating education policies that did not serve the interests of the majority of parents, students, teachers, and administrators.

He told me that “teachers do not deserve the amount of money that they make,” “that their salaries should be reduced,” and that they deserve no respect for sacrificing other career paths to answer the calling of teaching.

He seemed more concerned about reducing teacher’s salaries to create a profit margin for investors than about the impact the disruptive policies of school closings would have on human communities.

I recently sent him a note that explained to him that the majority of 3.7 million teachers in this country are very upset with policies that denigrate teachers, students, parents and communities for political gain.

For an administration that pretends to care about the disappearance of the middle class and rising income inequality, its lack of support for teachers and public schools is astounding. We have heard nothing from this administration when democratic state representatives all over the country threaten to steal pensions that were not adequately funded due to political incompetence and a willingness to pay political cronies rather than pension funds.

We now see an attack on due process for teachers gaining political support from both parties and the billionaires who will benefit from the destruction of public unions. The attack on due process rights for teacher unions will set precedents for attacks on due process rights for other unions.

Scarcely 12% of Americans belong to unions and real wages in the United States have declined as union membership has declined.

The curtain has been pulled back, and most Americans can see now who are pulling the levers. The Democratic Party no longer supports the working people of this country. it serves the commercial clubs in every major American city, Wall Street bundlers, and plutocrats all over the world.

Mr. Nesbitt, the 3.7 million teachers in this country will not be fooled by staged meetings between a few teachers in the White House, listening to a few BadAss Teachers at the DoEd, or calling for a congress of teachers. WE know that this is political posturing in advance of November elections.

Your administration has disrespected us, our communities, and our families. How stupid do you think we are? Your policies are an attack on our self-respect.

Unless you instruct Senators Harkins and Durbin to defund NLRB and RTTT, fire Arne Duncan, and begin pursuing a new path, very few of us will support you in November.

We know that your billionaire friends will profit from their investments only if you pursue policies that create more charter schools. We know that you and your friends are betting on Pearson and Microsoft stock.

Your blatant disrespect for students, teachers, parents, and school communities will cost you the upcoming election.

You are blinded by greed and ignorance.

In the New York Times, Motoko Rich reported Arne Duncan’s scathing criticism of Arne Duncan’s policy of test-based evaluation for teachers. The story shows that Duncan dreamed up this policy, that he promoted it in Race to the Top, and in the waivers he offered states to avoid the onerous conditions of No Child Left Behind. Rich points out that Duncan borrowed the rhetoric of his most scathing critics in offering states a delay. The story includes an excellent quote from Anthony Cody, recommending that the federal government butt out and leave decisions about teacher evaluation to states and districts.

Kevin Huffman said that Tennessee will continue with Duncan’s policy, even though Duncan has denounced it. “In Vermont, by contrast, the state board of education recently adopted a resolution saying formulas based on test scores would not be included in teacher evaluations.”

It is a good story about the politics of the issue.

The only point missing from the story is that the policy has failed to make a difference wherever it has been tried, that teachers in states like Florida are rated on the performance of students they never taught, and that the American Statistical Association warned that teachers affect only 1-14% of test score variance. In short, the policy doesn’t work. It demoralizes teachers to be judged by a false metric. It has failed. But its advocates can’t bring themselves to admit failure.

I apologize to you, dear readers, in advance, but I must ask you to read the latest balderdash written by someone who works for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. From my days working in the U.S. Department of Education in 1991-93, I know full well that Cabinet Secretaries have several writers and don’t actually write anything themselves. Okay, so this latest statement from Duncan says that there is too much emphasis on testing. Testing is taking the joy out of teaching. It is sucking the oxygen out of the nation’s classrooms. Nowhere does he acknowledge that his very own Race to the Top demanded more high-stakes testing, demanded that teachers’ evaluations depend on the test scores of their students. Nowhere does he acknowledge his cheerleading for VAM–value-added measurement–or his hearty congratulations to the Los Angeles Times when it published the ratings of teachers based on the test scores of their students. Over the past five years, we have learned that what Arne says bears little relation to what he does. In the same breath, as this statement shows, he is both for and against testing. He seems not to see the connection between toxic testing and the policies he has put in place.

Fortunately, two of our best thinkers have written excellent responses to the new Duncan line on testing.

Anthony Cody says that Duncan is responding to the call of Gates for a moratorium (the point is illustrated by an old advertisement for a phonograph that said “his master’s voice”). He also believes the new tack is Duncan’s response to polls that show a decline in support for the Common Core. Cody points out that the most onerous demands for high-stakes testing were initiated by Arne Duncan. What is Duncan really offering, asks Cody: a one-year moratorium on the punishments attached to testing.

Cody writes:

“But a one year deferral does not do much to fundamentally alter the systemic change that is under way. The new Common Core tests are still being rolled out and will be given this coming spring. This only amounts to a one year delay to the time when those scores will be used for evaluative purposes.

“Duncan makes it clear that the purpose of this delay is to allow for a successful transition to the new standards, testing and evaluation systems. There is actually no real change in any of the substance of any of these programs, and he reiterates the Department’s commitment to the new tests.

“If Duncan is serious in his concern about tests are “sucking the oxygen” out of schools, he should begin to listen to teachers when they tell him to stop using these tests for their evaluations and to close schools. Until then, test scores will continue to rob children of the vital learning environments they need, and teachers will continue to object.”

Peter Greene also has a withering analysis of Duncan’s new line on testing.

Greene writes:

“Duncan is shocked– shocked!!– that anyone would think it’s a good idea to make a high stakes test the measure of student achievement or teacher effectiveness. “Growth is what matters. No teacher or school should be judged on any one test, or tests alone –” And here comes the vertiginous woozies (dibs on this as a band name) again, because that would be a heartening quote if it did not come from the very same office which decreed that by order of the federal government high stakes tests must be used as a measure of student achievement and teacher effectiveness. Duncan is talking about this test-based evaluation of students and teachers as if it just spontaneously occurred, like some sort of weird virus suddenly passed around at state ed department sleepover camp, and not a rule that Duncan’s office demanded everyone follow. Has Duncan forgotten that he just made the entire state of Washington declare itself a Failing School Disaster Zone precisely because they refused to use high stakes tests as a measure of student achievement and teacher effectiveness?”

And Greene adds:

“As far as Duncan’s other concerns go– a year will not matter. Much of what he decries is the direct result of making the stakes of these tests extremely high. Student success, teacher careers, school existence all ride on The Test. As long as they do, it is absurd to imagine that The Test will not dominate the school landscape. And that domination is only made worse by the many VAMtastic faux formulas in circulation.

[Says Duncan: Too much testing can rob school buildings of joy, and cause unnecessary stress. This issue is a priority for us, and we’ll continue to work throughout the fall on efforts to cut back on over-testing.]

Oh, the woozies. Duncan’s office needs to do one thing, and one thing only– remove the huge stakes from The Test. Don’t use it to judge students, don’t use it to judge teachers, don’t use it to judge schools and districts. It’s that attachment of huge stakes– not any innate qualities of The Test itself– that has created the test-drive joy-sucking school-deadening culture that Duncan both creates and criticizes. If the department doesn’t address tat, it will not matter whether we wait one year or ten– the results will be the same.

Washington State declined to ask Arne Duncan for a waiver from NCLB because the legislature thought that the price was too high. In exchange for gaining freedom from NCLB’s demand that 100% of students would be proficient by 2014, the state would have to agree to endorse Arne Duncan’s inane idea that teachers should be evaluated by the test scores of their students. Apparently some wise policy makers saw the research and the universal failure of Duncan’s idea and said “no thanks.”

Now virtually every school in the state of Washington is a “failing school.”

The superintendents are required to send a letter to parents informing them that their child attends a failing school. But 28 superintendents sent a cover letter explaining that the law required them to say something untrue.

““Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled ‘failing’ by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials — as well as the U.S. Department of Education — acknowledge isn’t working,” the cover letter states. The letter is signed by John Welch, superintendent of the Puget Sound Educational Service District, which represents the 28 districts.

“The signees include many of the larger school districts in King and Pierce counties, such as Bellevue, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kent, Lake Washington, Northshore, Renton and Tacoma.
They announced the protest letter at an event Wednesday.

“Seattle Public Schools did not sign it, but supports the letter’s sentiments, a spokeswoman said.”

NCLB is a pathetic hoax that was intended to label almost every school in the nation a failing school. Kudos to the superintendents of Washington State for standing up to abusive federal power—not only NCLB but the coercive waiver too.

28 superintendents in Washington state join the honor roll for courage in support of public education.

New York proposed to exempt up to 2% of students with severe disabilities from federally required state tests.

The U.S. Department of Education said no. Last year, 95% of students with disabilities failed the new Common Core tests in New York.

Leaders of national organizations supposedly representing students with disabilities hailed the DOE’s de is ion to hold these students to the same standards, which the overwhelming majority will fail.

Peter Goodman wrote about the Common Core exams:

“Parents and teachers across the state protested – the exams were poorly prepared, school staffs not trained and parents of SWD were especially critical – the tests were far beyond the cognitive ability of their children and were emotionally harmful. After months of discussions the state, in its application for an extension of the NCLB Flexibility Waiver asked for a change.

New York State had proposed allowing up to 2 percent of New York students with severe disabilities to be tested at their instructional ability — not their chronological grade year — up to two full grade levels below current grade level. The change would, for example, allow a 5th grader with autism to be tested on exams written for third graders.

New York State has abandoned the Regents Competency test, and, in spite of the SWD safety net (the passing Regents score for SWD is a grade of 55) the barrier to graduation for SWD was substantial even before the implementation of the Common Core exams.

Students, due to their cognitive disabilities, who had no chance of passing the exam, were forced to sit in rooms for hours taking exams, to their teachers and parents it was a cruel punishment.”

Goodman writes:

“The feds, and some of the advocates, seem to be saying SWD have a cognitive illness that is curable within classrooms, which with the accommodations and teacher preparation SWD can achieve proficient scores on Common Core exams. I would agree that is a goal; however, for many students no matter the accommodation, no matter the skills of the teacher, their cognitive impairment will never allow the student to score proficient on the Common Core exams as presently constituted.

The current requirement violates the Eighth Amendment; it is a “cruel and unusual punishment.” To force students to sit for hours staring at pages and pages of problems well beyond their cognitive skills are damaging to the student.

It saddens me that so-called advocates are willing to sacrifice students for their own ideology.

We should develop tools, for examples, portfolios of student work aligned to IEP goals, instead of timed exams, as evidence of student progress.

The gap between the United States Department of Education and parents and teachers is incredible. The best decisions impacting children are made in classrooms by teachers and school leaders. The further from the classroom the more wrong-headed the decision.”

I read Jeff Bryant’s interview with the President-elect of NEA, Lily Eskelsen, and I think I love her.

She is smart, strong, and she doesn’t mince words.

She was a classroom teacher for many years, and she speaks from experience teaching many kinds of kids, including kids in special education and kids in a homeless shelter.

She knows that VAM is ridiculous.

She knows that tests can be valuable when used for diagnostic purposes, but harmful when used to pin a ranking on students, teachers, principals, and schools.

She gets it.

Here is a small part of the interview. Jeff asked why NEA delegates voted for a resolution calling on Duncan to resign.

“Bryant: So what’s the frustration for teachers?

“Eskelsen: Here’s the frustration – and I’m not blaming the delegates; I will own this; I share in their anger. The Department of Education has become an evidence-free zone when it comes to high stakes decisions being made on the basis of cut scores on standardized tests. We can go back and forth about interpretations of the department’s policies, like, for instance, the situation in Florida where teachers are being evaluated on the basis of test scores of students they don’t even teach. He, in fact, admitted that was totally stupid. But he needs to understand that Florida did that because they were encouraged in their applications for grant money and regulation waivers to do so. When his department requires that state departments of education have to make sure all their teachers are being judged by students’ standardized test scores, then the state departments just start making stuff up. And it’s stupid. It’s absurd. It’s non-defensible. And his department didn’t reject applications based on their absurd requirements for testing. It made the requirement that all teachers be evaluated on the basis of tests a threshold that every application had to cross over. That’s indefensible.

“Bryant: So any good the Obama administration has tried to accomplish for education has been offset by the bad?

“Eskelsen: Yes. Sure, we get pre-K dollars and Head Start, but it’s being used to teach little kids to bubble in tests so their teachers can be evaluated. And we get policies to promote affordable college, but no one graduating from high school gets an education that has supported critical and creative thinking that is essential to succeeding in college because their education has consisted of test-prep from Rupert Murdoch. The testing is corrupting what it means to teach. I don’t celebrate when test scores go up. I think of El Paso. Those test scores went up overnight. But they cheated kids out of their futures. Sure, you can “light a fire” and “find a way” for scores to go up, but it’s a way through the kids that narrows their curriculum and strips their education of things like art and recess.

“Bryant: Doesn’t Duncan understand that?

“Eskelsen: No. That reality hasn’t entered the culture of the Department of Education. They still don’t get that when you do a whole lot of things on the periphery, but you’re still judging success by a cut score on a standardized test and judging “effective” teachers on a standardized test, then you will corrupt anything good that you try to accomplish.”

Fred Klonsky writes that in 2007, the Chicago Tribune praised CEO Arne Duncan because he would not be content with principals drawn from the ranks. not Arne! He was looking for superstar principals. Duncan was CEO because he lacked the experience as a teacher or a principal to be a superintendent.

The Tribune singled out one of Duncan’s “superstars”: Terrence P. Carter.

““Used to be, as long as the lights were on and the heat was working and teachers reported to school, your job as principal was basically done,” said Terrence Carter, principal of Clara Barton Elementary School in Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. “Now, in the age of more accountability, there’s a paradigm shift for what skills principals need to have.”

“For Carter, who also attended that day, the training reviewed skills he already knew. Carter represents a new breed of principal, many of whom recently entered the profession from the business world through a selective principal training program called New Leaders for New Schools. In that program, prospective principals focus on becoming academic leaders and conducting rigorous evaluations of teachers, students and curricula.

“That’s the challenge and the opportunity for Chicago: to draw dozens more leaders like Terrence Carter into the most challenging public schools and to help them thrive.”

Klonsky writes:

“Carter is now the center of controversy in New London, Connecticut where his application for school superintendent is on hold while the board investigates his claims of a doctorate from among other universities, Stanford University in California.

“Stanford denies he received a doctorate from them.

“Prior to applying for the job in New London, Carter worked as a principal for CPS and as an executive director for the Academy for Urban School Leadership. AUSL is responsible for managing most of CPS turnaround schools.

“CPS board president David Vitale and chief administrative officer Tim Cawley both come from the ranks of AUSL.”

Yet, Klonsky writes, the Chicago Tribune has not seen fit to report about Arne Duncan’s superstar, and Duncan has no comment.

After reading Mark Naison’s account of the BAT’s meeting with DOE staff and the Duncan himself, Peter Green was delighted that staff at the U.S. Department of Education finally had to listen to teachers that were not hand-picked to be deferential.

He noted two important points that inadvertently emerged from the talk.

“First, Marla Kilfoyle expressed her concerns about the Department’s new policy of testing students with disabilities into a magical state of Not Having Disabilities.

Secretary Duncan deflected her remarks by saying that the Department was concerned that too many children of color were being inappropriately diagnosed as being Special Needs children and that once they were put in that category they were permanently marginalized. He then said “We want to make sure that all student are exposed to a rigorous curriculum.”

So… we’re afraid that too many children of color are being mislabeled as having special needs, so rather than fix that, we’re just going to operate on a new assumption that students labeled special needs don’t actually have special needs. This is perhaps not the most direct way to attack that particular problem (we might start by checking to see how big a problem it is).

Then this, in a discussion of VAM and school closings, leading to the subject of teacher evaluation.

They two officials [one communications guy and an intern] had no real answer to what Dr Wiliams was saying and deflected attention from his critique by insisting that we needed to hold teachers accountable by student test scores because there was no other way of making sure teachers took every student seriously and helped all of them reach their full potential.

It’s not that we didn’t deduce this already, but there’s your statement. Teachers are the problem. We don’t want to do our jobs and the only way we can be made to do our jobs is with threats, because that’s the only thing we will possibly respond to.”

There you have it. Teachers won’t do their job unless D.C. Is threatening them. Please understand that most of the staff at the U.S. Department of Education have never taught. They are bureaucrats or clerks or very nice people who landed a good job in government.

How dare they tell teachers how to teach and threaten their jobs?

Politico.com reports that representatives of the BATs met with Secretary Duncan.

“BADASS TEACHERS OUT IN FORCE: Several hundred teachers, parents and students sang, danced and demonstrated outside the Education Department on Monday, protesting federal education reform under the Obama administration. The rally was hosted by the Badass Teacher Association. On the list of grievances: The Common Core, high-stakes testing and teacher evaluation reform. “Teachers’ voices have been absent from the shaping of education policy,” BAT founder Mark Naison told Morning Education. “These policies are stifling teacher creativity and driving good teachers out of the classroom.” An Education Department official said the agency worked with BAT to secure permits for their demonstration and federal officials met with group leaders to discuss their concerns.

- Later in the day, six demonstrators met for an hour with a handful of senior Office for Civil Rights staffers. Education Secretary Arne Duncan joined the second half of the group’s conversation. Marla Kilfoyle, a teacher who attended the meeting, said that the discussion was productive. “One of the really great questions [Duncan] asked was what role the federal government should play in all of this,” she said. “We told him that they have to give us control back of our community schools.”

- Matt Wolfe, an adjunct professor at Marshall and Ohio universities, was among a handful of higher education representatives at the rally. Wolfe said the federal government has overemphasized things like graduates’ earnings in evaluating institutions – much to the detriment of students. “If a university graduates someone like Henry David Thoreau, who’s living in a shack somewhere changing the world with his writing, he’s no longer deemed a success today,” Wolfe said.

- Education Department press secretary Dorie Nolt said, “While we may not agree on everything, we welcome the opportunity for dialogue with those who care about America’s students – and especially about how to support teachers during a time of rapid change. Secretary Duncan and his staff have spoken with more than 6,000 educators in the last year alone, and these conversations have had significant impact on policy. We are committed to continuing to listen, even when the conversation is difficult.”

My comment: Secretary Duncan met with only 6,000 teachers in the last year? That is about 110 teachers a week. That’s nothing to boast about. I have met with more than 50,000 teachers in the last year, and I am not Secretary of Education.

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