Archives for category: Duncan, Arne

Rick Hess has a fresh idea about Arne Duncan’s perspective on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind: he likes things just the way they are. For him, the best of all possible outcomes is the status quo. When the Obama administration controlled both houses of Congress, there was no interest in revising NCLB, even though it was due to be reauthorized in 2007.

Duncan has used federal waivers to rewrite the law to suit his wishes. Congress did not object when he twisted states’ arms (sorry for that bad metaphor; states don’t have arms) to adopt the Common Core, to evaluate teachers by test scores, and to whatever else struck his fancy. Why should he want Congress to pass a law that might restrict his power to the National Czar of schools?

Hess reprints an imaginary interview he wrote in 2011 with a Republican Secretary of Education who uses her vast powers to impose vouchers, a moment of silence, require abstinence education, require states to allow for-profit charters, and restrict collective bargaining. She is, of course, immensely grateful to Arne Duncan for showing how the Secretary can rewrite the law without turning to Congress.

Peter Greene read Arne Duncan’s speech carefully on the future of NCLB and boils down his vision of the federal role in education to one word: testing.

“First, Duncan positions assessment in the center of his education universe. He starts out by describing a large vision of education, one that is filled with innovation, meets the needs of every child, promotes equity, provides opportunity, values all subject areas, and provides every school with sufficient support and resources. And somehow considering all those aspects of a grand vision of education leads him to a Big Standardized Test. That’s it.

“It’s like someone who describes the awesome heights and sensations of a gourmet dinner, teasing you with visions of tastes and textures, savory combinations and a palate immersed in gustatorial ecstasy and then, after all that description and anticipation, at the moment of the Big Reveal, draws back the curtain on— a can opener.

“Testing is Chef Duncan’s can opener.”

Despite the universal failure of Duncan’s test-based teacher evaluation, despite its debunking by the Anerican Statistical Association, Duncan stubbornly clings to it. He is certain that parents want to know how their child compares to children in other states. I don’t understand that. I always had many questions about how my children were doing in school but I never wondered how they compared to children their age in other states. I wanted to know if they worked well with others, if they were respectful to their teachers, if they were good citizens, if they completed their school work in time. I counted on their teachers to bring any problems to my attention, and they did.

 

Greene writes:

 

“Parents are morons

 

“It wouldn’t be a Duncan speech about testing without the presumption that schools are liars and parents are dopes.

 

“Will we work together to ensure every parent’s right to know every year how much progress her child is making in school?

 

“Because only with the intervention and oversight of the federal government can parents have a clue about how their children are doing in school. And only a federally-mandated BS Test can give them a picture of their child’s education.

 

“Irony overload

 

“Later in the speech, Duncan suggests that “maybe our only hope is absolute honesty and transparency.” It is a great line, and one that I absolutely agree with.

 

“And yet, like most of Duncan’s prettiest rhetoric, it’s not reflected in any policy that he actually pursues. Doubling down on testing without considering its damaging effects and its utter failure to measure anything it claims to measure– this is not honest or transparent. The continued investing of BS Tests with powers they don’t have and effects they cannot achieve is neither honest nor transparent. The absolute refusal to hear opposing viewpoints is neither honest nor transparent.

 

“Duncan makes much noise about the need to supply quality education to the poor, to minorities, to students anywhere in the country who are not getting the full benefit of public education. He hears the cries for education and equity and justice and having heard them, he is sending… standardized tests (well, and charter schools, for some of those students, anyway).

 

“Regardless of your diagnosis of US educational ills, I don’t know how you arrive at the prescription, “We need more Big Standardized Tests driving all major decisions from the federal level.” Particularly after we’ve had a few years to see just how poorly how that actually works. Duncan’s speech includes an impassioned plea not to turn back the clock, not to return to a failed past. What he either can’t or won’t see is that his devotion to a failed test-based education policy is just such a retrograde response to education concerns.

 

“The Big Standardized Test can now takes its place in the gallery of failed educational policies of the past. If Duncan really wanted to move forward, he would leave BS Testing in the past where it belongs.”

Does the Onion have secret sources inside the U.S. Department of Education? its stories are typically a week ahead of the real news. Some things are impossible to satirize.

“WASHINGTON—Citing the need to measure student achievement as its top priority, the U.S. Department of Education launched a new initiative Thursday to replace the nation’s entire K-12 curriculum with a single standardized test.

“According to government officials, the four-hour-long Universal Education Assessment will be used in every public school across the country, will contain identical questions for every student based on material appropriate for kindergarten through 12th grade, and will permanently take the place of more traditional methods such as classroom instruction and homework assignments.”

Mark Naison wrote the following post:

 

 

In Newark and Buffalo, attempts to promote charter schools over public schools, and suppress the voices of educators and community residents have stripped the “Civil Rights” rationale from School Reform in the most naked way. In each city, an authoritarian white leader- in Newark Cami Anderson, in Buffalo, Carl Palladino- have attempted to stifle community input into education policy while seeking to intimidate some of their city’s most respected Black educators. In each instance, officials of the Obama Administration and the US Department of Education, who constantly claim that replacing public schools with charter schools advances the interests of children of color, have been conspicuously silent.

 

Let us be perfectly clear- what Cami Anderson and Carl Palladino are proposing mirrors what the Obama Administration is recommending for schools in the nation’s cities, yet large portions of the Black and Latino communities in Newark and Buffalo are up in arms about what is being done to them, and how their voices and opinions have been rendered irrelevant or viciously attacked.

 

Rather than facing that contradiction, and standing up for democratic governance of public schools, officials of the Obama Administration remain silent.

 

At its best, this is opportunism. At its worst, it is a short sighted and hypocritical failure to recognize that their policies are not only flawed, but may be undermining the very objectives they claim to promote.

Thomas Ralston, superintendent of the Avonworth School District in western Pennsylvania, was thrilled to be invited to the White House with other superintendents, where they met President Obama and Secretary Duncan and mutually pledged to be “future-ready.” He was pleased when Secretary Duncan declared that testing was sucking the oxygen out of classrooms.

 

Thus, he was stunned and disappointed when Duncan endorsed the status quo of annual testing in the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. How could he?

 

Ralston knows that standardized testing is an artifact of the past, not the wave of the future.

 

 

He writes:

 

“The age of standardized testing has de-emphasized creativity and innovation by overly relying on test performance as a criterion of school and student success. This emphasis has resulted in limiting school curricula, robbing students of experience with the arts and other non-tested subjects….

 

“Standardized tests do not acknowledge the developmental differences in children. When we endorse them we subscribe to the belief that all children learn the same way and at the same rate.

 

“Likewise, standardized tests fail to measure the skills that employers have identified as essential for success now and in the future: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity….

 

“With the overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act on the horizon, education in America is at a critical crossroads. Rather than continue with an iteration of the act that brought us No Child Left Behind in 2000, I hope it is reauthorized in a way that captures the essence of the Future Ready Pledge.

 

“It is time for our government officials to display courage and do what is best for children. The rest of us must make sure our voices are heard as we demand that all children receive creative and engaging learning experiences that will best prepare them for the opportunities of the future.”

 

I am happy to name Superintendent Thomas Ralston to the honor roll for speaking with courage and clarity on behalf of children to those in power.

Arne Duncan went to Maryland to urge parents to organize against the House rewrite of NCLB. What parents wanted to talk about was Common Core and testing.

 

He told them there would be bumps in the road but everything would be fine in the end.

 

“I’m really afraid that the PARCC assessments are going to take away from my child’s time in the classroom,” one mother said to the education secretary at the Parent Teacher Association town hall at Wiley H. Bates Middle School in Annapolis. (She was referring to common-core-aligned tests being developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two consortia devising such assessments.)

 

“And another parent asked, “Why are we doing too much too soon on aggressive PARCC testing in schools? … Can’t we take some time to examine this before we use our children as guinea pigs in the classroom?”

 

Duncan proceeded to make claims about the bill that, strictly speaking, were not accurate. And of course, he won’t back away from Common Core or high-stakes testing.

This scintillating article by Alex Leary in the Tampa Bay Times explores the curious but close alliance between Jeb Bush and the Obama administration. Jeb, Arne, and Barack are on the same page. They all believe in testing, high-stakes, charter schools, closing schools, and the Common Core.

He tells the story of the day in March 2011 when the three pals met at Miami Central High School to celebrate its successful “turnaround” after the firing of most of the staff. Leary doesn’t mention that while the President and Duncan were in Miami, thousands of protestors were demonstrating at the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker and the legislature were stripping away the rights of public sector unions.

He also doesn’t mention, probably doesn’t know, that one month after the Bush-Obama-Duncan photo op at Miami Central, the state notified the school that it was on the list to be closed because of its low scores.

Strange buddies, indeed. Allies in promoting truly terrible education policies.

Remember a few months ago when everyone was wringing their hands and agreeing there was too much testing? Remember Arne Duncan said testing was sucking the oxygen out of the classroom?

That was then. This is now. Duncan is upset that Chicago is backing away from Commmon Core PARCC testing.

Mike Klonsky reports that Duncan threatened to cut off $1.2 billion in state aid if Chicago doesn’t give the PARCC.

This is crazy. The Secretary of Education is not supposed to tell states and districts what tests to use. He has overstepped his bounds, as he has done so often in the past. He has no understanding of federalism or of the limits of the federal role in education. The law says that no federal official may try to direct, control, or influence curriculum or instruction. Tests influence curriculum and instruction. By funding two tests and then compelling states to use them, he is flouting the law.

If he cuts any funding, Illinois should sue him.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, takes issue with Secretary Duncan in reauthorization of NCLB. Duncan said last week that annual testing was “a line in the sand,” that is, non-negotiable. This, of course, ignores the views if educators and parents, who SES how the testing obsession has harmed teaching and learning and narrowed the curriculum.

Randi on Secretary Duncan’s ESEA Reauthorization Remarks

WASHINGTON— Statement from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s speech regarding the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“As I’ve said before, any law that doesn’t address our biggest challenges—funding inequity, segregation, the effects of poverty—will fail to make the sweeping transformation our kids and our schools need. Today, it was promising to hear Secretary Duncan make a call for equity, stressing, as we did through the Equity and Excellence Commission, the importance of early childhood education and engaging curriculum. It was encouraging to hear him laud the hard work of educators, who have had to overcome polarization and deep cuts after a harsh recession. And it was heartening to hear him acknowledge the progress our schools have made. However, the robust progress we saw in the first 40 years after the passage of ESEA has slowed over the last 10 years.

“On testing, we are glad the secretary has acknowledged that ‘there are too many tests that take up too much time’ and that ‘we need to take action to support a better balance.’ However, current federal educational policy—No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and waivers—has enshrined a focus on testing, not learning, especially high-stakes testing and the consequences and sanctions that flow from it. That’s wrong, and that’s why there is a clarion call for change. The waiver strategy and Race to the Top exacerbated the test-fixation that was put in place with NCLB, allowing sanctions and consequences to eclipse all else. From his words today, it seems the secretary may want to justify and enshrine that status quo and that’s worrisome.

“Yes, we need to get parents, educators and communities the information they need. And all of us must be accountable and responsible for helping all children succeed. That’s why we have suggested some new interventions, like community schools and wraparound services; project-based learning; service internships; and individual plans for over-age students, under-credited students and those who are not reading at grade level by third grade.

“If one test per year can cause an entire school to be shuttered or all the teachers fired, something is wrong with the way that test is being used. Even in the District of Columbia, where the secretary spoke from today, the school district has pulled back from the consequential nature of these tests.

“At the end of the day, the most important part of the debate shouldn’t happen in big speeches. It should happen in real conversations with parents, students and teachers, who are closest to the classroom. Communities understand the huge positive effect ESEA had for impoverished and at-risk communities 50 years ago. Those communities are saying loudly and clearly that they want more supports for students and schools, and data used to inform and improve, not sanction. It’s my hope that, in the coming weeks, leaders in Congress and the administration will listen to these voices and shape a law that reflects the needs of all our kids.”

Postscript: An advanced copy of Secretary Duncan’s remarks today included a quote from Albert Shanker, former president of the AFT, on accountability. To this, Weingarten responded, “If the secretary wants to invoke Shanker on accountability, then invoke him on his proposals for grade-span over annual testing. Shanker once called for ‘an immediate end to standardized tests as they are now,’ instead favoring testing over five-year intervals.”

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Randi Weingarten

American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO

Stephanie Simon of Politico has an interesting analysis of President Obama’s education legacy. While some credit him for his contribution to increasing early childhood education, the likelihood is that his legacy will be a great fizzle because of his unquestioning allegiance to standardized testing. Many Republicans are thinking of restoring greater control to the states and gutting annual testing, but Arne Duncan considers annual testing to be non-negotiable.

Here is Peter Greene’s take on Duncan’s “vision” for NCLB: more of the same. The status quo. Not a whiff of innovative thinking. Greene asks why Duncan is recommending a rewrite of NCLB:

“Why is he doing it now, when he’s had his way for the past several years? The answer is obvious– if the GOP really rewrites ESEA, all of Duncan and Obama’s reformy work will be trashed. Duncan’s announcement is not a clarion call to change a single comma of the administration’s policy– it’s an announcement that he intends to preserve it against the GOP onslaught that’s about to begin. For all intents and purposes, Duncan has had the ESEA rewrite he’s wanted for five years, and the GOP is threatening to take it away from him. Duncan is jumping on the bus before he is thrown under it, but there will now be a hell of a battle over who’s going to drive and where the bus is going to go.”

Curiously, the Obama administration is more devoted to the principles of NCLB than Republicans.

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