Archives for category: Duncan, Arne

This wonderful photo is making the rounds on Twitter. The quote was taken from Monroe County ICPE (Indiana Coalition for Public Education) chairperson Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer’s speech at the Indiana State House last month. When I hear about “college and career ready standards” for elementary school and middle school children, I am reminded of the famous words of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who once famously said:

 

“We should be able to look every second grader in the eye and say, ‘You’re on track, you’re going to be able to go to a good college, or you’re not,’ ” he said. “Right now, in too many states, quite frankly, we lie to children. We lie to them and we lie to their families.”

 

When I look at my young grandchildren, ages 8 and not quite 2, this is the same thought that occurs to me, as I feel sure it does to most parents and grandparents:

 

 

collegeready

Chicago’s superintendent of schools Barbara Byrd-Bennett wanted to delay PARCC testing. She knew the students and teachers were not ready. She proposed testing only 10% of students. The state of Illinois said it would lose $1.1 billion in federal funding if Chicago failed to participate.

Last week, Secretary Duncan was in Chicago. When asked why he threatened to cut off federal funding, he denied it.

When he arrived at a school, his driver took a wrong turn, and Duncan got out of the car and was swarmed by angry parents protesting the testing.

“Once safely inside the school, Duncan was asked about the protest outside.

“Why is his U.S. Department of Education forcing a controversial standardized test — one many parents don’t want and that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has argued is “not ready” for prime time — down the throats Chicago Public Schools?

“I’m not,” Duncan said. “The state works it out without Chicago. . . . That’s the state’s decision.”

“But isn’t the mandate being dictated by the federal government? Isn’t that what’s behind the threat to withhold $1 billion in funding that forced Chicago’s hand?

“No. You’re wrong. . . . You’re making stuff up. You don’t have your facts straight,” Duncan said.

“The secretary was asked about the parental animosity stemming from the PARCC test and the resulting protest that forced him to go through the gantlet of protesters to get into Ariel Community Academy, 1119 E. 46th Street.

““I welcome the conversation. It’s good. . . . It’s a healthy conversation to have,” he said.

“But he said, “It’s important to assess kids annually. . . . Millions of kids around the country are taking the test. We’re fine.”

“With that, a press aide to Duncan stepped in and ended the interview.”

Reader Cheryll Brounsteun posed this concern:

“I have followed the evolution of “school reform”. I believed naively that once Obama recognized that the reform movement was a scam to make money by selling tests, technology, curriculum, privatizing education and breaking unions that Democrats would take steps to protect public education.

“Sadly, Obama’s public support for TFA, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and Rahm Emmanuel clearly underscore that public education has been traded or sold and is being dismantled in stages. The destruction of public education is as great a travesty as the devastation of the environment and the corruption of our judicial system that ignores the crimes of the 1%. Yet, most citizens lack an awareness that the basis of a viable democracy is disappearing.”

Laura H. Chapman, arts educator, has taught from pre-school through college. In this comment, she responds to the pressure on little children to be “college-and-career-ready.”

 

 

 

Arizona has a checklist for this purpose. It is offered up as graphic and “balloon questions” that should be answered as if proof that the kindergartner is on track for college AND a career. (Meanwhile Congress wants to reframe NCLB as “Every Child Ready for College OR Career).”

 

Arizona’s State Department of Education offers a graphic that also functions as a checklist for college and career readiness. There in no picture of a train on a track, just comic-like bubbles filled with text, organized around a car. The car is facing left (a visual convention that has long been used to imply “go west)”

 

You can see this graphic and some grade by grade versions of the college/career questions here http://www.azed.gov/azccrs/files/2013/10/k-12collegeandcareerchecklist.pdf

 

This kind of checklist is migrating to other states via the promoters of “personalized learning” and on-line programs where dashboard versions update information and post “recommendations” for specific colleges or for career certificates that match up with student interests, family budgets, and so on. Some of these programs are designed to by-pass the need for face-to-face guidance from middle and high school guidance counselors.

 

The permitted “vocational interest” classifications in these assessments typically match up with 16 “career clusters” and occupational pathways linked to O’Net, an online resource designed for job-seekers. The O’Net system in turn, is connected to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that offers projections of labor markets by industry and occupations, the most recent from 2012 to 2022. These projections are updated every 2 years.

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics labor projections show the fastest growing occupations, those with a rise or drop in average salary, those with educational requirements such as on the job training, high school diploma, and more.

 

You will not find Achieve, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the promoters of the Common Core, STEM, and technical education publicizing many of these projections. Why not?

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projections take into account outsourcing, the shifting of professional work to paraprofessionals and automated technologies, the expansion of services for the aging baby-boomers, and so on. The jobs and trend lines show that many jobs are not destined to be “drivers of the global economy.” Neither will many produce a fast turn-around in the U.S. economy. The job projections do not match much of the career hype.

 

Almost all of the business and economic reasoning from the late 1990s—prompting talk about a nation at risk from global competition, higher standards as a panacea, and implied promises of unbridled growth in high tech careers—persists, along with claims that every student must have post-secondary education, preferably college. No doubt college helps on life-long income, but that has been true for a long time.

 

The career promoters who want to reach into kindergarten with assessments and year to year tracking are doing the equivalent of killing the seed corn. The seed corn is PLAY…unleashed from any clear purpose, unencumbered by what it is good for, untethered to CEO expectations for a 21st workforce.

 

It is as if…nothing changed after 9/11—just go shopping and get your little ones prepared for that and making marketable goodies.

 

It is as if…the world economy did not tank in 2007-2008, or if so, it was the fault of low standards, not enough testing, lazy teachers, too much play in school, especially Kindergarten.

 

It is as if…it is perfectly OK that 51 percent of K-12 students today live in poverty.

 

It is as if…it is perfectly OK that 30 states provide less funding per student in 2014-15 than they did before the 2008 recession.

 

It is as if…it is perfectly OK that the price tag of K-12 education has increased since 2008, due to rising costs of supplies and tests—more tests from an unregulated industry, and and dubious investments in technology for tests and data-mining.

 

It is as if…all of those teacher salaries were outrageous. Fact check: Between 1999 and 2013 the average salary decreased by 1.3 percent (adjusted dollars), National Center for Education Statistics.

 

I hope that the teachers and parents of Kindergarten children in Arizona will download and shred this ugly graphic filled with questions about careers.

 

It is time for some civil disobedience to stop careerism, especially in Kindergarten and the early grades. This must become as important as stopping the endless testing…for the sake of children who need to experience childhood for the joy of that and as the greatest way to learn stuff that matters to them. That “stuff” may, by a circuitous path, matter more to the future of a great nation than all of the rigors and angst created by today’s strictly academic regime.”

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.

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