Archives for category: Duncan

Andrew Rotherham is an insider inside the deepest realms of the Beltway. He is also a bona fide reformer who supports TFA, charters, and the whole corporate reform menu. Long ago, he advised Bill Clinton; now he is on the advisory board of Campbell Brown’s “The 74,” which has a long list of things it wants to do to strip away tenure, collective bargaining rights, and whatever teachers care about.

Andy wrote a very interesting story about the five “takeaways” from Duncan’s departure.

Here are some of his thoughts that are especially informative:

Education is apparently on the president’s “Eff-It” list. At this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, President Obama said that he didn’t have a bucket list, but with time running out on his administration, he did have something that rhymed with it. The president’s choice of John King* to oversee the department after Duncan is a signal he’s not that concerned with education politics at this point.

To the right, King is a lightning rod because of his support for Common Core standards and his leadership implementing them in New York. To the left, he’s a flashpoint because of his support for teacher evaluations and no-nonsense championing of high expectations for low-income students and real accountability for the schools that serve them.

Teachers unions and some conservatives have been calling on Duncan to resign – this is not what they had in mind.

The education debate is about to get nastier. John King is an accomplished African American educator who helped found a highly regarded charter school in Boston. His personal story is as compelling as any education official in the country. Most reform critics don’t want to tangle with him publicly, if for no other reason than they have sense enough to recognize the gross optics of well-heeled white people explaining to an African American man why we shouldn’t have demanding expectations for educators serving low-income minority youth. So expect the debate to get nastier behind the scenes as those tensions manifest in other ways. In particular, look for more controversy in states and local communities but don’t expect much from Washington other than more administrative action.

Hillary is in the hot seat. Teachers unions need scalps and political theater to keep their activist members happy. (That’s why you get odd spectacles like Duncan helping write the very talking points teachers union leaders were using to castigate him publicly.) There is no way to read King’s ascension other than as a slap in the face to teachers unions, especially the New York-centric American Federation of Teachers, which has been sharply critical of the future secretary. Look for them to ratchet up the pressure on Hillary Clinton to distance herself from reform in a visible way, particularly in a primary fight where she needs labor’s support and her political problems lie to the left.

By the way, it was Michael Grunwald of Politico who wrote that Arne helped to draft the NEA’s condemnation of him.

Grunwald wrote:

At the NEA’s convention in 2011, the union formally declared that it was “appalled” with Duncan’s work. But at the same convention, the NEA endorsed the president’s reelection, as if the education secretary whose family hung out with the Obamas at Camp David was some kind of rogue operative. I heard from several sources that Duncan actually helped negotiate the language of his own condemnation; he’s no politician, but you can’t run the Chicago schools without some sense of politics.

Peter Greene has just discovered the most amazing fact about the U.S. Department of Education’s award of $157 million to the charter industry. The state that won the most money for charters is OHIO! Ohio, where there have been more charter scandals in the past few years than in any other state!

He says in the title of his post: Accountability is for public schools only.

Arne Duncan today held a press chat to announce that USED would be throwing more money ($157 million) at charter schools.

Throwing money at public schools is, you may recall, anathema to reformsters, who are concerned that while money has been thrown higgledy piggledy at public schools, it appears that insufficient amounts of the money have struck students in the test-taking parts of their brains.

Throwing money at public schools is bad, because we are just certain that they are wasting it and that the taxpayers are not getting a sufficient bang-to-buckage ratio.

But throwing money at charter schools is awesome, because we have no idea where the hell it’s going.

The department’s inspector general issued a report in 2012 that Lyndsey Layton calls “scathing.” The report suggests that the feds have been throwing that money at charters with blindfolds on. The Center for Media and Democracy has a more recent, more scathing report on the vast piles of money that has been thrown into charter black holes. “Gosh,” say the feds. “That’s a state problem. It’s up to them to exercise oversight. Not our problem.” Although, just in case you think USED is providing no oversight at all, I am happy to report they did send states a strongly worded letter, exhorting them to be more oversighty.

With all that, you’ll be unsurprised to discover that the top winner in the charter change chunking festival is the state of Ohio. Yes, that Ohio. The Ohio where hundreds of charters have failed in just about every way a charter can fail, the Ohio where the husband of the governor’s campaign manager had to resign from his ed department job because he was caught cooking the books to make charters look better (including some belonging to some political money throwers, proving that throwing money at politicians can also work well). That Ohio gets another $32.5 million to throw at charters. Even the journalists listening to Duncan’s news apparently felt the urge to question that decision, but USED assistant deputy secretary Nadya Dabby responded:

“Ohio has a pretty good mechanism in place to improve overall quality and oversight,” said Dabby, although she could not provide details. “We believe Ohio has put practices in place, although there ‘s always room for them to grow.”

Room to grow? Well, that’s one way of putting it. Another way would be to mention that under the Ohio charter law, helpfully written by charter lobbyists, any equipment purchased by charter operators with taxpayer dollars belongs to the charter operator as private property. Ohio is the state where the charter monitor for the state was fired for rigging grades to help the especially low-performing online charters.

It appears that Arne will keep throwing money at the charters as long as he is in office, no matter how little supervision or oversight there is.

There he goes again!

Arne Duncan loves, loves, loves to say that schools and teachers have been lying to our kids. They are really very dumb, and yet they have been getting promoted, going to college, and they are not prepared for college! Their teachers lied to them! Their schools lied to them! Now, as we see the collapse of test scores on the Common Core tests, we know the truth: Our kids are dumb!

I seem to recall that when President-elect Barack Obama named Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education, he pointed to the dramatic improvement in test scores in Chicago. Those test score gains were not true. They actually were a lie. So Arne Duncan knows something about dummying down standards and telling lies to parents.

But let Mercedes Schneider and Peter Greene tell the story of what Arne said in Pittsburgh, where he seem positively exuberant about the atrocious scores on the Common Core tests in Pennsylvania. You would think that after more than six years of his being Secretary of Education, he might be accountable for the decline of test scores. When will he be held accountable? Readers of this blog know, because I have written about it many times, that the scores fell because the two testing consortia (PARCC and SBAC) aligned their cut score (passing mark) with NAEP proficient, which is out of reach of most students. Since NAEP began testing in states in 1992, only in Massachusetts have 50% of students ever reached NAEP proficient.

Here is Mercedes. Mercedes points out that Arne has made a point of enrolling his own children in schools that don’t use the Common Core or its tests. So he will never ever know the truth about his own children.

Here is Peter.

Peter asks:

Could it be that the BS Tests do a lousy job of measuring a narrow slice of actual student achievement, and that the cut scores aren’t set in any way that would reflect meaningful educational information, and that none of this has anything to do with being ready for college or success, and that the whole process is so infected with politics (which is in turn infected with the moneyed interests of book publishers, test manufacturers, privatizers, and profiteers) that it has nothing to do with education at all.

Duncan thinks failing scores mean something because they support a conclusion he has already reached– that education is being ruined by terrible lying teachers, and that only his friends (who stand to make a mint from all this upheaval) can save the day. And Duncan isn’t smart enough to know the difference between a mountain of education excellence and a giant pile of bullshit.

Mercedes Schneider reports that Arne Duncan sent his children to public schools in Arlington, Virginia, but Virginia never adopted the Common Core standards.

Now, as we know, his children will attend the University of Chicago Lab school, a progressive school that does not use the Common Core standards.

If the CCSS are imperative for America’s children, why has Duncan avoided placing his children in schools where they would encounter them? Doesn’t he want to know how they are doing compared to children in other states? Doesn’t he want them to be college-and-career-ready? Doesn’t he want them to be prepared for global competition?

It doesn’t make sense.

Peter Greene watched a video of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testifying before a Senate committee about the budget. Watch what happens when a Senator asked Duncan about programs in the Department that address the problems of dyslexia.

Greene writes:

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) asks a simple question: What specific programs do we have in place for helping students with dyslexia?

And it just goes south from there.

The answer, pretty clearly, is “none.” But Duncan is bound determined not to go there, so he tries, “Well, students with dyslexia have special needs, and we have a special needs fund, so they fall under that–“

Cassidy bores in, citing studies and facts and figures to elaborate on his point which is that students with dyslexia make up 80% of the students with special needs and as much as 20% of the general student population, so wouldn’t it make sense to have programs directed at that particular issue?

Let the flailing begin. I would put together my usual summary-deconstruction of a Duncan word salad, but this is the mouth noise equivalent of a large-mouthed bass thrown up on the creek bank and trying to flop his way back to some water.

Cassidy tries again. Does Duncan have any sense of the quality of dyslexia programs out there? The answer, again, is “no,” but Arne can’t form that word, so instead he starts making up some sentences that boil down to, “I suppose there are some good ones and some bad ones and some in between ones” which is not exactly an insight that required the United States Secretary of Education to deliver it.

Here’s Arne’s problem– he absolutely has an idea about what the approach to dyslexia should be. He’s been very clear about it in the past. Let’s go back to his conference call about new USED special needs policies

“We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel.”

Or the explanation from Kevin Huffman in that same call. These words didn’t come out of Duncan’s mouth, but he didn’t say, “Well, that’s not quite what we mean” either.

Huffman challenged the prevailing view that most special education students lag behind because of their disabilities. He said most lag behind because they’re not expected to succeed if they’re given more demanding schoolwork and because they’re seldom tested.

So, Senator Cassidy, that’s the USED plan– we will expect those students with dyslexia to do better, and then if they don’t we’ll get rid of their teachers and replace them with teachers who are better at expecting things. That’s it. That’s the plan.

But Duncan was smart enough not to say that out loud to a man who 1) has clearly done his homework about dyslexia 2) cares about dyslexia and 3) is a US senator.


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