Archives for category: Education Industry

Nancy Bailey reports that special education is in jeopardy in Seattle.

 

She writes:

 

You can’t put your guard down. Rest assured the wheels of ugly education reform continue to churn. Here is a recent Seattle Times headline, “Special Education is Ineffective and too Expensive, Report Says.”

 

Why? Well, students with special needs, 54 percent to be exact, aren’t managing to get their diplomas on time. They also aren’t going on to college as much as their non-disabled peers. They fail to always reach their NCLB goals on their IEPs. Students with emotional disabilities, I’m guessing with no real SPED services, are getting suspended 2 to 3 times more often than the students without disabilities. Second language students aren’t being served well, and parents have become concerned that their students won’t be employable.

 

I would argue that the reforms that have taken place since the reauthorizations that formed IDEA, along with NCLB and RTTT, have not been in the best interest of students with special needs across the country. The harsh budget cuts haven’t helped either.

 

But instead of fixing the problems in Seattle, and without reassessing the terrible reforms that have been foisted on schools and students with disabilities for the last 20 years or more, this is what the rubber stamped Blue Ribbon Commission Report from the Governor’s office, came up with:

 

The evidence is clear that disabilities do not cause disparate outcomes, but that the system itself perpetuates limitations in expectations and false belief systems about who children with disabilities can be and how much they can achieve in their lifetime.

 

“System,” of course, implies teachers. Hey, you teachers quit sitting around painting your nails and raise those expectations! And while you are at it—embrace Common Core! Why doesn’t the news say what they all really mean?

 

And this is how the Seattle Times puts it:

 

But the vast majority of children in special education do not have disabilities that prevent them from tackling the same rigorous academic subjects as general education students if they get the proper support, so those low numbers reflect shortcomings in the system, not the students.

 

And where does this all come from? What revolutionary research study have we missed? Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education!

 

You see, with higher expectations and plenty of rigor, most if not all of the students with disabilities can achieve excellent results. And that is where the Common Core comes in: Rigor for all. No exceptions, no excuses.

Peter Greene explains why an all-charter district or state will never succeed. Charters, to the extent that they can get higher scores than public schools, do so by selecting the most desirable students, the ones who are least costly to educate. Charters that are open to all, as public schools are, get the same result. Many charters, even when they cherry pick students, nonetheless get low test scores, for various reasons, such as teacher churn, lack of experience among administrators and teachers, prioritizing profit over education, or incompetence

 

Greene looks at the issue of scalability and predicts that it will never happen and in fact has never happened. New Orleans, the closest thing to an all-charter district, is ranked 65th of 68 districts in Louisiana; most of the charters in the Recovery School District are rated by the state as D or F schools.

 

Greene cites the work of Jersey Jazzman, who has shown in numerous posts that the charters in New Jersey do not serve the same demographics as the public schools. It is not surprising that no charter chain has offered to take over an entire school district, because then they would have to educate all the students, including those with disabilities, English language learners, and kids who misbehave in class.

 

Charters have increased racial segregation, and most charters are more segregated than the district in which they are located. Segregation doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The media will cheer a charter with high scores even if it is 100% African American. The scores are all that matter. And the scores go up to the extent that the charter can choose its students and exclude the ones that don’t get high scores.

 

Greene writes:

 

Plenty of folks have always assumed that this was the end game: a private system for the best and the– well, if not brightest, at least the least poor and problematic– and an underfunded remnant of the public system to warehouse the students that the charter system didn’t want.

 

But those folks may have underestimated the greed, ambition and delusions of some charter backers. “Why stop at the icing,” operators say, “when we can have the whole cake?” And chartercrats like Arne Duncan, with dreams of scaleability dancing in their sugarplum heads, may really think that full-scale charter systems can work because A) they don’t understand that most charter “success” is illusory and B) they don’t know why.

 

It’s telling that while chartercrats are cheering on complete charter conversions for cities from York, PA to Memphis, TN, no charter chains have (as far as I know) expressed a desire to have a whole city to themselves. The preferred model is an urban broker like Tennessee’s ASD or the bureaucratic clusterfarfegnugen that is Philadelphia schools– charter operators can jostle for the juiciest slice of the steak and try to leave the gristle for some other poor sucker.

 

The first-grade teachers at Skelly Elementary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, sent a letter home to parents to describe the over testing of their children.

 

They explained their professional qualifications, then listed the many tests the children are expected to take, stealing time from instruction.

 

Unfortunately, in the recent years, the mandates have gradually squelched the creativity and learning from our classrooms. The problem is that we are having to spend WAY too much time on formal assessments. All of the testing is required and some of it is classified as High Stakes Testing (HST). A high-stakes test is any test used to make important decisions about students, educators, schools, or districts, most commonly for the purpose of accountability—i.e., the attempt by federal, state, or local government agencies and school administrators to ensure that students are enrolled in effective schools and being taught by effective teachers. In general, “high stakes” means that test scores are used to determine punishments (such as sanctions, penalties, funding reductions, negative publicity), accolades (awards, public celebration, positive publicity), advancement (grade promotion or graduation for students), or compensation (salary increases or bonuses for administrators and teachers). (Glossary of Education Reform, 2014)

 

This year, in first grade, your child is being asked to participate in the following assessments:

 

Literacy First Assessment: This takes anywhere from 40 minutes to over an hour per student to administer. This is a one-on-one assessment that is to be conducted quarterly or more for progress monitoring.

 

“Where to Start Word List”: This assessment correlating to the F&P screening. The purpose of this screening is to level each child and ensure they are given reading instruction on their level. After going through the word lists, then the child is screened using a book on the assigned level. This assessment is done quarterly or as needed to progress monitor. It takes 20-30 minutes per child is also a one-on-one assessment.

 

Eureka Math: Children are to be given a whole group, 60 minute math lesson that has an “exit ticket” assessment at the end of each lesson. Yes, they want first graders testing daily over the lessons. This exit ticket is not long, but it still takes time. It equilibrates to daily testing for 6 and 7 year old children. This math curriculum also had a mid-module assessment and end of unit assessment.

 

iRead: iRead is a software program that the district requires children to be on for 20 minutes a day. It comes with an abundance of software issues and frustrations. The district has been working diligently on trying to get this programming to run successfully, but so far, to no avail. Part of this computer based program is a literacy screener. This screening takes place at the beginning of the year, and last 30-45 minutes per child.

 

MAP: Map is a computer based test that was designed as a tool for progress monitoring students in both math and literacy. This is the High Stakes Test that the district also utilizes for our teacher evaluations. It is completely developmentally inappropriate and does not provide valid data in the early childhood domain.

 

All of these tests, plus assessments that we utilize to document their understanding of certain content, are going on in your child’s first grade classroom. I believe you are getting the point… assessments, assessments, assessments! In our classrooms the children spend, on average, 1,510 minutes (25 hours) completing assessments. 720 minutes of those assessments are one-on-one. That means that we are tied up assessing students for at least 17, 280 minutes a school year. Your children are losing 288 hours of time with their teacher because of mandated testing. When you break down our days and count for specials, lunch, and recess, we end up with about 4 hours of instruction time. So, 288 instructional hours, or 72 days… yes, 72 days of our school year we, as teachers, are tied up assessing students with the mandated assessments. Why are our schools failing? Why are children not learning how to read? We think the numbers above answer those questions.

 

This is what it looks like when teachers stand up for their students.

A principal in a Midwestern state wrote this to me offline. She asked that I remove her name, her school, her state, and I did. a few weeks ago, she told me she was looking for a dissertation topic, and I suggested she read my next to last book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” Then she wrote me the following comment. I expect what she relates will sound familiar to many readers who are teachers or principals. Everything she describes is so mechanical, so inert, so lacking in spirit or vivacity. What madness has been loosed upon our schools in the name of “reform”?

She wrote:

‘The Death and Life’ hit so close to home it made me a bit sick.

I am living in the midst of a district desperate for reform glory. The last 2 years have been fever paced implementation of a multitude of last minute initiatives (a pacing guide for the common core, several new assessments, new reading text, new writing requirements, workshop model in all subjects, student self evaluation, new digital learning system, new teacher evaluation system, competency based grading, new lesson plan and unit plan requirements, new handwriting curriculum, new building plan process, new data teaming requirements…those are off the top of my head).

Thankfully, so far, we have escaped most of the Charter aspects of reform because we are rural enough, but we are full speed ahead on top-down initiatives to micromanage, narrow, and limit the professionalism of teachers.

Upper administration walks through the building looking to see if teachers are on the correct week of the balanced literacy pacing guide, comment on the writing samples that are required to be outside every classroom, and question students to see if they can use the correct vocabulary about their learning. Just this week a member of the leadership team suggested a conference happen with a K teacher because displayed K writing only had pictures, there were no words (day 11 of school for those children- they’ve been holding pencils for 8)… We march to a rhythm of accountability, keep score, and model our structure after corporate America.

Our curriculum IS the Common Core and nothing else. We use Scholastic reading to teach science and social studies to at-risk testers, students get 50 minutes of art, PE, and music each week, and ‘library’ is now ‘media’ which is really just typing plus other skills required for Smarter Balanced assessments.

Our building principals are serving as middle management and teaching isn’t fun anymore – neither is learning.

An excellent article by Caroline Porter in the Wall Street Journal describes the heated competition for a slice of the Common Core market.

 

She writes:

 

As states race to implement the Common Core academic standards, companies are fighting for a slice of the accompanying testing market, expected to be worth billions of dollars in coming years.

 

That jockeying has brought allegations of bid-rigging in one large pricing agreement involving 11 states—the latest hiccup as the math and reading standards are rolled out—while in roughly three dozen others, education companies are battling for contracts state by state.

 

Mississippi’s education board in September approved an emergency $8 million contract to Pearson PLC for tests aligned with Common Core, sidestepping the state’s contract-review board, which had found the transaction illegal because it failed to meet state rules regarding a single-source bid.

 

When Maryland officials were considering a roughly $60 million proposal to develop computerized testing for Common Core that month, state Comptroller Peter Franchot also objected that Pearson was the only bidder. “How are we ever going to know if taxpayers are getting a good deal if there is no competition?” the elected Democrat asked, before being outvoted by a state board in approving the contract.

 

Mississippi and Maryland are two of the states that banded together in 2010, intending to look for a testing-service provider together. The coalition of 11 states plus the District of Columbia hoped joining forces would result in a better product at a lower price, but observers elsewhere shared some of Mr. Franchot’s concerns.

 

The bidding process, which both states borrowed from a similar New Mexico contract, is now the subject of a lawsuit in that state by a Pearson competitor.

 

An accompanying graph in the article shows that Common Core is unpopular: Based on the Phi Delta Kappa-Gallup Poll, 60% of the public opposes the Common Core, while only 33% support it. When asked whether standardized tests are helpful to teachers, 54% of the public said no, as did 68% of public school parents. Other surveys show that a majority of teachers now oppose the Common Core standards.

 

Despite growing opposition to the Common Core and to standardized testing, most states are forging ahead, under pressure from the U.S. Department of Education, which used Race to the Top funds ($4.35 billion) to lure states to adopt the standards, and then required adoption of “college-and-career-ready” standards (aka Common Core) as a condition for getting a waiver from impossible and ruinous No Child Left Behind mandates.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to reader Chiara for noting this meeting of corporate reformers in Chicago. Funding was provided by the Walton Foundation, which pours about $160 million into charter schools and vouchers every single year, as well as advocacy for privatization in some of our major media.

 

The ironic note is that the first selling point in the invitation to the meeting is that it will offer “small classes.” Corporate reformers mock the idea of small classes for children in public schools. But it is a selling point for their own meetings.

Andre Agassi was a great tennis star. Although he never finished high school, he decided to open a charter school in Las Vegas. He talked it up as a model for education in America, he predicted that all its graduates would go to four-year colleges, and he downplayed the results, which didn’t live up to the hype. Like the revolving door of principals and teachers, and a host of other problems, such as a cheating scandal and the coach of the cheerleading squad who was charged with prostitution.

But in this society, you can count on journalists to swallow hype and ignore investigation. (For more about Agassi’s charter in Las Vegas, see “Reign of Error,” pp. 170-171.)

So now Agassi is an “education capitalist,” sponsoring charter schools in many cities despite the troubling experiences of his showcase charter.

Agassi has teamed up with a hedge fund, partners who know as little about education as he does:

“But some parents don’t buy the sales pitch.

“It kind of makes my stomach turn,” says Brett Bymaster, a parent in San Jose where the Agassi-Turner fund has been active.

“He’s taken it upon himself to dig into their business model, though one can only dig so far. While they’re building public charter schools, there’s very little disclosure, including what they charge tenants.

“We need to partner with people outside, but I don’t think the solutions to problems in my community are one-percenters getting filthy rich,” he says.

“Bymaster wonders what happens to one of these buildings if the charter has to shut down, and many do. So far, all 39 schools built by the fund are still up and running. A spokesman says if one closed, the building could be rented to another charter operator.

Even among charter school advocates, there is some quiet suspicion of partnering with hedge funds. First, there’s cost. One charter founder said a deal with Agassi was 25 percent above any other option.”

Broward County, which already has 99 charter schools, approved an additional 13 new charters. Some of the charters are designed specifically for children with disabilities. Five of the new charters are sponsored by the for-profit, politically connected Charter Schools USA.

 

Of the 12 new charters that opened this fall, three shuttered within the first month of school. Another closed for earning back-to-back failing grades on the state assessment.

 

It is the new world of publicly-funded education in Florida. Charters open, charters close. Some get high scores, some get low scores. Parents go shopping for schools the way they shop for shoes or milk.

Chris left this comment on the blog so I hope he won’t mind if I post it:

“Florida’s a mess. Here is a story I am working on for Education Matters.

“Gary Chartrand is the chair of the state board of education

“The State Board of Education over sees the Department of Education and hired commissioner Pam Stewart.

“The Department of Education is handing out grants, 3.3 million dollars’ worth to only three winners, to foster partnerships between districts and charter schools.

“Gary Chartrand is on the board of the KIPP charter school in Jacksonville.

“Superintendent Vitti and the Duval County School board (Jacksonville) have applied for the grant. Vitti said, “KIPP is here to stay, and the KIPP expansion will occur with or without the grant,” Vitti said. “If there’s an opportunity to write a grant that benefits KIPP but also the school district, then I think it would be rather foolish financially to walk away from that.”

“Gary Chartrand and the board of KIPP have given thousands and thousands of dollars to six member of the school board and thousands more to have the seventh Paula Wright defeated.

“WJCT Jacksonville’s public radio station did what I consider a puff piece on the district applying for the charter grant that left out a lot of important information. They didn’t mention that last year KIPP was protected by the states rule saying schools could only drop one letter grade, a rule that Chartrand had a hand in developing. KIPP’s real school grades are F, B, C(D) B. They also didn’t mention how KIPP spends about a third more per pupil, has longer days, smaller classes, requires its parents to at least be marginally involved and may or may not be counseling out under performers, only 64 of its first class of 88 finished. The piece made it sound like that KIPP is just better.

“The Chartrand foundation at least partially funds WJCT’s education coverage.”

Franchesca Warren is outraged by “the deadening silence of teachers.” Teachers are afraid to say what they know and believe for fear of being fired.

She writes:

“As a pretty opinionated teacher, I am always full of ideas and speak out regularly against practices that are unjust or not beneficial to students. However, time and time again I have been “scolded” by more veteran teachers who warn me that being vocal would quickly get me “blackballed” in the district. This fact was even more evident when I was invited to a private screening of a new documentary entitled “Scapegoats.” The film uses teacher interviews to examine how teachers have historically been made to be the scapegoats with anything bad that occurs in education. While I was in total agreement with what was being said in the document, I was dismayed that more than half of the teachers interviewed opted to have their face (and voices) distorted so their administration would not retaliate against them.

“As I listened to teachers recall the atrocities that occur in public education, it was evident that these educational “pundits” and politicians have made it nearly impossible for teachers to exercise their first amendment rights. Teachers are terrified of voicing their opinions because many times it not only makes them a target but could possibly make them not get their contract renewed for the following year!

“Instead of forgetting my feelings and just chalking the film up to that how things are, I got angry.”

She adds:

“The truth is hidden while the public is made to believe that lies are the truth. Truth be told, the majority of teachers loathe the increased standardized testing in schools. Truth be told, the people who make policies about education don’t even have their kids enrolled in public schools. Truth be told, the people who run the school districts are usually not equipped with the pedagogy or experience to actually lead a classroom in 2013. Truth be told, federal programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are just programs to further destroy public education and allow private entities to take our tax dollars.”

And more:

“Despite the deafening silence, there are many educators who are getting angry and speaking up with no regard to the possible consequences. You have district administrators like John Kuhn who say “enough is enough” and write eloquent pieces like “Exhaustion of the American Teacher.”

“You have teachers who decided to make the film “The Inconvenient Truths Behind Waiting for Superman” and expose the policies that hurt our students.

“You have the teachers in Chicago and Oregon that courageously decided to strike to ensure that their voices would be heard.

“Times are changing, and I for one am glad. The truth is no longer being hidden by our deafening silence. There are more teacher in the world than people who might want to silence us. So speak, act, march, discuss and demand to be heard. Apparently, we might have the 14th Amendment on our side.”

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