Archives for category: Education Industry

Peter Greene, high school English teacher in Pennsylvania, prolific blogger and humorist, decided to create “the big picture” of education reform. What’s it all about?

Peter writes:

“Why do we have these policies that don’t make sense? Why does it seem like this system is set up to make schools fail? Why do states pass these laws that discourage people from becoming teachers?

“My friends, colleagues and family ask these kinds of questions all the time. So my goal today is to step back and try to fit the pieces into the larger picture. If you have been paying attention, you already know this stuff, but perhaps this post will help someone you know who’s trying to make sense of reformsterdom. Here, then, is my attempt to show the big picture.”

Peter sees a convergence of two big ideas: one, the longing for centralized efficiency, with everyone from teachers to students doing the same things at the same time, orchestrated from above.

“To do that, we’d need to get every possible data source plugged in, and for the data to mean anything, we’d have to have all schools doing basically the exact same thing. Standards could be used to tag and organize every piece of data collected about every student. This suited people who see US education as a slapdash, sloppy, disorganized mess of many different schools doing many different things (this bothered them as much as your pictures hanging cockeyed in the den drive your OCD aunt crazy). But all of that would require massive planning and infrastructure far beyond what government could politically or financially manage.”

So in our day comes educational privatization, the chance to make money from the many billions spent on schools. What a serendipitous combination of socialism (government always knows best) and capitalism (people are motivated by money).

Common Core was key to merging these two big ideas:

“Well, yes, kind of, and Common Core was key. Get everybody on the same page, and everybody needs to buy the same books. Common Core was envisioned as a way to get everyone teaching the same stuff at the same time, and therefor content providers need only align themselves to one set of expectations. Instead of trying to sell to thousands of different markets, they could now sell to a thousand versions of the same basic standardized school district.

“The less obvious effect of the Core was to change the locus of educational expertise. Previously teachers were the educational experts, the people who were consulted and often made the final call on what materials to buy. But one message of the Core was that teachers were not the experts, both because they had failed so much before and because Common Core was such a piece of “high standards” jargon-encrusted mumbo jumbo that you needed an expert to explain it.

“Educational experts were no longer found in the classroom. Now they are in corporate offices. They are in government offices. Textbook creators now include “training” because your teachers won’t be able to figure out how to use teaching materials on their own. More importantly, teachers can no longer be trusted to create their own teaching materials (at least not unless their district has hired consultants to put them through extensive training).

“Meanwhile, testing programs, which would also double as curriculum outlines, were also corporate products (which require such expertise that teachers are not allowed to see or discuss their contents), and every school must test as part of an accountability system that will both force schools to follow the centralized efficiency program and label them as failures when their test scores are too low, as well as feeding data into the cradle-to-career pipeline.”

All that and more.

Which education policy or policymaker would you vote for as “turkey of the year”?

 

Julian Vasquez Heilig is running a poll on his much-celebrated blog Cloaking Inequity.

 

Here is your chance to cast your vote!

Jonathan Lovell reminds us that one of the central tenets of “education reform” today is “creative disruption.” This is a popular concept in the corporate world but totally inappropriate for children and schools, who need stability and predictability.

Lovell understands that Common Core is intended to be a massive disruption, and that some politicians eagerly await dismal results on the tests as a prelude to destroying public education.

He writes:

“The problem faced by teachers and a few heroic administrators today, however, is not so much to understand the thinking behind the Common Core as it is to figure out how to prevent the damage that the “predictable failure rate” on the spring 2015 Common Core assessments will do to the students in their classrooms and schools. It’s in response to this important and urgent “What can we do?” question that I provide the following thoughts.”

His thoughts take him back to theLewis Carroll story of the Jabberwock.

“What struck me almost immediately was that the “shocking” effect of this image owed a good deal to the Jabberwock’s unexpectedly human apparel and extremely human central teeth. It gradually dawned on me that what Dodgson and Tenniel had set out to represent as the source of all that threatened to destroy Alice’s childhood world was the voraciousness and lumbering acquisitiveness of 19th century industrial capitalism (see here for a recent study confirming these suspicions), all decked out in vest, spats, and a handlebar mustache!

“The fact that this part serpent, part dragon, part insect, part man seemed to emerge, inexorably, from a Darwinian-like primeval ooze, gave the image added power. I could understand why the publishers might not have wanted this image to greet the young readers of “Lewis Carroll’s” second Alice book!…”

“So what are we as teachers and administrators to make of this encounter? How might Dodgson and Tenniel’s understanding provide us with ways to confront today’s “monsters” of educational reform, who threaten to “disrupt” our cherished system of public education to its very core?

“I would suggest we engage in a little “creative disruption” ourselves. We could begin with what our Finnish colleagues in education have already done: rename the seeming juggernaut of international educational reform as GERM, for Global Education Reform Movement…..”

“It was a child who had the courage and temerity to say “The emperor has no clothes!””

David Brennan, Akron industrialist, operates Ohio’s largest charter chain. Most are low-performing. But Brennan donates generously to key politicians, and his schools are rewarded, not closed down.

Bill Phillis of Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy writes:

“Brennan strikes again: More money proposed for the drop-out recovery schools

The billion dollar charter school operator, David Brennan, is about to get a huge early Christmas gift. His charter school empire includes dropout recovery charter schools. One of his dropout recovery charter schools graduated 2 out of 155 students in four years. A provision in HB 343, which is currently sailing through the House, will allow drop-out recovery charter schools to enroll students up to 29 years old for GED or diploma programs at a cost of $5,000 per student.

This provision in HB 343 exacerbates the transfer of tax money to private hands. For decades, Ohio public schools have provided adult basic education programs with remarkable results. The Johnny-come-lately state officials may be unaware of this.

Ohio taxpayers need to be informed about this, yet another example of inefficient use of tax money in charterland.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

You don’t have to look far into the future to see the technology sector circling the schools, giving generously to elected officials, hyping the wonders of computers instead of teachers (so much cheaper, and computers never need a pension), and gently persuading legislatures to add online courses as graduation requirements. Consider the federally-funded tests for Common Core: all online, all requiring a massive investment in equipment, bandwidth and support services. The Golden Fleece: replacing teachers with computers.

 

Laura Chapman writes:

 

 

 

Latest Bamboozlers are the “on-line only” promoters of “learning,” no need for teachers.

 

In a press release dated February, 3, 2014 KnowledgeWorks and The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) announced their shared agenda for federal policies that would change “our entire K-12 education system” to fit a student-centered learning environment with demonstrations of competency, free of traditional notions of schools, teachers, and student learning.

 

The policy report addressed to federal officials calls for the status quo on requiring students to meet college-and career-ready standards, but these standards would be aligned with specific competencies mapped into the idea of optimum trajectories for learning that will lead to graduation. Individual students would be tracked on the “pace” of their mastery through the use of on-line and “real-time” data. The data for each student is supposed to inform the instruction, supports, and interventions needed by each student in order to graduate.

 

This vision requires competency-based interpretations of the college-and career-ready standards and measures of those competencies. It requires a recommendation system (data-driven guide) for prioritizing required learning and ensuring continuous improvement in learning until graduation.

 

The vision calls for federal funding to states and districts for developing “personalized learning pathways” (PLPs) for students along with the infrastructure needed to produce real-time data for just-in-time recommendations for the interventions and supports needed to move students to college and career readiness.

 

The system in intended to build reports on the progress of individual students relative to mastery, or a high level of competency, for the college and career readiness standards.

 

In addition to keeping individuals “on-pace” in demonstrating standards-aligned competencies, this entire system is envisioned as offering “useful information for accountability, better teaching and learning, and measures of quality in education.”

 

In effect, programmed instruction is the solution for securing student compliance with the Common Core State Standards, assuring their entry into college and a career, with “instructional designers and programmers” the surrogates for teachers. Teachers are not needed because the out-of-sight designers and programmers build the recommendation systems for needed “interventions,” also known as “playlists.”

 

This is a souped-up version of vintage 1950s programmed instruction amplified in scope and detail by technology–on-line playlists and monitors of PLPs–personal learning plans–available anytime.

 

In fact, students get one-size-fits education, at the rate they can manage. The rate learning is optimized by computers programmed to lead students to and from the needed playlists of activities (e.g., subroutines that function as reviews, simple re-teaching, new warm-ups for the main learning event or subsets of methods for presenting the same concept). The student does what the computer says and the computer decides if and when mastery or some other criterion for competence has been achieved.

 

The selling framework is for “personalized, competency-based student-centered learning in a de-institutionalized environment.

 

Out of view are scenarios where all education is offered by “learning agents” who broker educational services offered by a mix of for-profit and non-profit providers. Token public schools remain in the mix, but are radically reduced in number and the loss becomes a self-fulling prophesy justifying radical cuts in state support. Profit seekers, together with volunteers and “20-year commitments from foundations” provide for “students in need. This is one of several scenarios from KnowledgWorks.

 

 

The quest for federal funds is found here at http://knowledgeworks.org/building-capacity-systems-change-federal-policy-framework-competency-education#sthash.Nr0OpfWq.dpuf

 

See more at the CompetencyWorks website http://bit.ly/cwk12fedpolicy

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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