Archives for category: Education Reform

Faced with the highly unpopular law on teacher evaluations rushed through the Legislature by Governor Cuomo with minimal consideration or debate, seven members of the 17-member New York State Board of Regents issued a vigorous dissent. The law requires that 50% of teacher evaluations be based on test scores, a number that is not supported by research or experience. Unlike the Governor and the Legislature, these seven members of the Regents have demonstrated respect for research and concern for the consequences of this hastily-passed law on teachers, children, principals, schools, and communities. They are courageous, they are wise, and they are visionaries. They have shown the leadership that our society so desperately needs. All New Yorkers are in their debt.

I place these wise leaders on the blog honor roll.

The dissident Regents issued the following statement:

Position Paper Amendments
to Current APPR Proposed Regulations

BY SIGNATORIES BELOW JUNE 2, 2015

We. the undersigned, have been empowered by the Constitution of the State of New York and appointed by the New York State Legislature to serve as the policy makers and guardians of educational goals for the residents of New York State. As Regents, we are obligated to determine the best contemporary approaches to meeting the educational needs of the state’s three million P-12 students as well as all students enrolled in our post secondary schools and the entire community of participants who use and value our cultural institutions.

We hold ourselves accountable to the public for the trust they have in our ability to represent and educate them about the outcomes of our actions which requires that we engage in ongoing evaluations of our efforts. The results of our efforts must be transparent and invite public comment.

We recognize that we must strengthen the accountability systems intended to ensure our students benefit from the most effective teaching practices identified in research.

After extensive deliberation that included a review of research and information gained from listening tours, we have determined that the current proposed amendments to the APPR system are based on an incomplete and inadequate understanding of how to address the task of continuously improving our educational system.

Therefore, we have determined that the following amendments are essential, and thus required, in the proposed emergency regulations to remedy the current malfunctioning APPR system.

What we seek is a well thought out, comprehensive evaluation plan which sets the framework for establishing a sound professional learning community for educators. To that end we offer these carefully considered amendments to the emergency regulations.

I. Delay implementation of district APPR plans based on April 1, 2015 legislative action until September 1, 2016.

A system that has integrity, fidelity and reliability cannot be developed absent time to review research on best practices. We must have in place a process for evaluating the evaluation system. There is insufficient evidence to support using test measures that were never meant to be used to evaluate teacher performance.

We need a large scale study, that collects rigorous evidence for fairness and reliability and the results need to be published annually. The current system should not be simply repeated with a greater emphasis on a single test score. We do not understand and do not support the elimination of the instructional evidence that defines the teaching, learning, achievement process as an element of the observation process.

Revise the submission date. Allow all districts to submit by November 15, 2015 a letter of intent regarding how they will utilize the time to review/revise their current APPR Plan.

II. A. Base the teacher evaluation process on student standardized test scores, consistent with research; the scores will account for a maximum of no more than 20% on the matrix.

B. Base 80% of teacher evaluation on student performance, leaving the following options for local school districts to select from: keeping the current local measures generating new assessments with performance –driven student activities, (performance-assessments, portfolios, scientific experiments, research projects) utilizing options like NYC Measures of Student Learning, and corresponding student growth measures.

C. Base the teacher observation category on NYSUT and UFT’s scoring ranges using their rounding up process rather than the percentage process.

III. Base no more than 10% of the teacher observation score on the work of external/peer evaluators, an option to be decided at the local district level where the decisions as to what training is needed, will also be made.

IV. Develop weighting algorithms that accommodate the developmental stages for English Language Learners (ELL) and special needs (SWD) students. Testing of ELL students who have less than 3 years of English language instruction should be prohibited.

V. Establish a work group that includes respected experts and practitioners who are to be charged with constructing an accountability system that reflects research and identifies the most effective practices. In addition, the committee will be charged with identifying rubrics and a guide for assessing our progress annually against expected outcomes.

Our recommendations should allow flexibility which allows school systems to submit locally developed accountability plans that offer evidence of rigor, validity and a theory of action that defines the system.

VI. Establish a work group to analyze the elements of the Common Core Learning Standards and Assessments to determine levels of validity, reliability, rigor and appropriateness of the developmental aspiration levels embedded in the assessment items.

No one argues against the notion of a rigorous, fair accountability system. We disagree on the implied theory of action that frames its tenet such as firing educators instead of promoting a professional learning community that attracts and retains talented educators committed to ensuring our educational goals include preparing students to be contributing members committed to sustaining and improving the standards that represent a democratic society.

We find it important to note that researchers, who often represent opposing views about the characteristics that define effective teaching, do agree on the dangers of using the VAM student growth model to measure teacher effectiveness. They agree that effectiveness can depend on a number of variables that are not constant from school year to school year. Chetty, a professor at Harvard University, often quoted as the expert in the interpretation of VAM along with co-researchers Friedman & Rockoff, offers the following two cautions: “First, using VAM for high-stakes evaluation could lead to unproductive responses such as teaching to the test or cheating; to date, there is insufficient evidence to assess the importance of this concern. Second, other measures of teacher performance, such as principal evaluations, student ratings, or classroom observations, may ultimately prove to be better predictors of teachers’ long-term impacts on students than VAMs. While we have learned much about VAM through statistical research, further work is needed to understand how VAM estimates should (or should not) be combined with other metrics to identify and retain effective teachers.”i Linda Darling Hammond agrees, in a Phi Delta Kappan March 2012 article and cautions that “none of the assumptions for the use of VAM to measure teacher effectiveness are well supported by evidence.”ii

We recommend that while the system is under review we minimize the disruption to local school districts for the 2015/16 school year and allow for a continuation of approved plans in light of the phasing in of the amended regulations.

Last year, Vicki Phillips, Executive Director for the Gates Foundation, cautioned districts to move slowly in the rollout of an accountability system based on Common Core Systems and advised a two year moratorium before using the system for high stakes outcomes. Her cautions were endorsed by Bill Gates.

We, the undersigned, wish to reach a collaborative solution to the many issues before us, specifically at this moment, the revisions to APPR. However, as we struggle with the limitations of the new law, we also wish to state that we are unwilling to forsake the ethics we value, thus this list of amendments.

Kathleen Cashin

Judith Chin

Catherine Collins

*Josephine Finn

Judith Johnson

Beverly L. Ouderkirk

Betty A. Rosa

Regent Josephine Finn said: *”I support the intent of the position paper”

i Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Jonah Rockoff, “Discussion of the American Statistical Association’s Statement (2014) on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment,” May 2014, retrieved from:

http://obs.rc.fas.harvard.edu/chetty/value_added.html. The American Statistical Association (ASA) concurs with Chetty et al. (2014): “It is unknown how full implementation of an accountability system incorporating test-based indicators, such as those derived from VAMs, will affect the actions and dispositions of teachers, principals and other educators. Perceptions of transparency, fairness and credibility will be crucial in determining the degree of success of the system as a whole in achieving its goals of improving the quality of teaching. Given the unpredictability of such complex interacting forces, it is difficult to anticipate how the education system as a whole will be affected and how the educator labor market will respond. We know from experience with other quality improvement undertakings that changes in evaluation strategy have unintended consequences. A decision to use VAMs for teacher evaluations might change the way the tests are viewed and lead to changes in the school environment. For example, more classroom time might be spent on test preparation and on specific content from the test at the exclusion of content that may lead to better long-term learning gains or motivation for students. Certain schools may be hard to staff if there is a perception that it is harder for teachers to achieve good VAM scores when working in them. Overreliance on VAM scores may foster a competitive environment, discouraging collaboration and efforts to improve the educational system as a whole. David Morganstein & Ron Wasserstein, “ASA Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment,” Published with license by American Statistical Association, April 8 2014, published online November 7, 2014: http://amstat.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/2330443X.2014.956906. Bachman-Hicks, Kane and Staiger (2014), likewise admit, “we know very little about how the validity of the value-added estimates may change when they are put to high stakes use. All of the available studies have relied primarily on data drawn from periods when there were no stakes attached to the teacher value-added measures.” Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Thomas J. Kane, Douglas O. Staiger, “Validating Teacher Effect Estimates Using Changes in Teacher Assignments in Los Angeles,” NBER Working Paper No. 20657, Issued in November 2014, 24-5: http://www.nber.org/papers/w20657.

ii Linda Darling-Hammond, “Can Value Added Add Value to Teacher Evaluation?” Educational Researcher, March 2015 44, 132-37: http://edr.sagepub.com/content/44/2/132.full.pdf+html?ijkey=jEZWtoEsiWg92&keytype=ref&siteid=spedr.

Gene V. Glass, emeritus professor at Arizona State University and an associate of the National Education Policy Center, ponders the ubiquity of the “Shoe Button Complex” among leading “reformers” of education.

In this essay, he recalls a story of a man who became the nation’s leading vendor of “shoe buttons” a century ago. He cornered the market on shoe buttons. He knew everything there was to know about shoe buttons, and he became a very rich man. His great success persuaded him that he was an expert on everything. The essay then refers to the “reformers” who think that their fabulous wealth entitles them to opine on how to re-engineer schools. They don’t listen to people who work in schools or people who are researchers and scholars of education, because those people are not fabulously wealthy; in the eyes of those who have cornered the market on shoe buttons or computers, the opinion of mere educators counts for nothing. Educators, in the eyes of “reformers,” are the status quo because they are educators. Better to trust someone who has never taught or studied the subject in depth.

Glass suggests that Bill Gates and his wife Melinda may be prime examples of the Shoe Button Complex. And then there is Arizona, where he finds this scenario:

Jan Brewer, Republican governor of Arizona and famous for issuing a tongue wagging to President Obama, appointed Intel ex-CEO Craig Barrett to chair a council—Ready Arizona–to study and recommend public education reform for the state. It is unclear what Barrett knows about education. One suspects that we are encountering another case of the Shoe Button Complex. Barrett is urging businesses to push school reform. His public utterances strike familiar chords: the future of the entire state rests on the test scores of little kids; more science and math majors will attract businesses to the state; it’s a global economy. After all, the public schools are “suppliers” of labor for businesses. And at Intel, “if a supplier didn’t meet our specifications, we would call the supplier and say, ‘Meet our specifications or we will fire you.’” Apparently, Barrett shares his fellow Republican Mitt Romney’s pleasure in firing people.

Of course, what Barrett is actually and unknowingly talking about is crony capitalism: Linking government and business in relationships that favor the economy. Whether the intellectual, moral, physical, and aesthetic well-being of young people is benefited by their education probably never occurs to Barrett and his ilk. Or perhaps “well-being” to Barrett means having acquired a taste for consumerism and a job to support it. In fact, most industry leaders would like to see specialized training pushed down as early in the curriculum as possible so that high school graduates appear in their HR departments job-ready, trained at public expense. And if training kids for Intel just happens to involve piping a bunch of online courses into Arizona public schools, well so much the better since Barrett also serves on the board of K-12 Inc., the nation’s #1 supplier of cyber-courses. Whether the former CEO of Intel knows everything there is to know about selling microprocessors AND education, or whether this is merely another manifestation of the Shoe Button Complex remains to be seen.

As readers are aware, Congress is considering reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, which should have been reauthorized in 2007. One of the most contentious issues is whether to retain or modify the federal mandate for annual testing. Some have proposed grade-span testing as an alternative, since annual testing has caused some schools to spend a disproportionate amount of time on test preparation. Some would like to see the federal trying mandate eliminated altogether, with federal money used for equity rather than standardized testing (I’m in the third camp but would find grade span testing an improvement over annual testing).

Recently a dozen civil rights groups released a statement criticizing parents who opt out of annual testing. The Network for Public Education responded in disagreement in a statement written by teacher Jesse Hagopian and the NPE board. Mark Tucker wrote a post disagreeing with the civil rights groups, saying there was no evidence that annual testing helps poor and minority children and some evidence that it harms them by narrowing the curriculum to test prep.

Kati Haycock, leader of pro-testing Education Trust (which helped to draft NCLB), responded angrily to Tucker.

Here, Mercedes Schneider challenges Haycock for her defense of annual testing. Schneider says that Haycock failed to refute Tucker’s evidence and instead went on a rant.

Schneider writes;

“In her June 4, 2015, Education Post rebuttal, Haycock jumps out of her daytime-TV chair, knocking it back as she rushes forward to get in Tucker’s face while declaring that she, “even a white girl,” can register what is Tucker’s obvious insult: That the civil rights community could possibly be injuring children by insisting upon annual standardized testing.

“No such drama was necessary. All Haycock had to do was refute Tucker’s evidence.

“She did not.

“Instead, she goes on to write (in the $12 million, Walton-Broad-Bloomberg-funded, corporate-reform Education Post) that she– the white girl– is there to call Tucker out on behalf of a group of 12 civil rights organizations that she admittedly did not join with in their May 5, 2015, formal declaration against opting out.”

Watch and read the verbal fisticuffs. It might be funny if it were not so sad. The evidence matters.

PS: Marc Tucker responds:

“Tucker told Morning Education that Haycock is “just plain wrong.” The civil rights community is not as united on testing as many think it is, he said, citing a recent op-ed [http://bit.ly/1BKzpI3]. “I actually laughed when I saw it, to tell you the truth,” Tucker said. “What’s important to me here is not overriding the civil rights community, but persuading people in it that they have misread the situation.”
.

Superintendent Roy Montesano wrote a powerful letter describing the dangers of Governor Cuomo’s education plan.

He warned that the plan would create a permanent culture of high-stakes over testing; good teachers will be fired, and the judgments of their principals will be disregarded; local control will be eroded (he adds that no one could possibly believe that more control by Albany will improve the performance of the schools of Hastings-on-Hudson); the loss of local control will drag down high-performing districts like his own.

He invites everyone who agrees to sign the petition calling for the repeal of the Cuomo law. The link is included in his letter.

Download the full letter here.

Thomas Friedman has a column in the New York Times about attending the graduation ceremonies at the SEED high school in Baltimore. His wife, he writes, “chairs the foundation behind the SEED schools.” The column, of course, is a celebration of the young people who have made it to graduation in this very unusual school. It is a boarding school, which begins in sixth grade. Although other SEED schools are charter schools, this one in Maryland is not; it is described as a “statewide public college-preparatory boarding school.” It relies on private contributions to get started, but its operations are funded by public dollars.

Friedman writes:

As the saying goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Unfortunately, not everyone made it to the finish line: Of the 80 who won the lottery that day in 2008, only 29 stuck it out or made it from sixth grade to graduation. The good news is that the graduates are going to the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, U.S.C., Villanova and others; one is joining the Coast Guard.

SEED has long been lauded in national media for its test scores and its college placements. But, at the Maryland campus described by Friedman, only 36% of students persisted from sixth grade to graduation from twelfth grade.

I first became aware of the SEED boarding school concept when I saw the movie “Waiting for ‘Superman.'” It was one of the charter schools featured as an escape for students who seemed doomed to fail in urban public schools. I wrote a review of the movie and in doing so, checked out the schools that were featured. What I learned about SEED in 2010 was that it had a very high attrition rate, and it was very expensive (at that time, about $35,000 per student in public funding, more recently the cost per student was $40,000).

Here is a description of the D.C. SEED charter school that was featured in the movie,

“In order to help kids do better in school, the SEED School takes them away from their home environments for five days a week and gives them a host of supporting services. The results of this educational experiment have been promising so far, and SEED believes their model can be used on a broader scale.

When consultants Eric Adler and Rajiv Vinnakota founded the school in 1998, it was the first and only urban public boarding school in the country. Much like Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone, Adler and Vinnakota saw the classroom as only one component of a college-preparatory education.

“The SEED model includes academic, residential, mental health, physical health, social, and enrichment programs,” explains Laura O’Connor, director of communications for the SEED Foundation. The school provides volunteer tutoring, extracurricular programs like robotics and cooking classes, and a scholarly environment where Facebook, MySpace, and television are forbidden.”

I take away three lessons from the story that Friedman tells.

One is that public schools should have the resources to provide “academic, mental health, physical health, social, and enrichment programs.” They too should have the advantages that are clearly beneficial to students.

Second, SEED is not in any sense “scalable.” No state is ready, willing, or able to pay $40,000 per student for children who live in distressed urban districts. Nor should a school with an attrition rate over 60% be considered appropriate for entire districts.

Third, without knocking the people who are trying to help kids in need, I question the value of separating children from their families and communities as a broad-scale approach. It is not likely to happen because it is too expensive, but it also operates on the presumption that the children can thrive only by getting away from home. For some that may be true. But for our society, it is a way of evading our obligation to address the systemic problems of segregation, poverty, and racism. Saving our children one at a time is a noble cause, but it is even more noble to fix the social and economic conditions that put them at risk.

Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the College of Education at Indiana University, wrote a letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star agreeing with the dean of the College of Education at Purdue: Indiana is on track for an education disaster because of the policies enacted by the legislature at the behest of former Governor Mitch Daniels (now president of Purdue) and continued by his success Mike Pence.

 

He wrote:

 

Indiana’s downward trend in education enrollments can be traced directly to the policies promoted under then-Gov. Daniels and Indiana schools superintendent Tony Bennett. Between 2000 and 2012 constant-dollar teacher salaries in Indiana decreased by 10 percent, outpaced nationally only by North Carolina’s 14 percent decrease.

 

At the same time, the wrong-headed Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability policies promoted by Daniels and Bennett increased regulation of education schools and licensure requirements for teacher education students while lowering standards of preparation for nontraditional teacher prep programs. Coupled with the equally flawed testing and test-based teacher evaluation policies implemented in the state, these rules have driven out experienced, effective teachers while discouraging new teachers from entering the field.

 

Unless Indiana changes course, its public education system is headed for disaster. Already teacher shortages are being felt across the board, not just in traditional shortage areas.

 

It is wonderful to see education leaders speaking out fearlessly and telling the truth. Indiana’s leaders have led education to a precipice. Will the electorate permit them to continue destroying public education and higher education?

Andrew Gerst joined Teach for America and taught in Los Angeles schools, both public and charter. He has offered the following advice to TFA leadership:
How (I’d Like) to Fix Teach for America

For the last two-plus years, I’ve taught math in low-income Los Angeles public schools: first in the Los Angeles Unified School District through Teach for America, and later in a charter school. I have a prestigious degree, a master’s in education, and a minor in mathematics, and I’ve struggled more every single day of all two-plus years than at any other job I’ve ever had—an understatement. I feel I have had some successes, and some of our teachers have done very well. But I can say without doubt that Teach for America did not prepare the vast majority of my “corps members,” as our fellow teachers are called, and me to effectuate the long-term “transformational change” that the program strives for.

Rather than join the deafening cry of criticism over Teach for America—almost all of it, in my opinion, completely valid, and I hope it will continue—I’d like to try to offer some constructive comments on how I feel TFA desperately needs to change. I still believe in Teach for America. But if TFA doesn’t make these changes, or at least deign to publicly acknowledge its failures as school districts and universities around the country start questioning their relationship with TFA and stop hiring its teachers (Durham, N.C. stopped hiring TFA recruits in September; students and others have launched successful protests against TFA at Harvard, Vanderbilt, Michigan, Macalaster, and in the city of Chicago), I won’t be supporting TFA, or encouraging anyone to join it anymore.

1. Keep the two-year requirement. But make the first year a residency of mentorship and observation, not trial-and-error teaching.

Let me put this as simply as possible: Teach for America, you’re not teaching us how to teach.

Other programs do. It’s not 1990 anymore, and it’s time to catch up.

If I could go back in time, I would have in a heartbeat joined Aspire Teacher Residency or Match Teacher Residency—and not TFA. To me, it’s absolutely unquestionable that these programs—which both require a year of training and mentorship before releasing new recruits to the classroom—are better than TFA. In fact, I think the current Teach for America model may be considered literally illegal given its chronic inability to train effective teachers (see Vergara v. California, pending in court right now). That is to say: if we TFA corps members were held to the same standards as other teachers, we would not last very long.

Aspire, on the other hand, states that 95% of its graduates were rated effective or highly effective in their first year of teaching in low-income classrooms. That’s astounding. It’s hard to get solid numbers from TFA, but I can tell you that about 20% of my 200-plus fellow corps members in Los Angeles dropped out before even finishing their commitment. (A lot of people got fired. Others limped through. Countless alumni I encounter are bitter, though, yes, there are exceptions.) There’s no way 95% of us were effective or highly effective—if I had to estimate, I would guess the number was around 30% at best.

When I spoke with one senior TFA staff member about the residency model, the only objection the staff member seemed to raise was “cost.” As of 2013, TFA had a $350 million budget, according to CFO Miguel Rossy. If $350 million isn’t enough to train our teachers properly, maybe it’s time to change some priorities?

2. Acknowledge that classroom management is absolutely everything.

I refuse to read any education critiques by anyone who hasn’t ever taught full-time—because you have no idea about classroom management, or even what it really means. It means this: Your master’s degree is worthless if you can’t get defiant students to sit down. And a lot of the time, I couldn’t. It’s great that TFA emphasizes real talk on race, class, gender, and privilege. I say this un-ironically—these things are important. But those conversations need to take a backseat to the “teacher moves,” as Mike Goldstein of Match puts it, that make effectuating change based upon these very principles possible. It may not be very sexy, but I would much rather learn by spending a year watching a master teacher get 45 middle school students in a room to work silently on math than go to yet another lecture about diversity. It’s horribly naïve to think that 6 weeks of Institute does anything more than to provide a false sense of security in teaching ability. (A lot of us taught in Institute classrooms of 6 or fewer students, for 45 minutes a day—not the nearly 200 students we work with during the school year.) And it’s not enough to have only brief exposure to classroom management principles. The only way to use classroom management effectively, as Goldstein says, is by practicing teacher moves “to the point of automaticity.” We do have some rock stars who seem to teach perfectly right away—but I would venture to say that almost everyone else needs at least a year to get ready. I volunteered as a staff facilitator at a recent Teach for America corps member retreat. I was disappointed that we spent almost all of the day and a half oriented toward a “north star” that had nothing to do with actual teaching—just endless Youtube animations, music videos, TED Talks, and quotes from Jeff Duncan-Andrade and other education professors. We wouldn’t have gotten into TFA in the first place if we weren’t culturally literate. It’s time to recognize we came here to teach in tough schools, not study sociology.

3. End the culture of low expectations for first-year teachers.

I’m horribly frustrated by the double standard TFA has on results. When a student who can barely read has trouble with a grade-level text we assign, we’re told we as teachers must be holding low expectations. When we ourselves fail as teachers, we’re given a pat on the back. To have a bad first (and/or second) year of teaching, that is, is considered part of the experience. My school director at Institute, who’s now an assistant principal in a well-recognized charter school district, bragged to us about his years in the corps, saying, “Those students did not do well.” One of my teacher coaches in TFA—i.e., the person who was supposed to be helping me—told me she was “such a bad teacher.” TFA seems to treat the whole experience of teaching in low-income classrooms as a nice little business school case study. It’s something you laugh over while having beers with your banker friends. A “growth experience” shouldn’t come at the expense of hundreds of students and families, especially not in communities of color.

4. Listen to your alumni, disgruntled, content, or otherwise.

Perhaps the most maddening thing of all is how little TFA seems to really care about making change. TFA was revolutionary back in the early 1990s, before the charter school movement took off, before extensive research on low-income teaching had been done, before Common Core. But the game has changed. Aspire, Match, and other alternative programs (though conspicuously, still not most traditional university education programs) seem to have caught up—but I fear that TFA hasn’t. I’ve had many conversations with our local staff in LA about changing things. But I’m not sure TFA as a whole seems to care. I see a huge drop in both applicant numbers and the size of the corps, but I don’t see the model of Institute changing significantly. I don’t think that adding a few months’ part-time support for newly admitted college students, which is TFA’s latest move, will make much of a difference. And I don’t hear anyone listening. I completed a long alumni survey last year and never got a response. People seem to go to a lot of conferences on leadership and do one-off coaching, rather than forming a real relationship with corps members and alumni. One of TFA’s new co-CEOs has never even taught—just like its founder, Wendy Kopp. It would be nice to know that someone is listening.

Arthur Camins writes in response to Marc Tucker’s article about the failure of annual testing:

“One of the contributors to the problem that Mark Tucker identifies is cynicism.

“Few appear to believe anymore that government will do anything more than the meager attention effects of annual testing to address inequity. As a country, we have forgotten that it was the collective action of the labor and civil rights movements that has mediated inequality, not punishment regimes or the individualism inherent in the so-called choice notion behind charter schools. It’s not federal overreach that’s the problem, but reaching for the wrong things. See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/01/13/u-s-education-policy-federal-overreach-or-reaching-for-the/

“It doesn’t have to be this way. We Can Be Better than the Audacity of Small Hopes: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arthur-camins/we-can-be-better-than-the-audacity-of-small-hopes_b_7284458.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

“Since the Reagan era, the Democrats have been on the defensive, and have run away from collective action for equity. It’s time to re-embrace community responsibility rather than selfish-individualism.”

http://www.arthurcamins.com

Peter Greene performs a valuable dissection of Frank Bruni’s uninformed defense of the U.S. Department of Education and its current occupant, who has done so much to demoralize teachers, demand high-stakes testing, and pump many millions into the privatization movement. The column wouldn’t matter so much if it appeared in a grocery store tabloid, but Bruni writes for the New York Times.

Let it be noted that Bruni was a wonderful critic of food and wine in earlier days at the Times.

But he shows no evidence of knowing anything about education. He thinks American kids are too “coddled.” (Even the 50% living in low-income families?) He may have been the only critic in the nation to applaud the pro-charter, pro-parent trigger movie “Won’t Back Down,” which opened in 2,500 movie theaters and disappeared without a trace within 30 days.

Here is a small part of Peter Greene’s excellent post:

So– to recap– Bruni has taken the Senate attempt to re-authorize the ESEA, and instead of placing that in the context of a bill that has been awaiting re-authorization by Congress since 2007 and has finally been tackled by the appropriate Senate committee for that tackling, he’s creating a new narrative in which, steeped in an anti-department atmosphere, Murray and Alexander just kind of go rogue and float this bill created out of whole cloth just to spank the department.

So what else does Bruni want to point out in this alternate universe?

Well, goodness. Under this proposal, the USED would not have say “over how (or if)” teacher evaluation would occur. And– Good lord in heaven– here’s a short list of Things Bruni Does Not Know:

1) Even with the USED’s watchful eye, states are managing to gut the teaching profession. Current leader in assaulting the profession would be the Wisconsin, where they’re thinking that maybe anybody– even a high school dropout– can be a teacher.

2) USED’s ideas about how to evaluate teacher are stupid. Their major contribution has been to demand that teachers be evaluated by using student test scores, an approach supported by no actual research or science or even common sense, and repudiated by pretty much everybody who doesn’t have financial or political benefits tied to the approach.

3) “Or if”? Come on. Name one state, one school, one corner of the country where politicians and leaders are saying, “Let’s never evaluate teachers at all.” Well, except for charter schools. But the USED supports charters and the charter right to make up any rules they like, so again– if this is a problem, the USED is definitely not on the case.

4) The best teacher evaluation systems are coming from local school districts, not the feds. Time magazine is profiling a system created by UCLA schools in Koreatown (in LA– my son’s neighborhood!) that Audrey Amrein-Beardsley calls “legitimately new and improved.”

 

In this brilliant article, Marc Tucker explains why the civil rights community is making an error by supporting annual testing as a “civil right.” He knows their leaders believe that poor and minority children will be overlooked in the absence of annual testing. But he demonstrates persuasively that annual testing has done nothing to improve the academic outcomes of poor and minority children and that they have actually been harmed by the pressure to raise scores every year.

 

Tucker writes:

 

First of all, the data show that, although the performance of poor and minority students improved after passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, it was actually improving at a faster rate before the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. Over the 15-year history of the No Child Left Behind Act, there is no data to show that it contributed to improved student performance for poor and minority students at the high school level, which is where it counts.

 

 

Those who argue that annual accountability testing of every child is essential for the advancement of poor and minority children ought to be able to show that poor and minority children perform better in education systems that have such requirements and worse in systems that don’t have them. But that is simply not the case. Many nations that have no annual accountability testing requirements have higher average performance for poor and minority students and smaller gaps between their performance and the performance of majority students than we do here in the United States. How can annual testing be a civil right if that is so?

 

 

Nonetheless, on the face of it, I agree that it is better to have data on the performance of poor children and the children in other particularly vulnerable groups than not to have that data. But annual accountability testing of every child is not the only way to get that data. We could have tests that are given not to every student but only to a sample of students in each school every couple of years and find out everything we need to know about how our poor and minority students are doing, school by school.

 

 

But the situation is worse than I have thus far portrayed it. It is not just that annual accountability testing with separate scores for poor and minority students does not help those students. The reality is that it actually hurts them.

 

 

All that testing forces schools to buy cheap tests, because they have to administer so many of them. Cheap tests measure low-level basic skills, not the kind of high-level, complex skills most employers are looking for these days. Though students in wealthy communities are forced to take these tests, no one in those communities pays much attention to them. They expect much more from their students. It is the schools serving poor and minority students that feed the students an endless diet of drill and practice keyed to these low-level tests. The teachers are feeding these kids a dumbed down curriculum to match the dumbed down tests, a dumbed down curriculum the kids in the wealthier communities do not get….

 

 

It turns out that there is one big interest that is well served by annual accountability testing. It is the interest of those who hold that the way to improve our schools is to fire the teachers whose students do not perform well on the tests. This is the mantra of the U.S. Department of Education under the Obama Administration. It is not possible to gather the data needed to fire teachers on the basis of their students’ performance unless that data is gathered every year.

 

 

The Obama Administration has managed to pit the teachers against the civil rights community on this issue and to put the teachers on the defensive. It is now said that the reason the teachers are opposing the civil rights community on annual testing is because they are seeking to evade responsibility for the performance of poor and minority students. The liberal press has bought this argument hook, line and sinker.

 

 

This is disingenuous and outrageous. Not only is it true that annual accountability testing does not improve the performance of poor and minority students, as I just explained, but it is also true that annual accountability testing is making a major contribution to the destruction of the quality of our teaching force….

 

The evaluation systems recently created has serious flaws. Their goal is to fire teachers, and those likeliest to be fired are teachers in minority communities. Meanwhile applications to professional education programs are plummeting. This is a very bad scenario for children and teachers alike; it harms teachers by putting the fear of failure in their minds, and it harms the children by giving them a stripped-down schooling and a revolving door of teachers.

 

Time to think again, says Tucker. I agree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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