Archives for category: Massachusetts

Sixteen elementary school teachers in Framingham, Massachusetts, wrote an eloquent letter to parents explaining the damage that is done by high-stakes PARCC testing.

 

They write:

 

As teachers we cannot stay silent as PARCC makes its way into our classrooms.

 

In the words of Soujourner Truth at the 1851 Women’s Convention, “Where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter.” Nationally, we’re hearing a racket about the problem of standardized tests driving instruction, knocking the process of education clearly out of kilter. Here are a few reasons why:

 

First, test prep takes time away from real instruction in reading, math, and writing. “On average we will cancel six weeks of reading and writing instruction to prepare for the tests.”

 

Second, test prep extinguishes students’ love of learning:

 

Third, standardized tests harm students who are English language learners, students with disabilities, and students with anxiety.

 

Fourth, PARCC will feed into the reform mantra that our schools and teachers are “failing.”

 

EduShyster has written a scintillating post about how three of Boston’s most prestigious law firms (“white shoe” lawyers) have combine to litigate for more charter schools in the name of civil rights. She asks some pertinent questions: Do they know that charters are more segregated than public schools? Do they know that children in charter schools abandon their civil rights at the door? Do they know that many charter schools do not “backfill” (i.e., accept students who apply to enroll in grades after their entering class)? Do they know that the odds of young males graduating from a charter school in Massachusetts are small?

 

She writes:

 

What? You want to know how it is that civil rights can be used to argue for more charter schools, when, according to a growing body of case law, students in charter schools don’t actually have civil rights? Or how, in the course of four decades, *civil rights* could go from a fierce battle over desegregating schools and diversifying the teaching force to the right of students to attend more segregated schools and be taught by young, mostly white teachers? Or why our pro bono-ists seem so charmingly ill-informed, not just about the state’s charter schools, but about all of the schools that are publicly attended? All mere trifles, reader.
While the constitutional challenge to the charter cap has yet to make its official debut, it gets underway unofficially this week with the hottest ticket in town: the annual charter school lottery. Our pro bono-ists will identify a handful of lottery losers, invite them to become plaintiffs, then introduce them to the press, Vergara-style. Of course, the bold plan is not without its challenges. Like getting past that *awkward* bit about the plaintiffs being denied access to *high-performing seats* that have no students in them because of the charter lobby’s staunch position against *backfilling.* Also, probably best to avoid including a would-be 9th grade boy in the plaintiff pool, as he turns out to have about as much chance of graduating from a Boston charter high school, going to college and completing college as he does of winning the actual lottery. But I digress. (The links are in the post.)

 

 

She also helpfully explains why certain law firms are called “white shoe” and includes a very realistic illustration of a white shoe, the kind seen in olden times on Ivy League campuses.

 

 

The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education commissioned a study comparing MCAS, the 20-year-old state assessment system, and PARCC, the federally funded Common Core test. It concluded that PARCC is superior to MCAS in preparing students to be workforce and college ready.

This is a surprising conclusion, since MCAS has been in use for two decades and PARCC is not only untried but very controversial. When Arne Duncan handed out $360 million to create two consortia to develop tests for the Common Core, PARCC enlisted 24 states and DC. Now, only 10 states and DC are sticking with PARCC.

Even more surprising are the reports about a lack of well-prepared workers. Massachusetts is by far the most successful state in the nation, as judged by NAEP test scores. Maybe test scores don’t translate into the skills, behaviors, and habits that employers seek. But how do these business people know that PARCC will be better?

EduShyster tells a gripping tale of parents’ struggle to opt out from state testing in Salem, Massachusetts. She got her hands on emails that were obtained by the parents through the Freedom of Information Act. Local officials tried their best to convince the parents that their children could not possibly skip the tests.

Read the twists and turns as officials scramble to get their answers right. The good news is that the parents won. Their children don’t have to take the state tests or the many practice tests.

Massachusetts is switching from its 20-year-old MCAS testing program to PARCC, the federally-funded Common Core test.

Massachusetts is the highest performing state in the nation on NAEP, the federal tests. Why is it making the change?

Some think it is because Massachusetts’ State Commissioner Mitchell Chester is the chair of the PARCC governing board.

“Mitchell Chester, the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary education, said the PARCC exam would help the state reduce the stubborn achievement gaps between rich and poor, white and minority, by giving teachers better information about which kids need extra support.”

So let’s get this right: a harder test will improve the test scores of kids who are poor? A harder test will raise the scores of minority students but not white kids so the gaps will be reduced? Or the scores of poor and minority kids will increase at a faster pace than the scores of rich and white kids?

And one other question: why do teachers need a new test to tell which kids need extra help? Didn’t they learn that with the MCAS? Don’t they know it by seeing the kids in class daily and reviewing their class participation and homework?

None of this makes sense.

This is funny.

Politico reports:

“BAY STATE SMACKDOWN: Education Secretary Arne Duncan penned a glowing tribute in the Boston Globe [http://bit.ly/1w1kx3J] this week praising the legacy of outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick in improving the state’s schools. “Quite simply,” he wrote, “Massachusetts leads the nation.” That raised the hackles of Jim Stergios, executive director of the conservative Pioneer Institute. He responded with his own op-ed [http://bit.ly/1BMUz8Z ], which opens with the line: “Who says Common Core advocates don’t like fiction?” Stergios notes that the big gains in Massachusetts test scores came before Patrick took office – and that scores have since dropped in several key areas, such as third-grade reading proficiency and SAT scores. Stergios blasts Patrick for abandoning Massachusetts’ famously high standards in favor of the Common Core. He’s even harsher on Duncan, suggesting that the secretary suffers from a “toxic mix of self-importance and the inability to see reality.”

A reader informsus that the auditor of Massachusetts recently released an audit of the state’s charter schools. Our reader offers some of the findings:

“Suzanne M. Bump, Auditor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has finished her audit of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE’s) oversight of the Commonwealth’s charter school system.

“Since 1996, Massachusetts has spent $4.3 billion on charters, and this report shows that DESE—known for its emphasis with local public school districts on data collection and data-driven-decision-making—doesn’t ensure (maybe they can’t) ensure the collection, storage, security, reliability, validity or the dissemination of THEIR data. Such data has been the used to determine policy affecting the future of Massachusetts School Districts since 2009.

“Here’s just a sampling of the report says:

•Charter school waitlist information maintained by DESE is not accurate. A lack of accurate waitlist information may result in ineffective planning and oversight, as well as policymaking consequences such as an inaccurate assessment of demand when charter school approval, renewal, or expansion applications are considered and when the Legislature makes decisions on changes to existing limitations on the number of charter schools.

•Operating under different statutory requirements, charter schools have lower percentages of licensed teachers than traditional public schools.

Additionally, charter school teacher salary levels average 75% of those at sending districts.

•The reliability and accuracy of charter school information in DESE’s data systems are questionable.

•The extent to which the charter school system has provided a successful mechanism for developing and disseminating replicable innovation models is not determinable.

•DESE was inconsistent in its decisions regarding whether to impose conditions for school charter renewal.

EduShyster pays a visit to Salem, Massachusetts, where “school choice” has enabled the affluent families to go to some highly-resourced schools, while the less-affluent go to less-resourced schools.

 

If you want to see how bizarre and brain-dead “reform” is, look no farther than Salem. There, the town has fallen in love with jargon and data, and looks to edupreneurs to solve all problems by supplying edumanure.

 

She writes:

 

“At the center of the Open System beats an edupreneurial heart, one belonging to Empower Schools, founded by edupreneur Chris Gabrieli, whose list of political connections is as long as an extended school day, and Bret Alessi, former Education Pioneer and current Mass 2020 visionary. What precisely Empower Schools does, other than BELIEVE IN OPEN SYSTEMS…and produce case studies like this one, remains a bit vague-ish. What I can tell you is that Empower has quickly one over powerful friends aka *aligned leaders,* like Massachusetts Commissioner of College and Career Readiness, Mitchell D. Chester, who recently sang Empower’s praises to the Boston Globe in a story on how school partnerships with edupreneurial groups like Empower are failing to produce results…..Everybody who is anybody
But I digress. The important thing is that the Salem schools bus is hurtling towards a new system, an Open System, and that everyone who is anyone appears to be on board, from the city’s politically ambitious mayor, to the members of the Salem Partnership, to the members of the Community Advisory Board of the Salem Partnership, to the members of the Salem Education Foundation. In other words, everybody who is anybody in the city is *highly aligned,* jargonically speaking, behind a vision of what the city’s students need to succeed. A *laser-like focus on instruction* and *frequent assessments.* The Open System comes with transportation — and to quote district leaders, *data drives the bus.* And that teachers don’t just want to teach, they want to Teach Plus co-captain the data bus.”

 

But what happens when one family says “No, we don’t want our child to take the tests?” Shockingly, the family won the right to opt out. They have been joined by five other families. Hopefully there will be more. How will the “data bus” function if there is no data? Stay tuned. Will the data bus veer out of control? Or will it continue to drive right over the cliff with the children of Salem?

 

 

In this post, EduShyster asks a question that more and more people are beginning to ask: Why don’t poor minority students get to have public schools?

 

There was much celebration and anticipation when the state announced it was building a new high-tech STEM school in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury called The Dearborn STEM Academy.

 

She writes:

 

Now if by chance you’ve yet to watch any of this season of As the School Turns: $70 Million Dollar Listing, here’s what you’ve missed so far. Things got off to a rousing start with the news that, after seven long seasons, the Dearborn STEM Academy was FINALLY going to get a brand new building. That sound you hear is the studio audience applauding wildly. You see, this was to be the first new public school building in Boston in more than a decade and would feature all sorts of cool STEM stuff, like state-of-the-art science, technology and engineering labs. This wasn’t just a feel good story, viewer, it was a feel great story as the $70 million project symbolized a major investment in Roxbury and in the future scientists, engineers and STEM-sters who live and go to school there.

 

But then the authorities decided it would not be a neighborhood public school but a citywide charter school. When there was strong negative reaction from the public, the city determined that the school would not be a charter but would be run by a private operator. EduShyster was suddenly reminded of what happened in Chicago:

 

If by chance you happen to be viewing this show from, say, Chicago, you’re probably feeling like this is a repeat. You see, on Chicago’s South Side a very similar battle has been playing out over the future of Dyett High School, the last open-enrollment high school in Bronzeville. After the Chicago Public Schools announced plans to close the school, students, parents and community leaders fought back, putting forward their own story line: for a community-based plan to make Dyett a neighborhood STEM school. And just like in Boston, officials in Chicago blinked. Dyett can stay open, but there’s a catch: a private operator will be brought in to run the school. Community organizer Jitu Brown—take it away. *Why can’t we have public schools? Why do low-income minority students need to have their schools run by private contractors?* As Brown sees it, handing the school to a private operator isn’t much better than closing it. *We want this school to anchor the community for the next 75 years. We’re not interested in a short-term contract that can be broken.*

 

That was not the conversation in Boston. The city is going to pick one of two finalists to run the $70 million school, both private contractors. Did anyone mention the word “privatization”?

This article in Jacobin magazine describes the astonishing victory of the Massachusetts Teachers Association in a recent confrontation with the state board of education and the state commissioner. The state commissioner floated a proposal to remove teachers’ licenses if they failed their evaluation, a draconian step that would bar the teacher from teaching in the state in the future. The MTA, under the leadership of recently elected president Barbara Madeloni, informed its members, mobilized the membership, and refused to negotiate this draconian and punitive plan. The MTA did not want a seat at the table; they knew the members were on the menu.

 

It was not always this way. Not long ago, the union negotiated with the anti-union “reform” group called Stand for Children and bargained away some of their rights to avoid something worse. They dared not be militant.

 

This time, the teachers of Massachusetts under bold leadership were militant and well organized, and they won. That is the only way to stop the destructive reformers. Not by meeting them half way. Not by giving them half a loaf; they will be back for more. Stand up to them and fight against their efforts to destroy the teaching profession, to destroy teacher unionism, and to destroy public education.

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