Archives for category: Obama

Fred LeBrun, a regular columnist for the Albany-Times-Union, writes that the scale of the opt out movement sends a powerful message to the President, Arne Duncan, Governor Cuomo, “and an entire ruling cabal of moronic billionaires convinced that public education can only be elevated by punitive measures and the cold imposition of numbers in a database.” He wisely recognizes that the movement was an uprising by parents, who are sick of the test-driven, data-driven policies of the past dozen years and sick of the Governor’s demand to make the consequences of the test even harsher. Parents know that this means more resources devoted to testing, less time for the arts and other subjects and activities that their children enjoy. LeBrun understands that parents are fed up with No Child Left Behind, fed up with Race to the Top, and fed up with the politicians who blindly embrace the agenda of these policies that are so harmful to genuine education.

LeBrun writes:

That’s not just an opt-out movement anymore. It’s civil disobedience, and a step away from a growing stampede. That should make elected officials squirm, and they deserve it.

But we haven’t seen the half of it yet. This coming week those same children will go back to take three days of standardized math tests — or not.

How the numbers who didn’t take the English tests will impact the numbers taking the math tests will be illuminating. It’s hard to imagine anything but a tumbling effect. Reports have surfaced that those English tests had a number of questions that were ambiguous, poorly designed and written in language too sophisticated for the age level, yet again. One parent said that the tests seem to be about creating failure, not measuring learning. She likened the exams to child abuse. Of course, since these tests are endorsed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, self-proclaimed guardian of our young minds, this couldn’t possibly be true.

Regardless how many show up for the math tests, what the parents have done so far is as strong a repudiation of national and state public policy as we have seen in a long time. These parents have given a resounding ”no” to the president, our governor, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and an entire ruling cabal of moronic billionaires convinced that public education can only be elevated by punitive measures and the cold imposition of numbers in a database.

Well, the public is not having it. Not just here in New York, but across the country. The reauthorization of No Child Left Behind in progress right now will reflect enormous national pressures to change course from a reliance on testing and the linking of teacher evaluations and student achievement to those tests. Federal funding will not be connected to meeting any federal standards, as it is now.

Paul Karrer teaches fifth grade in California. He writes frequently about education.

 

 

Don’t Let Hillary Do An Obama On Public Education

 

I write to the leaders of our many education organizations. The time has come for educators collectively to push back.

 

If you are honest, you must admit we have not fared well politically. In fact it would be fair to say we have been vilified, punished, and demoralized. Teachers must face the ugly fact that President Obama has done the institution of public education and educators irreparable, long-term damage with his shocking warm embrace of “Ed Reform Inc.”

 

In the previous election the many arms of education threw their weight, money, and support behind President Obama far too early. Hillary Clinton was one of the few candidates to come out against No Child Left Behind. No Child Left Behind was the seminal poisonous blueprint for the destruction and financial demolition of our democratic public schooling institutions.

 

We received no return on our support for President Obama. Incredibly just the opposite occurred. He made Arnie Duncan his hatchet man and Arnie started chopping. President Obama became wedded to Wall Street, hedge funders, school privatizers, technocrats, and initiated the cannibalism of our educational system. Who would have conceived that the greatest educational betrayal in contemporary history would be by a Democrat and a minority member to boot? His Race To The Top, leveraged with more charter schools, was the ugly stepchild of NCLB. Strategically we thought we had to support Obama. He could only be better than any Republican we chanted. Sadly, in retrospect this is no longer a certainty.

 

We find ourselves in a similar juncture in the political road. Hillary seems to be our candidate BUT…she has said some very disturbing things of late. Things which make many of us a little questioning of her new leanings. I say this as an ardent Hillary supporter. She claims that the most important book she has ever read was the bible. No problem with that except she’s never mentioned this previously. Also, she’s made a very sharp right turn regarding Syria and probably Iran. She is now a big proponent of invasion – to show she’s tough. Both of these moves reek of pandering to polls. And they indicate a throwing out of previous values. Scary question is…will she throw public education and teachers under the bus for votes too?

 

We need Hillary, if she is to be our candidate, to be supportive of us in deeds not platitudes. Not just because of our power, and strength but also because we are the good guys. We believe in public service. That is why we teach.

 

Hillary needs to understand she does not automatically have our support and resources unless she guarantees the death of NCLB, teachers evaluated on testing, and the end of excessive testing. We need a presidential candidate who restarts a public schooling system based on what is good for children – not what is good for: politicians, hedge funders, Pearson, or charter school corporations.

 

So you our education leaders at the top of the food chain need to have a little sit-down with Hillary. She can’t do An Obama on us. An Obama is where he meets with a few teachers, tells them how great they are. Parades them on T.V. and blathers how society needs great teachers. And adds that we shouldn’t test too much.

 

And then he promotes industries many harmful reforms. That’s An Obama.

 

Don’t let Hillary do a Hillary on us.

 

 

Paul Karrer
5th grade teacher

Castroville Elementary School
2009 North Monterey LULAC Teacher of The Year
Monterey, California
93940

Reader Cheryll Brounsteun posed this concern:

“I have followed the evolution of “school reform”. I believed naively that once Obama recognized that the reform movement was a scam to make money by selling tests, technology, curriculum, privatizing education and breaking unions that Democrats would take steps to protect public education.

“Sadly, Obama’s public support for TFA, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and Rahm Emmanuel clearly underscore that public education has been traded or sold and is being dismantled in stages. The destruction of public education is as great a travesty as the devastation of the environment and the corruption of our judicial system that ignores the crimes of the 1%. Yet, most citizens lack an awareness that the basis of a viable democracy is disappearing.”

Readers of this blog learned here on February 12 that Chris Christie of New Jersey told Republicans in Iowa that he had “grave concerns” about the Common Core. Today, the Washington Post ran the story, with some juicy additional details.

 

How did I get the news before the Washington Post? The blog has readers in Iowa who sent the story as soon as it happened. Thanks to all readers for being my eyes and ears across the nation!

 

Reporter Lyndsey Layton pulled out this fabulous quote from Governor Christie’s recent past:

 

And Christie’s Feb. 9 comments about the Obama administration were quite different from what he said 18 months ago, when he appeared in Las Vegas at a summit organized by KIPP, a national chain of charter schools. Christie, who supports charter schools, was interviewed at the summit by David Bradley, the owner of the Atlantic Media Company.

 

This is what Christie said at the August 2013 event:

 

“We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the president than not, and with (Education) Secretary (Arne) Duncan. They haven’t been perfect on this but they’ve been better than a lot of folks have been in terms of the reform movement and I think that part of the Republican opposition that you see in some corners of Congress is a reaction, that knee-jerk reaction you see that’s happening in Washington right now, that if the president likes something, the Republicans in Congress don’t and if the Republicans in Congress like something, the president doesn’t. It is this mindset in D.C. right now that says we have to be at war constantly because to not be at war is to show weakness and to show weakness is to lead to failure and I just don’t buy that.”

 

A spokesman for Christie did not respond to a request on Tuesday for an explanation of the change of position.

 

An interesting sidelight of the story in the Post:

 

Though Christie alleges it has been a federal problem, the federal government plays no role in implementing academic standards: It is prohibited by law from getting involved in curriculum decisions or teaching methods.

 

So, class, how many think that the Obama administration’s Race to the Top “played no role” in promoting the Common Core? How many think that federally-funded tests (PARCC and SBAC) have no bearing on curriculum decisions and teaching methods?

 

A show of hands?

 

Meanwhile, back in the Garden State (aka New Jersey), parents and teachers are in open rebellion against the PARCC testing of Common Core. Will Governor Christie speak up?

 

 

 

 

Mark Naison wrote the following post:

 

 

In Newark and Buffalo, attempts to promote charter schools over public schools, and suppress the voices of educators and community residents have stripped the “Civil Rights” rationale from School Reform in the most naked way. In each city, an authoritarian white leader- in Newark Cami Anderson, in Buffalo, Carl Palladino- have attempted to stifle community input into education policy while seeking to intimidate some of their city’s most respected Black educators. In each instance, officials of the Obama Administration and the US Department of Education, who constantly claim that replacing public schools with charter schools advances the interests of children of color, have been conspicuously silent.

 

Let us be perfectly clear- what Cami Anderson and Carl Palladino are proposing mirrors what the Obama Administration is recommending for schools in the nation’s cities, yet large portions of the Black and Latino communities in Newark and Buffalo are up in arms about what is being done to them, and how their voices and opinions have been rendered irrelevant or viciously attacked.

 

Rather than facing that contradiction, and standing up for democratic governance of public schools, officials of the Obama Administration remain silent.

 

At its best, this is opportunism. At its worst, it is a short sighted and hypocritical failure to recognize that their policies are not only flawed, but may be undermining the very objectives they claim to promote.

Thomas Ralston, superintendent of the Avonworth School District in western Pennsylvania, was thrilled to be invited to the White House with other superintendents, where they met President Obama and Secretary Duncan and mutually pledged to be “future-ready.” He was pleased when Secretary Duncan declared that testing was sucking the oxygen out of classrooms.

 

Thus, he was stunned and disappointed when Duncan endorsed the status quo of annual testing in the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. How could he?

 

Ralston knows that standardized testing is an artifact of the past, not the wave of the future.

 

 

He writes:

 

“The age of standardized testing has de-emphasized creativity and innovation by overly relying on test performance as a criterion of school and student success. This emphasis has resulted in limiting school curricula, robbing students of experience with the arts and other non-tested subjects….

 

“Standardized tests do not acknowledge the developmental differences in children. When we endorse them we subscribe to the belief that all children learn the same way and at the same rate.

 

“Likewise, standardized tests fail to measure the skills that employers have identified as essential for success now and in the future: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity….

 

“With the overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act on the horizon, education in America is at a critical crossroads. Rather than continue with an iteration of the act that brought us No Child Left Behind in 2000, I hope it is reauthorized in a way that captures the essence of the Future Ready Pledge.

 

“It is time for our government officials to display courage and do what is best for children. The rest of us must make sure our voices are heard as we demand that all children receive creative and engaging learning experiences that will best prepare them for the opportunities of the future.”

 

I am happy to name Superintendent Thomas Ralston to the honor roll for speaking with courage and clarity on behalf of children to those in power.

Sara Goldrick Rab is a professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

 

In this paper, she explains the likely effects of President Obama’s plan for tuition-free community college. She explains how the plan would affect students who receive Pell grants, how it is likely to affect community colleges, how the plan differs from the Tennessee program, and other frequently asked questions. She seeks to allay the fears of critics. She does not, however, address the question of whether the plan is an effort to impose Race to the Top metrics on this sector.

Adam Bessie is a professor at a California community college. He looks back wistfully to the era when free community college was guaranteed and a path to making one’s way in the world.

 

But he fears now that President Obama’s plan will turn into a Race to the Top for community colleges, with federal requirements for test scores, VAM, and graduation, along with punishments for not reaching mandated targets.

 

“I worry that “free” college may be a Trojan horse for implementing a Race to the Top (RTTT) for higher education, which has been a disastrous policy for K-12 education. RTTT, which is essentially No Child Left Behind rebranded, uses the force of the federal government to institute a regime of standardized testing and so-called “competition,” which has narrowed the curriculum (especially in poor schools, which many of my students come from), emphasizing only reading and math, and tossing aside the arts, sciences and other areas which can’t be tested. Beyond this, RTTT has wrested control of classrooms out of the hands of educators and communities, and placed them into the hands of distant technocrats in the federal government and corporate America.

 

“Free” college might mean that community colleges would cede local, community control to the federal government; thus, the policies of Washington and corporate America would drive the curriculum, rather than the needs of the community. And based on what we’ve seen with RTTT, it’s likely that community colleges again would become junior colleges – designed primarily as trade schools, or for transfer, with a focus on getting students in and out the door as fast as possible, using standardized, impersonal methods more focused on efficiency than education.”

This scintillating article by Alex Leary in the Tampa Bay Times explores the curious but close alliance between Jeb Bush and the Obama administration. Jeb, Arne, and Barack are on the same page. They all believe in testing, high-stakes, charter schools, closing schools, and the Common Core.

He tells the story of the day in March 2011 when the three pals met at Miami Central High School to celebrate its successful “turnaround” after the firing of most of the staff. Leary doesn’t mention that while the President and Duncan were in Miami, thousands of protestors were demonstrating at the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker and the legislature were stripping away the rights of public sector unions.

He also doesn’t mention, probably doesn’t know, that one month after the Bush-Obama-Duncan photo op at Miami Central, the state notified the school that it was on the list to be closed because of its low scores.

Strange buddies, indeed. Allies in promoting truly terrible education policies.

There was a new tone in the President’s brief comments about education in his State of the Union address. Of course, he promoted his proposal for 2 tuition-free years of community college and the need to help students from debt incurred when pursuing higher education. That was welcome but not surprising.

What was welcome was the absence of fear-mongering about our public schools. No crisis talk about how nations with higher scores would take away our jobs and ruin future economic growth. The President instead highlighted the facts (that I documented in “Reign of Error” in 2013) that the high school graduation rate is at an historic high, as are test scores.

I don’t know if anyone gave much thought to this shift to a positive tone, but it definitely represents a repudiation of the “reformers'” sky-is-falling rhetoric. No reference to “obsolete” high schools, to “failing schools,” or to the ludicrous claim (advanced by Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice) that our public schools threaten our national security.

Even better, the President did not attribute the slow, steady gains to Race to the Top, nor did he pitch merit pay or teacher evaluation by test scores (VAM) as panaceas as he has done in previous SOTU. There were no paeans of praise to charters or to turning schools around by firing their staff.

It would have been nice if he had expressed the widely shared view that our children are over tested and it is time to focus on creativity, not test prep. But you can’t ask for everything.

The President stated the facts, stayed positive, and for that we can be grateful.

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