Archives for category: Obama

The following letter appeared as a guest post on Anthony Cody’s blog:

Paul Horton’s Open Letter to President Obama: Listen to Committed

Dear Mr. President,

Like thousands of experienced classroom teachers throughout our great country, I am very concerned about how you decided to go the way that you did with your Education policies. I was recently told by a close friend of the yours that “Arne’s Team looked at all of the options” and decided to go with its current policies because “they would get us where we needed to go more quickly than any other set of alternatives.” I was also told, “that not everybody could be in the room.”

The problem was that you and Mr. Duncan did not listen to experience. The blueprint for Arne’s plan for stimulus investment that morphed into the Race to the Top Mandates (RTTT) featured advisers from the Gates and Broad Foundations, analysts from McKinsey Consulting, and a couple of dozen superintendents who were connected, like Mr. Duncan, to the Broad Foundation. Most of those who were invited to advise you were committed supporters of heavy private investment in Education who favored high stakes testing tied to teacher evaluations. Most of these advisers also favored the scaling up of measurable data collection as a way to measure progress or lack of progress in American Education.

If you had listened to the leading experts on standardized testing and the achievement gap, you would have learned that your policies were bound to fail. Our former colleague here at the U of C, Professor James Coleman, was the first to establish this empirically. You should have taken the time to learn learn about Campbell’s Law, a concept that is taught in every graduate level statistics course here at the University of Chicago.

On a more personal level, Mr. President, you consulted many of your contacts in Democrats for Education Reform, an organization funded mostly by Democratic leaning Wall Street investment firms. And you were also very impressed by the ideas and passion of a Denver charter school principal and Democratic activist, Michael Johnston….

Thousands of teachers possess the experience, training, and commitment to advise you on Education matters. But you chose to listen to those who went to places like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford who have only two years of classroom experience. Commitment, I submit, is a very important word.

The true measure of one’s commitment to Education is one’s willingness to sacrifice one’s will to power and economic potential to be successful in the classroom. TFA kids who go back to grad school after two years in the classroom and buy into corporate education reform are embracing their will to power. Most of these kids tend to have every advantage to begin with, they get an Ivy League education, and they are ambitious young liberals. Rather than staying in the classroom and truly making a difference by developing their teaching skills over twenty or thirty years, they can achieve administrative positions in the charter world that have far more economic potential than teaching positions by buying into the mantra of data-driven corporate reform lingo.

You have left thousands of us behind and allowed inexperienced “experts” yellow-brick road access to take charge. You and your administration have encouraged a “Cultural Revolution” in American education. Your Education Secretary embraced and applauded the Madame Mao of this movement and allowed his Inspector General to whitewash an investigation of cheating in DC Schools. You promoted your basketball buddy and very close friend of your campaign finance manager to be Secretary of Education. You chose someone with a Broad Foundation background. The Broad Foundation has written a “toolkit” for the destruction of public schools that is being used in Chicago, Philly, and New Yorks and in many cities across the country.

Your policies represent a new elitism. You seem to think that: “if we can get these really smart Ivy League educated former TFA people in senior policy, superintendent, and administrative positions, then we can turn this whole thing around.”

This idea is arrogant beyond belief, the equivalent of the “best and the brightest” idea that drove us into the ground in Vietnam, only you have decided to do it in Education. Robert McNamara was brilliant, he had an analytical razor, but he lacked a moral compass and anything resembling empathy for the lives of those who were dying in a “winnable” war. Mr. Duncan has a great deal of empathy, however his policies are misguided. Indeed, in my humble opinion, his department’s policies are an inarticulate mess. If he were ever asked the tough questions under oath in senator Harkin’s committee, we could very well discover that his use of the authority of his office overstepped the legal parameters of the laws circumscribing federal involvement in the formulation of Education policy. Ms. Weiss and Mr. Sheldon III, two of Secretary Duncan’s advisors who worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation prior to serving under Secretary Duncan, articulated what Mr. Gates wanted on his terms in exchange for tacit support for your campaigns. Several Wall Street investing firms also made it clear to you and to Mr. Emanuel that they were willing to support you if your Education policies encouraged private investment in charter schools.

Much as McNamara destroyed the U.S. Army in Vietnam, your Education policies are destroying two or three generations of dedicated and excellent classroom teachers by allowing them to be humiliated by young people who have very little experience. The policies that you have endorsed will set the teaching profession back twenty years much as the Cultural Revolution set China back twenty years. While recent studies have indicated that only two to three percent of classroom teachers are ineffective, your policies vilify the 98% who are effective and exemplary. Your policy makers would have done well to examine the teacher assessment policies of Montgomery County, Maryland that are based on the AFT’s Toledo Plan to learn how to deal with ineffective teachers.

You have bought into a corporate model of Education Reform: you seek to create competition among public and private schools, you encourage the “creative destruction” that your University of Chicago Business School buddies and Judge Posner love, and you seem to be gung-ho about selling off the public commons of American Education that were built with the sweat and blood of American farmers and workers. Do your policies work for young people who need stability in their lives? Creative destruction might benefit some kids (I was a military brat), but it probably does not benefit most.

Your Education policies embrace the management tactics of McKinsey Consulting that call for the firing of twenty to twenty-five percent of the teacher workforce every two years. You have said that Education should not “all be about bubble tests,” but your policies measure progress by bubble tests and they narrow the curriculum when they require standardized testing in some subjects, but not in others.

Your campaign pledged to address income inequality, but you and many of the mayors that you support are actively working to destroy what is left of the American middle class. Your Education policies work actively to destroy teacher unions. Many of your mayors and governors are working to bust teacher, hospital, public employee, firemen’s, and police unions….

The questions that you need to examine more closely are:

How do we get and keep candidates who would be brilliant in any career into the classroom?

How do you increase the size of the quality teaching pool?

The answers are clear and they don’t have anything to do with charter schools.

If Mr. Gates were really serious about Education in this country, he could invest in creating a system like Finland’s. The problem is that he is more interested in selling product than investing in four well qualified and well trained teachers in every classroom.

Progress in Education is not about buildings, it is not about technology: It is about human investment, not the expansion of markets.

President Obama, I have great respect for you. I have taught many of the young people who work for you. Ask the young man who has cooked for you for many years what a hard ass teacher I was. Please find the time to talk to committed teachers who have given their entire professional careers to improving Education in this country. This would require you to step outside of your comfort zone inside of Democrats for Education Reform and Teach for America circles. It will also require you to look beyond the mess that Ms. Weiss, Mr. Shelton III, and Bill Gates have helped to create. It will require you to talk to exemplary, veteran teachers about teaching and schools rather than to Arne Duncan

Please encourage Senator Durbin and his committee to completely defund No Child Left Behind. Do you prefer to fund Pearson Education or allow thousands of teachers to be laid off? This is what it is coming down to. Will you allow the middle class to be further eroded? Or will you fight for the jobs of teachers? Will you reward Wall Street investors in Education and Bill Gates, or are you willing to fight for neighborhood schools and arts and humanities programs? Will you use Value Added Measures tied to standardized testing to further discredit teachers? Or will you begin to understand how complex real learning is, learning that can not be measured by “bubble tests.” These are your choices, Mr. President. Please look beyond your current Education advisors if you want to explore complex questions and solutions.

All best,

Paul Horton
History Instructor
University High School
The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Joy Resmovits reports that the Onama administration plans to enforce a provision of NCLB that requires states to put experienced and highly qualified teachers in schools serving high numbers of poor and minority students.

Will this create a crisis for Teach for America, whose corps members have no experience?

Since this administration believes that teachers can be judged by student test scores, watch for policies attempting to reassign teachers from affluent suburbs to inner-city and rural schools. Watch for the next step, when those highly qualified teachers are reclassified as “bad” teachers if they can’t raise scores.

Will the Obama administration ever figure out that test scores reflect socioeconomic conditions more than teachers? They might look at research or even the recent report of the American Statistical Association, which attributed 1-14% of score variation to teachers.

Peter Greene responds to the NEA resolution. Calling for Arne Duncan to resign. he first deals with the debate on Twitter, about who would replace Arne Duncan. The assumption behind the discussion is that President Obama has no idea what Duncan has been doing and that when he finds out, Duncan will be ousted.

Then he takes on the NEA resolution.

Greene quite rightly points out that Duncan is doing exactly what the President wants. Were he to leave, which is unlikely, he would be replaced by someone as committed to high-stakes testing, privatization, closing schools, and undermining the teaching profession as Duncan. A likely replacement: Ted Mitchell, the newly appointed Undersecretary of Education, was most recently the CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, the epicenter of privatization and anti-public school activism. Then there is always Michelle Rhee, whom the President and Duncan have lauded.

I can personally vouch for the fact that Duncan is doing exactly what Obama wants. In the fall of 2009, I had a private meeting with Secretary Duncan, just the two of us, no staff. It was very pleasant. He was charming, pleasant, and took notes. I asked him, “Why are you traveling the country to sell Race to the Top accompanied by Reverend Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich? Why Gingrich?” His answer: “because the President asked me to.”

Delegates to the national convention of the National Education Association passed a resolution calling for the resignation of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Similar resolutions did not pass in 2011 ad 2012.

The resolution was proposed by the California Teachers Association. Teachers are angry at Duncan because of his support for the controversial Vergara decision, which ruled against teachers’ right to due process and his devotion to high-stakes testing.

We are living in an era when the very idea of public education is under attack, as are teachers’ unions and the teaching profession. Let’s be clear: these attacks and the power amassed behind them are unprecedented in American history. Sure, there have always been critics of public schools, of teachers, and of unions. But never before has there been a serious and sustained effort to defund public education, to turn public money over to unaccountable private hands, and to weaken and eliminate collective bargaining wherever it still exists. And this effort is not only well-coordinated but funded by billionaires who have grown wealthy in a free market and can’t see any need for regulation or unions or public schools.

In the past, Democratic administrations and Democratic members of Congress could be counted on to support public education and to fight privatization. In the past, Democrats supported unions, which they saw as a dependable and significant part of their base.

This is no longer the case. Congress is about to pass legislation to expand funding of charter schools, despite the fact that they get no better results than public schools and despite the scandalous misuse of public funds by charter operators in many states.

The Obama administration strongly supports privatization via charters; one condition of Race to the Top was that states had to increase the number of charters. The administration is no friend of teachers or of teacher unions. Secretary Duncan applauded the lamentable Vergara decision, as he has applauded privatization and evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students. There are never too many tests for this administration. Although the President recently talked about the importance of unions, he has done nothing to support them when they are under attack. Former members of his administration are leading the war against teachers and their unions. Think Rahm Emanuel, who apparently wants to be known as the mayor who privatized Chicago and broke the teachers’ union. Or think Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary who is now leading the public relations campaign against teachers’ due process rights.

The National Education Association is meeting now in Denver at its annual conference. The American Federation of Teachers holds its annual convention in Los Angeles in another week or so. Both must take seriously the threat to the survival of public education: not only privatization but austerity and over-testing. These are not different threats. They are connected. Austerity and over-testing set public schools up to fail. They are precursors to privatization. They are intended to make public schools weak and to destroy public confidence in democratically controlled schools. What is needed at this hour is a strong, militant response to these attacks on teachers, public schools, and–where they exist–unions.

For sure, unions have their faults. But they are the only collective voice that teachers have. Now is the time to use that voice. The battle for the future of public education is not over. Supporters of public education must rally and stand together and elect a President in 2016 who supports public schools. This is a time to get informed, to organize, to strategize, and to mobilize. If you are not angry, you have not been paying attention.

Stephanie Simon reports at politico.com that former high-level Obama advisors will help the fight against teacher unions and due process rights. Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor who is highly antagonistic to teachers’ unions, is creating an organization to pursue a Vergara-style lawsuit in New York against teachers’ job protections. Her campaign will have the public relations support of an agency led by Robert Gibbs, former Obama Press Secretary, and Ben LaBolt, former Obama campaign spokesman.

Simon writes:

“Teachers unions are girding for a tough fight to defend tenure laws against a coming blitz of lawsuits — and an all-out public relations campaign led by former aides to President Barack Obama.

“The Incite Agency, founded by former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and former Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, will lead a national public relations drive to support a series of lawsuits aimed at challenging tenure, seniority and other job protections that teachers unions have defended ferociously. LaBolt and another former Obama aide, Jon Jones — the first digital strategist of the 2008 campaign — will take the lead role in the public relations initiative.”

Campbell Brown achieved a certain notoriety or renown for articles she wrote in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere insisting that the unions were protecting “sexual predators” in the classroom.

This is one of the strangest stories of the week or month or year. President Obama spoke in Pittsburgh about the importance of strengthening unions.

Unions are under siege and have been for several years, but I can’t remember when the President stepped up to defend them.

Conservatives who support the Common Core like to blame Obama for making it radioactive. They say that if he and Arne had stayed out, CC would have been non-controversial. Their involvement awakened the Tea Party and others who reflexively dismiss whatever Obama is for.

Peter Greene says balderdash.

“It’s Obama’s fault.

“The state-led initiative was chugging right along, moving forward without any interference from the feds, when somehow, they decided to leap in. Or as Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday recently put it, things were fine “until the President and secretary of education took credit for the Common Core.”This is part of the current conservative CCSS support narrative (you can find put forth by, among others, the boys over at the Fordham). The story goes something like this:

Once upon a time, some noble governors and dedicated corporate guys got together and created the Common Core, and people pretty much thought it was swell. Then the Obama administration tried to get involved with cheerleading and with Racing to the Top and NCLB waivers. This was a Bad Thing because it woke up the Tea Party folks, who began shrieking about federal over-reach. People who wouldn’t have cared one way or another suddenly were against it because Obama was for it and whatever he’s doing, it must be evil. If the feds had just stayed home and tended to their knitting, we would not be having all this CCSS fracasization……….

Even if we pretend that the feds weren’t involved from day one, even if we pretend that the feds haven’t been angling for this for several administrations, even if we pretend that the Obama administration wasn’t sponsoring slumber parties and buying the refreshments for CCSS-writing parties, the feds must still take responsibility for the prime motivator for the whole mess.

States were not open to CCSS because of some burning desire to revamp their education systems. They were all sitting on the ticking time bomb that was (actually, is) No Child Left Behind, otherwise known as ESEA, otherwise known as federal law. The feds were always involved. Always….

“For Pearson et al, CCSS represent a marketing opportunity sent from heaven. CCSS opened up the US education market faster and more completely than a velociraptor fileting a sleepy cow. To open a national market, they needed national standards, not the state-by-state patchwork of the past. They were always going to use every tool at their disposal to make this happen across the entire country, and that toolbox includes the federal government….

“Who can seriously argue that all the states were going to say, “Yeah, we should totally implement this untested set of standards, sight unseen. Especially since they come with a huge price tag. Yes, let’s do it.” Particularly states that had perfectly good standards already. “Now that we’ve paid off this beautiful Lexus, let’s junk it and get a Yugo for twice the cost,” said no car owner ever,

“No, a wave of bribery (Race to the Top) was needed to get the ball rolling. Or do you seriously want to suggest that states would have raced toward the Core for free. And when states wouldn’t fall in line for the bribe, we moved on to the extortion– “I’d hate to see anything happen to your state just because of some crazy No Child Left Behind law; you should really consider getting our special protection waiver plan.”

“Selling CCSS required a federal-sized stick and a DC calibre stick. States do not generally volunteer for massive unfunded mandates. Only a federal-sized sales job would do, even if it had to be carefully calibrated to avoid looking illegal….

“So say what you like. It’s impossible for the administration to have avoided involvement in CCSS. And if by some miracle it had kept its hands off, CCSS would now be an interesting experimental set of standards being tried out in four or five states, maybe. It’s true that Obama didn’t do CCSS any favors, but it would have died on the vine without him.”

The Obama administration wants to rate institutions of higher education, based on factors like cost,graduation rate, income of graduates.

 

Most college and university presidents are upset.

 

It didn’t help that one administration official said that comparing the cost and quality of institutions of higher education should be no more difficult than comparing blenders. For some reason, the Obama administration thinks that it can play the role of Consumer Reports and thus improve the quality of higher education while lowering costs. How this will actually happen is anyone’s guess.

 

Many of the university officials pointed out that the institutions that prepare graduates for relatively low-paid professions like social work and teaching would get low ratings, as would those that open their doors to risky low-income students. Those whose graduates go to Wall Street will look stellar.

 

Some said they would be penalized for focusing on the liberal arts and sciences, where the ultimate payoff is less than in fields like engineering.

 

The Obama administration, which is never in doubt about any of its ideas or policies, plans to push ahead, so that it can hold the nation’s colleges and universities “accountable.” There seems to be no tempering its love affair with data. Having no success to date with its policies for K-12, it now plans to bring the same failed ideas of NCLB-Race to the Top  to the nation’s higher education sector.

 

Why doesn’t the administration begin by regulating the for-profit sector, which has a historic record of poor performance and low graduation rates?

 

Well, no, it must apply its metrics of all institutions of higher education. This is NCLB style thinking. Leave these guys alone for a minute and they bring out their weights, measures, and scales.

 

Someone should tell them that the American system of higher education is generally considered the best, most diverse in the world, and it got that way without being controlled by the U.S . Department of Education.

 

 

Edushyster asks the inevitable question: what is the one sure way to improve medicine? The Obama administration has found it: pay for performance!

It hasn’t worked in education, but that’s no reason not to try it in medicine.

What happened: totally unexpected side effects:

“Here’s where our story takes a completely unexpected and yet astonishingly familiar turn. Intended to reward *high quality health care,* the Obama administration’s introduction of pay for performance for doctors and hospitals has ended up punishing those that treat *large numbers of poor people.* Also, also the payment policies are *unintentionally worsening disparities* between rich and poor by shifting money away from doctors and hospitals that care for disadvantaged patients. Also, also, also providers with a disproportionate share of disadvantaged patients appear to *provide lower quality care* than they actually do.”

What lessons can be learned? Read the link.

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