Archives for category: Obama

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.

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy welcomes President Obama’s support for student privacy and suggests ways to strengthen his proposal:

Contact: Leonie Haimson,, 917-435-9329;
Rachael Stickland,, 303-204-1272

Parent Coalition for Student Privacy on President’s Announcement of
Need for new Federal Student Privacy Protections

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy thanks the President for recognizing the need for new federal student privacy protections, but points out how the California law that the President lauded as a model cannot be used without strengthening its provisions around parental notification, consent, security protections and enforcement.

“Any effort to ban the sale of student information for targeted advertising is a good first step, but the White House’s proposal appears to allow companies to sell and monetize student data for unspecified ‘educational purposes,’ including to develop products that would amass enormous personal profiles on our children. Profiling children based on their learning styles, interests and academic performance and then being able to sell this information could undermine a student’s future. Parents want to ban sale of student data for any use and demand full notification and opt-out rights before their children’s personal information can be disclosed to or collected by data-mining vendors,” said Rachael Stickland, co-chair of Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

Leonie Haimson, Parent Coalition co-chair and Executive Director of Class Size Matters said, “We also need strong enforcement and security mechanisms to prevent against breaches. Schools and vendors are routinely collecting and sharing highly sensitive personal information that could literally ruin children’s lives if breached or used inappropriately. This has been a year of continuous scandalous breaches; we owe it to our children to require security provisions at least as strict as in the case of personal health information.“

Here is a summary of the gaps and weaknesses in the California student privacy bill, which the President said should serve as a model for a federal law:

· Bans vendors using personally identifiable information (PII) student data to target advertising or selling of data, but not in case of merger or acquisitions, or presumably in case of bankruptcy, as in the recent Connectedu case. The President’s proposal would be even weaker, as it would apparently allow the sale of student data for unspecified “educational purposes”;

· Only regulates online vendors but not the data-sharing activities of schools, districts or states;

· Provides no notification requirements for parents, nor provides them with the ability to correct, delete, or opt out of their child’s participation in programs operated by data-mining vendors;

· Unlike HIPAA, sets no specific security or encryption standards for the storage or transmission of children’s personal information, but only that standards should be “reasonable”;

· Allows tech companies to use children’s PII to create student profiles for “educational” purposes or even to improve products;

· Allows tech companies to share PII with additional and unlimited “service” providers, without either parent or district/school knowledge or consent – as long as they abide by similarly vague “reasonable” security provisions;

· Allows tech companies to redisclose PII for undefined “research” purposes to unlimited third parties, without parental knowledge or consent –without requiring ANY sort of security provisions for these third parties or even that they have recognized status as actual researchers;

· Contains no enforcement or oversight mechanisms;

· Would not have stopped inBloom or other similar massive “big data” schemes designed to hand off PII to data-mining vendors – and like inBloom, would also be able to charge vendors or “service providers” fees to access the data, as long as states/districts consented.


Stephanie Simon of Politico has an interesting analysis of President Obama’s education legacy. While some credit him for his contribution to increasing early childhood education, the likelihood is that his legacy will be a great fizzle because of his unquestioning allegiance to standardized testing. Many Republicans are thinking of restoring greater control to the states and gutting annual testing, but Arne Duncan considers annual testing to be non-negotiable.

Here is Peter Greene’s take on Duncan’s “vision” for NCLB: more of the same. The status quo. Not a whiff of innovative thinking. Greene asks why Duncan is recommending a rewrite of NCLB:

“Why is he doing it now, when he’s had his way for the past several years? The answer is obvious– if the GOP really rewrites ESEA, all of Duncan and Obama’s reformy work will be trashed. Duncan’s announcement is not a clarion call to change a single comma of the administration’s policy– it’s an announcement that he intends to preserve it against the GOP onslaught that’s about to begin. For all intents and purposes, Duncan has had the ESEA rewrite he’s wanted for five years, and the GOP is threatening to take it away from him. Duncan is jumping on the bus before he is thrown under it, but there will now be a hell of a battle over who’s going to drive and where the bus is going to go.”

Curiously, the Obama administration is more devoted to the principles of NCLB than Republicans.


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