Archives for category: Race to the Top

As you probably know, No Child Left Behind saddled the schools with a heavy dose of annual testing from grades 3-8, and Race to the Top required states to use those test scores to evaluate teachers. Testing is out of control. The curriculum is narrowed, especially in schools that enroll low-income students, where the scores are lowest. Educators have cheated to save their jobs, and some lost their jobs, their reputations, and their freedom because they cheated.

No high-performing nation in the world has annual testing or evaluates teachers by test scores. The current revision of NCLB retains annual testing unfortunately. However, Senator Tester (ironic name) has written an amendment to change annual testing to grade span testing: once in elementary school, once in middle school, once in high school. My preference would be to have no federally-mandated testing at all, given how abusive this policy has proven to be. But grade-span testing is far preferable to annual testing.

Learn here how to support his sensible proposal. Write your Senator now. There is no time to waste.

Those who say that annual tests are needed to protect children of color, children with special needs, and English language learners have not looked at the racist history of standardized tests. These are the children most likely to be on the bottom half of the normal curve that governs standardized tests. They are the very children most likely to be labeled and stigmatized by the tests. What children need most are reduced class sizes, a rich curriculum, experienced teachers, fully resourced schools, and the opportunity to learn. This is what they need, not more testing. A test is a measure, not the goal or purpose of education. And it is a flawed measure.

Daniel Katz pulls together the events of the recent past and concludes that this has been a wasted era of school policy.

Both No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are based on economic ideologies about incentives and sanctions that don’t apply to education. Both have interacted to distort the goals of schooling and both ignore individual differences and needs. We now know–and should always have known– that children are not molten pieces of lead waiting to be shaped or widgets waiting for commands.

Only one sector has thrived: the charter school industry.

Will we continue on this failed path or change direction?

One of Arne Duncan’s significant initiatives is the so-called “turnaround strategy,” which usually requires dramatic action, like closing the school, firing the principal, and firing all or most of the staff. This is the Shock Doctrine at work.

The strategy is disruptive and destroys careers, but Duncan continues to defend it.

The Obama administration’s favorite D.C. think tank–the Center for American Progress–reviewed the turnaround strategy and declared it a great success. CAP has regularly applauded all of Duncan’s initiatives. The president of CAP is John Podesta, who headed Obama’s transition team. He is presently chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Carmel Martin, previously an assistant secretary in the US DOE under Duncan is now executive vice-president for policy at CAP.

The National Education Policy Center, known for its reviews of think-tank reports, published a scathing analysis of CAP’s report.

“BOULDER, CO (May 11, 2015) — A recent report from the Center for American Progress claims to offer clear lessons about research-based, effective methods for turning around low-performing schools. A new review, however, concludes that these lessons are not supported by rigorous research.

Tina Trujillo of the University of California, Berkeley reviewed Dramatic Action, Dramatic Improvement: The Research on School Turnaround for the Think Twice think tank review project. The review is published by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

Trujillo, an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, studies the political dimensions of urban district reform and trends in urban educational leadership. The report Trujillo reviewed was written by Tiffany D. Miller and Catherine Brown and published by the Center for American Progress.

Dramatic Action, Dramatic Improvement argues that the body of available research determines that bold actions are necessary for schools to improve measurably. The authors advocate for the School Improvement Grant (SIG) federal program to bring about the most effective methods for turning around low-performing schools.

The SIG program’s policies have a superficial appeal, given the unsatisfactory outcomes at these schools. But those policies, like the report, are based on unwarranted claims, are unsupported by rigorous research, and are in fact contradicted by the empirical evidence, Trujillo writes.

She points, for instance, to the claim that dramatic changes in staffing and management can spur fast and sustainable improvement. Such disruptions often lead to poor school performance, but this readily available research is not mentioned or addressed in the report.

In her review, Trujillo finds the authors’ rationale “narrow, incoherent, and misleading.” The report, she asserts, fails to incorporate lessons learned from plentiful research on school improvement, high-stakes accountability, and federally funded turnarounds.

“In the end,” Trujillo states, “schools, districts, and states that follow the report’s advice stand only to reproduce the unequal conditions that have led, in part, to their need for dramatic turnaround in the first place.”

A new paper by scholars Helen F. Ladd, Charles T. Clotfelder, and John B. Holbein analyzes the charter school sector in North Carolina. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2593657

The group give a brief history of charter schools in the state, which were capped at 100 until Race to the Top encouraged the Legislature to remove the cap altogether. As they show, the original charter schools enrolled mainly black students. As the sector grew, however, especially in the recent period, the charter sector has been increasingly segregated by race. It now enrolls more white students than black students. The test scores of entering students are higher than in the past.

As the authors summarize:

Taken together, our findings imply that the charter schools in North Carolina are increasingly serving the interests of relatively able white students in racially imbalanced schools.

It is indeed an irony that a policy fostered by the Obama administration (Race to the Top) has encouraged the growth of segregation, which appears to be a predictable result of market-based education. The policies of Race to the Top in this respect reinforce the preferences of the far-right political forces that gained control of the North Carolina legislature and governorship in 2010.

Even more troublesome is the effect of charters on the public school systems of the state, which continue to enroll the overwhelming majority of students.

As of 2014, charter school students accounted for 3.6 percent of all public schools students in the state, with the percentage of K-8 students (4.2%) being twice that of 9th to 12th grade students (2.1%). Although the overall percentages are low, they are far higher in some of the urban districts—currently, charter school students account for 15.1% of all students in Durham, 4.7% in Winston-Salem, 6.1% in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and 4.9% in Wake County Schools.

The authors write:

In this paper, we have said nothing about how the growth of charters in particular districts is likely to affect the ability of those districts to provide quality schooling to the children in the traditional public schools. That issue is currently an urgent concern in Durham County, for example, where the rapid growth of charters has not only increased racial segregation, but also has imposed significant financial burdens on the school district. One recent study found that the net cost to the Durham Public Schools could be as high as $2,000 per student enrolled in a charter school, although the precise amount differs based on the assumptions (Troutman, 2014). Major contributors to this burden are the fact that the charter schools serve far lower proportions of expensive-to-educate children than the traditional public schools and that the district cannot reduce its spending in line with the loss of students because of its fixed costs. In ongoing research we plan to investigate further the evolving financial and other implications of charter schools on districts’ traditional public schools.

Yong Zhao spoke to a general session at the annual conference of the Network for Public Education. His speech was spectacular! He was witty, informative, actually hilarious. The audience loved him.

 

I will not try to summarize what he said. You must watch yourself. Julian Vasquez Heilig introduces Yong Zhao.

This is one of the best presentations I have ever seen about education today. Don’t take my word for it. Judge for yourself.

 

Sit back and prepare to laugh out loud. If you don’t have time now, save it for when you have 45 minutes for sheer fun and intellectual pleasure. Then show it to your friends and colleagues. Show it to your local school board, your state board, your legislators. Share it with all who care about our kids and our society.

Thanks to videographer Vincent Precht.

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.

Since 2009, when Race to the Top was launched, Arne Duncan has been an avid proponent of evaluating teachers by test scores. Some states evaluate teachers by the scores of students they never taught or subjects they don’t teach. To be eligible for Race to the Top money, states had to agree to evaluate teachers by test scores. To get a waiver from impossible mandates on NCLB, states had to agree to do it.

When Duncan testified, Congresswoman DeLauro asked if he was willing to rethink VAM. He responded that the federal government doesn’t require VAM. Duncan said that while the Feds don’t require VAM, they require evidence of growth in learning.

Sounds like VAM. Can anyone make sense of this?

*I had several spelling errors in the original post, due to composing it on my cellphone in a bumpy car-ride. I fixed them.

Chris Hayes interviewed Arne Duncan and Peter Greene reports on what happened.

You can imagine Arne artfully dodging and weaving when Chris asked straightforward questions. Arne insists that Common Core is confused with the unpopular tests (that Arne funded). Arne suggests that politicians are upset by Common Core but Real Parents welcome it.

“Hayes: I want to talk about Common Core for a second. (And he smiles a little smile, like “let’s do this silly thing, I’m going to ask a question, you’re going to sling baloney, it’ll be fun”). Are you surprised by how controversial Common Core (which he characterizes as “kind of an obscure issue in certain ways”) has become?

“Duncan: “It’s actually very simple. The goal’s to have high standards.” So, kids, the whole national consistency issue, the whole being able to compare kids in Idaho and Maine, the whole keeping everyone on the same page so mobile students will never get lost– that’s no longer the point.

“Duncan goes on to display how much he doesn’t understand about how this works. He talks about how, under NCLB, too many states dummied down standards. He says this was “to make politicians look good.” I’d be more inclined to say “to avoid punitive consequences for their schools.” If Arne had reached my conclusion (and really, given that he was in charge of a large school district at the time, it’s kind of amazing that he didn’t reach my conclusion) then perhaps he wouldn’t have figured that the solution was to make the consequences of high stakes testing even more punitive than before.

“Insert story here of how schools lied to students about how ready they were for college. So brave governors decided to stop lying to children. “Let’s have true college and career ready standards for every single child.” As always I wonder why reaching that conclusion leads to a next step where one says, “Let’s hire a couple of guys who have no real education experience, either pedagogical or developmental, and have them whip something up.”

As Greene shows, this is vintage Arne. Adroitly changing the subject, mouthing high-minded platitudes, never accepting that parents have valid reasons to be upset by the administration’s unvarnished support for high-stakes testing, closing schools, and inviting entrepreneurs to cash in on the educationmarket. NCLB went wrong, he admits, but he never acknowledges that Race to the Top was no different philosophically from NCLB and far worse in actuality when judged by the whipping it has given to schools and educators.

Arnold Dodge, who lives on Long Island, has been a teacher, principal, and superintendent and is now a professor of education. In this post, he exited the metaphor of Race to the Top.”

What were they thinking?

“Race to the Top? C’mon.

“The phenomena of racing and reaching the top couldn’t possibly have been the goals set for children’s education. Anyone who knows anything about the fragile, unpredictable, erratic, self-conscious development of a youngster couldn’t possibly have come up with such a name.

“But, let’s pause to reconsider the possibilities. Maybe critics of the feds should take a minute to do a close read of the name and give the planners a break. Maybe they had something else in mind. Let’s try a thought experiment.

“What if the federal education bureaucrats were dog whistling to the rich folks to get them on board with the initiative?

“Maybe it’s Chase to the Top for the bankers and billionaires who are in thrall with destroying public schools and privatizing education. The unrelenting attacks on teacher unions, the proliferation of charter schools, the imposition of frustrating and impossibly difficult tests (then selling products to help with testing) may seem entirely appropriate to those who reap the rewards from the market approach to schooling. Teachers bashed, children anxious, parents confused. Sounds like a plan.

“Maybe it’s White Race to the Top. Sounds plausible since the RTTT mandates and the NCLB policies have done little to change the intractable achievement gaps, and even less to address segregated school systems, perhaps the greatest obstacle to school success. At a recent New York State legislative meeting, a meeting to coronate Governor Cuomo as the king of the New York State educational system, a courageous legislator got it right: “High need/low wealth districts get shafted every time.” (1) This includes impoverished white communities as well.

“Poor people please understand. There’s just so much room at the top; privileged white communities occupy the space, and there’s no sign they will sub-divide. The notion that the federal and state education plans’ foremost objective is to help the inner city schools and the disenfranchised is a convenient lie. Politicians are fond of citing miraculous stories of schools in poor communities improving. But these are outliers, examples of schools with unique circumstances and/or infusions of grant money. These are outliers. The politicians are just plain liars.”

Read the rest. It is funny and it has links.

Vicki Cobb is a prolific writer of science books for children. She has written more than 85 nonfiction books. As a child, she attended the celebrated Little Red Schoolhouse in Greenwich Village, where experiential learning was valued. Today, she dedicates herself to educating children about science and the joy of learning. Imagine her surprise when she conducted a workshop and discovered that the children did not share her enthusiasm for school.

 

Here is her assessment of the legacy of today’s school reforms.

 

The other day I was doing a program for a group of 4th-6th graders at a local public library. I introduced myself to them by telling them how I had LOVED school so much when I was a kid that I basically recreate it for myself everyday as I write my books. The kids’ reaction to my confession was a unanimous, vociferous, vocal expression of how much they disliked school. I was startled. After all, I’ve told this to children many times before at school visits. Was this because the venue was not in school and they felt freer to express themselves? Or has something changed to make school more onerous? These were privileged kids from an affluent public school district. Could it be because they had just finished a month of standardized testing? What’s going on here?

 

This is just the latest piece of evidence that something is rotten in American education. It seems that many people in a position of power believe that education is too important to allow professional educators do their jobs because they have failed to produce a consistently excellent product of people who are college and career ready after twelve years of schooling. They believe the way to excellence is to first write a law decreeing “No Child Left Behind” or “All Children College and Career Ready” to set a policy, without consulting anyone who actually teaches children. And then to test, test, test, to see if these impossible standards have been met. Meanwhile, they are creating a population of quietly submissive students and teachers who narrow the curriculum to what they hope will be on the test while administrators are cutting art, music, physical education programs and librarians to pour more of their limited financial resources into test prep and test grading….

 

Let me take this opportunity to remind us that human beings, from the moment they appear on this earth, are born to learn. A baby is as smart as s/he will ever be. Through infancy every day is filled with wonder and discovery. And although there are hard lessons along the way, as learning progresses, so does mastery. We know from research that there are many different learning styles but eventually we all learn to walk and talk and think . As we get older, if we’re lucky, we discover a passion that drives us to master more skills and contribute to society. But the skill of high performance on a test, is not an essential skill. There are many other metrics for success — the number of patents held by Americans, for example. The current “reformers” for education are simply imposing ill-conceived laws of the state and federal governments on schools as if we were a dictatorship not a democracy.

 

Deep in my bones I know that I would not be creating science books for children if I had grown up in one of today’s repressive schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 150,194 other followers