Archives for category: Race to the Top

Robert Cotto, Jr., an elected member of the Hartford (CT) board of education, says that the state could save millions of dollars by reducing testing. Annual testing has been a waste of money. Before No Child Left Behind, Connecticut tested children in grades 4, 6, 8, and 10. Now it tests every child in 3-8 every year.

“Reducing the tests that students take in each subject to only grades four, six, eight, and ten could save millions of dollars. The funds saved could help limit any budget cuts that will affect communities across the state, particularly for the most vulnerable children and families. Cutting testing in this way could also result in yearly savings of up to $9.5 million. That’s half of current state spending to administer the tests.

“At best, the evidence is mixed regarding the impact of spending more on testing and ratcheting up punishments. Here are some trends:

“Same data: With the exception of a few new features, the State reports and uses nearly the same type of test information today as it did more than a decade ago.

“Addition through subtraction: Increases in test results over the last decade didn’t happen until students with disabilities (mostly low-income, Black and Latino children) were removed from regular tests.

“Same disparities: The results of the “low-stakes,” sample-based National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have shown high overall test results of children in Connecticut, but little diminishing of race and class-based disparities. This historical pattern remains even after more than a decade of increased testing and punishments.

“Collateral damage: Curriculum hours in Connecticut narrowed to focus on the tested subjects. Students spent more time taking and practicing for tests throughout the year, taking away time for instruction.

“The State now uses the test results to rate students, schools, districts, and teachers.

“This isn’t educational progress.”

What really matters, he writes, is support for students, families, and communities. That’s a far better investment than high-stakes bubble tests.

Veteran educator Arnold Dodge warns that the corporate reform movement, led by the U.S. Department of Education, threatens democracy and creativity. In its quest for data and standardization, the DOE will crush imagination and innovation. Standardized tests reward right answers, not original thought.

Not content to standardize children and their teachers, the DOE now wants to control teacher education by collecting test scores of students and linking them to the institutions that prepared their teachers. Test scores above all!

Dodge quotes John Dewey, who wrote:

“”Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth, something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.”

“Lack of the free and equitable intercourse which springs from a variety of shared interests makes intellectual stimulation unbalanced. Diversity of stimulation means novelty, and novelty means challenge to thought.””

Jeff Bryant analyzes the debate about the federal testing mandates and concludes it’s all about politics, not education.

By now, it is obvious that the testing required by “No Child Left Behind” did not leave no child behind. Child poverty, which is the root cause of low test scores, has increased, and testing does nothing to reduce it.

Bryant writes:

“How is the debate going? See if this makes sense to you:

“Conservatives want to let states have potentially more options for wasting taxpayer money on wayward attempts in “accountability,” and liberals are insisting on continuing measures that have been mostly bad for the education of black and brown students.

“Huh?”

According to the Southern Education Foundation, 51% of public school pupils–a new majority–are poor. More testing does not reduce poverty.

Bryant writes:

“Tests do uncover disparities in our education system, as the National Assessment of Education Progress has revealed for many years long before NCLB. Gerwerz, again, at Education Week, notes about NAEP, “When I look at it, I see the absence of nearly every single trigger point in today’s testing debates. Every kid required to sit for hours and hours of tests? Nope. Here we have only two hours of testing, given to a sample of the school’s students. Weeks of test prep? Nope. Students tied in knots over potentially bad test scores? Nope.”

“Further, as [Bruce] Baker concludes in a subsequent post, if the federal government really wanted to do something about inequities in our education system, it would develop policies that gave states more incentive to correct what’s really causing inequities: the ways “in which our schools are organized and segregated.”
Why isn’t anyone talking about this? Because the discussion over testing, at least how it’s being carried out in Washington, DC, isn’t really about education. It’s about power politics. Seen in this frame, it’s really hard to believe the Democrats are going to win.”

The most contentious issue in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently named No Child Left Behind) will be the federal role in mandating annual testing. The latest polls show that it is opposed by a majority of parents and educators, but Secretary Duncan has staunchly insisted it is necessary; 19 civil rights groups endorsed his position, even though the children they represent all too often are negativrly afrcted by such tests. Since minority children, English learners, and children with disabilities are disproportionately stigmatized by standardized tests, it is bizarre to assert that standardized tests are guarantors of civil rights.

So here comes an interesting debate in the conservative National Review. Michael Petrilli of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Rick Hess of the conservative American Enterprise Institute take issue with Jonah Edelman of the corporate reform Stand for Children.

Stand for Children is an active and politically savvy opponent of teachers and teachers’ unions. A few years ago, Jonah Edelman boasted at an Aspen Ideas Festival about his role in buying up all the best lobbyists in Illinois so he could ram hostile legislation down the throats of teachers across the state and make it near impossible for the Chicago Teachers Union to go on strike. He was wrong about the latter, because the CTU garnered overwhelming support for a strike and followed through in 2012. Edelman pulled a similar stunt in Massachusetts, having collected millions of dollars from hedge fund manager to make war on teachers and their benefits and job security.

In the present case, Petrilli and Finn chastise Edelman for supporting an expansive federal role in education.

They write:

“In the piece, Edelman denounces efforts to shed some of No Child Left Behind’s more onerous and unworkable provisions as a “threat” to “your kids’ future.” He then recounts a parade of horribles from the last century. “Linda Brown was denied the opportunity to attend a nearby public school because she was black,” he reminds us. “Black students were denied access to a public high school by segregationist Governor Orval Faubus.” And states and districts weren’t meeting the “special needs” of students with disabilities.

“This is a shopworn parlor trick — equating conservatives concerned about federal micromanagement of schooling in 2015 with the “states’ rights” segregationists of two or three generations past (who, for what it’s worth, were overwhelmingly Democratic)….

“But this sort of rhetorical sleight-of-hand has not held up particularly well. Debating whether the federal government should tell states how to label, manage, and “improve” schools (all on the basis of reading and math scores) is a far cry from debates over whether states should be allowed to deny black students access to elementary and secondary schools. Moreover, those who, like Edelman, celebrate Uncle Sam’s expertise and the effectiveness of federal bureaucrats fail to acknowledge how often federal bureaucrats have gotten it wrong — and put in place laws and regulations that have gotten in the way of smart, promising reforms at the state and local level.

“What are the issues that have Edelman so worked up? Republicans on Capitol Hill make no secret that they envision a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind that will significantly reduce the strings attached to federal education dollars. Among the possible actions: Allowing states to test students every few years rather than annually; getting the federal government out of the business of telling states how to design school-accountability systems or address low-performing schools; and making clear that (contrary to the Obama administration’s designs) the federal government should have no role in dictating state reading and math standards.

“Casual followers of the education debate might notice that these changes seem both modest and sensible. Yet Edelman insists that if Congress dares to go down this path, “disadvantaged students will lose out, and millions of young people who could have become hard-working taxpayers will end up jobless, in prison, or worse.” (Worse?)….

“The deeper problem is that Edelman and his allies fail to grapple with the very real harm that federal education policy has caused, especially in the past decade. This is baffling, given his own admission that No Child Left Behind is “deeply flawed” and that “federal interventions don’t always work as intended.” But his solution — to simply update the law more regularly — indicates a misunderstanding of the realities of the legislative process (Congress updates laws when it will, not on the schedule of us pundits) and of the root problem. The real issue is not just that specific provisions of NCLB are problematic (though they are); it’s that the federal government is destined to mess up whatever it touches in education. That’s because it’s three steps removed from actual schools, with states and local districts sitting between its good intentions and its ability to ensure good results.

“All the federal government can do is pass laws telling federal bureaucrats to write rules for the states, whose bureaucrats then write more rules for school districts, which in turn give marching orders to principals. By the time this game of telephone is done, educators are stuck in a stifling, rule-driven culture that undermines the kind of practical discretion that characterizes good schools.

“During the Obama years, this problem has only grown worse. Convinced of their own righteousness and brilliance, Obama’s education officials have pushed all manner of half-baked ideas on the country (especially the demand that states evaluate teachers largely on the basis of test scores); helped turn potentially promising ideas into political hot potatoes (see Common Core); and embarked on ideological, deeply harmful crusades (using legal threats, for example, to discourage schools from disciplining minority students)….”

What Secretary Duncan has achieved in his six years in office is to persuade many liberals and conservatives that the U.S. Department of Education has abandoned any sense of federalism and has assumed far too much control. While liberals are uneasy about trusting either state or local government with the future of education, they are just as wary (or warier) of the heavy-handed power of the federal government. Duncan himself has become a symbol for many of the federal government’s abandonment of public schools and its commitment to privatize public schools “with all deliberate speed.” Duncan’s demand for annual testing and his determination to evaluate teachers based on students’ test scores–practices not found in high-performing nations–has put him on the wrong side of history. He simply ignores the failure of his pet policies, as well as the protests of parents and educators. His self-righteousness is no substitute for evidence and democratic governance.

Veteran educator Elliot Self says it is long past time to revise No Child Left Behind, and he urges everyone to make their voices heard.

My first recommendation to Congress would be to restore the original name of this landmark 1965 legislation, whose primary purpose was equity for poor children and districts, not accountability: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), not President Bush’s colorful NCLB.

Self offers nine recommendations in this article. The balance of the article explains each recommendations.

“I believe that we need a new National policy that supports a 21st century education for our children. I am suggesting nine broad changes to the law that would help schools and teachers across the country better meet the needs of diverse students and schools in a complex 21st century world. The recommendations suggest a very different type of law that, instead of a set of top down mandates, emphasizes collaborative working relationships with states, schools and districts and local flexibility, creativity and innovation. They suggest that NCLB should be focused around a 21st century education mission statement and set of goals and should support the development of high quality standards that make significant learning possible.

“The recommendations promote a broader view of accountability and assessment policies and practices, emphasize the development of a rigorous, expansive, high quality curriculum and school programs, and promote the use of powerful instructional strategies. They are designed to address the deep-seated problems with the current law.

Self’s nine recommendations are the following:

“Create a law designed to encourage and guide states, districts and schools to develop 21st century schools, rather than coerce them into submission.

Create a 21st century education mission and vision statement to focus the law.

Encourage the development of high quality state standards.

Support the development of curricular programs that are consistent with high quality standards.

Reduce the amount of standardized testing and encourage the use of multiple types of assessments to measure success and progress.

Encourage districts and schools to develop and implement benchmark and graduation projects.

Encourage districts to provide a variety of elective courses and comprehensive extra-curricular activities and programs.

Encourage professional development that supports the use of powerful instructional strategies.

Create the means for greater collaboration and sharing among states, districts and schools.”

What are your recommendations for the federal role?

Civil rights groups issued a statement expressing their support for annual testing. The statement makes assumptions about the supposed benefits of testing that are surprising. After 13 years of federally mandated annual testing, how could anyone still believe that testing will improve instruction and close achievement gaps? Tests measure achievement gaps, they don’t close them. Standardized tests are normed on a bell curve. A bell curve has a top half and bottom half. It never closes. Standardized tests accurately measure family income. One need only look at the correlation between SAT scores and family income to see how closely the scores are tied to wealth and poverty. For reasons incomprehensible to me, these worthy organizations believe that children have a right to take standardized tests, even though such tests disproportionately benefit the privileged, not children who are poor or children with disabilities or children whose families have been discriminated against because of race or ethnicity. How can one look at the results of Common Core testing in Néw York—where 97% of English learners, 95% of children with disabilities, and more than 80% of black and Hispanic students failed to meet the standard of “proficiency”—and conclude that these children are well-served by standardized testing?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 11, 2015
Contact: Jeff Miller, 202-466-4281, miller@civilrights.org

Nearly 20 Civil Rights Groups and Education Advocates Release Principles for ESEA Reauthorization:
“The Federal Role Must Be Honored and Maintained”

Washington – Today, nearly 20 civil rights groups and education advocates released shared civil rights principles for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

In the principles, the groups highlight the important and historic role the federal government has played during the 50 years since the ESEA was originally passed in promoting educational opportunity and protecting the rights and interests of students disadvantaged by discrimination, poverty, and other conditions that may limit their educational attainment. The groups say that this role must be maintained in any bill to reauthorize the ESEA, along with ensuring that each state adopts college and career-ready state standards, aligned statewide annual assessments, and a state accountability system to improve instruction and learning for students in low-performing schools.

The full text of the principles is below.

###

Shared Civil Rights Principles for the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

January 2015

The United States has played a historic and critical role in promoting educational opportunity and protecting the rights and interests of students disadvantaged by discrimination, poverty, and other conditions that may limit their educational attainment. For more than five decades, Congress has consistently recognized and acted on the need to promote fair and equal access to public schools for: children of color; children living in poverty; children with disabilities; homeless, foster and migrant children; children in detention; children still learning English; Native children; and girls as well as boys. Much progress has been made, but educational inequality continues to quash dreams, erode our democracy, and hinder economic growth. This federal role must be honored and maintained in a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which must ensure the following:

I. Each state adopts college and career-ready state standards and provides:

All students a fair and equal opportunity to meet these standards, including:

Access to early childhood education for economically disadvantaged children and those with disabilities (ages birth to 5 years).

Equal access to qualified and effective teachers and core college-prep courses.

Equal access to technology including hardware, software, and the Internet.
Safe and healthy school climate with inclusionary discipline best practices.
Supports and services needed by English learners and students with disabilities.

Protections for the most vulnerable children, e.g., those in juvenile or criminal justice systems, those in child welfare systems, pregnant/parenting students, and foster, homeless, and migrant youth.

Annual, statewide assessments for all students (in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school) that are aligned with, and measure each student’s progress toward meeting, the state’s college and career-ready standards, and

Are valid and reliable measures of student progress and meet other requirements now in Sec. 1111(b)(3) of Title I.[i]

Provide appropriate accommodations for English learners, who should be exempt only for their first year attending school in the United States.

Provide appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.

Limit alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards only to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, up to 1 percent of all students; terminate assessments based on modified achievement standards; and prohibit the use of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to measure academic achievement under ESEA.

Allow, during a transition period, alternatives to computer-based assessment for students in schools that have not yet provided them with sufficient access to, and experience with, the required technology.

II. Federal dollars are targeted to historically underserved students and schools.

Title I is used to provide extra (supplemental) resources needed by high-poverty schools to close achievement gaps and improve student outcomes.

States, districts and schools serving the highest-need student populations receive more funding than others.
Targeted funding is provided to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children including youth in juvenile and criminal justice systems; Native American children; English learners; and foster, homeless, and migrant students.

III. State accountability systems expect and support all students to make enough progress every year so that they graduate from high school ready for college and career.

States set annual district and school targets for grade-level achievement, high school graduation, and closing achievement gaps, for all students, including accelerated progress for subgroups (each major racial and ethnic group, students with disabilities, English language learners, and students from low-income families), and rate schools and districts on how well they meet the targets.

Effective remedies to improve instruction, learning and school climate (including, e.g., decreases in bullying and harassment, use of exclusionary discipline practices, use of police in schools, and student referrals to law enforcement) for students enrolled are implemented in any school where the school as a whole, or any subgroup of students, has not met the annual achievement and graduation targets or where achievement gaps persist. The remedies must be effective both in improving subgroup achievement and high school graduation rates and in closing achievement gaps.

IV. States and districts ensure that all Title I schools encourage and promote meaningful engagement and input of all parents/guardians –regardless of their participation or influence in school board elections – including those who are not proficient in English, or who have disabilities or limited education/literacy – in their children’s education and in school activities and decision-making. Schools communicate and provide information and data in ways that are accessible to all parents (e.g., written, oral, translated).

V. States and LEAs improve data collection and reporting to parents and the public on student achievement and gap-closing, course-completion, graduation rates, school climate indicators (including decreases in use of exclusionary discipline practices, use of police in schools, and student referrals to law enforcement), opportunity measures (including pre-K and technology), and per-pupil expenditures. Data are disaggregated by categories in Sec. 1111(b)(3)(C)(xiii) of Title I,[ii] and cross-tabulated by gender.

VI. States implement and enforce the law. The Secretary of Education approves plans, ensures state implementation through oversight and enforcement, and takes action when states fail to meet their obligations to close achievement gaps and provide equal educational opportunity for all students.

Submitted by:

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

American Association of University Women

American Civil Liberties Union

Children’s Defense Fund

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Easter Seals

The Education Trust

League of United Latin American Citizens

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

NAACP

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

National Center for Learning Disabilities

National Council of La Raza

National Urban League

National Women’s Law Center

Partners for Each and Every Child

Southeast Asia Resource Action Center

United Negro College Fund

[i] This section includes requirements to ensure the quality, fairness and usefulness of the statewide assessments. For example, they must assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding; provide for the inclusion of all students (including students with disabilities and English language learners); be consistent with professional and technical standards; objectively measure academic achievement, knowledge and skills; and provide information to parents, teachers, principals, and administrators so that they can address the specific academic needs of students.

[ii] This section requires assessment results “to be disaggregated within each State, local educational agency, and school by gender, by each major racial and ethnic group, by English proficiency status, by migrant status, by students with disabilities as compared to nondisabled students, and by economically disadvantaged students as compared to students who are not economically disadvantaged.”

Contact information: Scott Simpson, The Leadership Conference, 1629 K St NW Ste 1000, Washington, DC 200061639

For the past 14 years, policymakers have sought the answer to a complex question: How can we make sure that every single child–regardless of race, gender, disability, poverty, or language–will achieve proficiency on standardized tests?

We tried No Child Left Behind, and that didn’t work. We tried Race to the Top, and that did’t work. We tried the Marzano method and the Danielson rubric, and still we struggle. We tried bonus pay and threats of firing staffs and closing school, and that did not suffice.

But now we know there is a sure-fire method. It comes from Tennessee, and it’s called “the ear-bud method.” Tennessee is a fertile place for reform: not only was it the state where Value-added Modeling was birthed nearly 30 years ago, but it was one of the first states to win a Race to the Top award.

It works for 100% of children. No one fails. It is, in fact, a silver bullet–or a magic earbud.

Merry Christmas!

People across America are speaking truth to power, right now on Twitter, where they are tweeting in opposition to charter takeovers in Tennessee.

The BATs’ twitter storm using the hashtags #WeBelieve2015 and #beliefgap calling out Tennessee Achievement School District superintendent Chris Barbic and his privatization agenda has gotten the attention of The Tennessean Newspaper. They’ve posted an active link to the twitter discussion on their website.

http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/columnists/david-plazas/2014/12/29/charter-schools-predatory-tactics-belief-gap/21004037/

Recognizing that Race to the Top may be defunded in the next budget, Peter Greene explains the program’s original purposes, priorities, and policies.

 

Greene calls it a “giant turkey” with its neck on the chopping block and warns that it is too soon to celebrate. It might be saved at the last minute.

 

After surveying its many parts, he concludes:

 

“Yes, when lost in the haze of debate and discussion, sometimes it’s best to go back to the basics. Here it is– exactly what the feds wanted. Good paperwork. A teacher rank and rate system based on student test scores that would drive everything from training. More charters. More school takeovers.

“While the document says that RttT ‘will reward states that have demonstrated success in raising student achievement,’ that’s not really what it rewards. It rewards states for remaking their education systems along the lines demanded by the feds. And though the document promised that the best models would spread their reform ideas across the country, five years later, there are no signs of any such spreading infection. But then, there are no signs that any of these federal ideas about fixing schools has actually improved education for any students in this country.

“If Congress actually manages to shut this mess down, there will be no cause for tears.”

Be sure to read the first comment about the turmoil unleashed by Arne Duncan, and the effect of chaos on students.

Anthony Cody <a href=”http://www.livingindialogue.com/pillars-reform-collapsing-reformers-contemplate-defeat that the so-called “reform movement” is collapsing. None of its strategies work.

1. TFA is having recruitment problems. Applications are down 25%. Criticism is coming from ex-corps members who realize they were ill-prepared.

2. Charter schools are no panacea, and many are struggling, even failing.

“But now charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate. Their plan is to “serve the strivers,” and let the rest flounder in an ever-more-burdened public system. The states where regulations are weakest, like Ohio, have charters that perform worse than the public schools, and even the self-described fan of free-markets, Margaret Raymond, lead researcher at CREDO, recently concluded that using market choice to improve schools has failed. In the state of Washington, where Bill Gates and other reform titans spent millions to pass a law allowing charter schools there, the first charter school to open is struggling to stay afloat, having suffered massive staff turnover in its first year. How ironic that 13 years after the corporate reformers labeled their flagship of reform “No Child Left Behind,” that now their leaders are left defending leaving behind the very children they claimed their project would save.”

3. The new and improved tests the reformers promised are not working well and are creating massive parental resistance.

4. VAM is not working anywhere.

5. Constant disruption may not be such a good strategy after all.

Cody sagely writes:

“It is perhaps a basic truth that it is easier to tear something down than to build something new. This may explain some of the trouble reformers are facing. Our schools are flawed in many ways, and do not deliver the sorts of opportunities we want all children to have access to. Racial and economic segregation, inequitable funding, and the replication of privilege are endemic — though truly addressing these issues will require change that goes far beyond the walls of our classrooms.

“Corporate-sponsored reformers have blamed the very institution of public education for these problems, and have set forth a set of alternatives and strategies to overcome social inequities. Here we are a decade into this project, and the alternative structures are collapsing, one by one.”

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