Archives for category: Race to the Top

For years, Democrats wanted a larger role for the federal government in education for two reasons: equitable resources and civil rights.

Arne Duncan has managed to sour many Democrats on an expanded role for the federal government by abandoning those two goals and instead pushing an agenda of federal control over curriculum, instruction, testing, and teacher evaluation. Functions that once belonged to states and districts have been taken over by Arne’s wishes, not even by federal law. States lose Arne’s waiver from NCLB’s impossible mandate for 100% proficiency if they don’t do what Arne wants. His preference for charter schools and TFA and high-stakes testing is clear. His dictatorial style has ignored equity and civil rights.

John Kline, leader of the House Education Committee, said in an interview that his top priority was revising NCLB and reducing the federal role. Ten years ago, Democrats and educators would have objected. No more.

Paul Karrer, who teaches in California, says it is time for accountability. Taxpayers need it. The public demands it. And they are right!

Unfortunately, the search for accountability is upside-down. True accountability rests with those who design and lead the big systems, not with the front-line workers trying to make muddled ideas work.

“Accountability needs to be placed on the shoulders of those who created the education programs foisted on the education system. It is the programs which ultimately have the greatest impact. It is not just or even hardly ever the soldiers themselves fighting street-to-street, city-to-city, state-to-state, who win or lose wars. It is the plan. The education plans need to be evaluated and field-tested before they are implemented.

“For example — it was the plan to invade Iraq which was faulty and resulted in the war being lost. It was not the poor patriotic, highly motivated, well-equipped, well-trained folks who kicked in doors, ate desert dust for years, and lost life, limb, and mental health.

“And so it is with education. Teachers are the front-liners. They are in the trenches. They are fighting house-to-house, street-to-street, city-to-city.

“But the plan, well, the plan keeps on changing. First it was No Child Left Behind, like the invasion of Iraq, based on false information. In Iraq it was weapons of mass destruction, with NCLB it was fraudulent data manipulation in the bogus inception of its success in Texas. (High graduation rates actually were a product of massive numbers of low performing kids quitting school in ninth and 10th grade. Then the remaining higher-performing kids who stayed were pointed to as successful due to NCLB).

“Then President Barack Obama inflicted his Race To The Top on the foot soldiers in the teaching trenches. The plan: Evaluate teachers according to tests. Reward good ones based on testing. Hammer schools which couldn’t do this. Privatize, charterize, dissect the now-failing schools. Problem is, teachers don’t take the tests, kids with a zillion influences take the tests.

“Currently, teachers are fighting the war with a brand-new shiny plan. It is called Common Core. This plan requires massive computer use, new standards, and of course more testing of teachers, standardization and lots of untested optimistic bravado.”

In wartime, battles are lost by the planners, not the men and women in the trenches following the plan.

If you want to know what’s wrong with No Child left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core, do some serious evaluation, not just political preening. When big educational ideas fail, don’t blame the teachers, blame the politicians and honchos who imposed their plans on the schools without full investigation of their feasibility.

According to news reports, the new federal budget strips all funding from Race to the Top. Good riddance to one of the worst, most destructive federal programs in history. Historians will one day tell us who cooked up this assault on teachers and public schools. If states wanted to be eligible for part of Arne Duncan’s $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funding, they were required to adopt the “college and career ready standards,” aka Common Core, even though no one had ever field tested them. States had to agree to evaluate teachers to a significant degree by student scores, even though there was no evidence for doing so. States had to open more charters, transferring control from public to private management. States had to create massive data systems to track students.

RTTT was an all-out assault on the teaching profession, public education, and student privacy.

Perdido Street School blogger is smiling.

Carol Burris, fearless leader of educators and parents opposed to test-based accountability in Néw York, here appraises the record of John King as state commissioner of education in Néw York.

King was appointed last week to be an “advisor” to Arne Duncan. He and Arne are on the same page in their zealous belief in standardized testing, Common Core, and evaluating educators by student scores.

King came to the job with three years of experience in a “no excuses” charter school. He listed his ambitious goals at the outset of his reign. Higher test scores, higher graduation rates, an evaluation system for teachers and principals. Burris demonstrates that he achieved none of his goals and alienated parents and educators with his top-down, tone-deaf approach.

Thanks to King, students in the class of 2022 will have a 30% graduation rate unless his successors reverse King’s policies.

This is a terrific article by civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker about the madness of our nation’s obsession with standardized testing.

 

She writes:

 

Last year, President Barack Obama committed hundreds of millions of dollars to brain research, stressing the importance of discovering how people think, learn and remember. Given the priority President Obama places on the brain in scientific research, it is sadly ironic that his education policies ignore what science says is good for children’s brains.

It is well known that play is vital in the early grades. Through play, kindergarteners develop their executive function and deepen their understanding of language. These are the cornerstones of successful reading and learning later on.

At-risk children often arrive at school having heard fewer words than more advantaged children. This deficit puts at-risk children behind others in learning to read. Scientists at Northwestern have recently shown that music training in the early years helps the brain improve speech processing in at-risk children.

Scientists at the University of Illinois have demonstrated that physical activity, coupled with downtime, improves children’s cognitive functions.

Scientists have also shown that diversity makes people more innovative. Being exposed to different disciplines broadens a student’s perspective. More importantly, working with a people from different backgrounds increases creativity and critical thinking.

These proven paths to healthy brain development are blocked by Obama’s education policies, the most pernicious of which is the overemphasis on standardized tests.

Despite paying lip service to the perils of over-testing, our leaders have imposed educational policies ensuring that standardized tests dominate schooling. Though standardized tests are invalid to measure teacher performance, the Obama administration insists that students’ standardized test scores be part of teacher evaluation systems. Both under NCLB and the NCLB waivers, schools are rated by standardized test scores. Often, a high school diploma depends at least in part on these tests. When so much rides on a standardized test scores, tests will drive what is taught and learned.

Just last month, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan declared that yearly standardized testing is essential to monitor children’s progress. Setting aside the fact the new Common Core tests have not been proven to show what children learn, data shows that a child who passes a standardized test one year is overwhelmingly likely to pass the next year. Therefore, yearly standardized testing is unnecessary.

 

She adds:

 

The result? More than 10 years of high-stakes test-based education policy under NCLB and the waivers has narrowed curricula. Schools de-emphasize any subject other than language arts and math. In kindergarten, play has all but been eliminated in favor of direct instruction, and social studies, art, music, science, physical education and other subjects are disappearing. School districts at all grade levels are forced to reduce or eliminate these subjects to pay for implementation of the Common Core and its testing regime. Lansing Michigan last year eliminated art, music and physical education from elementary schools and the state of Ohio is considering the same. Recess has disappeared from many schools. The Obama administration promotes policies that increase school segregation yet have questionable educational value, like school choice. Consequently, school segregation continues to rise.

 

If we don’t end our obsession with picking the right bubble, marking the right box, we will ruin the education of a generation of children.

 

 

Lloyd Lofthouse, a regular commentator on this blog, has written a succinct history of public education, bullet points that show the good and the bad, as well as the recent efforts by billionaires to destroy public education.

Now that we have endured more than a dozen long years of No Child Left Behind and five fruitless, punitive years of Race to the Top, it is clear that they both failed. They relied on carrots and sticks and ignored intrinsic motivation. They crushed children’s curiosity instead of cultivating it.* They demoralized schools. They disrupted schools and communities without improving children’s education.

We did not leave no child behind. The same children who were left behind in 2001-02 are still left behind. Similarly, Race to the Top is a flop. The Common Core tests are failing most students, and we are nowhere near whatever the “Top” is. If a teacher gave a test, and 70% of the students failed, we would say she was not competent, tested what was not taught, didn’t know her students. The Race turns out to be NCLB with a mask. NCLB on steroids. NCLB 2.0.

Whatever you call it, RTTT has hurt children, demoralized teachers, closed community schools, fragmented communities, increased privatization, and doubled down on testing.

I have an idea for a new accountability system that relies on different metrics. We begin by dropping standardized test scores as measures of quality or effectiveness. We stop labeling, ranking, and rating children, teachers, snd schools. We use tests only when needed for diagnostic purposes, not for comparing children to their peers, not to find winners and losers. We rely on teachers to test their students, not corporations.

The new accountability system would be called No Child Left Out. The measures would be these:

How many children had the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument?

How many children had the chance to play in the school band or orchestra?

How many children participated in singing, either individually or in the chorus or a glee club or other group?

How many public performances did the school offer?

How many children participated in dramatics?

How many children produced documentaries or videos?

How many children engaged in science experiments? How many started a project in science and completed it?

How many children learned robotics?

How many children wrote stories of more than five pages, whether fiction or nonfiction?

How often did children have the chance to draw, paint, make videos, or sculpt?

How many children wrote poetry? Short stories? Novels? History research papers?

How many children performed service in their community to help others?

How many children were encouraged to design an invention or to redesign a common item?

How many students wrote research papers on historical topics?

Can you imagine an accountability system whose purpose is to encourage and recognize creativity, imagination, originality, and innovation? Isn’t this what we need more of?

Well, you can make up your own metrics, but you get the idea. Setting expectations in the arts, in literature, in science, in history, and in civics can change the nature of schooling. It would require far more work and self-discipline than test prep for a test that is soon forgotten.

My paradigm would dramatically change schools from Gradgrind academies to halls of joy and inspiration, where creativity, self-discipline, and inspiration are nurtured, honored, and valued.

This is only a start. Add your own ideas. The sky is the limit. Surely we can do better than this era of soul-crushing standardized testing.

*Kudos to Southold Elementary School in Long Island, where these ideas were hatched as I watched the children’s band playing a piece they had practiced.

The Ratliff family in Texas are heroes of public education, they are moderate Republicans, and they been steadfast advocates for public schools.

They recently co-wrote an article that explains why vouchers are the wrong path for Texas.

“Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant is a former state senator and lieutenant governor of Texas; Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant represents District 9 on the State Board of Education; state Rep. Bennett Ratliff of Coppell represents District 115 in the Texas House.”

Franchesca Warren is outraged by “the deadening silence of teachers.” Teachers are afraid to say what they know and believe for fear of being fired.

She writes:

“As a pretty opinionated teacher, I am always full of ideas and speak out regularly against practices that are unjust or not beneficial to students. However, time and time again I have been “scolded” by more veteran teachers who warn me that being vocal would quickly get me “blackballed” in the district. This fact was even more evident when I was invited to a private screening of a new documentary entitled “Scapegoats.” The film uses teacher interviews to examine how teachers have historically been made to be the scapegoats with anything bad that occurs in education. While I was in total agreement with what was being said in the document, I was dismayed that more than half of the teachers interviewed opted to have their face (and voices) distorted so their administration would not retaliate against them.

“As I listened to teachers recall the atrocities that occur in public education, it was evident that these educational “pundits” and politicians have made it nearly impossible for teachers to exercise their first amendment rights. Teachers are terrified of voicing their opinions because many times it not only makes them a target but could possibly make them not get their contract renewed for the following year!

“Instead of forgetting my feelings and just chalking the film up to that how things are, I got angry.”

She adds:

“The truth is hidden while the public is made to believe that lies are the truth. Truth be told, the majority of teachers loathe the increased standardized testing in schools. Truth be told, the people who make policies about education don’t even have their kids enrolled in public schools. Truth be told, the people who run the school districts are usually not equipped with the pedagogy or experience to actually lead a classroom in 2013. Truth be told, federal programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are just programs to further destroy public education and allow private entities to take our tax dollars.”

And more:

“Despite the deafening silence, there are many educators who are getting angry and speaking up with no regard to the possible consequences. You have district administrators like John Kuhn who say “enough is enough” and write eloquent pieces like “Exhaustion of the American Teacher.”

“You have teachers who decided to make the film “The Inconvenient Truths Behind Waiting for Superman” and expose the policies that hurt our students.

“You have the teachers in Chicago and Oregon that courageously decided to strike to ensure that their voices would be heard.

“Times are changing, and I for one am glad. The truth is no longer being hidden by our deafening silence. There are more teacher in the world than people who might want to silence us. So speak, act, march, discuss and demand to be heard. Apparently, we might have the 14th Amendment on our side.”

Jonathan Lovell, a teacher educator in California, received many messages after the election urging him to “keep your chin up ,” “don’t be discouraged,” that he decided to reply to one of them, the one that came from President Obama.

Here is his message to the President, followed by the President’s message to him.

Dear Mr President,

Thanks very much for this email. It has given me a lift during a period in which I’ll admit to experiencing “post mid-term blues.”

As a teacher educator who has spent the last 35 years visiting middle and high school English classrooms — about 2500 of them — helping beginning teachers reflect on their teaching practices, I cannot say that I am a supporter of the present RTTT-inspired direction of the USDOE.
I am, however, a strong supporter of your presidency and the overall direction, educational policy excepted, in which you have helped to steer our nation over the past six years.

I hope these next two years will provide you an opportunity to review and eventually approve an overhaul and eventual reauthorization of the ESEA.

As you know better than most, this piece of legislation has had unintended but easily anticipated consequences. Right now, it is leaving most children, and virtually all teachers, not only “behind,” but demoralized and frustrated.

I hope your next two years will give you a chance to publicly celebrate the public school teaching profession for the great contributions it has made to the strength and promise of our unique democracy.

And in the spirit of Bob Herbert’s magnificent new book Losing Our Way, I hope these next two years will also provide you with opportunities to celebrate the true mission of American public education, and to clarify for the nation, as well as to personally and politically confront, those powerful forces that threaten to undermine its fundamental importance.

My best,

Jonathan Lovell
Professor of English and Director of the San Jose Area Writing Project
San Jose State University

On Nov 7, 2014, at 2:00 PM, Barack Obama wrote:

Jonathan, the hardest thing in politics is changing the status quo. The easiest thing is to get cynical.

The Republicans had a good night on Tuesday, Jonathan — but believe me when I tell you that our results were better because you stepped up, talked to your family and friends, and cast your ballot.

I want you to remember that we’re making progress. There are workers who have jobs today who didn’t have them before. There are millions of families who have health insurance today who didn’t have it before. There are kids going to college today who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college before.

So don’t get cynical, Jonathan. Cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon. Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or built a business, or fed a young mind. Cynicism is a choice. And hope will always be a better choice.

I have hope for the next few years, and I have hope for what we’re going to accomplish together.

Thank you so much, Jonathan.

Barack Obama

Paid for by the Democratic National Committee, 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington DC 20003 and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Dear Diane,

I’ve been receiving so many “keep your chin up” emails over the past few days, primarily from democratic organizations and individuals to whom I’d sent donations during the past several months, that I decided to respond to one of them: the President’s.

What I wrote is below, with the President’s email below that.

Ever fondly,
Jonathan Lovell

On Nov 7, 2014, at 3:21 PM, Jonathan Lovell wrote:

Dear Mr President,

Thanks very much for this email. It has given me a lift during a period in which I’ll admit to experiencing “post mid-term blues.”

As a teacher educator who has spent the last 35 years visiting middle and high school English classrooms — about 2500 of them — helping beginning teachers reflect on their teaching practices, I cannot say that I am a supporter of the present RTTT-inspired direction of the USDOE.

I am, however, a strong supporter of your presidency and the overall direction, educational policy excepted, in which you have helped to steer our nation over the past six years.

I hope these next two years will provide you an opportunity to review and eventually approve an overhaul and eventual reauthorization of the ESEA.

As you know better than most, this piece of legislation has had unintended but easily anticipated consequences. Right now, it is leaving most children, and virtually all teachers, not only “behind,” but demoralized and frustrated.

I hope your next two years will give you a chance to publicly celebrate the public school teaching profession for the great contributions it has made to the strength and promise of our unique democracy.

And in the spirit of Bob Herbert’s magnificent new book Losing Our Way, I hope these next two years will also provide you with opportunities to celebrate the true mission of American public education, and to clarify for the nation, as well as to personally and politically confront, those powerful forces that threaten to undermine its fundamental importance.

My best,
Jonathan Lovell
Professor of English and Director of the San Jose Area Writing Project
San Jose State University

On Nov 7, 2014, at 2:00 PM, Barack Obama wrote:

Jonathan, the hardest thing in politics is changing the status quo. The easiest thing is to get cynical.

The Republicans had a good night on Tuesday, Jonathan — but believe me when I tell you that our results were better because you stepped up, talked to your family and friends, and cast your ballot.

I want you to remember that we’re making progress. There are workers who have jobs today who didn’t have them before. There are millions of families who have health insurance today who didn’t have it before. There are kids going to college today who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college before.

So don’t get cynical, Jonathan. Cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon. Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or built a business, or fed a young mind. Cynicism is a choice. And hope will always be a better choice.

I have hope for the next few years, and I have hope for what we’re going to accomplish together.

Thank you so much, Jonathan.

Barack Obama

Paid for by the Democratic National Committee, 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington DC 20003 and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 118,289 other followers