Archives for category: Race to the Top

Chris in Florida, who teaches young children, writes:

“My district has become program driven. We have a program to teach reading but there are now 3 reading blocks in our day since we are a D school. The state mandates a program for Tier II intervention and another program for extra reading instruction. There is no correlation between the fragmented programs. We have a program for math and another for math intervention. We have a science program but no social studies program and both are given a meager 20 minutes a day. Several programs are online only and kids hate them and say they are boring and too hard.

“We are no longer allowed to teach with good books or to have classrooms humming with excitement over a praying mantis or a bag of apples. That is not in the programs. We are threatened with discipline if we are caught doing things the old way during random walk throughs using the nefarious Danielson rubric.

“I sneak what I can as far as read alouds and living things in when I can but our discipline problems are skyrocketing and the kids are bored and overwhelmed much of the day with recess no longer allowed either.

“This is the result of Jeb Bush, NCLB, RTTT, CCSS, and all the reformist mess.”

Mark NAISON writes on the damage done to communities by closing neighborhood schools.

The one-two punch of No Child Left Behind and its ugly twin Race to theTop have led to the closure of thousands of neighborhood school, typically in black and brown communities.

He writes:

“Thousands of schools which have served neighborhoods for generations have been closed in cities all over the US, leading to mass firings of teachers and staff who grew up in or lived in those communities and disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of families. In some cities, the result has been exposing young people to greater risk of violence; in others, the process has promoted gentrification. But the disruptive consequences of this policy have been enormous and totally ignored by policy makers who have ironically claimed this strategy is promoting education equity.

“I will say this. Destroying neighborhood institutions and the historic memory invested in them is a form of psychic violence that should not be underestimated. School closings, and displacement of the people who worked in them are wreaking havoc with the lives of people who need stability, continuity and support more than continuous upheaval.”

Every once in a while, I post an article that I missed when it first appeared because it offers fresh insight. This article by Bruce A. Dixon appeared in Black Agenda Report. Dixon says that Race to the Top has been the leading, sharp edge of privatization. It is directly responsible for closing thousands of public schools in urban districts and turning over the keys and children to private management.

Dixon writes:

“The national wave of school closings not national news because our nation’s elite, from Wall Street and the hedge fund guys to the chambers of commerce and the business establishment, from corporate media and all the elite politicians of both parties from the president down to local mayors and state legislators are working diligently to privatize public education as quickly as possible. They’re not stupid. They’ve done the polling and the focus groups. They know with dead certainty that the p-word is massively unpopular, and that parents, teachers, students and communities aren’t clamoring to hand schools over to greedy profiteers.

“On every level, the advocates of educational privatization strive to avoid using the p-word. They deliberately mislabel charter schools, just as unaccountable as every other private business in the land as “public charter schools,” because after all, they use public money. So do Boeing, Lockheed, General Dynamics, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, but nobody calls these “public aerospace companies,” “public military contractors,” or “public banks.” For the same reason, corporate media refuse to cover the extent of the school closing epidemic, or local opposition to it, for fear of feeding the development of a popular movement against privatization, and Race To The Top, the Obama administration’s signature public education initiative, and the sharp edge of the privatizers, literally driving the wave of school closings, teacher firings, and the adoption of “run-the-school-like-a-business” methods everywhere.

“The privatizers know the clock is ticking. They know that no white Republican or Democrat could have successfully closed thousands of schools, mainly in the inner city and low-income neighborhoods without a tidal wave of noisy opposition. No white Republican or Democrat could have fired or replaced tens of thousands of experienced, mostly black qualified, experienced classroom teachers with younger, whiter, cheaper “graduates” of 5 week “teacher training” programs like Teach For America.”

Gentrification follows in the wake of school closings. As Kristen Buras writes in her book about New Orleans, privatization clears the way for land transfers.

Meanwhile, Congress sits idly by, watching Arne Duncan close and privatize thousands of public schools, which pushes out veteran black teachers, busts unions, and creates jobs for TFA. And Congress looks the other way as Duncan ignores the legal prohibition on controlling, influencing, or directing curriculum and instruction by imposing Common Core and Common Core testing on most of the nation’s children. Duncan is doing what Obama wants him to do. But why? Does anyone really believe that mass school closings and privatization improve education. Or is it not a declaration of utter educational failure on the part of this administration, which does not have a single idea about how to improve schools that need help?

FairTest
National Center for Fair & Open Testing

Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773
cell (239) 699-0468

SAT SCORE TREND REMAINS FLAT;

TEST-FIXATED SCHOOL POLICIES HAVE NOT IMPROVED COLLEGE READINESS

EVEN AS MEASURED BY OTHER STANDARDIZED EXAMS

SAT scores for the nation’s high school seniors continue to stagnate according to data being released on Tuesday by the test’s sponsor, the College Board. Overall SAT averages have dropped by 21 points since 2006 when the test was last revised. Gaps between racial groups increased, often significantly over that period.

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), said, “Proponents of ‘No Child Left Behind,’ ‘Race to the Top,’ and similar state-level programs promised the testing focus would boost college readiness while narrowing score gaps between groups. The data show a total failure according to their own measures. Doubling down on unsuccessful policies with more high-stakes K-12 testing, as Common Core exam proponents propose, is an exercise in futility, not meaningful school improvement. Nor will revising the SAT, as currently planned, address the nation’s underlying educational issues.”

Schaeffer continued, “At the same time, the number of schools dropping SAT and ACT admissions exams requirements has soared. This year at least 14 more colleges and universities have adopted test-optional policies for all or many applicants.” A list of more than 840 such bachelor-degree granting institutions is posted at http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional

2014 COLLEGE-BOUND SENIORS SAT SCORES — with score changes from 2006*

READING MATH WRITING TOTAL
ALL TEST-TAKERS 497 (- 6) 513 (- 5) 487 (-10) 1497 (-21)

* High school graduates in the class of 2006 were the first to take the SAT “Writing” Test. The “No Child Left Behind” mandate to test every child in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school went into effect in the 2005-2006 academic year.

More details on 2014 SAT score trends and an extended analysis will be posted at fairtest.org after the College Board’s public release of the results

Here is a terrific article about a new video game: “No Pineapple Left Behind.”

Friends, our federal education policy has reached some absurdity and stupidity and child abuse that the best way to explain it is through satire.

Soon, as we continue on the path charted by George W. Bush, Margaret Spellings, Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, and their devotees, we will be an international laughing stock. No other nation tests every child every year. No other nation subjects little children to 8-hour tests, no other nation rates teachers by the test scores of their students. We are breaking new ground. But it is not innovation. It is a misplacing of bad business techniques into education.

This house of cards will not stand.

Laura H. Chapman provides here the relevant federal statutes that restrict the role of federal officials to prevent federal intrusion and control of public education. The prohibition of federal employees exercising any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, instruction or personnel of public schools was enacted when the U.S. Department of Education was created in 1979. Secretary Duncan insists that the Department of Education is not directing or influencing curriculum or instruction by its ardent support for the Common Core standards or its $360 million funding of CCSS tests. We all know that standards and tests don’t influence curriculum and instruction, right?

Legal Restriction: “U. S. Congress. General Provisions Concerning Education. (2010, February). Section 438 (20 U.S.C. § 1232a). US Code TITLE 20 EDUCATION CHAPTER 31, SUBCHAPTER III, Part 2, §§ 1232a. Prohibition against Federal control of education. No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, or to require the assignment or transportation of students or teachers in order to overcome racial imbalance.” Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/20/usc_sup_01_20.html

Legal Restriction: “The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425 (2002). Section 9527 ESEA amended by NCLB (20 U.S.C. § 7907(a).1) This provision is based on 20 U.S.C. 7907(a) (Section 9527(a) of NCLB). Section 7907(a) is one of the ESEA’s general provisions contained in Title IX of the Act. It states: Nothing in this [Act] shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State or local resources, or mandate a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this [Act]. 20 U.S.C. 7907(a).”

Since 2002 federal officials have been threading legal needles with the carefully contrived language of “deniability” if they are accused of violating federal law.

No one in Congress has the interest or courage to call for the hearings needed to expose the damage, incompetence, and under the table deals with lobbyists–all enabling the destruction of public education except for the funding that will subsidize for-profit schemes conjured by billionaires who see education the nation’s young people as a source of profit and, in some cases,opportunity for indoctrination.

Frank Breslin, retired teacher of foreign languages and history, calls for Congressional hearings about the cost and misuse of testing.

He points out that test scores are used to close public schools, fire teachers, and privatize schools, even though charters do not get better results than public schools.

He warns that the federal government has used testing to impose its failed ideas on schools, eviscerating local control. Breslin concludes that the best way to end federal intrusion is to abolish the Department of Education.

Peter Greene has been following the conversation at EducationPost, the blog funded by Broad, Walton, Bloomberg et al for $12 million, he says that the new spin from reformsters is that education is too politicized. He agrees but asks how it got that way. Who took the decision making power away from educators and gave it to legislatures, governors, the President, and Comgress? Not educators.

Peter Greene knows who did it:

“As it turns out, I think I have an answer for this one. Asking why the Common Core are wrapped up in politics is like asking why human beings are so involved with blood.

“The Common Core were birthed in politics. They were weaned on politics. And every time they have looked tired and in trouble, they have been revived with a fresh transfusion of politics.

“When David Coleman and Gene Wilhoit decided they wanted to standardize American education, they did not come up with a plan to sell such a program on its education merits. They called on Bill Gates to use his money and power to convince state governments to legislate systemic changes to education.

“The states signed on to a Memo of Understanding (a political tool for out-politicking politics) and many of them did it before there were even any standards to look at. This was a political move, using the political power of legislatures and governors’ offices to impose rules on educational systems– in many cases, before educators in particular states even knew that such a systemic overhaul was being considered.

“Common Core’s Pappy, No Child Left Behind, was a creature of politics, right down to its spin-ready title. It was created to put a glossy shine on bipartisan action for the kids. Educators (and other people with rudimentary math skills) pointed out early on that the NCLB end game of 100% above average was ridiculously improbable, but the political shininess plus the political notion that future politicians would find a political solution drowned out good sense. Because, politics.”

He concludes:

“At no point in all this reformy baloney have we seen the spectacle of bottom-up reform, a reform movement driven by teachers and other educators saying, “Hey, we have some ideas that are so revolutionary and so great that they are spreading like wildfire strictly on their educational merits!”

“No– Common Core and its attendant test-driven high stakes data-glomming VAMboozling baloney have come from the top down, by politicians using political power to impose educational solutions through the political tools applied to the political structure of government. Why do people get the idea that all these reformy ideas are linked? Because they all come from the same place– the linkage is the political power that imposed them all on the American public education system.

“Look. We live in the real world and politics play a part in many things. But for some reformsters to offer wide eyes and shocked dismay and clutched pearls as they cry, “Oh, but why does it have to be so political!” is the height of hypocrisy. It’s political because you folks made it political, every step of the way, and it’s not humanly possible for you to be too dumb to know that (particularly at a site like Education Post that is larded with career political operatives). So if you want to have a serious conversation about any of this, Step One is top stop lying, badly, directly to our faces. I can’t hear you when my bullshit detector alarm is screaming in my ear.”

Superintendent Mark Cross joins the honor roll for his willingness to stand up and be counted on the side of students.

Cross sent a letter home to parents in which he criticized high-stakes testing and Common Core. He spoke critically of federal and state initiatives whose purpose is to rank students rather than educate them. Many educators are fearful of saying what Mark Cross said because they are supposed to be docile and keep their professional ethics to themselves. A test score is like stepping on a bathroom scale, he said. It tells you something but not everything you need to know about your wellness. So, he told parents, we won’t be talking much about PARCC or Common Core. We will continue to focus on helping them become well-rounded people, with time to develop their creativity.

Read his letter. He makes clear that he and his staff take their responsibility to the children and the local community very seriously, and they will continue to do so.

If every school board, principal, and superintendent were equally willing to speak their convictions, there would be a genuine conversation about education, rather than the current top-down authoritarianism that typifies relationships between the federal government and everyone else.

The original letter can be seen here.

August 20th 2014

Dear Parents,

Today is the first day of the 2014-15 school year and I wanted to take the opportunity to share some personal thoughts regarding the current state of education at the national, state and, most importantly, local levels. I am very fortunate to serve as the superintendent of this great district and we are all very proud of the incredible progress we have made in recent years, building on previous years of excellence. At the end of the day, our kids and their safety and educational growth are all that matters to us. We work hard to keep anything from distracting us from these priorities.

Unfortunately, there are many federal and state education initiatives that can very much be a distraction from what matters most These initiatives are based on good intentions and are cloaked in the concept of accountability, but unfortunately most do little to actually improve teaching and teaming. Most are designed to assess, measure, rank and otherwise place some largely meaningless number on a child or a school or a teacher or a district. That is not to say that student growth data is not important, It is very critical, and it is exactly why we have our own local assessment system in place. It is what our principals and teachers use to help guide instruction and meet the needs of your kids on a daily basis. In other words, it is meaningful data to help us teach your child.

But no more than a number from a bathroom scale can give you a full assessment of your personal wetness, a test score cannot fully assess a student’s academic growth. Does stepping on the scale tell you something? Of course. But does it tell you everything? Absolutely not.

As one specific example, Peru Elementary District 124 puts great value on the fine arts. We believe that music and art enhances cognitive growth, creativity and problem solving. In fact we know this, and this is exactly why your children have access to an outstanding fine arts program with five music and art teachers from PreK through 8th grade. The state does not assess music or art or science or social studies for that matter. Only language arts and mathematics are assessed with the state’s new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment.

This is why I wanted to let you know that we will not be talking to you that much about the PARCC assessment or Common Core or other initiatives that have some importance, but they are not what matters most to us. YOUR CHILDREN are what matter most and we believe that kids should be well-rounded, with an emphasis on a solid foundation for learning across all subjects by the time they get to high school and later college. We believe that kids need to be creative and learn to solve problems. We believe that exposure to music and art science and social studies, physical education and technology and a wide variety of curricular and extracurricular activities will serve them very well as they grow into young adults.

We further believe that there is no replacement for high expectations, and we must expect our students to achieve to the best of their individual ability. We believe that all children can learn, but not all at the same pace or in the same way. We believe that reading and literacy are the foundations of learning. We believe that children are each unique and have a wide variety of talents and skills, very few of which can be measured on a state assessment

The state and federal government have failed epically in their misguided attempts at ‘reforming’ public education. Public education does not need reformed. It may need intervention in school districts that are not meeting the needs of students on a grand scale, but it needs to be accountable to and controlled by our citizens at the local level. And in Peru Schools, this will continue to be very much the case.

So, I wanted to let you know that we will not let these other things serve as a distraction from educating your children in Peru Schools. When appropriate, we will use these opportunities as a chance to improve but we will not let political nonsense distract us from our true mission, which is to keep your kids safe and to provide them with a world class education. One of my favorite quotes is,

*Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least’

And the ‘things- which matter most here are your kids and their education. Nothing you read or hear about will distract us from that effort.

Thank you for your support of our children and our schools and as always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns at all as we start the new school year!

Sincerely,

Mark R. Cross Superintendent

In case you missed, here is my interview with Tavis Smiley from September 8. It is about 12 minutes. Tavis asked about the Vergara decision and teacher tenure, about the attacks on teachers and public education, about the goals of the current “reform” movement, Common Core, and my judgment of Race to the Top.

All in 12 minutes!

By the way, if you wonder why I was holding my head in last minutes of show, I should explain that I didn’t have a toothache. My earpiece with the audio feed was falling out, and I was holding it in my ear.

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