Archives for category: Race to the Top

The Badass Teachers association responded to Arne Duncan’s mea culpa on testing with this statement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 24, 2015
More information contact:
Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director BATs or Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. Executive Director BATs
Contact.BATmanager@gmail.com

Today the Obama Administration released a statement calling for “a cap on assessment so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. It called on Congress to ‘reduce over-testing’ as it reauthorizes the federal legislation governing the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/25/us/obama-administration-calls-for-limits-on-testing-in-schools.html?_r=0)

The Badass Teachers Association, an education activist organization with over 70,000 supporters nationwide, are reluctantly pleased with this announcement. Our vision statement has always been to refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning. Our goals have always been to reduce or eliminate the use of high stakes testing, increase teacher autonomy in the classroom, and include teacher and family voices in legislative decision-making processes that affect students.

Since No Child Left Behind and Race to The Top we have seen our children and communities of color bear the brunt of the test obsession that has come in with the wave of Corporate Education Reform. When resources should have been used for funding and programming, politicians and policy makers were focusing on making children take more tests in hopes that equity in education would occur. It didn’t work, and it will not work. We know as educators you cannot test your way out of the education and opportunity gap. The blame and punish test agenda has not closed either the education or opportunity gap . We are reluctantly pleased that the President and his administration are finally taking a stand, but sadly the devastation has already been done. We are confident that if the President and his administration make a commitment to work with educators, parents, and students we can fix it and make it right.

“Although this is a step in the right direction I feel we need to see what the policy is before we count this as a win. Given his actions in New York, I have no reason to trust John King, and I’m concerned that this is a ploy to get teachers on the side of Democrats aka Hillary Clinton.” – BAT Board of Director Member Dr. Denisha Jones

“The policy that stems from this statement needs to be mindful that important discussions about exactly what kind of testing is most beneficial to our students. BATS advocates for teacher-driven tests with immediate and relevant feedback that can be used to drive current instructional practices.” – BAT Assistant Executive Director Melissa Tomlinson

“The policies of Sec. Duncan and the USDOE have caused an immense amount of damage to our educational system, student morale, and teacher morale. I am very reluctant to be happy about this announcement and will watch closely as to what the President plans to do to fix the damage that has been done. Will he stand up to Corporate Education Reform? Will he end the test, blame, punish system for schools, students, and teachers? Will he return the elected school board? Will he end mass school closings?” – BAT Executive Director Marla Kilfoyle

The Badass Teachers Association would like to extend its voice and expertise to help get public education on the right track. Together we can work towards the real solutions that will make great schools for all children. We will be watching closely as this unfolds.

FairTest                         National Center for Fair & Open Testing                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
for further information:                                                                 

Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773

                   cell (239) 699-0468

for immediate release Saturday, October 24, 2015

GRASSROOTS ASSESSMENT REFORM MOVEMENT

REACTS TO OBAMA ADMINISTRATION STATEMENT,

SCHOOL CHIEFS SURVEY ON STANDARDIZED TESTING OVERKILL

 

The Obama Administration’s weekend statement calling for “fewer and smarter” tests “belatedly admits that high-stakes exams are out of control in U.S. public schools but does not offer meaningful action to address that very real problem,” according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), a leader of the country’s rapidly growing assessment reform movement.
FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer explained, “The new Council of Great City Schools study to which the Obama Administration responded, reinforces widespread reports by parents, students, teachers, and education administrators of standardized testing overuse and misuse. Documenting testing overkill is, however, just the first step toward assessment reform.”
“Now, is the time for concrete steps to reverse counter-productive testing policies, not just more hollow rhetoric and creation of yet another study commission,” Schaeffer continued. “Congress and President Obama must quickly approve a new law overhauling ‘No Child Left Behind’ that eliminates federal test-and-punish mandates. State and local policy makers need to heed their constituents’ ‘Enough is enough!’ message by significantly reducing the volume of standardized exams and eliminating high-stakes consequences. That will help clear the path for the implementation of better forms of assessment.”
Founded in 1985, FairTest advocates for valid, equitable and meaningful assessment of students, teachers and schools. The organization predicted negative “fallout from the testing explosion” when No Child Left Behind and similar state policies were adopted. FairTest works closely with grassroots education stakeholders around the country to reform national, state and local testing policies.

The Obama administration acknowledged that students are spending too much time on testing and recommended that no more than 2% of classroom instructional time be devoted to testing.

Apparently the administration is reacting to bipartisan opposition and widespread parent protests against the diversion of time and billions of dollars to high-stakes testing. Public sentiment, as recorded in recent polls, opposes the overuse of standardized testing.

In addition, the Times reports, the administration was reacting to a new report from the Council of Great City Schools, which found that the current regime of testing has not improved achievement.

You might say that the Obama administration is lamenting the past 13 years of federal policy, which mandated annual testing, and made test scores the determinative factor in the evaluation of teachers, principals and schools.

In short, the Bush-Obama policies have been a disaster.

This is a classic case of too little, too late. Think of the thousands of teachers and principals who were unjustly fired and the thousands of pubic schools wrongly closed when they should have gotten help. This administration and the George W. Bush cannot be absolved for the damage they have done to American education by issuing a press release.

The story says:

“Faced with mounting and bipartisan opposition to increased and often high-stakes testing in the nation’s public schools, the Obama administration declared Saturday that the push had gone too far, acknowledged its own role in the proliferation of tests, and urged schools to step back and make exams less onerous and more purposeful.

“Specifically, the administration called for a cap on assessment so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. It called on Congress to “reduce over-testing” as it reauthorizes the federal legislation governing the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.

“I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support,” said Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, who has announced that he will leave office in December. “But I can’t tell you how many conversations I’m in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking…”

“And even some proponents of newer, tougher tests said they appreciated the administration’s acknowledgment that it had helped create the problem, saying it did particular damage by encouraging states to evaluate teachers in part on test scores.

“But the administration’s so-called “testing action plan” — which guides school districts but does not have the force of law — also risks creating new uncertainty on the role of tests in America’s schools. Many teachers have felt whiplash as they rushed to rewrite curriculum based on new standards and new assessments, only to have politicians in many states pull back because of political pressure.

“Some who agreed that testing has run rampant also urged the administration not to throw out the No. 2 pencils with the bath water, saying tests can be a powerful tool for schools to identify weaknesses and direct resources…

“What happens if somebody puts a cap on testing, and to meet the cap ends up eliminating tests that could actually be helpful, or leaves the redundancy in the test and gets rid of a test that teachers can use to inform their instruction?” asked Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization that represents about 70 large urban school districts.

“The administration’s move seemed a reckoning on a two-decade push that began during the Bush administration and intensified under President Obama. Programs with aspirational names — No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top — were responding to swelling agreement among Democrats and Republicans that higher expectations and accountability could lift the performance of American students, who chronically lag their peers in other countries on international measures, and could help close a chronic achievement gap between black and white students….

“But as the Obama administration pushed testing as an incentive for states to win more federal money in the Race for the Top program, it was bedeviled by an unlikely left-right alliance. Conservatives argued that the standards and tests were federal overreach — some called them a federal takeover — and called on parents and local school committees to resist what they called a “one size fits all” approach to teaching.

“On the left, parents and unions objected to tying tests to teacher evaluations and said tests hamstrung educators’ creativity. They accused the companies writing the assessments of commercializing the fiercely local tradition of American schooling.

“As a new generation of tests tied to the Common Core was rolled out last spring, several states abandoned plans to use the tests, while others renounced the Common Core, or rebranded it as a new set of local standards. And some parents, mostly in suburban areas, had their children opt out of the tests.

“Mr. Duncan’s announcement — which was backed by his designated successor, John B. King Jr. — was prompted in part by the anticipation of a new survey from the Council of the Great City Schools, which set out to determine exactly how much testing is happening among its members.

“That survey, also released Saturday, found that students in the nation’s big-city schools will take, on average, about 112 mandatory standardized tests between prekindergarten and high school graduation — eight tests a year. In eighth grade, when tests fall most heavily, they consume an average of 20 to 25 hours, or 2.3 percent of school time. The totals did not include tests like Advanced Placement exams or the ACT.

“There was no evidence, the study found, that more time spent on tests improved academic performance, at least as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a longstanding test sometimes referred to as the nation’s report card.”

John Merrow has been a close observer of American education for decades, so it is always interesting to read him. In this post, he reflects on what Arne Duncan did and accomplished.

John expected that Arne’s experience in Chicago would have inclined him to push for less federal micromanagement but this didn’t happen.

“As CEO of the public schools in Chicago, Duncan had chafed under the directives of “No Child Left Behind” and its hundreds of pages of regulations. I thought the lesson of NCLB was inescapably clear: Washington cannot run public education. However, Democrats, including Secretary Duncan, apparently reached a different conclusion: “Perhaps REPUBLICANS cannot run public education, but we can.”

John made arrangements to film the creation of Race to the Top, but the DOE lawyers mixed it.

Early on, he found Arne open and accessible. As time went by, however, he gave canned answers and talking points, seldom straying.

John thinks that Arne’s worst mistake was to tie teacher evaluations to student scores.

Arne became the most powerful Secretary of Education in the Department’s history, because of the leverage that $5 billion discretionary dollars gave him, a gift from Congress as part of the economic stimulus that followed the 2008 crash.

Arne used that leverage to impose a heavy federal hand on almost every state and literally, to take control of public education–a goal that no other Secretary of Education ever tried (because it was illegal). As a result of Arne’s assertiveness, legislation to reauthorize ESEA/NCLB strips the Secretary of any authority to meddle in state and local issues related to curriculum, assessment, instruction. Such prohibitions are already in the law but Duncan ignored them. I wonder why there has been no lawsuit by a state or district to challenge his indifference to these clear prohibitions against meddling in curriculum and instruction. He claims that he had nothing to do with the Common Core standards, but that is widely viewed as a fabrication since states had to adopt something very much like them (and there were no competitors) to be eligible to compete for Race to the Top funding. Surely, the federal funding ($360 million) of two tests aligned to the CCSS has something to do with shaping curriculum and instruction.

So $5 billion was spent by Arne to promote school closings (mostly in black and Hispanic communities), to encourage the opening of more privately managed charter schools (despite the number of scandals associated with their deregulation and lack of oversight), to make standardized testing the most important ends and means of education, to fire principals and teachers, and to impose an invalid means of evaluating teachers and principals.

Merrow wonders:

“What if he had used that power differently? What if the Secretary had told states that they would be evaluated on their commitment to art, music, science, and recess? Or to project-based learning? Or social and emotional learning? Instead of today’s widespread teacher-bashing, excessive testing, test-prep, and a rash of cheating scandals, many more schools might be places of joy.”

I ask: What if he had used that power to request voluntary proposals to desegregate the nation’s schools?

We would be a different country. It would have been money well spent.

Unfortunately, neither happened. The $5 billion for Race to the Top was not only squandered, but did incalculable harm to students, educators, and public education.

Peter Greene watched the debate and became outraged, as only he can.

So this is how it’s going to be. The GOP is going to have a cartoon discussion about education, focusing on how to use charters to dismantle public ed and on how to find wacky ways to pretend that we’re not havin’ that Common Core stuff. And the Democratic line on public ed? The Clinton campaign locked in on their line months ago– stick to the safe-and-easy topics of universal pre-K and accessible, cheaper-somehow college education.

That mantra is comfortable and easy. Plain folks can listen to it and hear, “Aww, more pre-school for those precious cute little kids, and a chance for young Americans to make something of themselves,” while corporate backers, thirsty hedge funders, and ambitious reformsters can hear, “Expanding markets! Ka-ching!!”

The unions made their endorsement early. Did that take education off the table as an issue?

Really? We don’t want to hear anything about the disastrous policies of the last twelve years that have systematically broken down and dismantled American public education and the teaching profession? Dang, but I could have sworn we wanted to hear about that. But I guess now that the union is on Team Clinton, our job is not to hold her feet to the fire so much as it is to give them a little massage and carry some baggage for her so that she can save her strength for other issues. Important issues. Issues that aren’t US public education.

Sanders, with his focus on how the rich have commandeered so many parts of our democratic society, is so close to making useful statements about the education debates, but it just doesn’t happen. And I’m not sure how somebody helps it happen at this point. And those other guys? Generic Candidates #3-5? I don’t know what they think about education, but I suppose now that the education vote is supposedly locked up by Clinton, they won’t feel the need to go there.

Bottom line– US public education, despite the assorted crises associated with it (both fictional and non-fictional) is shaping up to be a non-issue once again in Presidential politics. I would say always a bridesmaid, never a bride, but it’s more like always the person hired for a couple of hours to help direct the car parking in the field back behind the reception hall. Or maybe the person who cleans up the reception hall after the bridal party has danced off happily into the night.

In response to the post about the “school-to-prison-pipeline, a frequent commenter who signs as Raj, submitted the following comment. It begins like this, you can read the full comment after the original post:

Raj wrote:

This is what ACLU says:

“WHAT IS THE SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE?

The “school-to-prison pipeline” refers to the policies and practices that push our nation’s schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. This pipeline reflects the prioritization of incarceration over education. For a growing number of students, the path to incarceration includes the “stops” below.

Failing Public Schools

For most students, the pipeline begins with inadequate resources in public schools. Overcrowded classrooms, a lack of quali­fied teachers, and insufficient funding for “extras” such as counselors, special edu­cation services, and even textbooks, lock students into second-rate educational envi­ronments. This failure to meet educational needs increases disengagement and dropouts, increasing the risk of later court­involvement. (1) Even worse, schools may actually encourage dropouts in response to pressures from test-based accountability regimes such as the No Child Left Behind Act, which create incentives to push out low-performing students to boost overall test scores. (2)

Zero-Tolerance and Other School Discipline

Lacking resources, facing incentives to push out low-performing students, and responding to a handful of highly-publicized school shootings, schools have embraced zero-tolerance policies that automatically impose severe punishment regardless of circumstances. Under these policies, students have beenexpelled for bringing nail clippers or scissors to school. Rates of suspensionhave increased dramatically in recent years—from 1.7 million in 1974 to 3.1 million in 2000 (3) — and have been most dramatic for children of color.

Overly harsh disciplinary policies push students down the pipeline and into the juvenile justice system. Suspended and expelled children are often left unsupervised and without constructive activities; they also can easily fall behind in their coursework, leading to a greater likelihood of disengagement and drop-outs. All of these factors increase the likelihood of court involvement. (4)

As harsh penalties for minor misbehavior become more pervasive, schools increasingly ignore or bypass due process protections for suspensions and expulsions. The lack of due process is particularly acute for students with special needs, who are disproportionately represented in the pipeline despite the heightened protections afforded to them under law.

Raj,

This is an excellent contribution to understanding the “school-to-prison-pipeline.” Thank you.

For most students, the pipeline begins with inadequate resources in public schools.

Overcrowded classrooms. Bill Gates and Arne Duncan have both said that class size doesn’t matter, and that great teachers can teach larger classes than they have now. Mayor Bloomberg even suggested that a “great” teacher could teach double the number currently assigned, which would mean a class size of 50-70 students. Surveys repeatedly show that both parents and teachers want small classes, and research shows that the greatest benefit of small classes goes to the neediest students, who need extra attention with the teacher.

A lack of qualified teachers. State after state has been staffing the neediest schools with inexperienced, unqualified teachers from Teach for America. There would be more qualified teachers if state legislatures raised teacher pay, stopped cutting pay raises for experience and additional relevant degrees, and stopped fighting due process for teachers. Such actions literally drive teachers out of their chosen profession.

Insufficient funding for “extras” such as counselors, special edu­cation services, and even textbooks, lock students into second-rate educational envi­ronments: The ACLU hits the nail on the head. So much money is diverted to testing and test prep and consultants, and not enough is appropriated for the services and personnel that meet the real needs of students. You understand that underfunded schools do not choose to be underfunded. Decisions about funding are made by the Congress, the state legislatures and governors, and district leadership. The blame for the shortage of these resources in the schools that enroll the most vulnerable students must be placed squarely on federal, state, and local leadership.

Even worse, schools may actually encourage dropouts in response to pressures from test-based accountability regimes such as the No Child Left Behind Act, which create incentives to push out low-performing students to boost overall test scores. Test-based accountability, including NCLB and the Race to the Top, increase the numbers of students who fall into the STPP. The emphasis on testing and the consequences for failing to teach a bar set too high discourage the students in the bottom half of the bell curve (all standardized tests are normed on a bell curve). The Common Core tests have shifted the norm so that 65-70% of students “fail.” If students fail and fail and fail, they give up. What shall we do for them?

The next section of the ACLU statement aptly describes “no-excuses” charter schools:

Zero-Tolerance and Other School Discipline

Lacking resources, facing incentives to push out low-performing students, and responding to a handful of highly-publicized school shootings, schools have embraced zero-tolerance policies that automatically impose severe punishment regardless of circumstances.

Charter schools, especially of the no-excuses variety, have higher suspension rates than public schools. They engage in harsh disciplinary policies that are not allowed in public schools. They can push out students for minor offenses.

Raj, thank you for this useful description of the “school-to-prison pipeline” by the ACLU.

We should all take heed.

Arne Duncan, who is talking about the STPP today at 4 pm EST on Sirius “Urban View” could reduce the pipeline by abandoning high-stakes testing and cutting off federal funding for “no-excuses” charter schools.

Each and every child should be able to enroll in a school with a humane and caring environment.

Jan Resseger served for many years as program director for education justice of the United Church of Christ. She is a woman with a strong social conscience, who is devoted to the well-being of all children. She lives in Ohio. When I first visited Cleveland, I had the privilege of being escorted by Jan, who showed me the stark disparities between the affluent suburbs and the downtrodden inner-city.

Jan Resseger writes here of the calamities imposed on our nation’s education system by Arne Duncan, who changed the national education goal from equality of educational opportunity for all to a “race to the top” for the few. He shifted our sights from equal opportunity and equitable funding to test scores; he pretended that poverty was unimportant and could be solved by closing public schools and turning children over to private entrepreneurs who had little supervision.

Read Jan’s entire piece: Duncan was a disaster as a molder of education policy. He ignored segregation and it grew more intense on his watch. His successor, John King, was a clone of Duncan in New York state. He too thinks that test scores are the measure of education quality, despite the fact that what they measure best is family income. He too, a founder of charter schools, prefers charters over public education. His hurried implementation of the Common Core standards and tests in New York were universally considered disastrous, even by Governor Cuomo; John King, more than anyone else, ignited the parent opt out movement in New York. And his role model was Arne Duncan.

Jan Resseger writes:

School policy ripped out of time and history: in many ways that is Arne Duncan’s gift to us — school policy focused on disparities in test scores instead of disparities in opportunity — a Department of Education obsessed with data-driven accountability for teachers, but for itself an obsession with “game-changing” innovation and inadequate attention to oversight — the substitution of the consultant driven, win-lose methodology of philanthropy for formula-driven government policy — school policy that favors social innovation, one charter at a time. Such policies are definitely a break from the past. Whether they promise better opportunity for the mass of our nation’s children, and especially our poorest children, is a very different question.

School policy focused on disparities in test scores instead of disparities in opportunity: Here is what a Congressional Equity and Excellence Commission charged in 2013, five years into Duncan’s tenure as Education Secretary: “The common situation in America is that schools in poor communities spend less per pupil—and often many thousands of dollars less per pupil—than schools in nearby affluent communities… This is arguably the most important equity-related variable in American schooling today. Let’s be honest: We are also an outlier in how many of our children are growing up in poverty. Our poverty rate for school-age children—currently more than 22 percent—is twice the OECD average and nearly four times that of leading countries such as Finland.” Arne Duncan’s signature policies ignore these realities. While many of Duncan’s programs have conditioned receipt of federal dollars on states’ complying with Duncan’s favored policies, none of Duncan’s conditions involved closing opportunity gaps. To qualify for a Race to the Top grant, a state had to remove any statutory cap on the authorization of new charter schools, and to win a No Child Left Behind waiver, a state had to agree to evaluate teachers based on students’ test scores, but Duncan’s policies never conditioned receipt of federal dollars on states’ remedying school funding inequity. Even programs like School Improvement Grants for the lowest scoring 5 percent of American schools have emphasized school closure and privatization but have not addressed the root problem of poverty in the communities where children’s scores are low.

A Department of Education obsessed with data-driven accountability for teachers, but for itself an obsession with “game-changing” innovation and inadequate attention to oversight: The nation faces an epidemic of teacher shortages and despair among professionals who feel devalued as states rush to implement the teacher-rating policies they adopted to win their No Child Left Behind waivers from the federal government. Even as evidence continues to demonstrate that students’ test scores correlate more closely with family income than any other factor, and as scholars declare that students’ test scores are unreliable for evaluating teachers, Duncan’s policies have unrelentingly driven state governments to create policy that has contributed to widespread blaming of the teachers who serve in our nation’s poorest communities.

However, Duncan’s Department of Education has been far less attentive to accountability for its own programs. In June, the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a coalition of national organizations made up of the American Federation of Teachers, Alliance for Educational Justice, Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, Center for Popular Democracy, Gamaliel, Journey for Justice Alliance, National Education Association, National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, and Service Employees International Union, asked Secretary Duncan to establish a moratorium on federal support for new charter schools until the Department improves its own oversight of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, which is responsible for the federal Charter School Program. The Alliance to Reclaim our Schools cites formal audits from 2010 and 2012 in which the Department of Education’s own Office of Inspector General (OIG), “raised concerns about transparency and competency in the administration of the federal Charter Schools Program.” The OIG’s 2012 audit, the members of the Alliance explain, discovered that the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, which administers the Charter Schools Program, and the State Education Agencies, which disburse the majority of the federal funds, are ill equipped to keep adequate records or put in place even minimal oversight.

Most recently, just last week, the Department of Education awarded $249 million to seven states and the District of Columbia for expanding charter schools, with the largest of those grants, $71 million, awarded to Ohio, despite that protracted Ohio legislative debate all year has failed to produce regulations for an out-of-control, for-profit group of online charter schools or to improve Ohio’s oversight of what are too often unethical or incompetent charter school sponsors. The U.S. Department of Education made its grant last week despite that Ohio’s legislature is known to have been influenced by political contributions from the owners of for-profit charter schools.

I am sharing a post written by Anthony Cody.

Anthony notes that teacher evaluations have changed in most states and districts because of Race to the Top. He and others are conducting a study to see how teacher evaluation is working or not working.

Please read his post and respond to the survey, if you are so inclined.

The Los Angeles Times reports that some teachers are unhappy with their unions’ early endorsement of Hillary.

She supports unions. But where does she stand on charters? 90% of charters are nonunion. You can’t be pro-union and pro-charter.

Is she close to Eli Broad? For many teachers, that is the kiss of death.

Will she follow the Bush-Obama line?

She has to make clear where she stands.

Carol Burris, the executive director of the Network for Public Education, writes here about the ruinous, failed policy of closing schools because of their test scores.

This odious, undemocratic practice started with No Child Left Behind, where it was adopted as a sanction for “failing schools.” Any school that couldn’t raise test scores for five years in a row was labeled a failing school, without regard to its needs and struggles. No matter how loudly the community protested, the school was closed.

Race to the Top continued this practice, even though there was no record of success. Frequently, the school closures cleared the way for charters, which didn’t enroll the children with disabilities and the English language learners. Those children were shunted off to another “failing school.”

Nothing so fully epitomizes the failure of corporate reform as closing schools instead of helping them improve.

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