Archives for category: Race to the Top

Bill Moyers is one of my heroes. He is one of the few people in the media who is as concerned about the privatization and monetization of the public sector as I am. He has a long memory, and he has not forgotten that a good society needs both a strong public sector and a strong private sector. Nor has he forgotten that the real civil rights movement was about tearing down the walls of a segregated society and creating equal opportunity for all, not the current effort on the part of billionaires to promote school choice and decimate public education.

I enjoyed talking to him. Here is the full interview as it aired on PBS.

This teacher explains: She loves teaching. She loves her
students, but she wants the high-stakes testing and the Race to the
Top to stop. She knows that her students are set up to fail. It is
all so wrong, so mean-spirited, so cruel. This is what she knows:
“I am a NYS certified public school teacher teaching 3rd grade in
an economically disadvantaged school district in rural upstate New
York. I happen to be one of the unfortunate teachers in a “test
grade” and am in fear of loosing my job, my livelihood, and the one
thing I used to enjoy waking up to every morning (my students)!!!!!
I went into teaching to teach precious little minds to learn and
not fear the consequences if they do not get something. “That has
all changed in the last several of years as state and federal
politics have stepped in to tell us how poorly our students are
doing. We, as teachers, are so under pressure to make a round peg
fit into a square hole with these new core standards. The people
who write these tests and demand that all students achieve at the
same level have never stepped foot into a classroom to see the
diversity of the students we work with everyday. “Last year during
the first year of the common core testing, I had students who were
crying because they did not understand the question, did not have
time to finish under the allotted time, or were just simply
overwhelmed by the complexity of the test. Is that why I became a
teacher, no it is not! I teach because I want to see my students
learn, but as more and more pressure comes down on us as teachers
so too does it in our students! “There has to be a time when we
stop thinking about the race to the top and start thinking about
the children we are supposed to be encouraging to want to learn!
The only thing we are doing with these common core state tests is
setting them up for failure and in the same process making teachers
look like they are not doing their jobs. “I’m tired of people who
have never stepped foot into a classroom telling me that I am not
“effective” because my 8 year old students can’t pass a test that
even a college graduate has difficulty completing!!!!!!! Whether I
am effective should not depend on how my students do on a three day
test, it should be based on whether they show growth from beginning
to end, just like they should not be considered as not meeting an
impossible state mandated goal in a three day test!!! Enough is
enough, let us get back to teaching and let our kids be kids,
after-all your childhood only lasts so long!!!!!”

Peter Greene noticed in his scan of reports from Arne Duncan that Duncan singled out the super stars of his Race to the Top.

Most surprising of all was that North Carolina won a gold star for improving the teaching profession.

To call this startling is an understatement.

Don’t take my word for it: Read what Duke University Professor Helen Ladd and former New York Times education editor Edward Fiske wrote about the appalling attacks on teachers and on public education in recent years in North Carolina.

Teachers are bailing out of North Carolina because salaries are so low and have not increased since 2008.

The legislature has passed law after law stripping teachers of any and all rights and privileges.

Teachers can no longer get a raise for earning an advanced degree (just shows you what the legislature thinks of education).

The legislature killed off its successful North Carolina Teaching Fellows, which produced well-prepared teachers who made a career of teaching, yet found $5-6 million to bring in Teach for America, guaranteed not to stay in teaching.

North Carolina has one of the worst climates for teachers in the United States, and it has gotten progressively worse over the past three years since hard-right Republicans took control of the legislature and the governorship.

What exactly did Arne find admirable about teaching conditions in North Carolina?

Was he misinformed or does he approve of the war against teachers by the state’s extremists in the legislature and its governor?

The bottom line is that Race to the Top was a waste of $5 billion that might have been used for the arts, for reducing class sizes in needy schools, for opening health clinics, for doing what was actually needed by students and teachers and communities. It could have been a national competition to reward the districts that produced actionable plans for racial integration. Instead, it piled on more testing, demoralized teachers and principals, added tons of paperwork, and rewarded consultants, entrepreneurs, and snake-oil salesmen.

Jeff Bryant of the Education Opportunity Network writes in Salon that voters are increasingly disenchanted with the bipartisan Bush-Obama education policies of high-stakes testing, Common Core, and privatization.

He points out that the attacks on public education are not playing well at all in the political arena. The overwhelming majority of parents are very happy with their local public schools and respect their teachers. The public is beginning to see through the lies they have been told about their schools. So much of the rhetoric of the “reformers” sounds appealing and benign, if not downright inspirational, but it ends up as nonstop testing, the closing of local public schools, merit pay, union-busting, the enrichment of multinational corporations, and standardization.

Bryant predicts that Democrats will suffer at the polls for their slavish espousal of hard-right GOP doctrine.

He writes:

“The only overriding constants? People generally like their local schools, trust their children’s teachers and think public school and teachers should get more money. Wonder when a politician will back that!

“Many observers, including journalists at The Wall Street Journal, have accurately surmised that the American public is currently deeply divided on education policy. But that analysis barely scratches the surface.

“Go much deeper and you find that the “new liberal consensus” that Adam Serwer wrote about in Mother Jones, which propelled Obama into a second term, believes in funding the nation’s public schools but has little to no allegiance to Obama’s education reform policies.

“Outside of the elite circles of the Beltway and the very rich, who continue to be the main proponents of these education policies, it is getting harder and harder to discern who exactly is the constituency being served by the reform agenda.

“Most Americans do not see any evidence that punitive measures aimed at their local schools are in any way beneficial to their children and grandchildren. In fact, there’s some reasonable doubt whether the president himself understands it.

So is Arne Duncan making education policy on his own? Or is the policy agenda of the Obama administration indistinguishable from that of rightwing Republicans like Bobby Jindal, Rick Scott, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Mike Pence, and Tom Corbett?

Marc Tucker has written an excellent post on the failure of punitive accountability.

The working theory behind the Bush-Obama “reforms” is that teachers are lazy and need to be motivated by rewards and punishments and the threat of public shaming.

This is in fact a theory drawn from the early twentieth century writings of Frederick Winslow Taylor, who studied the efficiency of factory workers.

Tucker writes:

Let’s start by examining the premises behind the prevailing system.  The push for test-based accountability systems to evaluate teachers have their origin in the work of a professor of agricultural statistics in Tennessee who discovered that differences in teacher quality as measured by analyses of student test scores over time accounted for very large differences in student performance.  Many observers concluded from this that policy should concentrate on using these statistical techniques to identify poor teachers and remove them from the teaching force.  At the same time, other observers, believing that the parents would choose effective schools for their children over ineffective schools if only they had information as to which schools are effective, pushed to use student test data to identify and publicly label schools based on the available test score data.  And, finally, policymakers passed the NCLB legislation, requiring the identification of schools as chronically underperforming and remedies involving the replacement of school leaders and staff, and, in extreme cases, closing schools down.

All of these accountability systems are essentially punitive in design and intent.  They threaten poor performing schools with public shaming, takeover and closure and poor performing individuals with public shaming and the loss of their jobs and livelihood.  The introduction of these policies was not accompanied by policies designed to improve the supply of highly qualified new teachers by making teaching a more attractive option for our most successful high school students—a key component of policy in the top-performing countries.  There is a lot of federal money available for training and professional development for teachers but no systematic federal strategy that I can discern for turning that money into systems of the kind top-performing countries use to support long-term, steady improvements in teachers’ professional practice.  I conclude that policymakers have placed their bet on teacher evaluation, not to identify the needs of teachers for development, but to identify teachers who need to be dismissed from the service.  And, further, that the way to motivate school staff to work harder and more efficiently is to threaten them with public shame and the loss of their job.

Race to the Top incorporates the ideas of economist Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, who has argued in various writings that the way to improve results (test scores) is to “deselect” the bottom 5-10% of teachers based on the test scores of their students.

As Tucker shows, modern cognitive psychology recognizes that people are motivated to do their best not by humiliation and punishment, but by a sense of purpose, professionalism, and autonomy.  Unfortunately, neither our Congress nor the policymakers in the Obama administration are familiar with modern cognitive psychology, with the work of scholars and writers like Edward Deci, Dan Ariely, or Daniel Pink, nor with the organizational theory of Edwards Deming, who acknowledged that people want to do their best and must be allowed and encouraged to do it, not threatened with dire punishments.

Washington State legislators refused to accept Arne Duncan’s demand that teachers be evaluated by a flawed and erroneous method, and the state seems certain to lose its NCLB waiver.

“That would mean that, starting in 2014-2015, school districts throughout the state would lose control over roughly $38 million in Title I funds designed to help low-income students.

“Loss of the waiver would also mean districts throughout the state would have to redirect an additional $19 million in Title I money toward professional development and teacher training, according to OSPI.

“It’s going to result in the loss of programs for our students who are the most in need,” said Sen. Bruce Dammeier, a Puyallup Republican who supported changing the teacher-evaluation system to keep the state’s waiver.

“The U.S. Department of Education told Washington leaders in August that the state’s waiver would be at risk unless lawmakers moved to mandate the use of statewide tests in teacher evaluations.

“Schools today may use solely local tests to measure student growth when evaluating teachers and principals – a standard the federal government has deemed unacceptable.

“But several lawmakers said they didn’t want to interfere with the state’s new teacher and principal evaluation system — which is being used for the first time this year — just to meet federal demands.

“Of course I am concerned from the perspective of a local district,” said state Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, a Seattle Democrat who chairs the House Education Committee.

“Yet I am concerned on the other hand that we (would) establish bad policy for the entire state of Washington.”

Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2014/03/13/3032949/teacher-evaluation-change-to-keep.html#storylink=cpy

Bill Phillis, the leader of the Ohio Coalition for Education & Adequacy is a tireless crusader for equitable funding of public schools. He is a retired after serving as assistant state superintendent of schools.

He writes:

Public education enemy #1

The Gates, Walton Family and Broad Foundations have federated with the U. S. Department of Education to eliminate the public common school system. The Obama administration’s point man, Arne Duncan, is spearheading an assault on public education that is unprecedented in American history. He is attempting to override the education provisions of every state Constitution. All states have one or more constitutional provisions that establish and maintain a public common school system.

It is mindboggling and unconscionable that this federal administration is deferring to the corporate, for-profit agenda to destroy the premier promoter of the public good-the public common school system.

Policies coming out of Washington D.C., and in many state capitols, are demoralizing teachers, undermining the traditional role and governance of boards of education, de-professionalizing the teaching profession, re-segregating American communities and reducing the traditional dynamic of learning to a testing obsession.

Many chief state school officers in recent years are moles of the privatizers or lack the conviction to fight for the public common school system. Hence, state legislatures and governors, in many cases, receive no resistance to their privatization agenda.

Often local public school personnel, including boards of education, feel helpless to stem the tide of public school bashing and the privatization movement.

Enough is enough. It is past time to hold all state officials accountable for their support of policies that lead to the privatization of public education.

Ohioans and the citizens of the nation, when mobilized, can uproot the anti-public education agenda of America’s oligarchs and their plutocratic political allies.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Anthony Cody makes clear how teaching has been redefined and degraded by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

March is the month when teaching ends and test prep begins.

Federal education policy is a disaster.

The Bush-Obama agenda has de skilled teachers and made testing the most important aspect of US education.

Cody quotes teachers at length. One says:

“I wish you could hear my colleagues telling me “they don’t mind this” as it gets kids “ready” or solves them having to plan actual learning. They’ve been so de-skilled they don’t even feel the connection to instructional leadership. To them the school is a rote drill factory.

“The teaching profession has been redefined. A teacher is now the manager of a workbook drill. No projects, no model making, no literature, no research, no discovery. The planning you do is taking prefab programs and administering them. Sort of as if you were giving a test like the state test ALL the TIME. Room empty, pencils out, bubble. All things arranged around test prep. No themes, no critical thinking. Really! Not to get Biblical but it really fits – they know not what they do. Because they don’t, we are talking about folks that are responding to what their perception is – they perceive this to be what’s required.”

This is not education.

Jan Resseger writes of her delight in discovering that Mike Rose has released a revised edition of “Why School?”

Resseger writes:

“In the 2014 edition, Rose has revised, updated, and expanded Why School? It now addresses the impact of President Obama’s Race to the Top program and other federal programs that have emerged since 2009—including problems with the waivers now being granted to address the lingering effects of the the No Child Left Behind Act, long over-due for reauthorization.

“A much expanded chapter on standards and accountability now explores the goals of the Common Core Standards as well as Rose’s worries about the Common Core testing and implementation.

“Three new chapters speak to issues that have emerged since the first edition of Rose’s book. “Being Careful About Character” examines books like Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed with their thesis that schools can help overcome poverty with programs to strengthen character. “My worry is that we will embrace these essentially individual and technocratic fixes—mental conditioning for the poor—and abandon broader social policy aimed at poverty itself.”

” Another new chapter examines the wave of MOOCs and other on-line education, exploring the learning assumptions we rarely discuss and raising serious questions we ought to be asking before we thoughtlessly adopt these technologies.

“From my point of view the most important new chapter is “The Inner Life of the Poor.” “The poor,” writes Rose, “are pretty much absent from public and political discourse, except as an abstraction—an income category low on the socioeconomic status index—or as a generalization: people dependent on the government, the ‘takers,’ a problem.” “More than a few of Barack Obama’s speeches are delivered from community colleges, but the discussion of them is always in economic and functional terms… I have yet to find in political speech or policy documents any significant discussion of what benefit—other than economic—the community college might bring… To have a prayer of achieving a society that realizes the potential of all its citizens, we will need institutions that affirm the full humanity, the wide sweep of desire and ability of the people walking through the door.”

The handover of public schools to private control is a defining feature of President Obama’s Race to the Top. Make no mistake, as the President likes to say, Race to the Top has been a mighty force for privatization. Although there are some charter schools that are managed by dedicated educators, the charter movement is now largely powered by ambition, a passion for control and power, and–yes–greed. In time–if not already–Race to the Top will be recognized as a historic disaster, an abandonment of our nation’s unfilled commitment to equal educational opportunity.

In this article, Paul Buchheit identifies four ways in which privatization perverts education.

First, privatization does not improve education.

Second, the profit motive perverts the goals of education.

Third, for-profit higher education has been an immense disaster.

Fourth, lower-performing children are left behind.

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