Archives for category: Race to the Top

NEA delegates approve creation of national campaign for equity and against “Toxic Testing”

Campaign to focus on assessments and developing real accountability systems

DENVER—The National Education Association (NEA) will launch a national campaign to put the focus of assessments and accountability back on ensuring equity and supporting student learning and end the “test blame and punish” system that has dominated public education in the last decade. The average American student and teacher now spend about 30 percent of the school year preparing for and taking standardized tests. NEA’s nearly 9,000 delegates voted today at its 2014 Representative Assembly for new measures to drive student success.

“The testing fixation has reached the point of insanity,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Whatever valuable information testing mandates provided have been completely overshadowed by the enormous collateral damage inflicted on too many students. Our schools have been reduced to mere test prep factories and we are too-often ignoring student learning and opportunity in America.”

The measure approves the use of NEA resources to launch a national campaign to end the high stakes use of standardized tests, to sharply reduce the amount of student and instructional time consumed by tests, and to implement more effective forms of assessment and accountability. The impact of excessive testing is particularly harmful to many poor, minority, and special needs students.

“The sad truth is that test-based accountability has not closed the opportunity gaps between affluent and poor schools and students,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “It has not driven funding and support to the students from historically underfunded communities who need it most. Poverty and social inequities have far too long stood in the way of progress for all students.”

The anti-toxic testing measure calls for governmental oversight of the powerful testing industry with the creation of a “testing ombudsman” by the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Consumer Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. The position will serve as a watchdog over the influential testing industry and monitor testing companies’ impact on education legislation. NEA will continue to push the president and Congress to completely overhaul ESEA and return to grade-span testing thus ending NCLB’s mandates that require yearly testing, and to lift mandates requiring states to administer outdated tests that are not aligned to school curricula.

“It is past time for politicians to turn their eyes and ears away from those who profit from over-testing our students and listen instead to those who know what works in the classroom,” said Van Roekel.

NEA delegates also reaffirmed their commitment to high standards for all students and committed to further working with states that adopted the Common Core State Standards to ensure they are properly implemented and that educators are empowered to lead in that implementation process.

Delegates also passed new language on improving accountability systems, pushing for implementation of systems providing “real accountability in our public education system,” said Van Roekel. Delegates agreed to convene a broad representative group of NEA leaders from the national, state and local level to develop plans for public school accountability and support systems.

“Educators know that real accountability in public schools requires all stakeholders to place student needs at the center of all efforts. Real accountability in public schools requires that everyone—lawmakers, teachers, principals, parents, and students—partner in accepting responsibility for improving student learning and opportunity in America.”

Van Roekel insists that in order for real, sustainable change to occur in public education, major work must be done to provide equity in our schools and address the growing inequality in opportunities and resources for students across our nation.

The group will examine what steps NEA can take to build further on the components of excellence in teacher evaluation and accountability identified in NEA’s Policy Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability, which was approved at the 2011 Representative Assembly in Chicago.

The accountability group will engage stakeholders in the education and civil rights communities to help respond to the growing inequality in opportunities and resources for students across the nation. Inequality must be addressed in order for real, sustainable change to occur in the public education system.

To follow floor action at the NEA 2014 Representative Assembly, please click here or follow @RAtoday on twitter at twitter.com/RAToday.

Does anyone know an authoritative source for the number of public schools closed because of NCLB and Race to the Top? Either turnarounds, turned over to charters, or just closed?

In a bold effort to reorganize the tribal schools run by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Obama administration proposes a competition for funding based on Race to the Top.

“A revamped BIE, as envisioned in the proposal, would eventually give up direct operations of schools and push for a menu of education reforms that is strikingly similar to some championed in initiatives such as Race to the Top, including competitive-grant funding to entice tribal schools to adopt teacher-evaluation systems that are linked to student performance.”

Tribal leaders are opposed.

As well they should be. Race to the Top has been a flop since it was launched in 2009. Why should Indian tribal schools have to compete with test scores to get funded?

Judge Rolf M. Treu, who decided the Vergara case , declared that he was shocked, shocked to learn from Professor Raj Chetty and Professor Thomas Kane of Harvard about the enormous harm that one “grossly ineffective” teacher can do to a child’s lifetime earnings or to their academic gains.

How did he define “grossly ineffective” teacher? He didn’t. How did these dreadful teachers get tenure? Clearly, some grossly incompetent principal must have granted it to them. What was the basis–factual or theoretical–that the students would have had high scores if their teachers did not have the right to due process? He didn’t say.

The theory behind the case–as I see it–is that low test scores are caused by bad teachers. Get rid of the bad teachers, replace them with average teachers, and all students will get high test scores. You might call it the judicial version of No Child Left Behind–that is, pull the right policy levers–say, testing and accountability–and every single child in America will be proficient by 2014. Congress should hang its collective head in shame for having passed that ridiculous law, yet it still sits on the books as the scorned, ineffective, toxic law of the land.

You might also say that Judge Treu was regurgitating the unproven claims behind Race to the Top, specifically that using test scores to evaluate teachers will make it possible to weed out “bad teachers,” recruit and reward top teachers, and test scores will rise to the top. Given this theory, a concept like tenure (due process) slows down the effort to fire those “grossly ineffective” teachers and delays the day when every student is proficient.

Relying on Chetty and Kane, Judge Treu is quite certain that the theory of universal proficiency is correct. Thus, in his thinking, it becomes a matter of urgency to eliminate tenure, seniority, and any other legal protection for teachers, leaving principals free to fire them promptly, without delay or hindrance.

Set aside for the moment that this decision lacks any evidentiary basis. Another judge might have heard the same parade of witnesses and reached a different conclusion.

Bear in mind that the case will be appealed to a higher court, and will continue to be appealed until there is no higher court.

It is not unreasonable to believe that the California Teachers Association might negotiate a different tenure process with the Legislature, perhaps a requirement of three years probationary status instead of two.

The one thing that does seem certain is that, contrary to the victory claims of hedge fund managers and rightwing editorial writers, no student will gain anything as a result of this decision. Millions more dollars will be spent to litigate the issues in California and elsewhere, but what will students gain? Nothing. The poorest, neediest students will still be in schools that lack the resources to meet their needs. They will still be in schools where classes are too large. They will still be in buildings that need repairs. They will still be in schools where the arts program and nurses and counselors were eliminated by budget cuts.

If their principals fire all or most or some of their teachers, who will take their places? There is no long line of superb teachers waiting for a chance to teach in inner-city schools. Chetty and Kane blithely assume that those who are fired will be replaced by better teachers. How do they know that?

Let’s be clear. No “grossly ineffective” teacher should ever get tenure. Only a “grossly ineffective” principal would give tenure to a “grossly ineffective” teacher. Teachers do not give tenure to themselves.

Unfortunately, the Vergara decision is the latest example of the blame-shifting strategy of the privatization movement. Instead of acknowledging that test scores are highly correlated with family income, they prefer to blame teachers and the very idea of public education. If they were truly interested in supporting the needs of the children, the backers of this case would be advocating for smaller classes, for arts programs, for well-equipped and up-to-date schools, for after-school programs, for health clinics, for librarians and counselors, and for inducements to attract and retain a stable corps of experienced teachers in the schools attended by Beatriz Vergara and her co-plaintiffs.

Let us hope that a wiser judicial panel speedily overturns this bad decision and seeks a path of school reform that actually helps the plaintiffs without inflicting harm on their teachers.

Oregon Educator, a high school principal in that state, poses some hard questions about the federal role in education.

The federal government puts up about 12% of the cost of public education but has grown increasingly assertive about exercising maximal control over state and local decision-making.

She writes:

“In 1965, President Johnson’s landmark education bill was designed to equalize schooling as part of his War on
Poverty. It went a long way to accomplishing that. Unfortunately, now fifty years later, the federal dollars constitute less help and more control, resulting in testing regimens and a hyper-concentration on the tested skills that undermine programs in the arts and sciences as well as experiential learning that has been shown effective. We are now down the rabbit hole of tightly managed programs with single metrics (tests) that lead to ever more restrictive programs. Schools in poor neighborhoods are scapegoated while other poverty factors are ignored. And because we can now blame public schools for their alleged poor performance, more and more of public education dollars are skimmed off by charter schools, many of them run by highly profitable corporations.”

Is the transfer of power to Washington, D.C., irreversible. No, it is not. As the public becomes aware that all of the Bush-Obama initiatives have failed and that state and local control has been replaced by corporate control, there will be a demand to reverse the power-hungry federal control of public education. Federal control was not the intent of Congress in 1965 when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed. Nor was it the intent of Congress when the Department of Education was created in 1979. No child Left Behind was and is a failed aw. Obama’s Race to the Top is NCLB on steroids. The two in tandem are imposing failed ideas and doing serious harm to public education. The only question is whether our schools can survive nearly three more years of Arne Duncan’s destructive “leadership.”

Set aside about 17 minutes and watch this wonderful video. Joshua Katz, a high school teacher, connects all the dots.

This is a truly outstanding presentation. Watch it and help it go viral.

He shows how our present “toxic culture of education” is hurting kids, stigmatizing them as early as third grade by high-stakes standardized testing, while the vendors get rich.

He connects the dots: the testing corporations get rich while our children suffer. He names names: Pearson, McGraw-Hill, ALEC, and more.

The high-stakes tests demoralize many children, label them as worthless, demand “rigor,” while ignoring the children before us, their needs and their potential. As he says, we are judging a fish by whether he can climb a tree and labeling him a failure for his inability to do so. We ignore the development of non-cognitive skills, of character and integrity, as we emphasize test scores over all else. By trying to stuff all children into the same standardized mold, we are hurting them, hurting our society, and benefiting only the for-profit corporations that have become what he calls “the super-villains” of education.

Laurel Sturt says that old-fashioned schoolyard bullying has evolved into Internet malice, protected by anonymity. She says bullying has become a national pastime for some political leaders. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has cultivated a reputation as a bully, jabbing his finger at lesser mortals.

And then bullying is built into education policy–federal, state, and local.

She writes:

“Though the psychopathic rush of inflicting pain on another human being is not one most of us would appreciate, we have only to look at the realm of education to see an acceleration of bullying, in multiple guises. Take, for example, the oppressive federal mandates sent down from on high, No Child Left Behind, and its successor, Race to the Top. Here we have, for all intents and purposes, sadistic edicts impossible to fulfill, the charge of NCLB, “proficiency” for all children by 2014, nothing short of an iron mask for teachers and kids alike; states were bullied to participate to get millions in federal school funding. One would think subjecting kids to the torture of test prep and testing while losing a decade of authentic education, tilting futilely at an arbitrary data windmill, would have been consigned to the mistakes file. Yet, showing that arm twisting through policy is an equal opportunity, bipartisan affront, through his Bully of Education Arne Duncan, the very premise of Obama’s RTTT has relied on the legalized notion of bullying, bribery and extortion: sign on to our agenda or you’ll starve for funds.

“Within the Race to the Top straitjacket, then, the bullying theme has continued with the individual mandates: bullying standards developed undemocratically by not educators but profit-motivated bullies; bullied instruction forced on teachers by these standards; and parents bullied to share their children’s private data, their rights to privacy stripped by education business lobbyist cum bullies. Then there’s the bullying of teachers through evaluations unfairly tied to the test scores of the bullied kids, victimized students who, subjected to impossible work and tests, are displaying symptoms of bullying–depression, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, hopelessness, with the added bonus of a PTSD scar for life.

“Move down to the next level of power, and state and local bullying is flourishing. Here in New York we have a governor and education officials stonily unmoved by the pain they’ve signed us onto with RTTT, with no movement in sight to end it, notwithstanding a coming fall election; their intransigent coercion in the face of hardship is bullying. New York City teachers and students recently endured a decade of bullying micromanagement under the dictator Michael Bloomberg, a mayor in control of the schools, a nationwide experiment which has yielded low achievement results but a much higher degree of yes, bullying.”

Bullying moves into the classroom, where teachers are compelled to violate their professional ethics by authoritarian principals.

The bullying will continue until teachers stand united and resist. Those who bully them, steal their reputations and their profession can and must be stopped. Resistance is the best defense against the bullies. Don’t stand alone. Stand together.

Arthur H. Camins, the Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, sharply critiques current education and social policy. He writes in this post that we have given up efforts to reduce poverty and segregation, policies that would produce the greatest number of young people.

Instead, our nation’s leaders are prepared to divert billions into more testing and Common Core, which is unlikely to reduce inequality.

Camins writes:

“If answers on Common Core assessment questions require supporting evidence, it is only fair that evidence-based reasoning should be an expected feature of public education policy. Apparently such consistency is not required when it comes to political decisions. Sadly, too many policy makers seem more committed to enabling profiteering from the results of poverty than ending it. The testing industry is an excellent example. Education policies sanction and encourage multi-billion dollar testing and test preparation corporations that enable destructive punishment and rewards for educators, gaming the system and sorting of students for competitive access to an increasingly unaffordable post secondary system that perpetuates inequity. State and federal education policies support costly, overly stressful and time consuming high-stakes testing in order to verify and detect small differences within the very large socio-economic disparities we already know exist.”

“Well-designed large-scale assessments can contribute evidence for institutional and program level judgments about quality. However, we do not need to test every student every year for this purpose. Less costly sampling can accomplish this goal. I am not opposed to qualifying exams- if they validly and reliably measure qualities that are directly applicable to their purpose without bias. However, imagine if we shifted the balance of our assessment attention from the summative to the formative. Then we could focus more on becoming better at interpreting daily data from regular class work and use that evidence to help students move their own learning forward. Imagine what else we could accomplish if we spent a significant percentage of our current K-12 and college admission testing expenditures on actually mediating poverty instead of measuring its inevitable effect. Imagine the educational and economic benefit if we invested in putting people to work rebuilding our cities, roads, bridges, schools and parks. Imagine if we put people to work building affordable housing instead of luxury high rises. Imagine the boost to personal spending and the related savings in social service spending if a living wage and full employment prevailed. Imagine the learning benefit to children if their families did not have to worry about health, food and shelter. Imagine if our tax policies favored the common good over wealth accumulation for the 1%ers.

“Such investments are far more logical than the current over-investment in testing and compliance regimes. Education, race and poverty are inextricably intertwined. Let’s do everything we can to improve teaching and learning. More students learning to use evidence to support arguments would be terrific. But, if we want to do something about poverty we need to ensure good jobs at fair wages for the parents of our students. That is where evidence and logical thinking lead.”

The centerpiece of Race to the Top is evaluating teachers by test scores. The students of good teachers, Arne Duncan and Barack Obama believe, get higher scores. If they have low scores, it is the fault of bad teachers. There was no evidence for their beliefs, other than the speculations of economists and statisticians. Real teachers never believed the theory, because they know that many favors affect test scores, not just teachers.

Thirty five states and DC followed Duncan’s lead, even though his hunch lacked any evidence . Lyndsey Layton has a comprehensive article in today’s Washington Post, describing the latest study to disprove Duncan’s theory.

Spurred on by Duncan, many states now use test scores to determine tenure and compensation. Duncan recently said he wants to judge the quality of teacher education programs by the test scores of students taught by their graduates.

Secretary Duncan’s love affair with standardized testing is inexplicable. There can be no question that he has caused immense damage to children, teachers, and public education.

Reader Christine Langhoff sent the following information about some “turnaround” schools in Massachusetts. Having won “Race to the Top” funding, the state has taken Arne Duncan’s advice to fire everybody and start over, which seems to be his deep thinking on how to improve schools, not through collaboration and steady work, but through fear tactics.

 

She writes:

 

The state of Massachusetts has recently taken over two Boston elementary schools. Each has been “turned around” (I think of it as churned) several times. This has included mass staff dismissals and new staff have been hand picked by new administration, yet the schools have remained as Level 4 schools. That the schools have populations of about 88% poverty, 40% English language learners and 20% SPED kids will surprise no readers of Diane’s blog. (Remember too, some number of these kids have hit a triple, i.e. they are members of all three groups: poor special needs kids who are learning English – is there a VAM algorithm for that?)

 

Under the state takeover, our state commissioner, Mitchell Chester (national chairman of PARCC) has unilaterally given both schools over to charter management organizations (Bluepoint and UP Academy) to run. The first move that has been made at the Dever School has been to kill the dual-language program. That no one with a linguistic background has been included in the decision is obvious; Chester seems to believe that instruction in languages holds back language development. (See: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/04/06/dever-school-parents-teachers-assail-state-plan-scrap-dual-language-program/qfQea68Wy0qeV9Chs7jCiJ/story.html )

 

The second move has been to force teachers to work an extra 700 hours over the school year for a stipend which comes to $2.75 an hour. So who is going to staff the schools? Professional status teachers have been churned out. Other professional status BTU members are unlikely to volunteer for 700 extra hours at virtually no compensation. I’m at a loss to understand how education for some of our most needy kids is going to be improved.

 

Here’s a link to the state plan for the Dever. If you go to page 6, there’s a chart (which I could not paste here) with proficiency scores for ELA. They are unsurprising, given the school’s population. Actually, that 16% of 8 year old kids in such challenging circumstances score so well in a test in a language that is not their first is a testament to their teachers’ efforts and professional training.

 

http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1101436635842-1144/Dever+Preliminary+turnaround+plan+submitted+March+7+2014.pdf

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