Archives for category: Race to the Top

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

She writes:

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

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

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

She adds:

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

And more:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Mr President,

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

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

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

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

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

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

My best,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you so much, Jonathan.

Barack Obama

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

Dear Diane,

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

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

Ever fondly,
Jonathan Lovell

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

Dear Mr President,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you so much, Jonathan.

Barack Obama

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

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.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 118,365 other followers