Archives for category: Students

This may be the most important article you read this week, this month, or this year. It was published last year, and I missed it. But, wow, Bruce Baker nails what is wrong with “education reform.”

Basically, the public has been sold a bill of goods. We have been told that charters, vouchers, tuition tax credits, and other means of removing governance from the public sector to the private sector will produce schools that are more transparent and more accountable. We are also told–though Baker doesn’t explore it here–that these choices will produce education miracles for poor and minority students (that’s not true either).

What Baker demonstrates in detail is that charter schools and voucher schools are less transparent and less accountable than public schools. Furthermore, in these alternative settings, students forego their constitutional rights. In truly private schools, like voucher schools, we can’t expect accountability or transparency. The charters, however, constantly call themselves “public” schools, yet refuse to be audited, refuse to disclose their finances, and shun the accountability and transparency they promise.

As we have seen again and again, whether in Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Indiana, or other states, charter management organizations claim that their charters are public, but organization running them is private and has no obligation to open its books to anyone. In some states–although Baker doesn’t go into this– the legislature makes sure that charters are not held accountable because of adroit lobbying by the charter industry or generous campaign contributions to key legislators.

Baker writes: “Whatever problems do exist with the design of our public bureaucracies, I would argue that we should exercise extreme caution in accepting uncritically the belief that we could not possibly do worse, and that large scale privatization and contracting of private entities to provide the public good is necessarily a better and more responsive, more efficient, transparent and accountable option.”

Baker avers that the issue of students’ rights is not trivial. He writes:

“Rather, day after day, week after week, we are subjected to more and more vacuous punditry by self-proclaimed “expert” pundits displaying an astounding ignorance of education law and callous disregard for our system of government and the U.S. Constitution.

“For example, it would appear that charter schools that are not “state actors” (which may include most that are governed by boards of private citizens and especially those managed by private companies/EMOs or CMOs) may require students to abide by disciplinary/conduct codes which involve compelling those students to recite belief statements about the school (mottos, pledges, loyalty oaths), obligatory participation in indoctrination activities and imposition of financial penalties for disciplinary infractions, none of which would be permissible in traditional public schools. Government entities – state actors – may not compel speech and especially may not compel statements of belief.

“So then, what is a family to do when no traditional public schools are available to them (as is practically the case in many areas of New Orleans and increasingly the case in other higher charter market share cities)? Should parents have to choose which rights to forgo? [picking the school with the financial penalties over the one requiring daily recitation of a loyalty oath?]

“Can (as some belligerent civic illiterate, pundits believe) entire urban school systems be replaced with charter schools – or the traditional public schools adopt the lessons of “chartering” which involve infringement of constitutional rights? Is it reasonable to assume that the entire student population of a city would be placed in a position of necessarily forgoing their rights to free expression, free exercise?

“I hear those reformy pundits cry… “but who cares about a little constitutional protection here and there if we can squeeze out an extra point or two on state assessments [via selective attrition of low performing peers]? They’ll be better for it in the long run!”

“Yeah… sure… that’s all well and good for someone else’s kids. I for one believe the constitution continues to have a purpose and that constitutional rights should be equally available to all people’s children. I believe that constitutional protections are a key element of an accountable education system available to all – not just some.

“This is a big freakin’ deal. An important policy trade-off to consider, if you will. This is a critically important tradeoff to consider when adopting policies that expand non-state-actor charter schooling, even if some marginal academic gain can be achieved….Poor and minority children should not be disproportionately required to forgo constitutional protections (and a variety of statutory protections) to gain access to those few additional test score points. Further, no-one is telling them that they even have rights to begin with – especially those pitching the charter expansion policies (constantly spewing the rhetoric of the “publicness” of charter schooling).”

Baker is appalled that some state education agencies now play an advocacy role for charters, forgetting tat their first obligation is to the public. He writes:

“Taken to the extremes, State Education Agency and public media flaunting of chartery miracles has created a distorted market for those charters that are least proven on the market (perhaps in some cases, lemons), with those charters that are most proven already over-subscribed and not needing to compete openly. So, those most available on the market are those whose actual performance/quality is far lower than that which is capturing the headlines and receiving accolades from state officials. [not quite a true market for lemons since the price - education "credit" is fixed ... though perhaps I can expand on this at a later point].”

Baker was once an advocate for charters. What turned him off? Boasting, miracle claims, disregard for evidence by the charter industry and its enthusiastic flacks in the media:

“It is the absurd punditry, intentional obfuscation and complete disregard for legitimate data/analysis on charter schooling that have perhaps soured my taste for the movement more than anything else (bearing in mind that I was a founding member of the AERA special interest group on Charter School research and, at the time, was largely an advocate myself).”

On Anthony Cody’s new independent blog site, “Living in Dialogue,” Chicago teacher Michelle Gunderson offers her views on the ethical use of student data. 

 

In her many years as an elementary school teacher, she has seen standardized tests evolve from a sorting instrument to a means of punishing children to an excuse for privatizing public schools.

 

She will not be complicit in any of these uses of student test scores. She would abolish the standardized tests if she could, but that is not within her power.

 

So she pledges, first, that they will always be on of multiple measures; that she will remain strict confidentiality about student test scores and never publish them on a data wall or release them to the public; and that she will communicate with families about the frequency and amount of time spent on testing.

 

Tests, like all tools, may be used wisely or wrongly. Tests should be used to help children and teachers, not to punish or label them or close their school.

This is a great—actually an inspiring—interview with Stephanie Rivera, who is probably the most prominent student leader on behalf of properly prepare teachers and supporting public education. Stephanie started a student movement while studying to be a teacher at Rutgers University. She has also been a critic of Teach for America because she intends to make a career of teaching, not a two-year experience.

As you will read, she is deeply committed to teaching in urban schools, and she believes that students need to have teachers who look like them.

Here is a small sample:

“ES: You wrote a terrific post called Advocacy in the Age of Color Blindness where you challenged the idea that it makes no different what color a teacher is as long as s/he’s great. I’m amazed that it’s even necessary to argue about this, but the *best and brightest* first mentality seems to be gaining traction.

SR: The whole argument that if students are succeeding and all of their teachers are white then it’s OK to have all white teachers really misses the point. First of all, how are we measuring student success? Is it all test scores? Because raising test scores isn’t the only role of a teacher and it shouldn’t be. What do students learn from having teachers who look like them? I really believe that when students of color see teachers who look like them in these great professions it sends a powerful message that *hey, I can do something like that too.* It’s also about the ability of teachers to understand where their student are coming from.

ES: As a soon-to-be teacher I wonder what you think about the brewing battle over tenure.

SR: I strongly believe in teacher tenure because it protects teachers who have a more political understanding of what teaching is about. I really think that we need to be having some serious discussions in our teacher education programs about what tenure is. Future teachers don’t understand what it is, what it does and where it came from. Tenure does more than just provide job security. It allows you to speak out against things you think are wrong. It allows you to have a progressive curriculum. People who are going into teaching need a bigger, broader understanding of tenure.”

Secretary Arne Duncan has frequently pointed to the high test scores of students in South Korea as a model for American students to copy. We have heard again and again that we are losing “the global competition” to nations like South Korea where students and parents take tests very seriously. Our students, the Secretary never tires of telling us, are slackers. Their parents want them to be well-rounded when they should all be enrolled in Advanced Placement courses, burning the midnight oil, or attending after-school programs in ever-longer school days.

On Sunday, the New York Times published an article that refuted the myth of South Korea as the acme of educational excellence. The South Korean system, the author writes, is “an assault upon our children.” If all you care about is test scores, South Korean schools look great. But if you want students who are thoughtful, creative, and engaged in their learning, look elsewhere, writes Se-Woong Koo, whose family moved from Seoul to Vancouver to avoid the stress of South Korean schooling. Most parents pressure students to excel in their studies and to do whatever it takes to get high scores.

“Thirteen years later, in 2008,” the author writes, “I taught advanced English grammar to 11-year-olds at an expensive cram school in the wealthy Seoul neighborhood of Gangnam. The students were serious about studying but their eyes appeared dead.”

“The world may look to South Korea as a model for education — its students rank among the best on international education tests — but the system’s dark side casts a long shadow. Dominated by Tiger Moms, cram schools and highly authoritarian teachers, South Korean education produces ranks of overachieving students who pay a stiff price in health and happiness. The entire program amounts to child abuse. It should be reformed and restructured without delay…..

“Cram schools like the one I taught in — known as hagwons in Korean — are a mainstay of the South Korean education system and a symbol of parental yearning to see their children succeed at all costs. Hagwons are soulless facilities, with room after room divided by thin walls, lit by long fluorescent bulbs, and stuffed with students memorizing English vocabulary, Korean grammar rules and math formulas. Students typically stay after regular school hours until 10 p.m. or later.”

“This “investment” in education is what has been used to explain South Koreans’ spectacular scores on the Program for International Student Assessment, increasingly the standard by which students from all over the world are compared to one another.

“But a system driven by overzealous parents and a leviathan private industry is unsustainable over the long run, especially given the physical and psychological costs that students are forced to bear.

“Many young South Koreans suffer physical symptoms of academic stress, like my brother did. In a typical case, one friend reported losing clumps of hair as she focused on her studies in high school; her hair regrew only when she entered college.”

The South Korean system is institutionalized child abuse. Children exist either to glorify the family or to build the national economy. What has been sacrificed? The happiness of the children; the right to live a normal life in which they are not cogs in a national economic machine.

Are you listening, Secretary Duncan? Are you listening, “New York Times” columnists and editorial board? Are you listening, television pundits?

Apparently Congress doesn’t care about the privacy of student data and doesn’t think that parents need to know which vendors are getting their children’s confidential records.

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy issued this statement:

OUR RESPONSE TO THE MARKEY/HATCH STUDENT PRIVACY BILL INTRODUCED 7.30.2014
JULY 30, 2014 ADMIN

For immediate release: July 30, 2012

Rachael Stickland, 303-204-1272; info@studentprivacymatters.org
Leonie Haimson: 917-435-9329; leonie@classsizematters.org

On the Markey/Hatch student privacy bill

Rachael Stickland, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, said: “Though we appreciate the effort that Senators Markey and Hatch have undertaken on behalf of better privacy protections for students, their proposed legislative fix falls short of what’s needed; it sets no specific security standards for the storage or transmission of children’s personal information, allows unlimited disclosures and redisclosures to for-profit vendors and other third parties without parental consent as long as the data isn’t used for marketing purposes, and doesn’t even require that schools and districts inform parents as to what personal information is being shared with which particular vendors. Thus the clause that requires that parents be able to amend the information held by the vendor is nonsensical as its unclear how they would even know who to contact.”

Said Leonie Haimson, the other co-chair of the Parent Coalition, “Nothing in this bill would have stopped the outrageous data-grab of inBloom, or any of the other companies set to take its place. We need a far stronger bill to do the job that parents are demanding: protecting their children’s privacy and safety from breaches and unwarranted data-mining.”

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http://www.studentprivacymatters.org/?p=193

If you have not read Rachel Aviv’s “Wrong Answer” in The New Yorker, drop everything and read it now.

Aviv tells the story of the Atlanta cheating scandal through the ideas of one man, one teacher, who cared deeply about his student. Step by step, he got sucked into the data-driven obsession with test scores, thinking that if he raised the children’s test scores, it was a victimless crime. He knew that his students had needs that were even greater than their test scores, but the law’s absurd requirement that scores had to go up year after year drew him into a widespread conspiracy to falsify test scores.

One day will we look back on the Atlanta cheating scandal as the wake up call that made us think about how successive administrations and members of Congress have given their approval to laws and goals that hurt children and warped education? Or will we continue on the present path of destruction?

In this era of Big Data, many organizations want to collect and use personal student data for their own ends. In recent years, the U.S Department of Education has weakened the privacy protections embedded in FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). Parent activists wants Congress to take action to protect their children’s privacy rights.

PRESS RELEASE

July 23, 2014

For more information contact:

Leonie Haimson: leonie@classsizematters.org; 401-466-2262; 917-435-9329

Rachael Stickland: info@studentprivacymatters.org; 303-204-1272

New Coalition Urges Congress to Listen to Parents and Strengthen Student Privacy Protections

A new coalition called the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy released a letter today to the leaders of the committees of the House and Senate Education Committees, urging Congress to strengthen FERPA and involve parents in the decision-making process to ensure that their children’s privacy is protected.

Many of the groups and individuals in the Coalition were involved in the battle over inBloom, which closed its doors last spring. They were shocked to learn during this struggle how federal privacy protections and parental rights to protect their children’s safety through the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) had eroded over the last decade.

The letter is posted here, and calls for Congress to hold hearings and enact new privacy protections that would minimize the sharing of highly sensitive student data with vendors and among state agencies and would maximize the right of parents to notification and consent. The letter also asks for strict security requirements, that the law be enforceable through fines, and that parents have the right to sue if their children’s privacy is violated.

Rachael Stickland, a leader in the fight for student privacy in Colorado and co-chair of the Coalition to Protect Student Privacy points out, “inBloom’s egregious attempt to siphon off massive amounts of sensitive student information and to share it with for-profit vendors took parents by surprise. Once we learned that recent changes to FERPA allowed non-consensual disclosure of highly personal data, parents became fierce advocates for their children’s privacy. We’re now prepared to organize nationally to promote strong, ethical privacy protections at the state and federal levels.”

Diane Ravitch, President of the Network for Public Education said: “Since the passage of FERPA in 1974, parents expected that Congress was protecting the confidentiality of information about their children. However, in recent years, the US Department of Education has rewritten the regulations governing FERPA, eviscerating its purpose and allowing outside parties to gain access to data about children that should not be divulged to vendors and other third parties. The Network for Public Education calls on Congress to strengthen FERPA and restore the protection of families’ right to privacy.”

“The
uprising against inBloom demonstrated the extent to which parents are will not tolerate the misuse of their children’s sensitive personal information,” said Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s Associate Director Josh Golin. “But parents cannot be expected to mobilize against each and every threat to their children’s privacy, particularly if they’re not even aware of which vendors have access to student data. It is critical that Congress take real steps to protect schoolchildren from those who see student data as a commodity to be exploited for profit.”

“Parents Across America, a national network of public school parents, emphatically supports this call for hearings as a first step toward reversing federal actions that have eroded parental authority over student data, and including even stronger privacy protections for our children,” said Julie Woestehoff, a Chicago parent activist and PAA secretary. She added: “PAA recommends restoring parental authority over student data that was removed from FERPA by the US Department of Education, enacting state laws that include parental opt out provisions in any statewide data sharing program, strictly regulating in-school use of electronic hardware and software that collect student information, and including significant parent representation on any advisory committees overseeing student data collection.”

Lisa Guisbond, executive director of Citizens for Public Schools, a Massachusetts public education advocacy group, said, “Citizens for Public Schools members, including many parents, are deeply concerned about threats to the privacy of student information. We support hearings and strong legislation to protect the privacy of this data. Parents are increasingly left out of important education policy discussions. In this, as in all crucial school policy discussions, they must have a voice.”

“Parents will accept nothing less than parental consent, when it comes to their child’s personally identifiable sensitive information. As a parent of a child with special needs, I understand the devastation that confidential information used without my consent could have on my child’s future. As a long-time advocate for people with autism and other developmental disabilities, I implore the U.S. House and Senate to put the necessary language back into FERPA to protect students and uphold the right of their families to control their personally identifiable data,” said Lisa Rudley, Director of Education Policy, Autism Action Network and Co-Founder of NYS Allies for Public Education.

Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project said, “Regardless of intention, the collection of an individual’s personal information is a source of discomfort and intimidation. Government’s broad collection of such information threatens to undermine America’s founding structure: if government intimidates the people, government cannot be by and for the people.”

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters and co-chair of the Coalition, concluded, “Since inBloom’s demise, many of the post-mortems have centered around the failure of elected officials and organizations who support more data sharing to include parents in the conversation around student privacy. We are no longer waiting to be invited to this debate. It is up to parents to see that we are heard , not only in statehouses but also in the nation’s capital when it comes to the critical need to safeguard our children’s most sensitive data – which if breached or misused could harm their prospects for life. We are urging Congress to listen to our concerns, and act now.”

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A comment from a Mad Mom in Utah. When the parents wise up and act in concert to protect their children, the toxic reform hoax will collapse.

She writes:

“I live in Utah and I have a third and fourth grader that completed the AIR SAGE test this last school year. Yes, those test are just as long as reported for my children. These tests were given over a number of days and my children suffered from high anxiety on these days and they were exhausted. After the testing was finished I asked them how they felt about it and they said they didn’t really like it because it was long and hard (there is no ceiling). I also heard from my children that some kids in their classes cried or just put their heads down and quit, which is interesting because some of the questions were supposed to get easier if they get a wrong answer on a harder question.

“I spoke with a retiring third grade teacher in another district to see if her experience with SAGE was similar and she said it was awful for the children. She said the tests lasted up to 10 hours for some children because of the essay section. Although, she said she had two students finish the essay in 10 minutes and then they hid under their desks.

“The crazy thing is that in Utah State Code R277-515-4 Educator Responsibility for Maintaining a Safe Learning Environment in Section B4 it states educators “shall take action to protect a student from any known condition detrimental to that student’s physical health, mental health, safety, or learning”. But right after this section, in B5, it states their duty on administering all of this testing. So, which is it Utah? Because I can attest that this testing is doing more harm than good for our children. Should educators administer the tests and remain silent (which I think they are being told to do) or should educators share their experiences so we can learn from them and hopefully do better?

“Shame on those in the position of power in my state for making this happen. And shame on me for allowing my children to be the guinea pigs. I know better; but I was curious. They won’t be taking SAGE tests next year.

“Thank you to all of those that have stood up and have been brave! You have educated me and reminded me that I too can be brave. I have a voice and it is time to use it.”

Common Core standards are usually described in the mainstream media in idealistic terms, using the positive and affirmative messages to sell the idea to the public. Doesn’t everyone want “high standards?” Doesn’t everyone want every single student to be “college and career ready?” Doesn’t everyone want students to be “globally competitive”? Of course. These claims, though untested and unproven, sound poll-tested.

Can standards be both “common” and “high”? If they are truly high and rigorous, won’t a sizable proportion of students fail? Can a single set of standards make everyone college and career ready? How do we know? What does it mean to be “globally competitive” with nations where educated people are paid a fraction of our own minimum wage?

Another way to view the Common Core standards is to see them as part of an integrated system of standards, tests, and teacher ratings that generate data. This data can be used to award bonuses, fire teachers, close schools, and identify students for remediation or college admission. The underlying assumption behind CCSS is that all children, if exposed to common standards, will learn at the same pace.

This post challenges the data-driven approach to school reform. “Data,” it says, “is the fool’s gold of the Common Core.”

He writes:

“Teachers should strive to meet the individual needs of their students, not the “needs” of standards or tests. There should be high academic expectations for all students, but to expect everyone, regardless of ability/disability, to meet those standards simultaneously and in the same way is foolish and inherently unfair.

“Standardized tests are toxic for the Common Core and they are the primary reason for the botched implementation efforts around the country. These tests do not generate comprehensive or reliable data regarding constructivist learning that is called for in the Learning Standards….

“The Common Core testing regime is more about satisfying data-driven enthusiasts’ ‘thirst” for more data, than it is about cultivating students’ thirst for knowledge.

“We are witnessing an unprecedented data collection “gold rush”, while the validity and reliability of this “fool’s gold” is of little concern to those who are mining it.

“The “college and career readiness” mandate or mission of the Common Core is misguided and not in the best interest of all our students. There are many “paths” to trade and vocational careers, and they don’t all go through college.

“Since the Common Core Standards were designed to serve and support the college and career readiness mandate, they are seriously flawed and deficient.

“A more inclusive and appropriate mandate such as readiness for “adulthood and employment” would better serve the academic, social, and emotional needs of all our students. Rather than simply “correcting” the inadequate Common Core standards, they should be reconstructed and redesigned from the ground up.”

Peter Greene here reviews and refutes Campbell Brown’s article in the New York Daily News about why she is bringing a Vergara lawsuit in New York. Campbell Brown was once a CNN anchor; her husband advised Romney and is on the board of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst New York. She is a fierce critic of teacher unions, tenure, and seniority. The lawsuit gives her an opportunity to act on her passionate hatred for veteran teachers while claiming to defend the “rights” of students, as the California sponsors of Vergara did.

Brown has thus far found six families to act as plaintiffs. She says that one of the students wrote an essay complaining about the quality of education she was receiving and was harassed by multiple teachers and had to change schools. Brown assumes that by getting rid of tenure, seniority, and due process, there would magically be a great teacher in every classroom.

Greene writes:

“It’s a good story because it underlines exactly what is problematic about this sort of narrative as a model of teacher evaluation. This could in fact be the story of a student who made a reasonable request, wrote an essay about it, and was unfairly hounded by multiple teachers. While I’d like to say that I can’t imagine that ever happening, it’s certainly not impossible (though the harassing phone calls from plural teachers is hard to imagine).

“But this could also be the story of a student who decide she knew better than a trained professional how the teacher should do his job, got called on it, and had the whole thing blow up when the school tried to deal with her insubordination and disrespect.

“Either version of the story could be the truth. If we put in student hands the nuclear option of ending a teacher’s career, we are certainly, as Brown says she wants to, changing the balance of power. But I’m not sure how we get to excellence in teaching by way of a student smiling and saying, “Mrs. DeGumbuddy, my lawyer and I think you really want to reconsider my grade on this essay.”

He writes:

“Tenure– NY makes teachers wait three years and eighteen observations for tenure. This is the most obvious difference between the New York case and Vergara (California was awarding tenure after less time). This is a hard argument to make– if an administrator can’t tell whether or not she’s got a keeper after three years and eighteen observations, that administrator needs to go get a job selling real estate or groceries, because, damn!

“On the plus side, I look forward to Brown’s accompanying argument that all New York schools should be barred from ever again hiring Teach for America two-year contract temps. If it takes more than three years to determine if a teacher is any good, then clearly TFA is a waste of everybody’s time. Do let me know when Brown brings that up.

“Dismissals– Too long, too hard. I’m not in New York, so I don’t know the real numbers here. This was the weakest part of the state’s case in Vergara– while you can’t rush through these proceedings, there’s no excuse for dragging them out for months and years. It’s not good for either party.”

And he concludes:

“In the meantime, teachers here in the East can now look forward to a PR blitz tearing down teachers in support of a lawsuit designed to dismantle teaching as a profession. We can only hope the ultimate result will be better than the California version of this traveling circus.”

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