Archives for category: U.S. Department of Education

PRESS RELEASE, May 8, 2015, Contact: Nikolina Lazic, 608-260-9713, nikolina@prwatch.org

Feds Spent $3.3 Billion Fueling Charter Schools but No One Knows What It’s Really Bought

(Madison, WI)–The federal government has spent more than $3.3 billion over the past two decades creating and fueling the charter school industry, according to a new financial analysis and reporters’ guide by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). (The new guide can be downloaded below.)

Despite the huge sums spent so far, the federal government maintains no comprehensive list of the charter schools that have received and spent these funds or even a full list of the private or quasi-public entities that have been approved by states to “authorize” charters that receive federal funds. And despite drawing repeated criticism from the Office of the Inspector General for suspected waste and inadequate financial controls within the federal Charter Schools Program—designed to create, expand, and replicate charter schools—the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is poised to increase its funding by 48% in FY 2016.

CMD’s review of internal audits reveals that ED did not act quickly or effectively on numerous reports that state education officials had no idea where the federal funds ended up. In fact, in some instances, ED staff seemed taken by surprise when they discovered that many states actually lack statutory oversight over charter authorizers and schools.

As a result of lax oversight on the federal level, combined with many state laws that hide charter finances from the public eye, taxpayers are left in the dark about how much federal money each charter school has received and what has been wasted or spent to enrich charter school administrators and for-profit corporations who get lucrative outsourcing contracts from charters, behind closed doors.

“The Department of Education is pushing for an unprecedented expansion of charter schools while paying lip service to accountability, but independent audit materials show that the Department’s lofty rhetoric is simply not backed up by its actions,” noted Jonas Persson, a writer for the Center for Media and Democracy, a national watchdog group that publishes PRWatch.org, ALECexposed.org, and SourceWatch.org, adding, “the lack of tough financial controls and the lack of public access to information about how charters are spending federal tax dollars has almost inevitably led to enormous fraud and waste.”

CMD’s guide, “New Documents Show How Taxpayer Money Is Wasted by Charter Schools—Stringent Controls Urgently Needed as Charter Funding Faces Huge Increase,” analyzes materials obtained from open records requests about independent audits of how states interact with charter school authorizers and charter schools.

These documents, along with the earlier Inspector General report, reveal systemic barriers to common sense financial controls. Revealing quotes from those audit materials, highlighted in CMD’s report, show that too often states have had untrained staff doing unsystematic reviews of authorizers and charter schools while lacking statutory authority and adequate funding to fully assess how federal money is being spent by charters.

In many instances, states have no idea how charter schools actually spent federal monies and they have no systematic way of obtaining that information or making sure it is accurate.

Meanwhile, charter school advocates within state agencies and private entities have sought to prevent strong financial controls and reporting systems backed up by government oversight.

“It is astonishing that the federal government has spent more than $3 billion dollars directly on charter schools and is poised to commit another $350 million on their expansion this year, even though charters have failed to perform better than traditional public schools overall and have performed far worse when it comes to fraud and waste,” noted Lisa Graves, CMD’s Executive Director.

She added: “This result is not surprising since many charter school advocates have pushed to create a system that allows charters to get federal funds without federal controls on how that money is spent–but it should not be acceptable for so much of taxpayers’ money to be spent this way, with no requirement that the public be told how much money each and every charter school receives, how much each spends on high-paid charter executives, how much money makes it to the classroom, and how much is outsourced to for-profit firms.”

In CMD’s view, “There is no doubt that American school children and American taxpayers are getting short-changed by the charter school system that is siphoning money away from traditional public schools.”

Download a copy of CMD’s full report below. You can also read excerpts of responses to open records requests via CMD’s SourceWatch, such as the corrective action plan imposed by the ED Office of the Inspector General after a scathing 2012 audit.

http://www.prwatch.org/files/5-8-15_final_cmd_reporters_guide_on_charter_waste_and_lack_of_accountability.pdf

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For years, for-profit “colleges” have been criticized for false promises and preying on veterans, low-income students, and students of color. Congressional efforts to rein them in have been stymied by their high-priced lobbyists from both parties. They pay protection money and continue to fleece their students, many of whom Re saddled with debt and no education or job prospects.

Corinthian Colleges was one of the biggest and worst. It recently collapsed in bankruptcy, despite the US Department of Education’s bailout.

Thousands of students were left holding the bag, and they are threatening not to repay their student loans for a worthless education.

Bottom line: For-profit colleges should be prohibited or closely regulated. Instead they ate left free to rip off unausoecting students and to continue their predatory practices.

Don’t expect any change during the remaining days of this administration. Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell is in charge if this issue, and he is a supporter of for-profit education. When he was chosen, he was CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, which helps build charter chains and advocates for for-profit education.

The following comment was posted on the blog by Laura H. Chapman, who has been a teacher, author, and curriculum designer in the arts, now retired. We are very fortunate to have such a brilliant person regularly commenting here. In 2011, the U.S. Department altered regulations governing student privacy to make it easy for third parties to access confidential student data.

 

 

I have been looking into issues of data use and privacy. The US Department of Education has a new privacy czar… sort of.

 

If you want to register a complaint about the loss of privacy due to holes punched in the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) by Arne Duncan and his tech buddies, why not go to the top privacy official at the US Department of Education, Kathleen Styles? She is USDE’s first Chief Privacy Officer—Email: kathleen.styles@ed.gov. Or go to Michael Hawes, Email: michael.hawes@ed.gov who is her advisor and the person who oversees USDE’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).

 

What is PTAC? PTAC is supposed to be a “one-stop” resource for learning about “data privacy, confidentiality, and security practices related to student-level longitudinal data systems and other uses of student data. PTAC provides timely information and updated guidance on privacy, confidentiality, and security practices through a variety of resources, including training materials and opportunities to receive direct assistance with privacy, security, and confidentiality of student data systems.” This technical assistance is targeted to meet the needs of state and local education agencies and institutions of higher education.

 

What fascinates me is that these PTAC services—the production and review of “privacy technical assistance products”—are outsourced to an unnamed contractor. The contractor works under “the guidance of the Chief Privacy Officer and in close collaboration with the FERPA Working Group, which consists of representatives of the Office of Management, the Family Policy Compliance Office, and the Office of General Counsel.

 

PTAC also “regularly consults with the USDE’s Privacy Advisory Committee, whose members include Chief Statistician of National Center of Education Statistics, the program officer of the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS), and representatives from the office of Federal Student Aid, the Office of Civil Rights, and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (among others).

 

Because the unnamed contractor is smack in the middle of this administrative and “technical assistance” architecture on privacy, I wanted to discover who had that contract.

 

It is a for-profit company, Applied Engineering Management Corporation (AEM). Since 2010, (AEM) appears to have been awarded about $12 million to set up the resources at PTAC.

 

AEM also has contracts with other federal, state, and local governments and agencies.. Their work for USDE includes management of data gathering required to support the “No Child Left Behind” legislation including the 180 data descriptions for EDFacts. EdFacts is the destination for AYP reports, all of those disaggregated test scores, and so on. That is heavy-duty data warehousing.

 

AEM has also operated the National Student Loan Data System receiving data from every college, university, and agency that participates in Title IV loan guarantees and related programs. AEM also designed the management system to track funds allocated to school districts for the National Math and Science Initiative.

 

AEM’s website also says it helps “educators in developing high quality longitudinal P-20 data warehouses and business intelligence solutions that stand the test of time and enable data-driven decision making.”

 

 

I could not find any of the full contracts with AEM. I suppose they are available somewhere. I am sure this company has expertise in data management.

 

The part that bothers me is the idea that “business intelligence solutions” might well be made with all of that P-20 data that is being warehoused, especially since AEM is functioning as if it is major branch of USDE and AEM’s name is not disclosed as the contractor that designed and operates the “Privacy Technical Assistance Center.”

 

AEM–the go-to corporation for USDE’s data management and privacy–has managed to suppress it’s identity as the conduit for USDE’s “big data” projects and guidance to state and local agencies on privacy. Use this phrase to get to the PTAC resources “Privacy Technical Assistance Center.”

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Senator Patti Murray (D-Wa.) announced agreement on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently called No Child Left Behind).

The new legislation is called “The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.” This nomenclature continues the custom of naming the federal aid law with its aspirational goal.

The act maintains annual testing but leaves to states the authority to decide how to use the scores. AYP is gone. The act prohibits the federal government from dictating to states and districts how to “reform” or “turnaround” or “fix” low-performing schools. It allows, but does not require, states to create teacher evaluation systems. “The federal government may not mandate or incentivize states to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards, including Common Core. States will be free to decide what academic standards they will maintain in their states.”

Secretary Duncan will not be pleased. The act specifically prohibits him from meddling in the states’ choice of standards and tests. He also can’t rewrite the law with his own waivers, because the states are given wide latitude, not subject to his control. Basically, the bipartisan bill repudiates almost all of his initiatives; notably, it does not authorize Race to the Top.

If states choose to enact punitive accountability programs, they can, but the federal government won’t force them to.

What do I think? I would have been thrilled to see annual testing banished, but President Obama made clear he would veto any bill that did not include annual testing. The cascading sanctions of NCLB and Race to the Top are gone. There is no mention of portability of funds to nonpublic schools.

One may quibble with details, but the bottom line is that this bill defangs the U.S. Department of Education; it no longer will exert control over every school with mandates. This bill strips the status quo of federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators.

Now the battle shifts to state legislatures, where parents can make their voices heard. This is a far better bill than I had hoped or feared.

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Alexander, Murray Announce Bipartisan Agreement on Fixing “No Child Left Behind”

Schedule Committee Action for 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 14

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 7 – Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today announced a bipartisan agreement on fixing “No Child Left Behind.” They scheduled committee action on their agreement and any amendments to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 14.

Alexander said: “Senator Murray and I have worked together to produce bipartisan legislation to fix ‘No Child Left Behind.’ Basically, our agreement continues important measurements of the academic progress of students but restores to states, local school districts, teachers, and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement. This should produce fewer and more appropriate tests. It is the most effective way to advance higher standards and better teaching in our 100,000 public schools. We have found remarkable consensus about the urgent need to fix this broken law, and also on how to fix it. We look forward to a thorough discussion and debate in the Senate education committee next week.”

Murray said:“This bipartisan compromise is an important step toward fixing the broken No Child Left Behind law. While there is still work to be done, this agreement is a strong step in the right direction that helps students, educators, and schools, gives states and districts more flexibility while maintaining strong federal guardrails, and helps make sure all students get the opportunity to learn, no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make. I was proud to be a voice for Washington state students and priorities as we negotiated this agreement, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to build on this bipartisan compromise and move legislation through the Senate, the House, and get it signed into law.”

The senators’ legislative agreement would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the chief law governing the federal role in K-12 education. The most recent reauthorization of ESEA was the “No Child Left Behind Act,” which was enacted in 2001 and expired in 2007. Since then, nearly all states have been forced to ask the U.S. Department of Education for waivers from some of the law’s most unworkable requirements.

The senators’ bill would fix the problems with “No Child Left Behind,” while keeping successful provisions, such as the reporting requirement of disaggregated data on student achievement. The bill would end states’ need for waivers from the law.

What the Every Child Achieves Act does:

· Strengthens state and local control: The bill recognizes that states, working with school districts, teachers, and others, have the responsibility for creating accountability systems to ensure all students are learning and prepared for success. These accountability systems will be state-designed but must meet minimum federal parameters, including ensuring all students and subgroups of students are included in the accountability system, disaggregating student achievement data, and establishing challenging academic standards for all students. The federal government is prohibited from determining or approving state standards.

· Maintains important information for parents, teachers, and communities: The bill maintains the federally required two tests in reading and math per child per year in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, as well as science tests given three times between grades 3 and 12. These important measures of student achievement ensure that parents know how their children are performing and help teachers support students who are struggling to meet state standards. A pilot program will allow states additional flexibility to experiment with innovative assessment systems within states. The bill also maintains annual reporting of disaggregated data of groups of children, which provides valuable information about whether all students are achieving, including low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and English learners.

· Ends federal test-based accountability: The bill ends the federal test-based accountability system of No Child Left Behind, restoring to states the responsibility for determining how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes. States must include these tests in their accountability systems, but will be able to determine the weight of those tests in their systems. States will also be required to include graduation rates, a measure of postsecondary and workforce readiness, English proficiency for English learners. States will also be permitted to include other measures of student and school performance in their accountability systems in order to provide teachers, parents, and other stakeholders with a more accurate determination of school performance.

· Maintains important protections for federal taxpayer dollars: The bill maintains important fiscal protections of federal dollars, including maintenance of effort requirements, which help ensure that federal dollars supplement state and local education dollars, with additional flexibility for school districts in meeting those requirements.

· Helps states fix the lowest-performing schools: The bill includes federal grants to states and school districts to help improve low performing schools that are identified by the state accountability systems. School districts will be responsible for designing evidence-based interventions for low performing schools, with technical assistance from the states, and the federal government is prohibited from mandating, prescribing, or defining the specific steps school districts and states must take to improve those schools.

· Helps states support teachers: The bill provides resources to states and school districts to implement activities to support teachers, principals, and other educators, including allowable uses of funds for high quality induction programs for new teachers, ongoing rigorous professional development opportunities for teachers, and programs to recruit new educators to the profession. The bill allows, but does not require, states to develop and implement teacher evaluation systems.

· Reaffirms the states’ role in determining education standards: The bill affirms that states decide what academic standards they will adopt, without interference from Washington, D.C. The federal government may not mandate or incentivize states to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards, including Common Core. States will be free to decide what academic standards they will maintain in their states.

For more details on the bill:

Click here for the legislation.

Click here for a summary of the bill.

# # #

You have probably read many times that the Common Core standards are not related in any way to the federal Department of Education. Don’t believe it.

Reader Laura H. Chapman investigated the marketing campaign paid for by the U.S. Department of Education:

“Federal policies are so alien to the educational thought and practice that USDE has funded a full-scale marketing program in an effort to secure compliance with these measures.

“For compliance with Race to the Top, for example, USDE’s offered a $43 million grant to IFC International, a for-profit consulting and public relations firm. The grant was for two purposes: (a) to create the Reform Support Network (RSN) enabling Race to the Top grantees to learn from each other, and (b) to promote promising practices for comparable reforms nation-wide. The grant included $13 million for nine subcontractors, each with specialized skills for RSN’s marketing campaign.

“The sophistication of the marketing campaign is suggested by one of the largest subcontracts— $6.3 million to Education First. The founding partner is Jennifer Vranek, a former advocacy expert with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She and others working for Education First helped a number of states apply for the RttT competition. They have fashioned PR campaigns for the Common Core State Standards in many states. The firm’s website includes a sample of the firm’s communication and advocacy services: “Outreach and public-engagement strategies and activities; strategic communications planning; reports, white papers and articles designed to synthesize, explain and persuade; development of communications tools, including marketing materials, web copy, press releases, and social media content.” (Education First, website 2014).

“Here is one example of RSNs work. In December 2012, anonymous contract writers for RSN published a portfolio of suggestions for marketing key policies in RttT. “Engaging Educators, A Reform Support Network Guide for States and Districts: Toward a New Grammar and Framework for Educator Engagement” is addressed to state and district officials. It offers guidance on how to persuade teachers and principals to comply with federal policies

“Engaging Educators then packs about 30 communication strategies, all portrayed as “knowledge development,” into four paragraphs about “message delivery options.” These include “op-eds, letters to the editor, blast messages, social media, press releases,” and regular in-house techniques (p. 4). RSN writers emphasize the need to “Get the Language Right,” meaning that messaging should focus on improving student learning (p. 6).

“Among the other suggested techniques for messaging are teacher surveys, focus groups, websites with rapid response to frequently asked questions, graphic organizers placed into professional development, websites, podcasts, webinars, teacher-made videos of their instruction (vetted for SLO compliance), and a catalog of evocative phrases tested in surveys and focus groups. These rhetorical devices help to maintain a consistent system of messaging. RSN writers also suggest that districts offer released time or pay for message delivery by “teacher SWAT teams that can be deployed at key junctures of the…redesign of evaluation systems” (p. 9).

“The marketing campaign calls for the use of “teacher voice groups” as advocates for reforms. A “teacher voice group” is RSNs name for a non-union advocacy collective funded by private foundations favoring pay-for-performance. Five voice groups are mentioned by name. All have received major funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Teach Plus ($9.5 million), Center for Teacher Quality ($6.3 million), Hope Street Group ($4.7 million), Educators for Excellence ($3.9 million), and Teachers United ($942, 000). Other foundations are supporting these groups. For example, Teach Plus receives “partner” grants from eight other foundations including the Broad, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Joyce, and several investment firms.

“Of course, the marketing campaign for the Common Core is not limited to this paper trail to federal funds. Another marketing program can be seen this USDE website, that just assumes teachers should be implementing the CCSS… http://www.ed.gov/blog/tag/respect/

“Foundation money is also keeping the marketing campaign in place. For example, a website operated by Student Achievement Partners—key players in writing and first stage marketing of the CCSS— is made possible with funds from the GE and Helmsley Foundations see http://achievethecore.org/get-involved.”

Laura Chapman investigated the charter investors’ conference on March 10. And this is what she learned:

The US Department of Education will be at the charter school “investors” conference, representing you, dear taxpayer, in a scheme to subsidize the financing of charter school facilities that LISC is marketing, along with the Gates and Walton Foundations and a long list of profit seekers investors who get tax credits for doing deals, among other perks.

LISC stands for Local Initiatives Support Corporation, in operation for about 35 years and known mainly as a “partner” in leveraging public and private financing for community development projects. Here is the pitch for the NYC investor’s conference:

“LISC’s education work is focused on the need to create efficient financing sources for charter schools in low-income communities. Charter schools often struggle to cover school facilities costs and therefore must sacrifice competitive teacher salaries, robust extracurriculars, and much needed learning materials.” (Pitch: If we did not have to pay for facilities, we could pay teachers more, buy important stuff, and add some frills).

“Our keynote speakers…. will be Whitney Tilson, co-founder of Democrats for Education Reform and vice-chairman of the Board of Trustees of KIPP NYC and Ryan Hill, executive director of KIPP New Jersey.

“Join us for this one day symposium on charter school credit worthiness. Hear inside perspectives from investors, authorizers, academic experts, nonprofit lenders, rating agencies, and charter school borrowers. Learn and understand the value of investing in charter schools and best practices.”
Here is the program lightly edited, without names.

9:00 am – 10:15 am Morning Keynote Speaker(s) (see above)

10:30 am – 11:15 am. Panelists cite data from LISC’s Charter School Facility Finance Landscape and Bond Study and report on innovative financing mechanisms for facilities. Panelists from Utah State Treasurer’s Office, LISC, Charter School Advisors.

11:20 am – 12:20 pm. Charter school authorizers and lenders assess academic and financial performance. Panelists from SUNY Charter Schools Institute, Self-Help, New Jersey Dept. of Education, Wells Capital Management, New Orleans Parish School Board, National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

2:15 pm – 3:15 pm. Assessing the credit quality of a charter school (e.g. enrollment, financials, relationship with the authorizer, academic quality.) Panelists from Public Impact, Charter School Growth Fund, KIPP New Jersey, Charter Schools Development Corp., EdBuild, LISC.

3:30 pm – 4:30 pm Assessing charter schools from investors’ perspectives.
Panelists from Nuveen Investments, Utah State Treasurer’s Office, Standard & Poor’s, Piper Jaffray, Bank of America, LISC

4:35 pm – 5:30 pm Tools to create a more efficient market, such as: pools, credit enhancement, more state involvement, etc. Trends in borrower characteristics and continued disclosure needs. Panelists from Alliance Bernstein; BB&T Capital Markets; Prudential Financial; US DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (USDE), Achievement First, Orrick.

Here is why USDE is represented at this conference. USDE operates a State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grant Program. State education agencies may apply for a grant if the state has a law in place authorizing “per-pupil facilities aid” for charter schools. (This is not the first instance of USDE baiting states to change laws so charters are given favorable treatment.)

These USDE facilities grants, available since 2004, are authorized by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Title V, Part B, Subpart 1, Section 5205B). Awards have averaged $10 million annually, and can be continued at lower levels for up to five years. Under a new authority in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, funds may be channeled to preschool education in charter schools.

The marketing schemes championed at this NYC March 10, 2015 conference are designed to put private dollars into “brick and mortar” charter schools with token public support (federal, state), but with ownership of the facilities in the hands of private investors.

Here is the unpublicized caveat.

LISC supports charter and alternative schools, but only in “distressed neighborhoods.” LISC set up its Educational Facilities Financing Center in 2003. This center functions as a national operation to pool funds from low-interest loans, then leverage the funds for charter and alternative school facilities (new or renovated) “for underserved children, families, and neighborhoods.”

Schools financed by private entities and profit-seeking investors are PINOs “public in name only.” By design LISC and its many bundlers of money intend to keep low-income students and their families trapped in distressed neighborhoods, and coincidently, in my opinion, support the segregation that usually defines such neighborhoods. The cover story is all about neighborhood revitalization.

LISC boasts that it has raised millions in grants and loans from the Walton Family Foundation, Prudential Insurance, Bank One, The Boston Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, CEOs for Fundamental Change in Education, Citibank, City National Bank, Excellent Education Development, the Indianapolis Local Public Improvement Bond Bank, the Indianapolis Mayor’s Charter Schools Office, the Low Income Investment Fund, the Massachusetts Charter School Association, the Massachusetts Department of Education’s Charter School Office, the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, Prudential Insurance, Wells Fargo,

and…. you—courtesy of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education.

Learn more at http://www.lisc.org/section/ourwork/national/education

I am enjoying the online debate between Rick Hess and Peter Cunningham. Rick is located at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in D.C., Peter runs a blog funded by Walton and Broad and served as Arne Duncan’s Assistant Secretary for Communications in Obama’s first term.

 

In this post, they debate whether Uncle Sam should tell schools how to improve.

 

Peter, of course, echoes the Obama administration’s position that this is a proper federal role.

 

He writes:

 

With thousands of schools defying every effort to improve after decades of reform, can we really just throw up our hands and quit? Even with the flexibility and financial incentives associated with SIG—multiple models and up to $6M over three years—most states and districts choose the least aggressive and least impactful interventions, presumably to avoid a messy fight over staffing.

 

Children have only one chance for an education. When states and districts allow chronically struggling schools to continue indefinitely, the federal government has a moral obligation and an economic incentive to step in. When it comes to protecting kids at risk, the buck still stops in Washington.

 

Rick argues cogently that the feds should not tell schools how to improve because Uncle Sam (Congress and the U.S. Department of Education) doesn’t know how to improve any school.

 

Rick writes:

 

Here’s the problem: there’s no recipe for identifying which schools need to be “turned around” or for helping those schools improve. This means that identifying those schools, figuring out how to help them, and then actually doing so are complicated tasks that require a lot of judgment, discretion, and good sense.

 

Unfortunately, these are not the strengths of the federal government. This is simply because federal officials a] don’t run schools or systems, b] have to write policies that apply to 100,000 schools across 50 states, and c] aren’t accountable for what happens in schools and systems. These three factors mean that federal “school improvement” efforts amount to efforts to write rules and directions that can apply everywhere, including many places where the formulas may not make sense. The result is a whole lot of grudging compliance, a fair bit of aimless activity, and not a whole lot of smart problem-solving.

 

The results are evident in efforts like the Obama administration’s School Improvement Grant program. There, we’ve spent $6 billion and a third of the schools receiving SIG funds have seen their test results get worse. Of course, it’s hard to find really reliable numbers on all this because the Department of Education hasn’t been forthcoming with the data (and has had to retract flawed data). One can make a case for Andy Smarick’s claim that SIG is “the greatest failure in the U.S. Department of Education’s 30-plus year history.”

In this post, Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute in D.C., debates Peter Cunningham, who served as Arne Duncan’s Assistant Secretary for Communications in President Obama’s first term. The subject: Should the federal government mandate teacher evaluation.

Cunningham, not surprisingly, says yes, suggesting that teachers would not be evaluated correctly (I.e. using test scores) without a federal mandate.

Hess opposes a federal mandate.

Here is the beginning of his very fine response:

“School systems should do much better when it comes to teacher evaluation, but Congress should stay far, far away from that process. When it comes to teacher evaluation, where the question is not whether it’s done but how well it’s done, federal requirements are good at spurring commotion and compliance, but lousy at ensuring that complex tasks are done well.

“It’s not like teacher evaluation is a new thing. Schools and systems have done it forever, and they’ve generally been awful at it. Guess what? For all the frustration and furor prompted by the Obama administration’s waivers, little has changed. In states like Florida, Tennessee, and Michigan, 99% of teachers were rated effective before they unveiled new evaluation systems in accord with federal demands—and 98% or 99% were deemed effective under their new systems.”

My thought: Teaching is a very essential profession, even though most teachers are not paid like professionals. If Congress insists on mandates for teachers, why not high-stakes doctor evaluations? Lawyer evaluations? State legislator evaluations? Members of Congress evaluations? Governor evaluations?

For legislators, for example, how often were you absent? How many votes did you miss? Who funded your campaign? Did your votes reflect the wishes of your contributors, or the needs of your constituents? How many bills did you introduce? How many passed? What changes did they produce? Did you help to reduce poverty? Unemployment?

Wonder how doctors and lawyers would respond to evaluations mandated by Congrress?

This is a statement by a group of conservative policy analysts, critiquing Republican efforts to rewrite No Child Left Behind. Their major complaint is that the current bills preserve federal control of education. They want states to make the decisions about when and how often students should be tested. They want the new law to say definitively that the federal government must not interfere with curriculum.

Being conservatives, they want Title I to be portable to promote school choice. They want to eliminate mandates and competitive grant programs.

Read it for yourself.

Arne Duncan seems to have united right and left in wanting to curtail the role of the federal government, though for different reasons. I want federal money to go to public schools. But I agree that the testing mandates and sanctions should be abandoned. When to test and how often to test should be a state function.

You have until February 2 to post your comment about whether the US Department of Education should impose VAM on teacher education. Test-happy DOE wants to evaluate colleges of education by the test scores of students taught by their graduates.

http://thewire.k12newsnetwork.com/2015/01/27/value-added-teacher-preparation-regulations-changes-your-comments/

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