Archives for category: U.S. Department of Education

Sarah Reckhow and Jeffrey W. Snyder explain the new educational philanthropy–and how it intersects with federal priorities–in this valuable article.

They spot three significant trends:

“Our analysis proceeds in three parts. First, we examine phil- anthropic grant-making for political activities and demonstrate that funding for national policy advocacy grew from 2000 to 2010. Second, we analyze the shifting policy orientation among top education philanthropies. We find that most major education foundations increasingly support jurisdictional challengers— organizations that compete with or offer alternatives to public sector institutions. Meanwhile, funding for traditional public education institutions has declined. Third, we examine the range of actors and perspectives supported by philanthropic grants, applying social network analysis to identify overlapping patterns of grant-making. We find that top donors are increasingly supporting a shared set of organizations—predominantly jurisdictional challengers. We argue that the combination of these trends has played a role in strengthening the voice and influence of philanthropists in education policy.”

What are jurisdictional challengers? These are organizations that challenge the traditional governance of education, such as charter schools. More philanthropic money goes to these challengers, less money goes to traditional public schools, and more money goes to networks of jurisdictional challengers, like the NewSchools Venture Fund and Stand for Children.

This is a fine scholarly work that confirms what many of us saw with our own eyes. The philanthropic sector–led by Gates, Walton, and Broad and their allies like Dell–prefer disruptive organizations of charters to public schools. Indeed, they are using their vast fortunes to undercut public education and impose a free market competition among competing schools. As they go merrily about the task of disrupting an important democratic institution, they work in tandem with the U.S. Department of Education, which has assumed the task of destabilizing public education.

Big money–accountable to no one—and big government have embarked on an experiment in mass privatization. Do they ever ask themselves whether they might be wrong?

Here is the latest federal government report on fraud, waste, and abuse in the charter sector. It was released in May 2014 by the Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education. The most common type of fraud identified was embezzlement.

CHARTER SCHOOL VULNERABILITIES TO WASTE, FRAUD, AND ABUSE

With the increase in funding that schools are receiving through the Recovery Act, we issued a report that highlighted past OIG investigations involving fraud at charter schools. The report brought to the Department’s attention our concern about vulnerabilities in the oversight of charter schools. Since 2005, OIG has opened more than 40 criminal investigations at charter schools, which have thus far resulted in 18 indictments and 15 convictions of charter school officials. Charter schools generally operate as independent entities that are subject to oversight by an LEA or authorized chartering agency. Our investigations have found, however, that LEAs or chartering agencies often fail to provide adequate oversight needed to ensure that Federal funds are properly used and accounted for. The type of fraud we identified generally involves embezzlement. The schemes that are used to accomplish this are varied. For example, we have found cases where charter school executives falsely increased their schools’ child count, thus increasing the funding levels from which to embezzle. We also identified an alleged grade changing scheme that allowed failing students to pass in order to ensure that the school met Adequate Yearly Progress, which allowed the school to continue operating, thus continuing a funding scheme from which to embezzle. We have also unraveled schemes where owners or employees of the charter schools created companies to which they diverted school funds and misused school credit cards for personal expenditures. Our report provided examples of investigative cases involving charter schools. The Department generally agreed with our observations and expressed interest in working with OIG in determining how to enhance, when appropriate, its policies and monitoring processes involving charter schools.

Paul Thomas here reviews many of the public statements of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and finds a common theme: the cause of low test scores is low expectations.

 

If only society, the schools, and parents had higher expectations, no child would be left behind, no child would ever get low test scores, children with disabilities would excel.

 

Embedded in this claim is the strange belief that poverty, hunger, homelessness, racism, and other social maladies have no effect on students’ ability to learn in school.

 

Thomas refers to a list of popular but misguided beliefs that Duncan loves to repeat because they support his narrative of blaming teachers, parents, and schools:

 

In a recent blog post, Jack Schneider identified 10 popular reform claims offered by the current slate of education reformers, including Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and Duncan himself:

Claim 1: American teachers need more incentive to work hard….

Claim 2: Schools need disruptive innovation. The status quo is unacceptable….

Claim 3: The public schools are in crisis….

Claim 4: It should be easier to fire bad teachers. Tenure is a problem…

Claim 5: Schools need to teach more technology….

Claim 6: Teachers should be paid for results….

Claim 7: We need more charter schools…

Claim 8: We’re falling behind the rest of the world….

Claim 9: Teacher preparation is a sham….

Claim 10: Teachers only work nine months a year….

 

What do these claims have in common? First, each can be found repeatedly in comments made by Duncan, media reports, and the day-to-day assumptions held by the public. Second, each claim is misleading at best, and false at worst.

 

Obama’s USDOE and Secretary Duncan, however, use these widely accepted though false claims as partisan political distraction, rather than relying on evidence-based cases to target politically volatile and unpopular issues related to poverty, racism, inequity, and the short-comings of the free market. That’s not just a shame, it’s deplorable.

 

Thomas says that the U.S. Department of Education has a “twisted culture inside the USDOE—a culture that maintains a message of high expectations for students, teachers, and schools and thus diverts attention away from the more powerful influence of poverty and inequity in both society and schools.

Yet it seems increasingly evident that the only place where low expectations are the main sources of failure is inside the USDOE itself—specifically with the appointment of Duncan.” Duncan is not the only Secretary of Education who never taught, but he is the only Secretary with the arrogance to chastise teachers for their failures and low expectations, as if he knew how to do their job better than they do. Thomas writes that the USDOE is “a collection of appointees under Obama that lacks the experience, expertise and political will to lead the needed reforms facing U.S. public schools. Once the brief flurry of outrage passes, we must admit that the Obama education agenda will remain one of the greatest failures of the hope and change that Obama once promised.” So long as the USDOE continues to ignore the root cause of poor performance, none of their “reforms” will make any difference.

 

Stephanie Simon of politico.com reports that Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has invited members to debate the Common Core standards at the organization’s convention in Los Angeles.

Until now, Weingarten and the AFT have strongly defended the standards. But she has been reconsidering their value over the past 15 months. In April 2013, she said in a major speech in Néw York City that the standards should be separated from high-stakes testing because there had been inadequate preparation for them—little or no professional development, materials, or other necessary tools. In Néw York state, implementation of Common Core testing was hurried and slipshod. The passing marks were set so high that 70% of students failed–failure by design.

The Common Core standards have recently been in free fall. The Gates Foundation–which paid over $2 billion to write and promote the Common Core–has called for a moratorium on using the results for punishing teachers. The Chicago Teachers Union flatly rejected the Common Core standards. State after state have dropped the standards or the tests or both.

Now Weingarten is inviting members to weigh in.

Simon writes:

“The American Federation of Teachers will open its annual convention Friday morning with a startling announcement: After years of strongly backing the Common Core, the union now plans to give its members grants to critique the academic standards — or to write replacement standards from scratch.
It’s a sign that teachers are frustrated and fed up — and they’re making their anger heard, loud and clear.

“The AFT will also consider a resolution — drafted by its executive council — asserting that the promise of the Common Core has been corrupted by political manipulation, administrative bungling, corporate profiteering and an invalid scoring system designed to ensure huge numbers of kids fail the new math and language arts exams that will be rolled out next spring. An even more pointed resolution flat out opposing the standards will also likely come up for a vote.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/american-federation-of-teachers-common-core-108793.html#ixzz37B0IG6ju

Delegates to the national convention of the National Education Association passed a resolution calling for the resignation of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Similar resolutions did not pass in 2011 ad 2012.

The resolution was proposed by the California Teachers Association. Teachers are angry at Duncan because of his support for the controversial Vergara decision, which ruled against teachers’ right to due process and his devotion to high-stakes testing.

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

Campaign to focus on assessments and developing real accountability systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Greene proves himself a man of infinite patience. In this post, he analyzes and deconstructs a speech that Arne Duncan gave to the annual meeting of the PTA.

He writes:

“Arne opens up his speech as pretty much anybody would (Glad to be here! Your organization is great! Let’s here it for your leaders!) and then moves on to tales of his children’s schooling. Their experience was not the typical 25-30 desks in a row. His son got to work ahead in math because, technology. His daughter got to attend a constitutional convention and Civil War day.

[Duncan says]: “But it’s those kinds of opportunities that I think are so special. And why are those experiences so important? Because I think all of us – all of us as parents – want our children to be inspired, to be challenged, to be active participants in their own learning.

“This is not the last time that Arne will say something that is true, but also completely disconnected from the kind of schooling promoted by his department’s policies. I’m pretty sure we can make it a drinking game; every time Arne says something that would make a great basis for educational policy, but US DOE actually does the opposite–drink! Do I need to point out that Arne’s kids attend a school that remains untouched by the policies that are being inflicted on the rest of us?”

See if you can actually wade through this speech.

Peter Greene writes that Arne Duncan has figured out why children with disabilities get lower test scores: Low expectations.

Greene writes:

“In announcing a new emphasis and “major shift,” the US Department of Education will now demand that states show educational progress for students with disabilities.

“Arne Duncan announced that, shockingly, students with disabilities do poorly in school. They perform below level in both English and math. No, there aren’t any qualifiers attached to that. Arne is bothered that students with very low IQs, students with low function, students who have processing problems, students who have any number of impairments– these students are performing below grade level.

“We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel,” Duncan said. (per NPR coverage)”

Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman agreed with Duncan.

Greene writes:

“And that’s not even the stupidest thing. We’re not there yet.

“Kevin Huffman, education boss of Tennessee, also chimed in on the conference call, to explain why disabled students do poorly, and how to fix it.

“He said most lag behind because they’re not expected to succeed if they’re given more demanding schoolwork and because they’re seldom tested.

“That’s it. We should just demand that disabled students should do harder work and take more tests.

“When Florida was harassing Andrea Rediske to have her dying, mentally disabled child to take tests, they were actually doing him a favor, and not participating in state-sponsered abuse.”

So that’s the Department of Education’s solution for children with special needs: Give them harder work and test them more frequently. But why should that be surprising. That is the DOE’s idea for pre-K, for K, and for all children. Harder work and more tests.

Arne Duncan proposed new accountability standards for students with disabilities.

Claudio Sancez of NPR wrote:

“The Obama administration said Tuesday that the vast majority of the 6.5 million students with disabilities in U.S. schools today are not receiving a quality education, and that it will hold states accountable for demonstrating that those students are making progress.

“Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced what he calls “a major shift” in how the government evaluates the effectiveness of federally funded special education programs.”

He added:

“Under the new guidelines, Duncan says he’ll require proof that these kids aren’t just being served but are actually making academic progress.

“We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel,” Duncan said.

States that don’t comply with the new guidelines might lose federal funding.

And now for a commentary on the new guidelines, written by BeverleyH. Johns, a national authority on special education. She is Illinois Special Education Coalition Chair for 32 years and was President of the Learning Disabilities Assn., President of the Council for Exceptional Children, and author of many books about students with disabilities.

In a widely circulated email Beverly Johns writes:

We know that when students with disabilities
are held to high expectations and have access
to the general curriculum in the regular classroom,
they excel.” Arne Duncan, June 24, 2014

Really? Where is the evidence that the general
curriculum in the regular classroom results
in such excellence for all students with disabilities?

It is just the kind broad general statement
that Arne Duncan is so fond of making.

The U.S. Department of Education today announced
new standards for judging States on special education.

The new system greatly reduces compliance enforcement
for IDEA, on the theory that States are in procedural
compliance with IDEA, in return for using NAEP test
results to judge educational outcomes for students in
special ed.

NAEP was NEVER designed or tested for any such purpose
(see below). NAEP is a test taken by a sample of
school districts from each State, every 2 years.

Below is my summary of the conference call hosted
by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today.

Conference call on new Special Ed requirements
for States, June 24, 2014.

USDOE plus two Commissioners of Education,
called Superintendents in some States -
Massachusetts (MA), Mitchell Chester, and
Tennessee (TN), Kevin Huffman.

TN: “States build up their little special education
units.” 40 percent of students with SLD can
achieve same test results as others – “not
students with significant cognitive disabilities.”
(last comment made several times by others)

MA: identifies 17 percent of students for SE.
Tom Hehir assisting them: double the number of
students in poverty identified for SE. More students
of color need to be in general ed classrooms.

USDOE: New system has fewer data reporting requirements,
no need for reporting on results of actions taken
on previous non-compliance, no need to have improvement
on previous indicators, etc.

Arne Duncan to the 2 Commissioners: “Other stuff we
should be looking at to eliminate?”

Reporter question: NAEP ever been used this way?
NAEP designed for high stakes testing?
NAEP designed for students with disabilities?

Duncan: “Only accurate measurement we have. Imperfect…”
“I would not call it high stakes.”
“NAEP given every 2 years.”

Reporter question: reinventing the wheel? If States
cannot meet requirements, then change the requirements
in 5 years?

USDOE: “We have to own these kids.”

MA: SE needs to be integrated into the mainstream.

Reporter question: What are the consequences?

Duncan: No real answer, withholding funds not his
first priority.

Reporter question: What outcomes? The same proficiency
for all students?

USDOE: Vast majority of students in SE must achieve to the
same high standard required by NAEP of all students.
“do not have cognitive disabilities”
Most students in SE now do not have access to content
standards or to the same assessment.

The tone of the call was set by having 2 non-experts in special ed, the 2 Commissioners.

Bev Johns

Stephanie Simon writes in politico.com about how parents organized, lobbied, agitated, and brought down inBloom.

Simon writes:

“You’ve heard of Big Oil and Big Tobacco. Now get ready for Big Parent.

“Moms and dads from across the political spectrum have mobilized into an unexpected political force in recent months to fight the data mining of their children. In a frenzy of activity, they’ve catapulted student privacy — an issue that was barely on anyone’s radar last spring — to prominence in statehouses from New York to Florida to Wyoming.”

Most shocking of all is that the Obama administration is prepared to spend $1 billion (half from the federal government, half from the states) to track the movements of every child:

“Now, parents are rallying against another perceived threat: huge state databases being built to track children for more than two decades, from as early as infancy through the start of their careers.

Promoted by the Obama administration, the databases are being built in nearly every state at a total cost of well over $1 billion. They are intended to store intimate details on tens of millions of children and young adults — identified by name, birth date, address and even, in some cases, Social Security number — to help officials pinpoint the education system’s strengths and weaknesses and craft public policy accordingly.

“The Education Department lists hundreds of questions that it urges states to answer about each child in the public school system: Did she make friends easily as a toddler? Was he disciplined for fighting as a teen? Did he take geometry? Does she suffer from mental illness? Did he go to college? Did he graduate? How much does he earn?

“Every parent I’ve talked to has been horrified,” said Leonie Haimson, a New York mother who is organizing a national Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. “We just don’t want our kids tracked from cradle to grave.”

Why does the Education Department want so much information about every child? What is the rationale for assembling Big Data about our children? Does Congress know about this? Is there any other government in the world that is data mining its children?

Will parents mobilize to stop the federal government from mining their children’s personal data?

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