Archives for category: U.S. Department of Education

The U. S. Department of Education is forcing Maine to use junk science for teacher evaluations. The legislature enacted a teacher evaluation program, but it was not tough enough for the Feds, says Politico.

“MAINE UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Education officials in the Pine Tree State are warning that Maine could lose its No Child Left Behind waiver if the state legislature doesn’t take swift action to strengthen its teacher evaluations. The department has aligned itself with the feds in insisting that students’ performance on state assessments be a significant factor in teacher ratings. But the legislature has sided with teachers unions in demanding a more flexible framework. Its rules do call for evaluations to include measures of student learning. But those measures don’t have to incorporate state test scores. Instead, local committees made up mostly of teachers can come up with their own metrics (within certain parameters), such as students with disabilities’ progress toward IEP goals.

– That’s not good enough, Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle told Maine officials in a letter late last year. After multiple conversations with Delisle’s team, state officials have drafted a bill that they say would meet federal expectations standards and save Maine’s waiver. But it’s far from clear that the legislature will go along. In a recent blog post, state Rep. Brian Hubbell, a Democrat, wrote that federal concerns “may be addressed more productively simply by clarifying Maine’s process.” Delisle’s letter:

“- Even as debate unfolds in Congress about repealing NCLB, Maine officials say they’re determined to renew their waiver to ensure stability for schools. “It puts departments like ours in a frustrating position when we know what the feds expect and spend months and even years putting aligned systems in place, only to have our legislature – often under great pressure from the teachers union – insist on watering those down in the 11th hour,” department spokeswoman Samantha Warren said.”

Senator Lamar Alexander

U.S. Senate

Washington, D.C.


Dear Lamar,


I wish I could be in Washington for the hearings about the reauthorization of NCLB. I can’t make it for two reasons: I wasn’t invited, and I have a date to speak to parents at P.S. 3 in Manhattan who are outraged about all the testing imposed on their children.


I learned a lot about education policy and federalism after you chose me to serve as your Assistant Secretary of Education in charge of research and improvement and as counsel to the Secretary of Education (you). I am imagining that I am still advising you, as I did from 1991 to 1993 (remember that you and every other top administrator in the Department left a day before the inauguration of Bill Clinton, and you told me I was Acting Secretary for the day?).

What I always admired about you was your deliberateness, your thoughtfulness, your ability to listen to discordant voices, and your respect for federalism. You didn’t think you were smarter than everyone else in the country just because you were a member of the President’s Cabinet. You understood federalism. You didn’t think it was your job to impose what you wanted on every school in America. You respected the ability of local communities to govern their schools without your supervision or dictation.


NCLB was not informed by your wisdom. It set impossible goals, then established punishments for schools that could not do the impossible. I remember a panel discussion in early 2002 at the Willard Hotel soon after NCLB was signed. You were on the panel. I was in the audience, and I stood up and asked you whether you truly believed that 100% of all children in grades 3-8 would be “proficient” by 2014. You answered, “No, Diane, but we think it is good to have goals.” Well, based on goals that you knew were out of reach, teachers and principals have been fired, and many schools—beloved in their communities—have been closed.


NCLB has introduced an unprecedented level of turmoil into the nation’s public education system. Wearing my conservative hat, I have to say that it’s wrong to disrupt the lives of communities, schools, families, and children to satisfy an absurd federal mandate, based on a false premise and based too on the non-existent “Texas miracle.” Conservatives are not fire-breathing radicals who seek to destroy community and tradition. Conservatives conserve, conservatives believe in incremental change, not in upheaval and disruption.


I urge you to abandon the annual mandated federal testing in grades 3-8. Little children are sitting for 8-10 hours to take the annual tests in math and reading. As a parent, you surely understand that this is madness. This is why the Opt Out movement is growing across the nation, as parents protest what feels like federally-mandated child abuse.


Do we need to compare the performance of states? NAEP does that already. Anyone who wants to know how Mississippi compares to Massachusetts can look at the NAEP results, which are released every two years. Do we want disaggregated data? NAEP reports scores by race, gender, English language proficiency, and disability status. How will we learn about achievement gaps if we don’t test every child annually? NAEP reports that too. In short, we already have the information that everyone says they want and need.


NCLB has forced teachers to teach to the test; that once was considered unethical and unprofessional, but now it is an accepted practice in schools across the country. NCLB has caused many schools to spend more time and resources on test prep, interim assessments, and testing. That means narrowing the curriculum: when testing matters so much, there is less time for the arts, physical education, foreign languages, civics, and other valuable studies and activities. Over this past dozen years, there have been numerous examples of states gaming the system and educators cheating because the tests determine whether schools will live or die, and whether educators will get a bonus or be fired.


I urge you to enact what you call “option one,” grade span testing, and to abandon annual testing. If you keep annual testing in the law, states and districts will continue to engage in the mis-education that NCLB incentivized. Bad habits die hard, if at all.


Just say no to annual testing. No high-performing nation does it, and neither should we. We are the most over-tested nation in the world, and it’s time to encourage children to sing, dance, play instruments, write poetry, imagine stories, create videos, make science projects, write history papers, and discover the joy of learning.


As I learned from you, the U.S. Department of Education should not act as a National School Board. The Secretary of Education is not the National Superintendent of Schools. The past dozen years of centralizing control of education in Washington, D.C., has not been good for education or for democracy.


The law governing the activities of the U.S. Department of Education states clearly that no federal official should attempt to “exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, [or] administration….of any educational institution.” When I was your Assistant Secretary and Counselor, I was very much aware of that prohibition. For the past dozen years, it seems to have been forgotten. Just a few years ago, the current administration funded tests for the Common Core standards, which will most assuredly exert control over the curriculum and program of instruction. The federal tests will determine what is taught.


The nation has seen a startling expansion of federal power over local community public schools since the passage of NCLB. There is certainly an important role for the federal government in assuring equality of educational opportunity and informing the American people about the progress of education. But the federal role today is taking on responsibilities that belong to states and local districts. The key mechanism for that takeover is annual testing, the results of which are used to dictate other policies of dubious legality and validity, like evaluating teachers and even colleges of education by student test scores.


Sir, please revise the federal law so that it authorizes the federal government to do what it does best: protecting the rights of children, gathering data, sponsoring research, encouraging the improvement of teaching, funding special education, and distributing resources to the neediest districts to help the neediest students (which was the original purpose of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965).


In closing, may I remind you of something you wrote in your book of advice:

No. 84: Read anything Diane Ravitch writes about education.

—Lamar Alexander, Little Plaid Book, page 44

I agree with you.


Yours truly,


Diane Ravitch


The most contentious issue in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently named No Child Left Behind) will be the federal role in mandating annual testing. The latest polls show that it is opposed by a majority of parents and educators, but Secretary Duncan has staunchly insisted it is necessary; 19 civil rights groups endorsed his position, even though the children they represent all too often are negativrly afrcted by such tests. Since minority children, English learners, and children with disabilities are disproportionately stigmatized by standardized tests, it is bizarre to assert that standardized tests are guarantors of civil rights.

So here comes an interesting debate in the conservative National Review. Michael Petrilli of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Rick Hess of the conservative American Enterprise Institute take issue with Jonah Edelman of the corporate reform Stand for Children.

Stand for Children is an active and politically savvy opponent of teachers and teachers’ unions. A few years ago, Jonah Edelman boasted at an Aspen Ideas Festival about his role in buying up all the best lobbyists in Illinois so he could ram hostile legislation down the throats of teachers across the state and make it near impossible for the Chicago Teachers Union to go on strike. He was wrong about the latter, because the CTU garnered overwhelming support for a strike and followed through in 2012. Edelman pulled a similar stunt in Massachusetts, having collected millions of dollars from hedge fund manager to make war on teachers and their benefits and job security.

In the present case, Petrilli and Finn chastise Edelman for supporting an expansive federal role in education.

They write:

“In the piece, Edelman denounces efforts to shed some of No Child Left Behind’s more onerous and unworkable provisions as a “threat” to “your kids’ future.” He then recounts a parade of horribles from the last century. “Linda Brown was denied the opportunity to attend a nearby public school because she was black,” he reminds us. “Black students were denied access to a public high school by segregationist Governor Orval Faubus.” And states and districts weren’t meeting the “special needs” of students with disabilities.

“This is a shopworn parlor trick — equating conservatives concerned about federal micromanagement of schooling in 2015 with the “states’ rights” segregationists of two or three generations past (who, for what it’s worth, were overwhelmingly Democratic)….

“But this sort of rhetorical sleight-of-hand has not held up particularly well. Debating whether the federal government should tell states how to label, manage, and “improve” schools (all on the basis of reading and math scores) is a far cry from debates over whether states should be allowed to deny black students access to elementary and secondary schools. Moreover, those who, like Edelman, celebrate Uncle Sam’s expertise and the effectiveness of federal bureaucrats fail to acknowledge how often federal bureaucrats have gotten it wrong — and put in place laws and regulations that have gotten in the way of smart, promising reforms at the state and local level.

“What are the issues that have Edelman so worked up? Republicans on Capitol Hill make no secret that they envision a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind that will significantly reduce the strings attached to federal education dollars. Among the possible actions: Allowing states to test students every few years rather than annually; getting the federal government out of the business of telling states how to design school-accountability systems or address low-performing schools; and making clear that (contrary to the Obama administration’s designs) the federal government should have no role in dictating state reading and math standards.

“Casual followers of the education debate might notice that these changes seem both modest and sensible. Yet Edelman insists that if Congress dares to go down this path, “disadvantaged students will lose out, and millions of young people who could have become hard-working taxpayers will end up jobless, in prison, or worse.” (Worse?)….

“The deeper problem is that Edelman and his allies fail to grapple with the very real harm that federal education policy has caused, especially in the past decade. This is baffling, given his own admission that No Child Left Behind is “deeply flawed” and that “federal interventions don’t always work as intended.” But his solution — to simply update the law more regularly — indicates a misunderstanding of the realities of the legislative process (Congress updates laws when it will, not on the schedule of us pundits) and of the root problem. The real issue is not just that specific provisions of NCLB are problematic (though they are); it’s that the federal government is destined to mess up whatever it touches in education. That’s because it’s three steps removed from actual schools, with states and local districts sitting between its good intentions and its ability to ensure good results.

“All the federal government can do is pass laws telling federal bureaucrats to write rules for the states, whose bureaucrats then write more rules for school districts, which in turn give marching orders to principals. By the time this game of telephone is done, educators are stuck in a stifling, rule-driven culture that undermines the kind of practical discretion that characterizes good schools.

“During the Obama years, this problem has only grown worse. Convinced of their own righteousness and brilliance, Obama’s education officials have pushed all manner of half-baked ideas on the country (especially the demand that states evaluate teachers largely on the basis of test scores); helped turn potentially promising ideas into political hot potatoes (see Common Core); and embarked on ideological, deeply harmful crusades (using legal threats, for example, to discourage schools from disciplining minority students)….”

What Secretary Duncan has achieved in his six years in office is to persuade many liberals and conservatives that the U.S. Department of Education has abandoned any sense of federalism and has assumed far too much control. While liberals are uneasy about trusting either state or local government with the future of education, they are just as wary (or warier) of the heavy-handed power of the federal government. Duncan himself has become a symbol for many of the federal government’s abandonment of public schools and its commitment to privatize public schools “with all deliberate speed.” Duncan’s demand for annual testing and his determination to evaluate teachers based on students’ test scores–practices not found in high-performing nations–has put him on the wrong side of history. He simply ignores the failure of his pet policies, as well as the protests of parents and educators. His self-righteousness is no substitute for evidence and democratic governance.

Stephanie Simon of Politico has an interesting analysis of President Obama’s education legacy. While some credit him for his contribution to increasing early childhood education, the likelihood is that his legacy will be a great fizzle because of his unquestioning allegiance to standardized testing. Many Republicans are thinking of restoring greater control to the states and gutting annual testing, but Arne Duncan considers annual testing to be non-negotiable.

Here is Peter Greene’s take on Duncan’s “vision” for NCLB: more of the same. The status quo. Not a whiff of innovative thinking. Greene asks why Duncan is recommending a rewrite of NCLB:

“Why is he doing it now, when he’s had his way for the past several years? The answer is obvious– if the GOP really rewrites ESEA, all of Duncan and Obama’s reformy work will be trashed. Duncan’s announcement is not a clarion call to change a single comma of the administration’s policy– it’s an announcement that he intends to preserve it against the GOP onslaught that’s about to begin. For all intents and purposes, Duncan has had the ESEA rewrite he’s wanted for five years, and the GOP is threatening to take it away from him. Duncan is jumping on the bus before he is thrown under it, but there will now be a hell of a battle over who’s going to drive and where the bus is going to go.”

Curiously, the Obama administration is more devoted to the principles of NCLB than Republicans.

This is an excellent letter to the U.S. Department of Education, which patiently explains the harm caused by value-added modeling (VAM). It was submitted by a Néw York group called “Change the Stakes,” which opposes high-stakes testing. The letter was written by psychologist Dr. Rosalie Friend, a member of Change the Stakes. It is a good source for parents and educators who want to explain why testing is being overused and misused.

USDOE’s Proposed Regs for Teacher Education Programs

Change the Stakes submitted these comments in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s proposal to impose new accountability measures on teacher education programs,

The U.S. Department of Education has proposed that teacher education programs be rated by the employment, placement, and performance of their graduates. Ratings of the performance of graduates would include the test scores of the students who are taught by graduates of those programs.

Change the Stakes (, an organization of New York City parents and educators promoting alternatives to high-stakes testing, opposes this proposal.

Rating teacher education programs by what teachers do after they leave the programs is unrealistic. The decisions made by graduates and their employers are not determined by the teacher education programs. Teacher education programs are already assessed by professional accrediting boards that understand the nuances of teaching and learning.

The accountability procedures imposed on K-12 schools have diverted astounding amounts of money and time from teaching and learning. The accountability procedures have not led to any measurable improvement in student achievement. Extending these ill-conceived procedures to teacher education programs is counter-productive. Attaching high stakes to evaluation leads to the distortion of the processes that are being evaluated, as documented by Dr. Donald Campbell, the pre-eminent social scientist.

Teaching is a difficult profession. Industrial-type accountability procedures distract from the focus on teaching and learning. We want teachers to learn how to engage children in learning new ideas and using those ideas to reason and solve problems. At the same time, teachers must be able to assist children with developing socially and emotionally. This requires dealing with enormous differences among children’s backgrounds and personalities. Of course, teachers must also be expert in the skills and materials they teach. Teacher education programs must prepare teachers to think on their feet and respond to the ever changing conditions under which they labor, not to drill children for shallow, regimented tests.

Teachers’ working conditions are a major factor in their professional achievement. Social conditions, school culture, school leadership, class assignments, and relationships among colleagues are all important in determining both students’ and teachers’ success. Management expert, W. Edwards Deming, said, “It is the structure of the organization rather than the employees, alone, which holds the key to improving the quality of output.” All these factors are independent of teacher education programs.

Perhaps the most wrong-headed part of the proposal is the use of student test scores in assessing the teachers who graduated from the programs. Using student scores to evaluate teachers and then to use that “so-called” data to rate their teacher education programs is unsound and unacceptable for the following reasons.

Low Reliability of Standardized Test Results

Value-added modeling (VAM) cannot be accurately used for a small sample such as a single class. The aggregation of student test scores to derive a score for an individual teacher has been demonstrated to be wildly unstable, especially while assigning scores to a given teacher from year to year or even from class to class. The American Statistical Association has warned against the use of VAM for teacher evaluation. Using these unreliable figures to draw conclusions about the programs that educated teachers is folly.

Low Validity of Standardized Test Results

Tests cannot adequately account for every factor outside of a teacher’s instruction that impacts how students perform on a test because there are far too many other factors affecting students’ scores. Research shows that whatever teachers’ impact is, it accounts for only 1-14% of student variability in standardized test scores. If the teacher’s score is based on factors other than the teacher’s influence, it is not valid.

Studies since the 1966 Coleman report continue to show that nothing affects student achievement as much as the student’s home. Parents in poor families cannot provide their children with the same social and learning supports and enrichment that affluent and middle-class parents can provide. Furthermore, well-funded schools in prosperous communities consistently get higher test scores than cash starved schools in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

A teacher’s effectiveness is directly affected by the composition of the class assigned to that teacher even within the same school. What kind of academic background do the children have? Are their goals aligned with the school’s goals? How cooperative are they? How well behaved or self-regulated are they?


The entire process of professional training of an educator is exceptionally complex. While a school of education affects the resulting quality of the professional educator, so much more goes into their success. Any evaluation of such an institution should be developed to be inclusive of all the contributing factors, not simply the ones for which quantitative data (however invalid and unreliable) are available.

Ignoring these additional factors and the research supporting them is an injustice not only to the programs the Education Department plans to rate but also to students, teachers, parents, and communities alike.


American Statistical Association. (2014). ASA Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment.

Baker, E. L., Barton, P. E., Darling-Hammond, L. D., Haertel, E., Ladd, H. F., Linn, R. L., Ravitch, D., Rothstein, R., Shavelson, R. J., & Shepard, L.A. (2010). Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers: Briefing Paper 278. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.

Campbell, D.T. (1976). Assessing the Impact of Planned Social Change. Dartmouth College, Occasional Paper Series, #8.

Greene, D. (2013). Doing the Right Thing: A Teacher Speaks. Victoria, Canada: Friesen Press.

Haertel, E.H. (2013) Reliability and validity of inferences about teachers based on student test scores. William H. Angoff Memorial Lecture Series. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Johnson, S.M., Kraft, M.A., & Papay, J.P. (2012). How Context Matters in High-Need Schools: The Effects of Teachers’ Working Conditions on Their Professional Satisfaction and Their Students’ Achievement, Teachers College Record, 114:1-39.

Viadero, D. (2006). Race Report’s Influence Felt 40 Years Later: Legacy of Coleman study was new view of equity. EdWeek [Online] Available

These comments were written by Dr. Rosalie Friend, Educational Psychologist and a member of Change the Stakes.

A regular commenter on the blog, Laura H. Chapman, shares her research on data mining:


Policies on data mining? “The future, like everything else, is no longer quite what it used to be.” Paul Valéry, poet.


It is no surprise that the Gates funded Teacher-Student Data Link Project started in 2005 is going full steam ahead. By 2011 his project said the link between teacher and student data would serve eight purposes:


1. Determine which teachers help students become college-ready and successful,

2. Determine characteristics of effective educators,

3. Identify programs that prepare highly qualified and effective teachers,

4. Assess the value of non-traditional teacher preparation programs,

5. Evaluate professional development programs,

6. Determine variables that help or hinder student learning,

7. Plan effective assistance for teachers early in their career, and

8. Inform policy makers of best value practices, including compensation.


The system is intended to ensure all courses are based on standards, and all responsibilities for learning are assigned to one or more “teachers of record” in charge of a student or class so that a record is generated whenever a “teacher of record” has a specific proportion of responsibility for a student’s learning activities.


These activities must be defined by performance measures for a particular standard, by subject, and grade level.


The TSDL system requires period-by-period tracking of teachers and students every day; including “tests, quizzes, projects, homework, classroom participation, or other forms of day-to-day assessments and progress measures.” Ultimately, the system will keep current and longitudinal data on the performance of teachers and individual students, as well schools, districts, states, and educators ranging from principals to higher education faculty.


This data will then be used to determine the “best value” investments in education, taking into account as many demographic factors as possible, including….health records for preschoolers. but the cradle is next, and it is part of USDE’s technology plan.


Since 2006, the USDE has also invested over $700 million in the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) to help states “efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, and use education data, including individual student records”…and make “data-driven decisions to improve student learning, as well as facilitate research to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps.” The newest upgrade of the concpt is for these state-wide systems to become multi-state…and a national system. This goes WAY, WAy beyond (and may pre-empt) routine data-gathering by the National Bureau of Education Statistics.


It is not widely known that in 2009, USDE modified the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act so that student data—test scores, health records, learning issues, disciplinary reports—can be used for education studies without parental consent (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 20 U.S.C. §1232g). Moreover, a 2012 issue brief from USDE outlined a program of data mining and learning analytics in partnership with commercial companies.


The envisioned data- mining program includes an automated, instant access, user-friendly “recommendation system” for teachers that links students’ test scores and their learning profiles to preferred instructional actions and resources. Enhancing teaching and learning through educational data mining and learning analytics: An issue brief. Retrieved from p. 29).


USDE is also pressing forward a “radical and rapid” transformation of public education. The new system is marketed and funded as “personalized, competency-based learning” 24/365 from multiple sources. It is intended to dismantle place-based schools, seat time, grade levels, subject-specific curricula, traditional concepts about “teachers” and diplomas. Multiple certifications with flower along with an abundace of badges earne for completing learning paths and play-lists of learning options, awarded by profit and non-profit “learning agents.” The role of “teacher” is envioned as a relic, along with the institution of public schools. See USDE, Office of Educational Technology, Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology, Washington, D.C., 2010.

In earlier posts this morning, I urged you to send your comments on the federal Department of Education plan to rate teachers’ colleges by the scores of students taught by their graduates. Call this “long-distance Value-Added Modeling.”


It is a bad idea on many counts, not least because VAM doesn’t work when it is applied to an individual (too many variables, too much missing data, too much error). It works even less when an institution will be judged by the test scores of students taught by their graduates.


Here are the proposed regulations.


Comments are due January 2 to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB).


Comments are due to the U.S. Department of Education by February 2.



We’re All Mad Here: The Conference on English Education’s (CEE) Response to the US Department of Education’s Proposed Regulations for Teacher Preparation



On Dec. 3, 2014, the United States’ Department of Education (DOE) released a document proposing new regulations for teacher preparation programs, citing the need for greater accountability for teacher preparation programs, as well as the development and distribution of data focused on the quality of those programs. The public was then invited to comment on the regulations, with the comment period closing on Feb. 2, 2015. Note, however, that the Office of Management & Budget “is required to make a decision regarding the collection of information contained in the proposed regulations between 30 and 60 days after publication of the proposed regulations.”3 For full consideration of the public’s response, therefore, comments should be submitted by Jan. 2, 2015.


The Conference on English Education (CEE) urges its membership, as well as teachers, parents and students, to make use of this public comment period to respond to the proposed regulations – ideally by Jan. 2.


These regulations are disingenuous at best, hypocritical at worst, in their misrepresentation of and approach to quality teacher education. Therefore, we must state clearly and forcefully – to the DOE, as well as to US senators, state representatives, university presidents, state superintendents, school principals, teachers, students, neighbors and the public at large – that the proposed regulations will do more harm than good.


Whether online, through the media or in person, we must speak against the misguided beliefs driving such regulation: that teacher performance can be equated to student performance; that standardized tests provide meaningful evidence of learning; that student learning occurs in a vacuum; that there is one set approach that works with all students. We have been invited to speak, and we must accept the invitation – although it feels a bit like being invited to the Mad Hatter’s tea party, doesn’t it? “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”


Despite very little evidence to support its efficacy for student learning, standardized testing has claimed our classrooms. “Objective” data drives decision-making rather than the “subjective” issues that affect the children we seek to educate. Teachers are constantly labeled as ineffective, uncaring, unprepared. Patently unqualified corporations, millionaires and for-profit businesses are invited to “solve” educational issues while patently qualified teachers, teacher educators and educational researchers are excluded from the discussion.


The document is found at!documentDetail;D=ED-2014-OPE-0057-0001


To do so, visit!submitComment;D=ED-2014-OPE-0057-0001


For additional information, view Jane West’s webinar: uploads/2014/12/Teacher-Preparation-Regulations-for-CEEDAR.pdf


For an excellent example, see Anne Elrod Whitney’s piece Proposed Regulations Bad for Kids, Teachers, and Schools: teachers-and-schools/ And now, teacher education programs have moved into the line of fire. If the proposed regulations are to be believed, teacher preparation currently functions with little accountability, producing poor quality candidates whose abilities are not properly assessed. The evidence for such claims consists of flawed measures and unreliable research from questionable sources.


Yet, the answer to this (unproven) assumption is to increase assessment and accountability measures, despite no evidence that these measures have been beneficial as implemented in the public schools. Madness. Teacher preparation programs are, indeed, held accountable; they undergo assessment; they use data to inform their decision-making processes.


As the professional organization for English teacher education, CEE created the Standards for Initial Preparation of Teachers of Secondary English Language Arts 7-12; revised in 2012, these standards delineate the required competencies of knowledge, skills and dispositions connected to content, pedagogy, learners and professionalism. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) uses these standards to assess and recognize the abilities of English teacher education programs to prepare quality secondary English teachers. To meet these standards, programs must gather, analyze and report a wide range of data from both the program and the candidates. This external accountability is in addition to the internal accountability of the programs themselves. In-house, as it were, teacher preparation programs must remain cognizant of and respond to the internal and external pressures driving education in order to prepare teachers for the classroom.


Do some teacher education programs fail in this endeavor? Admittedly, yes. But the way to improve our teacher education programs is not with more assessment and accountability, measures in and of themselves that are already present and valued in higher education. Could these measures be improved? Certainly, as any educator knows. Teacher education programs recognize the need to improve our efforts to gather better data from and about our graduates; we are constantly revising our means of candidate assessment in order to respond to our needs and the requirements of an outside accrediting body.


What we don’t do is expect the test scores of our graduates’ students to provide a worthwhile measure of their teacher’s efficacy. Value added measurement (VAM) has little support among those with the ability to understand the nuances of assessment5, much less those of teaching and learning. Parents certainly do not support the current over-testing of their children; teachers know that reliance on externally developed high-stakes tests offers a distorted view of a child’s abilities; teacher educators recognize that assessment is a nuanced process that requires multiple measures over time. We know that assessing teachers’ worth on the test scores of the complex human beings they teach is a deeply flawed measure of ability, with no recognition of the many factors influencing both teaching and learning. Rather than admit this and seek better ways to determine quality teaching, however, the US Department of Education now proposes to assess the teachers of the teachers’ worth on those same test scores. Madness. Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”


For more on those nuances, see the American Statistical Association’s Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment: These regulations promulgate beliefs that those in education know to be false: that there is one right measure of learning, that there is one right method of teaching, that there is one right type of teacher, that there is one right way to prepare teachers. Teaching is a complex, complicated, challenging, often contentious, endeavor because those we seek to teach – and the subjects we seek to teach them – are complex and complicated and challenging and, often, contentious. We understand, though, that teacher education creates the foundation that our students build on for the rest of their teaching career rather than hubristically assuming that we can boil teaching down to a set of “one size fits all” approaches that will serve in any situation.


Teacher education programs educate prospective teachers to understand, examine and respond to issues of content, pedagogy, learners and learning. It isn’t an easy job – hence the diversity of approaches and the ongoing assessment of those approaches in teacher education programs around the country. While the foundational principles of education may remain the same, English education programs in New York City are not – and should not be – the same as those in Cheyenne. What my students in West Lafayette, Indiana need to know in order to teach a largely rural population differs from what my colleague’s students in Tampa, Florida need to know in order to teach a largely urban population.


Yet, every day, we in teacher education embrace this difficult task of preparing young men and woman to respond as experienced professionals to every possible combination of factors they will meet in their future classrooms. These regulations trade on the common complaint that many beginning teachers feel unprepared when they first enter the classroom, pointing back to a lack of preparation from their teacher education programs. Solidifying such unproven cause and effect into ill-suited regulation belies the many factors that shape a teacher’s entry into the classroom: the type of school, the level of support, the number of resources, the diversity of student issues in addition to the teacher’s individual abilities, understandings and personality. Assuming that this one factor – how teachers are prepared – contributes to the high rate of teacher turnover is yet another unproven cause and effect. Teachers don’t leave simply because they aren’t prepared well. They leave because political, social and rhetorical conditions in this country destroy their will to teach. And those conditions are now poised to destroy teacher education.


Has it occurred to no one (except educators) that one reason teachers leave the classroom is because many schools have become unpleasant places to be? This has less to do with their preparation – teacher education programs cannot control the factors their students will meet upon entering the classroom – and everything to do with the current climate in this country surrounding teachers and education. Why would anyone want to enter a profession that is continuously attacked, denigrated and demeaned in every public avenue? And, yet, I have students in my college classrooms wanting to do just that. These bright young women and men are cognizant that their choice of career is held in little regard; they understand that they will work long hours for little external reward; they accept that the public will disregard their intelligence, their ability and their commitment in seeking to become English teachers. They want to teach, however, because they want to do something meaningful with their brains and their bodies.


These young college graduates willingly take on an astounding level of responsibility from their very first day in the classroom because, as one of my students wrote recently, “How are we, as future teachers, supposed to challenge our students if we never challenge ourselves?” “Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly. “I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.” “You mean you can’t take LESS,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take MORE than nothing.”


At this point in our country’s history, teachers and teacher educators are doing their best with more of nothing: no public support for their work, no understanding of their professionalism, no recognition of the contributory factors to student learning. That extends to the teacher education programs that prepare them. We work against the fallacy that teacher education at the college level is of little benefit, that sixweek boot camps can prepare anyone for the classroom, that those with no understanding of or background in education are better suited to do our work. The US DOE regulations of teacher education programs cost more time and more money – millions, in fact – while implementing an assessment system in higher education that has proven seriously flawed in the public schools. They assume a reductive approach to teacher preparation that belies the complex factors teacher education programs must navigate to educate their candidates. They dismiss the solid work happening in teacher education programs every day throughout the country in favor of pushing an agenda that neither conforms to reality nor recognizes expertise.


Like Alice, we need to push away from our seat at this table by clearly speaking against the misguided beliefs propelling these regulations. We need to publicly proclaim this party for the madness it is, opposing those who lead it and shaking those who slumber while it happens. We know better, as teacher educators. Every day, we do better, as teacher educators. It’s time we spoke up, as teacher educators, and established that we are better at assessing our students’ abilities as teachers than the measures proffered by these fundamentally flawed regulations.


Respectfully submitted,


Melanie Shoffner, PhD Chair, Conference on English Education

The U.S. Department of Education is accepting comments on its proposed regulations about teacher education until January 2, 2015. These regulations would impose VAM on teacher education. These institutions would be judged by the test scores of the students taught by the graduates of these institutions. Graduates would be incentivized to avoid the neediest students.


Please write today and urge the DOE not to impose discredited junk science on teacher education programs.



This is from the Conference on English Education of the National Council of Teachers of Education.



This document provides an overview of the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations for teacher education programs, a list of points concerned educators, scholars, students and parents might use when drafting a response to the proposed regulations, and information on how and when to deliver a response. The authors of this Call to Action urge the CEE membership, as well as all concerned parties, to submit a response to these regulations immediately.



How to Comment: 1. E-mail by January 2, 2015. 2. Submit comments through the comment portal on the regulations website:


Summary of Proposed Regulations



On December 3, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education proposed a new federal rule to extend accountability measures to teacher education programs.


Under this rule, teacher education programs would be graded based on the employment, placement, and performance of its graduates. Included in the performance ranking is the use of VAM (value added measures), a statistical formula that uses children’s tests scores to demonstrate teacher effectiveness.


These rankings will be used to determine eligibility for federal TEACH grants. The Office of Management & Budget is required to make a decision about the collection of information between 30 and 60 days after the regulations’ publication. For your comments to be fully considered, (1) submit them by email ( or (2) through the comment portal ( by Jan. 2, 2015.



Points to Reiterate in Your Own Words: Too Much Testing



The tests used to create the VAM hinder teaching, learning, and innovation. They diminish the experience of school for teachers and children. They discourage teaching that responds to the child and encourage teaching to the test. Children are defined as data and ranked by test scores.


Flawed Methods, Bad Measures


The methods suggested to rank teacher education programs rely on measures that do not serve children, teachers, or schools. The regulations extend the controversial VAM and standards-based models of K-12 education to higher education. The American Statistical Society discredited the VAM as a valid measure of teacher effectiveness.



Hampers Innovation



Innovation demands risk; regulations demand obedience. By tying university programs to a federal rule, the regulations stifle creative responses to local education needs. Instead of meeting the needs of school systems, teachers, children, and parents, universities will be tied to meeting the standards of regulation, regardless of how those regulations fit the local context. In addition, a federal rule leaves university programs unable to meet new challenges and to adapt to changing conditions. 2 Federal Overreach States already regulate their teacher education programs. The proposed regulations transfer that power to the federal government and use the TEACH grants to enforce that power. This is the definition of federal overreach.



The Hidden Costs



The federal regulations demand data and performance from teacher education programs, but they place the costs of gathering and disseminating that data on states. This is another unfunded mandate from the federal government.



Caricatures of Teacher Education Programs



The report portrays teacher education programs as unaccountable producers of poorly prepared teachers. This portrait understands accountability as a statistical formula. Teacher education programs understand assessment and accountability as an ongoing, varied and supportive effort that focuses on the child as an individual with individual needs and abilities, Teacher education programs prepare many, many excellent teachers every year in an inhospitable climate to public education.



How to Comment: 1. E-mail by January 2, 2015.



2. Submit comments through the comment portal on the regulations website:



Respectfully submitted,



Rebecca Powell, University of Southern Mississippi


Anne Elrod Whitney, Pennsylvania State University


Don Zancanella, University of New Mexico


Melanie Shoffner, CEE Chair, Purdue University





American Statistical Society on VAM


Sharon Robinson, AACTE President programs-are-a-cause-for-concern_18389/


Jane West’s webinar: Preparation-Regulations-for-CEEDAR.pdf


Anne Elrod Whitney’s piece Proposed Regulations Bad for Kids, Teachers, and Schools:

The federal government has been a strong funder of privately managed charter schools since the Presidency of Bill Clinton. The charter movement got a solid boost from his support of what were supposed to be laboratories of innovation, collaborating with public schools.

Until the past decade, the role of the United States Secretary of Education was to improve public education. Since the Presidency of George W. Bush, the federal government has put its massive political and financial weight on the side of privatization. The Bush revisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act–renamed “No Child Left Behind”–created a series of steps that were ruinous to the nation’s public schools. Given the unrealistic mandate that every students in every school must be proficient in reading and math by 2014—a goal met by no state and by no other nation–the public schools were set up for failure. The sanctions for failing to meet this impossible goal were all punitive, no help: firing the staff, closing the school, turning the school into a charter school, state takeover of the school. Not one of the sanctions had any evidence to support its efficacy. Yet both parties went along with a bill whose goal was to undermine, weaken, close, and stigmatize the nation’s public schools. Of course, matters got even worse when Barack Obama was elected and chose Arne Duncan as his Secretary of Education. Duncan hired his key staff from groups (e.g., the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation) that actively promoted privatization and high-stakes testing (that led to privatization). Duncan never lost a chance to bemoan the “mediocrity” and “low expectations” of public schools, or to praise the success of privately managed charters.


In this toxic climate, Congress and the U.S. Department of Education have created numerous financial rewards for those who with to open or expand charter school, thus encouraging the advance of privatization. Make no mistake. This is a historic turn of events in our nation’s education system, away from a public responsibility to a market-based approach to opening and closing schools, with test scores as the only gauge of quality, with indifference to desegregation, and with lessened accountability for charter schools whose owners are politically connected.


Our frequent commentator Laura Chapman has gathered a summary of federal programs that encourage privatization; these grants are enhanced by hundreds of millions of dollars from private foundations, including the Walton (Walmart) Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Dell Foundation, the Arnold Foundation, the Helmsley Foundation, the Fisher Family (the Gap) Foundation, and many more.

Chapman writes:



Corruption in charters is aided and abetted by U.S. Department of Education, directly and indirectly by your taxes and mine.

Investments available in 2014 from USDE, and note that much of this money was authorized in the No Child Left Behind Act.


The USDE 2014 Funding for Charter School Programs (ESEA, Title V, Part B, Subpart 1) Total = $248.1 Million.

1. State Education Agency (SEA) Grants and Non-SEA Grants: (ESEA,Title V, Part B, Subpart 1) $153.9 Million. These Grants are awarded on a competitive basis to SEAs, who in turn, make subgrants to charter schools. But, when SEAs do not apply for or they are denied funding, individual charter schools can apply directly to the USDE. Funding is used to help cover charter school start-up costs.
2. Replication & Expansion Grant. $60.1 Million. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis to non-profit charter management organizations (CMOs) that have demonstrated success, including improved academic achievement.
3. National Leadership Activities Grant (ESEA,Title V, Part B, Subpart 1) $11 Million. Competitive grants fund projects of national significance to improve charter school quality, as well as money to disseminate information about the projects.
4. State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grant (ESEA,Title V, Part B, Subpart 1) $11 Million. Competitive grants to states to help cover charter school facilities costs.
5. Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program (ESEA, Title V, Part B, Subpart 2) $11.9 Million. Competitive grants to public and non-profit entities that enhance the ability of public charter schools to raise private capital to acquire, construct, renovate, or lease academic facilities.
In October,2014 USDE announced grants to 27 charter organizations in 12 states worth $39.7 million.
For Replication and Expansion. Here is one sure to insult New Yorkers: the fabulous Success Academy Charter Schools, for $2,234,500. The biggest overall winner is KIPP for $13,789,074 worth of expansion, and the biggest winner by state is California $26,780,502 followed by Tennessee, $3,112,402
For Planning, Program Design, and Implementation Grants, the biggest winner at $308,270 is the Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation, operator of Gulen charters with issues with scandal documented at .
The big winner by state for start-ups is Washington, with four new charters funded at $1,122,606, about $250.000 per school. Next is Oregon, with three new schools, $692,427 total, Illinois with three, including expansion of the Nobel network already in 12 states and saturating greater Chicago. Total for Illinois-based operations $575,705.


information sources: the following and


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