Lloyd Lofthouse, a regular commentator on this blog, has written a succinct history of public education, bullet points that show the good and the bad, as well as the recent efforts by billionaires to destroy public education.
Iris Rotberg, Research Professor of Education Policy at George Washington Policy, critiques the endless search for the silver bullet that will close the test score gaps among children from low-income and high-income groups.
In 2009, a study claimed that attendance at a charter school in New York Cityfor several years would virtually close that gap. We now know, Rotberg shows, that this was an exaggeration and in fact, based on the latest state tests, untrue.
She predicts that Common Core will turn out to be yet another distraction.
“The supporters and opponents of the Common Core are now engaged in an escalating debate about whether the Common Core will strengthen U.S. education or, instead, become a dangerous intrusion by the federal government to control the content of the curriculum. Most likely, as in the case of previous reforms of curriculum standards, it will turn out to be irrelevant to any real change in the opportunities available to low-income students, and it is certainly unlikely to become the silver bullet that narrows the achievement gap.
“It is often assumed that the Common Core’s emphasis on reasoning will make it difficult to cram for and, therefore, test preparation will no longer be useful. That is the claim initially made by the College Board when cram courses were first used to prepare for university entrance exams (College Entrance Examination Board, 1965). The SAT, GRE, LSAT, and MCAT all emphasize inductive and deductive reasoning, yet affluent families figured out how to cope: They spent thousands of dollars on their children’s cram courses or tutors because they saw that the preparation was effective in raising test scores. If we continue to reward and punish teachers based on the test scores of their students—even if these scores are based on Common Core tests—educators in low-income communities will continue to have little choice but to narrow the curriculum to give more time for test preparation. Rather than reducing the achievement gap, the risk is that the Common Core test, like those that preceded it, will lead to fewer opportunities for children in high-poverty communities. And the rhetoric surrounding it will continue to detract attention from the policies needed to address the societal inequities that have led to the achievement gap.”
“It has been argued that to critique current policies is equivalent to saying that nothing can be done for low-income children. Just the opposite: we know that economic, social, and educational policies in areas of employment and wages, taxation, housing, health, school integration, school finance, and access to higher education can be effective in addressing the fundamental problems of poverty. Meanwhile, however, we can work to ensure that our current policies do not make matters worse for the most vulnerable students.”
K12 Inc. is a for-profit virtual charter school chain that trades on the New York Stock Exchange. It was founded by Michael Milken and Lloyd Milken. It is funded with taxpayer dollars. It advertises and recruits heavily to keep enrollment up. It has a high attrition rate.
Its cash-cow operation is the Ohio Virtual Academy. Look for significant lobbying in New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, Kentucky and New York, according to the investor conference call.
I don’t know about you, but I had a hard time reading this transcript. They might just as well have been discussing a corporation that sells tires, toothpaste, bundled mortgages, or manure. These guys are profiting from taxpayer dollars that are supposed. To pay for public schools, for bands, for nurses, for guidance counselors, for reduced class sizes, for libraries. They are taking money away from real instruction, real children, real schools. Have they no sense of shame? Would any of the investors on this call put their own children in a K12 virtual charter school? Bet not. Bet their kids are in really nice suburban schools or elite private schools.Not sitting in front of a computer and calling it a “school.” It’s not. It’s a business, and the kids it recruits don’t get an education.
NOTE: I just learned that I am allowed to quote only 400 words from the transcript, so accordingly, I will count 400 words and delete what remains.
RISK FACTORS (Page 33-48)
“We generate significant revenues from two virtual public schools, and the termination, revocation, expiration or modification of our contracts with these virtual public schools could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operation.
“In fiscal year 2013, we derived approximately 11% and 14% of our revenues, respectively, from the Ohio Virtual Academy and the Agora Cyber Charter School in Pennsylvania. In aggregate, these schools accounted for approximately 25% of our total revenues. If our contracts with either of these virtual public schools are terminated, the charters to operate either of these schools are not renewed or are revoked, enrollments decline substantially, funding is reduced, or more restrictive legislation is enacted, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.
“Note at a k12, inc investor conference call on 10/9 the company addressed the loss of the management agreement for Agora Cyber Charter School in PA. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/01/charter-schools-k12_n_5914580.html
“The school will continue to use the k12, inc curriculum, but will self-manage.
Here is the transcript of the investor conference call. Grab your vomit bag.
K12, Inc., 2015 Guidance/Update Call, Oct 09, 2014
Oct. 9, 2014 3:30 PM ET | About: K12 Inc. (LRN)
K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN)
October 09, 2014 8:30 am ET
Mike Kraft – Vice President of Investor Relations
Nathaniel Alonzo Davis – Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
James J. Rhyu – Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President
Timothy L. Murray – President and Chief Operating Officer
Jeffrey P. Meuler – Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division
Corey Greendale – First Analysis Securities Corporation, Research Division
Jason P. Anderson – Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division
Trace A. Urdan – Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division
Sou Chien – BMO Capital Markets Canada
Greetings, and welcome to the K12 Inc. Guidance Conference Call for Fiscal Year 2015. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to your host, Mike Kraft, Vice President of Finance. Please go ahead, sir.
Mike Kraft – Vice President of Investor Relations
Thank you, and good morning. Welcome to K12’s Fiscal Year 2015 Guidance Conference Call. Before we begin, I would like to remind you that in addition to historical information, certain comments made during this conference call may be considered forward-looking statements made pursuant to the Safe Harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and should be considered in conjunction with cautionary statements contained in our guidance release in the company’s periodic filings with the SEC.
Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that may cause actual performance or results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such statements.
In addition, this conference call contains time-sensitive information that reflects management’s best analysis only as of the day of this live call. K12 does not undertake any obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements.
For further information concerning risks and uncertainties that could materially affect financial and operating performance and results, please refer to our reports filed with the SEC, including, without limitation, cautionary statements made in K12’s 2014 Annual Report on Form 10-K. These filings can be found on the Investor Relations section of our website at http://www.k12.com.
This call is open to the public and is being webcast. The call will be available for replay on our website for 60 days.
With me on today’s call is Nate Davis, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman; Tim Murray, President and Chief Operating Officer; and James Rhyu, Chief Financial Officer. Following our prepared remarks, we will answer any questions you may have.
I would now like to turn the call over to Nate. Nate?
Nathaniel Alonzo Davis – Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Thank you, Mike. Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us on the call today. We wanted to provide you with an update on our fiscal year 2015 count date enrollment as well as a guidance for the first quarter and for the full year.
Today’s guidance is a reflection of the trends in the markets that I outlined during our fourth quarter earnings call. Specifically, we saw a couple of our charter schools deciding to self manage their online learning programs. We’re also seeing more traditional school districts offering their own full-time online programs, along with supplemental learning options and online summer courses.
Education is evolving for the better, and families today have more choices in choosing full-time or part time virtual programs for their child. We believe that overall demand for virtual options in education is increasing, and this is translated into stronger demand for our institutional group, Fuel Education or FuelEd, which provides content and curriculum to school districts as well as private and charter school operators. At the same time, these market dynamics have also created a challenge to enrolling students in our traditional managed programs. And to help you understand this transition, we’re providing new guidance on student enrollment and revenue to clearly outline how K12 is participating in the growth of online learning use in public school classrooms.
Student enrollment and revenue data will now be provided for Managed and Non-managed Programs. Managed Programs are where K12 provides substantially all of the administration and education program management for an online program. Non-managed Programs include schools where K12 is the primary provider of content and technology and we may even provide instruction, management or other educational services, but K12 is not providing primary administrative oversight for the virtual school program.
And as you can see from the data we provided in this morning’s release, the 4.7% reduction in student enrollment from managed schools reflects this new market dynamic. It also reflects the events in Tennessee, where the state imposed an arbitrary enrollment cap midway through the enrollment season; and in Colorado, where our school partner took longer than expected to finalize their charter and subsequently, the curriculum contract with K12. We believe that enrollment in these 2 states were impacted by over 4,000 students this season. Also, this year, K12, in collaboration with the school boards we serve, made a concerted effort to keep students enrolled only if they were truly engaged and ready to learn, which also affected Managed Program enrollments.
Our partners are serious about running high-quality charter schools, with students who realize this is hard work. And they want to succeed by putting in the work. And while this is slow to growth in the near term, it better matches students to our core curriculum strengths and improves our reputation as a firm who is serious about providing high-quality education.
Even with the market evolution that’s beginning to unfold, we continue to see strong demand in Managed Public Schools. This year, we saw solid growth in select markets, including Texas, Michigan, Florida and Georgia. And at some point, we believe states like New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, Kentucky and New York will become states that allow online charter schools, although these states could take quite some time before opening up.
We will also attempt to be one of the educational management organizations chosen in North Carolina as that market commences an online charter trial next year.
[NOTE: I deleted the remainder of the conference call to abide by the guidelines of the company that supplied the transcript. It was hard to know which words count towards the 400 permissible, like instructions, the operator’s comments, the names of participants, etc. I cut copiously.]
Robert Reich clearly explains the importance of poverty on educational achievement.
He writes (see his article for the links to sources):
“American kids are getting ready to head back to school. But the schools they’re heading back to differ dramatically by family income.
“Which helps explain the growing achievement gap between lower and higher-income children.
“Thirty years ago, the average gap on SAT-type tests between children of families in the richest 10 percent and bottom 10 percent was about 90 points on an 800-point scale. Today it’s 125 points.
“The gap in the mathematical abilities of American kids, by income, is one of widest among the 65 countries participating in the Program for International Student Achievement.
“On their reading skills, children from high-income families score 110 points higher, on average, than those from poor families. This is about the same disparity that exists between average test scores in the United States as a whole and Tunisia.
“The achievement gap between poor kids and wealthy kids isn’t mainly about race. In fact, the racial achievement gap has been narrowing.
“It’s a reflection of the nation’s widening gulf between poor and wealthy families. And also about how schools in poor and rich communities are financed, and the nation’s increasing residential segregation by income.”
Because property taxes supply about 42% of school funding, schools in poor neighborhoods never have the resources of SCHOLS in affluent communities. Many states cut their school budgets since the Great Recession of 2008-09 and never restored what they cut. In poor communities, the schools must make do with larger classes, a narrowed curriculum, and often no arts or librarians, and not enough social workers, guidance counselors, psychologists, teaching assistants, and other support staff. And of course, despite their tight budgets, they must spend more on testing and test preparation.
Reich points out, “The wealthiest highest-spending districts are now providing about twice as much funding per student as are the lowest-spending districts, according to a federal advisory commission report. In some states, such as California, the ratio is more than three to one.”
“As a result of all this, the United States is one of only three, out of 34 advanced nations surveyed by the OECD, whose schools serving higher-income children have more funding per pupil and lower student-teacher ratios than do schools serving poor students (the two others are Turkey and Israel).
“Other advanced nations do it differently. Their national governments provide 54 percent of funding, on average, and local taxes account for less than half the portion they do in America. And they target a disproportionate share of national funding to poorer communities.
“As Andreas Schleicher, who runs the OECD’s international education assessments, told the New York Times, “the vast majority of OECD countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.”
The U.S, under the complementary policies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, pretends that more and more testing will improve achievement, but after nearly 15 years of high-stakes accountability, it should be obvious that these policies have failed.
The U.S., encouraged by President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and a bipartisan mix of governors and legislatures, imagines that school choice–charters and vouchers–will close the achievement gaps and compensate for the unequal funding of schools in poor and affluent neighborhoods. No other nation in the world is pursuing so foolish a path. If anything, school choice exacerbates segregation, and there is no evidence that it leads to better education for the nearly one-quarter of the nation’s children who live in poverty. Advocates of choice point to anecdotes, to one school, or one charter chain, to show that they did get higher test scores, but no one can identify an entire school district where choice has obliterated the effects of poverty. Even the anecdotal evidence of a successful charter, charter chain, or voucher school has to be carefully scrutinized for attrition and other statistical legerdemain.
One need not be cynical to conclude that choice through charters and vouchers has become a means by which wealthy and powerful policy elites change the subject and avoid talking about inequality of resources. To quote Reich, “Money isn’t everything, obviously. But how can we pretend it doesn’t count? Money buys the most experienced teachers, less-crowded classrooms, high-quality teaching materials, and after-school programs.”
There is no way around the conclusion that poor kids need what affluent kids expect and get: smaller classes, experienced teachers, well-resourced classrooms, beautiful facilities, after-school programs, medical care, and a full curriculum.
JOIN US FOR THE FIRST PUBLIC EDUCATION NATION ON OCTOBER 11!
NBC has abandoned its annual “education nation” funded by Gates and featuring the leaders of privatization and high-stakes testing.
Now is our hour! We are here for you! We are here for the millions of students, teachers, parents, and administrators who are part of public education. We are here permanently. We are not going away.
Coming Saturday, Oct.11
PUBLIC Education Nation
Panel #1: Testing & the Common Core
Just Two Weeks Away! The first-ever PUBLIC Education Nation
This time we own the table, and we will bring together educators, parents and students to tell the truth about what is happening in our schools, and what real reform ought to be all about.
Next Sunday, October 5, will be our major money bomb online fundraiser for the event. This is NOT sponsored by the Gates, Bloomberg or Walton foundations – it is sponsored by US – each and every person who cares about the future of public education. Please donate here, and spread the word.
If you are in the New York area, and would like to attend the October 11 event in person, please show up by 11:30 am at 610 Henry St at Brooklyn New School/Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, and register here in advance. You can also sign up for the online event on Facebook here.
Follow us on Twitter at @PublicEdNation & @NetworkPublicEd
Panel #1: Testing & the Common Core
One of the highlights of the event will be the very first panel,
Testing and the Common Core, which will be moderated by New York’s high school Principal of the Year, Carol Burris. Burris has written extensively about equity in schools and the impact of the Common Core, and will bring her many years as an educator to the table. She will be joined by the following education experts:
Alan A. Aja, Ph.D. is the Assistant Professor & Deputy Chair of the Department of Puerto Rican & Latino Studies in Brooklyn College. His research examines race, gender and class disparities between and among Latino and African American communities; immigration/education policy; social and economic segregation; sustainable development and collective action/unionization. Before academia, Aja worked as a labor organizer in Texas, an environmental researcher in Cuba, a human rights organizer in Argentina and in a refugee hostel in London. He is a public school parent and elected member of the SLT (School Leadership Team) of PS264 in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Dr. Aja will discuss the impact of common core aligned testing in New York, Kentucky and other states on marginalized communities, with attention to blacks, Latinos, ELLs, special ed/learning and disability students. He will present the early evidence to demonstrate that the Common Core and its testing is not resulting in the closing of the achievement gap, but may, instead be leaving disadvantaged students even further behind. He will also discuss alternative ways to increase student and school performance.
Rosa L. Rivera-McCutchen, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at CUNY’s Lehman College. She began her career in education as a high school teacher in the Bronx.Her research examines the theory and practice of leadership in small schools in urban settings in order to create socially just and equitable schools for Black and Latino students. Dr. Rivera-McCutchen’s research has appeared in an edited book entitled Critical small schools: Beyond privatization in New York City urban educational reform.
Dr. Rivera McCutchen will focus on the moral imperative of leading for social justice in the face of CCSS and high-stakes testing. She will highlight the challenges leaders face in resisting, and focus on the strategies that leaders have used in mounting successful campaigns of resistance.
Takiema Bunche Smith is the Vice President of Education and Outreach at Brooklyn Kindergarten Society (BKS), where she oversees educational programming and outreach initiatives at five preschools located in low-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York. In both her professional and personal life, Ms. Bunche Smith is involved in various advocacy efforts that relate to early childhood care and education funding and policy, and the push-back against the overemphasis on high stakes testing in public schools. She has been a classroom teacher, teacher educator, content director for Sesame Street, and director of curriculum and instruction. She attended NYC public schools for 3rd-12th grade and is now a public school parent and member of the SLT at Brooklyn New School.
Ms. Bunche Smith will discuss the early childhood education implications of the Common Core and how it affects schools, students and parents. She will discuss various parent perspectives on the Common Core as well as critically highlight those who are not part of the conversation around Common Core.
On Saturday, Oct. 11, you can tune in online here at SchoolhouseLive.org to the live broadcast starting at 12 noon Eastern time, 9 am Pacific time.
The event will conclude with a conversation between Diane Ravitch and Jitu Brown.
The Network for Public Education is hosting this event. It is NOT sponsored by the Gates, Walton or Bloomberg foundations. It is sponsored by YOU, each and every one of the people who care about our children’s future.
Can you make a small donation to help us cover the expense of this event? We are determined to create the space not ordinarily given to voices like these. But we need your participation. Please donate by visiting the NPE website and clicking on the PayPal link.
A live-stream of the event will be available on Saturday, Oct. 11, starting at Noon Eastern time, 9 am Pacific time at http://www.schoolhouselive.org.
Support The Network for Public Education
The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society. Our mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students.
Over the past year, donations to The Network for Public Education helped us put on out first National Conference – an incredible success. In the coming year, we will hold more events, webinars, and work on the issues that our members and donors care about the most!
To become a Member or to Make a Donation, go to the NPE website and click on the PayPal link. We accept donations using PayPal, the most trusted site used to make on-line payments.
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Wow! This post will knock your socks off, unless you work for the U.S. Department of Education. The post was written by Mark NAISON, one of the co-founders of the BATs. (I don’t know why, but my iPad always converts Mark’s last name into all-caps.)
The Badass Teachers Association held a rally outside the U.S. Department of Education on July 28, and several were invited to meet with staff at the Office of Civil Rights to air their grievances and see if they could find common ground. After some talk, some of which was contentious, Arne Duncan dropped in unexpectedly and joined the conversation, but said he would talk about only two subjects:
“Secretary Duncan after introducing himself, and saying that he could only stay for a few minutes, asked for two things; first if we could articulate our concerns about the Department’s policies on dealing with Special needs students, and secondly, if Shoneice and Asean could step out with him to talk about what was going on in Chicago.
“In response to his first comment, Marla Kilfoyle started speaking about her concerns about Department from her standpoint of the parent of a special needs student as well as a teacher. She said it appeared that Department policies were forcing school districts to disregard individual student IEP’s and exposing special needs students to inappropriate and abusive levels of testing.
“Secretary Duncan deflected her remarks by saying that the Department was concerned that too many children of color were being inappropriately diagnosed as being Special Needs children and that once they were put in that category they were permanently marginalized. He then said “We want to make sure that all students are exposed to a rigorous curriculum.”
“At that point, I interrupted him in a very loud voice and said “ We don’t like the word ‘rigor.” We prefer to talk about creativity and maximizing students potential.”
“Secretary Duncan was somewhat taken aback by my comments. He said “ we might disagree about the language, but what I want is for all students to be able to take advanced placement courses or be exposed to an IB (International Baccalaureat) curriculum.
“At this point, Larry Proffitt interrupted the Secretary and said that in Tennessee, Special Needs students were being abused and humiliated by abusive and inappropriate testing and that their teachers knew this, and were afraid to speak out.
“We were clearly at an impasse here, which the Secretary dealt with by saying he had to leave and asking Shoneice and Asean to step into the hall with him and continue the conversation.”
This is a small part of a fascinating report on the BATs meeting at the DOE. When people ask me why I support them, I say, “They speak truth to power.” Here is the proof. Too many educators are docile and compliant. They are not.
Please read the whole post.
Do you think that Arne Duncan really believes that the greatest need of students with disabilities is access to rigorous AP and IB courses?
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?
John Stocks, the executive director of the NEA, voiced the anger and frustration that so many of the members are feeling. He gave a rip-roaring speech. But, sadly, he did not mention the perfidy of the Obama administration or the duplicitous role of the Gates Foundation in undermining the teaching profession.
Here is a high point:
“We’re frustrated by the barrage of bad ideas from so-called education “reformers” ….
We’re worried by the assaults on our individual rights … and our collective rights to organize.
And we’re angry because many of the people behind these attacks are questioning our integrity and our commitment to our students.
Our opponents want to do more than just wear us down. They want to destroy and dismantle our public schools.
You might be wondering… why in the world would they want to do that?
Why would they want to tear down the institution that built the economic engine of the world?
Why would they slam-shut “the door to opportunity” for millions and millions of Americans?
Why destroy an institution that created the middle class in our country?
… that gave Americans from all walks of life a sense of common purpose and destiny ….
These are big questions…. And, frankly, they all have a simple answer: money.
That’s right — money.
WE look at public education as an investment in our children and our country … a down payment on a brighter future.
But THEY see the dollars that are spent on public education, and they wonder how they can grab a fistful.
It’s not hard to connect the dots when you look at all the ways they reap their profits:
Testing and more testing
Privatizing food… custodial… and transportation services
Vouchers that siphon resources from public schools to private ones, and
For-profit companies that are privatizing our schools and threatening the greatest higher education system in the world.
So, yes, some people have a very clear financial motive for wanting to dismantle public education.
But it’s not just their motives that make me angry…. It’s the fact that their policies are BAD for students… and BAD for educators.
Policies that prioritize testing over teaching… that label and punish … and that completely disregard the important role that experience plays in effective teaching and learning.”
Whose policies “prioritize testing over teaching?” NCLB and Race to the Top. But he didn’t say that.
Whose policies demand that teachers be labeled and punished if their students don’t get higher scores? The Obama administration. Whose money funds the economists who claim that test scores are the true measure of education? Bill Gates.
But he didn’t say that.
When you dare not say the name of your oppressor, you show weakness and fear at a time when courage and fortitude are needed.
John Stocks has it in him to say and do the right thing. He knows. Let him lead.
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.