Politico reports that Jeb Bush won’t back down on Common Core, choice–vouchers, charters, online charters–and the rest of corporate reform that offers huge opportunities for entrepreneurs. It was his conference, and he offered a line-up of star speakers, including Condoleeza Rice, a newly minted education expert who promotes charters and vouchers, and Amanda Ripley.

Rice apparently doesn’t know that vouchers have produced no academic gains in Milwaukee, Cleveland, or D.C.

“- Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio concluded the conference on Thursday night with a wide-ranging discussion about education reform. Rice said the public school system is in and of itself unequal, and defenders of the “status quo are on the defensive.” Critics of school choice like to say that it’s taking money away from public schools, she said. “Well, what can they do? They can get better,” she said to applause. Wealthier families are already sending their children to private school and disadvantaged families are trapped in failing schools, she said. “We need to give parents that wouldn’t otherwise have the means to send their children to a school system that works for them,” Rice said.

- The national summit continues today with a lineup of guests including OECD Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher, New Mexico state education chief Hanna Skandera, Louisiana Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard and author Amanda Ripley. The agenda: http://bit.ly/1zDYtjJ Watch live: http://bit.ly/1F4X74r”

Will Bush’s full-throated support of Common Core hurt him in Republican primaries? Will choice mean anything if every school has the same standards and the same tests?

Peter Greene explains why an all-charter district or state will never succeed. Charters, to the extent that they can get higher scores than public schools, do so by selecting the most desirable students, the ones who are least costly to educate. Charters that are open to all, as public schools are, get the same result. Many charters, even when they cherry pick students, nonetheless get low test scores, for various reasons, such as teacher churn, lack of experience among administrators and teachers, prioritizing profit over education, or incompetence

 

Greene looks at the issue of scalability and predicts that it will never happen and in fact has never happened. New Orleans, the closest thing to an all-charter district, is ranked 65th of 68 districts in Louisiana; most of the charters in the Recovery School District are rated by the state as D or F schools.

 

Greene cites the work of Jersey Jazzman, who has shown in numerous posts that the charters in New Jersey do not serve the same demographics as the public schools. It is not surprising that no charter chain has offered to take over an entire school district, because then they would have to educate all the students, including those with disabilities, English language learners, and kids who misbehave in class.

 

Charters have increased racial segregation, and most charters are more segregated than the district in which they are located. Segregation doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The media will cheer a charter with high scores even if it is 100% African American. The scores are all that matter. And the scores go up to the extent that the charter can choose its students and exclude the ones that don’t get high scores.

 

Greene writes:

 

Plenty of folks have always assumed that this was the end game: a private system for the best and the– well, if not brightest, at least the least poor and problematic– and an underfunded remnant of the public system to warehouse the students that the charter system didn’t want.

 

But those folks may have underestimated the greed, ambition and delusions of some charter backers. “Why stop at the icing,” operators say, “when we can have the whole cake?” And chartercrats like Arne Duncan, with dreams of scaleability dancing in their sugarplum heads, may really think that full-scale charter systems can work because A) they don’t understand that most charter “success” is illusory and B) they don’t know why.

 

It’s telling that while chartercrats are cheering on complete charter conversions for cities from York, PA to Memphis, TN, no charter chains have (as far as I know) expressed a desire to have a whole city to themselves. The preferred model is an urban broker like Tennessee’s ASD or the bureaucratic clusterfarfegnugen that is Philadelphia schools– charter operators can jostle for the juiciest slice of the steak and try to leave the gristle for some other poor sucker.

 

If you are counting on your pension as retirement income, you must read this article.

Wall Street insiders, it says, pumped $300 million into the last election. In return, they get to invest your pension funds. Some of those investments are very risky.

“Illinois, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island all recently elected governors who were previously executives and directors at firms which managed investments on behalf of state pension funds. These firms are now, consequently, in position to obtain even more of these public funds. This alone represents a huge payoff on that $300M investment made by the financial industry, and is likely to result in more pension money going into investments which offer great benefits for Wall Street but do little for the broader economy.

“But Wall Street’s agenda goes beyond any one election cycle. It has been fighting to turn public pensions into private profits for quite some time, steering retirement nest eggs into investments that are complex, charge hefty fees, and that generate big profits for management firms. And it has been succeeding. Of the $3 trillion in public assets currently in pension funds throughout the country, almost a quarter of that has already found its way into so-called “alternative investments” like hedge funds, private equity and real estate. That translates to roughly $660 billion of public money now under private management, invested in assets that are often arcane and opaque but that offer high management and placement fees to Wall Street financiers.”

UNICEF has released its annual report: The State of the World’s Children, 2015.

I was honored to be invited to contribute a chapter. My contribution is one of a large number of stories about how to improve the lives of the world’s children.

You might enjoy reading the report.

Jonathan Pelto of Connecticut has done an amazing job of assembling a network of 200 bloggers and writers who support public education. That number is sure to grow as more parents and educators join the blogosphere.

Jon’s blog “Wait, What?” Is one of the most influential blogs in Connecticut.

Those who seek to privatize our public schools have vast amounts of money (the big foundations created their own blog, funded at $12 million), but we have bloggers and writers who are passionate and dedicated to the democratic role of public schools as a public good that belongs to the public, not corporations.

Jon Pelto writes:

Education Bloggers Network Hits 200 Members

The Education Bloggers Network is an informal confederation of more than 200 bloggers and commentators who are dedicated to supporting public education in the United States and pushing back the corporate education reform industry. While many have their own blogs, some write commentary pieces for local, regional and national newspapers and media outlets. Still others use their Facebook or other platforms to write about education issues.

Like the Committees of Correspondence leading up to America’s War for Independence, education bloggers work alone and in groups to educate, persuade and mobilize parents, teachers, education advocates and citizens to stand up and speak out against those who seek to undermine our public education system, privatize our schools and turn our classrooms into little more than Common Core testing factories.

The Education Bloggers Network was developed in conjunction with the publication and roll-out of Diane Ravitch’s best-selling book, “Reign of Error.”

Over the past two years it has become a vibrant community of advocacy journalists, investigative bloggers and public education activists working to make sure that citizens have accurate and timely information about public education issues at the local, state and federal level.

The Education Bloggers Network is not about controlling editorial content but sharing information, helping bloggers enhance their platforms and provide expanded venues so that their articles garner greater readership.

For example, the Education Bloggers Network works closely with the nationally renowned Progressive Magazine and a number of Network members have their articles and commentary pieces cross-posted to Public School Shakedown a website hosted by the Progressive.

The Education Bloggers Network also works closely with the Network for Public Education, the leading advocacy group, founded by Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, and other pro-public education leaders. The NPE’s mission is to “protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students.”

As Diane Ravitch noted in a post about the Education Bloggers Network, “If you blog and if you support public education as a pillar of our democracy, consider joining the Education Bloggers Network.”

To become part of the Education Bloggers Network contact Jonathan Pelto, the founder and manager of the Network at jonpelto@gmail.com

(A complete directory of the Education Bloggers Network will be available soon)

This is a terrific article by civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker about the madness of our nation’s obsession with standardized testing.

 

She writes:

 

Last year, President Barack Obama committed hundreds of millions of dollars to brain research, stressing the importance of discovering how people think, learn and remember. Given the priority President Obama places on the brain in scientific research, it is sadly ironic that his education policies ignore what science says is good for children’s brains.

It is well known that play is vital in the early grades. Through play, kindergarteners develop their executive function and deepen their understanding of language. These are the cornerstones of successful reading and learning later on.

At-risk children often arrive at school having heard fewer words than more advantaged children. This deficit puts at-risk children behind others in learning to read. Scientists at Northwestern have recently shown that music training in the early years helps the brain improve speech processing in at-risk children.

Scientists at the University of Illinois have demonstrated that physical activity, coupled with downtime, improves children’s cognitive functions.

Scientists have also shown that diversity makes people more innovative. Being exposed to different disciplines broadens a student’s perspective. More importantly, working with a people from different backgrounds increases creativity and critical thinking.

These proven paths to healthy brain development are blocked by Obama’s education policies, the most pernicious of which is the overemphasis on standardized tests.

Despite paying lip service to the perils of over-testing, our leaders have imposed educational policies ensuring that standardized tests dominate schooling. Though standardized tests are invalid to measure teacher performance, the Obama administration insists that students’ standardized test scores be part of teacher evaluation systems. Both under NCLB and the NCLB waivers, schools are rated by standardized test scores. Often, a high school diploma depends at least in part on these tests. When so much rides on a standardized test scores, tests will drive what is taught and learned.

Just last month, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan declared that yearly standardized testing is essential to monitor children’s progress. Setting aside the fact the new Common Core tests have not been proven to show what children learn, data shows that a child who passes a standardized test one year is overwhelmingly likely to pass the next year. Therefore, yearly standardized testing is unnecessary.

 

She adds:

 

The result? More than 10 years of high-stakes test-based education policy under NCLB and the waivers has narrowed curricula. Schools de-emphasize any subject other than language arts and math. In kindergarten, play has all but been eliminated in favor of direct instruction, and social studies, art, music, science, physical education and other subjects are disappearing. School districts at all grade levels are forced to reduce or eliminate these subjects to pay for implementation of the Common Core and its testing regime. Lansing Michigan last year eliminated art, music and physical education from elementary schools and the state of Ohio is considering the same. Recess has disappeared from many schools. The Obama administration promotes policies that increase school segregation yet have questionable educational value, like school choice. Consequently, school segregation continues to rise.

 

If we don’t end our obsession with picking the right bubble, marking the right box, we will ruin the education of a generation of children.

 

 

Horace Meister is a young untenured scholar who writes for this blog.

 

 

He writes:

 

 

Competing narratives underlie the disputes on how to best improve education for all students. On the one hand we have narratives of testing, accountability, and the free market. On the other hand we have narratives of collaboration, social capital, and public goods. Data are often cited in these debates to support one narrative or the other. But there is a dark art to the use of data, an art at which the powerful forces of corporate reform and school districts operating under their paradigm excel.

Let’s take a look at how reformer think tanks and “research” organizations manipulate data and how school districts mimic those strategies. The New York Times editorial page recently gushed over “Michael Bloomberg, who improved graduation rates and college acceptances in poor neighborhoods by shutting down schools that were essentially dropout factories and starting afresh with smaller schools, new teachers and new leadership [1].” The editorial board does not realize or acknowledge that in New York City “student outcomes have not improved compared to similar districts, which did not implement the market-based reforms [2].” The editorial board also does not realize or acknowledge that the MDRC papers, the “research” often cited as supporting the shuttering of community schools and their replacement with small schools of choice, are deeply biased and flawed [3].

Additional flaws and biases with the MDRC “research” can be added to the top 10 list in the piece cited in endnote #3. MDRC seems to have deliberately biased their sample so as to come to conclusions that support the corporate reform approach [4]. MDRC only looked at high schools– ignoring elementary and middle schools that were also subjected to closure and re-opening (and, in some cases, re-closure and re-re-opening). The data show that the new middle schools that opened under Bloomberg performed worse than the older middle schools, when controlling for student need [5]. The data also show that of “154 public elementary and middle schools that have opened since Mayor Bloomberg took office, nearly 60% had passing rates that were lower than older schools with similar poverty rates [6].”

MDRC only studies new small high schools that opened up by 2008, the very years during which the new small high schools were allowed to exclude special education students and English Language Learners. By now they could have added to their sample additional student cohorts, but they have not. Due to threats of a lawsuit since 2008 new small schools are no longer officially permitted to exclude students [7]. Does MDRC know that without this “competitive advantage” the new small school data wouldn’t look so good? When a purportedly objective “research” organization manages to exclude entire categories of schools and when including the excluded schools would lead to a more objective and less positive evaluation of a policy, we are witnessing the dark art of data manipulation.

MDRC did not consider alternative hypotheses, a basic requirement of the scientific method as taught by every science teacher. So let’s consider an alternative hypothesis for the editorial board of the New York Times. Here is the hypothesis: “Large community high schools and large high schools of choice have better student outcomes than other high schools serving similar students.” Indeed the data support this hypothesis [8]. The New York City Department of Education produces report cards that evaluate schools on their “peer percent of range.” According to this data the largest high schools in New York City, those serving over 2,000 students, outperform peers by +14.7% on weighted graduation rate (a metric that takes into account the quality of the diploma such as whether or not it is Regents-endorsed or an advanced Regents diploma) and by +20.1% on college readiness [9].

Rather than favoring certain types of schools over others and forcing schools to compete with one another, as Bloomberg did and the New York Times editorial board wants to continue, let’s have schools collaborate and work together in an equitable policy environment [10]. This approach to creating great schools is supported by the (non-manipulated) data [11].

Unfortunately, school districts operating under the corporate reform paradigm do not want to follow such an approach. Instead they manipulate data in ways that are biased towards their ideological agenda. As we just saw, large high schools in New York City do a great job on college and career readiness metrics. This must have put Bloomberg’s Department of Education in a bind. They had all the data showing that the large high schools were outperforming their peers in college and career readiness, an important part of what high schools are all about. But they couldn’t allow the new small high schools created under Bloomberg to look bad. So when including college and career readiness metrics in the school report cards they only allowed them to count as 10% of the total school grade (and not 20% or 25% or 30%– percentages that would seem more important given the importance of college and career readiness). This minimized the negative effect that these metrics would have on the grades of schools created under Bloomberg [12].

This sort of manipulation is not uncommon. Corporate reform school districts believe in privatization and charter schools. So they do not address how creaming and the sky-high attrition rates at many charter schools explains their “results [13].” They believe in accountability and evaluating schools. So they grade schools using metrics that are deeply flawed and penalize schools that serve the neediest students [14]. They believe in accountability and testing. So they pretend not to manipulate cut-scores on exams for political ends [15].

Next time you see data cited, even it is from your own school district, question it.

 

 

 

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/01/opinion/when-to-shut-down-failingōschools.html

[2] http://dianeravitch.net/2013/12/20/tweed-insider-where-the-bloomberg-administration-went-wrong-on-education/

[3] http://dianeravitch.net/2014/10/23/are-small-high-schools-the-magic-bullet/

[4] The following criticisms are aimed solely at the MDRC claim that the portfolio strategy as employed by the Bloomberg administration was a success. Small schools, if implemented fairly in an equitable policy environment, may provide a level of personalization and support that is valuable for many students. Large schools can also offer personalization and support through smaller structures such as academies or advisories. But this is a topic distinct from the specific one discussed here.

[5] http://www.edwize.org/new-middle-schools-same-old-challenges

[6] http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bloomberg-new-schools-failed-thousands-city-students-article-1.1119406#ixzz21NV9BDG3

[7] http://www.advocatesforchildren.org/Empty%20Promises%20Report%20%206-16-09.pdf?pt=1

[8] http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/7E390ED1-1689-4381-BF70-E228840E5589/0/2012_2013_HS_PR_Results_2014_01_16.xlsx

[9] The high schools with over 2,000 students run the full gamut, from community high schools that serve all local students to selective high schools where admission is based on exams to comprehensive high schools serving students who choice-in from across the city. The Bloomberg administration tried to close some of these schools. The peer percent of range metric is designed to compare each school only to other schools serving students of comparable incoming performance and demographics.

[10] http://dianeravitch.net/2014/05/02/a-triumphant-return-to-professionalism-in-new-york-city/

[11] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/opinion/sunday/the-secret-to-fixing-bad-schools.html?pagewanted=all

[12] Note that this strategy of developing metrics in such a way that they favor specific school types and policies is distinct from the outright corruption of Tony Bennett, the former Indiana education commissioner, who changed the grades of individual schools. https://will.illinois.edu/news/story/former-indiana-superintendent-feels-heat-of-grading-scandal

[13] http://dianeravitch.net/2014/08/28/beware-the-charter-attrition-game/

[14] http://withabrooklynaccent.blogspot.com/2014/01/corporate-reform-versus-child-centered.html

[15] http://withabrooklynaccent.blogspot.com/2014/03/on-misuse-of-statistics-in-testing-by.html

Peter Greene noted that Minneapolis followed the terrible examples of Los Angeles in 2010 and New York City in 2012 and published teachers’ value-added ratings in the newspapers for all to see. Even Bill Gates objected to this practice and said in a New York Times article that it would harm the relationship between supervisors and teachers to publish job ratings in the paper. Gates said that publishing VAM scores was an act of “public shaming” and no good would come of it.

 

Greene writes:

 

As promised, this morning brought the publishing of teacher ratings, including VAM scores, with a map and a pearl-clutching interview with the district’s superintendent. The gap is shocking, alarming, inexplicable.

 

I’m speaking of course of the apparent gap between Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s brain and reality. How does somebody with this gigantic an inability to process data end up as a superintendent of a major school system?

 

Superintendent Johnson is shocked– shocked!!– to find that under this evaluation system, it turns out that all the worst teachers are working in all the poorest schools! Hmmm– the poorest schools have the worst results. What’s the only possible explanation? Teachers!! [Pause for the sound of me banging my head on the desk.]

 

“It’s alarming that it took this to understand where teachers are,” Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson said Friday. “We probably knew that, but now have the hard evidence. It made me think about how we need to change our staffing and retention.”

 

No, Superintendent Johnson. What’s alarming is that you don’t understand a damn thing.

 

Here’s what you have “discovered.” If you rip the roof off a classroom, the teachers that you send to teach in that classroom will get wet when it rains. You cannot “fix” that by changing the teacher.

 

But apparently that’s the solution being considered. “Okay,” says Superintendent Johnson. “Over here we have teachers who stay dry and their students stay dry, so we’ll put this dry teacher in the classroom without a roof and have a dry teacher for the wet rooms. That’ll fix it.”

 

And Superintendent Johnson appears willing to go further. “Maybe we just need to fire the wet teachers and replace them with new, dry ones,” she may be thinking. [Sound of me banging my head against the concrete slab of my basement floor.]

 

If you want a dry teacher in the room, build a damn roof on it.

 

Look. Look look look look look. We already know that poverty absolutely correlates with test results. Show me your tests results and I will show you where your low-income students are. Poverty and lack of resources and underfunding put these students in a classroom without a roof, and anybody you put in there with them will be a wet teacher.

 

Build a damn roof.

 

Minneapolis public school officials say they are already taking immediate action to balance schools’ needs with teachers’ abilities. The district has created programs to encourage effective instructors to teach at high-needs schools and mentor the newest teachers. District officials say they are providing immediate training for teachers who are deficient. And last year, the district fired more than 200 teachers, roughly 6 percent of its teaching staff.

 

Wrong. All wrong. In fact, worse than wrong, because you are now in the position of saying, “Hey, over here we have a room with no roof on it, and if you teach in there and get wet when it rains, we intend to punish you. Now– who wants to volunteer to teach in the roofless room?? Also, we’ll probably smear your good name in the local paper, too. Any takers?”

 

And to the students, sitting in that roofless room day after day, shivering and wet as poverty and lack of resources and insufficient materials and neglect by the central office rain down on them, this sends a terrible message. “We know you are sick and wet in your roofless room,” says the district. “So we are not sending a roof or even ponchos or an umbrella. We’re not going to spend a cent more on you. We’re just going to stand a different teacher up in front of you, to see if she gets wet when it rains.”

 

 

Matthew Tully of the Indianapolis Star calls on Republicans to stop their war against state Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Ritz was elected in 2012, handiy beating incumbent Tony Bennett despite his 10-1 spending advantage. Since her election, the Republican Governor Mike Pence and Legislature and state board have done everything possible to undercut Ritz. Pence even created a rival education agency to bypass Ritz and the state education department.

Now the Governor and Legislature want to abolish her office, nullify the election, and turn the position into a gubernatorial appointment.

Matthew Tully says this is ill-advised. He favors an appointed office but thinks it would be wrong to do it in the current climate. She was elected fair and square. She got more votes than Governor Pence.

“Such a move would infuriate educators and others across the state and worsen what has been a toxic period in state education policy. It would be a slap in the face to voters who elected a Democratic superintendent in 2012, one who many GOP bosses, and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s leaders, do not like….

“If you think the debate has been ugly of late — with state Board of Education meetings topping anything you’d find in a room full of sugared-up preschoolers — imagine what would happen if already frustrated educators and their supporters statewide see their votes steamrolled by a Republican legislative supermajority.

“Any benefit would be greatly overwhelmed by the ill will the move would inspire, and by the message it would send. In a state where no leaders are calling for the appointment of currently elected (and Republican-held) offices like treasurer and auditor, this would be a straight-up bully move. And it would backfire in a bad way on Republicans by giving the same voters who worked so hard against Bennett in 2012 a reason to get motivated for 2016.

“Yes, the change would likely guarantee fewer of the fights we’ve seen between Gov. Pence’s education appointees and Ritz’s office. And, yes, it would allow the state to have greater alignment at the top when it comes to setting an education vision. But that’s all worthless if the people on the ground — Indiana’s teachers — feel abused, and if voters feel betrayed”

“Anyone who thinks Indiana’s schools can be improved in any real way without the buy-in of its educators is living in a policy bubble and not a classroom.”

The first-grade teachers at Skelly Elementary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, sent a letter home to parents to describe the over testing of their children.

 

They explained their professional qualifications, then listed the many tests the children are expected to take, stealing time from instruction.

 

Unfortunately, in the recent years, the mandates have gradually squelched the creativity and learning from our classrooms. The problem is that we are having to spend WAY too much time on formal assessments. All of the testing is required and some of it is classified as High Stakes Testing (HST). A high-stakes test is any test used to make important decisions about students, educators, schools, or districts, most commonly for the purpose of accountability—i.e., the attempt by federal, state, or local government agencies and school administrators to ensure that students are enrolled in effective schools and being taught by effective teachers. In general, “high stakes” means that test scores are used to determine punishments (such as sanctions, penalties, funding reductions, negative publicity), accolades (awards, public celebration, positive publicity), advancement (grade promotion or graduation for students), or compensation (salary increases or bonuses for administrators and teachers). (Glossary of Education Reform, 2014)

 

This year, in first grade, your child is being asked to participate in the following assessments:

 

Literacy First Assessment: This takes anywhere from 40 minutes to over an hour per student to administer. This is a one-on-one assessment that is to be conducted quarterly or more for progress monitoring.

 

“Where to Start Word List”: This assessment correlating to the F&P screening. The purpose of this screening is to level each child and ensure they are given reading instruction on their level. After going through the word lists, then the child is screened using a book on the assigned level. This assessment is done quarterly or as needed to progress monitor. It takes 20-30 minutes per child is also a one-on-one assessment.

 

Eureka Math: Children are to be given a whole group, 60 minute math lesson that has an “exit ticket” assessment at the end of each lesson. Yes, they want first graders testing daily over the lessons. This exit ticket is not long, but it still takes time. It equilibrates to daily testing for 6 and 7 year old children. This math curriculum also had a mid-module assessment and end of unit assessment.

 

iRead: iRead is a software program that the district requires children to be on for 20 minutes a day. It comes with an abundance of software issues and frustrations. The district has been working diligently on trying to get this programming to run successfully, but so far, to no avail. Part of this computer based program is a literacy screener. This screening takes place at the beginning of the year, and last 30-45 minutes per child.

 

MAP: Map is a computer based test that was designed as a tool for progress monitoring students in both math and literacy. This is the High Stakes Test that the district also utilizes for our teacher evaluations. It is completely developmentally inappropriate and does not provide valid data in the early childhood domain.

 

All of these tests, plus assessments that we utilize to document their understanding of certain content, are going on in your child’s first grade classroom. I believe you are getting the point… assessments, assessments, assessments! In our classrooms the children spend, on average, 1,510 minutes (25 hours) completing assessments. 720 minutes of those assessments are one-on-one. That means that we are tied up assessing students for at least 17, 280 minutes a school year. Your children are losing 288 hours of time with their teacher because of mandated testing. When you break down our days and count for specials, lunch, and recess, we end up with about 4 hours of instruction time. So, 288 instructional hours, or 72 days… yes, 72 days of our school year we, as teachers, are tied up assessing students with the mandated assessments. Why are our schools failing? Why are children not learning how to read? We think the numbers above answer those questions.

 

This is what it looks like when teachers stand up for their students.

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