Anthony Cody <a href=”http://www.livingindialogue.com/pillars-reform-collapsing-reformers-contemplate-defeat that the so-called “reform movement” is collapsing. None of its strategies work.

1. TFA is having recruitment problems. Applications are down 25%. Criticism is coming from ex-corps members who realize they were ill-prepared.

2. Charter schools are no panacea, and many are struggling, even failing.

“But now charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate. Their plan is to “serve the strivers,” and let the rest flounder in an ever-more-burdened public system. The states where regulations are weakest, like Ohio, have charters that perform worse than the public schools, and even the self-described fan of free-markets, Margaret Raymond, lead researcher at CREDO, recently concluded that using market choice to improve schools has failed. In the state of Washington, where Bill Gates and other reform titans spent millions to pass a law allowing charter schools there, the first charter school to open is struggling to stay afloat, having suffered massive staff turnover in its first year. How ironic that 13 years after the corporate reformers labeled their flagship of reform “No Child Left Behind,” that now their leaders are left defending leaving behind the very children they claimed their project would save.”

3. The new and improved tests the reformers promised are not working well and are creating massive parental resistance.

4. VAM is not working anywhere.

5. Constant disruption may not be such a good strategy after all.

Cody sagely writes:

“It is perhaps a basic truth that it is easier to tear something down than to build something new. This may explain some of the trouble reformers are facing. Our schools are flawed in many ways, and do not deliver the sorts of opportunities we want all children to have access to. Racial and economic segregation, inequitable funding, and the replication of privilege are endemic — though truly addressing these issues will require change that goes far beyond the walls of our classrooms.

“Corporate-sponsored reformers have blamed the very institution of public education for these problems, and have set forth a set of alternatives and strategies to overcome social inequities. Here we are a decade into this project, and the alternative structures are collapsing, one by one.”

In response to two recent studies of Ohio charter schools, Governor John Kasich said that he would recommend stronger oversight of the state’s charters. This is noteworthy because charter operators have generously funded the campaigns of the governors and Republican legislators.

Critics of Ohio’s charter sector are skeptical. They note (off the record, of course) that the wealthiest charter operators have already made their campaign contributions for this election cycle. We will see if Governor Kasich proves them wrong.

 

The Columbus Dispatch wrote:

 

Gov. John Kasich pledged yesterday to crack down on shady Ohio charter-school operators in his upcoming budget proposal.

 

In a year-end speech to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the governor also threw out broad hints of possible tax changes, called for greater regulation on fracking wellheads and defended religious involvement in a new state-funded program with public schools.

 

“We are going to fix the lack of regulation on charter schools,” he said. “There is no excuse for people coming in here and taking advantage of anything. So we will be putting some tough rules into our budget.”

 

Two studies released this month blasted state laws and regulations that allow poor-performing Ohio charter schools to flourish and management companies to profit off the tax-funded privately operated schools. The studies showed that charter-school students receive fewer days of learning than youngsters at traditional public schools. Both reports were commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a pro-charter-school organization urging more accountability of charter schools.

 

Richard A. Ross, state schools superintendent, said court actions and “persuasiveness” have failed to fix problems with some charter-school operators.

 

The changes will seek to exert more state control over charter-school sponsors — “operationally, financially and educationally” — to ensure high-quality educations for charter students, Ross said.

 

 

Yesterday, I posted a letter written on behalf of Governor Cuomo by the director of state operations, Jim Malatros. The governor wants to know what should be done about the bad teachers, especially in “deplorable” districts like Buffalo.

Here is an answer from a teacher in Buffalo, posted as a comment on the original:

“As one of those teachers from a”deplorable Buffalo priority school who has condemned a generation of kids to poor education and thus poor life prospects” I take great offense to Mr. Malatras’ comments. Our school is primarily failing because 70% of our students are ELLs who have arrived at our high school without the prior academics needed for success in high school. 30% of our students have little or no literacy in their primary language and many have never been in a school setting until they enter our 9th grade cohort. NYSED has consistently ignored their needs of first learning the English language, learning to read and acquire math literacy before they take the grade/subject level Regents exams. How about letting us provide our students with a strong foundation before condemning us as “bad” teachers because these students are unable to make the grade? In a school with about 800 students, we have been allocated a single reading specialist. Time and time again, research has shown that it takes 7 years for older students to master English and yet you (NYSED) have only allowed an extra year for our SIFE students to get up to speed in school. How about looking at how your unrealistic expectations have created poor life prospects, along with the poverty and inequity of financing our inner city schools that have contributed immensely to the problem?”

Anyone who criticizes the current regime of test-based accountability is inevitably asked: What would you replace it with? Test-based accountability fails because it is based on a lack of trust in professionals. It fails because it confuses measurement with instruction. No doctor ever said to a sick patient, “Go home, take your temperature hourly, and call me in a month.” Measurement is not a treatment or a cure. It is measurement. It doesn’t close gaps: it measures them.

Here is a sound alternative approach to accountability, written by a group of teachers whose collective experience is 275 years in the classroom. Over 900 teachers contributed ideas to the plan. It is a new vision that holds all actors responsible for the full development and education of children, acknowledging that every child is a unique individual.

Its key features:

1. Shared responsibility, not blame

2. Educate the whole child

3. Full and adequate funding for all schools, with less emphasis on standardized testing

4. Teacher autonomy and professionalism

5. A shift from evaluation to support

6. Recognition that in education one size does not fit all

Jim Malatras, the director of state operations for Governor Cuomo in New York, recently sent a letter to Merryl Tisch, the chair of the state Board of Regents, and to the outgoing Commissioner of Education John King.

 

The letter asks a series of questions about the future direction of education in New York. It does not mention resources, because the Governor believes that New York spends enough or too much already. It does not mention resource equity, which is unfortunate, since New York has a highly inequitable funding structure. Nor does the letter mention poverty or segregation, which are known to be highly correlated with low test scores. Every standardized test shows a gap between haves and have-nots, but Mr. Malatras does not mention any action that might improve the life chances of children and families living in poverty. A recent report from the UCLA Civil Rights Project said that New York state has the most racially segregated schools in the nation, but that is not mentioned in this letter.

 

Please read the letter and feel welcome to offer your answers to the questions posed in it.

 

 

Sarah Blaine, a lawyer and parent, writes a terrific blog about education. In this one, she describes how her 10-year-old daughter Elizabeth testified at a school board meeting in Montclair, New Jersey, about what’s wrong with the Common Core PARCC test.

Watch the video.

Elizabeth wrote her own remarks and delivered them with poise. She begins by saying, “I love to read, I love to write, I love to do math. But I don’t love the PARCC. It stinks.” When she finished, she received an ovation from the audience.

And a litttle child shall lead them.

This is a wonderful interview in which EduShyster asks great questions of Karen Lewis. Karen responds candidly and knocks every one of them out of the park, as is her way. She speaks about race, politics, and her health.

 

EduShyster begins by asking Karen about the wave of protests that followed the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Karen responded:

 

We don’t really like to talk about race and class, but they underpin both of these issues. I’m 61 years old, which means I went through the original Civil Rights Movement—it’s not just history to me. But I also know from history that the extra-judicial killing of Black men is nothing new in our society. The difference is that we have social media, we have recordings, and so you have a movement of people demanding accountability. What’s been really interesting to me is that you see the same concepts emerging whether we’re talking about policing or education: compliance, obedience and a loss of dignity. I’m going to tell you what to do and if you don’t do it, I’ll just take your life. The same with schools: if you don’t do what I tell you to do, I’ll just take your school. To me, this is a very interesting co-mingling of what justice really looks like and it’s very different for different people.

 

EduShyster says that today’s “reform” movement starts from the assumption that nothing can be done about poverty. She asks Karen for her view, and Karen answers:

 

You have to reframe the question to ask *why not?* Some of these people act as though poverty and wealth inequality just occur naturally, and that we just need to sit back and wait for the invisible hand to work its magic. Well, you look around Chicago and you see that hand isn’t invisible, in fact it’s perfectly visible, and it’s slapping people left and right. This, by the way, is why I think the fight for $15 an hour for low-wage workers is so important, and why I believe that teachers have to get involved in organizations that work for social and economic justice. Even Mayor Emanuel has capitulated on the wage issue. Funny how a re-election campaign can do that.

 

EduShyster notes that many media types refer to Lewis as “confrontational,” but in fact she emphasizes coalition-building. She asks Karen to talk about her style of leadership:

 

I was elected because I started talking about things that no one ever talks about. Typically during teacher union campaign season, what you hear is *I can get you a better raise than the last person.* I’ve been in the system for 25 years—26 now actually—and that’s the way it’s always been. What I kept saying was that *we need to build alliances with our natural allies, who are the parents.* Once we start building alliances with parents, then we stop blaming each other. Right now the system has us blaming them for not doing their jobs and not preparing their kids for school, and has them blaming us for being lazy or not doing what we need to do. Building alliances makes a difference because you’re stronger, because people can’t just pick you off. I’ve always talked about trying to recreate the strength of the union by sharing it with other folks who lack power. Now there are people who still don’t believe in that vision. They’re convinced that if we just enforced the contract, all of our woes would end. Well, that’s crazy. It’s not just enforcing the contract, it’s about building a political force. That’s how we change the laws that govern what happens in our classrooms.

 

 

There is much, much more. Read the interview and enjoy the conversation with a wonderful, brilliant woman who caused a political earthquake in Chicago and far beyond.

 

The board of the Southold, Néw York, school district on the North Fork of Long Island voted not to participate in field testing for state tests as a protest against over testing.

Superintendent David Gamberg–a man of gentle demeanor–is a leader in the struggle to rescue genuine education from the mandates and data-driven decision-making. He is proud of his schools’ arts and music, as well as the garden where children grow produce for lunch.

Gamberg is so trusted by locals that when the superintendent retired in the neighboring district of Greenport, Gamberg was invited to lead both districts. The Greenport board is likely to pass a resolution not to give the field tests.

For their courage and integrity and their love of children, I add David Gamberg and the Southold school board to the honor roll as champions of American education.

Parents at the Julian Nava Academy in South Los Angeles loved their middle school. They worried about their children moving on to a high school where they might get less attention, where the education would not be as good as it had been at Nava Academy. So the parents organized, met with the principal, met with the district administrator, and won permission to open a new high school, called Nava College Preparatory Academy.

 

The school opened this fall, and the parents remain engaged with it. Its first class has 300 students, and it will eventually grow to 1100 students. Note there was no parent trigger, no confrontation between parents and educators. The parents loved the school they had, they wanted more of it, they made their case, and they won.

Peter Greene makes a stab at explaining what Andrew Cuomo doesn’t understand about accountability.

First point is that you keep your promises after the election is over. Cuomo promised to delay high stakes attached to test scores in teacher ratings. After the election, he changed his mind.

The second is that you use tests to learn what’s happening, not to confirm what you believe. Cuomo thinks lots of teachers are failing, and he won’t believe any measurement unless it confirms his prior conclusions.

What Peter doesn’t explain is why presumably intelligent people like Cuomo think that teachers alone are responsible for student test scores. What if the student never does his homework or pay attention in class? What if the student doesn’t speak English? What if her mother has a fatal illness? There are so many variables over which the teacher has no control. Experience has shown that the various teacher evaluation models are fraught with instability and error.

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