David Gamberg is the superintendent of two neighboring districts on the North Fork of Long Island, Southold and Greenport. He shows here how bizarre it is to evaluate educators based on the test scores of students they never taught. This is sometimes called “shared attribution.”

 

He makes the point by using an analogy.

 

Suppose all doctors in the community were judged by the weight loss of every community member?

 

We will assess eye doctors, podiatrists, and pediatricians based on the results of data gleaned from a community’s ability to lose a specific amount of weight by a specific date on the calendar. You happen to be a pediatrician who has just begun your practice, and as such you work in a relatively poor community. Within the first few years of practice your license is revoked due to “poor performance.” You never get to a point in your career where you might consider opening a practice in a more affluent community. This, despite the fact that you are well respected, and have made significant inroads into improving the health and well being of community members in that less than wealthy neighborhood.
To further skew the validity of the measurement the fact remains that the weight loss data was conducted in a poor neighborhood, among community members who may not have attended college, and had less access resources that might bolster their chances of success. Sure, some community members rose above their circumstances and met their weight loss goal, but they were the exception to the rule. Thus, the eye doctors, podiatrists who also practiced in this community as well as the pediatricians who were held to this one size fits all standard suffered the personal and professional consequences of the poor performance of the patients within this area.

Peter Rawitsch is a first-grade teacher in New York. He is a National Board Certified Teacher. He has been trying to teach his class the Common Core standards for nearly three years. He has concluded that they are a nightmare. He wrote this opinion piece in the Albany Times Union:

 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Depending on the day, my six and seven year old children might answer: “soccer player,” “princess,” or “veterinarian.” Sadly, most of them will have to put their dreams on hold because they’re too busy working on someone else’s dream of them becoming “college and career ready.” I think it’s a nightmare.

Six and seven year old children are active learners. They use all of their senses to learn in a variety of ways. Each child learns at their own pace. Play is their work. Using materials they can manipulate helps them think about how things work, use their imagination, and solve problems. They construct knowledge through their experiences.

As a 1st grade teacher with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, National Board Certification in Early Childhood, and 37 years of classroom experience, I’m deeply troubled by what is being demanded of our young learners.

For the past 2½ years I have been trying to help the children in my classroom become proficient in the 1st grade Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Because the children are at different places in their development, some have been successful with the new standards, but for too many, these new expectations are inappropriate and unfair. They’re being asked to master material they simply aren’t ready to do yet. Among the flaws of the CCSS is the assumption that all students in a given grade are capable of learning all of the same grade level standards by the end of a school year. But many of the current 1st grade standards were, just a few years ago, skills that 2nd grade students worked on.

 

 The Gesell Institute of Child Development has studied the cognitive development of children three to six years of age since 1925. In 2010 it reported that young children “are still reaching developmental milestones in the same timeframe,” meaning, that while the learning standards have changed, the way children learn has not.

 

 

He points out that those who wrote the Common Core standards included no one experienced or expert in the teaching of the youngest learners. No one on the New York Board of Regents that adopted the Common Core had experience with teaching young children. The Common Core standards are inappropriate for young children.

 

He concludes that it is time for parents to take action. Learn about what your children do in school. Talk to their teacher. Find out what activities have been replaced by sitting and bubbling in answers and busywork.  

 

How much more sitting are the children doing for reading and writing activities? How have additional paper and pencil tests affected when and how things are taught? Which activities and experiences that once enriched the school day and fostered a love of learning have been pushed out? Teachers need to talk about child development and appropriate academic standards at School Board and PTA meetings. Together we need to speak up and advocate for an education that celebrates and honors our young learners. Our children’s dreams matter.

 

If you saw the wonderful 2012 documentary “Brooklyn Castle,” you know about I.S. 318 (if you haven’t seen it, find a copy, it is a terrific film). The school is a racially and ethnically diverse, Title I middle school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that has a crackerjack chess team. It has won multiple chess championships. In 2012, it won the United States Chess Federation’s national championship.

 

It just won the 2015 New York State chess championship, beating excellent high school teams from across the state.

 

Go to @ChessNYC on Twitter to learn more and see a photo of the team, or open the link below.

 

From Twitter:

 

I.S 318 Wins The 2015 NY State Chess Championships! #chess #chessnyc #is318 #brooklyn #brooklyncastle https://instagram.com/p/ztM7SdJV0N/

 

 

Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University posted this graphic on Twitter. It shows the flat lines and declines of U.S. scores on the international PISA test from 2000-2012.

Just think of the waste of billions of dollars for testing under both No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Think of the children cheated of a real education. Think about the fact that Arne Duncan says that high-stakes testing is non-negotiable in any new Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Is it not the definition of insanity to do the same thing over and over for a dozen years without success and to expect better results if you do it for another 7-10 years?

NPR broadcast a story that identified a genuine problem—the startling decline of people entering the teaching profession– but offered incoherence and confusion about the causes and solutions for the problem.

“Several big states have seen alarming drops in enrollment at teacher training programs. The numbers are grim among some of the nation’s largest producers of new teachers: In California, enrollment is down 53 percent over the past five years. It’s down sharply in New York and Texas as well.

“In North Carolina, enrollment is down nearly 20 percent in three years.”

Why?

Bill McDiarmid, dean of the University of North Carolina School of Education, “points to the strengthening U.S. economy and the erosion of teaching’s image as a stable career. There’s a growing sense, he says, that K-12 teachers simply have less control over their professional lives in an increasingly bitter, politicized environment.

“The list of potential headaches for new teachers is long, starting with the ongoing, ideological fisticuffs over the Common Core State Standards, high-stakes testing and efforts to link test results to teacher evaluations. Throw in the erosion of tenure protections and a variety of recession-induced budget cuts, and you’ve got the makings of a crisis.

“The job also has a PR problem, McDiarmid says, with teachers too often turned into scapegoats by politicians, policymakers, foundations and the media.”

All of this is true, although I don’t see much evidence that the economy is creating sizable numbers of high-paying middle-class jobs for new college graduates.

But the story goes on to quote Benjamin Riley, who previously worked at the NewSchools Venture Fund, a key ally of Secretary Duncan and a core actor in the corporate reform movement, promoting test-based teacher evaluation, non-union charter schools, and other policies that discourage teachers. While at NewSchools Venture Fund, Riley wrote frequently about how terrible teacher education programs are and how wonderful Common Core is.

Riley created a new group called “Deans for Impact,” consisting of 18 education school deans (including McDiarmid) committed to change. Exactly what those changes are is not yet clear.

The political action arm of the California Charter Schools Association spent heavily to elect charter-friendly candidates, but none of them won a majority. There will be three run-offs.

 

Bennett Kayser, the incumbent who was endorsed by the Network for Public Education, came in a close second to challenger and charter school leader Ref Rodriguez, who was leading by 38% to 35%. There will be a run-off.

 

Incumbent Tamar Galatzan, a strong supporter of charters and ex-superintendent John Deasy, got 39% of the vote, and the remainder was divided among several candidates. Veteran educator Scott Schmerelson (whom I endorsed) came in second with 20% of the vote. Galatzan outspent Schmerelson by 8-1 and will face him in a runoff.

 

Board chairman Dr. Richard Vladovic, also supported by charter advocates, did not receive a majority of the votes and will face a runoff against teacher Lydia Gutierrez. He led by 43% to 38%.

 

In all three critical races, the pro-charter candidate won a plurality, but the majority of those who turned out to vote did not vote for the pro-charter candidate.

Rick Hess has a fresh idea about Arne Duncan’s perspective on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind: he likes things just the way they are. For him, the best of all possible outcomes is the status quo. When the Obama administration controlled both houses of Congress, there was no interest in revising NCLB, even though it was due to be reauthorized in 2007.

Duncan has used federal waivers to rewrite the law to suit his wishes. Congress did not object when he twisted states’ arms (sorry for that bad metaphor; states don’t have arms) to adopt the Common Core, to evaluate teachers by test scores, and to whatever else struck his fancy. Why should he want Congress to pass a law that might restrict his power to the National Czar of schools?

Hess reprints an imaginary interview he wrote in 2011 with a Republican Secretary of Education who uses her vast powers to impose vouchers, a moment of silence, require abstinence education, require states to allow for-profit charters, and restrict collective bargaining. She is, of course, immensely grateful to Arne Duncan for showing how the Secretary can rewrite the law without turning to Congress.

The founder of the Grand Traverse Academy in Michigan is being tried in federal court for misappropriating $3.5 million of the school’s funds.

 

His attorney explained that it was a loan to pay off his taxes.

 

Attorney testifies Steven Ingersoll was aware in May 2013 of federal tax investigation when he told the Grand Traverse Academy board he could not pay his $3.5 million dollar Academy debt…and his taxes!

 

Meg Hackett, a Grand Rapids attorney representing the Grand Traverse Academy board, testified today in Steven Ingersoll’s federal fraud trial that during a May 20, 2013 Academy board meeting, Ingersoll asked the board to characterize his $3.5 million dollar indebtedness to the charter school as a “loan”.

 

For years, the Grand Traverse Academy had carried Ingersoll’s growing debt on its books, characterizing it variously as either a receivable, a related party receivable or a prepaid expense.

 

Is this sort of like a public school, where the principal borrows $3.5 million from the school?

This is not a new article. It was published last May in The New Yorker. For some reason, I did not post it at the time. It was an oversight, for sure. The article is an absorbing and disturbing look into the “reform” movement. Save it to read when you have about 30 minutes. It is a long and fascinating description by veteran journalist Dale Russakoff of what happened to Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark. It seems to have evaporated over a four-year period into the pockets of consultants, advisors, and other reformy hotshots. I was going to use the word “leeches” but decided that was too strong. In fact, as you will see when you read the article, a horde of organizations and people flocked to get a piece of the action. Lots of people enjoyed Zuckerberg’s largesse, but they weren’t the children of Newark. And it wasn’t just Zuckerberg’s $100 million. He insisted that his $100 million be matched with another $100 million; other super-wealthy philanthropists and reform groups stepped up with big contributions. When a local philanthropist offered $1 million, he was turned away because the amount was too small.

 

Russakoff is not anti-charter. At one point, Russakoff notes parenthetically that a son teaches in a KIPP charter school. Russakoff worked for the Washington Post for 28 years, and is now completing a book about the Zuckerberg gift to Newark. If it is as good as the article, it should be a best-seller.

 

The first thing you will notice when you read the account of the alliance between Cory Booker, then Newark mayor now New Jersey Senator, and Governor Chris Christie is that they have no interest in democracy. Booker and Christie wanted Newark to become an all-charter district. Booker is a supporter of vouchers; maybe Christie is too but he can’t impose them on the state of New Jersey. They agree that top-down, fast reform is necessary, without consensus, without public discussion, or it won’t happen at all. They proceed, too slowly, it turns out, without public engagement (although a consultant is paid over $1 million to create public engagement). Eventually, they hired Cami Anderson to run the district, admiring her take-no-prisoners style of decision-making. How did that work out? She now can’t or won’t attend meetings of the advisory school board because of intense hostility to her. She moved out of Newark for the safety of her family. In fact, she was the focal issue in last year’s mayoral campaign; voter antagonism to her helped to elect Ras Baraka.

 

The most striking quote in the article comes from Vivian Cox Fraser, president of the Urban League of Essex County, who says “Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.”

 

The next point that is striking is that the woeful condition of Newark schools has a history, which Russakoff recounts. The state has controlled the district since 1995, so no one can or should blame the people of Newark for dysfunctional schools and decrepit buildings. The people have had no control of the schools for 20 years. Before 1995, the Newark schools seems to have been a honey pot for corrupt politicians, most of them with ties to the political structure.

 

There are cautionary lessons here. Booker apparently still thinks that Newark may be a national model of school reform in two or three years (he said that almost a year ago, so we should expect Newark to be a national model in one or two years). Zuckerberg has gotten interested in school reform, along with his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, who grew up poor and credits her public school teachers with helping her find the right college (Harvard) and inspiring her to go to medical school. Last year, the Zuckerbergs gave $120 million to San Francisco area public schools, after consulting with administrators and teachers. Perhaps the fiasco in Newark, where his $100 million disappeared, will make him more cautious about investing in the very expensive school reform industry, as its results don’t match its promises. Its promises are very expensive.

 

 

 

Lyndsey Layton wrote a compelling account in the “Washington Post” about Governor Chris Christie’s calamitous and non-productive attempt to burnish his credentials as a school reformer in Newark.

Five years ago , Christie boasted that he would turn Newark into a national model of school reform. He and then-Mayor Cory Booker persuaded Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to donate $100 million for such reforms as merit pay and charters. Christie and his then-state Commissioner Chris Cerf.

What’s happened in the past five years has not enhanced Christie’s reputation as a reformer. His appointee as superintendent, Cami Anderson, has alienated students, educators, parents, the clergy, and legislators. Her plan, One Newark, was imposed without community support. Ras Baraka was elected mayor in large part because of Anderson’s unpopularity.

“Five years after Christie launched what could have been a career-defining policy initiative for an aspiring future president, city leaders are in revolt. On Wednesday, a band of city, county and state elected officials, along with leaders from the NAACP and others, will board a train bound for Washington for a meeting with Obama administration officials. Newark parents have filed a federal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, alleging that the plan, called “One Newark,” disproportionately affects African Americans, and the local officials plan to ask the administration to help halt a plan they say has thrown their city into chaos.

“The plan, which fully took effect during this academic year, essentially blew up the old system. It eliminated neighborhood schools in favor of a citywide lottery designed to give parents more choices. It prompted mass firings of principals and teachers, and it led to numerous school closures and a sharp rise in the city’s reliance on charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run.

“Many families saw their children spread among multiple schools or sent across town. The scattering has been problematic for a city divided along gang lines, where four in 10 residents don’t own cars.

“In addition, state test scores have stayed the same or even declined. Amid protests, Christie’s hand-picked Newark superintendent, Cami Anderson, faces calls for her removal — even from some of her onetime allies.”

Newark is turning out to be a drag on Christie’s presidential ambitions, says Layton.

What’s astonishing is to read defenders of “reform” finding silver linings or straws to grasp at. Some claim that Cami has plenty of supporters, others say that success is around the corner. Just be patient. Christie’s state commissioner says, “Christie, through a spokesman, declined to comment. According to Christie’s education commissioner:

“It will take time to see the type of progress we all want,” he said. “Whatever we’re doing, we need to double down.”

Astonishing. If they double down, they are likely to face open rebellion from the parents of Newark.

Christie, in his typical bully style, makes clear that he doesn’t care what the people of Newark think. He likes her and that is all that matters. He just reappointed her for another one-year term.

Anderson is paid nearly $300,000 a year. In 2011, Christie capped superintendents’ salaries at $125,000-175,000, depending on the size of the district. Charter school leaders and Cami Anderson are exempt from the state salary cap.

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