Archives for the month of: August, 2013

The U.S. Department of Education on its official blog asked
for help and advice in evaluating state testing systems aligned
with the Common Core. Forget the fact that the U.S. Department of
Education is barred by law from doing anything to control or direct
curriculum and instruction. How about offering your help?

Here is a suggestion posted as a comment:

“First of all let’s address the
standards you are referring to (Common Core). These standards are
ridiculous in every sense of the word! You want 6 year olds to know
what ziggurats are and a kindergartener to know what molecules are
(look at NY ELA modules)? They are developmentally inappropriate!
They are learning their name and the names of their classmates. Be
realistic. “Secondly, we are testing too much! My kids sit through
hours and hours of useless testing. Assessments are important when
they can inform the teacher on a student’s growth. Tell me how
standardized tests do this? They don’t ….the results come out 5
months after the test. They give a score, but nothing else.
Teachers can’t see the tests, so how can they see what Junior
answered? How was Junior confused? Then, there is the expectation
that a 4 year old can sit in front of a computer to take a test.
This is child abuse! It is child abuse for a 3rd grader to sit
through hours of testing. And it is in poor judgement that a
special needs student be tortured with these as well. “All of this
has resulted in kids hating school. If all they are ever told is
they are a failure, then why would we wonder why they drop out of
school? Kids need choices. Maybe they aren’t cut out to be a rocket
scientist, but would make a great carpenter. Let’s foster that
talent and stop thinking “one size fits all”. “Why do states have
to have testing? To compare with other states? To compare with the
rest of the world? How much does this testing cost? Lots! Why don’t
we take that money, put it into programs that foster economic
growth, like art and music? Offer children after school activities
that are inspiring, like music, dance, art, sports. You know,
things that are fun, but foster student worth. “We are not moving
in the right direction with education “reform”. It is causing more
problems. If you want to improve education so the US compares to
other countries, like Finland, then take a good hard look at how
they do it! We will not get the same results by trying to implement
the opposite ideas! Stop demoralizing teachers and students! You
are getting nowhere on that stationary bike!”

This teacher in North Carolina has an invitation for the
legislators cutting the schools’ budget and the pundits who applaud
them: Walk
in our shoes.

 

She writes: “I’d like to put out a call to
every politician who had a hand in passing NC’s new budget. To
every policy maker who thinks this is a good (or even just
acceptable) idea.

 

To every parent forsaking public education.

 

To every taxpayer lamenting the “waste” of money that our schools are
in their minds. I’d like to challenge you to walk a day in our
shoes.

 

“Walk the halls in the scuffed up loafers of the high school
teacher who has been required to write his own textbook, because
there’s no money to buy them. “Sit on the carpet in the polka
dotted flats of the 2nd grade teacher tasked with teaching 25
students all day with no teacher assistant. Oh, and did I mention
that 4 are gifted, 5 have disabilities, 8 speak English as a second
language, and 15 live in poverty?

 

“Follow a child with behavioral
problems down the hallway in the well-worn Keds of the special ed
teacher who fights for appropriate services for her students,
because the law says they are entitled to a “free and appropriate
public education,” but the people with the money just keep saying
they can’t fund what she needs.

 

“Conduct awhile in the shiny black
shoes of the band teacher purchasing sheet music and instrument
repairs with his own paycheck. “Clean the green slime off of the
Sperrys of the middle school teacher who has to stop his after
school science club because there are no funds for materials.

 

“Walk out the door at 6pm in the sandals of the third year teacher, still
bright-eyed and hopeful that her 55 hour week makes a difference.
Then, kick them off as she sits down for two hours of research and
paper-writing, diligently putting in the work to earn an advanced
degree that will no longer provide her any hope of increasing her
$32,000 salary.

 

“Please, come find us. Come walk in our shoes. See
what you’ve left us with, and let’s see if YOU can ensure that
every third grader can read, that every student graduates high
school college and career ready. Because we can’t. And we aren’t a
group of people that often admit there’s something we can’t do.

 

We can cause light bulbs to turn on inside little minds. We can inspire a
love of historical facts. We can make any math concept relevant to
real life. We can love a child who doesn’t know what that feels
like, and we can show them that they can learn.

 

But to do all of this without sufficient funds, sufficient staff, and, most of all,
sufficient appreciation and respect, is simply becoming too tall of
an order.

 

So you give it a try. Then let’s talk.”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal went into a partisan rant before a far-right audience, complaining that the U.S. Department of Justice had sued to block the state’s voucher program.

The legal action was taken to prevent vouchers from undermining desegregation in counties (parishes) that remain under court order.

In a bizarre twist, Jindal portrayed himself as a champion of the civil rights of poor children, helping them escape the state’s “failing schools” to flee to religious schools, some of which have uncertified teachers and use textbooks that teach creationism and Bible-based interpretations of history. The school that received the most voucher students has already been kicked out of the program for defrauding the state.

Out of 380,000 students eligible to receive vouchers, only 8,000 applied. No stampede there.

The funding for the vouchers was already struck down as unconstitutional by state courts because they took money dedicated in the state constitution to public schools.

We are in bizarro world when a rightwing champion of market-based education claims to be a civil rights champion.

New York Governor Cuomo wants a “death penalty” for “failing schools,”

He was referring to the public schools of Buffalo, which is one of the state’s poorest districts. He threatened state takeover, mayoral control, or charters.

None of his remedies has ever succeeded. But they will extinguish democracy. Democracy is not the cause of low achievement. If Cuomo ignores poverty and segregation, he will be spinning wheels. Prediction: he will ignore both.

More districts than Buffalo face the death penalty:

” Robert M. Bennett, a member of the state Board of Regents representing Western New York, as well as chancellor emeritus, said he thinks it’s likely that the officials in Albany will discuss “a limited state takeover for certain districts” during the next session of the Legislature. He also cited the possibility of mayoral control for some districts as well as charter takeovers.

“He pointed to Buffalo, Rochester and three districts on Long Island as being in particular need of dramatic change.

“The frustration level is extremely high about what should be done with a school that is persistently failing. It’s a very serious thing when you have so many schools that are on the state’s watch list,” he said. “It’s the right thing to debate how to turn schools around.”

Michael Weston, Hillsborough County teacher, attended
Florida Governor Rick Scott’s three-day education summit. But
Governor Scott had better things to do. He
was busy
meeting with Jeb Bush, who is the state’s
education expert. They discussed the future of education in
Florida. Parents were not happy that the Governor skipped the
chance to meet with them. Weston is a BAT, and
this is what he
saw.

Here is a sample:

“In spell checking this document, I bounced “accountability” off the
Thesaurus. “Culpability” came up. Switching to the dictionary, the first
word to catch my eye was “blame”. “Blame” puts the no-governor Governor’s
Summit into better perspective. Why do politicians hate teachers so? What
did we ever do but educate them? Are they twisted to a dense ball of rage
inside because teachers attempted to instill a code of responsibility,
decency and morality in them; a code they cannot live up to? Are teachers to
blame for politicians as well?”

We know a few things for sure about Eva Moskowitz’s NYC charter schools.

We know they have very high test scores.

We know that the Broad Foundation was so impressed by the test scores that it awarded the charter chain $5 million to expand.

We know that the chain wants to expand to 100 schools in the next decade.

Now we know something else, something that had long been suspected. Success Academy uses its strict disciplinary code to push out students with special needs. We know because a parent taped the conversation and gave it to reporters at the Néw York Daily News.

“There was a point when I was getting a call every day for every minor thing,” Zapata said. “They would say he was crying excessively, or not looking straight forward, or throwing a tantrum, or not walking up the stairs fast enough, or had pushed another kid.”

“What school officials did not do, Zapata said, was provide the kind of special education services that her son’s individual educational plan, or IEP, requires.”

The publisher of the Daily News is vociferously pro-charter, as is the editorial board. The reporters play it straight Nd report the news.

Please view the website of the Network for Public Education, where you can find the links and photos that accompany this announcement.

Koch Brothers Enter the Douglas County Race

NPE-endorsed Candidate Faces AFP-Backed Tea Party Candidate

NPE-endorsed candidate Ronda Scholting now faces an opponent in the Douglas County School Board race who is supported by the Koch brothers.

This week, it was announced that the Koch brothers have become involved in the School Board race in Douglas County, Colorado. The Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP), which is run by the Koch brothers, is the largest free-market organization in Colorado. AFP so far has spent $50,000 on an ad campaign featuring Denise Denny, a prominent figure in Douglas County’s local Tea Party.

In recent years, the School Board in Douglas County has promoted and initiated corporate reform policies. The district’s controversial voucher program has been pushed into legislation with the help of ALEC. And AFP is working hard – and spending thousands – to promote the idea that these corporate reforms have led to positive results and must be continued.

In truth, many parents and public school advocates in Douglas County view the reforms of the School Board as harmful. The policies initiated by the School Board have had teachers’ unions and school communities up in arms. Earlier this year, Diane Ravitch published a piece by a teacher in Douglas County who described the dire situation and affirmed that members of Douglas County are “in a fight for our public school life […] school board elections in November will determine the future of our public schools.”

Earlier this month, we announced our strong endorsement for Ronda Scholting in the Douglas County race. She is a candidate who will fight to protect public schools from harmful corporate reform policies. We encourage you to raise your voice and spread the word about Scholting’s candidacy. We also invite you to join NPE’s Anthony Cody in Douglas County on September 12th, where he will discuss the state of education reform and the importance of the school board election.

E.D. Hirsch, Jr., the founder of the Core Knowledge curriculum, wrote an article opposing value-added teacher evaluation, especially in reading. Hirsch supports the Common Core but thinks it may be jeopardized by the rush to test it and tie the scores to teacher evaluations. He knows this will encourage teaching to the test and other negative consequences.

Hirsch believes that if teachers teach strong subject matter, their students will do well on the reading tests. But he sees the downside of tying test scores to salary and jobs.

He writes:

“The first thing I’d want to do if I were younger would be to launch an effective court challenge to value-added teacher evaluations on the basis of test scores in reading comprehension. The value-added approach to teacher evaluation in reading is unsound both technically and in its curriculum-narrowing effects. The connection between job ratings and tests in ELA has been a disaster for education.”

He is right. Will the so-called reformers who recently became Hirschians listen?

A reader submits the following comment. He or she might
also have noted the computer failures of testing companies this
past spring, for example, in Indiana and Oklahoma. The reader says:
Pearson has a pattern of poor performance nationwide, stretching
back for more than a decade. For example, A. In 2002, a computer
glitch caused malfunctions in some online math tests and Pearson
incorrectly failed nearly 8,000 Minnesota students on a test that
was required for high school graduation. Pearson agreed to pay up
to $7 million in damages for that problem. B. In 2007, a Minnesota
online statewide math test was shut down after the program
malfunctioned for 25% of the districts that were using it. C. In
2010, the results from online science tests taken by 180,000
students in grades 5 to 8 were delayed due to scoring errors. D. In
2005, in Virginia computerized tests were misgraded. E. In
2009-2010, Wyoming’s new computer testing program failed and the
state demanded that Pearson repay $9.5 million for “complete
default of the contract.” F. In 2011, according to the Tampa Bay
Times, students taking Florida’s new computerized algebra final
exam could not submit finished tests because Pearson’s servers were
down. For more details see
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/enough-is-enough-pearson-_b_3146434.html
These online testing problems are not confined to Pearson. There
has been a concerning pattern across states over a number of years
with several testing companies in addition to Pearson. See
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/04/severe-technical-problems-raise-concerns-over-online-tests/

Note to readers: I cross-posted this at Huffington Post 30 minutes ago. Please leave comments there as well as here. Spreading our story.

I had a note from an outstanding superintendent in a fine
suburban district in New York, someone I greatly admire. He is
experienced and wise. He has the support of parents, staff, and
community. He runs one of the state’s best school districts. He
wrote of the excitement and joy of the beginning of the school
year. He talked about the commemoration of Dr. King’s legacy. But
he ended on a sad note. He said he experienced the sadness and
humiliation of telling teachers and students about their test
scores and ratings, about how many students had failed the absurd
Common Core tests, which meant their teachers too had “failed.”
Suddenly, it struck me that the best way to remember Martin Luther
King was not to think of him as a statue or an icon, but to take to
heart his example. He did not bow his head in the face of
injustice. He did not comply. He said no. He said it in a spirit of
love and non-violence. But he resisted. He said no. He resisted. He
said, we will not acquiesce to what we know is wrong. We will not
acquiesce. We will not comply. We will not obey unjust laws. How
does that apply to the situation of public education today? Public
schools are drowning in nonsensical mandates. They are whipsawed by
failed ideas coming from D.C. and state capitols that are following
D.C.’s lead. They are subject to regulations and programs that no
one understands. These mandates are ruining schooling, not making
it better. The incessant testing is not making kids smarter, it is
making kids bored and turned off by school. Schools are trapped in
bureaucratic mazes that make no sense. What would Martin Luther
King, Jr., do? Would he passively submit? No. He would resist. He
would organize and join with others. He would build coalitions of
parents, students, teachers, administrators, school board members,
and members of the community who support their public schools. He
would demand true education for all children. He would demand
equality of educational opportunity, not a Race to some mythical
Top or ever higher scores on bubble tests. He would not be silent
as our public schools are worn down and torn down by mindless
mandates. He would recognize that the victims of this political and
bureaucratic malfeasance are our children. He would build a
political movement so united and clear in its purpose that it would
be heard in every state Capitol and even in Washington, D.C. And
that is how we should commemorate his life.