Archives for the month of: October, 2013

The power elites of Los Angeles won again. Read this editorial in the Los Angeles Times. even his strongest supporters are concerned about his ill-planned $1 billion commitment to buy iPads whose content is unfinished.

But to really get the story at ground level, read the comments.

When states won millions in Race to the Top funding, they
found themselves required to spend more than they received from the
federal government. One
careful study
reported that school districts in New York
had to spend almost $11 million, in exchange for $400,000 from the
federal government.

School districts are spending billions to offer and test the Common Core standards, which have until recently been untested. Now that they were tested in Kentucky and New York, we know that the Common Core tests cause a dramatic score decline.

This, Race to the Top offered $4.35 billion to 11 states and DC but will cost the nation tens of billions that might have been spent to build health clinics or support pre-K or the arts.

As it happens, few of RTTT’s costly mandates
have any evidence to support them. So districts are forced to spend
more at the same time they are getting budgets cut–or in the case
of New York–at the same time that the legislature enacted a tax
cap that prevents them from finding. New revenues unless they get a
popular vote of at least 60%. The result: larger classes, program
cuts, less money for everything schools need in order to satisfy
Washington’s evidence-free mandates.

What is a pig in a poke?

This is the Wikipedia definition: “The English colloquialisms such as
turn out to be a pig in a poke or buy a pig in a poke mean that
something is sold or bought without the buyer knowing its true
nature or value, especially when buying without inspecting the item
beforehand. The phrase can also be applied to accepting an idea or
plan without a full understanding of its basis. Similar expressions
exist in other European languages, most of them referring to the
purchase of a cat in a bag. The advice being given is ‘don’t buy a
pig until you have seen it’. This is enshrined in British
commercial law as ‘caveat emptor’ – Latin for ‘let the buyer
beware’. This remains the guiding principle of commerce in many
countries and, in essence, supports the view that if you buy
something you take responsibility to make sure it is what you
intended to buy. A poke is a sack or bag. It has a French origin as
‘poque’ and, like several other French words, its diminutive is
formed by adding ‘ette’ or ‘et’ – hence ‘pocket’ began life with
the meaning ‘small bag’. Poke is still in use in several
English-speaking countries, notably Scotland and the USA, and
describes just the sort of bag that would be useful for carrying a
piglet to market. A pig that’s in a poke might turn out to be no
pig at all. If a merchant tried to cheat by substituting a lower
value animal, the trick could be uncovered by letting the cat out
of the bag. Many other European languages have a version of this
phrase – most of them translating into English as a warning not to
‘buy a cat in a bag’. The advice has stood the test of time and
people have been repeating it in one form or the other for getting
on for five hundred years, maybe longer.”

This blogger writes about the well-orchestrated circus at the crucial LAUSD board meeting. This carrying daisies–a symbol of allegiance to the leader–were well represented and gained preference to speak. Who was missing? Teachers and administrators: they were at work. Parents: who cares what they think?

Parents and school districts are beginning to understand that student information will no longer be private.

The Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation created something called the Shared Learning Collsborative, now called inBloom. They have a contract to Wireless Generation, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, to create the software to collect massive amounts of data. InBloom will collect confidential data about students. It will be stored on a “cloud” managed by Amazon. There is no guarantee that the data cannot be hacked.

All if this became possible when the U.S. Department of Education changed the regulations governing privacy rights in 2011. Thus, the data about students may now be stored on this cloud without parental permission. This is new and disturbing.

Who will have access to your child’s information?

Robert Shepherd” is concerned about where this is heading. He wrote:

“So, here’s a question: what is the purpose of inuring students to total surveillance–to having no privacy whatsoever, to being continually monitored, to having everything go into their permanent record, available to anyone with the money to pay for it?

What a great way to prepare people to be free citizens of a democratic state!

All this is about obedience training for the proles. The kids of the oligarchs will go to private schools where this sort of thing is not done.”

Yesterday was  my third appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (2003, 2010, 2013). I love being on his show because he is not only funny but a truly kind and decent person. He always comes in for a friendly chat before the interview, to make  a personal connection. He is real. I gave him a pair of green laces for his sneakers (they came from a group called “Lace to the Top,” and I explained that I was wearing “red-for-ed.” Last night I met his new dog Dipper. Dipper is a pit bull with only three legs. He is a rescue dog. Unlike the bad reputation that pit bulls have, he is a sweetheart. But it says something about Jon that he would adopt this dog that no one else wanted.

The interview was fun, and I was laughing out loud as I watched the segments that preceded mine. Jon is very upset about the Common Core. A member of his staff has twins; one twin “passed,” the other “failed.” The latter was crushed and cried all day. What a humiliation. For what? But Jon has another source: his mother. At the end of the interview, he leaned over and whispered to me that his mother would let him hear about it for an hour later that night. His mother is a teacher.

Here are the interviews, in two parts:—diane-ravitch-extended-interview-pt–1?xrs=playershare_fb—diane-ravitch-extended-interview-pt–2?xrs=playershare_f

Last March, Lehigh University invited Michelle Rhee and me to debate on its campus in Pennsylvania. We both accepted. After agreeing, Michelle said we should both have a second on our team, not a 1:1 debate. I agreed. Months went by, and she said she preferred to have a third on both teams, and I agreed.

I think we have finally reached an agreement. I have my second and third lined up. I assume she does as well.

The debate will be February 6 at Lehigh University.

All are welcome! More details to follow.

Ever since the Nation at Risk report, we’ve had a reform narrative in this country that begins with the premise that our schools are failing (despite the fact that when one corrects for the socioeconomic level of students taking the international tests on which this claim is based, our students consistently perform at the top or very near the top). Then, the Gates Foundation decided that the “problem” was teacher quality and not having metrics in place to drive improvement in teacher quality. They made this decision based on lousy research that used invalid test scores as the determinant of outcomes.

So, the simple-minded, one-liner for insertion into politicians’ speeches became, “Our schools are failing, and this is because we have lousy teachers.”

This narrative appeals to a lot of authoritarian types on both the left and the right–to all folks who are fond of hierarchies and top-down mandates.

What did the unions do to contribute to the teacher bashing? Well, the two main costs of education are facilities and teacher pay and benefits, and the teachers’ unions negotiate the latter. So, folks on the right who want to control costs–to keep wages and benefits down–and who believe the reform narrative think that the unions have pushed up pay and benefits unnaturally at the very time when teacher quality and educational outcomes have taken a nosedive.

There are three-and-a-half million public school teachers in the U.S. As Jon Stewart pointed out during an interview with Dr. Ravitch, in any profession–fast food customer service–there are going to be some incompetents and some jerks. But the basic current reform narrative–that our schools have failed in general and that teacher quality is, in general, to blame is wrong on both counts.

Can our schools be improved? Can teacher quality be improved? Of course. But here’s the rub: you get what you pay for. If we really want to improve teacher quality, then we have to pay teachers more, we have to raise barriers to entry to the profession, and we need to give teachers lighter loads so that they can do the careful planning, the collaboration, and the mindful self-examination the lead to continuous improvement. And we have to give them more autonomy, for people perform best in conditions of autonomy, which is something that the deformers do not understand AT ALL.

Superintendent John Deasy made a deal to buy an iPad for every student in the district, at a cost of $1 billion.

The money will mostly be drawn from a 25-year construction bond issue approved by the voters on the assumption that the money would be used to repair the city’s schools. The iPads will be obsolete in 2 or 3 years, but voters will be paying the cost for 25 years.

The iPads are loaded with content from Pearson. The license for the Pearson content expires in three years, at which time the district will have obsolete iPads without content.

Meanwhile, as this teacher writes,

“More and more people are realizing that this iPad deal could ultimately bankrupt the district since the general fund is at rock bottom and has left our district with 40-50 kids in a class, no librarians, less counselors and less custodial and office services. The only pot of money big enough to fund the resupply of iPads and updated software is the general fund, and those costs don’t even address the massive numbers of extra support staff and professional development needed to keep the tech project going.”

Students at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, a school that accepts only students that have high scores on their entry examinations, boycotted the latest tests to protest their purpose. The students knew that the tests had no purpose other than to evaluate their teachers, and they thought the tests were not only a waste of students’ time but unfair to their teachers.

Geoff Decker of Gotham Schools writes:

A group of students at the elite high school in lower Manhattan pledged to opt out of the English tests that were administered today, saying they’re opposed to the exam’s purpose. The tests are low-stakes for students, but they’ll be used to grade teachers on new evaluations being rolled out this year.

“This movement is meant to support Stuyvesant teachers in opposing an unfair teacher evaluation system,” Senior David Cahn wrote on the Facebook page he created to encourage other students to join in.

Students across the city are taking formal baseline tests this year in many subjects because of new teacher evaluation rules. The rules require teachers to be rated in part by how much their students improve over the course of the year, and schools are using tests this fall as the baseline for determining student proficiency at the beginning of the year. 

The extra testing has eaten into class time and taken teachers out of classroom for grading. “

The students at Stuyvesant High School proved that they understand more about teaching and learning than policymakers in Washington and Albany.

Katie Hurley, who is a psychotherapist who works with children and adolescents, writes at Huffington Post that Common Core is having a harmful effect on students.

Her first discovery was seeing what happened to her own daughter:

“My daughter has four tests this week. Week after week she has at least four tests, one of them a high-pressure timed math factor test. If she gets more than one answer wrong, she repeats the same test the following week (which, by the way, is a great way to start an unhealthy competition among classmates). Some weeks, if they happen to finish a unit in social studies, science, or math, they also have a unit test. So now we’re up to five.

“What’s the big deal? She’s 6-years-old. This is first grade we’re talking about. For the first couple of weeks of school, it actually wasn’t a big deal. She’s never taken a test before, so there was no fear of incorrect answers or failure. As the daughter of a musician and a psychotherapist, she’s actually one of the lucky ones. There is no pressure to perform, academically or otherwise, in this house. We believe in creativity, low stress, and happiness.”

The stress is evident among teachers:

“So far the Common Core appears to be putting fear into teachers — they very people who care about, teach, and protect our children. I happen to know a lot of teachers. These are people who stay up entirely too late each night planning fun and engaging lessons for the following day. These are people who call me to seek help for those hard-to-reach students. These are people who hide first grade students in cabinets and sing them songs to keep them calm while a shooter wreaks havoc on their campus.

“Forget about all of that. Today teachers are being forced to follow a script. They teach to tests and fear job loss if they don’t see the expected results.

“The result of this test giving, job loss fearing style of teaching is written all over the faces of the little kids caught in the transition. The people behind the Common Core might think that they are ensuring college/career readiness, but what they are really ensuring is a generation of anxious robotic children who can memorize answers but don’t know how to think.”

She then gives five reasons why Common Core is ruining childhood. Read the article to see what they are.

Correct link