Archives for the month of: April, 2018

 

Come one, come all!

The Network for Public Education has opened early registration for the 2018 annual conference in Indianapolis, the heart of Pence ountry.

Please join us for an exciting event!

Meet education activists from across the country.

Meet your favorite bloggers.

Network with your allies.

Special rates for early registration.

 

Marla Kilfoyle, teacher and executive director of the Badass Teachers Association, wrote this article.

She warns teachers not to fall for the line of bologna (baloney, not “Bali net,” thanks autocorrect!)  that they will hear from Andrew Cuomo as he seeks their votes. They will be tempted, but only if they forget that the BATs and other concerned teachers have been fighting Cuomo and his bullying tactics for the past several years.

She writes:

“As NYS teachers we will be embarking on an important choice this primary season.

“We have the opportunity to vote for a truly progressive candidate on September 13, 2018 – Cynthia Nixon.

“To learn more about Cynthia Nixon go here https://cynthiafornewyork.com/meet-cynthia/
Join me as an Educator for Cynthia – sign up here https://actionnetwork.org/forms/educators-for-cynthia

“I am a NYS teacher, and I am warning my brothers and sisters in New York….

“Don’t fall for the Old Okeydoke this primary season.

“So what is the Old Okeydoke? It is when a trap is set, but a victim still walks right into it.

“Believe me teachers, Cuomo, and others, are setting a trap for you – don’t walk into it.”

Her post reviews Cuomo’s history of ridiculing and demoralizing teachers. How fast can a leopard change his spots?

 

 

In this report by NPR journalist Anya Kamenetz, we learn that the famous 1983 report “A Nation at Risk,” we learn that the Reagan-era Commission “cooked the books.” Kamenetz interviewed two of the original commission members and learned that the commission knew its conclusion in advance, then cherry-picked facts to prove its claim that the schools were ”mired in mediocrity.”

She writes:

“In the context of declining resources and rising child poverty, maintaining steady or slightly improving test scores over decades could be described with other words besides “flat” and “disappointing” — perhaps “surprising” or “heroic.”

“But the narrative established by “A Nation At Risk” still seems to be the one that dominates how we think of the data.

“[Professor James] Guthrie, for one, thinks that’s been, on balance, a good thing, because it brought education to the front and center of the U.S. agenda.

“My view of it in retrospect,” he says, “is seldom, maybe never, has a public report been so wrong and done so much good.”

My view: The militaristic tone of the report created a false sense of panic, based on distorted facts. The report promoted a wrong-headed narrative that encouraged politicians to engage in grandstanding and in frankly destructive forays into education policy. It shifted control of education policy from educators to uninformed politicians. It created a political demand for standards and testing, while pointedly ignoring the growing proportion of children living in poverty. Since poverty is the root cause of low test scores, this was a strategy guaranteed to fail.

Nothing good came of this foray into policy making by propaganda.

 

 

Steven Singer reviews the decision by the Colorado Democratic party to tell the “Democrats for Education Reform” to stop calling themselves “Democrats.” DFER, he writes, is neither “Democrat” nor is it advocating for “education reform.” It is a group of wealthy hedge fund managers who pour large amounts of money into election to promote standardization, profitization, and privatization. They are clueless about the value of public schools and about the needs of students and teachers. They don’t care. They have money and they do what they want, without regard to collateral damage.

He writes:

Henceforth, “Education Reform” shall be Education Sabotage – because that’s really what it is.

It is about deliberately obstructing goods and services that otherwise would help kids learn and repurposing them for corporate benefit.

Likewise, I propose we stop using the term “School choice.” Instead, call it what it is – School Privatization.

Anyone who uses the older terms is either misguided or an enemy of authentic education.

Perhaps this seems petty.

They’re only words, after all. What does it matter?

It matters a lot.

As Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote:

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

We cannot effectively fight the forces of segregation, standardization and privatization if we have to constantly define our terms.

Professor Maurice Cunningham of the University of Massachusetts, who specializes in the deployment of Dark Money to promote school privatization, has suggested the term “Financial Privatization Cabal.” Great term, too many syllables.

We could just call them the “Privatizers,” because that is the word that represents the common goal of DFER and Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Rick Scott, and the other thieves of language and the common good.

 

The Blog for Arizona describes the inside story of the Arizona teachers’ strike and Governor Doug Ducey’s feckless efforts to stop the strike without making any concrete concessions to teachers.

“Doug Ducey, the ice cream man hired by Koch Industries to run their Southwest subsidiary formerly known as the State of Arizona, is a practitioner of propaganda over policy. He rolls out a glossy media P.R. campaign and gets his corporate benefactors to pay for advertising praising him for his P.R. campaign. The substance of the actual policy gets lost.

“Ducey did this for his #ClassroomsFirst initiative in which he declared himself to be the “education governor,” he did this to sell his unconstitutional Prop. 123 to settle the education inflation adjustment lawsuit against the state so that the state would not have to pay restitution for funds stolen by our GOP-controlled legislature, and he is doing it yet again with his #20by2020 teacher pay proposal.

“Ducey’s dark money “Kochtopus” allies in the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry started a new group called the “Arizona Education Project” and fielded a $1 million soft-sell TV ad blitz to say  “Arizona schools are making progress.” Arizona “Ground Zero” for Koch Attack on Public Education. As the Arizona Daily Stareditorialized, “no number of feel-good TV spots will change the fact that Arizona comes in last, or almost last, in numerous rankings of per-pupil state spending in the nation.” Education ad campaign doesn’t change the facts.

“The “Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute, is now threatening school districts with lawsuits for closing during the #RedforEd teacher walkouts, no doubt on Gov. Ducey’s behalf. Goldwater Institute sends letter to schools calling Arizona teacher walkout unconstitutional. Per usual, the Goldwater Institute is full of shit and bluster. The actual point of their intimidation campaign is a reminder  that “We own this state, and you will obey!

”With more than 50,000 educators and their supporters marching on the state capitol this week in a sea of red, our self-described “education governor” (sic) refused to meet with education leaders, Ducey to meet with ‘decision makers,’ not teachers to talk about salaries, and instead negotiated a “deal” with his GOP legislative leaders in a one-sided negotiation that did not include the teachers. Governor announces budget deal with teacher pay raise — but gives no details.”

Republican leaders negotiated a deal among themselves, refusing to talk to teachers. The presence of 50,000 teachers wearing #RedForEd did not earn them a seat at the table. One side talking to itself, said “Arizona Republic”columnist E.J. Montini, is not a deal. One little detail: the Republican Plan is to distribute any new funding to districts and let them decide whether to increase teachers’ salaries. Some pay raise that is!

Blog for Arizona writes:

”You have this weekend to contact your state legislators and to let them know that without new tax revenue dedicated to public education for teacher raises and to restore the billions of dollars cut by our GOP-controlled legislature over the past decade, there is no “deal.” And if they vote for this budget gimmick of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” yet again, you will be voting them out of office in November. Enough is enough.”

 

 

 

Organizers of the Paralympics were taken aback by Trump’s response to them. He said he watched for a while, but found them “tough to watch.” 

“The games allow athletes with a range of disabilities to compete.”

Does he realize how many people he insulted?

His remarks may have reminded some people of the time he mocked a reporter with disabilities during the 2016 campaign.

 

 

 

Jan Resseger describes the outrageous ECOT scandal in detail. A vigilant press broke the story and alerted the public to a theft of hundreds of millions of dollars diverted from public schools to an online for-profit virtual charter. Now, because of a whistleblower complaint about fraud was ignored by public officials for six months, ECOT is back in the news. It is also in court as the state continues to recover some of the lost money.

The State is dominated by Republicans who happily accepted political contributions from ECOT’s founder,William Lager, and overlooked accountability. The state should “claw back” the money illegally diverted from public schools by going after Lager’s assets.

Resseger writes:

“Although this week’s new Associated Press report about the ECOT whistleblower doesn’t say anything really new about ECOT’s failure accurately to count its students, and even though nobody has imagined that ECOT mis-reported student attendance by accident, the new story is accomplishing something important. Suddenly politicians in the race for governor, state auditor, and state attorney general are accusing incumbents of failure to pay attention and to respond immediately last summer to a whistleblower’s account of what was surely criminal fraud on ECOT’s part. And the incumbents are all scurrying around saying that they paid more attention than anybody knew. Suddenly the ECOT scandal—which died down for a couple of months after the school was shut down in January—is a major topic in the political campaigns for statewide offices in the May 8, primary election.

“In Ohio, where the Governor is a Republican and the state House of Representatives is dominated by a 66:33 Republican majority and the state Senate by a 33:9 Republican majority, we don’t have any checks and balances. It is essential that the over-fifteen-year ECOT ripoff will remain in the news and that candidates running for office demand that voters hold Ohio’s politicians accountable.

“ECOT is now closed, a school in bankruptcy with its affairs being managed by a receiver, but ECOT’s owners are still trying to resurrect the school through the appeal of its case against the state, a case heard finally in February by the Ohio Supreme Court. We await the Court’s decision. Once again, during oral arguments, the press played its essential role. The Dispatch‘s Jim Siegel described the final interchange between ECOT’s attorney and Ohio’s Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor: “As ECOT attorney Marion Little finished his arguments for why, under the law, the online school should get full funding for students even if they only log in once a month and do no work, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor interjected. ‘How is that not absurd?’ she asked.”

“We shall see how the Ohio Supreme Court eventually decides the case. Ohio’s supreme court is elected, and like the legislature, it is majority-Republican. But the persistent coverage by the press has kept pressure on the Court just as it has on the staff at the Ohio Department of Education and on ECOT’s sponsor, The Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West. After all, unless the Supreme Court saves it, ECOT is now closed. It is no longer receiving Ohio tax dollars, even though it still owes the state millions of dollars that had not yet been clawed back prior to the date of its closure.”

 

The senior class at Success Academy’s Liberal Arts High School has 17 members.

When they started in kindergarten, there were 73 students.

By the end of eighth grade, there were 32 students.

Four years later, there were 17, all of whom were admitted to college.

Gary Rubinstein wrote recently that we can’t be sure of the real attrition rate because some of the original 73 might have been excluded and replaced; unlike real public schools, Success Academy does not admit new students after third grade.

So impressed was SA’s board chairman, billionaire Dan Loeb, by the “success” of the high school with 17 graduating seniors that he gave Eva Moskowitz $15 million to add more high schools.

But one of our regular readers, who signs in as New York City Public School Parent, says the media should look to the public schools to find schools that consistently achieve success for far greater numbers of students who are poor, African American and/or Hispanic:

Seventeen students? Success Academy has been careful to expand only within NYC, where there are 1.1 million students in public schools. I looked up the most recent data and 5,400 African-American and Latino students in NYC graduated with ADVANCED Regents diplomas. Another 26,000 African-American and Latino students graduated with Regents diplomas. Seventeen students is 1/3 of 1% of the African-American and Latino students who graduate from NYC public schools with the ADVANCED Regents diploma. And when Success Academy graduates 10x as many students, it will still be only 3% of the total number of African-American and Latino Students who graduate with the most advanced diplomas in public schools.

There is an underlying assumption to many of the fawning profiles of Moskowitz in which (white) reporters continue under the (racist) assumption that finding an African-American or Latino student who can perform at grade level — let alone above — is such a rare and unusual occurrence that this charter sending 17 of those students to college is working miracles. All of the public school bashing news articles focus only on the 10% or 20% of the lowest performing schools and pretend that the other 80 or 90% of schools where students do graduate and do perform well do not exist! They focus on the 50% of students who struggle and ignore the fact that in a school system that is larger than many states, there are many tens of thousands who do well.

The press wrongly believes that because there is a relative dearth of African-American and Latino students in the big specialized high schools,that means they are only in failing schools. That is far from true. Those students are thriving in public high schools all over NYC — from Townsend Harris to Bard to Beacon to Medgar Evers and many, many more. I have no idea how many dozens more but the number of high schools that graduate African-American and Latino students who go on to excellent colleges is not small.

It’s a shame that Medgar Evers College Prep High School — where 100 African-American and Latino students graduated with Advanced Regents diplomas in 2017 (and even more with regular Regents diplomas) — is invisible to reporters in their rush to promote the “miracle” of 17 students graduating from a charter and going to college.

It’s a shame that Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics – whose students are significantly more economically disadvantaged than at Success Academy — is invisible to reporters who marvel at 17 Success Academy students graduating and going to college and ignore public high schools with far fewer resources where 100 students are graduating with almost all of them going to college.

 

“A Nation at Risk” was published in 1983. It launched the false narrative that American public schools were failing. The nation was in recession, and the authors of the report blamed the schools. When the economy improved, no one said, “Oops, we were wrong about the schools.”

In this article, James Harvey and David Berliner reflect on what the report said, and what needs to change to create real reform.

Although there is powerful evidence of significant improvement in American schools since 1971, as Arne Duncan, President Barack Obama’s first secretary of education, recently noted, “A Nation at Risk” itself ignored that evidence in favor of launching what turned into a “shock and awe” campaign that promoted a consistent narrative of school failure.

Part of the shock and awe campaign used the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  With the encouragement of Secretary Bennett and his allies, this excellent assessment was diverted from its original purpose of measuring what students at various grade levels actually know to a new goal: judging what students at various grade levels should know.

Adding to the confusion, NAEP’s governing body, the National Assessment Governing Board, adopted three vague terms to define performance benchmarks: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. Almost nobody understands what these terms mean. Analysts, journalists, and state officials use the term “proficient” as the barometer of success despite the fact that the government has consistently maintained that what most people would consider to be proficient performance would not meet NAEP’s definition of proficiency.

So we are told every few years that only about a third of our students are “proficient” in reading or mathematics under NAEP’s benchmarks as though that were information of great value. Yet it is clear from recent research published by the National Superintendents Roundtable and the Horace Mann League (“How High the Bar?”) that the vast majority of students in most nations cannot clear the NAEP bar of “proficiency.”

Indeed, government officials acknowledge that to understand how many students in the United States are performing at grade level, the appropriate benchmark to examine is “basic,” not “proficient.“

What to Do?

Nobody should think for a minute that there aren’t very real problems with learning in America.  There’s a lot to be done.  But we’re not going to solve our school problems by exaggerating them or by misleading the public about school quality.

It is simply not true that American schools are failing 60 percent or more of their students, as NAEP’s proficient benchmark suggests. NAEP’s data indicate that nearly 70 percent of fourth graders are performing on grade level in reading, with 80 percent performing on grade level in mathematics. For 8th graders, the rates are 76 and 70 percent, respectively. While it would be gratifying to see higher numbers, these results are a much better guide to action than the deceptive picture of failure painted by the misleading term “proficient.”

“How High the Bar?” recommends that NAEP adopt benchmarks used by international education assessments, such as low, intermediate, high, and advanced. These terms provide a much more neutral and accurate take on student achievement.

It’s time also that we put an end to educational policy-making grounded in testing and tax cuts. As the recent wave of statewide protests across the nation indicates, educators are tired of standing by, their dignity under assault while their incomes stagnate and books and buildings fall apart.

Of course we should build more flexibility into the system, along with more variety and greater responsiveness to student and parent preferences.

Finally, we should go back to some of the advice the excellence commission received during its hearings but tossed aside in developing its report.  Oddly, President George H.W. Bush adopted some of these ideas in his “America 2000” program. Make sure all infants have a decent start in life so that they’re “ready” when school begins.  Worry about the 80 percent of their waking hours that students spend outside the school walls.  Provide adequate health care for children and a living wage for working parents, along with affordable day-care.

We can’t afford these things? Nonsense!  The United States is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. It can certainly provide its citizens with the basics that other nations provide to theirs.

 

The Network for Public Education Action Fund endorses Elizabeth Markowitz for a seat on the Texas State Board of Education.  

The Network for Public Education Action is pleased to announce its strong support for Elizabeth (Eliz) Markowitz for the Texas State Board of Education, District 7. Dr. Markowitz is a highly qualified candidate. She told us, “I’ve been an educator at various public Texas institutions for the past 15 years, have authored and co-authored a number of books focused on various academic subjects, worked with future school teachers to prepare them for the classroom, and received my doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction – Learning, Design, and Technology.”

Her stand on our issues is certainly aligned. Her priorities are curriculum reform, improving the way we attract, train, and retain educators, and revising the Texas approach to standardized testing. She believes in community governance of schools and small class sizes. Here is what she had to say regarding vouchers and charters:

I do not support “school choice” schemes that use public school funds to support charter, private, or sectarian schools. I believe that public tax money should only be used to support a system of free public schools, and I oppose the implementation of school voucher or tax credit programs that harm the Texas public school system both financially and academically. The rise of charter schools in Texas has led to increasing inequity in the education of our youth, as it benefits the affluent and harms the underprivileged. I have not advocated for a charter school.

For all of the above and more, we give our strong support to Elizabeth Markowitz. Please be sure to vote for her in November.

You can find a copy of the this endorsement here: http://npeaction.org/2018/04/27/npe-action-endorses-elizabeth-markowitz-texas-state-board-education/

Carol Burris

Executive Director of NPE Action

Pol. adv. by NPE Action

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