Archives for category: Common Core

The subject of standards and assessments is very much up in the air. Most of the states that signed on to administer either of the federally funded Common Core tests–PARCC and SBAC–have dropped out. A few states have abandoned Common Core, while others are calling it something else. There is a growing trend among states that drop PARCC or SBAC to substitute the SAT or the ACT, but neither of these tests were designed as high school graduation tests or as “college-and-career-ready tests.” They are supposed to predict readiness for college, but have nothing to do with career-readiness. Nor does it make sense to leave the Common Core tests and to adopt instead one of the college entrance examinations, not only because they are inappropriate, but because they are aligned with Common Core. David Coleman, heralded as the “architect” of the Common Core, is now president of the College Board. Representatives of the ACT were members of the small group that wrote the Common Core standards. The system has been designed so that students are stuck with Common Core whichever way the state turns, unless it writes its own standards and tests.

Lisa Eggert Litvin, president emeritus of the Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA and co-chair of the New York Suburban Consortium for Public Education wonders why New York continues to hang on to the Common Core standards even though Governor Cuomo’s task force said they should be completely revised.

She notes that early childhood experts have excoriated the standards as developmentally inappropriate. As a result of the Common Core standards, she says,

children’s love for learning is dissipating rather than growing. Parents report that their children don’t want to go to school, that they feel like failures if they can’t read, that there’s no time for play or choice, and that the children are exhausted — in kindergarten. Children lose confidence and feel insecure, all because they aren’t reaching standards that, for many, simply cannot be reached at their stage of development, or because of their challenges.

Yet despite what children are feeling, despite the detailed findings of the Task Force, despite the loss of learning that is occurring, CC is slated to remain in effect well into the future. Specifically, the transition to replacement standards outlined by the Task Force will take several years, until fall 2019 at the earliest — with CC staying in place in the interim.

This makes no sense. Instead, the CC standards should be be put on hold, and already existing, well regarded non-CC standards should instead be used in the interim — just as is being done in other states.

I recently revised my 2010 book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.” The revised edition reflects my understanding that national standards and tests do not improve education.

My opinion piece will appear in the Sunday New York Times.

One of the most powerful players in the corporate reform movement is Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), which represents the hedge fund managers who are eager to expand privately managed charters with public dollars.

Experienced journalist Alexander Russo writes here in the publication of the conservative American Enterprise Institute about the travails of DFER. From the outside, it appears that DFER is powerful for two reasons: its money (which seems to be endless) and its closeness to the Obama administration. President Obama took his cues from DFER, not the teachers’ unions. But Russo says that DFER is losing its grip and its sense of possibility. If it appears to be aimless and dispirited, it is.

The two issues that it fought for–charters and teacher evaluation by test scores–have not been the big successes that the hedge fund guys expected. Obama is leaving, and there is no certainty that Hillary will be as congenial as he was. She has a debt to the teachers’ unions, and Obama had none. On issue after issue, there have been no results–not for the agenda of privatizing the schools, nor for the fantasy of booting out all those “bad teachers.”

Money was never lacking, and the vision has all but disappeared. DFER exists because it continues to raise money, not because there is a groundswell of support for privatization and firing teachers based on test scores.

DFER’s long-time executive director Joe Williams has left to work for the Walton family.

Meanwhile, DFER’s real opposition is not the teachers’ unions but the parents and educators who are fighting back on their own dime. The grassroots opponents of corporate reform don’t have the money that DFER has, but they have passion, commitment, and the support of classroom teachers and scholars who oppose DFER’s goals. No one pays them. They (we) will outlast DFER because DFER will grow tired, tired of losing Friedrichs, tired of losing Vergara, tired of reading about the Opt Out movement, tired of being thrashed by bloggers like Mercedes Schneider and Peter Greene, tired of being vilified for their selfless investment in “reform,” tired of getting no returns on their investment.

The tortoise and the hare. Rabbit stew, anyone?

Jeff Bryant, writing for the Education Opportunity Network, reviews the many times that Democrats have said that Indiana Governor Mike Pence is an extremist, far out of the mainstream.

They will highlight his association with the Koch brothers, ALEC, and other far-right ideologues.

But the embarrassing fact is that Democrats endorse most of Pence’s views on education.

The fact is that Pence is squarely in the mainstream of education “reform,” the kind that is supported by a bipartisan coalition in D.C. and in the states.


What Pence adopted as his education policies resemble a hodge-podge of what is commonly referred to as “education reform.”

Indeed, organizations that espouse the reform agenda give Pence’s education record rave reviews.

“Mike Pence Is the Veep Education Reformers Need,” declares the Center for Education Reform. CER leader Jeanne Allen declares in her statement, “Mike Pence is a true pioneer of educational opportunity.”

Pro-reform American Federation for Children gushes, “Governor Pence is a longtime champion for educational choice, believing that every child, regardless of family income or ZIP code, deserves access to a quality education.”

At Forbes, reform cheerleader Maureen Sullivan’s list of “seven things” to know about Pence’s education stance reads like a checklist from the reform movement, including charter schools, standardized testing, merit pay for teachers, vouchers, and curriculum geared toward workforce preparation.

So, although Pence has strayed from reform orthodoxy at times – voting against the No Child Left Behind law passed under President Georg W. Bush and steering his state out of the Common Core (which he initially embraced) – he is generally recognized as an education reform leader, making him, in fact, aligned with many Democrats who’d never want to be caught dead supporting what Pence generally espouses.

For decades, both Democrats and Republicans have dined at the salad bar of education reform, with Democrats taking a heaping helping of charter schools but light on the vouchers please, and Republicans insisting on standardization but hold the Common Core now that we’ve gotten a taste of it.

Democrats eagerly sat alongside Republicans at the same education policy table in Indiana too. Most of the education policies Pence supported as governor have been a continuation of policies created by fellow Republicans – his predecessor Mitch Daniels and state superintendent Tony Bennett, who suffered a humiliating defeat during Pence’s tenure. But those policies often drew the praise of former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

In a visit to the state in 2011, Duncan and Bennett commended each other for their “efforts to overhaul education,” according to a local reporter.

In another visit to the sate a year later, Duncan “complimented,” according to a local news source, Bennett and Indiana’s leadership on the state’s expansion of charter schools and state takeovers of local schools – another popular item in the reform salad bar.

A New York Times article from 2013 lumps Duncan and Daniels, along with former Michigan Governor John Engler, together in the education policy arena, writing, “They all sympathize with many of the efforts of the so-called education reform movement.”

Will Democrats continue to embrace school choice, now that it is the heart of Trump and Pence’s education platform?

Andrew Rotherham, a key figure in the corporate reform movement, once worked in the Clinton White House. He has since gone on to found a consulting firm, Bellwether Education Partners, that represents many of the leading corporate reform groups.

Rotherham writes here that “education reform” (charter schools, high-stakes testing, and evaluation of teachers by test scores) is not dead. He writes to reassure his friends and allies in the corporate reform movement that Hillary will not abandon their ideas. No matter what the platform says, no matter what she told the AFT and the NEA, he says, you gotta believe that she still loves her friends in the corporate reform world.

The subtext is fear. Is she really going to expect charters to serve children with disabilities and English language learners, the charters wonder. Is she really going to listen to the hated teachers’ unions on the subject of education? Is she going to slow down the drive to privatize public schools? Is she going to stop closing schools in poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods?

Never mind that all the reformers’ pet priorities have failed. Never mind that growing numbers of parents are opting their children out of state tests. Never mind that VAM has improved no school anywhere. Never mind that charters seldom outperform public schools and have often provided a platform for theft, fraud, and greed, whether they operate for profit or not-for-profit. Never mind that the Obama “reform” policies have helped to create teacher shortages in many states.

Gene V. Glass here reproduces the Republican platform on education. The Republican platform supports school choice, the public display of the Ten Commandments, merit pay, two-parent families, and a Constitutional amendment to keep government from interfering with parental rights over children. (I am reminded of the day in 2012 when Mitt Romney went into an all-black school in Philadelphia and spoke out about the virtues of two-parent families; the principal told him that few of the children had two parents, which left open the question of what educators are supposed to do in the face of reality.)

The Republican platform supports home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, early-college high schools, and vouchers. It does not mention support for public schools, except as a place where students should be permitted to pray. The platform also believes that military service is a better credential for teaching than any study or practice in a professional education program.

The platform does not acknowledge the growing body of evidence that vouchers and charters do not provide superior educations to poor children.

We support the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage and further affirm the rights of religious students to engage in voluntary prayer at public school events and to have equal access to school facilities. We assert the First Amendment right of freedom of association for religious, private, service, and youth organizations to set their own membership standards.

Children raised in a two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, more likely to do well in school, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage. We oppose policies and laws that create a financial incentive for or encourage cohabitation.

We call for removal of structural impediments which progressives throw in the path of poor people: Over-regulation of start-up enterprises, excessive licensing requirements, needless restrictions on formation of schools and day-care centers serving neighborhood families, and restrictions on providing public services in fields like transport and sanitation that close the opportunity door to all but a favored few. We will continue our fight for school choice until all parents can find good, safe schools for their children.

Education: A Chance for Every Child

Education is much more than schooling. It is the whole range of activities by which families and communities transmit to a younger generation, not just knowledge and skills, but ethical and behavioral norms and traditions. It is the handing over of a cultural identity. That is why American education has, for the last several decades, been the focus of constant controversy, as centralizing forces from outside the family and community have sought to remake education in order to remake America. They have done immense damage. The federal government should not be a partner in that effort, as the Constitution gives it no role in education. At the heart of the American Experiment lies the greatest political expression of human dignity: The self- evident truth that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Parents are a child’s first and foremost educators, and have primary responsibility for the education of their children. Parents have a right to direct their children’s education, care, and upbringing. We support a constitutional amendment to protect that right from interference by states, the federal government, or international bodies such as the United Nations. We reject a one- size-fits-all approach to education and support a broad range of choices for parents and children at the state and local level. We likewise repeat our long- standing opposition to the imposition of national standards and assessments, encourage the parents and educators who are implementing alternatives to Common Core, and congratulate the states which have successfully repealed it. Their education reform movement calls for choice-based, parent-driven accountability at every stage of schooling. It affirms higher expectations for all students and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations. It recognizes the wisdom of local control of our schools and it wisely sees consumer rights in education — choice — as the most important driving force for renewing education. It rejects excessive testing and “teaching to the test” and supports the need for strong assessments to serve as a tool so teachers can tailor teaching to meet student needs. Maintaining American preeminence requires a world-class system of education in which all students can reach their potential.

We applaud America’s great teachers, who should be protected against frivolous lawsuits and should be able to take reasonable actions to maintain discipline and order in the classroom. Administrators need flexibility to innovate and to hold accountable all those responsible for student performance. A good understanding of the Bible being indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry, we encourage state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high school districts.

Rigid tenure systems should be replaced with a merit-based approach in order to attract the best talent to the classroom. All personnel who interact with school children should pass background checks and be held to the highest standards of personal conduct.

Academic Excellence for All

Maintaining American preeminence requires a world-class system of education in which all students can reach their potential. Republicans are leading the effort to create it. Since 1965, the federal government, through more than 100 programs in the Department of Education, has spent $2 trillion on elementary and secondary education with little substantial improvement in academic achievement or high school graduation rates. The United States spends an average of more than $12,000 per pupil per year in public schools, for a total of more than $620 billion. That represents more than 4 percent of GDP devoted to K-12 education in 2011-2012. Of that amount, federal spending amounted to more than $57 billion. Clearly, if money were the solution, our schools would be problem-free. More money alone does not necessarily equal better performance. After years of trial and error, we know the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement: Choice in education; building on the basics; STEM subjects and phonics; career and technical education; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents, and locally elected school boards. Because technology has become an essential tool of learning, it must be a key element in our efforts to provide every child equal access and opportunity. We strongly encourage instruction in American history and civics by using the original documents of our founding fathers.

Choice in Education

We support options for learning, including home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, and early-college high schools. We especially support the innovative financing mechanisms that make options available to all children: education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers, and tuition tax credits. Empowering families to access the learning environments that will best help their children to realize their full potential is one of the greatest civil rights challenges of our time. A young person’s ability to succeed in school must be based on his or her God-given talent and motivation, not an address, ZIP code, or economic status. We propose that the bulk of federal money through Title I for low-income children and through IDEA for children with special needs should follow the child to whatever school the family thinks will work best for them.

In sum, on the one hand enormous amounts of money are being spent for K-12 public education with overall results that do not justify that spending level. On the other hand, the common experience of families, teachers, and administrators forms the basis of what does work in education. In Congress and in the states, Republicans are bridging the gap between those two realities. Congressional Republicans are leading the way forward with major reform legislation advancing the concept of block grants and repealing numerous federal regulations which have interfered with state and local control of public schools. Their Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act — modernizing workforce programs, repealing mandates, and advancing employment for persons with disabilities — is now law. Their legislation to require transparency in unfunded mandates imposed upon our schools is advancing. Their D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program should be expanded as a model for the rest of the country. We deplore the efforts of Congressional Democrats and the current President to eliminate this successful program for disadvantaged students in order to placate the leaders of the teachers’ unions.

To ensure that all students have access to the mainstream of American life, we support the English First approach and oppose divisive programs that limit students’ ability to advance in American society. We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. That approach — the only one always effective against premarital pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease — empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referral or counseling for abortion and contraception and believe that federal funds should not be used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs. The federal government has pushed states to collect and share vast amounts of personal student and family data, including the collection of social and emotional data. Much of this data is collected without parental consent or notice. This is wholly incompatible with the American Experiment and our inalienable rights.

We urge state education officials to promote the hiring of qualified veterans as teachers in our public schools. Their proven abilities and life experiences will make them more successful instructors and role models for students than would any teaching certification.

The Oregon legislature passed a bill requiring audits of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests (SBAC), the tests of the Common Core standards funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Oregon chapter of Parents Across America conducted its audit and determined that the tests are outrageously expensive in money and time. And, while so much attention is devoted to testing, the opportunity to spend time and money wisely and well are lost.

Here is a small sample:

Actual invoice costs of SBAC

Former Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton has been quoted as saying the actual dollar amount spent on SBAC is anywhere from $12 million to $27 million dollars, a sizable increase over the previously administered OAKS test said to have cost $7 million. What is the true dollar amount spent on SBAC for each of the years the test has been given in the state of Oregon? Include the per pupil cost of the test itself, proctoring, grading, retesting, communicating results, and in addition, itemize other cost directly related to the test.

What is the cost of resource materials purchased for both teachers and students to support SBAC?

What is the actual dollar amount spent to train teachers on how to proctor the test? Include any “professional development” that teachers are required to participate in to administer the tests.

What is the cost of substitute teachers for the test-related hours (days) classroom teachers were out of class?

In January, 2016, OEA president Hannah Vaandering told Symposium attendees that the SBAC was neither valid nor reliable, but the consortium had been invited back to “fix” that. How much does the fix cost? If such a thing can be fixed, how much has the state been billed? Was the test fixed before it was given in the 2015-2016 school year? If not, what is the cost of giving an invalid test?

Skyrocketing Technology Costs

What are the technology costs related to SBAC testing? How much is spent on computers to support testing?

Computer labs and entire libraries are dedicated to SBAC during testing season at many schools. What is the cost in lost learning when students can’t have access to books and the Internet because of weeks and months of testing?

There seems to always be money for technology and software when there is money for little else. Is the testing culture dictating school and district spending? How do we calculate the opportunity costs related to the favored testing agenda?

Poverty, Race, Cultural Bias, and Pushouts (Suspensions and Expulsions)

The Impact of Poverty, Race, and Cultural Bias on Educational Opportunity (July 2015) (PAA) presents data that exposes the price children pay when standardized test scores are the key measurement of success.

The basis of standardized testing is embedded in eugenics and is unfairly biased against students of color. (More than a Score) by Jesse Hagopian.) How do you put a price tag on that?

The correlation between poverty and school achievement cannot be denied. Numerous studies show that providing children with the necessities of life including housing, food stability, and healthcare are imperative to assure success at school. Covering the cost of these services to level the “testing field” seems to be a fair and logical step in assuring that all students are prepared for success at school. Should those costs be considered?

Testing has not closed the “achievement gap” between African American and white students. Since the mantra of the USDOE/ODE has consistently been that rigorous standardized testing is needed to close the achievement or opportunity gap, when do we finally stop and say, “Enough is enough! We will not waste another cent on this folly.” SBAC is not valid, reliable, or fair. Over 100 Education Researchers Sign Statement Calling for Moratorium on High-Stakes Testing, (SBAC/California Alliance of Researchers for Equity in Education.)

Rebelling against the test curriculum results in many more students being suspended or expelled from school. The number of kindergarten suspensions has skyrocketed — especially for African American boys. Wages lost and the cost of alternative childcare arrangements is an extra cost that parents cannot afford and is directly related to the testing curriculum.

High school students who do not pass the SBAC are more likely to drop out of school. The cost of completing a GED or attaining further future education can be attributed to punitive standardized tests.

Inane standardized testing policies have contributed to a school-to-prison pipeline culture. The costs of incarceration amounts to much more than properly educating a child. This cost may be an unintended consequence of SBAC, but it is a cost related to the test nonetheless.

The FBI raided a charter school for at-risk youth in Florida, carrying away several boxes of whatever they were seeking.

http://www.nwfdailynews.com/news/20160712/fbi-executes-search-warrant-at-fwb-school-for-at-risk-students

The FBI has raided many charter schools in the Midwest but their investigations have remained secret.

Your advice is needed. What is the best way to improve graduation rates, without cheating or gaming the system.

The Los Angeles Times recently published two editorials about high school graduation rates.

The first looked at the new phenomenon of “online credit recovery” as a means of helping students get credits to graduate. As a general rule, online credit recovery has a poor reputation. A few years ago, the NCAA conducted its own investigation and found online programs in which the questions were so simple that students breezed through them. In some cases, they were given more than one chance to answer a multiple choice question. The Los Angeles public schools are using a program with a better reputation than most, but questions still remain about the educational value of online courses for students who should have face-to-face encounters with teachers.

The second editorial reviewed the methods that states have devised to boost their graduation rates, such as lowering standards, eliminating exit exams, online credit recovery, reclassifying students as “leavers” rather than dropouts, etc.

The editorial contains some startling good sense, as in this section:

Russell Rumberger, director of the California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara, is not a fan of measuring a school’s success by its graduation rate for precisely that reason: Doing so encourages schools to lower their standards or to use misleading numbers or to find ways to get failing students out of their schools without having to count them as dropouts. In any case, he says, “a diploma is a blunt instrument” for measuring learning; one study found that low-income students need to show better mastery of the material than merely a pass in order to have a real shot at reaching the middle class.

Under pressure to produce better numbers, school officials in California and nationwide have often done whatever it takes to get to those numbers.
Like it or not, Rumberger says, higher standards — such as those in the Common Core curriculum standards recently adopted in California and most other states — tend to mean lower graduation rates, and it’s disingenuous for states to say they can raise both at once, and quickly.

This is the first time I have seen a public admission in the editorials of a major newspaper that raising standards lowers graduation rates. This is a contrast with the usual blithe claim by pundits and legislators that making tests harder will force kids and teachers to try harder, to “up their game,” thus producing more learning. Rumberger is right: When the tests are harder, more students will not pass.

The editorial concludes:

The federal No Child Left Behind Act, which never did much to encourage higher graduation rates, might be dead, but its successor will have little chance of succeeding if policymakers aren’t realistic about the work and patience required to raise standards, test scores and graduation rates. It’s slow, hard, incremental work without magic solutions, and improved numbers aren’t always evidence of better-educated students.

The editorial is thoughtful, and I don’t mean to cast aspersion on the writers’ efforts to puzzle through this dilemma. But the quest for higher test scores and higher graduation rates was the singular goal of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. An honest assessment compels a frank admission that NCLB and RTTT failed. Even if one can find examples of higher numbers, do they really demonstrate that students are better prepared or do they reflect the result of twelve years of test prep?

Chasing better data is not the purpose of education, and we make a grave error by doing so. As the LA Times acknowledges, most of what has been produced at a cost of many billions over the past 15 years are creative efforts to game the system.

It would be far more fruitful to ask different questions: How can American schools do a better job of preparing students to succeed in life after high school? How can they encourage students to pursue learning on their own? How can they awaken a need to know? How can we reduce the growing racial segregation in our schools? (If only the $5 billion wasted on Race to the Top had been used to promote desegregation and to collect data on successful efforts to do so!) Are they adequately resourced and staffed to meet the needs of children growing up in extreme poverty, students without medical attention, students who come to school hungry, students who are homeless?

Until we ask these questions, the data are meaningless, as are such noble aspirations as “No Child Left Behind” by the magic of annual testing or “Every Student Succeeds” by a combination of standards, testing, and data.

Jonathan Pelto wrote an illuminating and informative post about the members of the “Billionaire Boys Club,” or should I say the “Billionaire Boys and Girls Club,” since Alice Walton, Laurene Powell Jobs, Penny Pritzker, and several other women belong.

Pelto writes:

The colossal and disastrous effort to privatize public education in the United States is alive and well thanks to a plethora of billionaires who, although they’d never send their own children to a public school, have decided that individually and collectively, they know what is best for the nation’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.

From New York City to Los Angeles and Washington State to Florida, the “billionaire boys club,” as Diane Ravitch, the country’s leading public education advocate, has dubbed them, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars via campaign contributions, Dark Money expenditures and their personal foundations to “fix” what they claim are the problems plaguing the country’s public schools.

These neo-gilded age philanthropists claim that the solution is for parents, teachers and education advocates to step aside so that the billionaires and their groupies can transform public education by creating privately owned and operated – but taxpayer funded – charter schools.

In addition, they pontificate that students learn best when schools are mandated to use the ill-conceived Common Core standards so classrooms become little more than Common Core testing factories and the teaching profession is opened up to those who haven’t been burdened by lengthy college based education programs designed to provide educators with the comprehensive skill sets necessary to work with and teach the broad range of children who attend the country’s public schools.

The billionaire’s proclaim that the solution to creating successful schools is really rather simple.

They say that public schools run best when they are run like a business…

Cut through their rhetoric and the billionaires want us to believe that by introducing competition and the concept of “profit” they can turnaround any school, no matter the challenges it or its students may face….

Privatization, they argue, will lead to greater efficiencies while opening up the public purse to those who have products that they seek to sell to our children and our public schools.

John Dewey famously wrote that what the best parent wants for his child is what we should want for all children, but the billionaires have flipped that sage advice on its head. They say, “My kids need small classes, experienced teachers, and beautiful schools, but your children don’t.”

Jon Pelto has an exhaustive list of the billionaires who are out to undermine public education.

He identifies them by name, by their net worth, and by their pet causes.

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