Archives for category: Common Core

In this recent article, Jeff Bryant examines Florida’s shameful response to the pandemic. As usual, legislators and Governor DeSanris took advantage of the crisis to add another voucher program, which will drain another $200 million from public schools to support for woefully inadequate voucher schools.

He writes:


“The COVID-19 crisis reveals the true intentions of people,” Kathleen Oropeza told me during a phone call. Oropeza is a public school mom in Orlando and founder of Fund Education Now, a non-partisan grassroots effort to advocate for public education in Florida.

Her remark was in the context of concerns about how state officials were governing schools as the coronavirus was spreading across the state and generating fears of how the disease would affect schools and families.

Days after the first victims tested positive in the state and the first deaths were reported, Florida lawmakers in the House seemed oblivious to the impending crisis and instead passed new legislation to expand the state’s voucher program, thus diverting an additional $200 million from the state’s public schools.

The bill passed despite evidence that many of the private schools that would receive the voucher money openly discriminate against LGBTQ children and families, are not required to hire certified teachers, and generally provide a subpar education.

But there is a bright side to the current crisis:

The rash of canceled tests across the country caused some knowledgeable observers to speculate on Twitter that the testing industry would not be able to withstand the financial difficulties of a nationwide cancelation. But what is also in danger is the whole policy imperative of the market-based education agenda.

Much in the same way that widespread teacher walkouts and the Red for Ed movement over the past two years revealed the overwhelming need for government officials to increase funding and support for frontline teachers, the mounting fallout of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing politicians and policymakers to acknowledge the importance of schools as vital community institutions that need resources and support rather than fiscal austerity, privatization, and punitive accountability—the pillars of the market-based education movement.

Even amidst the avalanche of reported school closings, advocates of the market-based approach were lamenting the failure of their decades-long efforts.

“Neither standards and accountability nor charter schools have lived up to their promoters’ lofty aspirations. And there is much public unhappiness with school reform,” wrote Kevin Carey in an analysis for the Washington Post. Carey, a policy analyst for a Washington, D.C., think tank that favored the education reform agenda, worked for years in policy shops that pushed market-based agendas.

Carey noted a rising political opposition to market-based education advocates from the right and the left, including Tea Party Republicans who object to Common Core Standards and federal overreach in local decision-making and among progressive Democrats who are angered by the unfairness and inequities caused by market-based solutions.

But while he asserted that “School reform began with the civil rights movement,” he completely ignored the econometric principles that ended up driving privatization policies rather than the moral values of human rights and justice that powered the civil rights movement. Market-based education advocates have long obsessed over rigid standards, outcome measures, and competition from charter schools rather than providing schools and students with what they really needed, especially in communities that rely heavily on schools as anchor institutions.

Will elected officials and think tank analysts recognize the failure of standards, testing,
accountability, competition, and market-based policies to close achievement gaps, to reduce poverty, to lift up the neediest students, and to achieve any of their alleged goals?

Please: would the “reformers” acknowledge the failure of their prescriptions and stop claiming, without a shred of evidence, that annual standardized testing is a “civil right,” when it is actually stigmatizing children who are repeatedly labeled as “failures” by the testing indistry?

Please watch as this mother prays for relief from her new role as a homeschooling mom.

She laments:

“Ah, Lord, the spirit of Common Core has taken over my house…”

Kevin Kumashiro, leader of a Deans for Justice and Equity, has written an appeal addressed to Educators and Scholars of Color. It invites their endorsement of a statement opposing failed “reforms” that have stigmatized and harmed children of color and other vulnerable students. Please share this statement with your friends and colleagues. Invite them to sign to demonstrate that they do not believe that failed “reforms” should be foisted on students who need experienced teachers and well-funded classrooms.

Dear Friends and Colleagues: All educators of color and educational scholars of color in the United States are invited to sign onto a statement (“This Must End Now: Educators and Scholars of Color Against Failed Educational “Reforms”) that calls for an end to billionaire-backed, so-called “reforms” that are devastating schools, particularly for students of color and low-income students.

If you are eligible, please review the statement and consider joining this nationwide collective; and whether or not you are eligible, please help to spread the word to other educators/scholars of color (including academics, K-12 educators and leaders, etc.) to join us as we build and leverage our collective voices in reframing the public narrative, speaking out against failed initiatives, and putting forth a more just vision for our schools and communities.

The deadline to sign is March 31st, and the statement will be released publicly soon after. Here’s the statement and the form to sign on:

https://forms.gle/dLdE5raLnx2Z7SJz7

We are particularly eager to move this forward in the midst of a public health crisis, which is significantly impacting schools, and which we cannot imagine will not lead to more devastating reforms being foisted upon us in the name of managing crisis.

Thank you, and in solidarity,
Kevin Kumashiro

***
Kevin Kumashiro, Ph.D.
https://www.kevinkumashiro.com
Movement building for equity and justice in education

Here is the statement, which has been signed by 301 educators and scholars of color as of March 22.

THIS MUST END NOW:

Educators & Scholars of Color Against Failed Educational “Reforms”

The public is being misled. Billionaire philanthropists are increasingly foisting so-called “reform” initiatives upon the schools that serve predominantly students of color and low-income students, and are using black and brown voices to echo claims of improving schools or advancing civil rights in order to rally community support. However, the evidence to the contrary is clear: these initiatives have not systematically improved student success, are faulty by design, and have already proven to widen racial and economic disparities. Therefore, we must heed the growing body of research and support communities and civil-rights organizations in their calls for a more accurate and nuanced understanding of the problems facing our schools, for a retreat from failed “reforms,” and for better solutions:

• Our school systems need more public investment, not philanthropic experimentation; more democratic governance, not disenfranchisement; more guidance from the profession, the community, and researchers, not from those looking to privatize and profiteer; and more attention to legacies of systemic injustice, racism, and poverty, not neoliberal, market-based initiatives that function merely to incentivize, blame, and punish.

• Our teachers and leaders need more, better, and ongoing preparation and support, more professional experience and community connections, and more involvement in shared governance and collective bargaining for the common good, not less.

• Our vision should be that every student receives the very best that our country has to offer as a fundamental right and a public good; not be forced to compete in a marketplace where some have and some have not, and where some win and many others lose.

The offer for “help” is alluring, and is reinforced by Hollywood’s long history of deficit-oriented films about white teachers saving poorer black and brown students from suffering, as if the solution consisted merely of uplifting and inspiring individuals, rather than of tackling the broader system of stratification that functions to fail them in the first place. Today, more than ever before, the “help” comes in the form of contingent financing for education, and the pressure to accept is intense: shrinking public resources, resounding claims of scarcity, and urgent calls for austerity make it seem negligent to turn down sizable financial incentives, even when such aid is tied to problematic reforms.

The growing number of funders includes high-profile foundations and obscure new funders (including but not limited to the Arnold Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bradley Foundation, Broad Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, City Fund, DeVos family foundations, Gates Foundation, Koch family foundations, and Walton Family Foundation), and for the most part, have converged on what counts as worthwhile and fundable, whether leaning conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat (see, for example, the platform of Democrats for Education Reform). Such funders may be supporting some grassroots initiatives, but overall, mega-philanthropy in public education exemplifies the 21st-century shift from traditional donating that supported others’ initiatives with relatively smaller grants, to venture financing that offers funding pools of unprecedented size and scale but only to those who agree to implement the funders’ experiments. Belying the rhetoric of improving schools is the reality that such experiments are making struggling schools look less and less like the top performing schools for the elite, and do so by design, as with the following:

• The Portfolio Model. 



Exemplified in the early 2000s by the turnaround-school reforms in Chicago Public Schools and Race to the Top, and increasingly shaping urban districts across the country today, the “portfolio model” decentralizes decision making, expands school choice, holds schools accountable through performance measures like student testing, and sanctions failing schools with restructuring or closure, incentivizing their replacements in the form of charter schools. This model purports that marketizing school systems will lead to system improvement, and that student testing carries both validity and reliability for high-stakes decisions, neither of which is true.



Instead of improving struggling schools, what results are growing racial disparities that fuel gentrification for the richer alongside disinvestment from the poorer. The racially disparate outcomes should not be surprising, given the historical ties between mass standardized testing and eugenics, and even today, given the ways that “norm referencing” in test construction guarantees the perpetuation of a racialized achievement curve. Yet, the hallmarks of the portfolio model are taught in the Broad Superintendents Academy that prepares an increasingly steady flow of new leaders for urban districts, and not surprisingly, that has produced the leaders that have been ousted in some of the highest profile protests by parents and teachers in recent years. This is the model that propels the funding and incubation of school-choice expansion, particularly via charter schools, through such organizations as the NewSchools Venture Fund and various charter networks whose leaders are among the trainers in the Broad Academy. Imposing this model on poorer communities of color is nefarious, disingenuous, and must end.


• Choice, Vouchers, Charters. 



The expansion of school choice, including vouchers (and neo-voucher initiatives, like tax credits) and charter schools, purports to give children and parents the freedom to leave a “failing” school. However, the research on decades of such programs does not give any compelling evidence that such reforms lead to system improvement, instead showing increased racial segregation, diversion of public funding from the neediest of communities, neglect of students with disabilities and English-language learners, and more racial disparities in educational opportunity. This should not be surprising: choice emerged during the Civil Rights Movement as a way to resist desegregation; vouchers also emerged during this time, when the federal government was growing its investment into public education, as a way to privatize public school systems and divert funding to private schools for the elite; and charter schools emerged in the 1990s as laboratories for communities to shape their own schools, but have become the primary tool to privatize school systems.



Yes, choice and vouchers give some students a better education, but in many areas, students of color and low-income students are in the minority of those using vouchers. Yes, some charters are high performing, but overall, the under-regulation of and disproportionate funding for charter schools has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in waste (and even more in corporate profits) that could otherwise have gone to traditional public schools. The NAACP was right when it resolved that privatization is a threat to public education, and in particular, called for a moratorium on charter-school expansion; and the NAACP, MALDEF, ACLU, and other national civil-rights organizations have opposed voucher expansion. Diverting funds towards vouchers, neo-vouchers, and charters must end.


• Teacher Deprofessionalization. 



The deprofessionalization of teaching—including the undermining of collective bargaining and shared governance, and the preferential hiring of underprepared teachers—is foregrounded in charter schools (which often prohibit unionization and hire a disproportionate number of Teach for America teachers), but affects the teaching force in public schools, writ large. The mega-philanthropies are not only anti-union, having supported (sometimes rhetorically, sometimes resourcefully) the recent wave of anti-union bills across the states; but more broadly, are anti-shared governance, supporting the shift toward top-down management forms (including by for-profit management at the school level, and unelected, mayor-appointed boards at the district level). 



The weakening of the profession is also apparent in the philanthropies’ funding of fast-track routes to certification, not only for leaders (like with New Leaders for New Schools), but also for classroom teachers, like with the American Board for Certification of Teaching Excellence, and more notably, Teach for America (TFA). TFA accelerates the revolving door of teachers by turning teaching into a brief service obligation, justified by a redefining of quality teacher away from preparedness, experience, and community connectedness to merely being knowledgeable of subject matter (and notably, after the courts found that TFA teachers did not meet the definition of “highly qualified,” Congress would remove the requirement that every student have a “highly qualified” teacher in its 2015 reauthorization of ESEA, thus authorizing the placement of underprepared teachers in the neediest of schools). 



Parents are being lied to when told that these “reforms” of weakening unions and lessening professional preparation will raise the quality of teachers for their children. Yes, some teachers and leaders from alternative routes are effective and well-intended, but outliers should not drive policy. Students are being lied to when told that choosing such pathways is akin to joining the legacy of civil-rights struggles for poorer communities of color. Not surprisingly, the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives have called out how initiatives like TFA appeal to our desire to serve and help, but shortchange the students who need and deserve more.

We, as a nationwide collective of educators of color and educational scholars of color, oppose the failed reforms that are being forced by wealthy philanthropists onto our communities with problematic and often devastating results. These must end now. We support reforms that better serve our students, particularly in poorer communities of color, and we stand ready to work with lawmakers, leaders, school systems, and the public to make such goals a reality.

If you have an hour to spare, you might enjoy this no-holds-barred interview by Leonard Lopate, asking questions of me about SLAYING GOLIATH.

This anonymous K-12 teacher wrote an extended explanation of why he or she opposes the Common Core mathematics standards. The essay was a guest post in David Kristofferson’s blog.

The teacher writes that the math standards

claim to stress “deep understanding” in addition to procedure, which sounds like a good thing at first, until you take a closer look at how this goal is actually approached. To call what they focus on “understanding” is both misleading and wrong, and there’s a clear trend showing persistent loss of procedural proficiency among our students as a result. The end result of the Common Core-aligned math curriculum is STEM-deficiency rather than STEM-proficiency. It is now a generally accepted fact that only honors compression or outside tutoring will achieve the STEM-readiness that used to be accessible to any motivated and capable student.

They fail to prepare students for college math.

I have met too many administrators who’ve swallowed the Common Core proponents’ story hook, line, and sinker. When asked about issues related to the worsening trend of poor student comprehension and poor knowledge transfer from one context to another, they insist that it cannot be happening under the new standards and the greater “depth of understanding” that they embody. Meanwhile, they are dismissive of objections coming from parents, teachers, and students on the ground.

Many parents see the performance of their children dropping not only in math, but also with spelling and grammar[9], and they are frustrated about it. They object that they can no longer help their children with or even understand the math homework that is being assigned, while students lose valuable elective classroom time to all the required standardized testing. The same administrators who dismiss these parents for their questioning of all the canned verbiage about the benefits of the new standards (and there is a whole lot of it, indeed) have also balked when teachers expressed frustration with being forced to do away with their well-established and vetted curricular materials as the wheels of education are being reinvented right under their feet.

When Common Core first took hold, there was enough missing curricular material to explain the early drops in student performance. (The very fact that this material was not developed and provided long before the switchover is quite telling of the mindset that drove its adoption.) Now that these curricula have been published and put into use for some years, the middling results are less easy to dismiss. I will outline the fundamental problems as I see them in this article, and I’ll get into more detail about each problem in a series of follow-ups.

Despite having so many of these intrinsic issues, countless administrators, teachers, and education researchers have contributed to or been swayed by the story put forward by Common Core proponents, that these new standards have been designed and built from the ground up to present and foster a deeper understanding of the material, starting at the beginning and running all throughout the K-12 curriculum. The standards have been written and organized to have this patina, but it is mostly an empty facade.

Read on. Do you agree or disagree?

John Thompson is a historian and a retired teacher in Oklahoma. This article appeared originally in the Oklahoma Observer.

How the Billionaire Boys Club Ravaged America’s Public Schools

SLAYING GOLIATH The Passionate Resistance To Privatization And The Right to Save America’s Public Schools

Diane Ravitch started writing Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools in 2018 as teachers strikes erupted across the nation. These walkouts began in Red states where conservative legislatures drastically cut funding to under-resourced schools. Even in the places with the lowest salaries, like Oklahoma, educators were motivated by terrible working conditions that meant awful learning environments for students.

It wasn’t just the lack of money, and the resulting damage done by huge class sizes, a lack of textbooks, and neglected buildings, that motivated teachers. They also were resisting the disruption caused by corporate school reform, and the damage it had done to their kids. Teachers were sick of teach-to-the-test malpractice, reward and punish cultures and mandates that produce in-one-ear-out-the-other skin-deep instruction. The joy of teaching and learning was being undermined by the privatization of education. Many or most of these teachers put up with “reform” as long as they could before joining the “Resistance.”

Slaying Goliath is the third transformative book written by Ravitch after changing her mind on education policy. Although her academic histories of education had always been more balanced than progressives acknowledged, Ravitch had worked in the Education Department of President George H. W. Bush, and she had served on the board of the conservative Fordham Foundation. In 1992, she went to a briefing with David Kearns, the former Xerox CEO, where the Sandia Report’s findings were explained. Kearns and other reformers were outraged that scholars challenged the alarmism of “A Nation at Risk,” the infamous Reagan-sponsored indictment of public education. They refused to release the report which explained that American schools weren’t failing.

Ravitch recalls the way that education scholars were vilified for revealing that the so-called “crisis in education” was a “politically inspired hoax,” and a “manufactured crisis.” In a passage which exemplifies Ravitch’s candor, she writes about the late Gerald Bracey, “a prolific and outspoken education researcher” who challenged the conventional wisdom that she was then defending. Ravitch then writes, “I personally apologize to him.”

As the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 started to undermine schooling, Ravitch joined progressive educator Deborah Meier in a dialogue which changed Ravitch and the struggle against data-driven, competition-driven reforms. In 2010, she released the Death and Life of the Great American School System and three years later, she published Reign of Error. Ravitch “renounced” her old views and exposed the “smear campaign” which she presciently described as “privatization.” They funded so-called “transformative” change, designed to drive “bad teachers,” protected by “bad unions,” out of schools.

Ravitch’s talent with words may have been as important as her evidence-based evaluation of the inherent flaws of the technocratic micromanaging known as “reform.” The initial political successes of the reformers where driven by the huge bank accounts funding savage attacks on teachers and school systems. During the height of corporate reform a decade ago, Ravitch’s ability to coin a phrase seemed to be educators’ only means of self-defense. She nailed the issue by identifying “the Billionaires Boys Club” as the sponsors of “corporate reform;” now Ravitch dubs their movement “Goliath.” Her use of the term “privatization” helped us understand that the neoliberal attack, funded by Silicon Valley and Hedge Fund elites, was interrelated with the overall privatization movement which intimidated so many Democrats into retreating from the War on Poverty and other social justice campaigns. (In doing so, she paved the way for excellent work such a OU’s Associate Dean Lawrence Baines’ Privatization of America’s Institutions.)

Now, Ravitch renames both sides of the education wars. The Billionaires tried to claim the word reform, but they never deserved that title. They are “Disrupters.” We who fought them off are the “Resistance.”

Slaying Goliath reviews the failure of NCLB, and how 1990s improvements in student performance as measured by the reliable NAEP assessment slowed and then stopped. Then, Obama era reforms put NCLB’s high stakes testing, cultures of competition, and corruption of test scores and education values on steroids. But most of the book describes the emergence, the struggles and victories of the grassroots Resistance.

During the first decade of the 21st century, the Disrupters won nearly all of their political battles as their micromanaging failed to improve schools. Their testing often turned modern classrooms into sped-up Model T assembly lines, as their behaviorism turned charter schools into weapons for undermining teacher autonomy, due process, and professionalism. During the last decade, Disrupters suffered political and educational defeats as they learned that it is easier to kick down a barn than rebuild it.

However, Ravitch reminds us that the Disrupters are still threatening. She compares today’s danger to that which faced a man who decapitated a rattlesnake but who nearly died after being bitten by the detached head.

Oklahomans should take special interest in the narratives where the snake’s head is still a threat to our schools.

Today, many or most of Goliath’s coalition have become disenchanted with standardized testing, but their Disruption model can’t function without it. Oklahomans should heed the wisdom of reform-minded Paymon Rouhanifard, the former Camden superintendent, who abolished report cards after listening to complaints, and eventually denounced standardized testing.

Rhode Island, where their state superintendent Deborah Gist tried to fire all of the teachers in Central Falls, was an example of students rising up. They staged a “Zombie March, “ and created “Take the Test” for 50 elected officials, architects, scientists, engineers, college professors, reporters, directors of nonprofit organizations, and reporters.” Even with such educated test takers, 60% didn’t score high enough to earn a diploma.

Gist called their protest “deeply irresponsible on the part of the adults” for sending the message that tests don’t matter.

Since philanthropists who still support Gist have also funded “portfolio management,” Oklahomans should read the evidence about that kinder and gentler-sounding recipe for permanent teach-to-the-test and conflict.

Oklahoma philanthropists seem to believe the spin claiming that the New Orleans portfolio model was a success, but even the researchers who support that all-charter district’s prohibitively expensive approach admit that its school quality peaked in 2013.

As Ravitch explains, “A portfolio district is one where the local board (or some entity operating in its stead) acts like a stockbrokerage, holding onto winners (schools with high test scores) and getting rid of losers (schools with low test scores), replacing them with charters.”

As she further explains, these failures are linked to the Disrupters’ infatuation with mass closures of schools. To take one example, Chicago, Ravitch explains how the Chicago Consortium on School Research (CCSR) found “few gains” due to closing schools but “a profound sense of loss: lost schools, lost communities, lost relationships. These were losses that the Disrupters never understood. Test scores were all that mattered to them.” Chicago lost over 200,000 black residents between 2000 and 2016. And the CCSR further explained how they “caused large disruptions without clear benefits for students.”

Whether in Chicago, Tulsa, or Oklahoma City, closures may produce little or no gains, but they will lead to a “period of mourning.” This is one of the many ways reason why Oklahomans should move on from the presumption that disruptive and transformative change made sense. That mindset is another legacy of not seeing “value in bonds among schools, families, and community.”

Whether you call it transformative change or disruption, this mentality was committed to “blind adherence” to the corporate demand for “outputs” that “don’t work for schools for the same reasons they don’t work for families, churches, and other institutions that function primarily on the basis of human interactions, not profits and losses.”

Joel Malin and Kathleen Knight-Abowitz of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, write here about the forces determining education policy in Ohio. 

Ohio education policy is a train wreck. It is not benefiting students or teachers or society. So who is it benefiting?

In our view, it pays to start asking larger questions about EdChoice to understand how education policy is made in Ohio. Why, for instance, did this dramatic increase in voucher eligibility occur? Why would lawmakers experiment with such an expensive initiative, when studies of such voucher programs – including a rigorous study of EdChoice – have most often revealed large, negative impacts on student learning? And, in what universe does it make sense that schools would be judged, and voucher eligibility triggered, by students’ scores in 2013 and 2014 (but not 2015-2017)?

The great uproar around EdChoice should have us asking about how policy is made: specifically, whose voices are being elevated, and whose are being diminished, when Ohio education policy is being created?

Taking a step back, we can see that the policies adopted in Ohio are part of a broader pattern of favoring business and for-profit interests over those of community members, including parents, students, and teachers. In fact, community members’ perspectives are regularly ignored in favor of business lobbyists, charter school operators, and national influencers like U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos or companies like Pearson Education.

Ohio Excels, for instance, is a recently formed, powerful business interest group that’s “quickly emerged as a heavyweight lobbying force in education policy” in Ohio, as described recently by Aaron Marshall in Columbus CEO magazine…

Many of the assumptions and methods of the business world do not neatly transfer into education. In addition, parents and communities want students to be good citizens and well-rounded thinkers, as well as good workers, when they graduate from schools.

When private sector interests dominate education policy discussions, other perspectives are routinely ignored.

Most important are the views of professional educators, who have firsthand knowledge and expertise that can shape our policy decisions in realistic and positive directions. Their participation would also serve to prevent lawmakers from making disastrous, foreseeable errors.

Education policy in Ohio and a few other states, including Indiana and Florida, has been powerfully shaped by the interests of for-profit, pro-business, and private education providers in the past decade.

In a broad and general sense, they are right, of course. The voices of educators have been silenced. Control has shifted to for-profit, pro-business, and private providers.

But what they are missing are the two most important links in this chain of influence: the D.C.-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which lobbies constantly for pro-business policies, and ALEC, which writes model legislation that promotes vouchers and charters.

 

 

Audrey Watters asks the question that we should all be asking: is our democracy for sale to the candidate with the most billions? 

Apparently our schools sold out years ago when money was dabbled before them.

People who take money from that powerful education foundation — you know the one, the one that turns 20 years old this year — always insist to me that they’ve never been compelled to change their policies or practices. Of course, it doesn’t have to coerce its grantees to say and do things. People self-censor. They shape their initiatives to suit the foundation’s philosophy and its goals. They value the things the foundation says it values; they measure the way the foundation says it measures. Because if they rely on the foundation for funding, they know to fall in line. They needn’t be told. That’s how the power of philanthropy works. It sets the agenda. Personalized learning. The Common Core. Charter schools. Measures of Effective Teaching. It didn’t push for these ideas because that’s what people wanted. It helped convince politicians that these were the ideas that education needed. That is to say, education policy has not been shaped by democratic forces as much as it has been by philanthropic ones — by the billionaires who wield immense political power through their “charity.”

Actually, I don’t blame schools—few of whom had a say in decisions to follow the Gates money trail—so much as I blame the policy elites, who fell in love with the idea of sitting at the feet of billionaires and following their commands. The billionaires didn’t know what they were doing, but they were so confident in the virtues of testing, accountability, competition, choice. Who could resist?

The munificently-funded Thomas B. Fordham Institute, based in D.C., controls Educatuon Policy, graduation requirements, curriculum, and testing in Ohio. Mr. Fordham, for whom the institute is named, had no known interest in education, but his namesake is part of the rightwing ALEC nexus, where contempt for public schools, hatred for unions, contempt for gun control and environmental regulation are reflexive.

Laura Chapman, who lives in Ohio, writes:

 

This numbers game is routinely pushed by the Ohio arm of Thomas B. Fordham Institute/Foundation. Oped’s written by employees at criticize the Fordham routinely criticize teacher unions for pointing out the debilitating affects of poverty on students. In a typical rhetorical move, the Fordham “expert” will find one exceptional school with an “A” rating of the state report card rigged to ensure few schools are rated A. Then when you read in detail, you will see that the most exceptional thing about this school is really rare. The same principal has been there for 18 years, lives in the community, and has an uncommon level of trust from her community, the teachers, and students. Test scores were a byproduct of that not the aim of her work as an educator.

In Ohio, the writer most responsible for this misleading journalism and “research” is Aaron Churchill, the Institute’s Ohio Research Director. The Institute says this: Since 2012, Aaron has worked on “strengthening” Ohio policy on standardized testing and accountability, school evaluation, school funding, educational markets, human-resource policies and charter school sponsorship. He writes for the Fordham’s blog, the Ohio Gadfly Daily and contributes op-eds to the Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Dayton Daily News, and Cincinnati Enquirer. Aaron previously worked for Junior Achievement.”

He has not an ounce of documented experience in teaching or studies of education as an undergraduate or graduate student. He gets a free pass on almost everything he submits to the Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Dayton Daily News, and Cincinnati Enquirer. These local newspapers are shrinking and have few if any staff available for questioning this “throughput” of misleading but ready to post news.

The controversy over the Common Core standards has died down since so many states have renamed and rebranded them as if they no longer exist. But below the eye of public attention, Common Core does what it was intended to do: It has created a marketplace for vendors. 

Alex Harwin, in her update of the marketplace, writes that more than two-thirds of district leaders say they are still buying CCSS products.

This is a good time to recall that Arne Duncan’s chief of staff Joanne Weiss wrote in the Harvard Business Review blog that building a national marketplace for vendors was one of the central goals of CCSS:

Technological innovation in education need not stay forever young. And one important change in the market for education technology is likely to accelerate its maturation markedly within the next several years. For the first time, 42 states and the District of Columbia have adopted rigorous common standards, and 44 states are working together in two consortia to create a new generation of assessments that will genuinely assess college and career-readiness.

The development of common standards and shared assessments radically alters the market for innovation in curriculum development, professional development, and formative assessments. Previously, these markets operated on a state-by-state basis, and often on a district-by-district basis. But the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale.

In this new market, it will make sense for teachers in different regions to share curriculum materials and formative assessments. It will make sense for researchers to mine data to learn which materials and teaching strategies are effective for which students – and then feed that information back to students, teachers, and parents.

If we can match highly-effective educators with great entrepreneurs and if we can direct smart capital toward these projects, the market for technological innovation might just spurt from infancy into adolescence. That maturation would finally bring millions of America’s students the much-touted yet much-delayed benefits of the technology revolution in education.

Weiss previously ran Duncan’s Race to the Top program, and before that, was CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, which raises money for charter schools.